I was born in Leicester, used to regularly go shopping there, worked there for a while and have been to watch Leicester City at home hundreds and hundreds of times so you’d think that I know the place well. Sadly I don’t, so this time while I was back home I was determined to do a walking tour of the city and see some of the parts that were still unknown to me beforehand.
Now Leicester is not exactly on the tourist circuit for visitors coming to Britain but whilst perusing a mates Lonely Planet Britain travel guide I decided to note down the “sights” which it suggested for this multi-cultural city. Topped up with some more up-to-date online info I started off at the station (with the Thomas Cook statue outside), headed down Granby Street and began my trip down memory lane.
My first port of call was Leicester Market which has existed within the heart of the city for over 700 years. I was just interested to see if Lineker’s pick your own fruit and veg stall was still there and of course it was! Leicester’s favourite son Gary Lineker would often help out on this stall during holidays as he was starting to make a name for himself in the mid-eighties. It was all still early on in the year so didn’t seem too busy and was not how I remembered it really.
Just a stones throw from the market on the corner of Humberstone Gate (pictured below) and Gallowtree Gate is the bronze Sporting Success statue which was built following successful seasons by the three local sports teams in the 1996-97 seasons.
The Clock Tower is the centre piece of the City centre standing at the cross roads of pedestrianised areas which split off in all directions. I was hot on the trail of Richard III who was the King of England between 1483 and 1485. There is a statue of him on St Martins East which is literally a few metres away from the King Richard III Visitor Centre which was sadly closed on that day.
Not much further along was Leicester Cathedral and the Guildhall which dates back to medieval times. This 14th century timber framed hall would have been a building of importance during the time of Richard III.
Doubling back on myself, I returned to the heart of the city to take a very quick look around what is now called the Highcross Shopping Centre. It used to be known as the Shires back in my day but now its much bigger and more developed.
I stopped off at the Showcase Cinema De Lux to watch the ‘Paddington‘ (2014) movie and as soon as I exited I saw two Japanese restaurants next door; Wagamama and Yo Sushi. I didn’t bother with either though! Maybe I was put off by my visit to the latter back in August of last year and the terrible reviews given to the former by some of my students.
More signs of Japanese culture taking over the city as back inside the shopping centre I went to SuperDry which over the last few years has just grown and grown in popularity. I do actually like a lot of the stuff in these stores (not the prices though!) but could never wear it back in Japan as the locals would just laugh at the strange Japanese used purely for fashionable purposes.
Beyond the very modern looking cinema and John Lewis building is St Nicholas Church and the Jewry Wall & Museum lying next to it which is believed to be one of the tallest surviving pieces of Roman masonry in the country.
The final few sights were ticked off in no time starting with the pleasant Castle Gardens (although I forgot to return to see St Mary de Castro Church which overlooks the castle and gardens) which were followed by De Montfort University, Jain Centre, Town Hall and some other interesting buildings of note.
A couple of places away from the centre which I visited two days earlier on my way to and from the Leicester City FA Cup game included Nelson Mandela Park and the Leicester Tigers Rugby ground more commonly known as Welford Road Stadium.
So there you have it! Sadly, the majority of tourists only ever pass through the UK’s tenth largest city as they go between London and Liverpool and/or Manchester. Up until last year none of my students had ever heard of Leicester or Resuta (レスター) as they call it. However, since September Princess Mako (a member of the Japanese Imperial family) has been studying museology at the University of Leicester which has resulted in some students actually being aware of my birthplace. Maybe, that will result in a few Japanese tourists stopping off in Leicester for a bit en-route to the more exciting British destinations.