On a Bicycleabout…
For their One Hot Minute album, the Red Hot Chili Peppers recorded a song titled “Walkabout.”
I think I’ll go on a walkabout
Find out what it’s all about
Just me and my own two feet
In the heat I’ve got myself to meet
Use your legs to rock it wide
Take a ride to the other side
The absolutely perfect walking song and one that makes me think about exploring new terrain on my feet. That song popped up into my head when I was thinking about new landscape to explore – and crazily snap photos of.
Except that Leeds is not condensed like Rouen (my French home from October 2005 to May 2006) and walking long distances bores me. As unfortunately Leeds isn’t blessed with a tramway (plenty of buses run in the city but not super frequently on Sunday), the most convenient way to explore the city is on bicycle.
There is much of the city I haven’t seen and time is rapidly winding down. So I gave myself a mission: find Elland Road, the home of Leeds United Football Club.
Leeds United – a club that has a rich history. I won’t bore you with a rundown of their accomplishments but I do remember the Gary Speed and Eric Cantona-led squad edging Manchester United to win the 1992 league crown (just before the formation of the Premier League). But the club has fallen on hard times, stuck in the second tier of English football and pretty much an afterthought in my mind.
However, as I’ve seen Upton Park, the Emirates and Stamford Bridge (well, all from the outside) recently, I figured I might as well see the nearest major football ground to my house with my own unobstructed eyes (and not from the inside of a vehicle). So I printed out directions, got on my bicycle, took a ride to the other side, and…
Well, the route from the train station to Elland Road isn’t the most aesthetically beautiful as the bicycle/pedestrian path runs adjacent to a major road that takes you through a rather unattractive area of town full of warehouses and car dealerships (A Leeds Volkswagen dealership is visible from one of the entrances). My first impression of Elland Road was that the ground was a bit isolated from its surrounding neighborhood due to it being flanked by a bunch of major roads. I may have mentioned that I like how some stadiums I’ve seen in this country (such as the Emirates and the Headingley Cricket Ground) fit nicely into their residential surroundings. I didn’t get that feel from Elland Road.
As expected – or maybe mandated – there is a souvenir shop on the premises. Actually, on the fourth day of 2015 (as I’m typing this), the Boxing Day sales haven’t concluded so most of the products are still on sale. I never entered the shop though as bicycle parking at Elland Road is nonexistent – as well as any railing against which I could lock my bicycle. Another interesting tidbit about the place is there are no mention of tours – if they are even available. Then again, with Leeds United being rather mediocre, it’s not like folks are dying to visit Elland Road.
But surely this foray into South Leeds had more to offer than a football ground and a short bicycle ride up a hill took me further into Beeston (the home neighborhood of Elland Road). It’s a rather residential part of town with typically British brick houses. At first glance, Beeston didn’t seem upscale but I wouldn’t describe it as being working class – many houses actually had backyards (not the case in my part of town). However, other parts of Beeston resemble those in Burley (where I live) as they’re home to lots of terraced houses possibly inhabited by renters.
Today was quite a lovely day to cycle but I spent some of my time in Beeston indoors – at the local public library. Leeds’ biggest public library is located inside the Art Gallery but some of the outlying areas have their own public libraries – I’ve visited the ones in Headingley, Chapeltown and Burley. Unfortunately, the latter is rarely ever open but the library in Beeston is open on Sundays. While not an atypical public library (and relatively small), it did house some books on Leeds United – appropriate reading for the day 🙂
There’s a lot more for me to see in Leeds – whether I have enough time is another issue.