I’ll say it right from the start, Manchester exceeded my expectations by far. I just wrote this and I made one delicious lentil soup while making the Christmas shopping list in my head. Actually late Christmas, which I will spend in Edinburgh with my mom.
Well, as always, we started in the lobby bar, where they were carrying a very funny, but effective campaign. By rotation, the staff members would exercise on a bicycle with a Christmas hat on the head asking for donations for a cancer cause. After two Cape Town wines we were ready for the cold of the city and the wonderful Christmas Market.
Actually my only plan for Manchester was to visit the John Rylands Library (150 Deansgate), one of the most impressive in the world and included in the Top 10 Most Beautiful Libraries in the World by BBC, one that takes you to different, mysterious lands, in faraway times, in stories with Harry Potter and other mystical characters.
Although it is a major attraction, finding it was not easy. First we stopped at Manchester Piccadilly and walked around 40 minutes around the same area, asking and running until we finally reached…the wrong place. Well, if you can ever say that about a library.
We reached the Central Library, with amazing design and with a very friendly approach. As we were there waiting to ask for something that should look more “old” than the ultra-modern building in which we were, a father entered with two Christmas present bags in his hands and her 15 year old daughter. Maybe it was her first time there, but she stopped for a few seconds to look at the whole place and he stopped too and then they continued walking without saying a word, just with smiles and red cheeks.
Finally, we are here, around 25 minutes before closing time (5 PM)! On the leaflet we received at the entrance (free) it says “Welcome to The John Rylands Library, one of the most spectacular libraries in the world”. And so it is. Although it looks like a museum, this is a living library and a wonderful research place.
After seeing it, my plan for Manchester was done, since I did not know much about it and thought of it as of yet another UK city, but what I discovered was really lovely and I’m looking forward to exploring more of the city in the future. Now, as I look on this leaflet, I see they have something called Historic Toilets. Definitely have to visit them next time.
The Christmas Market which is spread to most of downtown, but having its center in front of the Town Hall, is one of the most beautiful and diverse I’ve seen, without being of bad taste at all. Wursts, pork belly, hot wine were everywhere and at each corner someone was enjoying either one of them. S. for South Korea and I discovered a lovely restaurant by the Town Hall, called Red’s (Southmill Street), I think, but what I remember is their motto – let there be meat. I totally agree. Full pork ribs + onion rings = me happy.
S. says I love to ask people and actually I do, especially locals because they have the best tips for me and many very good places I’ve been to were recommended by random people on the street I just asked. Other times, when I asked for a location, locals diverted their way and took me to the place/put me on a train/motorbike/bus. The kindness of strangers is amazing and I try to be a good stranger to others. I remember when I was a little girl, somewhere in the 90s, backpackers foreigners who would lose their way in the area where we spent our weekends and summers would be inevitably indicated to our house. They were always welcomed with food and drinks (which meant full day party in our house and garden), we took them in the mountains organizing little trips for them, we offered to keep them overnight which we sometimes did. The roots of couchsurfing, in my home.
By now it’s raining, but it’s fine, ‘cause we’re walking it the Christmas Market carrying a hot cup of something.
Here they’re selling everything, from warm socks with Santa to the rain calling frogs from Bangkok.
Before going home – I call all hotels where I sleep home, because after all I live in hotels and I feel at home in all of them – we entered the beautiful building of the Town Hall where a fair was held and took a look.
I became professional in packing and unpacking and using my time in the layovers. For example, at my Doha home, I keep all clothing items on individual items and when I pack I just take them out with the hangers and put them in the suitcase, folded in two or three. When I open my suitcase in Shanghai, Madrid or Cape Town, I just grab the hangers and put them in the wardrobe. I have a bag for dirty clothes, one for toiletry items which I always take from the hotels (sometimes I give them away – even to homeless – or just use them at home, but I never leave them there, it’s one of my pleasures of spending the night in the hotel and then when I see them around the house I remember the layover).
Overall, Manchester was one of the big surprises of my traveling adventure and one of the joys of December. Baby, it’s cold outside!
Picture taken in La Rambla, Barcelona