When all is said and done, the North will always be my home: I grew up there, studied there and hope – one day – to move back there. In mid-November, Laurence and I spent a long weekend in Leeds reliving our student days, visiting old haunts and eating our way across the city. (Mostly eating, if I’m honest, but we did clock up a lot of steps zig-zagging from LS1 to LS6.) Hopping aboard the 18:03 to Leeds, I was only too happy to be trading the pancake-flat South for the rolling hills of the North.
Stepping out of Leeds Station, I was struck by just how festive Leeds felt: multi-coloured lights had already been strung up across town; garlands and twinkling fairy lights hung from the ceilings of the arcades; and the scent of roast chestnuts wafted through the streets.
So much had changed, yet it simultaneously felt as though everything was just as I had remembered it. Victoria Gate was open for business, a slick, sleek addition to Leeds’ shopping scene; it was still under construction during my final year. Kirkgate Market, already Europe’s largest covered market, had expanded; a new aisle houses butchers and fishmongers, selling all manner of wriggly sea goodies and meaty morsels. (Pork arseholes, anyone? Yeah, we passed on those too.) Leeds University Union had had a makeover; we couldn’t resist a stroll round campus and a quick pit stop at Common Ground, where a pot of tea cost just a pound. With term still in full flow, we caught the LUU Farmers’ Market, and I finally got round to sampling a generous wedge of cake from The Cake Man. (I spent the whole of final year promising myself a slice and then never quite got round to it. Mission accomplished.)
Our trip also neatly coincided with the opening weekend of Leeds’ Christkindelmarkt. Tucked into Millennium Square were two dozen or so wooden chalets, complete with steaming vats of ruby-red glühwein and bratwursts sizzling over open flames.
We ticked off all of our favourite foodie spots, from La Bottega Milanese and Ecco Pizzeria (which, respectively, have the best tiramisu and pizza outside Italy) to Nation of Shopkeepers (where we enjoyed a pre-tea game of Scrabble) and Red’s True Barbecue (which trumps Cambridge’s SmokeWorks every time). We also stumbled upon Albion Place Market, where we picked up some tasty treats for lunch and browsed the stalls selling terrariums, cacti and locally-crafted jewellery.
Here’s my trip to Leeds in ten photos . . .