It's Christmas!

I've been travelling to Manchester for several months and watched the seasons. Now it was the time of the Christmas Market.

It's Christmas!

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by MichaelJM on November 28, 2007

As most of my time in Manchester is spent in hotels, restaurants or at work I thought I’d record a few of the best quotes I’ve heard.

When ordering my poached eggs one morning I wanted a bit of a delay before they were served so I asked for two poached eggs to be served in 5 minutes. I was settling down at my table with a bowl of cereal and a strong coffee when the waitress approached me with the key question: “did you want 5 poached eggs in two minutes or was it two eggs in five minutes.” I’m still not sure if she was winding me up!

A middle-aged individual was being questioned by a police officer and a store security guard and the conversation went something like this: "whilst shopping in the store were you approached earlier by a stranger" asked the police officer. "Certainly not" replied the woman "I don't know any strangers!"

I heard a sad exchange between a couple of students who had bought there Christmas Tree early and then were sadly discussing how they'd manage financially over Christmas. I shoudn'y have eavesdropped but the story was particularly poignant. They were living on the financial edge and there choice was to spend Christmas, together in Manchester or return to family.

But staying in Manchester meant that they'd need to fend for themselves and they'd therefore have to work "24/7" to enjoy the festive season. "That's no fun" the male remarked "we'd never see each other. We may as well go home, not see each other and yet be financially solvent. How about we celebrate Christmas in the New Year and off load this damn tree!" Christmas ain't always fun, is it?

I've found Manchester folk to be "reet friendly" and I guess my biggest surprise has been that the town has failed to live up to its myth that it's always raining. I bought an umbrella when rain was threatened and so far I've only seen about ten minutes of rain in the whole of my time in this City. I just love the openness of the place and as long as I keep away from the known trouble districts (all towns have them) I reckon I will continue to enjoy my stays over in Manchester.${QuickSuggestions} The lead up to Christmas is real busy in Manchster. The university students are still in town (they're the ones who are keeping the extra services going in shops, restaurants and hotels)and they bring a night time vibrancy to the place. But of course with Christmas fairs and exhibitions the hotels tend to be much busier and, of course they stick up their prices accordingly (supply and demand they argue). So if you're going this time of year book in a month or so in advance (most inner city hotels don't expect a deposit and as long as you cancel the day before they'll be no charge if you change your mind.

There's no shortage of available pamphlets on things to do in and around Manchester and so it's well worth contacting the tourist information office or popping down to the foyer of your hotel which will, I'm sure, have information avbout what's on, where. You'l find this at the Town Hall extension building on lloyd Street, just off St Peter's Square. It's open 7 days a week and I've always found the staff to be helpful as I rummage around for things that might me happening on the one night I stay there.

If you're in to the theatre then Manchester is awash with theatres and the town does a good theatre guide pamplet.

Of course preparing yourself in advance of your trip is always the best policy and Manchester's own internet guide to City is an ideal starting place. Check out the site on, for information.

If you're wanting the shops then there's no shortage her in Manchester with the Arndale Shopping Centre dominating the centre. It's a asfe, cheerful and easy place to get around and the shops stay open until at least 8.00 p.m.

But shopping isn't my favourite occupation and if you're like me there's plenty of other things to catch your attention whlist your better half takes off with your credit card.

People had made quite disparaging remarks about the City's canal district as it's best known as "the gay centre" of the town. I checked it out andfound it to be a lively zone that really feels safe and friendly. A lot of money has been spent down the canal area and I'd commend a walk olong the banks. There are loads of interesting buildings and decent pubs and restaurants on route.${BestWay} Getting around the City is real easy. The City Centre itself is highly walkable with a number of “traffic restricted areas” in a fairly confined area all on the flat. The pavements are broad and well maintained with good access for anyone with a disability and I’ve walked around at various times in the day and evening and never felt vulnerable or at risk. That’s not to say that you don’t need to be aware and although there are plenty of “street beggars” none of them have seemed to be predatory. <br/><br/>The City has a fairly sophisticated tram system which provides frequent trains across the town. I enjoy a trip on the trams as the do the whole range; inner City, underground and open countryside. They’re quick, efficient and reliable and the detailed “maps of their route” will easily help you plan your journey.<br/><br/>I’ve also found it real easy to get around on the City’s bus services. Once again these seem to run really frequently but unlike the trams you may find that these journeys are subject to delay through the sheer volume of traffic. They don’t have the priority afforded to trams. If you're in town for any length of time it may be worth your while checking out the various fare deals that are available. There's a a free and comprehensive booklet that's available from the train and bus stations that identifies the advantages of the special fares, but as an example a £3 day ticket will give you unlimited off peak travel for a 24 hour period. With average fare around the £1 mark you'll soon get value for money. You can get similar exclusive deals for the tram, but to take full advantage you'll need a combined day saver ticket. <br/><br/>Of course if you’re unsure where you’re going there’s always the local taxi service. These are readily available and even the taxi queues at the busy train stations seem to be processed very quickly. Indeed I have never waited for more than 5 minutes for a cab. It’s always worth asking the cab driver for the number of the “dial a cab” service. I’ve used this a couple of times and found them to be real responsive and efficient. <br/>


Member Rating 3 out of 5 by MichaelJM on November 28, 2007

It wasn't even close to Christmas food but I’d spotted the Livebait restaurant on an earlier visit to the City Centre and as I was in the mood for a fishy meal I opted to try it out. Livebait is a swish looking restaurant just off Albert Square in the shadow of the Town Hall. It’s got a classical feel to the place with a large room divided by various levels and waist height rails. The tables were simply laid but there was a sense of class about it and the waiters were smartly attired in black and white.

They offer a two course meal for £12.95 and despite the waiter’s attempt to seduce me into buying one of the specials I stuck to my inclination to go with the set meal. The menu isn’t large but each of the dishes sounded tasty and “interesting”.

They sell Boddington’s on draught (a locally brewed ale which is popularly sold throughout the U.K.) and in the absence of any alternative I ordered a pint. It turned out not to be the cheapest of pints – indeed at over £3 a pint I could have ordered a couple of pints in the nearby hostelry for the same price.

The waiter was somewhat sycophantic, or perhaps he was just over attentive, and was constantly checking that everything was OK. After a time that really annoys me but I smiled courageously and suffered his attention. I began with a goat’s cheese starter (although whilst waiting for it to arrive I munched on some bread and a nicely flavoured fish spread) and the presentation of the dish was real nice. A couple of rounds of cheese were balanced on toast and surrounded a very tasty salad of lettuce and red onions garnished with a few portions of dissected grapes. The combination of flavours was great and I felt quite chuffed with my choice.

For my main course I’d picked a traditional fish and chips with a side dish of mushy peas. There wasn’t a great gap between the two courses (not a problem for a lone diner) and I was soon greedily tucking into the meal. To begin with I thought it was exceptionally tasty, but after a while I decided that the batter was somewhat soggy and the chips a little bland. Indeed I couldn’t be sure but I reckon the chips were probably frozen. I didn’t enjoy the tartar sauce and the mushy peas were verging on the tasteless. Initially I thought it was my taste-buds recovering from a recent cold, but after I’d paid I noticed a couple of other tables hadn’t eaten all their fish and chips either.

Normally I would have made some comment or other but I was somewhat thrown by the price of the meal. The charges were perfectly correct but at almost £20 it was horrendously overpriced and I am absolutely sure that I won’t be returning to this place for another meal.
Livebait Manchester
22 Lloyd Street, Albert Square
Manchester, England, M2 5WA
+44 1618174110

Rajdoot Tandoori

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MichaelJM on December 5, 2007

I fancied an Indian and had seen this restaurant on a number of occasions, but had always presumed it was expensive. It was Egon Ronay rated from 1968 – 97 and is well sited on Albert Square overlooking the Christmas Market. On checking out the menu it seemed that a meal here was extremely competitively priced so I descended the short stair case into the basement restaurant.

It was fairly quiet, with more waiting staff than diners and I was escorted to a low table in the lounge area of the restaurant. Enticingly there were spicy nuts on the table and I decided on a pint of cobra whilst waiting. The beer isn’t cheap (just over £3 a pint) but it seems par for the course in Manchester restaurants, but it was nicely chilled and it helped combat the burning sensations caused by eating too many nuts prior to placing my order. Still they were very pleasant.

The sitting area was real comfortable and I was enjoying “my nibbles” whilst listening to a CD playing restful Indian “contemplative” music, and was approached to place my order. I’d decided fairly quickly and confirmed Rogan Josh with Pilau Rice and a buttered Parattua and then sat back and nibble on a few more nuts (guess I’ll suffer with indigestion a little later in the evening).

It wasn’t long before I was been taken to my lone table for one and was pleasantly surprised to see poppadom with a variety of accompaniments as “an appetiser”. Placed on a heated tray it was best left for a while to crisp up, but I find a poppa Dom is always difficult to resist and soon I was crunching on my starter. The meal arrived fairly promptly and although there didn’t seem to be masses I soon realised that looks can be a bit deceptive.

The rice had been delicately prepared and was light and cooked to perfection and the Rogan Josh, strong in flavours and was full of great chunks of tasty lamb – memories flooded back to my holidays in Kerala and Goa as I tore off chucks of the Paratua to mop up the Rogan Josh. This was real tasty and spicy enough for my lips to know chillies were present.

The restaurant, despite being quiet had a great feel to it and the staff were real attentive, checking every so often that “things we to my satisfaction”. Sometimes that can feel nauseatingly sycophantic but here it felt as if they were genuinely interested in how things were.

Despite my original thought that the meal was a little meagre I really struggled to finish it all and my intentions to finish off with a “light pudding” were soon put to rest. My appetite was totally sated and unusually for me I left some food on my plate.

This was a well price meal, nicely delivered by considerate staff anxious to please. I’ll certainly eat here gain and will happily recommend it to visitors.
Rajdoot Tandoori
18 Albert Square
Manchester, England, M2 5WD
+44 (0)161 834 7092

European Christmas Market

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MichaelJM on November 28, 2007

It was not even December and on my usual weekly trip over to Manchester, taking my normal pre-dinner wander around town, I stumbled, at the back of the Town Hall in Albert Square, on Manchester’s Christmas Market. “Bah, humbug” me thinks, but it turned out to be quite impressive.

This is not an overnight sensation as the stalls are semi-permanent stalls established in up-market garden sheds. Initially I thought that this market was not a huge affair but as I continued with my walk I realised that the market extends from Albert Square right down towards the Arndale Centre.

Now I’m about to be dragged off for a long weekend in Lille (see my separate journal) to be trailed around their Christmas Market so I thought I’d get in a bit of practice. There were loads of people milling around and it seemed that it was an ideal place to have a spot of food and drink after a long hard day at work. There were loads of hot food / snack stalls but one that was particularly popular was the circular stall preparing huge frankfurter sausages on a massive circular barbeque. The aromas made the food fairly attractive and it was pulling the customers in by the score, but I resisted temptation and strolled on.

I reckon most of Europe was represented in this market and I had no difficulty in spotting stalls from Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Of course they were big on alcoholic tinctures, with plenty of mulled wine, hot toddies, specialist beers and tempting wine stalls. You could buy tasters on the night or stock up with your Xmas brews by buying or ordering bottle or cases of your chosen tipple.

A huge Santa looked down on me, from the side of the Town Hall, as I continued by investigation of the site. I was real tempted with non-Christmas purchases of cheese and olives and the smell of freshly warmed bread making me vow to return to the area during the daytime and stock up on my lunchtime options.

There were plenty of what I’d call quality gift stalls with some superb pieces of jewellery (not cheap but certainly not over-priced), a fine array of winter clothing stalls selling bright scarves, extravagantly coloured headgear, sophisticated hats and thermal gloves. Some of the hats were decently priced and I may well return.
Of course the place was littered with stalls selling toys and it really is good to see that traditional gifts of wooden toys are still strong. Who knows that might even outsell electronic toys!

Although it was still November there were large numbers of people lugging Christmas Trees around. But I reckon one of the biggest bargains must have been the Amaryllis Lily that was selling for just under £5 for two large bulbs. If the size of the bulb is an indication of the size of the plant then these will be huge beasts! I bought a couple to try out.
Manchester Christmas Market
Albert Square
Manchester, England

The Streets of the Town

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by MichaelJM on December 5, 2007

I’d had meal and a couple of beers and decided to take in the sights of Manchester. In summer the streets have a European feel to them with people were sitting out on street furniture enjoying a meal or a post-work drink. But subsequently, I’ve learned that Manchester looks pretty good under most conditions with, of course the exception of when it’s pouring with rain.

In December the streets have been illuminated with Christmas lights and although this is not the best time to admire some of the fine buildings it’s hard not to let the festive spirit click in. From the modern sleek lines on the G-Mex centre I’m impressed with the oil lights burning outside the fabulously ornate Midland Hotel. It looks onto St Peter’s Square which hosts the tram line and is overshadowed or indeed complimented by the resplendent City Hall. The highly polished tiled exterior (street level to rooftop) is peppered with small balconies fashioned with elaborate carved stone or bowed ironwork. What a fantastic building and how prestigious it would have been in its heyday.

Throughout the City there are a range of fine sculptures sited in small squares and dominating the thoroughfare. It’s well worth spending a bit of time checking them out and admiring the fine carvings and the way they have weathered over the years since they were first erected in the City. Christmas lights are fairly subtle throughout the town. The understated manicured Christmas tree is a mass of lights and is sited in Picadilly Gardens and has been erected alongside the outdoor ice rink which has taken over the paved “gardens” in the centre of town. A traditional 6-metre high Wolhnachtspyrmide (a giant German Christmas pyramid with a built in nativity scene) is perched on the German Beer tent in Albert Square and I’ve never seen the like of it before.

On my way to Picadilly I pass through China Town. It;’s always one of Manchester most colourful districts and itplays host to a variety of oriental-style restaurants including Chinese, Thai, Korean and Japanese plus a splattering of quaint specialist supermarkets and bakeries. Chinatown first came to Manchester in the 1970s when several Chinese restaurants opened in the old cotton warehouses and it rapidly became the focus for the Chinese community in the area. The impressive “Imperial Arch”, spanning Faulkner Street was designed and built by a team of Chinese engineers and was presented to the city by the people of China in 1987.

I then pass by the Britannia Hotel on Portland Street that is well decked out with a mass of Christmas lights. Christmas has truly arrived in Manchester! Approaching Picadilly Station I walk by the old emergency services building which housed fire, police, magistrates and coroner’s courts. It’s a massive site and the building is a celebratory edifice to Victoriana. Unfortunately it currently seems to be deserted and parts are boarded up. I just hope that it’s not allowed to disintegrate!

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