My first tourist day out
Today I took a day trip to Leeds, the first time I have left Newcastle for purely tourist purposes. (I did go to York and London in December, but those were for a concert and a Christmas visit to friends, and I didn’t do any sightseeing — and while I was in York I met with my supervisor about the paper we were writing.) Today’s trip was a coach (long-distance bus) excursion sponsored by the university’s One Planet organization; it cost me £13 (about $20) round trip, which was probably less than it would have been for a bus ticket otherwise. And I had never been to Leeds before.
The weather made things more difficult. Both Newcastle and Leeds had had snow in the preceding days (Leeds more than Newcastle), and today was sunny and several degrees above freezing. The landscape along the way was gorgeous and very romantic, with all those English houses gleaming in the snow, but the walking in town was exceedingly slushy. Fortunately, I expected this and wore my hiking boots, but I would have been more comfortable had the streets been snow-free and I could have worn regular shoes. Oh well; I did walk more than seven miles today.
I started at Leeds Kirkgate Market, much larger than Newcastle’s Grainger Market, and with an outdoor component as well, but not nearly as charming. I then decided I wanted to see the cathedral, so I searched for it on Google Maps and found it with little trouble. Leeds Cathedral was nothing to write home about — all new inside (or newly cleaned) and rather sterile in feel. While there, I realized it was a Catholic cathedral and wondered where the Church of England one was.
Well, it turns out there isn’t one… but there is a minster. And what a minster! Let me just say that Leeds Minster is everything that Leeds Cathedral is not. The minster is inviting, warm, full of colored light from the large number of stained-glass windows, and full of old, dark, carved wood. Leeds Minster is not ancient, as these things go — having been built about 1840 — but it has a solid, substantial feel to it. I took four photos of the cathedral and have kept only one of them; I took more than 50 of the minster and will probably end up keeping at least 2/3 of them.
I walked around the center of the city for a while, wandering into and out of several shopping arcades (Leeds is known to be quite the place for shopping) and looking for other churches that might be open (I found only two, and they weren’t).
I wish we had had a little more guidance regarding the city. They were supposed to take us on a short walking tour, but unfortunately they cancelled that at the last minute because of the slush. I spent my time alone, which I guess I’m used to, but I would have liked to have found a congenial student or two with whom to explore the city. I’m close to three times the age of most of these people, though, and I can’t blame them for not being interested.
If I go to Leeds again, I’ll spend time in the artistic quarter and (assuming weather permits) see what the riverfront is like.
Something else that this day made clear to me is that I’m going to have to do something about my left foot. I’ve developed a “bunionette” (also called “tailor’s bunion”) on the outside of it, and it causes me problems in doing a lot of walking — and I am doing a great deal more walking in Newcastle than I did back in the States. I am going to look for a podiatrist (called “chiropodist” in the UK). I hope we can solve this without surgery, but if not, a surgery is likely to be simpler than what often happens for regular bunions, connected with the big toe. (I’ve got a much smaller one on my right foot, but it rarely bothers me and I am confident that wearing wider shoes will be sufficient to stave it off. The problem with wider shoes is that my heels are so narrow that I have to wear styles with uppers or straps that keep the backs of shoes from slipping off.)
P.S. I’ve created a Flickr set for my Leeds photos. I’ve uploaded only a few so far; I’ll add the rest in the next few days.