The Queen’s Hotel is a beautiful introduction to the City of Leeds. With its impressively wide Art Deco façade and Grade II listed status it looks not unlike a northern Buckingham Palace. As we walked up the red-carpeted stairs I wondered whether Queen Elizabeth has got revolving doors to play in too? Our room overlooked City Square with its imposing statue of the Black Prince of Horseback. Gazing out across the city skyline it took us a while to realise that the Prince himself was not a funny shape, he was just covered in pigeons.
Leeds is a superb place to shop. With streets filled with a mixture of familiar chain stores and more eclectic options we wandered around getting a feel for the city while keeping a tight grip on our credit cards. The grip did not last for long. A pair of butter-soft leather boots, snapped up by my friend at a third of the original price in Harvey Nichols, felt like even more of a bargain when the sales assistant told us the customer before us had bought two pairs of Jimmy Choo stilettos for the bargain price of £800.
Tucked away behind Briggate is POP Boutique which houses two floors of rails groaning with bright prints and fabrics from the 1960s and 70s. A row of long-haired Troll toys from the 80s decorated the shelves behind the cash till and we spent a good hour flicking through Japanese film postcards – Jane Fonda as Barbarella anyone? – and trying on vintage cashmere cardigans, wondering just how much we could carry home on the train.
At the top of the town centre, along The Headrow, stands Leeds City Art Gallery. You can’t miss it, there’s an enormous naked woman lounging outside who has shuffled along from her creator’s home next door at The Henry Moore Institute. With works by Anthony Gormley, Jacob Kramer, Bridget Riley and a beautiful new exhibition by Fiona Rae that is filled with colours and light, Leeds City Art Gallery houses a wealth of national and international art treasures and admission is free.
Leeds is home to many famous eateries, from Nash’s Fish and Chip shop, which has been ‘serving Leeds since 1924’ (and was the venue for my big sister’s 21st birthday party) to Raymond Blanc’s Brasserie Blanc on the banks of the canal, so when it came to places to eat we were spoilt for choice. A quick question asked on Twitter threw up many, many more options, all of which sounded amazing but after a sushi filled lunch at Harvey Nichols we decided to plump for good old steak and chips at the Blackhouse Restaurant and Bar. A T-bone steak, cooked to perfection and served with chips that came in their own little deep fat frying cage, made no apologies for being as far away from a low- fat meal option as possible. And it was all the more delicious for that.
Leeds is a mere hour and a half from Newcastle on the train and is a real delight to explore with culture, shopping, food and nightlife all within easy reach of the station. Just don’t blame me if you bring back more than you can carry!
by Katherine Wildman © 2012
Katherine Wildman is the Creative Director of Haydn Grey Ltd, a copywriting agency based in Cullercoats.
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