Category Archives: united kingdom

A Day Trip to Leeds

Continuing my England adventures from, yes, April, we arrive at my day trip to visit my friend Sarah in Leeds.  I departed London from King’s Cross Station, which had a futuristic restoration in 2005 giving it these soaring arches.

Leeds, like Manchester, was a major center of the Industrial Revolution in the UK, and is the largest city in Yorkshire. It still has something of an industrial feel, and it was great to explore its buildings and streets with Sarah. I know I’ve already said this, but I loved that during this trip I was able to visit friends in their home cities and see not only them, but these new places that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. Above is the Leeds Town Hall, which was finished in 1858, and its exceedingly expensive costs were of some controversy, as it was built at a time when there was a lot of poverty among the city’s working class. It sustained some damage during Luftwaffe bombings in World War II, but has since been repaired.

There are owls perched all around Leeds, with this one in front of the Leeds Civic Hall, built in the 1930s, which unlike the City Hall was praised for its construction which gave workers employment during a depression. The owls are also on Leeds’ coat of arms, which is probably the best coat of arms I’ve ever seen, as it has owls wearing crowns and a top hat in its center. The owls can be traced back to Sir John Saville, the first Alderman of the city, who had owls on his own coat of arms.

We stopped inside the Leeds Kirkgate Market, which has 800 stalls, making it the biggest covered market in Europe. The hall here dates back to 1904, but the market has been open since 1822, and is full of people yelling about meat and fish.

Leeds seems to have a thing for soaring ceilings, as along with the market there are all the covered shopping passages with tall hallways lined with huge windows and pricey window displays. The arcades are from the Victorian and Edwardian periods and although they fell into some disrepair during the 20th century, they were restored in the 1990s to their current beauty.

Above is the Ivanhoe Clock in the Thornton Arcade, which has characters from Sir Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe,” like Robin Hood and Richard the Lionhearted, pounding the time with their fists.

We ended our day at the Leeds City Museum, which has some diverse exhibitions, including those on Leeds’ history, Egypt, art, and also included this Roman mosaic of Italy’s favorite twins: Romuls and Remus. The museum has been open since 1819, and also includes the Leeds Tiger, a taxidermy with a curious history. It was once a rug, then got a story of it being a man-eater attached to it, but it was so poorly made that curators wanted to throw it out (that, and the Victorians may have used arsenical soap in its preservation), but people so love it that it is staying around.

After food and drinks with Sarah and her fiancé, I got on an evening train, the view out the windows speeding away from Yorkshire back to London.

London Day 6: Tate Modern and Camden Market

I seem to have lost track of blogging about my England trip from APRIL, but in the spirit of the Olympics I will continue my London posts. I apologize if my blogging is sporadic; I just started a new job that I am quite enjoying, but is very busy, and I’ve been running all over NYC trying to enjoy as many summer activities as possible.

Anyway, when we left off I was heading to a museum to meet up with an old friend. The Tate Modern is one of my favorites, as they have a fantastic permanent collection that is always free, and usually something stunning in the Turbine Hall. Unfortunately this time it was… Damien Hirst. And the Turbine Hall just had a black box with his diamond-covered skull inside (not actually HIS skull, mind you).

It looked like it was going to be at least an hour’s wait to see the skull, and since I really didn’t care, I saw the next best thing, or perhaps the best thing: the skull merch booth. Honestly, I kind of wish I’d bought something to celebrate art decadence, but predictably everything was more expensive than it was worth, the legacy of dear Hirst.

More importantly, I was at the Tate to meet up with my friend Mari who I knew from when we both lived in France. I hadn’t seen her in over two years, so we spent a lot of time catching up as we wandered through the permanent collections. Above is an inverted staircase by Do Ho Suh, representing the memory of one of the artist’s previous homes.

Here is Jenny Holzer’s “BLUE PURPLE TILT,” with tall LED screens of Holzer’s signature earnest sayings, like “a lot of professionals are crackpots” and “disorganization is a kind of amnesia.”

There is a great view from the top of the Tate to St. Paul’s, and some stormy skies seemed to be on their way. Still we walked outside and made our way to the underground to take a trip up to Camden Market for lunch.

After the rain, the sky totally cleared into blue, which was quite picturesque over the Camden Lock. Camden Market is a jumble of vendors selling all manner of random things, with plenty of outrageous clothing options. It is fun to browse.

We ended our day with drinks by the old Liberty department store. Here are some more photos of the prestigious, Tudor-style shopping center:

It was wonderful to see an old friend, and time always seems to be too short while traveling. All the more reason to go back, though. Yet the next day of my England trip wasn’t going to be in London at all. Watch here for the next adventure.

London Day 6: Thames and Borough Market

I started my sixth day in London with another walk along the Thames, this time on the South Bank. Above is the HMS Belfast, a Royal Navy cruiser that served in World War II and is now a museum. We didn’t make it inside this trip, but perhaps the next, as I do love old nautical spaces.

The shores of the Thames below the containing walls of the city are not exactly appealing, but I don’t think many people think to swim in the waters.

There were actually some kayakers that morning, and we saw them land on the beach by the Tower Of London, right by the Traitors’ Gate. Although it’s now bricked off, prisoners were once brought through the gate to the Tower, including Sir Thomas More and Anne Boleyn, after being transported by boat below London Bridge where the heads of executed prisoners were displayed on pikes.

Tower Bridge is the opposite of ominous with its cheery blue paint and spritely towers. The current color scheme dates to Queen Elizabeth II’s silver jubilee in 1977. This year is the Diamond Jubilee for her 60th anniversary as Queen.

Not sure when this old barge took residence and kind of ruined the view, if you’re not into old nautical relics, but I already covered the fact that I am, so hang around boat thing.

Our next stop was Borough Market. Traveling with Cecilia is wonderful because she always researches the good food places, whereas nourishment is always secondary to my weird cemetery visits and such. However, after being to Borough Market and other delicious places in London, I am starting to appreciate food tourism. Borough Market has existed in some form for hundreds of years, and is currently housed in buildings designed in 1851.

There was a multitude of food choices, but I went for a grilled cheese at Kappacasein. Or toasted cheese as you would say if you were at Borough Market. It was pretty delicious and I have been wanting another ever since, but now I’m all the way across the ocean, alas.

We then took a walk around the neighborhood and then back to the Thames, to walk to one of my favorite museums where I would meet up with an old friend.