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Culture Food and Drink Manchester Marathon People Photography Popular culture The Arts Travel Uncategorized

My Manchester in 2017 – in pictures

The highs, the lows and the love that stemmed. Beautiful Manchester.

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Hotels Manchester Photography Popular culture Preview/review Travel Uncategorized

Bowled over by the Hilton

Brought up by cricket-loving parents. I can boast that I was there at the infamous Headingley Test in 1981. I was barely stringing a sentence together given my young years

what’s new?

(Good one, me. Who just wrote that too. About me)

… but I was there.

img_1756

And so with that grounding, I had no choice but to have a fondness for the game. I have to admit that my love lies more in the memories that it brings for me than the stats and quality of that day’s fielding…

My Dad in the garden, listening to test match special with its permanently crackly, radio interference against the dulcet tones of RP voices, detailing that day’s play.

I might not be able to tell you all the intricacies of the game, but I’ve seen Warne bowl and I’ve seen Beefy bat. And I like Boycott’s bonkers bantz.

And for those who have no interest in the game whatsoever I’ll get to the point which involves one of the newest hotels to hit Greater Manchester;  Hilton Garden Inn, at Old Trafford Cricket Ground (aka the Emirates Stadium).

Just celebrating its 3 month birthday, I recently checked both myself and husband in to celebrate our 9 year anniversary.

We do that thing where we try and come up with some sort of genius yet tenuous link of a gift, according to what anniversary it is that year; i.e. paper, pottery, copper, ketchup, Pot Noodle, titanium and so on and so forth.

To help our quest, we open up the options to both the modern list and the traditional list (we cheat, essentially, as it can be a ball-ache).

This year I went with ‘willow’. We’d both wanted to check out the new hotel on the block at some point and so I forced a link with cricket – (willow being the bat, those who aren’t au fait with the romantic cricketing description…

the sound of leather on willow

Unfortunately our wedding anniversary inconveniently lies outside of the cricket season (or, more accurately, those games played at Old Trafford Cricket Ground this year.

No matter, this could be a recce for next summer.

Booking a room that faced the pitch (imagining dropping the ball on that one), the view was fantastic enough to please any cricket fan (again, play or no play) and impressive enough for those who don’t know their googly from their search engine).

Throwing open the curtains and french doors alike (it admittedly took a number of goes – reassuringly stiff), your balcony is there waiting for you, the pitch opening up from your privileged vantage point.

On this occasion it was the perfect position to watch the sun go down over Greater Manchester.

One can only imagine the thrill of sitting there watching play on a summer’s day, from your room.

With your little fridge available in the room for cold beverages at will, and a bathroom that doesn’t involve queuing with your fellow fans, you could be forgiven for feeling positively like an MCC member (basically fancy-pants cricket-goer decked out in mustard and maroon).

Away from the view, for a second, The hotel itself is modern and stylish. The rooms comfortable, and the members of staff warm and welcoming.

There was brief hilarity in the hotel bar and restaurant when my request for a margarita cocktail was misunderstood for a margherita pizza (to be fair, it’d be a cold day in hell when I rejected either), but a good night was had by all (both).

Throw those curtains wide (making sure you’re decent first)
So your trip to Trafford be for cricket, football, music or just for the sunsets, I recommend the Hilton Garden Inn at the Emirates Stadium.

Howzat!

Well very good, since you asked. And we’ll be back next summer.

And he’s out
And he’s out!
All the deets.

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Culture Manchester Marathon People Photography Popular culture Sport Travel Uncategorized

The Tram Tribes – a Manchester subculture. 

The Manchester Metrolink.

It has its knockers but I’m a fan and think, in general, it’s pretty good. Pretty good doesn’t include when it terminates early at Timperley or Navigation Road (Alty commuters, right?).

But as a service, it mostly works.


Whilst crowding and cancellations can drive you to the brink at times (or not, if the latter), what  you can’t blame Metrolink for is some of its dwellers. users. commuters. inhabitants. species of man (and woman and child).

We all know them.

Cause of many a passive aggressive eye roll and sigh on my part, to be fair, these tribes and types can sometimes also  serve as entertainment to and from work.

(None of the people in this picture fall into that category – it was just a nice crowd shot)

Metrolink recently ran a campaign aimed at trying to bring a touch of civility and respect amongst passengers, identifying and trying to tackle some of the main offensive behaviours.

This caught my eye for two reasons:

  • I was pleased that there was a glimmer of hope that the offending people would take note and stop doing what they’re doing; and
  • the campaign employed fridge magnets amongst the promotional materials which, if you were quick enough, you could find and take from (it was allowed) the back of tram seats – cue much excitement from me at half 6 in the morning – a disproportionate amount, you might say.

They were great and tackled lots of anti social behaviour such as people using their massively oversized bags to either take up the space of a small family, or take you out as they’re swung around the carriage.

And we all know the rowdys, the hammereds, the ‘fragrant’, the selfish space-hoggers.

However, the main three tram tribes which I have encountered and cause my resting heart rate to increase between 6 and 7am, and again between 4 and 5pm, are as follows:

*The Tram Monitor*

It was a cold day in December, when the tram was as crowded as a pavement outside Yard and Coop during one of their free chicken promotions, when you boarded at Brooklands, and started shouting at us all to move down as it’s

so unfair, oh it’s so unfair!

I should point out that since Altrincham three stops ago, us selfish standees had already become closely acquainted enough to identify the brand of each other’s fabric softener and, short of forming Greater Manchester’s answer to the Human Centipede, had nowhere else to go.

I should secondly point out that the declaration of things being

so unfair, just so unfair

were called out from her ample and, you might say, roomy space ON THE TRAM.

I’m also looking at you, couple on Manchester Marathon day, when you swanned on at Cornbrook having just addressed the assembled assortment of crammed in commuters 

Hey everyone, if you move down, it creates space and allows more people on

This revelation was bellowed from the platform as the doors were only just opening, everyone, not having had chance yet to create space.


(my fellow passengers exercising not only later that morning in the marathon, but also their restraint as we were lectured on basic physics by Tram Monitors)

*The Platform Strategist* 

Fair play, if you’re getting the Metrolink twice a day, five times a week, you cannot help but develop strategies, tactics and work rounds, if you want to survive (aka get on or even get a seat).

But there always extremists.

Yes we all know the classic platform points where you will find yourself opposite a door, once the tram rolls in (infrequent passengers who don’t? I’m sorry but to share this information here would incur the wrath of those who have spent years honing this knowledge. There has to be some privileges to being a frequent flyer). To be fair, I’ve done it myself and would probably put myself in this category to a point.

But you’re supposed to retain dignity. It’s got to be subtle. If there’s already somebody stood waiting in one of the golden spaces, suck it up. Stand near there. Know that you might not be first on, but will be perhaps second. Third. Fourth. But you’ve snoozed and so you’ve possibly losed. But there are those who are baying for blood and determined to gain an upper hand on this matter. And the ensuing behaviours are what I can’t deal with.

In fact here they are in list form:

  • the shoulder jostle, the elbow jostle, the basically any body part jostle. Back off.
  • platform creep – yes we can all see you shuffling forward to to the edge, trying to get a stronghold on matters.
  • side-eye. side-eye at fellow passengers to plan your next move, side-eye at the board to see how long you’ve got to get in prime position, side-eye down the tracks to see whether the prize is in sight. Basically side-eye full stop. Stop it.
  • the blocker stance as the tram arrives and the doors are in sight. Making yourself wide in order to achieve pole-position for when those pesky people in your way actually trying to get off the tram, despite your presence, finally leave and you can grab first prize in the getting on the tram awards.

Last and by no means, by any stretch of the imagination,

*The Tram Worker*

I do not mean the largely lovely people who work on or for Metrolink. 

I mean the cretin who sees the tram as an extension of their office and they don’t care who knows it. In fact they want you to know it. Via the medium of the telephone and the loud voice.

Yeah, so it’s me.

Yeah hi. Just checking in. Seeing how it’s going.

You’ll see how it’s going when you get to the office in 5 minutes.

Yeah, yeah, I mean going forward you’re going to need to drill down on that, dig deep, get a feel, flesh it out…

Meanwhile the rest of us are all considering how, going forward, we’d like to take that drill and your flesh, and find ourselves with a need  to then dig deep.

Too much? Imagine that in an over bearing loud voice when you’ve barely been awake 30 minutes.


(My ticket to sigh)

And then pity the person on the other end of the phone. And their fellow commuters. It’s a domino effect of terribleness that has the ability to spread across the Metrolink network at peaktime as rapidly as the news of a free chicken giveaway at Yard and Coop (what? I hear they’re notoriously popular).

However, as I alluded to in the intro of this rant/blogpost, there can be entertaining elements to these matters. Especially when you get to hear this from the person who’s been subjecting you to their work call for the last 6 stops…

Oh absolutely. Oh I concur.

Yeah, I mean, it’s all absolutely under control. Dan and I have been in a huddle, thrown some figures around, brainstormed the sh£t out of the proposal and the headline is, we’re so on it.

Yeah, see you at the office in 2 mins.

(Frantic dialling)

Yeah Dan? We’re f%ck*d mate.

So there we have it. I’m hoping by sharing (venting) I will learn to disengage from these lovelies and instead concentrate on the great sights of the even Greater Manchester from the Metrolink instead…


Categories
Food and Drink Manchester People Photography Popular culture Travel

Mancs vs Food – aka my Saucy Sunday 

Sunday, Bloody Sunday. 

You wake up in the morning, you’ve got to read all the papers, the kids are running around, you’ve got to mow the lawn, wash the car, and you think 

Sunday. Bloody Sunday

With a few adjustments to the woes listed by Alan Partridge , I often do think the same. They’re doomful. It’s a whole day off work, but laced with doom and tedium. Not to be dramatic.
However, my fellow mancs, honorary and by birth, yesterday was a different animal altogether. 

Imagine the scene. 

A bus that drives you around Manchester, dropping you off at various locations for meat treats (it rhymes, you see).

Yeah, bit odd, but yeah…

…I hear you murmur.

But wait. 
Imagine that bus but with the addition of a team of chefs cooking up a storm up top, to provide you with mouth watering meaty morsels (alliteration) as you ride between stops. 

That can’t be real, that’s insane…

I hear you mutter.
It is. But wait.

Imagine all that, all of that, with a saucy side of beers, beats and bantz! Can’t can you?! I knew it.

It happened and it happened to me one Sunday not too long ago (basically yesterday).


The good people at Meat Lust invited me to board their bus, and enjoy their Sauce & the City tour, round some of Manchester’s foodie favourites. 


The ‘dirty food’ revolution is showing no signs of slowing and an integral ingredient of any dirty dish worth its salt is its sauce. 

And us lucky carnivorous commuters couldn’t move for it on board.


It is at this point in proceedings that I should point out that all food and drink consumed was of a normal food colour. You can’t have a meat bus (it’s a bus of meat innit) without flashing lights and strobes so don’t be alarmed. 

Before we’d even set off to our first destination on the tour, we were handed an amuse bouche of beer and pulled pork nachos.


Despite the disco light disclaimer, this dish really was as pretty as it looks.

One wet wipe later and we pulled up to Crazy Pedro’s.


Braving oncoming traffic, we all bounded across Bridge Street and through the doors, for a slice of the action…


Cashew nuts, chillis and curry sauce were the stars of the show. Eye-watering for some poor, soft souls (i.e. me), the slices were hot to trot but tasty all the same. 

Before we got on the bus and caused no fuss…well basically nothing, but it’s good to paraphrase an Oasis lyric in a Manchester blog, despite the passing decades.


Anyway, fuss free, back on the bus we were handed our next meaty morsel: 


Forgive my vagueness but there was a lot of meat going down that fateful Sunday (yesterday) and so I will describe it as thus – sausage, brioche, sauces and loveliness. 

Paired with this delightful morsel, we were handed a Punk IPA as a teaser for our next stop – beer tasting at Brewdog:


Our hops host, Seb? took us through the unique history of the brewer and taught us how to taste beer. 

Sniff, sniff, sniff, sniiiiiiiff and then gulp

Naturally my gulp was more of a sip and a choke (I can’t take instruction) but I did get notes of lemons and limes, I’ll have you know. 

Also have you heard of mouthfeel? Mouthfeel. 

I don’t want to talk about it. I put that word up there with foodbaby and moist.

I’m going to admit bowing out of our beer tasting meat chaser. It’s not Meat Lust, it’s me. Parked up in Stevenson Square, even if I had got past the rabbit and black pudding (albeit wrapped in pancetta), the whipped cream would have sent me and my mouthfeel under. 

However, it has to be said that I heard a number of my fellow meatbusers that it was the best yet. More fool me. 

My photography skills of said dish matched my adventurous approach to it – woeful…


Apologies to all concerned in the making of this dish. 

It was time to move on with a lamb fajita (secret ingredient popcorn which weirdly and seriously worked) and a Tickety Brew set against a delightful denim backdrop…


Like a more civilised, less terrifying, and altogether fun version of the 192 nightbus home, spirits were high and we came to our final stop on our tour, Sugar Ray’s in the Northern Quarter.

Ray and his people specialise in dogs and waffles. Hotdogs. ‘Franks’. It took me longer than decent to work out what a frank was, it has to be said.

All this set against a Studio 54 soundtrack, it’s a great place to visit even when not being taken there on a meat bus. 



Back on the bus (despite our high spirits,  we caused no fuss), we made our way back to the depot (B.EAT St on Deansgate), it was time for our pudding. That is, a savoury pudding.

Now I had an amazing pun all lined up for this last tasting. One of my better ones. Alas, today I realised that my original play on words is the tagline for one of Manchester’s newest food outlets.

Still I’m going with it (good work Taberu).

This last saucy surprise was a fluffy steamed bun, filled with pork and spicy sauce. 

Final foodstuff? Take a bao. 


To sum up my saucy Sunday, Meat Lust served up a top three hour tour filled with mouthwatering meat, fine Manchester beats, a generous serving of bus beers and plenty of onboard laughs along the way.
Sticky fingers crossed, the tour returns to Manchester again soon.


For now, enjoy all the saucy deets

Categories
Culture Fitness Manchester Photography Travel Uncategorized

Manchester on my lunch hour

Manchester, you’re killing me man, you’re killing me. Your 50% off food this, and 50% off food that…well it’s February now so…deal with that. Manchester.

Like a cliche, a glorious cliche, I was battling all the 50% off restaurant shenanigans as I resolved away, this January, and opted for the rare and untapped resolution that is to be more healthy. 

Healthy – yes, you heard right! Where do I get my imagination from? 

Aiding me in my bid has been my trusty Fitbit and on a none gym day, decided to veer from the treadmill to  tread past many a mill (Yes. Oh yes.) and take my steps to the streets of our glorious Manchester. 


Laughing in the face of the pusher, I took an amble along the canal towpath and enjoyed one of the best lunch hours (techically lunch hour and 20 minutes) of my career. 

Where old meets new, goose meets duck (fight!) and street art sits alongside many a sign telling me to watch my head, this was

Manchester on my lunch hour…


Magic…

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Manchester Travel Uncategorized

Palace Hotel – put on the red light 

The clock tower and red neon is synonymous with sweeping camera shots of Manchester. It used to be, anyway. Whistling Beetham Tower has taken over. And soon, its sister. Its massive sister.


In fact red neon adorned buildings used to be the thing. My old employer and first love Granada TV and its lettering used to welcome you into the city (assuming you were arriving on the train. From a certain direction).


Now that’s gone (sniff).

However the Palace Hotel and its neon and its tower remains and has a new lease of life.

credit : PH Hotels

 

Bit of brief history (thanks Wiki) on the building which the hotel is nicely bringing to the fore in its rebrand and furbishment:

  • Originally built as offices for Refuge Assurance
  • Opened in 1895
  • Grade II listed
  • Removated in 1912 and 1932
  • Refuge Assurance went away
  • 1994 PH Hotels bought the buildings and away they went

all the deets

Honorary Manc didn’t infiltrate the city proper until 2000. This is my excuse for not actually realising that the building hasn’t always been a hotel. Maybe not always but definitely for at least longer than just over 20 years. My actual Manc husband apparently did know this, highlighting his authenticity and my own outsider status.


Anyway I’ve stayed in my share of hotels in Manchester, but never here. And to be honest, it was getting a reputation for being a bit tired and little more than a hub for conveyer belt office Christmas parties.

But it’s had a £7 million makeover befitting of its architectural beauty and it’s just lovely.


Two things struck me from my night’s stay; the service and the lighting but more about the latter later (more being some pictures, basically).

They’ve kept the doorman who is bedecked in tweed and flat cappage which, don’t worry, is a nod to its Victorian heritage rather than to being grim up north and pigeons and to quote Partridge;

cotton and guns

The lobby is grand and the welcome is to match.

I’ve stayed in hotels where my bags have been taken to my room both accompanying me and arriving later. The loveliness and convenience oft in direct relation to my usual tipping tensions – is it enough? Is it too much? Am I meant to do a silly secret handshake to secrete said tip?

Anyway, on this occasion, I was accompanied in the lift and all the way to my room by a lady. Despite my usual concerns over whether I should speak to her and, if so, what about…

Do you like cheese?

Ooh that ruddy rain, eh

Anyway I had no bag to carry, no awkward exchange in the room – I was simply shown to it, door opened, left to enjoy my stay.

On that theme our friends, upon arrival, were shown to the bar where we were waiting (research), upon leaving we were shown out (consensually).

The rooms are Victorian luggage chic. They just are. It’s a thing. I reckon.

There’s a fridge containing complimentary water and fresh milk and enough room to store your bottle of champagne – granted we had to remove a shelf (carefully and yes it twas though it had never been removed by checking out time – I’m not an animal) 


I really enjoyed the lighting, good lighting.


The bathroom; a masterclass in Victorian elegance (granted the discretionary 21st century necessity thrown in, courtesy of Neal’s Yard and the shower):

the royal wee – sorry my level of taste will always give way to a good pun opp

The Palace Hotel actually does three things well: showing, lighting and water.

Upon check-out we were asked if we would like to take a bottle of water with us. Would I? The previous night I had forgotten myself attending an indie disco until 4am, if you please.

Yes. Yes I would.

Reader? It was cold. Water never tasted so good.

As with all good amateur writers and reviewers, I timed my stay to coincide with the new bar and restaurant not yet being open for a couple of weeks. However, the bar that was open was lovely, grand and you could spend hours choosing between the various styles of sofas and chairs.

Naturally I chose the sofa that I was later to awkwardly depart with the grace of Bernard Bresslaw in drag.

So I’ve ticked off my second red neoned building in my career as a Manchester  dweller.

Any talk of my having ticked off a third are pure rumour and heed should not be paid.

Rude.

Categories
Food and Drink Hotels Manchester Travel Uncategorized

Hotel Football (bloody hell*)

First job is to clarify I’m not a red. I’m not even a blue. I’m a blue and white halves. Declaring yourself as an honorary manc is one thing. Should this be extended to declaring yourself to be an honorary Manchester United fan is simply just… I was going to say ‘glory hunting’ but I forgot about…

My husband (let’s call him the Rabid Mime) is a red and for that reason I thought I’d give him the honour of spending Valentine’s Day with two things he loves: Old Trafford and Vimto (you get free fizzy Vimto!).

 

mini-bar with free sweeties

 

Should you want to, and can, ignore the big football stadium next door, Manchester United is not in your face. To be honest there is a thrill involved in opening your curtains to this view, no matter what your persuasion.

 

Morning glory (glory Man Utd…)

 

It would be foolish to not extend the brand to football in general, so as not to limit its appeal, and from the Panini sticker book decor in the corridors to the beguiling artwork in the bar, the hotel celebrates the beautiful game well but not too well, if you see what I mean.

 

“Bobby Moore wasn’t ginger.” “Yes he was?!”

 

Basic housekeeping – check in was swift, polite (allowing us into our room a couple of hours early), the room was great and, well, the housekeeping actually not so basic. I’ll be bold and even say ‘good’. Lovely comfy bed and Sky Sports in abundance on the TV (yay…).

bet you thought you’d have to sleep under a giant Man U top – you don’t

 

hair left lovely, soft and clean by number 2…

 

an early shower worth fighting for

 

Brief foray into Cafe…Football, yes, for some Valentine’s dining. Once we’d stopped basically just listing chocolate bars, we took the time to order. My overriding memory is my glee at the notion of a three pie starter.

count ’em

 

birds in a basket

 

All in all, it’s a very nice hotel, good at its usp and you feel very well looked after. Watch the prices as they fluctuate, depending on what the neighbours are upto.

To paraphrase the late, great George Best, we spent (not a) lot of money at Hotel Football on booze, birds in a basket and pies. The rest we just squandered.

*someone please get this