I'd been meaning to get up to Manchester for the past couple of years. It was not a destination that I'd had much interest in visiting but an old friend lives there and our exchanges about meeting up had been relentlessly thwarted for an entire year. So last Bank holiday weekend we bit the bullet and booked train tickets, amidst the fear that the National Rail would once again announce strike action.
The train ride was pleasant enough and took about three hours from London. We arrived at Picadilly and met my friend who I hadn't seen in about 10 years, since we worked together at a hardware store as 18 yr olds in Palmerston North.
Our first stop was the Northern quarter. An area of Manchester that boasts several independent bars and live music venues. As we walked through the streets Chris pointed out the areas that had been rebuilt since the IRA bombings in the 90s. The city is really unique in it's architectural style which is an interesting mixture of Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Neo Gothic.
After a few pints we had to head off for our next stop – Coronation Street. That's right, old Corrie makes an appearance here.
Now I'm not a huge fan of Corrie but there were a few phases growing up where I'd take a cup of tea in for my mum and I'd be intrigued by what I saw on the television. So I was familiar with more of the characters than I realised and when Chris said the set was going to be torn down at the end of the year I figured we simply had to do the tour! Fans or not.
The funny thing was while we were waiting to go in, Dion realised that the Germans have their own version of Coronation Street called Linden Strasse, which is pretty much a clear rip off.
The tour itself was actually really fun, aided I imagine by having had a few pints before hand. But the sets were interesting and once we were allowed outside to see the facades of the buildings and the actual street, we were able to take some rather amusing photos.
Tour done, we headed off for more drinks before taking the train out into the countryside to Chris' house.
In the morning we went out for breakfast in Wilmslow. It's a lovely little town where a lot of ex footballers apparently live, and from the cars parked and driving up the street, you could tell it was an affluent area. We took off further into the wilderness where we made a stop at Chris's in-laws house to pick up their two little dogs and take them for a trek up Alderley Edge.
If you're planning a trip to Manchester, I highly recommend taking some time out to explore the countryside and if possible spend some time hiking up to the top of Alderley Edge. The woodland trails leading up to the top of the sandstone escarpment were really beautiful, full of little crags and mounds and different clearings up until the top where we caught a fantastic view over Cheshire and got a real perspective of where certain points of the UK were located.
It's a really popular area for dog walking, cycling and hikers and was even the inspiration for a children's book about a wizardly mountain. Lots of the landmarks of the hill have been alluded to in the book and now carry the names given by the author.
Chris and his wife had organised a big barbecue later that evening where I spent a lot of time talking to a man from the Isle of Mann and wondering for the most part if he was taking the piss or telling me truthful facts about his homeland. A couple of my favourites among the many weird and wonderful traits include, that he never says the word “Rat” as it's bad luck and the correct name is “Long tails” and apparently every inhabitant of the Isle of Mann knows to say “Hello Fairies” every time they drive over a certain bridge. If you now want to Google the Isle of Mann and spend an hour or two shaking your head in wonder, please do so and enjoy.
We spent a little bit more time wandering around Manchester the next day and marvelling at the architecture before taking the train back to London.
Tips and recommendations:
- Excellent coffee is easy to find in Manchester. Head to the Northern quarter where there are several unique establishments. A great one we went to is The foundation coffee house on Lever Street.
- A fantastic Tapas restaurant we went to is run by a former Manchester united player called El Rincon De Rafas and has truly excellent food. 244 Deansgate
- Make your way to Alderley - The Edge for a really enjoyable hike in the hills.