Manchester is England’s second city. I will not accept any arguments on this front since my brother lives there, so that is that. It is a city which has really come into it’s own over the past few years. It used to be kinda dangerous, dirty, unloved, and cold. Now it is vibrant, lively, teaming with life… and still kinda cold! But that is the north, after all.
My family have a little Christmas tradition that we go up to Manchester in the weeks before Christmas to do family things. We go out for dinner, see a show, and then go to see the Halle’s Christmas Extravaganza at the Bridgewater Hall. This year was even better, since we gathered up some extended family for the ride – and now you can join in too!
It may seem like a lot to squeeze into 30 hours, so in another post I’ll put some extra tit-bits about what to do in Manchester if you’ve got a little longer. Enjoy!
Hour 0 – get on the train
And start watching Love Actually. What a perfect Christmas movie, it might be my favourite (after Elf, of course!).
Hour 2 – get off the train
And lose my phone, call my dad, who finds it in the car – crisis avoided.
Hour 3 – arrive at the Ibis
We like the Ibis. We had a bit of a hiccup at first because they gave us the wrong room but after that it was a dream. We also got to finish watching Love Actually, which was ideal.
Hour 4 – go to dinner
My brother had decided that we were going to Sam’s Chophouse. Apparently it’s a chain or something, I’m not really sure. The bar was super crowded, including a gentlemen made of metal. Everyone was in good spirits, filled with Christmas love and cheer… except for me, because I was hangry and tired.
We ended up waiting an awkward-ly long time to eat because some of my relatives were taking their merry time. I didn’t know what beers they had, and they didn’t have a drinks menu, so I ended up not drinking anything until the wine arrived with our food. It did not contribute to my mood at all! But I tried to keep my grumpiness to myself…
For dinner, I had stuffed mushrooms to start, and corned beef hash for main. The mushrooms were delicious, if sparse – ‘mushroom’ would be a more appropriate term. The corned beef hash was surprisingly good. It looked very strange but it was basically pulled beef with potatoes and an egg on the top – what could go wrong?
We decided not to have desert, partly because we were running a little late, and partly because we were going to have ice cream at the theatre!
Hour 6 – to go the theatre
This year, we went to go see ‘Sweet Charity’ at the Royal Exchange. The Royal Exchange used to be the corn exchange for Manchester, but now they’ve built this beautiful glass pod inside the old building. If you’re ever in the area I’d recommend going in to check it out, even if you aren’t going to see anything in particular.
‘Sweet Charity’ itself was… ok. The dancing was pretty good, but the acting was very suspect. However, it turns out ‘Big Spender’ and ‘Rhythm of Life’ are both from ‘Sweet Charity’ so that was a pleasant surprise!
Hour 9 – go to the pub
What can I say, we are an alcohol-themed family 🙂 We went to Cafe Beermoth, which is desperately trendy and filled with hipsters. My mum, aunt and uncle definitely felt slightly uncomfortable at first but once we were settled at a table we had a lovely time.
Hour 20 – maple syrup pancakes
Being lucky enough to have a brother who lives in Manchester, the first thing we did the next day was go round to his for brunch. It was delicious, especially since my brother never cooks for anyone, even himself – it made it an extra special trip.
I also took advantage of the free morning to take some nice, sun-kissed photos of Manchester. It’s so rare that it’s not raining in Manchester, so I really enjoyed the opportunity to look at the lovely Victorian buildings in all their glory. Last year, I used this empty morning to visit the Manchester Art Gallery which is really worth the effort, if you have the time.
Hour 22 – more drinking!
This time, we met our family at Home. It’s a confusingly named cinema + theatre + restaurant space, with a really great bar at the bottom. If you ever go there, I strongly recommend the Cajun chicken – it’s probably perfect.
The walk to Home through Deansgate was also really nice. We went through the newly redeveloped St. Peter’s Square and past the (still quite newly developed) Manchester Central Library. It’s also worth a poke around, if you have the time. It’s the picture on the right below. As you can see, it’s circular, and each section is divided up around the edge. There’s also a huge hall in the middle which is very atmospheric and studious.
Hour 25 – Christmas Carol Concert
The men of the family were off to a football match, while we were heading to a christmas concert at the Bridgewater Hall. The Halle do a really excellent job of this, lots of audience participation and bells. They have three choirs – children, teenagers and grownups – and the younger choirs sang so well. It was all really magical
Hour 28 – time to go home
Phew! After all this, were we exhausted! We raced to the station to beat the crowds from the football match, and fought our way onto the train to get seats. We watched ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ on the way back, but mostly we just had a little nap. When we got home, we realised that we’d both forgotten our keys! We had to go to the neighbours to find the spares, and only their teenage daughter was in, but she was very helpful. We eventually got home, sat down on the sofa, and didn’t get up for hours!