Wherever you live on your own for the first time is bound to have a lasting impact on your life. It’s the place you learn to be fully independent (along with a dysfunctional family in the form of your flatmates): to cook your own meals, do your own washing, manage your weekly budget (less said about that the better). Personally, I don’t think I could have picked a better city to test out adult life than Nottingham, and although it’s time to move back home for a little while after a whirlwind three years, this city will always mean a lot to me.
When I first visited Nottingham, I actually hated it. In all fairness, we didn’t have much time to explore the city, but the layout of the campus put me off and when I confirmed Nottingham Trent as one of my final five choices, I didn’t hold out much hope (although the broadcast journalism course was one of the best). It was only when I came back to do a taster / interview day that my Dad and I were given a quick tour of the city from some friends and I was intrigued by the quirky streets and old fashioned charm that makes up the city’s maze of shops, pubs and parks. Something about the historical atmosphere infused with modern individuality drew me in and I decided then that this was where I wanted to be a student the most.
After three years of exploring there is still so much I want to do here (I’m already making excuses to come back), and far too many things I love to put into one post, but I want to share my favourite Nottingham haunts and memories with you – the ones that sum this weird and wonderful place up and that I’ll miss the most.
I remember feeling so lost and overwhelmed walking through town on my interview day and wondering how the hell I’d ever be able to navigate my way around, which seems funny now all those landmarks are so familiar to me. The very first pub I went to was Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, apparently the oldest in the city (and undoubtedly the most famous), built into the caves of the castle. I’ve been back multiple times and it’s the epitome of old-fashioned Nottingham, right next to the insane castle (well worth a look), ancient buildings and the quaintest cobbled streets.
Part of Nottingham’s appeal is the contrast of each area. You can be walking down the high street and suddenly find yourself down an alleyway full of interesting, unusual shops, artwork and hidden gems. The city is a magnet for the strange and unexpected and that contributes to it’s exciting charisma: there’s always music in the streets, a spontaneous market or attraction to stumble upon and a don’t-take-yourself-too-seriously attitude in the air.
Since being in the city I’ve felt so much more comfortable in embracing my personal style and wearing whatever I want without feeling self-conscious or worried about what other people would think. To some extent I think that’s something that’s part and parcel of growing up and realising the importance of wearing whatever makes you feel happy and represents yourself best, and also learning not to give a sh*t about what anyone else thinks! But another factor has been the strong sense of fashion that runs through Nottingham – it’s historical place in the fashion industry, the big independent fashion scene and the amazing fashion courses that Trent uni offers being reason behind this – no one is scared to be themselves and you see so many creative, colourful and cool outfits dominating the streets (among some very questionable ones).
On the subject of fashion, I’ll definitely miss the fab variety of shops in Nottingham. The high street has all the usual suspects, and if you venture a little off track there are some must-go destinations for anyone with an alternative taste.
Hockley is an area I’ve pretty much sold my soul to shopping wise. It has incredible vintage retailers like Cow and Sue Ryder where I’ve found original treasures, and an abundance of charity shops where you can pick up the most ridiculous clothing for next to nothing. White Rose is one chain of charity shops as far from the stereotype as possible that mixes vintage and upcycled clothing for bargain prices, housed in cool rustic spaces. I created my documentary dissertation as part of my degree about White Rose, which supports the Aegis Trust, and achieved a high 2:1 in it which I’m insanely happy about (you can watch it here if you want to find out more).
Cobden Chambers is a sneakily tucked away cove of super cool independent stores near the Hockley area which is 100% worth checking out. There’s a record store, cafe and my favourite magazine / bookshop Ideas On Paper (I can honestly spend hours rattling around there leafing through everything) and just a funky, colourful area with benches to hang out.
Broadmarsh shopping centre is a bit run down so tends to put people off (guilty) but it’s getting a regeneration and after working part-time at a record store there I discovered that it is home to a couple of great charity shops (I got my orange Paul Smith skirt from British Heart Foundation) and Fopp, my former workplace, sells books, DVDs, CDs and records for crazy cheap prices. If you walk a bit further towards the train station there’s Hopkinson, a building jam-packed with antiques, clothes, cameras and art. Spare a generous amount of time if you go as you’ll get sucked into all the fascinating bits and bobs and want to explore every old-fashioned room.
For Breakfast, Copper is the place I kept going back to and not least for the food. The interior is beaaaautiful and the full English or pancakes will sort you right out if your head’s a bit sore from the night before – they also do bottomless brunch if hair of the dog is more your thing.
Fox Cafe is the dreamiest for brunch / lunch dates if you can get a table. It’s pretty small but that adds to its intimate, rustic vibe of fairy lights and greenery. The smoked salmon doesn’t disappoint and they have a few tables outside among the hustle and bustle with blankets if it’s a chillier day.
My most recommended restaurant for dinner is Annie’s Burger Shack in Lace Market. I rave about it to anyone who will listen and have been more times than I can keep track of because it’s downright bloody delicious. The staff are welcoming, the decor is true to the American theme and the burgers are out of this world – think fajitas, roast dinner, full English… The best thing? All the burgers can come cooked as meaty, vegetarian or vegan according to your preference, so rather than being stuck with a small veggie section of a menu you have the option to pick anything.
I have too many favourite pubs to narrow it down to one, but a special thank you goes to the Gooseberry Bush Wetherspoons for having our backs when we’re all skint but in desperate need of a pint. The Organ Grinder has a lovely roof terrace with string lights and tasty guest ales, and the Sir John Borlase Warren hands down wins best beer garden (although they’re both on the expensive side). The Ropewalk is cheap and cheerful but I’ve had some right laughs in there playing ping pong and pool with good mates, and Raglan Road Irish Bar is good fun too. I did a bar crawl of these pubs with a group of friends almost every Friday and we never got bored of it!
For something a bit more classy, Pepper Rocks and Coco Tang both do great cocktails, and Bodega happy hour on a Monday serves some seriously strong ones, as well as £2 pints of Bodega lager which you can happily sip in the heated beer garden decorated with bunting.
As for this outfit, it’s ideal for summer in the city. I’m obsessed with the spotty Topshop crop which was only £6!!! They’re doing two for a tenner on vests so it’s worth taking advantage of while the weather is this hot.
I love how it looks paired with my trusty Cos jeans (I’ve featured them to death on here but it shows what a good buy they are), monochrome never gets old and the bagginess of the jeans against the skinny, small top creates a playful shape. I could have paired it with any of my sandals but somehow Birkenstocks always feel right – plus there is nothing that compares to the comfort they give if you’re walking a lot when exploring a city.
If you haven’t visited Nottingham yet I suggest you book a trip, it won’t disappoint!
ph. Chloe Jacks