Sunday 2 November 2014 – Manchester and Macclesfield.
It seems like an age since El and I went away for a weekend, but checking back through the blog it appears it has only been four weeks, though it has been quite a while since we booked this trip up to Manchester and Macclesfield. One of EL’s oldest friends moved to Macc many years ago and has recently moved house again. We have been invited up for the house warming party and a side trip to Manchester seemed like a good thing to do.
Even though I have lived in England for at least four years over my two visits here I have never been to Manchester, or anywhere else much north of London, something I really need to remedy. In fact I have barely seen much of the UK outside of London, and the more I think I have seen the more I realise there is so much more of this lovely country to explore, so I need to remedy that too.
We booked the train early enough that it was only a little bit more to travel first class than normal, so we took the first class option and on the way up it was really worth it. We had both taken the afternoon off work so met early at Euston and had free lemonade and some crisps in the first class lounge at the station.
The train ride was pleasant enough, it was a high speed train and only stopped twice on the way to Manchester so it was quite a quick trip. Travelling first class on an early commuter train meant we got free coffee, sandwiches, biscuits, crisps and, as I found out far too late, wine. Well worth the extra fiver it cost. Sadly the return trip on Sunday was as not well catered for, but it was not terrible 🙂
We arrived in Manchester late in the afternoon, I had booked a room in a hotel quite near the station, and we checked straight in once we hit town. Unfortunately I was feeling the affects of a horrid little chest cold and was not 100%, so I needed a wee rest before we went and started exploring central Manchester in the early evening. We did not really have much of a plan, just a map from hotel reception and a desire to explore.
I will have to caveat this by saying I was sick and a little grumpy after a busy week at work and I was not really in the mood, but I was not overly impressed with downtown Manchester, it just didn’t inspire me as a city centre . Maybe we just didn’t see the best bits, I know we did not go to the new Quays area, or maybe I am over cities ? I cannot explain it, but I found it all a bit uninspiring.
There was an eye, but so many cities have those these days and the Wheel of Manchester is hardly in an inspiring location, maybe the views from the top were fab ? I don’t know.
We walked down through the main shopping area to the cathedral and the football museum, before turning round and heading back the way we came arriving at the hotel in time for our dinner reservation. This is not our hotel by the way…
It was Halloween, a festival I despise for its American commercialness, and the hotel had a DJ in the bar and it was really loud, un-surprisingly the restaurant was fairly empty, and those that were there, like us, did not linger, though they did turn the music down a bit so we converse over our meal. I took a whisky, purely for medicinal purposes, back to the room as soon as we had finished eating and we had a quite night in, apart from me coughing all night. The room was really nice and we could not hear the bar, which was a real bonus!
Saturday morning we were up relatively early and down for breakfast soon after they started serving, breakfast was pretty good and I did the usual and over-ate a hotel breakfast…
We wanted to see a bit more of downtown Manchester before heading out to Macclesfield in the afternoon. It was a glorious start to the day, lovely clear skies above and not too many people out and about on the streets.
I was keen to get some photos of the trams, something to like about Manchester, and of course with a bright low sun I was also keen to get some lovely flareage in at least one photo.
We were passing Manchester art gallery just on opening time so we decided to pay it a visit. It is partly in a lovely old sandstone building and partly in an ultra modern glass and concrete building behind. I really like this new thing of mixing up old and new buildings in galleries, it provides such a variety of hanging space, and they have done it really well here.
The gallery was interestingish – bearing in mind I was not feeling 100%, there were a couple of good exhibitions on, one based on war related imagery, and one on the 1950s cotton fashion industry. Manchester was the centre of the UK cotton industry and there was a big push by the marketing board in the ’50s to promote cotton into high fashion with a number of big-name English and European designers contributing to the push, I am not sure if it was successful or not, but some of the clothes were quite cool.
I found this Banksy painting rather bizarrely positioned in the 19th Century British artist section…
Manchester’s (Salford) finest contribution to the art world has to be L.S. Lowry, I really like his work and there was a classic Lowry cityscape hanging in the gallery. A painting of nearby Piccadilly Gardens from 1954. The Wheel of Manchester is now in the gardens, I liked it better in the Lowry’s version.
A number of the buildings in Lowry’s painting still stand, though one of the things that I hated about Manchester was the mix and match of architecture and style – there just did not seem to be a theme to the planning and design, making it, in my opinion, quite ugly. Though of course there are some lovely parts to all cities and the section around the town hall was quite nice, almost European in style.
Though the front of the townhall was closed off while some building work was being carried out, presumably for Christmas festivities.
I was hoping to walk on a tow-path up the canal to the cathedral area, but there did not appear to be one to walk on, so we ended up walking up another busy road.
I know times are tight for local councils, but there were a few signs like this around this part of town.
We stopped for a smoothie and coffee and a sit down in a lovely tea house next to the cathedral before heading over for a look. The cathedral was nice, it was heavily refurnished in the 19th century, so it does not look particularly old from the outside, but parts of it date back to Saxon times and it has been modified and expanded ever since.
The coolest thing about the cathedral is that they host gigs inside, stage and lighting was being set up for a gig that night, and one of my favourite bands 65 Days of static, had played there on Wednesday – that was a gig I should have gone to, I bet the sound under that massive ceiling was amazing.
Our main goal for the day was the Football Museum, a new addition to Manchester, and though I have just criticised the mix of new and old buildings, I think the design of this building fits in with its location – just.
Actually, I really liked the building 🙂 which was more than could be said for the museum, I was disappointed by it to be honest, I love the idea and I think it could be really interesting, it was just a bit too disjointed for me. It did seem to have a really good interactive component though and I think kids with an interest in the game would love it..
It was time to head back to the hotel and on to the station so we walked back via the northern quarter, which is the new old up and coming, hip, cool bit of Manchester. It is a bit Shoreditch, and I think will be pretty good given a bit more time and some more shops moving in.
There are some great record shops and cafes there, so next time I am in Manc – and hopefully feeling less sick, I will check it out more. I did go and buy a record though. Muzai, one of my favourite small NZ labels has just moved to the UK’s north west and a couple of albums are available from Piccadilly Records. I bought the All seeing Hand LP. If Piccadilly was in London, I would be broke. Wow, such an awesome selection of post rock, psych, shoegaze and noise. I left in a hurry.
We caught the train out to Macclesfield in the early afternoon and it was good to slump for a while, walking around had really taken it out of me. Macclesfield is about thirty minutes by train from Manchester and Jen met us at the station and we walked for ten minutes to her new house. When we got there, after some polite chat time I snuck away for a snooze before the party started – and then fell asleep in a chair in another room at about 9:30. At that point I felt it was time to go to bed… everyone enjoyed the party apparently.
After another night of coughing and little sleep I surprised myself by feeling a little perkier on Sunday morning and with a couple of coffees and a massive breakfast at a nearby cafe inside me I was ready to go. Jen’s brother and his wife had also stayed the night so the five us went for a drive in his car to the nearby Tegg’s Nose Country Park for a brief walk before El and I had to jump on the train back to London.
It was a lovely walk and I really enjoyed being in the countryside; breathing some fresh air, getting the shoes slightly muddy and pondering what the running and riding would be like.
There are some great old English long horn cattle here, I do not know the particular breed, but the horns are amazing, and this fellow was quite friendly.
The views from the hill were lovely, typical English country side. Green and lush and some autumn colours just starting to show.
It is hard to see in this picture, but this was looking out over the Jodrell Bank space observatory.
In far too short a time we had to turn round and head back to the car.
And onwards to Macclesfield station and the return trip to London.
I surprised myself, by really liking Macc. It is a nice feeling town, especially where Jen lives and I look forward to going back one day and exploring the town itself.
It was a good weekend away, I am really pleased to have finally made it to Manchester, I didn’t enjoy it particularly, but then I wasn’t feeling the best, so I will blame me and not the small part of the city I visited.
I ended up taking the following day off of work as I was feeling pretty rubbish, finally stopping coughing enough to get a decent sleep on Thursday, when El I passed the baton on to El. Sorry…