11.12.2006 - 11.12.2006 8 °C
Went to Manchester by train on Monday. I don't know what I expected of the trains here, but it certainly wasn't what I found. There are seats, and if you pay extra (a lot) I think you can reserve them. Otherwise its first come, first served, and everyone else has to stand. And stand we did, like sardines most of the way. (By the way, 'we' refers to one of my French friends, Lydia, and me.)
I was thinking of catching a train to Manchester Airport when I leave since its quicker and not that much more expensive than the coach. But if it was packed like it was on Monday I'd never get my luggage on.
I have a friend who caught a train to London on Friday to catch a plane home, and he said he didn't get a seat the whole way!
Fortunately, the trip to Manchester took under an hour so standing wasn't too bad.
Manchester is a pretty cool city. It has quite a bit of old architecture, but also a lot of new so the overall impression you get of the city centre is modern, metal and glass. (But in a good way.) Even Manchester's oldest building, pictured below, has a modern clock built into it. They obviously can't resist.
One of the first things we saw was the Royal Exchange Theatre. This is another example of ultra modern juxtaposed with old.
This picture makes it look a bit like a space shuttle about to launch through the dome above, but it actually looks better than this. (Though still a little bizarre.) Its a circular theatre with 3 levels of seats around a central circular stage so wherver you sat you would never be more than 35 feet from the stage I think. (Correct me if I'm wrong, since I have no idea what feet is in metres.) It's constructed on the inside of the building with all the pipes and beams you can see in the picture, and looks like you could just about take it down and never know it was ever there.
Then we went on the big wheel they had set up to get a good view over the city. (Just a note, don't be fooled by the blue sky in the picture. It was sunny and fortunately didn't rain at all that day, but it was by no means warm!)
The capsules were all enclosed and the whole thing looked very safe and well maintained, but I couldn't help feeling a bit of a rising panic simultaneously with the rising capsule as we first started to move. But it was ok. After the first rotation I was fine as the capsule didn't swing or move too much.
Then we did a bit of general sightseeing, as you do, looking at the buildings and churches. (Manchester Cathedral in the picture below.)
Manchester also has a lot of Christmas Markets. In Leeds there is a German Christmas market, but Manchester has German, European and world markets. So we spent a good part of the day perusing these. They are a mixture of arts and crafts and food stalls. There were so many things I could have bought but most would have been too expensive, delicate, perishable or heavy to take home which is a shame. I will by some souvenirs and gifts like this at some point I think, but I'll wait til I'm actually in Europe. One of the food stalls had a whole pig on the spit, with the head and everything. Needless to say I didn't try that one, but I did buy a bit of chocolate and gingerbread, and some yummy dutch cheese (after going around and trying every one of the tasters). We also stopped to try some Irish Coffee and hot donuts. (I've also tried gluhwein which is yummy and nice and warming, but that was a different day). And my slightly dopey look in the picture below is a result of me beginning to blink as the photo was taken, not the whisky in the coffee, honestly!
Then we spent the rest of the day just wandering the shops, the town hall, a small ruin of whats left of an old Roman Fort, and watched some people slipping and wobbling around an outdoor ice rink until about 6pm. Then we caught the train home again. This time it wasn't crowded and we got a seat which was a relief as we were exhausted!
Most people have gone home now. Oliver left Friday, Blandine and Quentin left Saturday, Maisie left Saturday or Sunday, others left Sunday and Monday, Bjorn left this morning...so I feel a bit alone now. Even the people from my flat seem to have dissappeared or died (more likely went home while I was out) as the flat has been weirdly silent all day. I haven't heard so much as a door open, which feels strange coz the doors are noisy here.
But its ok. Everyone will be back in January and until then I will have my trip to Europe to keep me occuppied!!