We arrived in Manchester from Belfast on the evening of May 5th 2014. Here we had our first and hopefully last bad experience with AirBnB. We had previously made arrangements to stay at an AirBnB house here, but when we arrived at the house, no one was home and we were unable to get the phone number we were provided to work in order to call them. We waited around for about a half hour with anxiety building and finally decided that we should head back towards the city center and find a hotel. Since it was a weekend most places we tried were full, but after a bit of searching we were able to find a hotel not far from the city center with a room available. As luck would have it, Jocelyn had previously made some contacts through the Co-Op in Rochdale near Manchester in regards to finding a place to stay with someone locally. We got in touch with a wonderful woman named Zatoon who had us stay at her place for the remaining two days we had in Manchester. The hospitality she showed us was great and she really helped us get to know the Manchester area and England in general from a locals perspective. Thank you so much Zatoon!
Our first full day in Manchester, we got settled into Zatoon’s place and then took the bus back into the city center to do some exploring. Manchester is really a neat city with tons of Victorian architecture and a less touristy, more gritty/real feeling than a lot of the more touristy areas of London, etc. We walked along the canals and ended up in the Manchester “Gay Village”. This place was interesting with a couple of blocks that seemed to be a non-stop street party with bars and tables outside along the canal. The city seems to take a certain amount of pride in it as well with street signs that look to be put there by the city announcing when you’ve entered the village. We saw a group of men in kilts doing what looked to me like a Victorian line dance to live music and also stumbled across a “Village People” (as in the 70′s band) festival happening in the park and watched a drag queen perform some jazz tunes for a while. Definitely interesting. From there, we went to the China Town district of Manchester and had some dinner before heading back to Zatoon’s to turn in for the night.
Our second day in Manchester we started out the day at the People’s History Museum. This museum has a really interesting and refreshing perspective that differs from a lot of the museums you will see. Whereas most museums focus on the lives and politics of kings and the upper classes, this one is all about the working classes in Manchester and their struggles for democracy, decent wages, and better working conditions. Next, we went to the Museum of Science and Industry. This was also a very impressive and interesting museum. They had all kinds of exhibits about the machinery and the science that powered the industrial revolution. Highlights for me included seeing a working recreation of the first programmable computer called “Baby”, and the “Power Hall” where they had all kinds of working steam and other types of engines that powered the mills of Manchester throughout the industrial revolution. Our last day in Manchester we went to a suburb of Manchester called Rochdale. This was where the first consumer Co-Op was formed in 1844 to give the factory workers pouring into the city access to affordable and wholesome food. As such it holds a lot of interest for Jocelyn given her deep involvement with our local Co-Op in Portland. We went to the Rochdale Pioneers Museum which occupies the same building where the Co-Op first opened it’s doors in 1844. This was very interesting and highly reccommended if you’re into Co-Ops and are in the Manchester area.
From Rochdale we got on the train to London to return for our second time on this trip. The reason we came back to London is that we wanted to see a play at Shakespeare’s Globe theater and it doesn’t start having shows until May. This time we stayed at a hostel close to St. Pauls cathedral and the Globe theater. St. Paul’s cathedral is an amazing building a really great thing to see first thing each day when leaving the hostel. The play at the Globe was a really awesome experience. We saw Titus Andronicus and got tickets on the floor. These are the best seats in the house in my opinion. If you don’t mind standing for three hours, it puts you right up next to the stage right in the thick of the action. The actors also came out onto the floor a lot and there was a lot of audience participation. You feel like you’re actually part of the play instead of a mere spectator. It kind of felt like being at a rock concert in a lot of ways. Really, really fun and highly reccommended. The floor tickets are also very cheap at only five pounds.
This concludes our time in Ireland and the UK, and now we’re off to sunny Barcelona, Spain!