Manchester Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
Leaving the 'States' is always exciting, but also a bit scarry. Even though I love to travel and have seen a lot of the world, every trip has its own obstacles.
The flight from Rapid City to Denver was uneventful at best. Boring if you want to know the truth. But, after waiting around the airport for three hours to catch our flight from Denver to London Heathrow, we were informed the flight was delayed an hour. Now, that is not in itself a terrible thing. We ate at a nice restaurant in DIA where my husband could smoke so that kept the tantrums to a minimum. If you want a great place to eat and smoke in DIA try Mesa Verde in concourse A. By the way, the security lines there have not gotten any shorter. Very long lines on a Thursday afternoon. The plane did arrive and British Airlines employees were very, well, British about the whole thing. A curt apology and let's move on with the day then shall we?
Interestingly enough. one of the speakers at our conference today was Willy Walsh, CEO of British Air. He is a very freindly, Irish chap who gave us the run down on Heathrow. It seems that the reason our plane was delayed is that Heathrow is handling twice the number of flights and people for which it was designed. They are still using only the two original runways which gives it no leeway for overflow. He was a bit ticked by the fact that the airport was holding up his planes and let us know that BA is investing a lot of money to help remedy the situation. In fact they are in the process of building their own $8.6 Billion dollar terminal at Heathrow. In addition they are investing $120 Million into a new lounge. Should be one swanky lounge! I hope I can afford a business class seat one day so I can try it out! They are also pressing Heathrow to build a third runway. I'd say it was about time! Isn't this the busiest airport in the world?
The baggage handling situation is even worse. We stepped up to the only baggage belt we saw and stood in front of it with a billion other people staring at a monitor that informed us we would be waiting for 40 minutes for our bags! Yikes! In the meantime two people traveling to the same convention, on the same flight, got stuck behind an electronic set of doors for nearly 45 minutes. We were lucky enough to have sneaked through before they got stuck. Although they did nearly take the leg off an older lady in front of me. I was glad she went first!
A man from the UK, sitting next to me during the speech, told me it took him longer to get through Heathrow and collect his bags and then get home from the airport than it did to fly from Chicago to London. Nasty! Maybe we should start thinking of a way to get a train under the Atlantic. One that runs on hot air or empty plastic water bottles?! Mr. Walsh's closing included the words 'Farewell to Heathrow Hassle!'
The other thing British Air is waggling about is the enviroment. Glad to see someone in the industry is at least making promises. They have ordered a fleet of 36 new planes to the tune of $8.6 million, that will have up to 30% better fuel economy and spew a lot less co2 into the air we breathe with a quarter of the noise.
The really bad news for all non-smoking spouses of smokers is that there is no smoking anywhere in Heathrow. We had to catch another plane and my husband NEEDED a cigarette! We went through immigration and every corridor under construction to get outside and then back through a happy team checking security so that he didn't murder the next flight attendant. It was a good thing the flight was late again, because we were too.
You also need to watch your gates and the instructions for finding them at Heathrow. We sat at our assinged gate for the flight to Manchester, waiting for it to be called when we noticed that others were walking out the exit door. It seems you just have to watch the monitor for the 'real' gate and then go to that one when the plane is ready.
So, back to Manchester. All in all not a bad place. Of course the pound is killing, no I mean slaughtering, the dollar. One dollar will get you half a pound. And I am not talking fancy chocolate here. I am glad the hotel was included in the convention registration because I doubt us 'country bumpkins' could have afforded the room. The Radisson Edwardian is a beauty, all glass and marble built on the foundations of the famous 'Free Trade Hall.' And, long before that the feild in which the infamous Peterloo Massacre took place. You can still see some of the historic columns of the Trade Hall through the glass and black laquer of the bar and restaurant.
Which brings me to the bar. Try the 'Halle Berry' martini. The seeds get stuck in your teeth but it is worth it! Of course, here again keep your hand to your heart when the bill arrives. The wide smile on the face of the waitress ain't because she loves wiping up your spills! They are sweet, but the tips are sweeter!
The people here are all quite nice. We are certainly enjoying ourselves and I am looking forward to seeing more of the city today. I hope that we get to sneak out to the coutry as well. I am hoping to catch a glimpse of the most famous resident of all, Peter Rabbit. I need to look up the address of Farmer McGregor.
I got the quick tour of downtown Manchester yesterday. The architechture is quite interesting, early bricks and mortar I would call it. But really, the mix of the new and the old has come together well in this city. As the birthplace of industrialization, the actual first factory was built here, the city has kept it together well. Not a lot of polution, belching smokestacks, etc. The first ever train station still stands and some very interesting art deco type warehouses that look like they should be turned into lofts someday. We walked through a small park with a tall white obilisk in the center. The inscription informed us that the park had been built over an ancient graveyard and that there were likely 20,000 bodies buried under our feet. There is no stopping progress.
There is a large University crowd here though and Saturday nights are party nights!
Last night my small group of 'fifty-somethings' strolled along major downtown Manchester street. We were returning to our hotel after dinner at about 10pm. The streets were crowded with scantily clad young women shivering their butts off! The weather is quite nice, last night I imagine it was about 65 degrees. But when your skirt barely covers the blush of your cheeks and the soft silk tank top you are wearing does not hide the perk of the nipple, even 65 can be cold. The crowds lined up in front of the club doors, waiting for a chance to wiggle into a noisy crowd of gyrating youth. The drinking age here is 18 so the crowd aged between 18 and 27 with the occasional thirty-year-old male following the crowd with his tongue lolling between his slack jaws.
The women vastly out number the men. I would say two to one. Which explains the why the women dress to the nines and the men show up in stained t-shirts and baggy jeans and still walk arm-in-arm with a pair of legs that go all the way up. I haven't seen skirts that short since I was in junior high!
The Radisson doorman barring entry to party goers gave us the lowdown on the party scene in Manchester. He stands outside the door every Saturday night chasing away drunken youngsters who see the posh hotel as a convenient place to potty. It seems that every Saturday night in Manchester is the same, no regard to season or weather. Although, if there is a concert in town the crowd grows to critical levels. Looking at the scene last night I would assume critical level is an out-of-control situation. Taxis pulled up bumper to bumper, unloading streams of screaming girls reminiscent of a clown car in the circus. Bare legs and arms untangle and leap out of the backseat with squeals of anticipation. We stood mezmorized by the scene for an hour until my head hurt just thinking of all of the booze drowning those slow, immature brain cells. We were informed the bars close at about 3am but the clubs go all night. I guess that's why we saw very few people over the age of thrity, anyone older than that just wouldn't have the stamina!
Although I was worried we would hear the party all night, our room was pleasantly quiet with only the ocassional police siren wailing an innebreated, overheated reveler away to the cool confines of a jail cell. They still operate paddy wagons here, I saw them!
I am anxious to explore the countryside. A speaker at our convention yesterday told us there are over 20,000 medeival parrish churches in Norfolk alone. That means it would take 56 years to see them all if you visited just one per day. And that's just Norfolk! Most people would not take on a task so daunting.
This afternoon we are to attend the Manchester Food Festival. I don't expect to see anyone under 25 years old unless they are sporting a green tinge.
Until the 'morrow!
I have come to the conclusion that the city of Manchester is lost. Although the city began the industrial revolution with the first factory, first railway station, miles of rail lines and a skyline blocked with black smoke belching from smokestacks, it got lost along the way. The skyline is free of smoke stacks, the result of changes in transportation, not necessarily because everything and everyone became coated with black gunk. Manchester does not have a port and the canals that crisscross the city were not large enough for the big transports. They could manufacture all they wanted but had no way to get the products out to the world.
The city that is left now is struggling to reinvent itself. There is really no tourism draw here, unless you are a 'football' fan. Manchester United is the biggest thing they have going. We were treated to a tour of the stadium yesterday. The locker room is tidy. A twelve-foot square room with an imported wood bench that runs around the wall which sports red hooks with the players photos dangling from them. I didn't recognize any of them actually. I guess they kick a soccer ball around the beautiful green 'pitch' which we were not allowed to touch. The new stadium is beautiful, lots of steel and everything painted red. The teams color is red for those who are unaware.
We had a very nice dinner of Indian food in the Manchester Suite, a large rectangular room above the stands. The food and wine banquet was good. We were in the room by 8:30pm. But then it was Sunday night.
I have yet to enjoy any English food on this trip. I realize that England has become very cosmopolitan, to say the least. But a nice pub meal would be good about now. Meat and potatoes maybe? Indian two nights in a row is too much for my American, Midwestern bred stomach. We have seen a lot of pubs. As I mentioned in my previous report, there are a lot of pubs near our hotel. Unfortunately they open about the time I go to bed. Here again, old, American, Midwestern, you get the picture. Tom is yearning for fish and chips with a cigarette and beer kicker. I think he is yearning for a return to his college days.
Our tour yesterday was called 'Manchester Food Festival.' I didn't eat any lunch thinking this would spoil the fun. That paper bag they handed out before we left held more food than I saw the rest of the day. I did eat the orange and the candy bar on the way. Never turn down fruit while traveling! The candy was just a bonus.
Anyway, the first stop was a restaurant along a canal in an area called Castlewood. The tour guide told us that it was in the oldest Roman part of the city. I didn't see naything that remotely resembled Roman architecture. The canal came up directly to the buildings which I assume were at one time warehouses. They restaurant had a table set outside with a variety of sausages and homemade cheeses for sale and a plate of tiny bite size samples. I took photos of the the fishermen who lined the canal and looked miserable under a gray sky that reflected gray-green in the muckish canal.
I have to insert here that we have been told many times that the canals have been cleaned up and they, the Manchunians as the people of Manchester are called, are quite proud of them. I'm thinking they need to dredge the things again.
We then moved down to Albert Square where there was a tent erected in front of a large beautiful medieval looking church. The tent held a temporary beer bar, four food vendors, two were Chinese, and and a lovely young man handing out samples of margauritas. I liked him, he was nice. He had three kinds of tequila! I bought an order of spring rolls. I was hungry and my stomach had been informed that it was going on a food festival tour! As soon as we got back on the tour bus Tom informed the guide that we had bought them and that they were pretty good, greasy but good. She held her fingers up in the sign of a cross and made a very bad face. So far I am not sick.
The next stop was Heaton Park where we were to have tea and tour the bee keepers house and taste honey. I have to admit there were a lot of bees. We got up close and although no one got stung we moved quickly a few times to avoid it. The honey was set out and we did taste it. It was sweet and several of them were very different. I got to see the queen bee in a glass case. The estate was bought in the early 20th century by the city of Manchester. The buildings are very run down and in desperate need of a major overhaul. The director was hopeful that several million pounds would be spent on them in the next couple of years. Tea was quick and lukewarm. I shouldn't be so critical, but my Mum puts on a better tea back in Deadwood! They charge 6.50 pounds for the tea, that's $13 U.S. A couple of finger sandwiches, scones and a cup of tea poured by a gentleman who fairly flitted from table to table a bit like the bees.
I took many photos of kids playing in the park. They were adorable and I found several eating ice cream and candy that looked darn good! But I couldn't see where they were getting it. We were allowed to walk back to the gate where we stood for about an hour waiting for the rest of the group. I am not good at waiting.
This morning I am off to the Picadilly train station where I have to purchase train tickets to Holyhead on Wednesday. Tom was sure he had purchased them but they didn't show up. I made the seat reservations weeks ago thinking we had the Brit Rail passes. I needed the walk anyway. It is raining today and Tom is in meetings and the only art museum is closed today.
I am looking forward to Ireland. I hear it is really green, I hope that isn't because it rains all of the time. I keep imaging myself sitting at my computer, working in Photoshop, coloring the sky blue in all of my photos.
Tonight is what they call a 'dine-around.' We are scheduled to eat at a good British restaurant. I wonder if they serve 'bangors and mash?'