A few years ago, we took a fun trip to England with a couple of our friends. I say fun for me and Chris because it was a work trip for the guys. So while they hung out in conferences all day long, Chris and I walked all over Manchester taking in all the sights they had to offer.
We got there in the early part of December, which meant it was a bit chilly and rainy. It was also around the time of the Christmas Markets and that was a HUGE bonus in my book. You can see the link to my Manchester Christmas Market post below.
Where to stay:
Because this was a work trip for Matt and Dennis, we stayed where the conference was located. I don’t know if I would have ever found this hotel on my own, but the Principal Hotel was truly an experience in itself.
This hotel is beautiful, inside and out. The lobby was incredible with its huge Christmas tree and a statue of a horse. It was also very eclectic.
The building was previously a bank as there was a safe room next to where our hotel room was located.
We were actually at two different ends of the hotel and I don’t believe that any of the rooms were similar to each other. Plus, it was like navigating a maze as we made our way around. Our room was very nice and a fun feature was the bathtub. This was my first European experience where I had to shower in a tub (without a shower curtain to contain the water). It was a very unique experience and one I am glad I don’t have to do every day. :)
Food and Beer:
Of course, our first stop once we deposited our luggage was the Piccadilly Tavern. It was a long trip and we were ready to dig in and grab a pint. This was also the first place I had authentic English fish and chips (YUMMO!).
I’ve heard so much about the fish and chips experience and always wondered if the European version would be any different than what I’d had in the states. I will say this was the best fried fish meal I have ever had. The fried fish I've tried in the states have been either soggy or greasy. Literally every fish and chips meal we had in England (and I admit to eating this at least five different times) the fish was perfectly cooked with a crispy coating. Each had their own specific spices that were really good, but none (that I had in England) were soggy or greasy.
I also discovered this very tasty Fat Tyre Rhubarb Cider. Wow! Tart, lightly sweet, refreshing. I think I actually drank them so often they ran out of the cider. The last two times we stopped in, they were completely out. Note: Sadly, I have not been able to find this anywhere since the trip.
I didn’t know before we arrived that Manchester’s symbol is a bee.
I had seen the bee on several things, but I didn’t truly understand what that meant until we found these:
I love this idea!
One thing I did associate with England is the red phone booth. I knew as soon as I started planning the trip I had to see at least one of these booths. As we walked around town, we saw found several of them. Even though public phones aren’t as necessary in this cell phone age, I love that you can still find these iconic booths.
One we found was outside of the Manchester Central Library. As I jumped in to pose for a “cute” picture…
This was the look that Chris captured as soon as the smell inside hit me…
Apparently they are also used by the homeless. Although there wasn’t anything inside at the time I jumped in for a picture, I could tell that someone was using this one as a bathroom. As soon as I realized this, I couldn’t get out fast enough.
We did take a moment to walk through the Manchester Central Library. I LOVE libraries. :)
This one had a neat virtual archive system.
At the time we were there, they featured quite a few audiobooks and a whole audio history section that highlighted the history and lives of the families from the Manchester area.
Because both of us are huge readers, Chris and I spent way more time than we had originally intended to walking around and checking everything out.
After leaving there, we headed over to the John Rylands Museum.
This is a fascinating old building that has - - a super cool and very old library!
The library holds some incredible books in their special collections: to include a fragment of a page from the Gospel of John. How freakin cool is that?
I loved the spooky hallways.
And I loved that they allowed pictures, that way we didn’t have to try and sneak some because this place was seriously awesome!
Because Chris’s daughter loves to knit, we found a yarn shop called Countess Blaze.
This was a fun experience because we got a little lost on our first trip to the yarn shop. Without being able to use our phone GPS, we got a little turned around and the five-mile trip ended up taking us about ten miles. Yes, that was us walking… But we did see quite a bit of the city on this trip and stopped in a few pretty hotels to ask for directions.
And of course, there was this… Not sure if I should be worried…
When we finally arrived, we discovered the store was closed that day.
Hence a second walking trip, this time only five miles. And we arrived to a rainbow of color.
They had quite a few varieties that were local to the area. Because it was so pretty in there, I ended up finding a fun blue-green color and then had to enlist her daughter made me a cute (and warm) neck cowl.
Another fun Manchester shopping experience was at Afflecks. Their website states they are “an emporium of eclecticism, a totem of indie commerce in Manchester’s northern quarters.”
This building was incredible and filled with fun shops owned and operated by small business owners in the area. There was literally everything imaginable for sale here.
Even though we spent most of the day exploring, we were able to include the guys in some of our evening tours. Being the golf fanatics that we are, we (of course) had to find this fun mini-golf experience at Junk Yard Mini Golf.
For this trip, we invited several other work peeps to enjoy the evening with us.
Because this was designed with adults in mind, we were able to grab a drink and carry those around with us as we attempted to beat each other’s scores.
It really was fun to see what different design each room held. And there is nothing like a little healthy competition to bring out the cut-throat tendencies in friends.
Another evening, we attended an event hosted by the company at The Monastery.
Talk about a beautiful location and an incredible experience.
They had a gathering area where we were able to mingle with each other and enjoy some hors d'oeuvres and entertainment.
The theme was a masquerade ball and it really was beautiful inside the monastery. The meal was delicious, the drinks were great, the music and entertainment were lively and exciting.
Where to Next?
We spent a week in Manchester, with a one day trip to Liverpool (see next week's blog post). Then we packed everything up and jumped in a couple of rented cars to make our way to London. And guess what we were lucky enough to drive through?
SNOW! It made for an interesting drive…
Come back to read more about our adventures after we traveled the five hours to London.