Playing Tourists – Manchester

Waking up with a heavy head from a day in the sun at Alton Towers on Saturday, Sunday morning didn’t seem a likely entrée to a day scouring a city’s hidden gems and architecture. Once mum and dad had risen from their unusual slumbers for a weekend, (we’re all sort-of early birds), we eventually made the decision to head to the capital of the north; Manchester, for the day. 
A new train line had just opened in a town near to me, which now runs directly to the city with no changes, which wasn’t previously the case. We quickly filled water bottles, I grabbed my sacred 16-25 railcard and we dashed out the door. I was blown away by the price for a return ticket with my discount, £6.45! Crazeh.

First stop on the Magical Manchester Tour was a brisk browse around the city’s petite cathedral – always a welcome solace if you’re ever feeling the compression of a city’s buzz. It’s surrounded by lots of buildings embodying so many different eras and embodying the periods’ architectures. 
Next, Mum really wanted to visit the John Rylands Library, owned by the University of Manchester. I’d never heard of it, and so had no idea where it was by name alone, but once we turned the corner, of course I did! It’s part late-Victorian neo-Gothic library, part modern, clean-cut glass fronted structure housing a brilliant gift-shop (as do so many museums, art galleries, educational centres have nowadays), a café with bucket sized mugs of hot drinks and clean, deliciously scented toilets. (Always good to know where the free-entry toilets are in a city.) 😉 The building is right next to the Emporio Armani store, which is infront of the slightly bizarre escalator that leads to some mystical, undiscovered land underground (I have walked past countless times, always wondering about the escalator, always bypassing the library). The library itself has a range of display rooms with books, pamphlets, manuscripts, with typical library rooms too, coated in dark-chocolate wood panels and stone and lined with books. There are study spaces open to the public too, complete with power sources, so if you’re ever needing a change of scenery and a hunger for transporting yourself back in time to let the creative juices flow, head over to the Rylands!

I’m currently watching the Channel 4 documentary Inside Manchester’s Midland Hotel, so when I realised we’d be passing it on our way to check out the central library I could not contain my excitement. We actually popped inside to the reception just to have a little nosey around. It was as many snazzy hotels are, very,very shiny. A sweet old man was tinkling away on a baby grand piano as diners sipped drinks and nibbled their afternoon teas. We stepped back outside into reality, and on our way to the next destination after, you could even smell the laundry and kitchens as we passed by, which made me slightly squeal. I know, I know. It’s the littlest things! 

Midland Hotel and Lobby

We next made our way into the Central Library (open to the public) for a quick peek inside. A grand, spheric, grey stone building, ultra modern inside, with study booths, historical displays and a decent sized café. Food and books, the most important fuels for life, sort of. We continued on our city wander, drinking up the metropolis and beautiful mix of old and new.

Manchester Central Library

We eventually passed through Chinatown, the gorgeous whiff of garlic, chilli and ginger replenishing our energy and tugging us through the Oriental Arch and ever closer to Piccadilly’s shopper haven.

Before finding food and dipping into a few department stores, we decided to quickly stop by the Art Gallery. After a speedy walk round the lower floor, we rummaged around the gift shop (again!) and took a well earned pit stop on the deckchairs outside the gallery which were part of The Lost Gardens installation. I’ve also scanned in the School of Art’s Degree Show’s flyer which had the most wonderful piece of writing on beauty and design.

After spritzing ourselves silly with perfumes and scents of all things heavenly, we headed over to Pizza Hut, gorged on cheese and different flavoured fizzy drinks (hellllo strawberry Pepsi), and power walked back to the station for the train home. I thoroughly recommend treating your nearby towns and cities as tourist destinations as if you’re on a minibreak away. Find a street map, hit up TripAdvisor, pick out the museums, land marks, and try to steer clear of any typical “high-street” shopping streets you could visit anywhere. 
If beauty and utility are our guides, we can hardly go wrong.



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