Waiting to travel is tough. You’ve made the decision to go, you’ve researched the countries you want to visit, the sights you want to see and the perfect backpack – but for the moment, logistics (and probably more importantly, lack of funds) are against you. You’re stuck in limbo, wanderlust ignited with no-where to go for the next few months.
Everyone else seems to be having exciting adventures, but yours hasn’t started yet.
In this situation, when departure seems somewhat abstract and the months at home seem to stretch depressingly far ahead, it is tempting to plan interim trips to fill the void. You find yourself at your computer on your lunch hour, eyes glazed, clicking through page after page of infinity pools and jungle tree houses and winter breaks in Barcelona and Prague. But herein lies the problem. You’re saving for a RTW trip, so you probably can’t really justify a weekend trip to Paris or a New Years Eve in Thailand.
One of the things I love most about travel is discovering and exploring a place – the culture, the food, the sights. But who says that place has to be a plane ride away? Sometimes it pays to look a little closer to home, and look at the places you know through the fresh eyes of a tourist.
Spending weekends getting to know the travel gems your own country has to offer can be a great way to satiate your wanderlust until your long awaited departure date arrives. One of the best things about living in Britain is that pretty much everywhere is within easy travelling distance, and since my friends have become increasingly distributed around the country I’ve had the perfect excuse to spend my weekends visiting them.
Most people travelling to Britain head straight to London, but I think the cities ‘up North’ have just as much to offer.
Here are my highlights from some of my favourite cities in the North of England.
There’s so much to love about the party capital of the North, with its subtle balance of grit and glamour. For starters, there’s the endless variety of places to eat and drink – from the frenetic, neon soaked bars of the Big Market to the quirky cobbles and sleek riverside restaurants of the Quayside area. Across the river is Baltic Mill, a landmark industrial building which now houses a modern art gallery, home to the Turner prize exhibition 2011, and a decadent roof top restaurant with stunning views of the Millenium bridge. My top tip is the Tyneside cinema, a traditional news reel cinema built in 1937 that hosts film screenings, live music and a fully licensed bar within a beautifully restored Art Deco building. For food try Electric East – a fusion of Vietnamese, Cambodian and Thai flavours interpreted in a selection of gorgeous tapas dishes.
York is a city steeped in history, and offers a rich cultural heritage and stunning architecture combined with boutique shopping, quirky museums and great food. Highlights include the Jorvik Viking museum, the imposing beauty of the Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe and the Shambles, York’s oldest street dating back to the 15th century. The city regularly plays host to eclectic market stalls which line the cobbled streets, and has a busy programme of events and re-enactments for those fascinated by the historic Viking heritage. If you like your evenings a bit livelier, Dusk bar has one of the best playlists in the city.
Known as ‘the largest village in England’, Sheffield combines a cosmopolitan city centre with quirky streets, independent businesses and the beauty of the Northern countryside. For a tranquil oasis within the city centre try a wander through the Winter gardens, the largest urban glasshouse in Europe, filled with 2500 plants from around the world. The eclectic neighbourhoods of the Hunters Bar area hold hidden gems such as vintage boutiques, tiny restaurants and delis selling local produce, while bustling Ecclesall Road provides a virtually inexhaustible parade of bars, restaurants and shops. A third of the city lies within the Peak District National Park, providing easy access to some of the best hiking, biking and rock climbing in the UK, and the historic house and gardens of the Chatsworth estate are definitely worth a visit. July sees the city enveloped by the ‘free for all’ Tramlines festival, when the pubs and bars throw open their doors onto the streets and for two days and nights the city hums with live music coming from every available performance space.
Living in the North of England there are so many places on my doorstep to discover and love – and it’s all good practice for when the time comes for me to explore places further afield.
How about you – what are your favourite things about the area where you live?