Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Manchester, England: A Brilliant Diamond in the Rough

Premier shopping - check! World famous football clubs - check!  5-star hotels - check!  Michelin star restaurants - check again!  A major university, historical sites, a Saxon cathedral, cool bars, a hip and vibrant music scene - check!  The Crown Jewels - ah, no.  But Manchester, England has everything else.  This is a city that is London, on a smaller scale.  Manchester is the city that has it all.  
The Castlefield area lies over the old Roman ruins of what became the city of Manchester.  Manchester Cathedral, built in Saxon 700 AD before Norman William the Conqueror swept through England, anchors the city, flying the English flag high.  Even though it suffered heavy damage during the air raid blitzes of WWII, Manchester Cathedral has prevailed. The IRA unwittingly helped Manchester when it bombed the city center, carving out a chunk.  Manchester seized the moment for the better and became the phoenix lifting above its former industrial self, rising to become the vibrant and cosmopolitan city it is, with over 20 art galleries and various museums, high-end shopping with the likes of Harvey Nichols (which had at one of the make-up counters one of the most stunningly beautiful girls I have ever seen), Hermès, Links of London, and Vivienne Westwood, luxury hotels to cater to these shoppers (The Lowry, Malmaison), restaurants of every persuasion, and hot bars and cool clubs, often frequented by the footballers of Manchester City and Manchester United.  Even the National Football Museum is relocating to Manchester, to be housed in the Urbis Center.  And, an unparalleled music scene with two symphony orchestras, world-renowned artists playing concerts at the Cathedral, and hometown bands the Charlatans and Oasis.  Any night of the week, pick your pleasure from the cultural scene.  
Manchester is decidedly diverse in population with a Chinatown that has its own gate to its “city” and restaurants housed in old cotton warehouses that can equal most any in Hong Kong; the Manchester Jewish Museum as the gatekeeper of the still present Jewish community’s history since the Industrial Revolution; a vast gay populace that congregates in the now revitalized Canal area, the perfect place to be on sunny summer afternoons with its many outdoor cafés; and Curry Mile, a mile long area of south Manchester made up of Pakistani, Indian, Middle Eastern and Arab restaurants.  When I asked the hotel concierge which one he would recommend out of the mile long amount of choices, he looked at me as if I had 10 heads.  “Any!  Walk along and pick one with your nose,” was his answer.    
My flight attendant crew member Kris and I went to the outdoor pub at Sinclair’s Oyster House in Shambles Square in the city center, near the dominant ferris wheel.  With a couple of pints in hand, we sat outside at the tables.  An edgy young local with some missing teeth came up to us, holding his full beer, and with his even rougher looking buddy said, “dlibuiaosdu goiaudof elkgjos?”  Kris and I looked at each other, and looked back at him.  The buddy started laughing.  I said, “You have to speak a lot more slowly for us to understand your... accent.”  “Do-you-have-spare-change-I-could-have-for-my-next-pint?” I thought about that a second, looked at his full beer, and said, “If I give you my change, how am I going to pay for my next pint?”  This time they both laughed, and then talked to us for a solid 10 minutes.  Slowly. 
Urbis Center, future location of National Football Museum
Manchester is a city that has star quality, smoothing out is rough, industrial city feathers.  That is what makes it such a fantastic city.  Being in Manchester heralds back to a time when a place on the global map wasn’t tainted or altered by commercialism and tourism.  Manchester is a relatively small city in size, but powerful - it’s all there.  It’s dynamic, and you see it and feel it. These are people who have a fierce pride being a Mancunian, and rightfully so.
Now, I just have to figure out how to get tickets to one of those perpetually sold out City or Man U games...  

1 comment:

  1. Who knew that Manchester had so much to offer. I've had very tasty and authentic Indian food there, a few great beers and successful visits to Primark. Thanks, Catherine for paving the way for further exploration.