Sunday, November 16, 2014

Abroad Chronicles, III: MANCHESTER

In an effort to immerse ourselves in the experience of being abroad, we travelled to Manchester this weekend. We nearly didn't make it in time, realizing far too late that the buses on Saturday mornings run on twenty minute intervals. By the time we had shoved our breakfast in takeaway boxes, the stress level had risen and we nearly didn't make it - but luck was on my side (for once) and we made it with plenty of time to spare at the station.

The countryside on the train to Manchester was very very lovely.

Manchester is a wonderful city and very easy to navigate, as there are maps and signs to guide without the use of Internet maps (which I no longer have access to any more...RIP my data plan). I'd done some basic research before we'd left and knew enough about the city to navigate via the tram system, but we ended up walking everywhere we wanted to go. The city is beautiful, and I don't know if that's a genuine observation about the city or just my own gratefulness to be out of the country for a little bit. The architecture was especially notable: a combination of the new and the old, the ultra modern to the classical architectural style associated (in my little head, at least) with England.

After reorienting ourselves after the journey, we made our way to one of the sites on my list, Piccadilly Gardens, and thanks to the nifty map and sign system, we headed confidently towards the area. Because luck really truly was on our side, the Christmas markets had started the day before, so we were very quickly arrested by the smell of some wonderful food and perused some of the vendors around the area. 
S/O to this sign

First glimpse of Piccadilly Gardens 

Seen at one of the vendors: my one regret is not picking this up for my pal Shanna.

We spent a bit of time in this area but were driven away by a raucous, untalented drummer who hit the snare drum a little too hard, in my humble opinion. Luckily, we were in the right area to head to the Manchester Art Gallery, chosen because I like art museums and also because it's free entry. 

Unfortunately, we were all slowly fading and needed sustenance and didn't get to see the rest of the gallery, so we ventured into the great beyond for a restaurant. Something I had forgotten to research, of course, had been food or places to eat, so we just headed back up the street towards Piccadilly Gardens and eventually found a food court within a mall. 

We decided to split up: two to the Manchester United stadium and two to explore the area a little more thoroughly. Guess which option I chose?

St. Ann's Church

The descent into early evening and watching the world grow darker is one of my favorite parts of the day. This day, in Manchester, it was even more special. We sat in St. Ann's churchyard, ground covered in leaves, and Christmas lights strung in the still-green trees while a man played the most lovely music from the street beside us. This moment encapsulated it all and I finally had a feeling of what I'd wanted to experience when I'd come to England, why I was so desperate and determined to get here: this man, his guitar, during twilight, surrounded by the old and the new, with a good friend in comfortable silence. I struggle with remaining in the moment: I like to plan, to control, to have my things squared away and figured out so that I won't have to stress out about them later. But here, I was out of my head, not thinking of the time or the work I always have waiting for me or money or my family back in America or anything. This moment is and always will be, I think, one of my favorite moments from my experience so far. I wish it could be conveyed in words, really, I do. There is something so spectacularly invigorating about navigating a city on your own without help from Google Maps and being successful. I think, really, this day taught me the simple joy in spontaneity, in getting off a train and exploring a strange city all on your own with nothing but some maps, a bit of research and common sense to guide you. Thank you thank you to Manchester, my friends here in England and especially to this musician for a fantastic day.

More street music that we happened upon



  2. Looks like you had a lot of fun! that market looks so cute. I've never been to Manchester but it comes across beautifully in your pictures. Love the buildings, it seems the old and new are side by side which is cool :) x

    Sinead | Dreaming Again