Next Stop... Leeds, England!

Beating my post Scotland blues I looked towards Yorkshire to serve something industrial and then historical. With the astronomical train fares I chose the Megabus to Leeds before checking out York, going up north had to be the one! Choosing the alternative, Leeds had something to show me, from darkness there comes light and Leeds shone brightly! Leeds didn't hold it back!

Getting down from my Birmingham Megabus at Leeds Bus Station allowed me to begin my Northern trip. Looking for the markets I didn't have to go far, clocking Kirkgate Market I viewed a normal looking set of market stalls that didn't exude the 19th century architecture! I had researched that Yorkshire market beforehand! Seeing the period market stalls with the fresh fruit and the famous Marks & Spencer Penny Bazaar, I was snatching the views that I had wanted to! Giving me everything that a traditional English market should do, adorned with colourful beams and a legendary glass roof that oozed period features I was loving that Yorkshire market without a doubt! Ranging from a unique foods stall that served a slice of what London's Borough Market does, I was thrilled the majority of the stalls embodied independence! I did not pay any mind towards the chains or the shady business at a certain Corn Exchange. Kirkgate told me the truth, sure Kirkgate didn't want to eradicate a single thing! Leeds had something to say! 

Was I looking to bag a bargain from those humble stalls at Leeds's Kirkgate Market? I did stop for a coffee at an ordinary looking cafe, personally for me it was all about appreciating the look of the market. The Marks & Spencer Penny Bazaar stood proud, representing the original store that set the foundation that became a British retail icon. Taking note of the history, I was extremely impressed by the story of Kirkgate Market. Being a powerhouse of enterprise within a city that went above and beyond within its many industries. Did M&S shade Kirkgate Market? Returning to the market during 2012 with a dedicated Penny Bazaar brought that Leeds born business back to their roots, telling the time wasn't an issue as a timely green clock was presented to the market in 1984 to celebrate the centenary of M&S setting up shop way back at Kirkgate in 1884. Kirkgate Market kept it real, honest and from my view it looked like things were independent, finding out about a certain ousting within Leeds was so cold! Keep it local!

Leeds presented itself as a Victorian showcase city with all of its period features I loved it, obviously with Victoria being my favourite queen! Leaving Kirkgate Market behind me, I was curious what was worth to see next. Millennium Square was littered with a funfair, not impressed by that sight I noticed Leeds Town Hall was just over the road from the Mandela Gardens, let me just say that Victorian civic hall had me transfixed by it's ruling queen! Walking away from Millennium Square towards Leeds Town Hall I captured a top vista, encapsulating Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds War Memorial and the Town Hall for good measure. Challenging this alternative Northern city had me looking for something ordinary that in my minds eye gave me everything and even more! I could only imagine what life was like during that Victorian hey day after the opening of the Town Hall? Leeds looked victorious with all of that Victorian Overness! Since being back in England, I have felt very trapped and like a foreigner in my country! Truth!

Why Leeds? I had three Northwest cities to choose from, between Sheffield and Bradford I chose Leeds. Pure and simple, Leeds became the chosen city due to its close proximity with York. I had plans to move onto York the following day. I always look for such places that are not on the tourist map, any of those cities sounded like the perfect place for that kind of business. Not wasting any time, I was off my Megabus that morning to see what hidden gems I could find. I must profess that I hate shopping, I did not pay attention to the pedestrianised shopping streets for that reason in Leeds alone. The rain may have poured a bit in the morning but the early afternoon was blessed with some lovely sunny weather, perfect for moving onto the next phase of my Leeds day. Being proud of its working class flex, Leeds presented itself as a modernising city with bucket loads of character. I saw that it was fashioning its factories into spaces for the future. Talking about a working class flex, I was about to see a factory that had lifted up Leeds! 

Crafting their cotton supply that had been brought by the barges to the working people of Leeds. Armley Mills hustled hard during those challenging days during Britain's Industrial Revolution. Stepping into the Leeds Industrial Museum schooled me back to those days and beyond, linked to the port of Liverpool by a vital canal link brought the raw materials to the former mill during those formative years. Leeds's premier fashion houses would have well been stocked with the finest garments but the workers of Armley Mill and many others of its time worked immensely hard in conditions that brought the name 'sweat shop' to life in the most raw sense. Witnessing the 'spinning mule' I could not begin to imagine how the work conditions were for those desperate workers, some of them I read were children who were working to support their families. I was proud of the history of the mill but for the treatment of the workers, no! Regardless of that shade served, I had been captivated by the museums many stories. Of course! 

In present day time, Leeds stood to be known for a very different trade. The well-known ITV soap opera, Emmerdale has been filmed in Leeds since its conception. Before making my self guided trip to Leeds and then York I had looked at tours that were packaged for that area with a visit to the Emmerdale filming set. Deciding the Armley Mills at the Leeds Industrial Museum would show me a real part of Leeds's history I didn't pay the Emmerdale Experience much attention, but believe you me I'm not being shady. Leeds looked like it had a great set of bars but I was so whacked out from seeing all I did in that day, choosing to take it easy I missed the opportunity to see any of the bars during their best hours. Dealing with that nighttime factor I know that I will make up for taking it easy in one of my upcoming trips. Leeds served several things that I really loved, its past and Victorian charm impressed me much! I'll never underestimate the draw of a city that's not a London, Manchester or Birmingham! Go on, Leeds! 

Legendary Leeds! 

Joseph Harrison


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