A January 2005 trip
to Manchester by nickyjj
Quote: Manchester is the UK's second-largest city and has undergone a Renaissance in recent years with great activities for children and adults!
Hotel | "Renaissance"
Check-in begins at 2pm, although we arrived at 11:30am and were able to go into our room straight away. Check-out from the room had to be by noon.
The room we had was quite spacious and decorated in a light, airy style with flowered bedspreads. Everything in the room was very clean and tidy, and the room was well kept, although not quite as luxurious as other Marriott and Renaissance hotels I have stayed in.
Our room featured two quite spacious double beds, as well as a small lounge area that had a coffee table and two-seater sofa. The room had quite a large television with satellite TV (free) and movies you could pay for (I think there were six on offer!). The room also featured quite a large desk with a good desk light, as well as air-conditioning, a kettle, and tea and coffeemaking facilities (I especially liked the Renaissance-branded coffee mugs!) A nice touch was the bathrobe, which was new and fluffy, as were the towels.
Eating and drinking:
The hotel has a nice-looking restaurant called Robbies, which is a steakhouse featuring a wide variety of other dishes as well. We didn't eat in the restaurant for dinner, but enjoyed a snack in the bar, which was excellent and very reasonably priced. We also enjoyed the continental breakfast, which was very good, with a wide choice of pastries, fruits, drinks, and breads.
The bar has a Scottish theme and features a very wide range of whiskies and Scottish drinks. It is a very comfortable bar with big, comfy leather armchairs. Drinks are quite reasonably priced and comparable for city-centre hotels.
I booked via the Marriott website, and the cost for a double room per night (room only) was £129. If you are not too choosy according to the date you stay, there are plenty of good offers to be had. You can also ring the hotel to negotiate a deal, but I have always found when staying at Marriott hotels and resorts that the best deals are available online.
It's located less than 5 minutes away from the Manchester Victoria train station on foot and 15 minutes on foot from the Piccadilly train station (5 minutes by car).
Parking is included in the room price and is in an NCP car park located right next door. Valet parking is also available at a charge (approximately £4 per day).
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 17, 2005
Restaurant | "The Living Room"
As you enter on the ground floor you are in the bar area which is known as the Living Room. Here you can eat during the day (you can also opt to eat upstairs in the dining room, but you tend to need to book more often than not to eat upstairs) as well as enjoy the wide range of drinks and the great coffee. The prices are pretty much in line with most other city centre bars.
Upstairs is the dining room, which is fitted with spacious tables, as well as smaller, more intimate booths of white leather.
Cool and contemporary is perhaps the best way of describing the decor of the living room. Throughout the whole restaurant, there is lots of wood and pale cream colours that give the whole place a feeling of space and tranquility--it seems to me to be styled around a Caribbean apartment with modern twists. The whole effect is great and works really well in my opinion, as it is not overly fussy but equally not too modern or clinical.
I have had drinks in the Living Room on many occasions as it is one of 'the' places to go. It used to be one of the favourite hangouts of David Beckham when he played for Manchester United.
I have always found the staff in the Living Room to be excellent, well-educated, helpful, and knowledgeable about the service and food they provide (although I did have one waitress who couldn't make her mind up whether she had given us the right order and swapped it twice, although it was her first day!!).
The menu here is quite varied. For lunchtime offerings, they have a range of sandwiches and salads. The Caesar salad (around £7) is great and comes served with a poached egg and bacon as a bit of a twist. They also do a very nice range of burgers as well as more classic dishes such as bangers 'n' mash, lasagne, and cottage pie.
The menu changes here very often, so it's a good option to try new things if you eat out a lot.
They also offer an extensive wine menu with a bottle of house wine starting from just under £11 which is really good for this type of place.
I think that they menu is really varied and will suit most people. Although you will find most of the things on the menu in other places, the Living Room is good at putting their own little twist on things!
Manchester, England M3 2ER
+44 161 832 0083
Restaurant | "Hard Rock Cafe"
The Hard Rock Cafe has a prime location on one side of Printworks and is accessible from the main road. If you want to have a drink, then it is only a 2-minute walk from the Victoria train station, which has great local and national train access and access to the tram system.
What is it like inside?
I like the rock' n' roll style, and you can see their motif, "Love All - Serve All," on everything, from the walls to the menus. You enter the lower area where the bar and shop are located and then move up some stairs to the main dining room (although I think you can eat at the bar). Trying to go all cosmopolitan and continental, there are tables and chairs outside, but I have yet to see anyone sitting at them, regardless of the time of day or year!
They have loads of music memorable on the walls, and it is decked out very coolly, American style with lots of darkish wood everywhere. It is a bit dark, though, as it is not the world's most spacious restaurant!
Sitting upstairs in the restaurant is also good, as it allows you to get a good look at the bar area and what else is going on! The first time I ever ate here was a bit of a shock, as they had a great big charity pin drive on. There are (according to what the waitress told me!) hundreds of Hard Rock pin badges that people trade around the world, and all the Hard Rock Cafes have their own trading sessions - we were eating in the middle of one of them! The hostess was very nice about it, though, and moved us to a quieter corner of the restaurant so that we would not have our meal continually interrupted by enthusiastic pin traders!
What's the food like?
Most of the menu consists of burgers and fries and such (always reminds me of places like TGI Friday's and Planet Hollywood), as well as salads and basic pasta dishes
I have tried the burgers, and they are good (and come with a good range of options, including about six or seven different choices of cheese): you need to be a decisive person to eat here!! I also highly recommend the potato wedges. (This is not a place to eat if you are on a diet, as it mainly has American-style, fattier foods, but they do offer healthy options and a range of vegetarian dishes!)
Hard Rock Cafe Manchester
The Printworks, Exchange Square
Manchester, England M4 2BS
+44 161 831 6700
The store is within easy walking distance of Victoria train station, and many buses stop here (Cross Street). You can also use the M&S car park (off Deansgate), which is located underneath both stores.
For men, they have a wide range of makes, including Ted Baker, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Paul Smith, etc., and they also have quite a good formal section with very knowledgeable staff able to help you find the 'perfect' suit for work (and if not a new pair of jeans!)
They have an excellent selection of shoes (for both men and women) and a really cool trainer section that certainly offers more than your average pair of Nike or Reeboks.
For women they offer a massive range of clothing as they for men, but again it seems to be tailored at the younger end of the market and includes makes such as Ted Baker at the casual end of the market as well as much more dressy items for nights out!
As you enter the store the ground floor is taken up by leather goods including a massive range of makes such as Burberry and Louis Vitton (which offers its own separate boutique area).
For the home?
They also offer a range of gadget type items for the home, especially the kitchen and you can spend hours trying out different bits for around the home! One thing that caught my eye at Christmas (not sure why) was a designer rolling pin... Maybe that's taking things a bit too far!
The food hall located on the lower ground floor is amazing and offer some of the best ranges of fresh food that you will find anywhere! The bakery section is fantastic with a range of bread and pastries to make your mouth water just looking at them!
There's also a great range of choices to eat in the food hall with lots of little sit down bars offering everything from cheese and wine to sushi! Most dishes are made in front of you by counter chefs so you can really ensure that you get a meal that you want as well as being involved in cooking it!
At Christmas time, they always stock a really varied range of unusual gifts, whether it be chocolate and sweets from around the world or fuzzy slippers that you can't get anywhere else! They always have a really unusual selection of gift items which makes it a great place to shop if you are looking for a more unusual gift.
Kendals is located on Deansgate and is right in the heart of the city and near to other shopping areas. Within a five-minute walk of Kendals, you will find other massive names such as Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, and Marks and Spencer.
A very wide range of all perfumery and cosmetic items tat you will need. They offer a good range of special offers on makes and have selected fragrances making special appearances here (ie special displays etc). On the ground floor you will also find a wide range of leather good including Burberry and Fiorelli.
Lower ground floor and annex
Here you will find everything for the modern man, and they stock a massive selection of designer-casual makes, including Ralph Lauren (now mini-store), Fahri, Paul Smith, DKNY, and French Connection.
One the first floor you will find clothing for younger women including makes such as French Connection, Oasis, Levis, and Diesel, etc. Not sure if it is me getting older, but it always seems to be very noisy on this floor! They always have younger shop assistants on this floor, and they are very knowledgeable about the products they are selling.
On the second and third floor, they have clothing for older women and I have never really ventured on these floors but I believe that they offer a very good range of clothing and shoes!
For the home:
Home goods is where Kendals comes into its own I think as it is such a large store that it is able to carry a very wide range items. Electrical good etc are on the 6th floor and all the main makes are offered here including the latest technology including TVs, videos, DVDs and music systems.
For furniture, they offer everything from bedrooms down to lighting and carpets over three floors in the store. They have a great range of items for every room in the home. I have just refurbished two bedrooms and bought most items from here: although items are not cheap the store offers quality products and a good money back/exchange policy.
Where to eat?
There are four cafe/restaurants throughout the store. My favourite is the ground floor coffee shop which offers a great range of sandwiches and pastries and serves excellent coffee. It's very fast service, so it's ideal for lunch times when you are working or even shopping and don't have much time!
Manchester, England M60 3AU
+44 161 832 3414
Attraction | "Waterstones Booksellers"
Waterstones does not offer huge discounts such as other book retailers like WH Smith do, but the store in Manchester is the largest book store in Manchester, as well as one of the largest in the northwest, and offers a great range of fiction and non-fiction titles, including some books that are hard to find in other places!
The ground and first floors offer a great range of fiction including Waterstones bestsellers, the Richard and Judy Book Club, and much more. There is an impressive range of foreign titles and staff picks dotted throughout the store. The store is trendy and modern, with knowledgeable staff in a comfy atmosphere. Lots of comfy seating areas mean that you can browse through books uninterrupted, and you can also take a break in the Costa Café bar on the first floor.
The travel section is excellent and up-to-date, with a great range of books on the UK, as well as international travel, and there’s a good range of travel writing too.
If you enjoy reading non-fiction or require books for study or work, then the store offers a fantastic range of books on a whole range of subjects with notable categories being business, education, arts related books, management, and information technology.
The children’s section is huge and offers a great range of tactile books for babies through to the latest best-selling children’s and young adult authors.
The bookstore also offers a good range of literature related gifts including calendars, cards and booklets, as well as a good range of books focusing on England and the northwest. There’s also a good programme of author visits with tickets being free or a minimal admission charge. Recent authors have included Bill Bryson.
If you can’t find what you are looking for, there is a book-ordering service, and the out-of-print book search is fast and efficient, with no postage costs if you collect from a Waterstones branch.
There are branches dotted throughout the country and you can also order online at www.waterstones.co.uk (this is an affiliation with www.amazon.co.uk, so you can shop on Amazon and find exactly the same products at the same prices).
Waterstones 3-for-2 offers on popular fiction books
Great selection on children’s and teenage books
Good selection of foreign titles
Great travel section
Good selection of U.S. fiction, including crime
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 23, 2005
Manchester, England M3 2BW
+44 161 832 1992
Restaurant | "White Hart Inn (The)"
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on December 5, 2005
White Hart Inn
Stockport Road, Lydgate Oldham
Manchester, England OL4 4JJ
+44 1457 872566
In addition, you can walk on foot and visit the wooden built platforms that act as the viewing areas. These also contain binoculars, for which there is a small fee (payable there).
The main reason that I was interested in visiting the aviation park was to visit Concorde, always wishing that I had flown on it when it was in service and now very much regretting not having done it! The very first thing to note when visiting Concorde is that yes, it is part of the aviation park, and yes, you do have to pay to get into the aviation park to see Concorde (see below), BUT you also have to pay to get onto Concorde, you can only visit on select days throughout the year, and you do have to pre-book!! (When I visited, there were LOTS of disappointed people, as they could not get to see inside the Concorde).
How does it work?
Check out the Manchester Airport website for dates that Concorde is open, as well as booking information, but basically the Concorde tour appears to be operated by a voluntary origination, and as such, it is only open on very select weekends through the year (these tend to be mainly bank holidays, etc., such as Easter). Check the Manchester Airport website for the link to available dates, as well as booking. The basic cost when I visited was £10 per person, and there is a number to call to book via the website. It is quite hard to get hold of the gentleman who takes bookings, but if you leave a message, he does get back to you! He then reserves the date and time of your visit, you send a cheque, and then he sends out confirmation including souvenir tickets, guide leaflet, and directions. All very simple!
The tour itself starts with a historical video about Concorde, which takes 20 minutes or so. Each tour is assigned a guide, and there were no more than 10 people in our group, meaning that there were plenty of opportunities to ask questions and find out more about Concorde. After the video and a few initial questions, you are guided to the outside of Concorde, where you spend another twenty minutes or so walking around the undercarriage, finding out about the engines and building of Concorde and other strange facts, such as how small the cargo hold is!
You then enter the plane, and the guide explains the inside of the cabin to you, including which was the favourite seat of the Queens (think it was 1A), as well as pointing out where other famous celebrities and dignitaries have sat on the plane (I ended up sitting in the same seat as Bill Clinton).
You can have a small walk around the cabin, which is quite small and more fashioned than you would imagine (much less luxurious as well, but I guess that you certainly get speed over luxury) before you are allowed a few minutes on the flight deck with another guide who highlights some of the literally thousand so of buttons on the deck.
Once you have seen the flight deck, you leave the plane and are free to look around further outside the plane.
I very much enjoyed the tour which lasted approximately one hour. All of the guides were very knowledgeable and offered a fascinating insight into the working life of Concorde and focussed very much on interesting rather than technological facts. Definitely worth a visit and good value for money!
You can now get married on Concorde (think this costs more than £10 but a few weddings have now taken place so ask your guide for more information!!
What else is there to do?
Not that much really as the main attraction these days does appear to be the Concorde plane. There is a Monarch 'half plan' (i.e. the front end of the plane) which I think is possibly some sort of training facility although this wasn't open to the public when I visited the viewing park. When I visited in 2004, there was also one small fighter-type plane, although I am not sure exactly what sort of plane this was!
I think that when you visit, you will basically be able to see one or two planes other than Concorde, although you can only view these planes from the outside and will not be able to board them.
When we visited there was one small burger bar that served hot and cold drinks and basic snack food. This refreshment stand does kind of have a captive audience, but the food looked okay and did seem to be reasonably priced. There was also an ice cream stand, although I am assuming that this is more of a weather-dependent feature!
There are ample toilet facilities that are well-kept and clean. There are facilities for people with disabilities.
There is a well-sized port cabin shop that offers a wide range of aviation-related merchandise, including current books and magazines. There are lots of cheaper items for kids, including a very wide selection of model planes. There also lots of souvenir items such as postcards and, when I visited, LOTS of Concorde-related merchandise, including pens and stationery and cups. It's a well-stocked shop with friendly and knowledgeable staff, and I am sure that anyone will find a bit of something they wish to buy (but then again, that's kind of the idea I am sure!!)
As well as visiting Concorde, you can just visit the aviation park, which will you pay per car to get it. The basic cost is £3 per car, which includes the driver, and then £1 per additional passenger. I think that minivans, etc., are priced around £10 plus.
Who's it for and accessibility?
I would say that the aviation park would definitely appeal to anyone who has any interest in planes, but even if you are not a big fan of planes, it is absolutely fascinating to watch the speed at which tiny planes and big Boeing 747s whiz in and out of Manchester Airport, and if you visit at peak time, I think that there is a plane every two minutes or so!
You definitely need to try and visit here when the weather is nice, as there are not many places to shelter or hide if it was bounding down with rain! If it's sunny, there are also some grassed areas that the kids can run some steam off on! Beware, though, that there are always lots of cars in the car park, so keep kids close by if you're near moving traffic!
As far as I am aware, the majority of the viewing park would be accessible to people in wheelchairs. There are disabled toilets. However, I do not think that people in wheelchairs would be able to gain access to Concorde.
Anything else around there?
If you are travelling a long way to visit the aviation park, then Manchester Airport, with its three terminals, including shops and restaurants, may be worth a visit. I would highly recommend the walk from between terminals one and two along the mile-long glass-covered walkway. It's a great chance to stretch your legs, and kids love the moving pavements. There's even a Marks and Spencer and a railway station in between! Short-stay car parking is available at all the three terminals.
I would recommends logging into the Manchester Airport website for directions or using an online map such as multimap to gain directions to the airport. Once you are 1 mile or so from the airport then you can just follow the brown signs to the viewing park. The main airport is the M56 (not sure of the junction number!) and it only takes five minutes or so once you leave the motorway to arrive at the viewing park.
I am not too sure about public transport, as I don't think that there are buses here, but there is a railway station in between terminals 1 and 2 at the airport, with trains that run from Manchester City Centre.
What do they sell?
John Lewis is a large department store that basically sells everything under the sun! They sell a wide range of good-value makes, as well as more popular designer articles. The prices are comparable at John Lewis with elsewhere, the John Lewis motto is "never knowingly undersold," and they do offer a price match promise (although I think that this excludes online shopping). The store also has two sales (called stock clearances) in January and the summer, and you can normally pick up some great furniture bargains at this time.
John Lewis in Cheadle is split on three floors. Starting in the basement, you find men's clothing. Here, they sell an okay-ish range of men’s clothing, although this is getting better all of the time. The largest brand they sell is Guise, which is an in-house make; although Guise clothes are never going to set the fashion worlds blazing, they do offer a good value for your money and a wide range of casual and more formal clothes for men. The men's department offers a good range of causal clothes and does lots of holiday-type summer clothes in the right season. Some makes stocked include French Connection, Ted Baker, Reis, Tommy Hilfiger, and Polo/Ralph Lauren. They also do a good range of formal wear, including shorts, suits, etc., from makes such as Pierre Cardin, Daniel Hechter, etc.
John Lewis furniture is also on the ground floor, and they have a great range of kitchens, electrical goods for the home, bedroom furniture, garden furniture, painting and decorating equipment, bathrooms, and much, much more!! Basically, if you are after a good-quality make of household item (e.g. Miele washing machine), then John Lewis offers a very knowledgeable staff, prices that match the quality items, and a very wide selection!
They also have a great TV and DVD electrical department that also features mobiles, landline phones, and PCs. The department is not huge, so there isn't a never-ending selection, but they do have the latest models and frequently introduce newer products. John Lewis also stocks lots of accessories such as cords, SCAT leads, etc., truly making it a one-stop shop!
Here is householder’s dream as you wander the wild and the exotic, like carpets and flooring, lampshades, ready-made bedding and curtains, rolls upon rolls of material (literally hundreds of them!!), and washing liquid! You really do find anything and everything on this floor, and here's my best-guess list of all it has to offer from memory:
Carpets, rugs, curtains (ready-made), glasses, crockery, pots and pans, bathroom accessories, fiction and non-fiction books, wrapping paper, cards, games, jigsaws, food processors, kettles, kitchen appliances, vacuum cleaners, clocks, light fittings, batteries, curtain poles, cleaning materials, heaters, presents and gifts, snacks, towels, hair dryers etc.
If you are after good-quality items for your home, then John Lewis offers a very wide-ranging stock of the usual and more unusual items that you will need! They have a great range of materials, including all the associated bits that you will need and a great selection of pictures and mirrors.
The first floor is the ladies’ domain, dominated by the latest ladies’ fashions from Kookai, Coast, Mexx, Gerry Weber, MaxMara, Betty Barclay, and so much more! Sorry that I don't know more about what this floor has to offer, but there does seem to be a good mix of fashions for old and young, including shoes and accessories such as handbags and purses. There is also a big children's clothing department and baby area with clothing, accessories, necessities, and furniture; a friend of mine swears by the JL baby department!
Here you will also find a well-stocked perfume/make-up area, although JL offers a refreshing treat in that this does not dominate half of the store! Here, you will find the usual wide range of aftershaves and perfumes from all your favourite designers, such as Hugo Boss, Dior, Chanel etc., as well as good range of Molton Brown products (one of my favourites!). The first floor also offers a good sized haberdashery department, as well as a great sunglass, jewellery and a watch counter that has great designer makes such as Gucci, D&G, etc.
The Cheadle stores features two cafés/restaurants, the first being located just outside the main store on the ground floor in the space between Sainsbury's and John Lewis. In this café, you will find a good range of snacks and cakes, including sandwiches and hot and cold drinks. The café is more of a stop-off for a quick bite of lunch rather than somewhere you would sit leisurely for hours.
The store is open between 9am and 8pm Monday to Saturday and 11am to 5pm on Sunday. As the store is out of the city centre, there is plenty of free parking, and at the Cheadle store, you will conveniently find a Sainsbury's store located next to JL, as well as Tesco, Marks, and Spencer located a 5-minute drive away at Handforth Dean.
John Lewis has a comprehensive website that features online ordering as well as lots of corporate information, including recruitment if you fancy working at one of the stores! The website contains the opening hours of the individual stores, as well as listing the main product lines that they sell and directions to the store.
Manchester, United Kingdom