United with Manchester

I love the fact that wherever you go in the world, you will always find people that support Manchester United. It is a unifying force, blind to culture, religion or politics. I am also a Manchester United fan as my family originates from there. I was brought up a “Man U” fan, but not a hard-core one. I had the obligatory poster of “Giggsey” on my wall when I was a kid, we had a team scarf, and I watched them “do the treble” in 1999. I don’t follow football any more, but that is my team, if only in name.

Manchester is a city close to my heart and I used to spend school holidays there in my childhood, staying with family. Sadly terrorists planted a bomb in the Arndale shopping centre in Manchester in 1996. I haven’t been to the city centre for years so I didn’t recognise it at all – not helped by the fact that much redevelopment has happened in the last 20 years. However it did not take long to be impressed by this city.

Manchester, UKThe Arndale shopping centre is thriving and has been redeveloped to make a fab shopping mall. However there are also several shopping streets with lots of diverse brands, many of which were quite posh, I did notice! I liked the fact that there was a lot of choice. I also enjoyed hearing Oasis tunes being played on the high street by buskers. Oasis of course are from Manchester so it was very topical!

I enjoyed the architecture, juxtaposing old and new. The new glassy National Football Museum sits next to the old Corn Exchange. The Printworks, opposite, houses many bars and a cinema in an old handsome building. Inside the ceiling is blacked out so it looks like it is night, even when daylight outside. We spent a while wondering whether the rustic looking old rusty pipes were original to the building or added as “theming”. I concluded that they were original as by the looks of surrounding buildings, the area used to contain old factories.

National Football Museum, ManchesterThe Printworks, ManchesterWe stumbled upon a creative dance performance in the grand Town Hall building. Great because we got to go inside the town hall, but something I would later regret when the performers started to come into the audience. I clocked them and started to move towards the exit, but they spotted me and made a beeline for my BF. The female dancer danced over to him and put her face inches from his, before making a pouting kissing face and then collapsing on the floor. She then repeated this feat in front of several of the men present in the audience. However once when she fell to the floor her head made a big “bang” noise! I winced, hoping I wouldn’t need to attempt to give first aid as I wanted to get the hell out of there! 🙂

Manchester Town HallLater that night we found some awesome fountains in Piccadilly Gardens which were lit up with various colours. Teenagers were getting their kicks by running between them shrieking, drenched from head to toe, while small kids entertained themselves by putting a foot or a balloon in the water. We sat mesmerised by the lights for a while. It would be a really nice place to stroll on a warm evening.

Big wheel, ManchesterWe strolled limped (by this time my feet were hurting!) around the Northern Quarter which is apparently the “alternative” end of town, with lots of independent stores like old record shops.

Finally we headed down to Canal Street – the “Gay Quarter” of Manchester. I have been here before while Gay Pride was on, but you had to pay about £10 -£15 to get in, and I wasn’t THAT proud 😉 so we didn’t go in. So it was good to finally get into Canal Street –  It reminded me of Amsterdam, with bars along one side and a canal along the other. But for me the barrier along the canal spoiled it a bit. Amsterdam’s canals are open, and therefore much prettier as you can actually SEE the canal. In Manchester you have to rely on knowing it’s there.

Canal Street, ManchesterOverall I had a fab time in Manchester and I’m glad to see this great city is still thriving. And if I didn’t like this city enough, they have a Taco Bell! I have never seen Taco Bell in the UK before! So this sealed the deal for me… Manchester is fab! 🙂

Next blog: Liverpool, UK

Previous blog: Canals in Birmingham, UK

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