The main thing that I found out about Leeds whilst I was there, was that they REALLY like owls.
I spent the night with my lovely cousin Emma, having many wonderful conversations about feminism and literature and geek culture (and learning that she and I are definitely both still playing Pokemon Go). The next morning, she dropped me in the centre of Leeds where I set about on my wandering way.
I've been to Leeds before. A couple of times in the last few years for work, where I stayed in a Premier Inn which doesn't have a breakfast room, which requires you to eat breakfast in the adjoining TGI Fridays. Believe me, its confusing not being able to order a cocktail and a burger. On those trips, I mostly saw the inside of Northern Ballet, which, though lovely, is not very useful for my novel.
The other visits I've made are far back in the past. A family friends wedding when I was 10 and an interview at the Uni 10 years ago. I remembered my way around, though, and set about exploring the slightly hilly terrain.
My first discovery was a building that looked like it was borrowing something from Italian renaissance architecture. Inside, however, were some early-to-work office types who didn't really fit with the overall feeling of the place. Useful for dystopia future novels though...
And so I walked up towards the town hall, which I only discovered was the town hall when I looked it up on google. It seemed, from my vantage point at the front of the building, not to have a plaque or name plate on it, which seemed a little remiss. But then, the four lions guarding the entrance are in various states of decay due, I assume, to acid rain. Its an impressive building, nonetheless, including a sign talking about town ordinances, which I dutifully read assuming from it's font that it was old. Until, that is, I read the words 'skate boarding is prohibited' and decided it was just some clever typographical trickery.
'But what about the owls?', I hear you cry! I'm getting there, worry not. As I made my way up the hill, and caught sight of the inevitable Christmas Market (thankfully, it wasn't open yet, so I was not subjected to the scent of mulled wine and doughnuts at 8am), I noticed something strange about the town square.
On the top of two pillars, looking very regal, were a pair of golden owls. I decided to investigate further, and, upon walking around the building, I discovered yet more be-plinthed owls, including one with a QR code so you could hear it 'speak'. Whilst I backed off to take a picture, I glanced up at the top of the building and found, yes, you guessed it, more gold owls on the roof. I had to find out what this was about.
It turns out, that the Leeds coat of arms is flanked by two owls. Which led, logically enough, I suppose, to the creation of the Leeds Owl Trail. If you're up there, I suggest you give it a try.
There's not too much else to my tour of Leeds. Given the early hour not much was open but I got a good look around the architecture and got a general sense of the city, which was my aim.
At 11am, it was onwards, to Durham.