The Romance of Classic Stationary: Oxford’s Creative Gem

Screen Shot 2018-12-12 at 19.16.11

Taking its visitors into a world that blends the beauty of English and Italian design; Scriptum Fine Stationary has proudly showcased the best of independent European craft in the world of stationary since 2003. Moving to Turl Street, their current location, which I happily lost myself for an hour, Scriptum’s dedication to classic craftsmanship is something to be revered.

Selling personal stationary largely sourced from small businesses in England and Italy, the romance of its timeless objects emanates throughout the cosy space. On the first floor, feathered ink pens, dyed marbles, leather bound journals, and ornate magnifying glasses bring to mind polished oak desks and wide windows overlooking the countryside.

The aesthetic joys continue on the second floor. Hanging models of hot air balloons hover overhead. Venetian masks, in a myriad of colours and sizes, are neatly arranged on a wooden shelf in the side. Decorated papers intended for personal letters are bordered with neat swirls and blooming flowers. Most exciting, a series of vibrant folios stand on display.

Their spines decorated with swirling text and enchanting illustrations, it’s difficult to ignore their siren call. So I didn’t. Choosing Volume One of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Tales from Around the World, I left looking forward to the fantasy realm Scriptum had made available to me.

Wandering Around Oxford: The City’s Best Walking Route

During my fleeting four-day stay at Oxford, every single adventure began and ended with walking. Though I was staying at a friend’s house that was almost an hour from the city centre on foot, I didn’t tire from all the traipsing around. There was too much to see, from the classic architecture to the variety of life being lived in this fine university city. Students rushing from class to class, tourists armed with expensive cameras and comically large guide maps, stall keepers selling jewellery and collectibles designed to catch the eye, and crooning buskers who gave a smile to anyone who stopped and took the time to listen to the music.

DSCF5421

With all this walking, naturally my mind decided upon its favourite routes taken. Funnily enough, these three routes were all taken on the same day, one leading directly into the other.

The Oxford Botanic Garden & Arboretum, charging a small fee to visitors and students alike, is well worth the price of admission. Glasshouses hosted flora originating from tropical climes. The gardens were coloured with a myriad of flowers and herbs. Sturdy trees, their leaves expressed in the form of either a wide umbrella or arms lazily swaying in the air, provided plenty of shade and comfort. Everyone I passed by was in good spirits, enjoying this little piece of heaven tucked away in the city corner.

DSCF5503

Leaving the gardens, I headed along Dead Man’s Walk. So named for its medieval history as a processional path for Jewish funerals, its sombre past did nothing to diminish the peace and tranquility of the walk. Trees lining either side of the wide path kept the afternoon glare of the sun away. What light managed to filter through the leaves created wonderful shifting patterns on the dusty path.

DSCF5547

Christ Church College greeted me at the end of the short walk. Perfect for lovers of history, fantasy, and beauty, Christ Church was one of the filming sites for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, its grand staircase utilised in the scene where harry met Draco Malfoy for the first time. In the College’s Great Hall, another fantasy world is brought to life. Housing the infamous Alice Window, all of Lewis Carroll’s most popular characters are immortalised in stained glass, from Alice’s signature sky-blue dress to the Dodo Bird’s brilliant plumage.

To all who have little time to enjoy the fascinating city of Oxford, I highly recommended walking along this path.

Hardwick Hall: More Glass than Wall

Even now, the flamboyant and spirited nature of Bess Hardwick is one to be admired. Born into a minor gentry family in 1527, Bess’ life unfolded into a series of personal tragedies that she never allowed herself to succumb to. Instead she persevered with grace and dignity, her situation and station improving each time. Over the course of sixty-six years and four marriages, Bess elevated herself from the daughter of a ‘gentleman-yeoman’ house to an exorbitantly wealthy businesswoman and close friend of Queen Elizabeth.

Located in the Derbyshire countryside, Hardwick Hall stands as a glorious symbol to Bess’ lifelong ambitions and achievements. “Hardwick Hall – More Glass than Wall” is a popular saying associated with the spectacular estate. It is more than a cute rhyme. All four sides of the three-storey building are neatly lined with grid windows. Back in the Elizabethan age, windows leaked out indoor heating like no man’s business, making the act of heating an entire home even more costly.

Following the disastrous end of her fourth marriage to George Talbot – the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury – the now Countess Elizabeth Shrewsbury moved back to her family estate of Hardwick. From 1587 to 1597, she supervised the construction of the two Hardwick Halls. Money was no object, and both buildings stand as lavish displays of this great woman’s wealth.

Hardwick Hall, a seven year endeavour, spreads over three floors. A pioneering structure, the estate was one of the first in the country to be designed by an architect – in this case, Robert Smythson. Diamond pane windows range in size between floors to delineate the purpose of each room. The interior provides no less of an affluent air. Set in the second floor, the Long Galley runs through the entire east side. Displaying tapestries and portraits with immaculate detail and a plethora of colours, these intricate pieces would have signified the depth of Bess’ wealth to all her guests.

The windows, both grilled and diamond paned, pour sunlight over the ornate decorations. And it is not only the wall art and windows that help Hardwick Hall maintain its classic style. The floor of the Long Galley is fully carpeted with rush matting. Handwoven and sturdy, plaited rush matting was a staple of Tudor households. Made of bulrushes harvested from reed beds, the dried material is interwoven with camomile, lavender, herbs, and wormwood to subtly perfume the space. When fraying, the matting in Hardwick is either patched together and reused or given new life as mulch for the garden or bird nesting support.

Standing at the foot of Hardwick Hall’s grand façade sits its gardens. A mosaic of rectangular courts, the gardens grow both culinary and medicinal herbs. More than being aesthetically pleasing, the vegetables and herbs grown in the gardens are used in the Great Barn Restaurant. During the months of July and August, visitors are able to sample all the flavours the garden has to offer with Taster Days. Great lawns dotted with crab apple trees have comfortable lawn chairs provided by National Trust. With a cool breeze running through the trees and plenty of shade provided by trees and archways, it is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll.

Continuing the stroll through the estate, Hardwick Old Hall hangs at the periphery. Only five years younger than Hardwick Hall, the old hall drew on contemporary innovations in Italian design. When Bess died in 1608, her son William Cavendish was left in charge of the estate. William re-situated the family in Chatsworth, which became the family’s preferred seat over time. By the 1750s, the family commissioned for the partial dismantling of the old hall. Vulnerable to the elements, many of the original overmantels still stand to the this day. The ruins overlook an endless horizon of countryside on all sides. When construction for the new hall began, the old hall was still incomplete. This is not to say the first hall was abandoned. The two were intended to complement each other. And though it stands a shadow of its former glory, the remains of the Old Hall are still a sight to see.

Leaving with a neck sore from marveling at tapestries and architecture, I left feeling inspired by the sheer grit of Bess Hardwick, a remarkable woman who faced the odds and came out victorious.

Woolsthorpe Manor: Not Just About the Apples

Located near Grantham, Lincolnshire in the village of Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, Isaac Newton’s childhood home is perfectly preserved for generations to walk through and appreciate this little piece of history. Lush countryside surrounds the humble estate. A sturdy apple tree grows near the entrance, offering a sneak peek at what’s to come. Wild mushrooms with tabletop heads bend and flow, in much likeness of the mushrooms from Carroll’s Alice. Surrounded by all these natural splendours, it is no wonder Newton’s mind was a creative and expansive resource.

Before entering the quaint house, we pass by a pay-what-you-can bookshop. Located in the former stables, the timber-enforced ceiling, combined with stone walls and floors, create a space that is at once rustic chic and a perfectly cool oasis from the summer sun. Heading into the house, we headed right into the kitchen. Typical of most yeoman farmhouses, the kitchen had a large space that would have served as the stove – cooking area, and banisters above your head where vegetables and meat would be hung. Like the rest of the household, the kitchen was arranged with furniture comparable to that of the seventeenth century.

The dining room and the study were decorated with simple wooden furniture. Several windows peered into the rest of the estate. All of the windows were plain in design, offering unimpeded looks into the world outside. Most notable of these views were the ones into the garden. The famous apple tree associated with Newton’s law of universal gravitation lives on. By growing a tree with part of the original, Newton’s legacy lives on.

Not only is Newton’s tree preserved, but so are his doodles. What would have us yelled at by our parents is carefully protected by the National Trust. Sketches, carvings, and notes written on the wall have been uncovered by archaeologists over the years and fiercely safeguarded by the use of glass cases overlaying these historical gems. Newton was notorious for scribbling on surfaces and objects that were not meant for writing. His mind was a whirlwind of ideas, working too fast for organised thoughts of parchment and ink. One notable sketch, the first on the left, depicts what National Trust guides suggest could be a soldier, as Newton would have seen them marching by.

Setting our thoughts on Newton back down to earth, Woolsthorpe Manor was an enchanting look into a great figure’s past.

The Perfect Peak District

A visit to the Peak District can be summarised in one word: Perfect.

After a hearty breakfast at the cottage we were renting for the weekend, we piled into the car and headed off to start the day. Parking the car just beside Monsal trail entrance point. It is positioned right beside an abandoned set of railroad tracks that are now overgrown with weeds and grass.

Our walking path frequently shifted from dirt to timber bridges to large stones carefully arranged decades, or perhaps centuries, prior to today. A cool breeze was a welcome partner to the shining sun.

Alongside hiking among the rushing rivers and tall trees, we made the most of the day’s stunning weather and visited Eyam Hall. Visiting the site before its lease with the National Trust ended in January 2018, the modest estate was held by its founding family, the Wrights, for nine generations. A beautiful example of Jacobean architecture, the garden was as simple and effortless in its grace as the manor.

Driving back to the cottage, the sun was only beginning its slow descent into the horizon at seven thirty in the evening. As we headed back, I thanked my friends profusely for the day and apologised again for the copious amounts of photographs I had taken. They waved my words off and began discussing what to have for dinner. Absolute perfection.

Belton House: Wandering Into Beauty

It was a delightfully warm summer’s day when we piled into the car and headed off to Belton House. A short drive, the cool breeze folded through the car, the blue and green scenery blending together. Located in Grantham, Lincolnshire, the estate was built in the 1680s. Designed for the Brownlow family, despite its modest size in comparison to other country homes at the time, the estate, both outside and inside, is brimming with elegance and grandeur. With an impressive collection of artwork, books, and antique furniture, Belton House is a perfectly preserved window into the past.

This year, the estate celebrates the women who were inspiring individuals that found their muse in the spirit of Belton House. Wandering through the polished halls and neatly maintained gardens, it is little wonder how these women developed fascinating works of art based on the estate. Its parkland covering over 1300 acres of land, Belton House is a site that can be visited time and again without having the same experience time and again.

Wandering the gardens, it was easy to imagine myself placed right in the middle of Wonderland. Manicured flower bushes and twisting trees dazzled my senses. In many instances, my friends had to yell at me to catch up, I was that consumed by the beauty of it all.

Newcastle: When You Seek City Calm

Staying overnight at a friend’s house on Monday, our Tuesday began with homemade omelettes and green teas. Energised, we hopped onto the Metro in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and headed into the city centre. Using a blend of Google maps and backtracking, we wandered through the city streets. Admiring the low buildings and preserved details, my friend slowly walked beside me, an amused smile on his face as I stopped every few minutes to photograph another captivating façade. As such, it took us an unnaturally long time to arrive at The Castle. Neither of us minded. It was a beautiful day for a slow walk. The sun set everything aglow, covering us in its warmth.

The very landmark that gave Newcastle its name, in circa 1080 AD Normans had constructed a wooden fortress in this space. Robert Curthose’s castle, being a status symbol and a statement of authority, was a Norman seat of power. From there, they controlled the surrounding lands and people. Less than a century later, between 1172 and 1177, King Henry II commissioned the construction of the stone fortification on the site of Curthose’s castle. We wandered through the small landmark, admiring the preservationist work done to the site. Passing a film crew working on a Newcastle tourism advert, we continued on our way.

Walking on cobblestone and pavement, we headed off towards the Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas. An eleventh century edifice, the Cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Newcastle. Upon entering the Cathedral, marble monuments greeted us on the left side. These tall statues celebrate three influential Newcastle men of the 1700s to 1800s. From left to right, these men are James Archbold, Robert Hopper Williamson, and Si Matthew White Ridley. Dying in 1840, James Archbold’s sister commissioned his monument to commemorate his civic duties as sheriff of Newcastle. Robert Hopper Williamson, his image on the left, was portrayed in his working clothes. A judge of forty years, he maintained records of Newcastle’s civil and criminal trials. Sir Matthew White Ridley, depicted as Roman senator on the right side, followed in his father’s footsteps and became Mayor of and MP for Newcastle.

The organ, a wood and chrome construction standing from the floor to ceiling, was inscribed with the Latin phrase, ‘Omnis spiritus laudet dominum alleluia’. This translates into ‘Every breath, praise the lord, alleluia’. Atop the organ sits three golden angels. Two calmly lounge and gesture to the angel above them, who holds a trumpet up to the sky.

After wandering up and down the cathedral, we headed off deeper into the city centre. Passing by the orange and blue Travelling Man, we both immediately did a double take and walked back to admire the window display. Bright balloons and unique cover art beckoned to us. We would’ve been fools to ignore it. Holding a wide selection of graphic novels, the store is a treasure trove. Mangas line entire shelves, both revolving and wooden. Marvel and DC is a staple must. Board games and DnD texts rest at the back. At the far left side, independent graphic novels are organised by category and author name. Opposite this, a small collection of indie zines created by local artists sits proudly. After purchasing a copy of ‘Beauty’ by Jeremy Haun, we popped into Mark Toney.

A café, restaurant, and ice cream parlour all in one, Toney’s was established in 1892. The interior, wooden furniture and soft lighting, gives its customers a warm, nostalgic feeling. The waitresses are kind and patient. This was a godsend, as I took forever to choose an ice cream flavour. Settling on cherry sorbet, the treat was unbelievably light and flavourful. We spent the rest of our day in here, marvelling at how it slowly filled up with people who were clearly regulars, exchanging witty repartee with the staff. Saying our thanks to the waitresses, we left, discussing how enjoyable it would be to be greeted like a friend at your favourite hangout spot.

Newcastle, providing spaces to catch your breath and fall into a sense of familiarity, was a lovely Tuesday away.

Leicester: Quaint Walks and Unique Shops

When you can reach your friend that lives a thousand miles away with the click of a video icon, in-person interaction becomes less and less of a priority. And in so, much more treasured. Starting these Tuesday Travels, I slowly began to see old friends all over the UK. Before meeting up, we had chatted about eventually meeting up, but never sorted out the details. But now, traveling all over once a week, it’d be a crime not to see them. This week, the trip to Leicester reunited me with a dear university friend.

Staying over at her place in Hinckley, just outside of Leicester, we began our Tuesday with a stroll. Hollycroft Park, decorated in the fashion of 1930s recreational spaces, was immaculately maintained. Exotic flowers, bats, and local wildlife reside in the sprawling space. A quaint amphitheater lay at the heart of the public space, a perfect location for summer performances. The sun played hide and seek with us as we wandered around, and a cool breeze kept our walking brisk.

Loving the rare English sun, we were in the mood for iced drinks and some more relaxed strolling. And so, we headed off into Leicester. Walking down New Walk, I was amazed by the wide widths of the paths and the simple yet elegant nature of the buildings on either side. Tall trees swayed in the wind, the branches rustling against each other for soothing background noise. Sunlight filtered through the leaves, students and teachers alike chatting happily as they went on their way. Though we were mere meters from the main road, all we heard were the sounds of nature and fellow walkers. Turning into the A6, we sought shelter in a cosy café.

6 Degrees Coffee House was quiet with the determination of hardworking students. Comfortable seating, wide tables, fast Wi-Fi, and many charger portals made it obvious why so many students flocked here. Not to mention the menu. Fitted with food and drink of the sweet and savoury variety, my friend and I agonised over the menu for a good five minutes – much to the barista’s amusement. After much deliberation and back and forth, we finally placed our orders. On the agreement that we would share, my friend purchased a brie and bacon sandwich and a caramel frappe. I had the falafel and hummus sandwich and a blueberry smoothie. We shared our meals the way close friends do, offering each other the first bite and sip of our own purchases. The bacon and brie, brilliantly smooth from the cheese, also had a salty bite from the bacon. On the other hand, the falafel sandwich was surprisingly moist, in decent proportion with the hummus. With the sun giving us summer vibes in spring, we quickly finished our drinks to quench our thirst. The smoothie was the freshest I’ve ever tasted, and the caramel frappe was a subtly sweet drink so good that I ordered one to take away.

Plenty energised by our two walks, we headed into the city centre with a mind to help the local economy. Heading away from the big brands lining High Street, we fell into the Royal Arcade. Here lay a number of unique shops, and one Irregular Choice. A lover of all things unique, our eyes poured over the quirky designs and the attention to detail each one contained. Much mental anguish occurred before I decided on a gorgeous pair of pink heels called “Good Karma”. A good sign, surely. After leaving the store, we headed further into the Royal Arcade. Both proud bibliophiles, an hour vanished in Maynard & Bradley. Stacked floor to ceiling with a plethora of secondhand and antique books, the store also boasted an impressive collection of prints, graphic novels, and autographed photos of celebrated people. We marvelled over classic fairytale series we’d read as children, and the surprising volume of fantasy and sci-fi books they had in store. Leaving with a fantasy novel about the Norse Gods and a vintage print of a tiger, we turned into Silver Street in search of vintage love. We weren’t disappointed.

Vintage Space, chock full of the best of the nineties fashion, was a retro dream. The neon lights, throwback décor, and bright colour palette decorating the wall immediately lifted our already happy spirits. After trying on a few pieces and singing along to some old tunes, we continued on. Though nothing fit us there at the time, we both loved the atmosphere and promised to visit together again. Finishing at Very Bazaar, the bohemian aesthetic and sweet aroma of flowery incense had an immediate calming effect. Selling carved wooden boxes, intricately designed room screens, gemstones, jewellery, and so much more, if we had the time, we could’ve easily lost a day in the store. As it was, we spent fifteen minutes frantically rushing about and eagerly calling to each other, showing a new exciting find each time. We had to rush to make it to the train station on time. Laughing and barely able to catch our breath, we parted with a warm embrace, our friendship stronger than ever.

Woodhall Spa: when calls the trees

On a day where the sun was hidden behind a pale grey sky, we got into the car and left the city behind. Fields and flowers blurred in the background, raindrops streaking across the windows and marking the rush of our pace. Regardless of the poor weather, we were determined to make the most of the day. Well, as much as we could. The rainy conditions tired us somewhat, our minds screaming for cosy blankets and hot cocoa. We were almost tempted to acquiesce. In the end, our desire to accomplish something with the day won out.

Following rolling hills and curved roads, it took us little time to reach Woodhall Spa. When Thomas Hotchkin accidentally discovered a mineral spring in the area in the late 19th century, he developed the land. To attract visitors, Hotchkin developed the Spa Baths and The Victoria Hotel opened in the area. Other hotels followed over the next century, adding to the village’s quaint Victorian aesthetic.

Peaceful and surrounded by nature, Woodhall Spa is a fair blend of pristine Victorian architecture and towering trees. The village works with nature, with many of its roads bending and twisting in cooperation with Mother Nature. A fine example of this is the Teahouse in the Woods and Kinema in the Woods. Both aptly named, the two establishments are surrounded by proud trees, their trunks impressively wide. Leaves rustled against each other in frenzied excitement, the wind whipping through the branches as the rain started to pick up again.

We found refuge in the Teahouse. Warm and inviting, the Teahouse has been in operation since 1903 (excepting a brief period between 2011 and 2014 when it was ‘Ristorante Il Parco’). With booth seating for four and tables for everything else, we took a seat at a square table in the middle of the room. Well spaced, the restaurant was filled with the gentle hum of quiet conversation. Our server, a kind and attentive woman, gave us a few minutes to mull over the menu. I decided on deep fried brie wedges and Elderflower Belvoir. My friend wasn’t hungry, and so ordered a simple coffee and requested a few bites of my meal.

After ordering, the drinks arrived promptly, and the food came much faster than anticipated. Lightly fried, the brie wedges were generous portions that melted in your mouth. Their sweet, subtle taste fused well with the crunchy exterior provided by the frying. Sitting on a bed of fresh vegetables with cranberry sauce, the three elements of the dish came together to create a refreshing, mouthwatering dish. The Belvoir, crisp and light, finished the meal perfectly. Given the disagreeable weather, we decided to forgo the usual jaunt to a bookstore in favour of another form of escapism – the movies.

With half an hour before ‘Finding Your Feet’ was on, we wandered along King George Avenue. A paved road with many a leaf-layered footpath weaving through the trees, it amazed us how quiet it was mere meters from the restaurant. We saw other walkers in the distance, but each kept to our own space, content in our own little worlds. When the rain began to fall again, we headed towards Kinema. Originally serving as a sports pavilion for The Victoria Hotel, Kinema is situated in front of a thicket of trees. On Easter Sunday 1920, The Victoria Hotel burnt down. Two years later, its ruins, the pavilion included, as purchased by Sir Archibald and Lady Weigall. From then on, the pavilion was converted into a cinema.

The interior of Kinema retains the same vintage feel that the exterior exudes. Your feet glide under deep, red carpeting. All the signs are done in various classical styles – from the art deco ‘box office’ sign to the kitschy glass-stained box lights stating ‘Kinema 1’ and ‘Kinema 2’ for the two screens. Inside the screen room, intricate and stunningly realistic paintings grace the walls. Low lighting in the form of imitation flame torches are on either side. The seats, the same deep red of the carpet, are wonderfully plush, moviegoers sinking immediately into their seats with content sighs. Maintaining its classic feel, the movie stops halfway for intermission, allowing viewers to grab snacks, take a restroom break, or chat about the movie. We took this time to eagerly discuss the highlights of the first part of the movie, theorising how it would end.

A self-discovery film about an upper-class woman eking out an identity for herself following her husband’s infidelity, ‘Finding Your Feet’ is a heart wrenching and hilarious film about being true to yourself and appreciating all that life has to offer while you have the time to. We left the film in high spirits, even more determined to live our lives to the fullest and not let a moment pass us by.

The drive back home was spent in comfortable silence as we both mulled over the lessons learnt in Loncraine’s charming British comedy. However you define the best life, it’s important that, rather than seeking out perfection, you reach out for the things that fulfil you, and keep close the people that sustain you.

Sheffield, the Beautiful Quiet

Outside of Sheffield station, Sheaf Square was an impressive glimpse into the city’s creative innovation. A curved steel wall of cascading water and a staggering water fountain ran alongside a series of low-lying stairs. The two paths led into Sheffield Hallam university campus, where an uplifting poem by poet laureate Andrew Motion beckoned us to delve further into the city.

Past the campus site was the Millennium Gallery. An art house funded by local organisations and donations, the gallery showcased the works of local and international artists, both contemporary and modern pieces. ‘Hope is Strong’ is a collection of work by renowned international artists such as Ai Weiwei and Mona Hatoum. Reframing our perception of various socio-political landscapes, the exhibition made viewers question the world they live in. After exploring the Metalworks Gallery, Conroy / Sanderson exhibition, and The Ruskin Collection, we continued into the adjoining garden space connecting the gallery to the downtown area. The Winter Garden, fitted with over 2,500 plants from around the world, holds the honour of being one of the largest temperate glasshouses built in the UK in the last hundred years.

Through the warm oasis ironically named the Winter Garden lay the Peace Gardens. A semi-circle focused around a floor-based water fountain and the gothic architecture of Sheffield Town Hall, narrow fountains spouted water along the staircases leading into the green space. Pristine benches and lush, trimmed lawns provided visitors with ample seating in a quiet corner of the city.

Admiring the mixture of French and Gothic influences on the city buildings, the grey sky illuminated the finer details of the cityscape. Off a side street to the right of Fargate lies the Cathedral Church of St Marie. As the church was closed, I admired the fine details of its exterior and its stained-glass windows. Across from the quaint church lay a rustic-themed café deli. Marmaduke’s, serving deli sandwiches and elegantly prepared desserts, was the prefect level of crowded, with the pleasant din of conversation and two or three tables available for the curious passerby’s drawn in by its charming aesthetic.

Ordering a Marmadukes burger and a very berry tea, the complex burger and the simple tea were a perfect match. The rich beef patty, paired with an avocado, caramelised onion relish, Sriracha, beef tomato, and cheese, was sandwiched in a brioche bun. The fresh bun was sprinkled with paprika, enhancing its flavour palette. Hand-cut chips were fresh and uniform. My friend ordered the club sandwich, absolutely adoring the moist texture of the chicken and tomato and how it fitted with the bacon and garlic mayo. We finished the meal with delicious desserts. Sharing a slice of cheesecake and a passionfruit tart, the cheesecake was soft and decadent, the tanginess of the tart harmonising with the meringue on top.

After the delicious and filling meal, we moseyed through the wide streets, finding our way to independent bookshop Biblioteka. Selling unique novels, photography magazines, local zines, and minimalist stationary, the store doubles as a print shop. Fun cookbooks and travel pieces lined the back wall, intriguing images on the front covers of the photography magazines captivating your attention. If I could’ve, I would have bought it all. Settling for a vintage French chalkboard, we headed out and made our way to Sheffield Cathedral.

Built between 1675 and 1710, Sheffield Cathedral was the highest point of the city for 1,400 years. A number of chapels reside within the cathedral; including Shrewsbury Chapel, St. George’s Chapel, and The Chapel of the Holy Saints. The last two commemorate the lives lost in both World Wars, simultaneously a prayer space and a respectful memorial. – a prayer space, created in 1758, dedicated to the memory of all ranks of the York and Lancaster Regiment. Intricate stained glass windows illuminate the halls in a soft light. Everyone smiles at each other and gives a small nod before returning to their own private admiration of the architecture. Surrounded by the beauty that faith can create, I couldn’t help but smile.

Having too much fun enjoying ourselves, we had to race back to the railway station to catch our train. The city streamed past us in a blur of colours. Laughing, we later agreed that it was a successful day out.