Meaty Manchester

Last weekend we went to Manchester which is a city that we had been dying to go to since we heard it was an industrial liberal free for all. We decided to take one of our holiday days from work (I get nine paid holidays for four months of work and ellie gets 8) and check out the great northwest.

We caught the bus from Victoria at 8:00 in the morning on Friday, February 1st. We got split up at the Victoria tube station and almost didn’t both make it on the bus at the Victoria coach station but we worked it out. Unfortunately we didn’t get seats together, but did manage to sit across the aisle from one another. Ellie got to sit with a nice and quiet converse wearing, skinny jean guy while I got a true gangster from Inverness. Inverness is like the Scottish nowhere land up north. Within five minutes he popped open his first beer and mind you, it was 8:00 am. Within ten minutes the bus went around a roundabout and his beer was all over my feet. When the bus didn’t stop for a cigarette break, which it never does, he told me that he was going to “light one up in the bathroom, excuse me.” As the queue for the bathroom grew longer and people looked at me questioningly like who is in there? I pretended to be asleep. He also really liked having sexual conversations on the phone with one of many girls including purring and barking like a dog. Needless to say when the bus pulled in at noon in Manchester, I was thrilled.

We followed precise directions and ended up at the Hatters Hostel where we had booked two nights. The hostel was really cute and one of the nicest ones we have been in yet.

We were in a ten bedroom female dorm and upon walking in, we met Roxanne, an Australian who is moving out of Manchester in the next few days and we met Amanda

who is from North Carolina and had just left the states a week ago to travel from the UK to Europe to Asia and then to New Zealand all by herself. We had some free tea and toast with them and then headed to the Cuban restaurant we saw near the bus stop. We got some amazing vegetarian food and tapas for only five pounds each.

Afterwards, we explored the Northern Quarter which is where our hostel is located. It is the trendy shopping district with lots of boutiques and cute cafes. We ended up in famous Affleck’s palace which is an old department store that has been turned into this funky, carnival like department store for alternative fashions complete with piercing and tattoo parlors inside.

(Some amazing art work outside Affleck’s.)

After tons of vintage clothes and amazing jewelry which we were sad we couldn’t afford, we decided to meet up with Amanda and Roxanne who were at the Urbis design museum. Urbis is this amazing glass building with an elevator that goes up horizontally on a slant.

The exhibit was really good and had a lot to do with the effects of advertising as well as an exhibit about Hacienda which is this famous punk/drag/rock club that closed down in the late nineties, sort of the studio 54 of Manchester.

The weather was awful and so freezing so we decided to head back to the hostel.

We stopped along the way to watch a five year old and a ten year old break dance in front of a shopping centre with their mom. We got some beer and drank some and hung out until Ellie and I decided we wanted pizza so we went out and had really nice pizza and the owner of the restaurant gave us a Chilean dessert shot, sort of like Baileys. We met up with Roxanne, Amanda and this other Aussie named Rebecca in the Gay village and had a pint in a cozy corner while the scantily clad men of the bar tried to make love connections.

When we got back to the hostel, we sat around with Amanda talking about the states. I looked outside and saw huge snow flurries falling from the sky. Ellie and I excused ourselves as crazy Floridians and ran to the street like small children, screaming with joy.

We spun around and danced in it for a bit before we resigned ourselves from the cold. When we awoke it was snowing hard and we went back to bed until about 11 and the sun was out and the snow was melted.

We went down to this place called the cornerhouse which was an art museum, café and indie move theatre all in one.

I ate really good vegetable paella and Amanda met us there. After lunch we saw some really interesting installations by the artist Chosil Kim. We decided to continue exploring Manchester by foot and went to the top of Hilton, pretending like we could afford 1100 pound rooms per night and we got some amazing views.

The hilton from the outside.

We walked near the deansgate area and to the castlefield, which is this weird castle wall thing in a field, much as the name suggests.

We walked around the Northern Quarter some more and around the saturday fashion market and then we went back for a bit to the hostel to relax and then went out to Manchester’s Chinatown for some excellent pad thai and sweet and sour vegetables.

We ended up talking to some guys at the hostel from Canada and Germany and then decided we were too tired to go out and went to bed.

The next day we made breakfast for the girls at the hostel

and then walked Amanda to the train station wishing her good luck on her journey. We walked around the village some and then decided to head back to cornerhouse to catch a film. We saw Libero, an Italian film and it was quite good. We ended up grabbing some food for the bus and then having to head home in the late afternoon.

Manchester was interesting because the architecture was a mix of quite industrial buildings and old English buildings and modern glass buildings right next to each other.

It also has really amazing sculptures and artsy touches throughout the city.

I think we thought that there was going to be more going on than there was but we had a rally nice weekend and it was nice to hang out with some new people. Hearing Amanda talk about her around the world journey got me really pumped for our traveling outside the U.K.

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February 2008
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