Travelling to non touristy places: Bradford

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There’s something special about going to places where tourists usually don’t go and I discovered that while travelling to the snowy Bradford in mid-February. Before getting there, most of people I had met would tell me: “Why are you going there? There’s nothing to see, nothing to do.”. Well, they were wrong.

Snowy Bradford

Snowy Bradford

But I’ll be honest, there was something I wanted to see in Bradford. I am a football fan (not fanatic, at least not anymore) and I really wanted to visit the local team’s stadium. By that time, it’d be a fantastic opportunity as the usually terrible team (they are playing in the 4th division in England) were in an important final cup, had beaten first league teams on their way to the final. Ok, enough with the football fan bla bla bla, let’s get to the points.

Visiting Bradford

So I got there, I visited the store (couldn’t by a jersey due the “final cup” situation, the stock was gone) and then I tried to visit the stadium. I got to the reception and I was told that the “guide” wasn’t there, someone in his family was sick. But if I wanted, I could get inside by myself and see whatever I wanted to see. It was ok for me, not having to pay to get inside and no crowds annoying my experience. If someone had told me two years ago that one day I’d be there, I’d say they were crazy. But there I was, completely amazed.

Bradford Stadium

Bradford Stadium

When I was leaving, the guy asked me if I liked what I’d seen. Of course I had and we started to talk. He asked me where I was from and a really surprised “what are you doing here?” when I answered: Brazil. It was funny talking to the father of the president of the team. Very nice guy, he gave me one of the player’s internal magazine and showed me the original letter that Dalai Lama had sent them. He would ask all the staff who were passing through “You can’t imagine where this guy came from. So guess?”. Most would say Australian. Anyway, I spent almost an hour talking to him, and I think I could write a post just about it (remind me to do it one day).

Dalai Lama's letter

Dalai Lama’s letter

Meeting people

So now what? I had nothing to see. And that’s when things get more interesting. You’ve got no pressure when visiting a place like that. You don’t have to rush trying to think about the places you can’t miss, the places you’ve got to take a picture so to show to your friends and family, no need to buy little souvenirs (I never do it anyway). So I just wandered around, taking a few shots, enjoying the cool breeze, and slowly making my way to my couchsurfing host’s house. Getting a bit lost in a city like that is fun and I’d seen a couple of interesting things, and one was a book shop inside of a old church. Really nice.

Old church that became a book shop

Old church that became a book shop

But the coolest thing that happened in Bradford, was having met Nina, my couchsurfing host. When getting to her house I wasn’t enjoying the cool breeze anymore and just wanted to get into a warm place. Plus, I was looking forward to finally meet Nina after talking by messages. She seemed to be really nice. And she was. She welcomed me with a delicious cup of tea and introduced me to her flatmate. Then she told me that the central heating had just broken and that the landlord would send someone to get it fixed, but till then, we’d have to do it with a small electric heating. It was more than enough and the living room as so cosy and warm that I could have stayed there the whole day.

Park close to Nina's house

Park close to Nina’s house

Nina and her flatmate are probably the kindest people I’ve ever meet. Really. Was so nice to talk to them, and so easy (I’m not a native English speaker as you’ve probably realised so far, and it’s much easier to understand British than Irish speaking), specially her flatmate who would speak so slowly and gently.

Later on, Nina invited me to go to a “neighbourhood//friend’s party” which they organize every Monday. That one would be at the house next door, so we wouldn’t have to commute in the cold to get somewhere. I promptly accepted. There were about 20 people in the house, I guess, and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place with so many kind people together. I was a strange there and everybody treated me so well. Got talking with a German guy who was studying in Bradford, with some of Nina’s friends and then with Lavinia. She heard me talking about hitchhiking and told me that she’d done it already. Very interesting girl, told me that she lived in France and I was amazed by what she’d done there. We kept talking and I couldn’t believe when she told me she once went to Tibet. By that time I had , and still have, this fixed idea about going to Tibet. If I had to do a “To-do list” this would be the first thing. I wish I had spent more time seating there on the floor talking to her.

Oh, and it was one of Nina’s friends birthday, so after a delicious vegetarian dinner, we sang Happy Birthday to him, plus, a really funny dance that they do when is someone’s birthday. (I can’t remember the “lyrics” but I’m messaging her and will ask about it haha).

It was so nice and when I finally went back home, the central heating was fixed and I slept like a baby in one of the best “couches” ever. The couchsurfing experience was amazing and the couch was really comfortable (maybe better than my bed.).

Yeah, things happen for a reason, I don’t think I was lucky to have chosen Nina (and Nina chosen me) among other people to stay with. And then not only Nina but also her friends. I’m so glad I went to Bradford and remember clearly not wanting to leave and wishing I could be in situation like that one more often.

What about you? Have you ever been in a situation like this, being a strange in a small/non touristy place?

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36 thoughts on “Travelling to non touristy places: Bradford

  1. Great post Hector. I associated Bradford with negative images before – the riots, trouble between far right groups and ethnic minorities etc. – but you present it so warmly I want to go visit. And I completely agree with you about visiting places that aren’t tourist “Top Picks”. It gives you more time to just wander and live in a place rather than consume it.
    Mind you I don’t think Bradford FC will be too happy about your describing them as 4th division. They are League 1 damn it!! (Which is really… eh… third division…)

  2. Hey Hector! It was really nice to read of your stay in Bradford and how much you enjoyed it! I was so glad to meet you as you truly embody the spirit of couch surfing, arriving with an open mind to see a place that tourists would not normally visit but has the potential for some surprisingly beautiful encounters with places and people in the city! I love Bradford and I’m glad you were able to meet my flatmates and friends at our community meal! The happy birthday song we learned from a friend from the USA was ‘jump up turn around, have a happy birthday, jump up turn around, have a happy day. jump up turn around, have a happy birthday, jump up turn around, have a happy day. Woooaoahaah have a happy birthday, woooooaaha have a happy day, wooooooaaoh have a happy birthday, wooaahaaooaah have a happy day!!!!’ – with the actions too 🙂 Any tune will do for it!! I hope you continue to enjoy your travels and can come visit us in Bradford again sometime, there’s still more to see and do, and I hope to visit you in Brazil too 🙂 we need to drink good coffee together! Peace, Nina x

  3. Sounds like you’ve had a wonderful experience! I’ve been to Morocco once and we were in the middle of nowhere, in this tiny village and our driver stopped at a red light and people came up to us, offering their food. Really amazing 🙂

  4. Great insider’s guide to some cool spots in Bradford. I would love to check out the Bradford City stadium. Stadium tours can be so much fun, especially if you’re into the history of a club. I’ve done the ones in Spain for Valencia and Real Sociedad and enjoyed them quite a bit.

    • I agree, Mindi. I think I’ve grown so much as a person because of the people I’ve meet while travelling. So many different people, with different perspectives, ideas, backgrounds, that you can learn a lot from them (:

  5. I totally agree with exploring the less touristy places (although I think Bradford is pushing it! Haha!) I always try and visit smaller less known places around the larger touristy spots wherever I am, I think a mix of the two can make a trip really great.

  6. Great post! I agree, sometimes destinations that you expect the least from, turn out to be the best experiences! I like your style of travelling: couchsurfing, meeting strangers, …

  7. I love to travel to unknown non touristy places, we have found our most interesting sights, people, and food while traveling this way. I will have to check out Bradford – very cute little place and my hubby and kids would love the stadium! 🙂

  8. I love to visit less touristy places! You always can find something special, and it becomes even more rewarding. Moreover, these cities are not so crowded with tourists and locals are usually more open and hospitable.

    • That’s true, Pedro. I enjoy much more the local atmosphere, crowds of tourists and tourists traps spoils a bit the atmosphere of some places.
      I loved Prague for instance, but was a bit annoyed for the amount of tourists around there, buying souvenirs in all those shops selling all the same crap 😛

  9. I love exploring little, less touristy villages, that’s when you usually meet people and get to share experiences with them.
    Unfortunately I use to live not so far from Bradford and I’m not the biggest fan of the area 😦 But it’s a great town for some good curry!

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