Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Today I took the fastest business trip of my life. I wanted to meet with a client up in Leeds, but the best prices on train tickets were only available if I arrived in Leeds just before noon and departed just after 2pm. After a bit of indecision, I bought the tickets, agreed to hold the meeting with the client at the train station, and hoped for a delay-free train trip.
Serendipitously, my train arrived early, the client arrived early, and the meeting ended with just under an hour left before I had to head back to London. Not wanting to while away the time in the Starbucks at Leeds train station, I asked my client to point me in the direction of “things to see” and set out on the fastest city tour of my life.
My client pointed me towards Briggate, a wide pedestrianized street with historic shopping arcades branching off of either side. My first stop was Victoria Quarter and its adjacent—and in my opinion more beautiful—twin, County Arcade. Brimming with holiday lights, full of wrought-iron Victoriana, and chock-a-block with luxury shops like Vivienne Westwood and Harvey Nicks, these two shopping areas were a delightful blend of beautiful design, both Victorian and contemporary.
After speed walking through the arcades, I raced back out to Briggate and headed north to The Headrow. Home of the famous Town Hall and the adjacent twins of the Leeds Art Gallery and The Henry Moore Institute, The Headrow was all Victorian-architecture-meets-contemporary-design.
Glancing up at the larger-than-life clock dwarfing the Town Hall’s dainty cupola, I picked up my pace and sped back down Park Row and over to Bond Street. I followed the pedestrianized walk to Commercial Street, then beat a path to the Corn Exchange, a giant domed building that used to house maize and now houses two boutiques, a gym, and a food court.
The Corn Exchange was so desolate that at first I wondered if I was in a private office building. Then I saw the enormous sign begging potential tenants to rent space in the building. Ah, the recession.
I took a few pictures of the architecturally-thought-provoking-yet-mysteriously-tenant-free space, then walked back outside to check out a few more streets before my time was up.
Stumbling upon a market on Vicar Lane that sold everything from two-inch purple acrylic nails to pink foam curlers to Greek food to Tinkerbell figurines, I couldn’t help but feel like I was worlds away from the nearby chi chi boutiques of Victoria Quarter. Bewildered, I exited, grabbed a quick sandwich, and flew back to the train station.
The giant clock in the station read 1:46pm when I entered, and shortly thereafter I was safely in my seat on the train. I felt exhausted from my speed walking tour of the Leeds city center and glad to not have to look at another clock until I got back to London.