Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Local Tourist - Part Three - Leeds City Sightseeing, Yorkshire

Our last adventure as "local tourists" in Yorkshire was a bit of a last-minute decision, partly because we were only looking for a way to entertain ourselves for the few hours before our flight home, and partly because we didn't know it even existed until a Google search revealed its presence in the world. Yes indeedio, we were off on the Leeds City Sightseeing tour!

I'll be honest - it's not a very long tour. Leeds, as thriving a city as it is, doesn't really seem to have much that's noteworthy to a visiting tourist. Now if you want to go shopping or have a great meal or a nice drink, you'll be spoilt for choice, but so far as historical significance and other points of interest go, you get the impression they were kind of struggling to fill the full 56 minutes of commentary.

Perhaps I'm being harsh but we did seem to circle City Square quite a bit and some of the other main stops included a hospital and two different shopping centres. Also they only have one bus and one driver (who told us, quite candidly, "I'm it!"), who just circles the route all day, stopping at each stop once an hour (except between 1pm and 2pm when he has his lunch), so clearly the City Sightseeing folks aren't exactly expecting hoards of customers lining up to see the sights of Leeds either.

That said, I actually did enjoy it. I love open-top bus tours at the best of time and I find them even more interesting when it's a city I already know quite well, because it points out the little things you never really notice, like decorative gargoyles and beautiful old stained glass windows on the top floors of old buildings that look so boring at ground-level when you walk past, or strange little anecdotes about places and things you take for granted.

My favourite story on the Leeds tour was about Leeds Parish Church graveyard. You see they wanted to build a railway line through the burial site but people got a bit uppity about that whole "disturbing graves" thing and insisted that the tombstones were at the very least re-laid back atop the deceased. So they had to build a lovely embankment to re-house the headstones on top of, and now these really old gravestones lie at a 45° angle on the side of a little grassy hill. It's not really something I've noticed before but now I know about it I'll always remember that story every time I see them.

Like I say, in spite of its brevity and the lack of many awe-inspiring points of interest, I did enjoy the tour. At £7.50 per person, it's cheaper than many other city tours I've been on too. However just wandering around Leeds city centre, you pretty much see most of the areas the tour covers anyway, and it's fairly easy to get to the other places like the Royal Armouries. It was fun but I wouldn't rush to recommend it unless, like me, part of the attraction is sitting on an open-top bus, in which case fill yer boots, as we say in Belfast!

Even though I had a good time on the tour, it ended on a bit of a bitter note for me. We'd already been round the whole loop once and had decided to stay on for a few more stops until we reached a little area the Yorkshireman claimed hosted lots of little pubs for lunch and a good pint of real ale. However as our bus meandered through the area up beside Leeds Met, something fell from the sky and down my top. Unconcerned, and thinking it was probably a leaf or something, I started to unzip my jacket to remove whatever it was... when the fecking thing stung me! Yes indeedio - as I was sitting on an open-top bus, minding my own business, I got fricking stung by a fricking wasp! Then when I finally managed to unzip my top, it flew away again, all, "What's your problem, bitch? I'm a wasp, that's how I roll. Laters!"

I sought some kind of swelling-reducing remedy from a rather startled-looking but very helpful Boots employee and then the Yorkshireman led me to alcohol and food, both of which quelled my indignation somewhat. Two weeks on and it still looks like I have a hole in my chest (I'm a slow healer). However the fear lives on - I was stalked by another wasp in town the other day and must have looked like I was part of the Ministry of Silly Walks as I tried to avoid it by throwing myself this way and that. Stupid wasps. What's even the point of you?! Bees can totally do the same job as you, and at least they have the courtesy to die if they decide to sting you. Bah.

But in spite of the rather waspish ending to the tale, I had a great time being a "local tourist" in Yorkshire. So great, in fact, that I was inspired to do a little more local tourism when we got back to Northern Ireland. Can you guess what my next few posts will be about..?

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