re: Revision Breaks, Nottingham

The beauty of the University of Nottingham’s main campus is one that stuns you on your first visit, but becomes neglected as you settle in the daily routine of lectures and library sessions. But towards the end of each academic year, there’s an exciting moment of rediscovery that’s inevitable to all:

Good luck to everyone else still stuck with exams!

re: Planning a Day Trip to London

Inside the Tate Modern, London

In lieu of any recent travels (such is the life of a final year student) and not posting anything the previous week (gotta keep my blog updated, at least for self-determination) let’s take a break from study, work, etc. and plan a day trip to London. Not everyone has the time or money to spend a weekend away and so day trip is the perfect way to keep that restless feeling at bay.

Step 1: Tickets

Weighing up the costs (longer journey) and benefits (cheaper tickets), coach travel to London isn’t my top choice when planning a day trip. Booking train tickets well in advance proves the best way to get a cheap seat, but to show the how ridiculous train fares are, here’s a little comparison: Nottingham > London £47, Nottingham > Cambridge, via London, £32.70 (same outbound and return times, prices w/o railcard). Do with this information what you will, but getting inventive with how you travel can help you avoid that strange London ‘tax’.

Step 2a: Timing

When you drop a small fortune on transport, you’ll definitely want to get the most out of your day in the big city. Arriving earlier is great, but can also be a bit pricier due to peak hours, so alternatively try getting a later return. If you strike lucky and are affected by those dreaded train delays, this at least won’t impact on your time in London and (un)luckier travellers may be able to claim your money back (although you’ll wonder if it’s even worth the £10 refund when you finally get home 2 hours later).

Step 2b: Plan

Once you have your arrival and departure times locked down, it’s time to start planning. Location and opening hours are essentials to go alongside your priorities of places to visit. If you go for a daytime showing of The Book of Mormon, don’t waste time after by browsing round shops – do that once you’ve made quick visit to Tate Modern! It’s easy to assume later closing times, but even London succumbs to the UK’s practice of shorter opening hours, (~too used to Hong Kong’s crazy late shopping hours).

Step 3: Plan B

You’re en route to Kew Gardens and you find that the end of the line is closed due to signalling problems. Google maps tells you it’s 1 hour away by bus and it’s already nearing 1pm. Flexibility is key, not everything will go exactly as planned and there’s no point in investing time, money and energy on something that’ll compromise your other plans. Although I’m sure Kew Gardens would have been great (one day I’ll visit), luckily there are a slew of great museums to choose from, back along the Central Line. This mind-set can somewhat extend to eating out. Instead of battling through cheap-but-mediocre sushi,  we might have gotten a more enjoyable experience if we had been ruthless and headed elsewhere after the first plate (TripAdvisor, what’s good).

Voilà, three(-ish) simple steps to a great day in London based on my previous trips this past month. Let me know your favourite places to visit in the city and your tips on efficient day trip planning!

re: Discovering Leeds

Visiting my hometown of Leeds for the first time properly since last summer, so many things are different. With fresh new changes in landscape, it almost feels as if I’m discovering a new city. Growing up, I’ve always had the idea of moving away and never coming back (dramatic, right?), but while I’d still rather live somewhere else, I do look forward to each visit. Every time I return to Leeds, it becomes a game of spot the difference as exciting new ventures begin to pop up around the city, here’s what I found:

Leeds has experienced a sort of regeneration in recent years, with the opening of two shopping centres: Trinity Leeds and Victoria Gate. Call it capitalism or a long overdue renovation of a city’s high street, but I like it! In particular, Trinity has fast become the heart for high street shopping in Leeds, connecting old stores and introducing new. Walking through is like a reversal of the stereotypical movie/TV trope, where flashbacks are warm and rose-tinted whilst the present is gloomy and grey. In contrast to the bright, modernised feel of Trinity, Victoria Gate oozes the cool elegance of the past. Its art deco styled interior feels as if you’re in Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby and you’ll undeniably drop a few pennies here. From Anthropolgie to (my favourite) &OtherStories, my bank account took one for the team and bravely suffered some losses. Location wise, it’s a strange one. Sitting next to Kirkgate Market, it doesn’t feel as integrated to the other city centre shops as Trinity does, becoming more of its own entity. Perhaps it’s just a matter of time, but nevertheless, I do thoroughly enjoy this new addition to Leeds’s shopping scene.

Since catching this video by Thomas Williamson on Facebook and like a baby captivated by bright colours, I knew I had to visit the Hello & Welcome to Leeds Mural (painted by Nathan Evans). Heading out of the new shopping centre, I was surprised to find Kirkgate Market had also been given an upgrade. It was beginning to rain, but I enjoyed stumbling across the street art decorating the area. Aside from the unfortunate lamppost placement (see photo), the vibrancy of the mural was great in combatting the weather’s greyness. Walking further, “Learn From Yesterday, Live For Today, Design For Tomorrow” is the quote emblazoned on the buildings that I used to know as Chinatown. From weekend lunches to wedding receptions, a lot of my childhood memories were made in the Chinese restaurant that was once here. However, it’s nice to see colour in the buildings, having been forgotten about for years.

A weird, collective sense of pride is felt when one recounts the number of famous names that come from Leeds. Focusing on food in particular, Leeds boasts a thriving food scene and it’s on my list to try the restaurant that gave Leeds its first Michelin star one day, (The Man Behind the Curtain). More accessibly, there’s Reds True BBQ (obligatory, visited when it was just a Leeds thing) and this time I finally got to try out Zaap. Getting there at a quiet 12 o’clock, it soon filled up with customers. The food wasn’t a disappointment either, with the Thai Iced Lemon tea taking me back to my summer in Thailand. Deciding where to eat can be quite the challenge – from Trinity Kitchen and it’s rotating roster of street food every 6 weeks to hyped local restaurants, the food culture in Leeds definitely leaves you spoilt for choice.

I’ve never had an answer for the question: “what time period would you like to live in?” and it’s because there’s nothing more exciting than the future. Despite all the uncertainty in the world today, the flourishes of innovation and business in Leeds is inspiring and fills me with positivity. Not only am I looking forward to when I’m next back, but my recent visit has reminded me that actually, Leeds is pretty ok.

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