Sunday, October 5, 2014

2 Weeks in Manchester

2 Weeks in Manchester
We first spent a weekend in Manchester for a wedding and were charmed by its unique architecture, character and history. In a good mood from the festivities, we weren't sure if it was just these rosy personal feelings or if the city really kicked ass. Especially after we agreed to a house trade that had us spending 2 weeks of summer break in this industrial northern center and locals first question in response to our plans was a polite "Why?".

Lucky for us, we did enjoy. A lot. Staying in a place for longer than a night or two allowed us to gain a insiders' perspective and explore the greater north (including York, Edinburgh, Port Sunlight, Liverpool and Chester - watch this space for posts!).

And much like the vacation to Ischia (but in a less island paradise kinda way), one of our primary goals on this vacation was to relax. The baby is coming and a whole different, slower and hopefully just as fulfilling way of traveling will be necessary. Let's consider this a successful test run into our new life.

You may think from this destination that we're easy to please - and that's the truth. There are few places we won't go and enjoy. On our first day our friends took us to a giant grocery store in Middleton and it was a highlight of the trip. All those choices! "Crisps"! Beautiful pre-made food! IPAs! The place had piñatas?!

2 Weeks in Manchester

We like noting differences big and small and are fascinated by the many instances of culture shock we experience during life in Berlin and on the road. The world is a fascinating place.

We settled in quite nicely to our temporary terrace housing in Moss Side and set about exploring a little bit of the city everyday. If you need a little more than English streaky bacon, bizarre UK TV and a trip to the grocery store to entertain you, we did those things too.

Manchester Museum

Manchester Museum

Heading into town on our first solo day, we saw the museum our friends had pointed out and relying on England's glorious policy of free museums, we popped in.

With a focus on archaeology, anthropology and natural history, Ian was instantly pleased with the dinosaur skeleton in the lobby. Families with small children crowded around displays of Egyptian mummies and pressed their noses to the glass in front of the chameleons. Well presented if awkwardly laid-out, this tidy little site kept us busy for a few hours. The museum is owned by the University of Manchester and is thus swarmed by slightly older children just outside its walls.

More pictures of Manchester's Museums

National Football Museum

2 Weeks in Manchester

This structure is austere and the interior makes good use of the space with each floor covering a different aspect of the "beautiful game". I particularly enjoyed the many different versions of ball and uniform throughout the ages, local team's mementos and fussball table overlooking the downtown. 

More pictures of Manchester's Museums
  • Website: www.nationalfootballmuseum.com
  • Address: Urbis Building, Cathedral Gardens, Todd St, Manchester M4 3BG, United Kingdom
  • Tel.: 44 161 605 8200
  • Hours: 10 - 17:00


Manchester Town Hall

Manchester Town Hall

Manchester has one of the prettiest town halls.  When it's not raining, and that is a big when, the square offers a lovely location to sit and engage in the festivals and events that roll through. The tower also offers an impressive landmark which works as a compass to navigate the city. Explore the interior for markers of the city's history. 



British Pubs

My fellow pregnant friend shared an expert tip for ladies who want to go to an English pub, but don't want to pay a premium for juice or other boring non-alcoholic drinks: order a cordial. Basically water with flavoring, the pubs only charge you around 40 pence!

Briton's Protection

2 Weeks in Manchester


Established in 1806, this unassuming pub has become a favorite. Frequented by locals and tourists, young and old, this is a classic.
  • Website: britons-protection.com
  • Address: 50 Great Bridgewater St, Manchester M1 5LE, United Kingdom
  • Tel.: 44 161 236 5895
  • Hours: 11 - 23:00ish

Peveril Of The Peak

What to do in Manchester, England

I think our fiends simply called this place "the Pev", but since we won't assume such familiarity we'll stick with "Peveril Of The Peak". Just down the street from Briton's Protection, we seemed to specialize in weird experiences here. As I turned to wonder what exactly was the rooftop-not-balcony bedecked with plants, a car raced by us with its occupants yelling something profane at us. They almost sideswiped a pedestrian as the squealed around the corner and we thought this must be a true Manchester experience.

We actually made it inside the pub on the next sighting and found seating in a backroom which was oddly candle-lit for the evening. Power outage...in one room? Whatever, we still enjoyed our cordials and beers and watching a young man pass out nearby over his undrunk beer.
  • Address:  127 Great Bridgewater Street Manchester M1 5JQ
  • Tel.: 44 0161 236 6364
  • Hours: 11 - 23:00

    Mr. Thomas's Chop House

    British Pubs in Northern England

    We shuffled our way through the narrow entry and found a spot right before the restaurant. Our table noted that the "Duke of Milan, his brother Antonio and the King of Naples drank here in 2007". Ohh - fancy! One of Manchester's oldest bars, it kept a stiff upper lip through a 1996 IRA bombing.
    • Website: tomschophouse.com
    • Address: 52 Cross St, Manchester M2 7AR, United Kingdom
    • Tel.: 44 161 832 2245
    • Hours: 11 - 23:00ish

    Circus Tavern

    Smallest Pub in Europe

    This pub has the distinction of being the smallest pub in Manchester (and allegedly the smallest bar in Europe). Apparently it was built in 1790 as a butchery and was transformed into a pub around 1840.

    While you seem to spend a lot of squeezing through narrow spaces in English pubs, this was extreme as there is just a small hall with taps, and two miniature rooms with seating. Our large and in charge pregnant bellies actually scored us one of the few seats and we sat and chatted while watching horse racing quite comfortably. The staff is no-nonsense, but were kindly to us and served free chicken fingers along with our drinks. 
    • Address: 86 Portland St, Manchester M1 4GX, United Kingdom
    • Tel.: 44 0161 236 5818

    Port Street Beer House

    Port Street Beer House UK

    We actually visited this modern ale house on our last visit. A friend knew of our love of ales (and the general lack thereof in Germany) and recommended this place for a range of brews.

    • Website: www.portstreetbeerhouse.co.uk
    • Address: 39-41 Port Street, Manchester, M1 2EQ
    • Tel.: 44 (0)161 237 9949
    • Hours: 16 - midnight (longer hours on wknds) 

    The Shakespeare Public House

    Old English Pub Manchester

    One of the locations of the "Stag Do", the exterior of this pub is English perfection. A bit of standard fare inside, but still somewhere to snap a shot.
    • Address: 16 Fountain Street, Manchester M2 2AA, England
    • Tel.: 44 0161 834 5515 

      The Albert Square Chophouse

      God is a Manc

      This was the site of our friend's reception and it really couldn't be more picture perfect. Located right on the main square, the downstairs pub and restaurant are quite smart with the rest of our party held upstairs in the elegant event space. We fell in love with corned beef hash cake with a poached egg & brown sauce and this very English experience.
      • Website: albertsquarechophouse.com
      • Address: Memorial Hall, 14 Albert Square, Manchester M2 5PF, United Kingdom
      • Tel.: 44 161 834 1866
      • Hours: 12 - 20:30  

      Curry on Rusholme

      Curry Mile on Rusholme

      We can't go to England without sampling some curries. The place to go in Manchester is Rusholme, or Curry Mile, and it just so happened that it was walking distance to our (temporary) home. While everyone has their favorite and there are plenty of generic restaurants, we enjoyed all three times we ate there. That's right, 2 weeks = 3 curries on Rusholme.

      More pictures of Food in Manchester

      Salford Quays 

      Salford Quays, Manchester, England, UK

      For some reason this is pronounced "Keys". Oh English.

      No matter the pronunciation, this area of Salford has several new attractions since the dockyards closed in 1982. The Quays are home to a revitalized BBC "MediaCity", the Imperial War Museum and some seriously stand-out modern architecture (plus nearby Old Trafford - see below).

      We didn't make it to the Lowry (bad tourists!) but you should if you can.

      Imperial War Museum 

      2 Weeks in Manchester

      Ian is a sucker for a war museum so we found ourselves heading there first. Praise be to the UK's free museums! We were able to do a quick run through and admire all the pretty war machines. While it didn't strike me as the best we'd ever seen (hello Dresden's Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr), it does impress on the scale of its display. Note that no pictures are allowed.

      • Website: www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-north
      • Address:  Quay West, Trafford Wharf Rd, Manchester M17 1TZ, United Kingdom
      • Tel.: 44 161 836 4000
      • Hours: 10:00 - 17:00
       

      BBC MediaCityUK

      What to do for 2 weeks in Manchester

      Ahhh - Dragons!


      Quays Lift Bridge

      2 Weeks in Manchester


      Old Trafford & Manchester United Museum 

      2 Weeks in Manchester

      One of the city's top attractions is its world famous football team - Manchester United. Their grounds at Old Trafford serve as a pilgrimage for die-hard fanatics and a must-go for even casual football fans like us. Even on a chilly August day with no game is sight, the place was filled with other camera-clutching visitors.

      While going to a game would be the ultimate, we were there in the off-season of August. The upside is that the museum (usually paired with a stadium tour and a whopping 25 pounds) is free. Just our price range!

      I would have loved a look at the field, but the museum was legitimately fascinating - even for a somewhat fan. I now know all the basics of George Best, the horrific plane crash in Munich and what a room full of trophies looks like. If you want to be wowed - even in the off-season - stop by the massive store and marvel at the amount of cash registers ready to take the pounds of its many eager fans.

      More pictures of Manchester's Museums

      Screenfields Open Air Movie


      Screenfields Open Air Movie

      All dreamy about out upcoming vacation in steamy Berlin summer, I convinced Ian & our poor friends who really knew better than to rely on English weather that an outdoor movie would be the perfect activity. And - get this - "Robin Hood" was playing, complete with Kevin Costner & Christian Slater's "English" accents.

      It rained. Steady, fairly consistent, soggy. I refused to look over at the English as my Western Washington resilience refused to give in to weather. They (luckily) kept a very stiff upper lip about it and I think only Ian and his desert-reared soul truly suffered.

      Belle Vue Greyhound Stadium

      2 Weeks in Manchester

      As an avid horse fan, I really wanted to make the races work into our trip. It didn't.

      But then we discovered the next best thing - Greyhound Races. Much more Mancunian, the track is just to the east of the city and the ideal Friday night activity. I am constantly trying to convince Ian to adopt more pets and even he had to admit that these smiling doggy faces are hard to resist.

      The track itself is a relic. It was once part of an entire entertainment complex with zoo, amusement park and an annual circus. Overtime the grounds dwindled and now it is just the track. Slightly rundown, a little rough we were thrilled to see our first ever races.

      This felt like we had truly jumped out of any kind of touristy experience and were delving deep into some real Manchester. Admittedly not hard to do in town that isn't trying to impress anyone, this was one of the highlights of our entire trip. Ian even won us some money.

      Top tip: Just like with the horse races, there is rarely a reason to pay full entrance price. Scope the specials online before arriving and consider a place in the restaurant for a meal & entertainment deal. We got an entrance/program/burger deal for about 6 pounds with regular entrance at 7 pounds. Ridiculous.

      2 Weeks in Manchester


      More pictures of Greyhound Racing
        

      Manchester Pride

      2 Weeks in Manchester

      We missed Berlin's pride this year for our trip to Ischia, Italy and while that felt like a fair trade, we were delighted to discover our trip overlapped with Manchester Pride. We arrived a bit late which had our local friends sweating it, but ended up in an ideal spot to watch the very civilized procession of gayly dressed festival-goers and boisterous sound systems, all back dropped by City Hall.

      Afterwords, the party continues on the aptly named "Canal Street" but it cost an entrance fee to join the masses so we took our pregnant asses to the bars (and seating) instead. All in all - a fabulous time.

      More pictures of Manchester Pride

      Real Ale Festival

      Real Ale Festival in Manchester, England

      What better way to end a trip than with a beer festival? Real Ales (aka good beer) are really making a move in the UK as well as Germany and this celebration of brews at the Velodrome offered the perfect opportunity for the guys to enjoy some tasty beverages and for all of us to soak up some of the last weak English sun.


      So....was 2 weeks in Manchester too much?


      Two weeks seemed like quite a lot, until it wasn't. There are still things we would like to do in Manchester like the John Rylands Library, Manchester Art Gallery, Lowry, Manchester Craft and Design Centre...maybe we'll even get into Coronation Street and take the tour.

      That's right - we're coming back for you Manchester! Plus, our friends just had their first kid so they are due a visit. More pics? Want to see Manc adventures in motion?



      More Manchester? More UK? More reviews? More about us?

      3 comments:

      ~ cheryl said...

      Sounds like a grand time was had by all. Those pubs and museums, especially, look super interesting.

      Kate Jordan said...

      It's always funny for me to see travel posts about my home country! I have a very different outlook on Manchester (northern vs. southern rivalry ;) ) but you've taken some gorgeous pictures here!

      Greetings from a fellow expat in Germany!

      ebe porter said...

      So glad you enjoyed the post Kate! Even after 2 weeks you can tell we have a lot to learn about Manchester, the North in general, and the UK. Nonetheless - we are dedicated to further travels.

      Enjoy Frankfurt!

      We're Back in Berlin Ja!

      We're Back in Berlin Ja!
      ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008