March 9, 2008 at 11:31 pm | Posted in General, Manchester, Out and About, photos, Tourism, Travel, UK | 1 Comment
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Myself and Miki made our way to Manchester on Friday to meet our resident local – Rhiannon and to catch up since we had gone our separate ways in Sydney. Although first we’d have to get on the train. We would have to take the overland from Euston and we arrived at the underground tube station. As we were making our way out were informed that the station was being evacuated and we were to take the next tube out. After arriving at Kings Cross a quick call to Virgin Trains advised that the evacuation had been canceled and even more fortuitously we would be allowed to use our ticket on a later train. Arriving at Euston again our ticket was validated for the 12:30 train (an hour late) and after finding some seats we settled in for a 2 hour trip.

Manchester feels like a big spread out city but is remarkably easy to walk around (at least in the core). We checked into our apartment for the night and then headed into the city for a wander around the main streets and next to the major buildings.

In the city center near Harvey Nichols is a Tudor period pub the Old Wellington with wood beams and and walls. With meals, drinks, reasonable service, ambient atmosphere and views over the city it is a charming spot. While a little cramped it all adds to the experience and during the summer I’m sure sitting out in the courtyard with the pub or wheel as your backdrop would make this a great venue.
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The Manchester Wheel – I’ve never been on the London Eye and now I’ve been on it’s smaller cousin I’ll have to make the effort. For £6 (adult) you get 3 rotations. The first time is slow as you’ll be listening to an audio track providing a history of the wheel and pointing out local sights.
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At night and without knowing the city it can be a little challenging to to get your bearings before the guide has moved on. You can even choose the audio in different languages.
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The next two rotations are relatively fast and I’d say all up it took about 15 minutes but was a lot of fun. If you feel like splashing out you can spend £50 – £65 for the VIP gondola. I hope for that money it’s more than 15 minutes.

In the square next to the Wheel is a giant TV screen and unlike many other screens, it actually has sound so it’s quite possible to watch Eastenders!
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That night we ate at East Z East Indian restaurant. While the underground blue neon pillars and foliage is all a bit surreal the food and wine were filling, delicious and affordable. The service was friendly and efficient as well. They have a few branches so if you’re in the mood for Punjabi cuisine give it a try.

The next day started out gloomy but we ate a hearty breakfast before once again walking around town.

There was Manchester Cathedralscene of some horrific fighting and then of course, controversy.
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Afflecks Palace-Lots of alternative and vintage shopping (clothes mainly) in this multi-level shopping arcade with a range of different vendors.
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Chinatown – While it lacks a pedestrian mall it does have a cool arch and a load of Asian restaurants nearby.
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The Town Hall(currently celebrating St Patricks Day) and was featured on “How we Built Britain” as a masterpiece of Victorian engineering constructed at the height of the city’s industrial power.
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There are tours of the building but this week it was on a Sunday so we missed out but took a wander around instead. The lower floors are all well crafted with vaulted ceilings and inlays with exquisite architecture.
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The higher floor were less opulent and on a Saturday felt more like an abandoned school. HWBB has a potentially unhealthy interest in the heating used in the building and as a result of this repetition I found myself obsessing about it as well.

Urbis is an exhibition center focusing on city life culture.
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When we visited they had a display on “d&ad – the best design and advertising in the world” with some very funky ads and design pieces ranging from print and audio to video games and mix media. There was also an exhibit from recent graduates with a variety of avant garde work.
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Sadly, I missed out by a week on the upcoming manga exhibition so if you’re in town check it out.
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Also of note is the lift. The building is a unique slanted design and apparently getting a standard lift would require it to have a railway license so they opted for the counterweight option thus creating a multi-stop rollercoaster (probably the slowest!).
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After looking at the displays we went down to Urbis’ cafe The Social and took some time out.
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While there we looked outside at the various groups of young teens milling about in the plaza. Apparently just chilling but the police may not have been so sure as there were a lot of them talking to them. I’m not sure why they had such issues these young people just seemed to be talking and hanging.
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<Sigh> ‘young people’ clearly I no longer perceive myself as a ‘young person’

At any rate the rain forced them away more effectively than the police presence and in turn we kept inside the cafe until I had to leave for the train back to London.
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And as per the journey up the journey back was similarly challenging. All trains going to London were going to take another hour in travel time so my train was cancelled and I left half an hour later and took 4 hours to get back to Euston. The bathroom I sat next to was particularly odious.

Luckily there was a group of young guys who were mildly entertaining and they persuaded a dog trainer who joined the train at Coventry after a competition to get her second place dog to do tricks. It was enough to break the boredom for the last stretch.

Overall I enjoyed Manchester. It was easy to traverse and while there is more to see and do I feel like I received a good sample of the city. Obviously, having a local helps but I’m sure it’ll be entertaining for you as well.

More photos on Flickr and a Google map with locations here.

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