Gallery sent Michelle Riley on a dream shopping minibreak to Leeds. Armed with a glamourous action-packed schedule including attending fashion shows as part of 'Leeds Loves Shopping' and a party at Harvey Nics. She jetted off in a Jet2 airplane, and we weren't entirely sure we'd be able to get her to come back again.
Leeds was a showcase of style this Autumn when we visited the 5th annual ‘Leeds loves shopping’ event, an occasion bursting with fashion and retail which is growing in popularity each year.
Getting to Leeds couldn’t be easier, only a one hour flight from Jersey to Leeds Bradford Airport and a short cab ride to the city centre meant I was arriving at my hotel within hours of stepping out of my front door. Having never been to the city before I asked a local business woman who sold roasted chestnuts outside my hotel, to describe Leeds in her own words. She replied ‘it is a city on the move’… and I couldn‘t wait to be involved!
I was staying in the Radisson Blu hotel, situated in the heart of of the city centre and fantastically it backed onto ‘The Light’ shopping complex. The Light was full of stylish boutiques, bars and restaurants including my all-time favourite – Nando’s, and just in case that isn’t enough to have on your hotel doorstep, there is a 13-screen cinema and fitness centre too. The hotel itself was everything I imagined the Radisson to be – stylish and comfortable, modern and well equipped, however I had a lot of exciting events planned for the next two days so I hoped I wouldn't be spending too much time there! For lunch we were advised to go to Bibis, a three decade old Italian restaurant tipped to be one of the best places to eat in the city and renowned for its food and evening entertainment. Bibis is a massive venue and with the grand décor it had an almost 1930s Chicago feel to it. The food was served so quickly I was worried the standard of my meal might have been affected but as it turned out it was absolutely delicious. A great place to eat with friends and I would have loved to have stayed to catch some entertainment which usually consists of a variety of tribute acts – the next being ‘The Drifters’ paying homage to Motown from the 27th Oct.
Leaving Bibis we then headed to ‘Birds Yard’, Leeds newest vintage store on Kirkgate, with three floors of hand picked vintage clothing, furniture and accessories. It was an absolute treasure trove of items from all the decades – a great place to pick up something uniquely beautiful and as vintage has now become extremely fashionable you really can’t go wrong.
We then made my way to the Leeds Loves Shopping event where most shops and independent stores have large discounts on their clothing and other items so we took the chance to have a look around and see what they had to offer. While walking around the city I found myself being in awe of my surroundings. There are more listed buildings in Leeds than any other English city outside London with highlights being the Victorian Quarter, Leeds Corn Exchange and Harewood house, home to the Queen's cousin. The mix of Victorian and Edwardian architecture combined with super modern structures make it a pretty breathtaking place to shop.
Before the evening's ‘Dress me Beautiful’ fashion show we headed to dinner just around the corner to Casa Mia Millennium. The two floor Italian/Mediterranean restaurant is known for its excellent service and summer alfresco dining. It was a great place to start the evening and the food more than matched its reputation, definitely worth the whiff of garlic I gave off for the rest of the evening!
Next stop was the Leeds Fashion Show. Held at the beautiful venue of Leeds City Museum it is one of the main events of 'Leeds Loves Fashion' week and is a showcase of stunning on trend fashion from independent designers. As an added bonus with our tickets we also received a fabulous goody bag and there was terrific live entertainment to kick the evening off in style. The show itself was superb with some beautiful and inspiring fashion. It gave me some great ideas for my winter wardrobe! To end the evening there was a fun raffle, charity auction and sparkling after-party with all the organisers and models at the nearby Revolution nightclub.
After sleeping like a baby with help from a comfortable bed (and a few rum and cokes the night before…) I headed down to a well-needed and well-delivered full English breakfast before making my way to Leeds University for the ‘Marks in Time’ exhibition. This would appeal to heritage lovers as it celebrated 125 years of Marks and Spencer and their development in that time. If I am completely honest I had a bit of trepidation about this event but to my surprise it turned out to be really interesting with some fascinating facts on how Marks and Spencer have influenced our present day shopping and displaying original items from over the decades including the range of uniforms worn by staff. The exhibition is at the university for 18 months and, if you have time, is definitely worth a look around. After the exhibition we went on to do something that is becoming extremely fashionable again after undergoing something of a rennaisance – high tea! We did this at the very appropriate venue of the prestigious Queens Hotel, for me a perfect way to take time out during shopping and even better if you happen to be an all female group, as this feels very lady-like and sophisticated – gossiping over smoked salmon sandwiches and selection of teas!
Next was an event at Harvey Nichols, which to say 'I had been excited about' would be a massive understatement. This was the first Harvey Nichols to be opened outside London and is situated in the utterly beautiful Victorian quarter which also houses other designer shops such as Vivienne Westwood and Mulberry. We were offered complimentary champagne on arrival (and lots of top ups!) before being sat down at various tables to try different beauty products and have our nails and make-up done by glamorous professionals. I can honestly say I was in heaven. Later on we were taken around the massive store 'after hours' to browse at our leisure! I will definitely be using the Victorian Quarter shopping as a massive excuse to come back – the only difference being I may have to book an extra couple of days as there is so much to see.
To complete this dream shopping minibreak in Leeds we did what any group of people ending a shopping trip should do – dinner and drinks at the famously stylish Cosmopolitan Hotel, with a brilliant atmosphere and exquisite menu it’s a must before you leave the city.
Leeds itself was a real eye-opener, a gorgeous city with more shops, restaurants and events than you can shake a stick at, which has made its way into my favourites. There is always something interesting on the cards, whether you’re a local student, on a business venture or a tourist coming to see what all the fuss is about.
Leeds Loves Shopping 2011 should be in your diary marked ‘Must be there!!’ and with Jet 2.com offering flights from £39.99pp, March to October – there’s no excuse not to.