Lovely, lively Leeds

WHEN you're thinking about where you could go for a short break, Leeds may not immediately spring to mind.

But the West Yorkshire city has it all – it's vibrant, multi-cultural and full of great shops, top clubs and fancy places to eat.

Put simply, Leeds is cosmopolitan and it's buzzing.

There are pubs and clubs galore and you can dine around the world, within the city limits.

The city centre itself boasts many fine examples of Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian architecture, such as St Paul's House and the Grand Theatre.

And Leeds Town Hall is one of the finest civic buildings in Britain.

Much of the city's heritage has been lovingly restored, as witnessed by the attractive renovations of the Corn Exchange, Victoria Quarter, County Arcade and Leeds market buildings.

And Leeds Waterfront is the place to be when it comes to having a room with a view.

Des res apartments and businesses rub shoulders with restaurants, shops and hotels along the riverside as the city enhances its status as one of Europe's most exciting cities.

At the heart of Leeds city centre is Millennium Square, which is surrounded by some of the city's most important buildings, including the Town Hall, Civic Hall, Leeds General Infirmary and the Civic Theatre.

The site includes areas for staged performances such as outdoor theatre, pop concerts, operatic and orchestral performances, as well as civic ceremonies, fairs, markets, street entertainment and even an ice-rink in the winter.

Millennium Square was Leeds' flagship project to mark the year 2000, funded by Leeds City Council and the Millennium Commission.

The 12million scheme transformed the old Mandela Gardens and a non-descript car park into one of Europe's most innovative and impressive civic spaces as well as providing the city's first new public square in over 60 years.

Leeds is home to more that 75 different nationalities and this rich mix of people produces a thriving artistic and cultural life.

If you want great theatre, dance, opera and music, Leeds has got it in spades. Not to mention prize-winning galleries and museums.

Despite Leeds United's exile from the Premiership people come from all over the UK for football breaks. The Leeds Rhinos rugby team are also a big draw and the city boasts top cricket, swimming and cycling events.

When it comes to eating out, Leeds is to everybody's taste. You can find it all here – no frills pub grub, fusion, haute cuisine, pan-Asian, modern British, fish and chips and pork pies served with mushy peas and mint sauce.

On the shopping scene, where else to start but the Victoria Quarter? It has a range of upmarket high street retailers and trend-setters and the largest and brightest expanse of coloured stained glass in the country.

After a caffeine boost at one of the many coffee shops take a stroll down to the lovely Corn Exchange. From retro to ultra-modern, you'll find it all here.

Check the streets around the Corn Exchange too and bargain-hunters should also take a quick peek into the nearby Kirkgate Market.

It is the largest market in Europe, with more than 700 stalls inside and out.

A visit to Leeds wouldn't be complete without a trip to the Royal Armouries Museum. It is home to the Royal Armouries' national collection, tracing the development of arms and armour from the 5th century BC.

Leeds, now known as the London of the North, has it all. Its cosmpolitan air makes you feel like you could be in one of the top European cities. You can shop 'til you drop, dance the night away at a great club or simply relax and take in the atmosphere.

And the best thing about it is it's less than two hours away from Brid!

Delightful rooms with a river view

FORGET the dark satanic mills of West Yorkshire, there is one former mill in the heart of Leeds which is utterly heavenly.

42 The Calls was converted into a hotel from a derelict corn mill in 1991 and many of its 41 bedrooms make features of its past life.

Alongside the mod-cons are the original timber and mill mechanisms in a look created by local designer Juliette Jowett.

Rooms also boast handmade beds, Egyptian cotton linen and privacy hatches to take delivery of room service, breakfast in bed, your morning paper or newly-polished shoes.

You can let reception know if you would like a hot water bottle to warm your feet if the weather is a little too autumnal and, along with complimentary mineral water, a box of Smarties will be waiting for you on your bed.

It's such little, personal touches which make 42 The Calls such a delight.

If you don't want to be disturbed, make sure you put your "Quiet please, I'm having 42 winks" sign out and make sure you indulge in the homemade fudge and biscuit in the room made by head chef Nigel Stanley.

A courtesy car will take you anywhere in the city centre on most weekday mornings and there is an honesty bar in the hotel lounge – you just list what drinks you've had and pay on departure.

Rooms overlooking the River Aire sport fishing rods. Okay, they don't reach and I'm not sure what you'd catch but it's quirky.

The flat screen TV/DVD and CD player are of more practical use, as is the internet access, and the bathrooms are stocked with Molton Brown toiletries.

There is a fantastic welcome brochure with the most detailed restaurant guide you can imagine - compiled by the staff, honest and very useful.

42 The Calls is extremely handy for the city centre shops, restaurants and bars but is just far enough off the beaten track to be a peaceful retreat after a hard day's shopping or night socialising.

Nearby is the impressively redeveloped Brewery Wharf with its selection of chic bars and restaurants. Church bells ring in the near distance and you can watch barges pass by from your room window.

Although there is no restaurant at this boutique hotel it does breakfasts in a big way.

There is a selection of 10 types of sausage to choose from – including hop and hog, venison, and white wine and game – and the corn mill theme is again evident with cereals on display in hessian bags.

42 The Calls was named 2nd Best Hotel in the UK, out of more than 50 nominees, in the prestigious Guardian/Observer Travel Awards last year.

It is easy to understand why.

The hotel is intimate, friendly, individual and stylish – in fact, everything you could want for an upmarket city break or to celebrate a special occasion.

If you aren't celebrating a particular occasion, 42 The Calls will guarantee you a special time anyway.

Rooms at 42 The Calls start at 130.

Tel: 0113 2440099



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