Travel review: Leeds
Food and footie - that's certainly the way to the heart of the two boys in my life and we were combining the two with a weekend in Leeds.
Home for the weekend was the four-star Novotel which was just a five-minute walk from the train station. Contemporary with clean lines, our family room had crisp white linen and was spacious. Staff were friendly and helpful.
The hotel bar - The Sugar Factory – is sparkly and metallic with a chilled out atmosphere. We supped on sumptuous cocktails while we watched sport on the huge TV screens, sitting on comfy leather sofas. Although we didn't eat at the bar the food looked delicious.
Novotel catered for both the youngsters and the adults with a gym, web corner and games area for the young ones.
The hotel was in an ideal location close to the city centre. It was easy to get around on foot because of the centre seems to be based on a grid system and when we ventured out with our Family day Rover passes it also seemed so simple on public transport.
Our reason for being in Leeds was for a football match at Elland Road – both my husband and son were over the moon that we managed to have a great view in the press box.
The match had switched to a Friday night, so that gave us plenty of time to explore this eclectic city.
After breakfast in the hotel restaurant, where you could take your pick from a superb hot cooked breakfast, fruit and yoghurt, pancakes and pastries, we ventured out.
Just 10 minutes bus ride from the hotel was the Emmerdale Studio Experience. For fans of the soap this is a dream and a few days after our visit the soap dominated the Inside Soap Awards, taking home eight awards and the Best Soap trophy for the third year running.
On the 80-minute guided tour at the former ITV studios, you can find out how story lines are put together, visit the make-up department, sit at the Woolpack bar and wander through the model village. The tour is full of little titbits with our guide Ian telling us that Emmerdale is the only soap in which real beer is served at the Woolpack, and there are 120 lights in the studio pub.
The tour is also fun for youngsters with plenty of interactive activities – you have the chance to edit scenes and compare your work with the professionals and light up Beauty & Bernice salon.
We had now worked up an appetite and made our way back into the centre for lunch at Pizza Fella, in Vicar Lane. Peering through the window the restaurant looked totally unassuming from the outside with its contemporary bare wooden interior, but the pizzas were to die for. The sparse decor might put some diners off, but the proof was in the Neapolitan pizza cooked in an authentic wood-fired oven.
The pizza was soft and doughy – Neil and I both went for Bianca pizzas which was explained to us that they were without a tomato base. All three of us said that it was the best pizza we had had in years.
The weekend we were in Leeds was Halloween and we ventured out to Kirkstall Abbey for a showing of Hocus Pocus. Kirkstall Abbey is a ruined Cistercian monastery, which was a fantastic and spooky setting for the film. We sat within the walls of the abbey watching the film, as youngsters donning Halloween costumes surrounded us.
In the evening, it was the off to Meat Liquor in Trinity Leeds. Trinity has about 120 shops with plenty of bars and restaurants.
Meat Liquor was very retro and funky with 70s-style tables and it was back to basics with kitchen roll on the table and sauces. We wandered down the stairs to the dimly-lit restaurant with a long bar and dining booths. There was also table football and pool.
I tucked into a chicken burger, Daniel a bacon cheeseburger and Neil a green chilli cheeseburger, which lived up to its name! We also had cheesy fries.
Dinner came on a tray and I think we were offered plates when we looked totally bemused. Drinks wise I had a white Russian, Daniel had a Maltesers milkshake and Neil had a few London Pale Ales and Lagers.
There is so much more to Leeds than bars and restaurants. It is home to the Royal Armouries, which is outstanding and jaw-dropping for both adults and youngsters alike. The museum is home to the UK’s largest collection of arms, armour and artillery. You also see Henry VIII’s original armour. There are six themed galleries.with more than 8,500 items to explore. And it is also free.
If you still have time there is also shopping and there’s plenty of it in Leeds with a mixture of independent, boutique and mainstream shops. Victoria Gate is stunning with its large windows and it has one of the largest John Lewis stores in the country.There are four more Victorian arcades as well as The Corn Exchange with its domed roof, which has a collection of independent shops.
Leeds is bidding to become European Capital of Culture 2023 and you can certainly see why they describe as a “diverse and vibrant culture”.
It was voted one of the top 10 European cities in 2017 by Lonely Planet. It boasts more than 300 bars and restaurants and a walk through the streets in the evening just goes to show it is thriving.
But, it’s not just bars and restaurants that Leeds has to offer. There is so much more.
Sport is also big in the city and Leeds has hosted huge events including Tour de France Grand Depart in 2014 and the Rugby World Cup in 2015 was hosted at Elland Road.
Leeds is a mixture of old and new with a wonderful collection of buildings, bar and restaurants and attractions. I’m sure it will be one of the top runners for the City of Culture – how could it not be?
And let’s just say that we had far more success with the food than the footie, so we will not discuss the game any more!
*Novotel is a contemporary city centre hotel centrally located just 300m from Leeds Railway Station. It is easily accessible from the M1 and M62. Prices start from around £79 per room per night.
*The Emmerdale Studio Tour. Adult - £21; Child (aged 5 - 15) - £19.50; family (two adults plus two children / one adult plus three children) - £68. Under 5’s and essential carers free ( proof required). See www.emmerdalestudioexperience.co.uk/studio-experience-tour/
*Family day rover ticket from www.wymetro.co.uk. Family DayRover for groups of up to five people (up to two adults and up to three children/Metro concessions or one adult and up to four children/Metro concessions), or even just two adults. Prices start at £12.20.
*For details on accommodation and activities in Leeds see www.visitleeds.co.uk
*VisitLeeds social handles: @VisitLeeds / @LoveLeedsMore #LeedsChristmas