Monthly Archives: August 2016

Yorkshires largest city for travelling

Spurred on by the drive to win the title of European Capital of Culture 2023, it’s all go, whether you’re after brewery brunches or barista classes, pop-up events or elegant arcades. Here’s our guide to the city’s thriving food, beer and coffee scenes, revamped markets and galleries and historic sights.

 

Craft beer and Northern Monk

If Leeds could be summed up in one sniff, it would be the aromas of hops and malt. In the past five years, the city has leveraged its proud Yorkshire real-ale heritage to create one of the UK’s finest craft beer scenes. This is a city of connoisseurs, where scores of hopheads worship at dozens of bars and microbreweries.

Leading the pack is Northern Monk, beloved for its sociable taproom in a Grade II-listed mill, its inspired collaborative brews and its brewery brunches starring hop bread.

 

Holbeck: an unexpected wonderland

Step out of the Northern Monk taproom and you’re slap-bang in the middle of an unexpected wonderland of 19th-century industrial relics. Holbeck may have a reputation as a rough-around-the-edges place (it’s Britain’s first legal red-light zone), but it’s also a fascinating conservation area with some great pubs and off-the-beaten-track appeal.

One of Tower Works' startling Italianate chimneys © Lorna Parkes / Lonely Planet

Amid clusters of converted flax-mill offices, three startling brick chimneys – modelled on Italian bell towers – shoot skywards from crumbling Tower Works. This former pin factory has been plotted as the centrepiece of a mixed-use development and businesses such as Burberry are putting down roots here.

Temple Works' Egyptian-style facade was once topped by grazing sheep © Lorna Parkes / Lonely Planet

Around the corner stands the Egyptian-inspired stone facade of Temple Works. Some locals remember when its flat roof was covered in grass and grazed by resident sheep. There are grand plans to turn it into an arts venue, but in the meantime local artists are taking advantage of cheap studio rents within its decaying walls.

Leeds Civic Trust (leedscivictrust.org.uk) runs a heritage Supper Walk around the area, including dinner at Leeds’ Heritage and Design Centre.

 

Heritage shopping

When textile magnates roosted in Leeds during its 19th-century industrial heyday, elegant shopping arcades were erected to burn holes in their pockets. The covered laneways fanning out from Briggate still retain many traditional shopfronts, behind which lie the city’s most interesting independent stores – selling artisan cakes, comics, craft beer and the like – tempered by high-end fashion boutiques.

The Corn Exchange offers independent shops and ping pong © Lorna Parkes / Lonely Planet

Victoria Quarter is the undisputed beauty queen, but check out gothic Thornton’s Arcade for its chiming automaton clock featuring a life-sized Robin Hood and Friar Tuck. A five-minute walk away, the Colosseum-like Corn Exchange has been transformed into another bastion of indie shops and cafes, with deck chairs and pop-up events in its lower level.

 

The revamped Kirkgate Market

It’s hard not to be dazzled by the wrought-iron razzmatazz of Kirkgate Market’s ornate atrium ceiling. On a sunny day, light floods in through the glass illuminating the colourful traditional wooden stalls below. This is where UK retail giant Marks & Spencer started its empire in 1884 (check out the Penny Bazaar homage to M&S inside the market). The section abutting Vicar Ln is the highlight of what is one of Europe’s largest covered markets.

Kirkgate remains a true locals’ market, selling a bit of everything, but in 2016 it also welcomed a new street-food hall and made a push to introduce gourmet, local produce. It’s now a favourite lunch spot: grab a curry from award-winning former food truck Manjit’s Kitchen, followed by a brownie from upmarket bakery Bluebird.

 

The North’s best food fest

If proof was needed of how far Leeds’ food scene has come in the past five years, Leeds Indie Food (leedsindiefood.co.uk) is it. Now in its third year, the festival spills across two whole weeks each May, and coveted events sell out in days.

The focus is on Leeds’ independent restaurants, cafes and regional producers, reflecting the city’s growing reputation for innovation in the kitchen. Events are unique: you could find yourself at a doughnut-and-beer-matching event or experimental lobster workshop one day, followed by a foraging walk or secret-location dinner the next.

Lets Checklist for Campers

Thinking of taking an adventure in the great outdoors? While specific gear will depend on climate, terrain, whether you’re car camping or backpacking, and your camp setup (e.g. tent or RV), these packing tips will help you cover all of the necessities — with specific recommendations on the gear we use on all of our camping trips.

Be sure to start compiling your own specific item list well ahead of time so you know you’ll have everything when the time comes!

 

Tent: If you’re packing a car, pack your tent last so it’s the first thing you’re able to set up. Double-check you have all your poles and stakes, a mallet, and your rain-fly (if applicable). We use this lightweight Marmot tent.

Sleeping Bags: Down or down-substitute sleeping bags are the lightest and easiest to compress.
Sleeping Pads: These Therm-a-Rest compact sleeping pads give you cushion and help radiate heat back to your body.
Tarp: An extra tarp for the tent’s floor will keep you warmer and dryer at night, and if you get one with some extra length, you can use it to wipe shoes off outside.
Clothesline: If there’s a chance you’ll get wet, bring an adjustable bungee clothesline and clothespins for drying.
Hammock: Hammocks are a great addition for relaxing if you have the space. This one is under $20!
Games: Be sure to bring some games like dice or cards.

 

Solo Female Travelers Tips

The truth is, solo traveling to another country as a woman is actually not as threatening as it may seem. While there are some countries where a woman traveling alone will certainly draw more attention, in general a willingness to respect local customs and a cautious awareness of your surroundings will see you through.

Sometimes, though, it’s easier not to worry about extreme culture differences. Sometimes you just want to have fun. In these ten destinations, it’s not uncommon to see women traveling alone, so you can feel free to relax without standing out.

 

Wales

This country in the west of the United Kingdom has an amazing landscape and an even more amazing cultural history. If you’re interested in the King Arthur mythology, you’ll find a number of important sites from those texts. If you’re into outdoor sports, try a solo hike on the Pembrokeshire coast. Cardiff, the capitol, also offers a number of theaters (including the famous Millennium Center), museums, sports arenas, and shopping centers.

 

Canada

Almost all of my trips to Canada have been solo journeys and I’ve always felt extremely safe. In Quebec, you’ll find a huge cinematic and television culture like the Festival of International Short Film, as well as the famous winter Carnavale in Quebec City. Ontario houses the country’s largest city, Toronto, whose theater, music, and comedy venues are comparable in both quality and number to those in New York City.

The number of national parks, from Niagara Falls to Mount Revelstoke’s 1,000-year old forest, will give you plenty opportunities to hike, camp, ski, surf, and star-gaze. Wildlife lovers, like myself, often find Canada to be one of the best places to head out into the wilderness.

From spending the day with wild grizzly bears and getting up-close and personal with puffins to kayaking and snorkeling with whales, I’ve had some of my most magical solo (and non-solo) wildlife experiences in Canada. There’s plenty of tour operators who provide amazing outdoor experiences in this country, so you don’t need to worry about being completely alone in the wild.

How to Avoid Travel Mistakes

Whether it’s your first trip abroad or you travel several times a year, we all make mistakes that can cause headaches or possibly even ruin your trip. The good news is that with a little planning, it’s easy enough to avoid some of the most common travel mistakes so you can spend your time enjoying your vacation.

 

1. Overpacking

It’s tempting to bring outfits for every possible occasion, but it makes it difficult to haul your luggage around, and you may get stuck with high baggage fees for accidentally exceeding the weight limit. Instead, pack your bag as usual, then take out half the clothes you originally planned. You won’t wear all of them, you don’t have to sacrifice style, and you can always do some laundry on the road.

 

2. Not Checking Your Cell Phone Plan

It’s important to know what your plan covers to avoid data roaming fees. Not covered? Turn off your data before you get on the plane and leave your phone in airplane mode (you’ll still be able to connect to wi-fi). If data is important to you, look into buying an international plan or buying a local SIM card once you arrive.

Alternatively, for Americans, consider T-Mobile as your carrier. We now get free data in 200 countries and it has literally changed the way we travel. (Note: We have no affiliation with T-Mobile and we pay for our own monthly plans.)

 

3. Not Booking Enough Time in Between Flights

Flight conditions can be unpredictable. If one gets delayed, you might be forced to rush through an unfamiliar airport to make your connecting flight, and you might not make it in time. It’s best to book them with a safe buffer in between. If you are traveling through Heathrow in London, plan for at least a two-hour layover here since you have to go through security just to get from one flight to another.

 

The steely nerves to drive us out of Moldova

Despite budget flights from western Europe to Chişinău, travellers aren’t yet descending in droves on this little country squeezed between Romania and Ukraine.  Starting from WWII, Moldova was part of the Soviet Union for five decades; the country continues to be dismissed as a gloomy throwback to that period. Certainly, modern Chişinău has its Soviet-era stalwarts – like the crumbling state circus building (Strada Circului 33) and the tanks assembled outside the Army Museum – though the city is freshened by fountain-filled parks and tree-fringed boulevards.

But if Chişinău feels anchored in the 1970s, the rest of Moldova froze in time centuries earlier. On our northbound drive, women in headscarves are stepping out into the road and waving hand-picked bouquets. They’re selling wildflowers to passing motorists, but for a moment it seems as though they are beckoning us towards Moldova’s time-trapped countryside.

 

Hiking the lonely roads of Old Orhei

Our destination is Orhei, a district of pastures and forests, around 45km north of Chişinău. The car nudges cautiously through quiet villages like Ivancea and Brăneşti, and before long we can see chalk cliffs rising into view.

Like a pair of cupped hands, these cliffs encircle Moldova’s holiest sight, Orheiul Vechi (‘Old Orhei’). From the 13th century, monks consigned themselves to silent contemplation within caves in the rock face, a practice that endured for some 500 years. Anchoring this sacred place is the Ascension of St Mary Church (1905), whose glinting dome catches the sunlight from far across the Răut River.

Cave-dwelling monks have largely cleared out, but Orheiul Vechi remains a site for contemplation: you can walk for miles without seeing a soul. As I trace the Ivancea–Orheiul Vechi road, not a single car interrupts my path; an occasional rider, hauling several farm-hands in a horse-pulled wagon, clatters past and gives me a startled stare.

In the villages, houses are painted powder-blue and green, backed by spectacular salt-and-pepper cliffs. Garden trellises are loaded with vines, and gargling turkeys loll in their shade. Faced with this scene plucked from a pastoral fairytale, it’s impossible not to slow down to the pace of village life in Moldova.

 

Tasting farm life in Trebujeni

Trebujeni, just southeast of Orheiul Vechi, is accessed by potholed, dust-and-dirt roads. The overwhelming majority of locals in this trio of villages are farming stock, and the trickle of pilgrims and visitors doesn’t create much of a tourist industry. Nevertheless, there is a scattering of places to stay, signalled by decoratively carved pensiunea (guesthouse) signs swinging in front yards.

As we drive tentatively into Trebujeni, geese scatter from our path and we’re blindsided by the odd surprise horse. Somewhere along the pitted roads, one of our car’s hubcaps wobbles straight off its wheel.

Our guesthouse here, Casa din Lunca (+373 794 55 100, Trebujeni), has a rustic air that matches its setting, from creaking gate to grandmotherly embroidery – but it’s an unpolished sort of place. I sling a rucksack onto my bedspread and dust puffs up from the sheets. We survey a backyard prowled by yowling cats, rugs as threadbare as the wi-fi signal, and a forlorn, empty swimming pool.

‘I’ll be in my room,’ sighs my travel companion Jane, ‘with my book.’

Our spirits are raised when the hostess of the house lays platefuls of country cooking across an outdoor dining table. There are wooden platters of smoke-scented meat, and voluptuous pitchers of tart red wine are finding space between salads and sour cream. We carve mămăligă, a cake of polenta, into cushiony wedges.

As we feast, rural Moldova is slowly working its magic. In the shade of a vine-covered awning, to the sounds of bleating farm animals, the atmosphere seems like a fair swap for our car’s lost hubcap.