On our pre-christmas trip around England visiting anyone we knew who had a spare bed and a bottle of wine going open, we stopped off in Manchester with friends Martin and Jill. We met them in France and have become good friends, despite only passing a couple of times a year. Funny how sometimes we meet people who connect, and they become important to us quickly. Martin and Jill are like that for us. So since we were within 200miles or so, we thought we’d pop in for tea.
My original plan had been to miss the motorway and cross the Peak district and pass Edale or Kinder. The weather had some other thoughts on the route, and it snowed heavily that night. We took the motorway, and by the time we reached our destination the snow was just a mush on the footpaths. Some things are not meant to be, and it looks like snow for me this year is one of them.
Anyway, Martin had planned visits for us on Monday so we relaxed and enjoyed Sunday roast with them, and settled in for the night feeling welcome and relaxed. The following morning, after a stroll to walk the dogs, and after convincing the ladies that the rain would not last longer than a few minutes (hmm, Manchester – rain, yes it does) we leapt onto the tram for my first trip into the city centre.
Martin had arranged for us to take a tour of the clock tower in the town hall. Today as well we had the pleasure of the German Christmas Market, selling mostly mulled wine and bratwurst. With the odd knick-knack thrown in for good measure.
The girls decided for, various reasons, not to climb the 170something spiral steps to the tower. Choosing instead to sit drinking coffee and eating cake in the grand café of the town hall. The whole thing is stunning to see, the architects had a wild gothic idea and threw it everywhere. With arches, broad and narrow staircases, spiral staircases. Plus lots of mosaic floors, stained glass windows, and decorated pillars for good measure.
They kindly start you on the 6th floor, after getting the lifts up. Then its into the small spiral, round and round and into the Bell-ringing room. Ropes, benches, not much to see but the guide gives a bit of background. The biggest bell is Great Abel, named after the Mayor at the time of building. Onwards and upwards and into the mechanics of the place, the clock room. Here the whole timing thing happens. These are places that normally you don’t see, they are the domain of wizards and engineers. And the whole thing runs like clockwork. (Sorry, no more I promise)
Up again, and you stand behind the clock faces themselves, only three that show. One faces the building itself. In here you can see the buildings reality, it is a brick-built mansion. With facing stone. A bit of a cheat, but cheaper to make. The last leg takes you to past the bell room, and up onto the terrace at the top of the tower. Where Great Abel lives, and the views over Manchester and down onto Albert Square dominate your sight, The Angels, gargoyles, watch over everything. Being this close to these things always fascinates me. And despite the rain the views where worth the trip up there.
Back down, you need to take care to be slow, and make sure you don’t get yourself dizzy with the turning. We dropped back into the main building, had a look at the murals by Ford Madox Brown in the Great Hall, checked out the Bees on the floor, a symbol of the workers in Manchester that drove the industrial revolution. More Neo-gothic architecture, and it was time to pick up Jane and Jill and head out into the market. Looking back at the tower from the square it looks much taller, leaning back to take it all in.
Eating Bratwurst in the outdoors always reminds me of the Schnell-imbiss in Dortmund, Germany. When I was small we lived there for a little while, and going out to the “Schnelly” when we went shopping was a real treat. Memories brought by food. Then, of course we didn’t have mulled wine as well. Very nice on a cold Manchester Monday, followed by a curry to finish of the evening.
Finally, thanks to Martin and Jill for their hospitality, and for showing us a little bit of their city. We shall be back, soon, you were too good at the B & B thing.