Manchester, United Kingdom
I’ve already mentioned that Tony is awesome, well today he took me on a guided walking tour of Manchester that he devised just for me! He researched it for weeks, plotted it out, made extensive notes and is even planning to record it for future use as an iPod self-guided tour – I love this guy!
‘The Bee’s Knees Walking Tour’ (so named for the ubiquitous bee symbol adopted by Manchester during the Industrial Revolution to represent the industrious and hard working nature of the city) started in the old Italian area of An Coats. Now I don’t intend to recount every detail of the tour – for one, it was very extensive and took all day and secondly, I don’t want to ruin it for the hoards of you that will now head there for a piece of the action but I do want to tell you one interesting fact about this area. It was here that the ice cream cone was introduced to replace ‘licking glass’ which was making people sick through the unhygienic practice of licking the same bit of glass!
We moved on through the hipsterville Northern Quarter, stopping at the Earth Cafe for refreshments before hitting the iconic Affleck’s – just like Camden Markets indoors with 5 levels of everything you never needed from vintage wear to fetish gear to supercool handicrafts.
Onto the city proper, we passed the big ferris wheel, Chetham’s library, Manchester Cathedral, St Anne’s church, The Old Wellington Inn & Oyster Bar, The Hidden Gem (aka St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church housing the statue of Our Lady of Manchester – I was disappointed not to find a statue of Mary in a miniskirt, smoking and swearing at the parishioners), the Abraham Lincoln statue (which commemorates the little known role that Lancashire played in the cotton famine during the American Civil War) and the John Rylands library which turned out to be the true hidden gem. Tony hadn’t been into the library before either so we poked our noses in expecting to do a quick walk through but what we discovered warranted a much more thorough investigation. Anyone who finds themselves in Manchester with time to spare should make a bee line (pun intended) to this Victorian Gothic masterpiece. Inside, it is like a cathedral of knowledge that you could lose yourself in for days. Aside from the extensive collection of books and resplendent reading rooms, the library also hosts interesting exhibitions. And all this before lunch!
We stopped to cool our heals at a nearby cafe where we managed to score a couple of free pain au chocolate! I should mention that Tony is also King of Bargains so it seemed like a fitting addition to the tour. Fortified, we pushed on passed Mr Thomas’ Chophouse, Town Hall, Freetrade Hall (site of the Peterloo Massacre and where Emmeline Pankhurst was once kicked out and arrested, prompting her to establish the suffragette movement in Britain which led to women being granted the right to vote), Midlands Hotel (where Mr Rolls fortuitously met Mr Royce and more menacingly, where Hitler planned to set up his HQ should things go his way). On we went passed the main library, the art gallery, the Portico Library (I know, how many libraries do they need?!), the visitors centre (with supercool interactive displays) and onto the very colourful and much celebrated gay precinct of Canal Street where the tour concluded.
We hurried back to the flat so Tony could get ready for his evening of Rock ‘n Roll Wrestling! Seriously! I tell you, he’s one of the most interesting people you could meet. Sadly, Charlotte and I weren’t able to go and watch but we kept ourselves entertained with a viewing of Chopper over a delicious dinner of veggie sausages in a tomato and balsamic sauce.
Although I have been to Manchester a few times before, never before have I found it so interesting and so welcoming – the city and my hosts.