Leeds, it appears, is an interesting place to visit. To be honest Third Party and I weren’t too hopeful yesterday when we set out. The trip had been dogged by hiccups, (largely of my own making), from the beginning. To start with I purchased non-refundable train tickets to Sheffield for some reason. I knew I was going to Leeds, but somehow my brain had clicked onto an earlier part of a relevant discussion and got Sheffield lodged in there. Then when I did get the right tickets the whole getting the cheapest ones meant we had to get a train which was, in Third Party’s mind, at stupid o’clock and got us to Leeds hours earlier than we needed. When we got to the station, to find the train delayed, I had a grumpy teenager complaining about her wierd mum whose idea of a good day out involved meeting “freaks off the internet” and that she had only said she’d come “to get out of the dump I’d made her move to”.
Thankfully after a bit of refreshment and an hour or so on the train to undergo transformation Third Party began to become a little more human and the day started to look a bit more hopeful. The first sign we had that things might not be so awful in Leeds was when we walked out of the station and almost immeadiately spotted the Tourist Information store. This contained a free guide which indicated to my daughter that Leeds contains a number of rather good shops and to me that there were some rather good cultural possibilities I might try and get her to agree to.
So it was that we headed off towards the retail centre. Initially we went window shopping in the Victoria Quarter, an area of designer shops that are lovely to look at but impossible, on our budget, to buy from. Then it was off for me to do a bit of “culture”. Now, this was easier said than done. Third Party had made it more than clear when I spotted the art gallery that I might have dragged her around one too many. However, we did manage to find a compromise. The Parkinson Centre, part of the university, currently has a free exhibition Marks in Time which is celebrating the 125th anniversary of Marks and Spencer. Thus I was able to get Third Party to agree to do some history because it was still technically retail. Have to say whilst the exhibition is quite small it is absolutely facinating and a real nostalgia trip. There is a good mix of information and exhibits and you can spend a good hour in there learning and remembering. I absolutely loved it.
Then it was off to Tropical World to meet a bunch of very normal people who had met via the internet, as the human Third Party later admitted. Infact Third Party commented that this was the most normal Ship of Fools meet she had ever been on. I suspect that this is for the very reasons that Auntie Doris identifies in her post, which also has some excellent photographs.
Tropical World was excellent value for money at only £2 for children and £3.25 for adults to get in. It is a really pleasant environment to wander around, although somewhat sauna like if you go on a hot day. One word of warning, though, if you have children who get extremely freaked by flying things this is probably not the place to take them. There are lots of really cute cuddly things to look at aswell though. The only bit I was personally not keen on was the nocturnal area which contained some animal which looked like it had escaped from the set of the Exorcist.
Just outside Tropical World is a gorgeous cafe which I must also recommend because it was such wonderful value for money, and had glorious food. There are not many places these days where you can get two drinks and the most delicious cake and still have some change from £5. Yet here you could.
So in the end I have to say that despite the omens we had the most wonderful day out in Leeds. It is a city which you really can enjoy on the cheap, (they even have a free bus to take you around the city centre – which we used to get up to the university). Also, as A.D. pointed out in her post it is more proof that being part of internet communities adds something to peoples lives rather than being their whole lives. Whilst as a parent I would be wary of my teenage daughter going off and meeting complete strangers of the internet doing it in the safe way she does with me helps develop her social skills and widen her vision of life. To quoteA.D., who put is so well in her post, “It’s a fun way to meet friends, both old and new, and I recommend it.” I’d also add it is an excellent way to go and explore places you might otherwise not decide to visit.