Several years ago Manchester
was re-christened Mad-chester by the music press, partly due to
clubs like the Hacienda and bands like James and Oasis. The bushy
eyebrowed ones have since vanished from the scene however – or
maybe they finally lost their voices – and the big clubs are gone.
Ah, the delights of the kitchen – though you may not be expecting
what I’m about to suggest. Get down to Fallowfield and have a
curry! Manchester is famous for its Curry Mile, found just
south of the centre on Oxford Road, far better than Brick Lane
in London, and surely the cornerstone of Britain’s new national
dish. Just take a wander down that road and try to resist those
wonderful aromas… even the names: dupiaza, dhansak, korma, rogan
josh, biryani, vindaloo… are you sure your mouth isn’t watering
If you don’t fancy some fire in your belly, at least try Manchester’s
other speciality: kebab! Ok, yet another idea borrowed
from the city’s enormous multicultural population, but far more
interesting than a roast dinner. I recommend a chicken tikka kebab
from Monsoons, but there are plenty of other outlets to cater
for your needs.
Yes, arts. All sorts of them, galleries and such. If you’d
like some music, just head for the Bridgewater
Hall – they’ve got a fair selection of classical concerts
to choose from. Oh, you meant chart music? Plenty to offer: the
Apollo, G-Mex Centre, Nynex Arena… just
for the latest news.
Have you heard of the Lowry
Centre? Brand new building on Salford Quays – which are
interesting in themselves. Lots of paintings and sculptures, plus
a large theatre for any number of shows. How about the Whitworth
Art Gallery? Full of old masterpieces and contemporary
exhibitions, including textiles from the world and other interesting
combinations, bang next to the university. Makes a nice change
from window shopping in any case
there no end? You could try the Palace Theatre for musicals,
and the Library in St Peter’s Square (yes, the one full
of books) has a good selection of plays. The four universities
have their own theatres too if you’re about in term-time, for
Top of the line has to be the newly re-opened Museum of Science and Industry, the first museum in ages that
I wanted to keep on wandering round. The Air and Space section
is especially interesting for wannabee astronauts like myself
– the ultimate travelling experience? Apparently the Manchester
Museum (natural history) is undergoing similar changes,
which should be good as it was pretty boring before. There’s also
urban heritage park close by, a homage to the Manchester Ship
Canal with its own Roman fort.
A bit further afield you could also try Quarry
Bank Mill out at Styal, a working slice of Manchester’s
textile-filled history. The machines may be noisy but the exhibits
are fun, and the country park surrounding the area is nice and
peaceful. Alternatively you could visit Dunham
Massey, which features not only a fancy stately house
but also a deer park and plenty of greenery – really nice if you
want to get out of the city on a sunny day.
All right, I guess it needs to go in here someplace –
briefly. The Arndale Centre in the city centre was blown
up by the IRA several years ago, but it’s been done up very nicely.
Close by is the pedestrianised area between Deansgate and Cross
Street, a lot prettier and overlooked by St Ann’s Church.
And then there’s the Trafford
Centre: a fair old way out of the city but probably the
biggest mall in NW England and a great place to spend a rainy
afternoon (not so good for the wallet though).
Commonwealth Games 2002
If anything can draw the international crowds to NW England
it’s the chance to see their country battle against others – and
as the clock on the bright yellow Portland Tower shows, the big
event is getting closer by the second. Sports is on the up, and
not just thanks to Man United.
Games means that Manchester now has a fantastic new range
of venues to test drive, including the huge swimming pool
on Oxford Road and the National Cycling Centre a little
further out. Favourites include Lancashire County Cricket Club
in Old Trafford though, close to that football club that keeps
winning the Premiership.
A fair number of events will be held outside Manchester, but
the area’s undergone a lot of regeneration as the tourism chiefs
kick back and rub their hands expectantly.
For those with a bit of money, try flying in – though it’s actually
cheaper to fly into Britain at regional airports rather than London
from abroad, so it could be a decent option.
Manchester’s also a hub for the national rail and coach networks,
with regular services to most destinations.
Around and About
NW England has a great deal to offer for travellers willing to
make the hike up from London. Close by there’s Liverpool,
home of the Beatles, but also the old town of Chester.
A bit further north is Blackpool,
with enough bright lights to power a small developing country
– the archetypal British seaside town, and don’t miss the chips
If you want to get away from the buildings, there’s plenty of
open spaces to choose from as well – two National Parks within
a short distance. To the east is the Peak
District: wild and barren, but beautiful; then to the north
is the Lake District,
far greener and hillier but the wettest place of an already wet
country. Bring your brolly! (umbrella)
A Word of Warning
There are a few areas of Manchester to avoid if you don’t know
your way about, the closest to the centre being Moss Side and
Levenshulme. The city is generally pretty safe, but just use your
common sense – don’t wander along looking lost and stuffing notes
into your wallet for starters.
Oh yes, and if you go shopping in the city centre I apologise
about the levels of litter you’ll see in advance (not that I can
do anything about it). There are bins, but no-one seems to use
Watch out for trams too – there aren’t many British cities that
have them, they’re cool and they buzz about to almost anywhere
you could want, but don’t make the mistake of walking across the
tracks at the wrong moment.