If I was to describe the city of Manchester with just one word, it would be “fire”. Not in a bad way, but in the beautiful rusty/fire flame/red color way. After our three day trip to the city I can’t get the image of the buildings made of red brick (I think), giving the town that rusty look, out of my head.
But should we start from the very start???
The reason why we picked Manchester for a city break at the very beginning was because I never have any luck getting tickets to gigs online. Last year half of the country was able to get tickets to Ed Sheeran’s concert in Ireland and I was sitting in front of my laptop on a Saturday morning reading: “Sorry, there are no tickets available”. So, being desperate and adamant I was NOT giving up, I ended up getting tickets for his concert in Manchester, explaining to myself that it was the most rational and not impulse-driven decision. And you know what? That trip was the nicest city break we’ve ever taken.
We (me & my husband) flew from Dublin at 6.30 am on a Thursday morning. I know it’s a very early start, but it was the cheapest flight and I don’t like wasting time when you only go for a short period of time, so I wanted to make sure we get the full three days. Flight was only 40 minutes long, so you don’t even get a chance to have a cup of coffee or a proper nap, but I still think, the less time we spend in the air – the better. And yes, yes, I know, airplane is the safest type of transport and you are more likely to die in a car crash on your way to the airport than in the actual plane, but still… i think it’s quite normal to feel a little discomfort 10,000 kms above ground.
We stayed in Macdonald Manchester Hotel which is just a 2 minute walk from the main train station, so logically enough we decided to take the train from the airport. Your route is well signed, so you have no problem finding the train station but that’s where the tricky part starts. There are two places where you can buy your train tickets. First you see the self service ticket machines and a bit further there is a cashier desk. Being very “I can handle this, I don’t need to go to the cashier, I have done my homework!” we went straight for the ticket machine. Got sorted no problem, found the platform, got on the train amazed by how easy this was… Until the ticket lady came around to check all the tickets and it turned out that ticket machine only allowed you to travel with a certain train company. And, of course, we weren’t on the one we needed to be… Ticket lady didn’t kick us out though, instead we had to buy new tickets. Damage: overpaid £10. But hey, let’s be positive, that was the only hiccup we had for the whole 3 days 🙂
The hotel was really nice. The receptionist was really helpful and friendly, telling us she can actually check us in straight away as the room was ready. Now, we were there at 8am, so for me it’s a huge tick in the box, when the hotel let’s you check in that early in the morning instead of waiting till the usual 3pm. We got Quinn Room which was spacious with extremely comfy bed and beautiful bathroom that had … wait for it … bathtub AND a big walk in shower. For me the most important thing in a hotel is a decent bathroom, and that bathroom exceeded all my expectations. Breakfast was to die for. Unfortunately, so was the queue. But then, it was our own fault as we left it quite late and came at the busiest time. Still, it was well worth waiting. So, if you ever look for a place to stay in Manchester, I am highly recommending Macdonald Manchester Hotel. Oh, did I mention the huge panoramic view window in the room?
Because the hotel was so central we decided not to use the public transport and instead walked everywhere, which gave us the opportunity to really see the city. It only took us about 20 minutes no matter where we were going. I love that easy, non-rushing wander along the streets when you can really enjoy all the new things you see and get the feel for the city. You look like a total tourist, cause people rarely walk, staring at buildings if they live in the place, but hey, who cares? At the end of the day, we were tourists…
Walking through Manchester you see small pieces of paper with people’s handwritten notes hanging from the branches of the trees all around the town. Shop windows, buses, walls and walkways have bee symbols on them and the Town Hall has a banner on the front that says “Manchester Together”. All this is to remember the bombing that happened a year ago on the 22nd of May 2017 at Ariana Grande’s concert. The spirit of the city and the unity of people are incredible and you can literally feel it in the air. The message is, that no matter what happens, Manchester is strong and they don’t look back with anger. It gave me a really peaceful and calm feeling.
We like to actively spend our time on holidays (read: I like to actively spend time on holidays and he is agreeing), so I’ve googled places of interest that we could visit. You can pick and choose between whatever you like, cause Manchester is the city where you won’t get bored. From museums to crazy golf, from huge bouncy castle obstacle courses to theater performances, everybody will find something for themselves. One thing I was amazed by is that almost ALL museums are for FREE. They will kindly ask you if you would want to leave a donation, some places would even have a suggestion of leaving, for example, £3 donation, but they will stress out that it is totally up to you. So we saved a lot of money on museum tickets even after leaving a donation.
What did we see?
National Football Museum.
Even if you are not into football at all, you will find something interesting for yourself there. Old advertising, the trophies, old stories about the players (with some original letters from them), vintage Play Football penny arcade machines (and there are even ones that you can play yourself), interactive display of what injuries could happen (this was the scary part to be honest) and much much more… So, in a nutshell, even though I am not into football, I still enjoyed it pretty much.
Manchester Cathedral. A few minute walk from the Football Museum we found The Manchester Cathedral. A stunning building that will take your breath away once you enter it. It’s a Grade I listed building. This means that the building is “officially designated as being of special architectural, historical or cultural significance.” It was built between 1421 and 1882. In 1940 Cathedral was severely damaged and part of it completely demolished. It took 20 years to repair it, but then it was badly damaged again in the IRA bombing in June 1996. The newest addition to the Cathedral is a new Stoller Organ. It has over 4800 pipes which range in size from as small as 6 inches to as high as 32 feet. Now that’s a lot of pipes, eh? I could only imagine what would the sounds be once it comes to life. Must be pretty amazing…
Just around the corner from Manchester Cathedral is The Old Wellington Inn, half-timbered pub, the oldest building of it’s kind in the city, built in 1552. You can enjoy a pint of cask ale or some food (inside and outside). Pub was originally built next to the market square which led off what is now Market Street. It was damaged during the IRA bombing and re-opened in February 1997. The repair costed … wait for it … £500,000!!!
We also had lunch in Hard Rock Cafe not far away from the Football Museum, where I had a pleasure of tasting a cauliflower burger for the first time. I know, sounds strange, especially if you are a meat lover like me. I mean, steaks, pork chops and salami. I am that kinda girl. But let me tell you, after debating with myself for about 15 minutes I decided to give it a shot and boy, I was NOT disappointed!!! Patty made of cauliflower, garlic, egg, goats cheese and breadcrumbs, perfectly grilled and topped with zucchini, halloumi cheese, tomato and served on a brioche bun. It was lush! It was so good, I am considering driving 200 kms to the nearest Hard Rock Cafe to have lunch.
For the evening entertainment we decided to try one of the comedy clubs, that are actually quite popular in Manchester. The Frog and Bucket Comedy Club is the place where you can have a laugh, a few drinks and some food if you like. I have never been to a place like that before and only saw it in american movies. Really cool place with really good stand up guys, who try to include audience in their performances and interact. It gives young comedians a chance to shine and kick start there journey. If you are looking for something different, that’s the place to go. Make sure you book your tickets in advance though.
People’s History Museum.
It is located in the former hydraulic pumping station. The museum tells the story about people’s lives at home, work and leisure over the last 200 years. A lot of the stuff is political, it tells the story of democracy, right to vote, trade unions, elections and political campaigns, how was the health service introduced and much much more. You can even clock your own work card and have a wander in a 1930’s shop. It tells the story of people in a very “easy to understand” way. You feel as if you traveled in time and it seems very real.
A bit of shopping never hurt nobody… So, purely because I needed to get some shoes for the concert, I chanced going into Primark. Well, let me tell you something. Primark in Manchester has clothes that Penney’s in Dublin will never ever even see. It’s like a completely different shop out there. 3 floors of everything you can ever think of in all available sizes. There is no looking at the tags because hangers actually have correct sizes on them. It’s clean, neat and not messy at all. There is no clothes lying on the floor. It makes the whole shopping experience so much easier. And the amount of shoes… WOW!!! I had to drag myself out of it, because I would spend all day and all my salary in there. So, plan for the future (or another thing on the bucket list) is to go for a purely shopping trip. Maybe get one of my best gals and just indulge in shopping, lunches and a few drinks, a weekend away like in Sex and the City movie… Yeah, this would be nice, and it would really be nice in Manchester.
John Rylands Library.
This is a truly unique place, which opened to the public in 1900 was founded by Enriqueta Augustina Rylands in memory of her husband, John Rylands. He was a very wealthy businessman and made his fortune on cotton. He left a nice sum of money to his wife after his death, which she used to build the library and buy collections of books. On opening, the library had 70,000 books and just under a 100 manuscripts, and by 2012 more that 250,000 books and over one million manuscripts and archival items. Can you even imagine??? But what’s even more impressive is the building itself. You won’t pass it without noticing.
Beautiful neo-gothic building definitely stands out and takes your breath away even before you enter. To be honest I was a bit surprised when we went into the foyer. High gloss tiles, modern bright lights and white walls do not exactly match the facade, but once you get on to the first floor and enter the old building… WOW… I suddenly woke up in Hogwarts. If Harry Potter’s school was based on anything at all, it had to be based on this library. Arches and beautifully carved figures on the walls, unbelievable ceilings and dimmed lights. All this allows you to travel in time. Even if you are not into books or reading, go in and walk around enjoying the interior and architecture.
The evening we spent at the Etihad Stadium listening to Ed Sheeran and his guitar. This was an amazing experience and deserves a separate post, so I am not going to talk about the concert just yet.
Last day we spent in a very relaxed, walk around, don’t rush anywhere mood. Partly because the weather allowed it and partly because we were just wrecked. Being constantly on the go is not easy and late nights/early mornings can really have it’s impact on your body. Plus, we walked everywhere (damn, I am really mad I didn’t switch the step counter on, to find out how many kilometers had we walked in total). So, legs were getting quite sore too. So we left the Industrial Museum (Museum of Science & Industry) for the last day.
Your visit can take up to 3 hours, as this museum is technically 5 different buildings. It tells you about industrial history and city’s achievements. There are extensive displays of transport (air, land). You can see the prototype of the first plane, find out how hot air balloon works, see the first Rolls Royce. Have a look at the replica of the Manchester Baby (world’s first stored-program computer), find out what the day in the cotton industry looked like and even learn the process from start to finish. In one word: unreal… We spent about 3 hours there, and we could spend more, but the hunger and sore legs were whispering: “Find food, find food!” So, we had to give in and go hunting for a place to eat.
When you don’t know where to eat in Manchester, go to The Printworks. This is an entertainment venue with cinema, bars and restaurants, and everybody should be able to find something there that they would like. We ended up in a Mexican restaurant Chiquito , so the last few hours we spent indulging in tortillas and sipping Margaritas.
It’s always sad to leave places, especially if you had such an amazing time there, but let’s not be sad and just be grateful that such an opportunity arise. We are now one more experience richer and it’s great. So enjoy your trips and cherish every minute of it trying to take in as much as you can.
So, Rule #1:
Enjoy the opportunities that you get in life, no matter how short or long the experience might be.
P.S. I wish I knew, that I would be writing a post about Manchester, I would have taken more pictures and brought an actual camera with me, instead of just taking pictures on my phone. But hey, isn’t that how we learn??? This is all a big experiment for me so far.
Oh, and I do apologize for any mistakes in writing. English is not my first language, but I am not trying to make excuses. If you notice any, please do let me know in the comments, so that I can also learn a bit 🙂
Thanks for reading.