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31 December 2015

travel | twenty four hours in manchester

the monday before christmas marked the start of my lengthy northern jaunt up north, and started with an overnight trip to manchester. i arrived to a dreary mancunian day - a "normal day" i am lead to believe, but considering the blue skies down south and the torrential rain further north, i was happy to take the drizzle with a pinch of salt. i'd never been to manchester before, and considering i was in town for no more than 24 hours, donna's brief was simple: street art and the christmas markets. she was more than happy to oblige my requests, but first: coffee in the northern quarter was on both our minds.

we decided on newly opened pen and pencil on the corner of hilton and tariff streets, as donna had yet to try and it was on her 'must go' list. we were too busy catching up after months of not seeing each other, so the poor wait staff were turned away more than once until we were finally ready to tackle the bar menu. we decided to skip the food and just grab coffees, with the german market food stalls in the centre of town  calling our names instead.

with warmed bellies, we headed into the northern quarter's colourful alleys so donna could show off (not afraid to get her hands dirty and move some bins when it comes to getting that shot, our donna) some of the city's best pieces. with stencil work and paste-ups and sprays from such well known artists as invader and akse and d7606 littering the brown brick walls (not to mention the pastel coloured doors on almost every building), there was plenty to entertain the eyes (and instagram followers) as we walked back to the centre of town.

manchester is supposedly renowned for its christmas markets. i'd read that on more than one occasion, and had been told by many friends who'd been to the markets themselves that this was the case. knowing that we were there on the last day of their seasonal stay, i had pretty high hopes that they'd be wanting to go out with a bang and really ramp up the festivities for the last leg.

not the case, it seems. we wandered back via some of donna's favourite shops (adore fred aldous now!) and the arndale shopping centre (which was heaving with people, what were we thinking) so we could have a cheeky wee and get some money out for all the nic-nac buying, then headed into the german markets opposite the corn exchange. there was a wee row of stalls lining the road, as well as an alpine bar and few hog roast type stalls facing onto the shopping centre. famished, we started there and decided a hog roast with all the trimmings was the order of the day. the dry meat was delivered in a white roll with some crumbly stuffing underneath, and the option of some sickly apple sauce on top. for the fiver i was charged, i went the whole hog (pun intended). 

bellies full, we continued the whistlestop tour of the markets by heading down "to the good one" by the town hall. en route i located my favourite of all the german market traditions: choc-dipped strawberries on a stick! many german. much tradition. i always go for the white chocolate ones, because then no-one wants to try them. muhaha! they were every bit as delicious as i was expecting, and finally my belly was satisfied with its fill. i mean, it took nine great british pounds worth of dry pork and out-of-season strawberries to get there, but we got there.

the "good one" was definitely better than the others, and i don't only mean because of the sheer size of it, but because it had a lot more to offer than the others. as well as the alpine bar and german sausage and bier stalls, there were the nic-nac stalls full of tat that you expect in a christmas market too. and a fudge stall. which was well and truly the best stall. there were even stalls ~inside the town hall, which were super hard to navigate, but there was a cute floor. so that's good. we wandered around for a little while longer before the sun seemed to warn us it was heading off, and we trudged our way back to the car.

we literally spent about four hours in the city, and to be honest, it was enough. i didn't plan to see and do a lot in town with donna, but i did want to see the things i saw, so i am satisfied i did that. the city is lovely and vibrant, and certainly has a lot to offer a weekend visitor, so i hope to make it back again in the next few months - at least while donna is still living in st. helens, an easy commute from the city.

that night we went to her local pub, drank beers, ate great pub food, and then got involved in the christmas pub quiz. we didn't win - we didn't even place in the top four, despite only getting a handful of questions wrong, which just goes to show i do have potential for useless information. the next day we were up early and back on the road, with the next leg of my journey - edinburgh, at midday. it was a whirlwind of a stay, but like i say, it was the taster i needed to figure out what to see and do next.

have you been to manchester - what are your recommendations for my next trip there?

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