From Liverpool, it was off to Manchester for the second half of my trip to Britain, and once again, it would prove to be a city that held many surprises—of the best kind. More specifically, I was blown away by the Northern Quarter in Manchester and how it had every travel experience to offer: street art, design, culinary, shopping.
Other than its industrial past, I knew very little about England’s second biggest metropolis prior to arriving. Conveniently, it’s just a 42-minute ride from Liverpool to Manchester, but I somehow hopped the wrong train and it took me closer to an hour and a half. Visitors to England, take note: Don’t just board any ol’ train that says it’s going to Manchester unless you want to stop at every town in between!
When I arrived at my hotel in Manchester, it would prove hard to remove myself from the premises, as the Gotham is one of the most stunning, magical, whimsical hotels I’ve ever stayed in. But soon after checking in, I had to pry myself from the feathery bed as there was much exploring to do—and not a whole lot of time in which to do it.
I would soon find out that I needed a solid week to do Manchester justice. In fact, I needed a weekend just to dive into the Northern Quarter in Manchester sufficiently. And, for a change, I did have someone with whom to explore.
Even though I started out traveling as a solo traveler, in recent years, I’ve done at least half of my travel with SVV or my family or friends or groups. I like being able to do my own thing, but I also like having a companion because selfies with statues—not to mention, talking to yourself—get lonesome sometimes.
And besides, what fun is traveling if you don’t have someone with whom to ponder the possibility of a raccoon riding a dolphin?
So I was in luck when my sister’s good friend, Lina, who grew up in our hometown, was passing through the UK the same week I was. Even better: She had no firm plans and was more than eager to accompany me on my informal photo journey of Manchester!
We started with Manchester’s edgy Northern Quarter, which I would equate to New York’s East Village or even San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. Not 10 minutes by foot from my Midtown hotel, the Northern Quarter is rife in boutiques, indie record shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and the like. Needless to say, it was totally my jam.
From there, we headed down the block as we had a lunch date with my friend Vanessa. My mom and I met Vanessa and her husband Simon while in South Africa five years ago and have kept up with both of them via social media. Though I hadn’t seen her since, it was like catching up with an old friend—an old friend who had a “new” baby in tow, at that (OK, he’s two years old now…but still “new” in the time since I last saw Vanessa!).
Vanessa suggested we meet up at the Teacup, the most charming cafe and bakery I saw in my time in England. We had sandwiches and cookies and tea, of course, before Lina and I moved on along to our next stop.
From what I could tell in my brief time in Manchester, the Northern Quarter is indeed the city’s creative pulse. In fact, I loved the area so that I found myself back there not once but twice in the days that followed.
Looking for more travel tips for England? Start here:
- Albert Dock in Liverpool: The Story of a Waterfront Renaissance
- Food, Spirits & Sculptures: The Many Faces of Art in Liverpool
- It Turns Out Hogwarts Does Exist — at John Rylands Library
- Up in the Clouds: The View from Manchester’s Sky Bar
- Wit & Whimsy: Art in Manchester, England’s Cultural Hub
- Welcome to Gotham, the Sexiest Hotel in England