Sunday, July 17, 2016

Manchester: El Laberinto

After Liverpool, and with two dear friends from Italy, I sang my way through "Manchester England, England... Across the Atlantic Sea"...

One of the many murals around Manchester
A friendly hotel receptionist from Spain suggested, “Manchester es un laberinto”: a labyrinth, a maze... a tough place to navigate. However, it is still a walkable city, and in just one evening and one full day, we really covered a lot of ground.

Manchester is full of canals. However, they are sometimes hard to reach!
Like Liverpool, Manchester is also a historically industrial city. Today, many of the old factories, textile mills, and warehouses have been converted to apartments, offices, and museums. Wish we could do this in Bridgeport, CT! Although my time in Manchester was brief, here are some memorable stops. Note that admission to all the museums and public/historic sites in Manchester is FREE!

1. John Rylands Library: My favorite place! Check out the link for gorgeous photos. The library is a late-Victorian, Neo-Gothic building opened to the public in 1900. It now houses various exhibits, special collections, rare books, reading rooms, etc. For a library-lover or anyone interested in architecture, this place is a must-visit. Not to mention, one of the current exhibits, Magic, Witches, & Devils in the Early Modern World, was really fascinating. 

Inside John Ryland's Library

An adorable little "machine"... you put in a coin and it plays a scene (in the library)

2. Right up the street is the city's historic Town Hall, a beautiful, gothic-style building constructed from 1868-1877. By signing in and getting a visitor's pass, we were able to go upstairs to visit the famous Great Hall and peek into some banquet rooms. A solid stop.

Manchester Town Hall, with the sky looking typical.
3. Canal Street, the “gay quarter” is a vibrant passage right along one of the many Manchester canals, lined with lighted trees, clubs, and music. We walked here at night, after a late dinner, and the scene was buzzing.  

4. People’s History Museum: Housed in the old pump house, right on the river, the museum's setting is the perfect ambiance to present an interactive history of voting rights, workers’ rights, and civil rights in the UK. There was also a special exhibit, Grafters, of rare and powerful photographs of factory workers, miners, and other laborers… Overall, an inspiring visit.

5. Museum of Science and Industry: A conglomerate of old warehouses with different things to explore in each, this museum can be quite overwhelming. We stopped by at the end of the day wandered briefly... ended up spending more time relaxing on a couch with tea in the museum cafe. It happens! 

6. Food. I have to say, we were again fortunate to choose some really great restaurants in Manchester. Here's a little list. The gorgeous food photos were all taken by my talented friend, Andreia Amarandei.

- Vietnamese. Wandering around the Chinatown area the evening we arrived, I convinced my friends to try Vietnamese food at a new place on Portland Street, somewhere between Princess and Oxford Streets (they don't seem to have a website yet). The place was full of extended Vietnamese families and friends, filling up large tables and keeping the small staff on their toes. It took a long time to get our food, but it was worth it! 

- Wasabi Sushi’s dessert room. After our pho etc., and on the recommendation of our server from the Vietnamese place, we walked around the corner and down the street to Wasabi Sushi's Dessert Room. Bright and bubbly in so many ways, this place serves all the quasi-novel, icy, chewy, gummy, popping desserts you sometimes see in bubble tea places and/or different Asian restaurants. Here, they were all together! We enjoyed lychee snow ice with various toppings. A super treat.

Lychee snow ice, with lychee jelly, strawberries, and little rice balls 
 - Mr. Thomas's Chop House: Traditional British food in a traditional, Georgian style house, this place serves bangers and mash, Shepard’s pie, welsh rarebit, etc. They even have Sunday roast. When my friend suggested this place, I thought, “Chop house = nothing vegetarian”. Well, I was almost right, but pleasantly surprised to learn that their (what I would call "French"-) onion soup is made with a vegetable broth, not beef as I am used to in the US. That plus the Lancashire Waldorf salad was a good lunch for me.
Bangers and mash (not suitable for vegetarians -ha!)

- Ning Malaysian. We passed by this place in the morning and I remembered it all day. At 8:15 that evening, we were lucky to get in without a reservation. This place was hot -and so was the food! A delicious way to end a fun day in Manchester. 

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