An unplanned trip found me in Manchester last week and sad to say the only thing I knew, like many of you is it’s football teams United and City. The music of Simply Red and Oasis. Apart from that I had no idea what to expect, but boy was I in for a treat. I am lucky to have a good friend who lives in Stockport, a suburb of Manchester and it was a great base for my week ahead.
If you’re expecting sun in Manchester, forget it, but don’t let the grey sky or intermittent rain put you off going out and exploring this great city.
I always like to get my bearings when I visit a place for the first time, and what better place to start than my host town Stockport. A short taxi ride from my friend’s house brought me to the town centre. Lots of clothes and shoe shops, coffee shops and small high street cafes are dotted all around the town. A full English breakfast is a must , at least on your first morning!!!
The history of the town is still visible with the great chimney of the Hat Museum, once exporting more than 6 million hats a year. The last hat works closed in 1997. The viaduct’s 27 red bricked arches that carry the train line to Manchester and London was built in 1840 and is still used to this day. You may think you have seen these arches before and you would be right as they featured as the background many times in the paintings of L.S.Lowry.
Tourists have been coming to Buxton since the 14th century , so of course I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. This pretty town is the gateway to the Peak District. The beautiful Georgian and Victorian architecture is the back drop for this Spa town which is host to a wide range of music, theatre and festivals. There is such a peaceful feeling while you walk around the huge parkland and you can almost imagine the ladies of past years in all their finery must have felt the same peacefulness. I wonder what they talked about as the wandered around the town, taking in the flowers, the wild life, the Opera House and Pavilion. I’m sure the comments were much the same as ours, how lovely the gardens are, how clean and well-kept the whole area is. Today, however, there is a lot more going on with music festivals, Family fun days ,Buxton Military Tattoo and the Buxton World Cinema Festival to name but a few. Around the town there are lots of lovely cafes serving pastries and cakes, and pub grub always tastes better when you have outside seating , lots of boutique shops and to my surprise lots of Charity shops too.
The crowning glory is the magnificent Crescent built on the site of the original Roman baths. It is now being restored to a 5 star Spa Resort Hotel and due to open in 2018.
Two guided tours I would recommend are ” Wonder the Peak Tram Tour” or the “Discover Buxton” tour with the guides dressed in costume to give to a taste of the times gone by.
I had my first Pork Pie, my first Crispy Cream and Custard Cream (cakes) while I was here. Where else would you go on St. Patrick’s Day, only the Irish Quarters in Levenshulme, with a traditional pub crawl.
The Fiddlers, The Horse’s Shoe and The Union were our choice of pubs to celebrate, despite the fact, that most people stand was a little off-putting but didn’t put us off having a really good time .We cheated a little at the end of the night by having a typically English dinner of Fish , chips and Mushy peas yummy!!!!
The bus service is excellent in Stockport, a Day Pass just 4£ and a weekly pass only 14£ with unlimited bus travel in and out of the town, an easy and cost efficient way to get around . Buses are about every 15 minutes.
MANCHESTER CITY (not the football club).
Unfortunately for most of my visit it rained, but as I have previously said , it’s part and parcel of Manchester so I wasn’t put off at all. Off to the big city we went on a damp Sunday morning to have a Champagne Breakfast in the iconic Cloud 23 in the Hilton Manchester. My two girlfriends and I were really looking forward to a luxury breakfast in luxurious surroundings and fantastic views.
Booking is essential and even though we arrived at 11 the restaurant filled within an hour. On arriving we had a very nice welcome from the hostess who brought us to our table. Our server was DEAN who was a hive of information about the hotel/restaurant, the menu, the views and everything in between. He was polite, professional, and witty and immediately made us feel at home. He made sure we had plenty of tea, coffee and champagne, but at the same time being aware not to impose during our chats. He was on hand to take photos too as we are terrible at the selfies.
Breakfast is a high standard fixed menu at just 25£ per person. For and extra 10£ per person we opted for the Champagne Breakfast and we were happy we did. Everyone should have a champagne breakfast !!!
We feasted on a wonderful selection of hot and cold food. Scrambled egg with thin strips of salmon, brie with pancetta, chunky fresh fruit salad, mini pancakes with maple syrup, Greek yoghurt topped with granola and berries. Just when we thought nothing else could fit on the table we were brought a tray of hot bread rolls, croissants and mini Danish pastries, lattes and perfect breakfast tea.
What I loved about the décor was the light airy feel yet cosy atmosphere. All seating is either armchairs or long padded leather seats which make for a luxurious feel as you look out on Manchester city from the 23rd floor. It is quiet spectacular!!! and a great conversation point. All seating faces the ceiling to floor long windows so that everyone can breath in the fantastic views, even if there was fog at times. At 12.30 Afternoon Tea begins and you can see at a glance that everyone is treated to the same great service by all the staff.
Breakfast like a king.
Lunch like a prince.
Dinner like a pauper.
And boy did we feel like royalty.
Having spent more than 3 hours eating, chatting, and admiring our surroundings both inside and out , we decided it was time to leave. Once again the staff exceeded our expectations and our server Dean made sure that he said goodbye to us with the hostess. Down in the lobby we met the hotel Concierge, who on seeing us come out of the elevator asked how our day was and how was our experience in Cloud 23. He also offered to take photos to remind us of a lovely morning we had in the wonderful Hilton Manchester.
There are many place to see , even if it is raining. The Museum of Science and industry is open all year round and is free to enter fun for all ages with lots of engineering exhibits and vintage machines and vehicles.
Manchester Museum is also free to enter and has lots to see on its 4 floor of exhibitions and 15 galleries with exhibits from all over the World. The Imperial War Museum and the National Football Museum are a must too.
After all that we took a short taxi ride to Gino D’Acampo’s new restaurant. Who doesn’t love Gino ? If we were hoping to see the man himself , we were disappointed. We only had room for coffee but we were happy to be in the restaurant. We checked out the menu and decided that this was definitely on the top of our list of places to visit the next time I’m in Manchester.
I am thrilled to have visited this city and there is so much more that I just didn’t have time to see , so that can only mean one thing ………I WILL BE BACK.
Ryan Air have great value flights, you have to watch out for the special value seats at 9.99€ but mostly flights are available for as little as 24.99€ http://www.ryanair.com
Aer Lingus also fly to Manchester at similar prices of 24.99 – 30.99€ http://www.aerlingus.com