Meeting the Mancunians

After our little whirlwind London visit, we got up early and took a cab to the train station, and on to Manchester for five nights. Our driver was a Dev Patel body double. I didn’t get a picture of him, naturally, but here’s Dev.

We were his first customers, and he was a sweetheart. The cabbie we took from the airport kept saying how hot he was (it was a heat wave for England) and when he pulled over for gas (who fills up a tank with the fare in the car?), he asked if we wanted a water, which he’d buy in the gas station. This other guy, Dev, offered us water and Werther’s candy and had a full tank of gas to boot! His story: He had operated a computer, iPhone and electronics repair shop for two years, only to find out it was illegally leased to him. While he is in litigation to try to get it back, he’s driving the cab and taking Harvard University on-line courses to learn more. He grew up in Pakistan, has a girlfriend and a bright, promising future. But, he said, he worries he may never get to see the United States because if Trump wins, he won’t be allowed in. He refused a tip.

We got to the train station way too early and I can’t remember why, but moods were FOUL. All I remember is the long faces….. Might have been something to do with my seven pairs of shoes and my heavy suitcase :(

Manchester is really cool-looking. Lots of orange. Brick buildings with all kinds of details. Pubs on every corner. Flowers spilling out of hanging pots. And there are canals with locks all through the 

section where we stayed, with tons of boat houses. 

 These little beer towels are hung like prayer flags.

We dropped our bags and went directly out for a bite so we would have an appetite for dinner four hours later. This pub was right around the corner. Really cozy—about four or five little rooms. Just chips, or crisps, as it were, because the kitchen wasn’t open yet. There were college (or Masters program) graduates in cap and gown with their parents all over the city.

Learn more about this awesome pub we were so lucky to have stumbled upon:

Our dinner restaurant was recommended by the hotel staff. NOT their finest hour. The place was called the Paramount and had slot machines and very drunk people arguing and crying and storming out and back in again. Can’t say it wasn’t entertaining!

Next morning, after an amazing buffet breakfast, Fred went off to his Symposium and the boys and I walked to the Northern Quarter—again, the part of town that is to Manchester what Williamsburg is to Brooklyn. Maybe a little more gritty—several thrift shops on every street. And one five-story store that was a throwback to Harvard Square’s The Garage from the ‘70s.

Everywhere we go, sketchers!

Quick lunch at an Italian place—silly thing to do, I know, but we had intended to have a coffee and then decided the food looked too good. I spoke Italian with the owner who was delightful. The bruschetta was too.

Owen found an amazing Barbour windbreaker—vintage, never worn—which he bought. I bought Henry a white shirt made by PINK for about twenty bucks. Also, a steal. 

Freaky plant!

Belts & scarves!

We then went to the Football Museum which was basically a big place to babysit your kids. HUGE disappointment. Luckily museums are free here, and the boys got to play ping pong at their outdoor table.

Then tea, scones and clotted cream at the quintessential tea house called Sugar Junction. 

Each menu was placed inside a hardbound copy of the same used book (The Saturday Book). Charming.

The day ended with a cocktail party for Fred and me (to go to, not in our honor!) to kick off the Symposium, followed by dinner with the boys at an Indian place next to the hotel—highly recommended by Trip Advisor, not the hotel staff, and delicious. Again, tensions running a bit high. Traveling can be taxing.

Fred met a man with whom he'd only been in contact via email—he wrote a book that Fred's in! His name is James Hobbs. The book is Pen & Ink.