Over the years, I’ve seen a fair number of cities bathed in light, transformed by vibrantly-coloured installations. I remember travelling up to Blackpool for The Illuminations as a child, lights snaking for miles along the front. Years later, I stood in Millennium Square, alone, mesmerised by Light Night Leeds. Since then I’ve seen light shows in Bern, Lyon, London and, now, Cambridge. I didn’t expect much from e-Luminate, but I was quickly surprised by just how good a show my current hometown put on.
Steeped in history, culture and architectural heritage, Norwich is one of my favourite cities in the UK – and not just because it’s home to No. 33, a cake emporium which tops my to-visit list every time I visit the city. I doubt I could ever tire of wandering its cobbled streets and elegantly styled arcades, of browsing its antique sales and independent retailers, of working my way through the city’s many eateries. Designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2012, Norwich’s Business Improvement District (BID) has since commissioned a number of eye-catching murals which draw on the city’s vibrant past. Some seamlessly blend elements of folklore with the fabric of the city; others combine the city’s landmarks with its literary heritage. Here are six of my favourites, from a morning spent wandering the city’s streets . . .
Related: Norwich: Where Old Meets New
January usually has little going for it (unless you’re a pluviophile, that is), so I was naturally rather excited when I spotted a column in Time Out heralding the return of Lumiere London. (We’ll gloss over the fact that they’ve nabbed a French word so as to have an alliterative event name and then butchered the spelling of it.) Commissioned by the Mayor of London, this city-wide event sees installations of all shapes and sizes illuminate the capital in glorious technicolour. Clusters of projections, neons and suspended sculptures bring a new dimension to the capital’s iconic buildings, streets and landmarks (and a fair number of lesser-frequented spots, too).
There are a few things in life worth getting up early for, and the seal pups at Blakeney Point are one of them. Over the months of November, December and January, hundreds of seal pups are born in the sand dunes of Blakeney National Nature Reserve, making this the largest seal colony in England. (And a beachful of blubber – but a cute one at that.)
If you take the crowds out of the equation, London is truly magical at Christmas. It sparkles, glitters and gleams with festive cheer from Winterville to Winter Wonderland. Christmas, Yuletide, Noël, call it what you will – the festive season is my favourite time of the year, and I couldn’t resist pulling together a seasonal edition of this series. Last week, Laurence and I headed down to London for a day full of touristy goodness; we hit the streets instead of the sweaty underground trains, and clocked up a whopping 30,000 steps in the process. (More than enough to justify all the mince pies we ate later in the day.) Here’s what we got up to . . .
Our trip to Leeds wouldn’t have been complete without a hike, so a few days before we left, my OS maps came off the bookshelf and the felt tips were brought out. We ummed and ahhed over where to go (Yorkshire Dales? North York Moors? Ilkley?) and eventually settled on a ten kilometre hike across the eastern edge of Rombalds Moor, a fairly low-lying area of moorland between Ilkley and Keighley.
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.