Thursday, 15 August 2013

Ten things to love about Leicester

With a mere three weeks to go until The Boy moves back to Leicester, I thought I would put together a little list of some of the things he can look forward to.  Now, I haven't always loved my adopted hometown, but there is much to love here.  Ten things, in fact.
 


1. You're never more than a few miles away from open countryside.  Like many UK cities,  the bright lights of the town centre are never terribly far from lovely countryside.  A ten minute drive - or a twenty minute bike ride - is all I need to be amongst open fields.  Leicester, being notoriously flat (remember Adrian Mole's unpublished novel, Lo! The Flat Hills Of My Homeland?  Yeah, that's Leicester in a nutshell), doesn't really do good views, but there are some very pretty corners.


2. Curve Theatre is a masterful piece of architecture, dominating the Cultural Quarter and providing an excellent venue for world-class theatre, dance and other performances.  Recent shows I have loved there include Some Like It Hip-Hop and One Man Two Guv'nors, and I'm looking forward to seeing Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake and the new Alan Bennett play in their autumn/winter season.

3. Phoenix Arts, our independent cinema is always a good bet to see great new releases in a much more pleasant environment than the local multiplex. It also has a good bar and cafe with a buzzy atmosphere, and a great membership scheme.

4. The wonderful bars, including the Orange Tree chain (The Orange Tree in the city centre, The Lansdowne near Leicester University, and O Bar in the studenty surroundings of Braunstone Gate), which are all really wonderful for good food, good drinks, retro surroundings and a convival atmosphere; The Exchange Bar, in a gorgeous flatiron building, hosts great open mic nights in the basement; Manhattan 34, which sells amazing mulled cider in the winter; The Crumblin' Cookie, which is part-cafe, part-bar, part-comedy and music venue, all-awesome... there are so many good places to eat, drink and be merry in Leicester!


5. ... but I don't love them quite as much as I do my home from home, Firebug.  I write about this place a lot, because I do spend rather a lot of time there.  Whether it's lunch and a pint during a shopping trip, Tuesday evening dinner before book club, or a Saturday night drinking session, Firebug is always a relaxed place to hang out alone or with friends.  If and when my aunt Jenny ever makes the long-promised visit to the UK from South Africa, we've already agreed that this place will be our first stop!


6. St Martins Square & The Lanes is an area of entirely independent shops in the city centre. There are vintage stores galore, gift shops, interiors and fashion boutiques, tattoo parlours, a great haberdashery, Rockaboom Records, a cook shop, plus lovely places to eat and drink (Taps is a favourite bar, which features actual beer taps on the tables in the cellars, and the World Peace cafe is a great veggie/vegan option).


7. Leicester is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the UK.  Not only that, but it's regularly held up as an example of how to get multi-culturalism right; while not perfect, Leicester has far fewer tensions than others of its ilk.  We have an annual Caribbean Carnival, fantastic food in the numerous 'ethnic' restaurants and cafes (including a plethora of vegetarian and vegan options in the hundreds - thousands? - of Indian eateries), the biggest Diwali celebrations outside of India... I could go on and on.  Having grown up in Bradford, I loved moving to Leicester and experiencing life in a truly integrated multi-cultural city.
 
8. Clarendon Park is a lovely area just to the south of Victoria Park. Queens Road, its main thoroughfare, is a hotchpotch of independent shops, delis, cafes and restaurants. I love to wander up here to do my weekend shopping the old way: fruit and veg from the greengrocer, flowers from the florist, meat from the butcher, cheese and bread from the deli (and usually a couple of finds from the numerous secondhand bookshops). Green & Pleasant is a great store for organic and fairtrade food; Vintage Utopia is chock full of retro furniture at very reasonable prices; The Offie is the place to be if you're a beer and ale fan, with over 500 different brews.
  

9. New Walk New Walk is a unique, mile-long 18th century pedestrian walkway that links the centre of town to Victoria Park.  The majority of the buildings along the route are also late-18th or early-19th century and, with old iron lamp-posts, quiet squares and trees lining the walk, it makes a wonderfully traffic-free and peaceful way to get to and from the city centre.

10. Finally, the very best thing about Leicester is that it's easy to leave!  Being pretty much slap-bang in the middle of the country, it's very well-connected.  London, Birmingham, Nottingham and Sheffield are all within an hour's reach, and it doesn't take too long to get anywhere else in England other than the very furthest reaches. 

12 comments:

  1. Blimey, I can only think of 2-3 good things about Maidstone. Never been to, but I always hear good things about Leicester.

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    1. I'm not gonna lie, it's not exactly the most exciting place on earth, but it's home!

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    2. Yeah I was just thinking I'd struggle to come up with 10 things for my hometown! Maybe I'll just move to Leicester ;)

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  2. Number 11. I'm only a bus journey away!

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    1. Yay! You should come down for a visit!

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  3. Yay! Its been too long since I visited Leicester. I need to come visit one weekend and try out that veggie restaurant!

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    1. If you do make the trip, let me know and we can "do lunch"!

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  4. I absolutely agree with all the statements above!

    Leicester isn't really bigged up very often, but there's a lot of plus points for sure. And that last point is funny, but very true and noteworthy!

    Did you know Rockaboom has moved out of St Martin's Square and into Malcolm Arcade - I was really worried it had shut down completely when I saw the shutters down last weekend!

    I think we need a Leicester bloggers meet up...

    B x

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    1. Such a good idea, I would be up for a blogger meet-up!

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  5. The Firebug is right up there on my list of things to see, places to go!!

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  6. Last year I had Visit a new British city on my 31 Before 31 list, and I managed it with Lincoln. I'm thinking about adding it again this year; maybe Leicester will be the one to help me achieve it!

    I'm currently thinking up 10 Things to Love about Essex (there are lots, I promise!) for a guest post - thanks for the inspiration! :)

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