My husband and I just spent a few days in the UK: 3 days in Manchester and 1 in Bray. I’ll tell you all about our second visit to Bray later and today I’ll share some Manchester info with you!
We made our way to the UK by ferry with P&O‘s Pride of Canterbury. We’ve never had any problems with our ferry trips, just make sure you get there in time and all should be well.
Upon arrival in Dover we made our way to Manchester, which is quite a long drive, just stopping for lunch at one of the many service stops. Thankfully we didn’t schedule any tourist stops in between because we had a dinner reservation at 18h00 and just before Manchester we got stuck in horrible traffic!
They have a variety of studios that all have little kitchens, great for a longer stay should you need it! They sell Essentialzzz in the reception area going from toiletries to ready meals and snacks. We didn’t need this but I could see this being very useful!
Breakfast is a bit different from other hotels, it’s Grab & Go. It’s served in an area close to reception and offers some fruit, croissants, muffins and a selection of (boxed) juices and hot drinks. The point is you can grab a bag/cup, fill it with whatever you need and get on the road. You can of course also grab your breakfast and go have it in your studio. I have to say, I love a good breakfast buffet, but for us, on this trip, this was perfect! We had reservations for a few elaborate dinners, so breakfast wasn’t too high on our priority list and the Grab & Go was just what we needed.
So back to our arrival at the hotel… We had a reservation for dinner at Mr Cooper’s House and Garden, in the Midland Hotel, at 18h00. So after checking in, checking out our room we had about 10 minutes to freshen up and make our way over there. It was only a 5 minute walk, so it all worked out fine in the end, although… I had my heart set on the Sunday Roast but it was sold out by the time we got there, boo!
This place is known for its bar and cocktails so of course we tried those (approved!) and then decided on 2 courses: a main and a dessert. I had the five spiced pork that was served with pak choi (yum!), sweet potato and soy caramel. Sounds good, right, and it really was. My husband was also really pleased with his choice of pollock with smoked eel risotto.
For dessert I had the Caramel Tart (yes, I do love caramel) with mascarpone ice cream which was delightful if you have a sweet tooth like me. The Pineapple Tarte Tatin that my husband had was served with spiced ice cream and was a hit for him, but I wasn’t a fan. I was happier with mine, we both chose well!
The portions could be a bit bigger, especially the mains, but overall this was a lovely dining experience. The restaurant also looks really nice, you do feel like you’re in a garden, great! That Sunday Roast will haunt me forever though, it has to happen once!
Did You Know? The Midland Hotel is where Charles Stewart Rolls met Frederick Henry Royce, the rest is automobile history.
The next day was our Explore Manchester day. We started at the Manchester Central Library which is in a beautiful building and definitely worth a visit on the inside as well. They have a huge department dedicated to music, so cool.
Next we went to the Manchester Art Gallery, which is actually closer to the hotel but we got there a little early, where you can see a variety of modern and classic works of art. Well worth a little stroll even if you’re not that into art.
Back on the streets of Manchester we made our way to Town Hall on Albert Square. Because of the Rugby World Cup the square was turned into some sort of fan zone or something, so there were obstacles everywhere, too bad.
We met up with our dear Abraham Lincoln again, he pops up everywhere. Well, statues of him do anyway.
Time for a little church action, we stopped by Saint Mary’s Hidden Gem, a very small church.
Next up was the People’s History Museum which, of course, focuses on Manchester’s history as a working class and industrial city.
I highly recommend this place for every visitor to Manchester, not only those interested in unions and workers. They also do temporary exhibitions, until January 2016 you can find out more about finance and the financial crisis in the Show Me The Money exhibition. Really interesting and also kinda depressing… This place really shows that history repeats itself over and over… Time for some changes. This is a must visit!
Why not visit another library? The John Rylands Library is beautiful, it looks like the scene of a Harry Potter movie!
After some more walking around and passing by Saint Ann’s Church, we got to Manchester Cathedral.
For a cathedral, I thought it was rather small, but maybe that’s just me. I expected more, but it’s worth visiting. And it’s close to the big shops (Selfridges, Harvey Nichols) and the Arndale Shopping Center, so you have nothing to lose by making your way over there!
Our last tourist stop, before some shopping at Boots, Waterstones etc, was another library. Chetham’s Library is the oldest public library in the English-speaking world so if books and libraries are your thing, this is a great place to visit. It’s free of charge, but because it’s located on the grounds of a school, you have to be escorted in and out and visiting hours are limited, so do some research before you go.
I was actually really impressed with Manchester, it’s fun to walk around in, there’s a perfect mix of old and new without the new buildings overpowering the amazing old ones. It felt like Christmas time already, those Brits get into that really soon, but I’m not complaining, we got an early start to some Christmas shopping.
That night we had dinner at Beef and Pudding and I still have sweet dreams of that Lemon Cheesecake in a jar dessert, delish!
On our second day we just had to visit Old Trafford, home of Manchester United Football Club. Because we came by car anyway we drove over there, but you could get there using public transportation.We had booked our tour tickets online and after a visit to the museum we joined our group for a stadium tour!
We sat in the stands, went into the dressing rooms, walked onto the pitch (well, not on the grass…) through the players tunnel and more.
We paid £37,00 for us both, so it’s not cheap, but for football fans this is a must. Manchester United FC has real history and is one of the biggest names. But if you wanted to you could probably check out the rival’s digs: Etihad Stadium.
That took all morning so we had one more afternoon to spend in Manchester. We parked the car again and went to the Museum of Science and Industry. It has 5 buildings and it gives you information on a range of subjects: textile industry, steam engines, sewer systems (temporary exhibition, I think), scientific experiments, transportation, etc…
Interesting but very much catered to families with young kids. We like interactive museums that bring out our inner child (it’s really not that well hidden) but this wasn’t our cup of tea. Admission is free, so do give it a go, you might like it much more, especially with little ones!
We got back to the hotel so we could relax and change for our fancy dinner! That night it was back to the Midland Hotel for dinner at The French. Just like Mr Cooper’s House and Garden this is a Simon Rogan place, you may know him from The Great British Menu (loooooove that show!). Mr Cooper’s House and Garden has a separate entrance, but The French is only accessible through the hotel’s lobby. It quite a small restaurant and the ambiance and vibe are very nice. It’s understated elegance in my opinion.
We decided against the 10 course menu (we knew what was coming up later on the trip…) and chose the 6 course menu.
The highlights for me were the crispy pig trotter and belly appetizer (seriously, amazing!), the duck main course and the ale bread with that scrumptious butter. But honestly, the whole menu was delightful. If you want honest, pure, British cooking in a fancy setting but without a stuffy attitude: The French needs to be on your bucket list!
And so we ended our Manchester trip on a foodie high and got back in our car to head back down south, to Bray. But more about that later.
Have you ever been to Manchester? Did we miss out on certain things (always willing to go back!)? I think it would be a great place for some Christmas shopping if you’ve been to London before where it can get really crowded and Eurostar prices can be through the roof… There’s plenty to see, but not so much that you need 5 days, perfect for a short getaway!
P.S.: as always, check out my instagram for more candid pics, food pics etc!
Some more pics for you… See you next week!