Waterstones Bradford

In a city filled with impressive buildings, it’s no wonder that the city’s largest bookstore is in the former Victorian Wool Exchange.

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Waterstones stands in the centre of the city, just across from the Broadway shopping centre, and really is an architectural delight.

From the Gothic revivalist style to the more modern glass panelling of the Waterstones Cafe, the building is a remarkable fusion of classic and modern styles, and the best thing of all? It contains lots and lots of books.

From the moment you walk in, you immediately realise this is not just a bookshop. This is a place to experience and to feast the eyes as well as your literary inclinations.

The high vaulted ceiling and intricately patterned windows are all visible from the ground floor, so you can appreciate the fine architecture wherever you are in the store. There is also a mezzanine floor with a cafe where you can pick up some pretty good coffee and cake.

After a short stop for refreshment, while watching the crowds pass by through the glass exterior of the cafe, you can browse to your heart’s delight along the shelves downstairs.

And there are enough books to keep you browsing for a good while, but it doesn’t offer nearly as much as the branch in Leeds that boasts three floors and more ample space for its cafe.

This branch is worth a visit to see the spectacular interior of the church-like building, particularly if you’re in the city anyway, but possibly not if you’re after a wider shopping experience.

One thing that you’ll notice while walking around the city centre is the number of buildings undergoing refurbishment and construction.

This is a city on the rise, but in terms of its bookstore and the other shops around the centre it pales into comparison with neighbouring Leeds.

 

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Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Just outside of Wakefield in West Yorkshire you’ll find the sprawling 500 acres of Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

It’s an impressive array of exhibits and, even if you don’t know much about sculpture, there are some very recognisable names among the artists with work on show.

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Ai WeiWei, the Chinese artist who in 2014 took over Alcatraz prison as an exhibition space, is behind the Iron Tree that stands outside the beautiful, if sparse, chapel. From a distance it simply looks like a tree with bolts sticking out at every angle, but it’s not until you get up close you realise it’s all made of iron.

Similarly there’s a discrete sculpture standing among the trees by Antony Gormley, best known for sculpting the imposing Angel of the North that stands at the southern entry to Gateshead. On a much smaller scale, One & Other has been at Yorkshire Sculpture Park since 2000.

There are plenty of offerings from other artists around the site, and there are frequently changes in the exhibitions as temporary ones come in to refresh the interest of regular visitors.

Currently Swiss sculptor Not Vital has an extensive array of pieces at the top of the park, from the unmissable Pelvis stood shining impressively on the hilltop, to the magical Moon and Let 100 Flowers Bloom hidden by the high hedges behind the main building.

One of the park’s most famous temporary residents, the towering cartoon characters by Kaws will be leaving the outdoor exhibition space at the park on November 20. These are almost Disney-like figures, but each have a darker twist than your average Mickey Mouse.

They are quite a sight though, so it’s well worth getting down to the park before they leave.

As for those of you who aren’t quite as keen on modern art, if you’re a fan of the outdoors and fancy a decent autumnal walk then there’s little you can fault with the park’s trails.

All of the trails are very well maintained, there are sheep and Highland cattle wandering through the fields and the woodlands respectively, and there is a fair-sized lake you can take a good walk around too.

There is also an extended path the other side of the lake from the visitor’s centre, although we’ve never quite found the time to do it ourselves.

The feeling of not quite having seen or done everything isn’t limited to this track though. We’ve been there twice for a good few hours and haven’t even got around to seeing the indoor exhibition spaces yet.

The great thing is this means there’s always more to discover when you go back, it’s just a good thing entry to the park is free. Parking, however, isn’t. But the most you will spend is £8 for the whole day, so it’s worth fitting a few people in the car and making of the most of it.

There are cafes on site too, and although they can be a little pricy, they’re not bank-breakingly so.

 

Leeds Victoria Gate opens its doors

It’s been hailed as the development that could transform the East end of the city, and on its first day open, thousands of shoppers flocked to check out the latest boost to Leeds’s retail  reputation.

After years of building, Victoria Gate opened to the public today – a £165 million project that transformed an old car park into another of Leeds’s awesome arcades, but one like no other.

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Since moving to Leeds back in April, we have watched the end of the work to bring Victoria Gate to life, and when walking by over the last six months, we have admired the facade of the John Lewis store and wondered how it might look inside on completion.

On hearing that today was opening day, we felt we ought to pay a visit on the way home from work. I think a lot of people had the same idea as us, as the place was bustling with visitors admiring the shops and getting snappy with their camera phones.

And I don’t blame them; as I said, Victoria Gate is unique among its fellow arcades in Leeds, with two arcing streets of stores. The architecture itself is stunning; its honeycomb roof and use of light makes you feel like you have entered a space reminiscent of The Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz.

Shopping-wise, perhaps with the exception of the John Lewis department store, most of the new stores stock wears that are a little out of our price range, with brands like Aspinal of London, Ghost, and The White Company.

But, I think this should be good for Leeds, and hopefully will bring more well-off shoppers into the high street to spend their money, which in turn could benefit other businesses.

If you haven’t visited Leeds city centre, then you should, and you should certainly check out the arcades. Each one has its own character and types of shops, ranging from high-end fashion boutiques to quirky independent businesses. I think Victoria Gate will add something to that mix.

My greatest hope for it, however, is that it achieves its aim of helping to regenerate the East of the city, increasing footfall through the brilliant Kirkgate Market, and prompting further development and prosperity.

Read more about the background of the building of Victoria Gate, here.

 

 

Leeds Corn Exchange

We’ve been a little Leeds-focussed lately for a couple of reasons. Firstly Chad has been suffering with an eye condition, secondly because the weather is staring to get a bit grim and we’re still acclimatising to autumn.

Fortunately, Yorkshire’s biggest city has plenty up its sleeve to keep you fed, watered and entertained whatever the weather.

img_5174This weekend we popped into the Corn Exchange, right by Kirkgate Market. The building is instantly recognisable with it’s rounded walls and domed roof – although the real beauty of the building is not apparent until you step inside.

Once you get inside the double doors of the main entrance, the open plan space is a real surprise. They really don’t make commercial buildings like this anymore, and usually when they’re converted floors are added to maximise the space, or they’re used for other purposes like performance spaces.

From the first floor you can see the level below right up to the ceiling, which adds even more space for being dome-shaped, and the floors are made from two mezzanines which curve around the edge of the building.

The first floor is the largest of the two mezzanines. With a big open-plan area it has a selection of boutique shops and small eateries; the main space is filled with tables and chairs for the coffee bar and there’s plenty of places to stand and take in the whole structure.

The second floor is a smaller mezzanine, a narrow balcony off which there are a number of small shops selling everything from drum-kits to clothes and tattoos.

The ground floor, the centre of which can be seen from all levels, is used as an exhibition space and frequently plays host to events, pop-ups and galleries. This weekend it was both a gallery and a rum festival… great news for someone who is in the middle of Go Sober October (and a great lover of good rum).

img_5168We visited the Corn Exchange for two reasons: Humpit, on the first floor, and the Leeds Drum Centre, on the top floor.

Humpit is Leeds’ only restaurant dedicated to houmous and its usual accompaniments – like falafel. The place has become, in a very short time, one of our favourite places to eat lunch when in and around the city centre.

It’s food is of exceptional quality and everything is vegetarian, so it’s dead easy for a non-meat-eater like myself to indulge in a selection of items on the menu. The fresh home-made lemonade is also really, really good and a great way to cleanse your palette in between mouthfuls of glorious garlicky houmous.

The only real problem with the place is that it’s nearly always full to the brim – you have to be a little patient or incredibly lucky to get a seat, especially at lunchtime, such is the popularity of the place.

After lunch, the staircases – curved like all the other architectural features in the building – provide a great way of gently burning off the plate of houmous, salsa, falafel and mushrooms you’ve just polished off.

We tend to hike up to the top floor for one reason – drums. Chad, as a drummer, will go into any shop with the word ‘drum’ on its sign and despite the general lack of browsing material in there he still insists on a visit.

What the place lacks in space, though, it makes up in expertise. Like a lot of the stores in the Corn Exchange it is very niche, but it does that niche well. And if it doesn’t have something you need, they can help you order whatever it is you do.

The space really is the crowning glory of independent trading in Leeds.

 

Lighting up Leeds

The Light Night festival in Leeds may have been running for 12 years now, but being new to Yorkshire it was the first time we had experienced the visual feast.

This year’s festival marked the first time Light Night had been held over two days and it didn’t seem to dilute the crowds either. Nor did the fact that the installations are dispersed right across the city.

At each place, no matter what time of the night, if there was something on there were plenty of people there.

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The exhibits ranged from the huge to the tiny, from the extravagant to the understated. There were vast projections on the facades of the Civic Hall and The Queens Hotel, but there were also the delicate-looking dandelions made from recycled bottles in Merrion Gardens.

No matter what the size and the scope or the expense of the individual installations, they were all simply fantastic and an enormously well-received welcome into autumn.

There were also the performances. We missed the fire show, although we’ve seen some amazing videos on instagram and were astounded at the speed at which the performers spun blazing wicks around themselves.

But we did catch the Spark! drummers who (somehow) managed to stay in time while dancing around in their spangly leotards and performing some amazing mime comedy. We also caught a performance of BREAD at Trinity, which set the glass ceiling’s twinkly lights in time with some interesting conceptual music.

Through the night, and we only did go on the one night, we managed to fit so much into a short space of time but we really did save the best for last.

SquidSoup’s Light Water, Dark Sky was based in the already-impressive surrounds of Leeds Dock. We’ve walked around the dock many, many times but this was the first time we had ever stood in the middle of the waterways.

Not that we had any particular interest in getting wet feet – we were stood on a fair-sized pontoon in the middle of the dock.

With hundreds of lights dangling on ropes, suspended from a frame built on the pontoon, it was like standing in the middle of a jungle with thick vines draped all around you. Only the vines lit up, flashed and changed colour in time to the beautiful music played into wireless headphones.

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For a few minutes in a cold dark October night at Leeds Dock it felt like you were somewhere else, it wasn’t cold, it certainly wasn’t dark, and you were surrounded by lots of other people of all ages and backgrounds thoroughly enjoying themselves.

And that was the real magic of the evening – the fact that thousands, tens of thousands, of people all got together on a chilly autumn evening and had a great time. None of the venues charged for the shows, there was no pushing and shoving and there was no rowdy and disrespectful behaviour (that we saw anyway).

By the end of the evening we left looking forward to next year’s big light up, but one thing is for sure – we’ll be doing both nights next time!

TBT: Goathland/Hogsmeade Station

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The reason we started this blog is because, in a very short time after moving to Yorkshire, we realised there was A LOT to see and do here.

But rather than let all the amazing things we discovered in those months go unremarked here, we decided to do a couple of #ThrowbackThursdays.

The first, I’m sure to the delight of Harry Potter fans, is Hogsmeade Station… otherwise known as Goathland Station.

We visited the station just a few weeks after moving to Yorkshire – it had been on my list of places to see long before we moved up North and I figured it was worth the substantial drive across to the North Yorkshire Moors.

The fact that it was a bright and sunny early-summer’s day probably helped matters, but the drive on the way up from Leeds didn’t disappoint at all. Going over the twisting and turning roads the surroundings were just as you would imagine – sprawling and hilly and the green and peaceful.

Of course on the way there I couldn’t focus very much on what was around me, I was too busy gibbering on about Harry Potter and what the station would actually look like when we got there.

But as soon a we got to Goathland and stepped out of the car I looked across the road and thought “what on earth is this?”

I mean, it was pretty – very pretty. There was a line of shops with Olde Worlde looking displays in the windows, only it wasn’t a magical Olde Worlde. In fact, it was decidedly Sixties Britain.

As we wandered from shop to shop I peered into the shops and saw a plethora of memorabilia – but only from the TV show Heartbeat, which was filmed in the village. I looked at Chad (slightly despairingly – if you’re after Heartbeat it’s definitely the place to be, but there was very little for Potter fans) and he suggested we look for the train station after a cup of tea (the cafe on the end is very good, if you’re in the area. Try the cake).

After the momentary panic that Goathland Station didn’t actually exist (or was hidden by a particularly powerful charm) we found it following a short walk.

DSC_5972It really does feel like Hogsmeade Station too, or at least a station which hasn’t changed much since the 1920s. To my delight, the shop on the platform sold a good variety of Harry Potter merchandise and an unhealthy, but delicious, array of boiled sweets.

The railway that goes through Goathland isn’t linked to the main network, but is on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. This means that they don’t come along very often, and when they do you can see their big puffs of steam long before you see the train itself.

Even before that you can hear the wonderful chug-chug of the engine.

DSC_6015The tickets for passage on the train is a little expensive – we paid around £20 each to go from Goathland to Pickering and back – but if you want to be transported back in time, as well as along the moors, there’s no better way to travel.

Must see/do

  • Take the train. If you’ve driven a long way you may as well, and you might just bump into a fellow Potter enthusiast along the way.
  • Visit the shop! I picked up some lovely souvenirs and sent a couple by Owl Post (Royal Mail, but the cards had owls on them) and it wasn’t overly expensive for a tourist destination.

Would we go again?

Probably, but I’ll be waiting for us to have kids before we stump up the cash for the train fare again. There’s also [Chad interjects] the chance to go to Whitby at the other end of the track from Pickering, which [I’m told] we did say we’d do.

Otley: rural idyll

 

So a bit of disclosure to start here – this wasn’t the first time we visited Otley. DSC_7725

Up until recently two of our friends lived down one of the impossibly bumpy country roads where, more often than not, you encounter a tractor trundling along.

But this is the first time we’ve really explored the quaint little town on the north-western fringes of Leeds.

We were in the town for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to air the camera (which has been gathering a lot of dust since our last holiday) and take some pictures of farm animals and the like – such as the rather splendid looking horses above.

The second reason was that Chad wanted fish and chips. And not just any fish and chips. He wanted ones from Otley. He wanted ones from Uncle Joe’s in Otley.

DSC_7769As it turns out, the two reasons were the perfect combination. After a long walk around the farmland surrounding the town, where I took snaps of anything that looked vaguely interesting and we were briefly stalked by an *adorable* foal (right), we had worked up the perfect level of appetite to wolf down a hefty portion of chips (and Chad a large piece of battered haddock).

Must see/do

  • Take a stroll through the public footpaths on the local farmland to get some great views of horses, sheep and cattle but *disclaimer* use your common sense and don’t get too close to the farm animals!
  • DSC_7780Uncle Joe’s fish and chips – just around the corner from Sainsbury’s in the centre of town.  The chips were okay, but the Icelandic fish is (reportedly – you’ll have to take Chad’s word for it) very good.
  • For those visiting the town later in the evening, the North Bar is a great little social place to have a chilled out pint in a friendly and ambient setting. There’s also plenty of outdoor seating, although on busy nights it can be tough to get a table.

Would we visit again?

We left the town feeling like there was definitely more to see and do, so yes – we will be back to Otley. What we’ve seen so far is great, but popping along on one of the town’s Market Days is definitely on the cards.