Manchester - the blog
Manchester is not by the sea despite the name of the blockbuster film out now.
Although it does boast The Manchester Ship Canal an 18th century, 36-mile-long inland waterway linking the city to the Irish Sea and currently undergoing a multi million pound metamorphosis.
Personally I have never been much further north than the Watford Gap so to plan a summer holiday in Manchester is perhaps a little unusual.
Yes, you heard right Manchester - home city of Oasis the band and the infamous 1980s nightclub The Hacienda – was the destination for me, my husband Rob, granddaughter Renée and her friend Lani, both aged 16.
Well we weren’t going on an industrial heritage pilgrimage as our sightseeing trip was all about shopping and Manchester is a retail therapy Mecca with two major malls said to be among the biggest in Europe.
Okay we booked some culture – theatre, football stadium tour, Media City and five-star hotel – to softened the experience of not jetting off to a more glamourous resort but did Manchester disappoint?
Darling it was ‘absolutely fabulous’ and I would recommend it to all but here are some tips.
Do not get native Mancunians confused with Manchurians who hail from middle China which is nearly 5,000 miles east as the crow flies.
If there is a standout moment of our five days stay it was the friendliness of the people living in this great metropolis.
Everyone we meet were amazingly honest, open and helpful without that ingratiating forelock-tugging behaviour you often get in the so-called sophisticated establishments of the pretentious south.
Okay let’s start at the very beginning…
Our train journey wasn’t the best – pre-booking and cheapest tickets which resulted in a busy, smelly cross-country carriage with an assortment of travellers including the obnoxious parent who picked the dirty dummy of the floor to stick in the mouth of the two-year-old he had just whacked.
Moving on – we managed to get lost at Manchester Piccadilly and it took 20 minutes to find our way to the taxi rank.
Onward to the Lowry hotel which appeared like a beacon of hope across a cityscape of building sites and rundown redbrick structures.
The Lowry Hotel is located on 50 Dearmans Place on Chapel Wharf where Manchester meets Salford.
I knew everything was going to be okay when the doorman helped us out of the cab and despite our room not being ready – late checkout by previous occupant – we were happy to retire to the bar at 3pm and wait.
Our superior deluxe rooms were superb, walk-in wardrobe, huge comfy bed, wall-to-ceiling curtains operated on remote control and some ultra-modern furniture which wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Dali exhibition.
The spectacular view from the sixth floor window was of sky high, glass-fronted buildings and pedestrian bridges across the mud-coloured River Irwell.
Our first night of culture was at the Lowry Centre watching Conceived In A Curry House the ‘true’ story of FC United performed by the inclusive charitable MaD theatre company with its class acting mixed with some dreadful ad-lib gaffs LOL.
Some more standout moments:
the Selfridges cosmetic assistant who said ‘take your weight of your feet’ and offered me one of her posh leather topped make-up counter stools while laden with shopping bags advertising goods bought elsewhere;
when one of the girls paid £50 for an eye-brow pencil; and
the taxi driver gave us a rundown of the past 30 years of local history on every journey including how his work experience son landed a job with the BBC at Salford and got to meet the Queen and with a glint of cabbie mischief showing us the side door where angry people stormed out of after being insulted 'on air' by Jeremy Kyle
Northern comedian Dave Spikey said: “People think it always rains in Manchester. Not true though I admit it's the only town in the country with lifeboat drill on the bus routes.”
It was August and it rained but as we weren’t mostly indoors it really didn’t matter and as workmen were digging up the Metro nearest to our on-the-edge of Salford hotel we didn’t get to ride the trams.
Most of the stay the paparazzi were parked outside the hotel as fellow high profile guests included Manchester United manager José Mourinho, MC Harvey from So Solid Crew and Belgian midfield player Adnan Januzaj who had just agreed to go to Sunderland on loan.
Ashamedly yes, we stalked them and got selfies.
While the girls shopped until they dropped at the Trafford Centre my husband made a pilgrimage to Old Trafford and the Salford Boys Club the spiritual home of Morrissey and The Smiths.
Then we went to the Arndale Centre which initially seems all bargain basement until we found Selfridges and Harvey Nichols.
We met post graduate nephew Nick at the Hard Rock Cafe and the boys visited the National Football Museum.
Husband Rob said: “Manchester is the friendliest city we have visited in the UK.”
The hotel was great and the concierge didn’t blink an eyelid when the teenagers got the midnight munchies and ordered a takeout from a nearby Wagamama which was delivered in the early hours.
Only complaint was the pricing policy at the hotel as we booked an early bird buy three get one free nights deal and the bar snacks which consisted of yucky pub standard ‘salt and vinegar’ crisps.
As I had booked so far in advance I was unsure whether the pre-paid offer included breakfast but was assured it did when we check-in.
Vegetarians please note that tomatoes share the same hot plate as the bacon for the morning breakfast and a double basin and bigger bidet in the bathrooms would be good for those of generous proportions.
However, the biggest nasty surprise to find an ‘enhanced’ breakfast charge on check-out which when added to our bar bill doubled the cost of our bargain stay!
But we returned home sporting our ‘forever Manchester’ badges and many happy memories determined to come back another day…so much more to see…
Tips for next time – book first class train tickets and read small print in hotel reservations.