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Nottingham: That Old Midlands Charm

Light rain pattered down Nottingham’s paved streets as I moseyed my way through the crowds. A tram weaved its way through the streets, its sleek design a bright beacon against the grey sky. The streets are broad and drift between cobblestone and pavement, modernity and tradition living symbiotically. There’s something utterly romantic about the rain – the steady patter as it falls to the ground, the skyline misted over, surprised cries as people rush to shelter. I took my time, not quite singing in the rain, but certainly wearing a smile on my face. The low, elaborate architecture of many buildings in the city centre retained the allure of their 20s and 40s styles, unique and absolutely captivating the moment you look up.

As enjoyable as a rainy stroll is, eventually I had to seek shelter to avoid catching a cold. A hot drink and tasty food were the order of the day. Taking the scenic route, Google Maps and I eventually understood each other and I found my destination: Coffee 200˚. This coffee house has two locations in Nottingham, – one in the Old Market Square and the other a minute away from the railway station – I opted for the former.

Warmth blanketed me the minute I stepped into the coffee house. A low, steady din filled the space, most tables crowded with people hiding from the rain, engaging in work, or simply taking a breath. The customers couldn’t have chosen a better place. Light bulbs hung on the ceiling inside of glass jars. The tables and chairs captured vintage comfort in their simple wooden design. Walking down the few stairs into Coffee 200˚, you’re immediately greeted by the sight and smell of many delicious treats in the form of savoury sandwiches and beautiful baked goods. Each item seemed a piece of art, purposefully constructed and lovingly placed on display. They all called to me, enticing me with their promises of deep, enriched flavours.

Eventually I chose the hot chocolate, a bacon sandwich, a piece of caramel chocolate brownie, and a lemon muffin. The hot chocolate was at once calming and uplifting, the perfect rainy-day pick-me-up. With the bacon sandwich, pure, savoury goodness was the first thing that came to mind. Balancing the saltiness of the bacon with the subtlety of camembert, green leafs, and grapes, these flavours may sound odd on paper, but were combined in perfect balance to create a brilliant product.

Caramel threaded across the top of the brownie and I expected an almost unsettling amount of sugar. I was happily wrong. The brownie had the smooth-solid consistency of fudge, a sweet treat that didn’t leave you expecting a toothache. Finally, the lemon muffin. Sugar crystals glinted atop it, adding a surprising bite to the dessert. This crunch was a welcome pairing with the cloud-soft texture of the muffin. A subtle and consistent taste of lemon ran through the treat, each bite tasting like the last. Hunger satisfied, and rain subsided, I headed off in search of books.

Five Leaves Bookshop, quietly nestled between a JemLeisure bingo hall and The Works, could easily be missed. That’s part of the charm. A tiny board standing on the sidewalk softly announces that Five Leaves Bookshop is located just down the shadowed alley. In this unlit alley, a long, horizontal sign declares the bookshop’s presence with its name and a helpful arrow pointing to the end of the path. Past captivating graffiti, Five Leaves Bookshop sits. The bookshop, smartly organised and pouring with good reads, has a fantastic range of contemporary works, including LGBT works, black history, socio-political commentary, and fiction. The poetry section spans two shelves, including the works of Maya Angelou and Rupi Kaur. Purchasing Kaur’s second work, The Sun and Her Flowers, I happily drank in her words while waiting for the train home.

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