Travel Letter Index

Letter to Doreen from Manchester

We left home at about twelve on Sunday and caught the train to Sheffield . An unfortunate aspect of train travel on a Sunday is that you often have to travel by coach. So, we waited in a car park for the coach to take us on the next part of the journey. I found this part very irritating. The actual journey was fine though and we had a good look at the scenery, including travelling beside the Ladybower Reserviour, planned a number of bike rides, and generally were made to realise what beautiful scenery we have not far away from us.

We arrived at the hotel just after three o'clock and set out immediately to shop for things like fizzy water, wine and fruit. This was one of our first surprising views of many of Manchester.

The modern building on the left is Harvey Nichols, the one on the right is Selfridges and the two half timbered buildings in the middle are mediaeval ones that have been moved and rebuilt in the cathedral quarter. A bit false, maybe, but better than losing them for ever. When inspected close up they have been very well rebuilt and tastefully fitted in to the area.

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In the evening we walked around much of the central part of Manchester looking in the windows of restaurants and checking the menus. We were spoilt for choice! We chose a quiet one near the town hall but were made to realise in the following days that we could have chosen somewhere much more interesting and worthwhile. On our way back to the hotel we stopped off in the square where the two old buildings (in the photo above) were to have a look at another current feature of Manchester, the huge Ferris wheel.

The red lights are on a building that must be twenty stories tall. The wheel is Europe's largest portable wheel and has done service in a number of cities including Birmingham.

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The following day we were up early and had breakfast in the hotel before going to a Café Nero to read the news and drink coffee until the tourist information centre opened. After gathering the information we wanted we went back to the hotel to change into even warmer clothing. It was perishingly cold and we knew we were going to walk around an expanse of water later.

We then caught the tram to take us to Salford Quays where we wanted to see the development and the Lowry Centre. We got off the tram two stops before the Lowry Centre so that we could have a walk round and gather a sense of the place. We hope to go back in hot weather.

The Lowry Centre was a stunning building of varied shapes and textures.

The entrance is under the semi circular piece in front of the red building. I chose not to take my big new camera but have regretted it often. If ever there was a place to take photos of architecture Manchester must score highly. Inside the centre we had more coffee (this time to warm us up) before going on to the photography exhibitions first and then the paintings. I'll not bother with details about the exhibitions but we were completely fascinated by them unlike these two young people who were engrossed in their conversation.

We acknowledge that Lowry was a much more accomplished artist than we had realised. We then went to a restaurant nearby for lunch and enjoyed a long chat with the waiter who served our table. He gave us lots of valuable information about eating out in Manchester .

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We returned to the city centre by tram and then walked around China town. After that we located the restaurant I had read about before we started our travels. It is called Le Petite Blanc and is owned and run by Raymond Blanc. After we had ‘freshened up' and changed we went to the restaurant just after 6 p.m.. We had the place almost to ourselves; the service was first rate and the food was the best we have had in a long time.

This is the menu we chose from

 

hors d'oeuvres

 

 

Salad of pan-fried chicken livers, balsamic vinaigrette

 

 

White onion soup, parmesan & chives

 

 

Salad of cod Brandade, crème fraiche sauce

 

 

entrées

 

 

Grilled haddock fillet, herb puree, lemon butter

 

 

Pork belly confit, slow roasted vegetables, roasted parsnips

 

 

Pan-fried gnocchi, wild mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes

 

 

Beryl had a chicken liver salad followed by gnocchi with a wild mushroom sauce and I had cod brandade followed by haddock on a bed of spinach. We sat at the table on the left at the front of the picture.

 

 

It is almost as good as being there yourself isn't it?

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Next day we started our activities in M&S Café Revive sitting in the huge curved window in what is the biggest M&S store in the country – we didn't think it was but that is what the brochure said. Anyway we read the papers and chatted until 10 when the Art Gallery opened.

The gallery had a very impressive range of paintings particularly of Pre-Raphaelites and Impressionists. You will recognize this one by Holman Hunt.

One that Beryl and I like a lot was by John Everett Millais called Glen Birnham. It was a large canvas and seemed a mature work with more of a story to tell than first glances suggested.

After the gallery we went to the Cathedral for a lunchtime concert. I was so glad to be able to sit down. My poor injured knees were certainly communicating with the odd brain cell.

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The concert was performed by students from the nearby Chetham's music school. It consisted of instrumental solos accompanied by the piano. The standard was very high indeed. There was also one soprano who, when she first started to sing, caused us both to sit back in our chairs in amazement. She had a wonderful voice that made Charlotte Church sound like a parrot with bronchitis.

 

We had lunch in our hotel room and then spent the afternoon wandering around the shops. In the evening we had decided to go to what seemed to be the most popular restaurant in Manchester, Piccolino's. It was packed every time we looked in on it and staff at two restaurants had recommended it. Well, the food was good and so was the service. However, we couldn't wait to leave the place once we had actually finished eating. It was so noisy! There was a huge serving hatch – like a large part of a wall missing – so that you could see into the kitchens, fine but you could also hear.

 

Next morning we packed early and went for a further walk around the shops, visited the Urbis building which is a millennium project museum of city life, took a ride on one of the free buses, visited the GMEX centre, looked at the Bridgewater Hall and the library and finally returned to collect our cases and leave the hotel at 1 o'clock. We arrived home at about 4 having had a really enjoyable time. We look forward to returning on another occasion.

 

At one point during our stay a young lady stopped us in the street, explained that she was doing an art project for college and asked us to give a one word account of our impression of Manchester . I said ‘vibrant' and Beryl said ‘impressive' and would have added more if allowed to say ‘self confident'. There was a huge energy, the streets were clean, there were no beggars, very little graffiti, it was very multi cultural and everywhere there was a sense of development not just in the huge amount of building work but also in the sense of people taking a pride in what they doing and looking to improve.

 

This last picture of mine captures a memorable view of Manchester for me – modern, stylish and developing rapidly. My photo was taken through the supports of the footbridge in front of the newest top quality hotel called The Lowry. Beryl called in to collect the brochure. Perhaps we'll stay there next time.

 

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