Manchester week in November

A week spent based in Salford/Manchester after a week in Rome (separate journal), friends, shopping, day and road trips, museums and quality time together

Manchester week in November

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by tvordj on November 28, 2012

We'd returned to Salford in the Greater Manchester area after a week in sunny Rome. Back to reality, back to overcast skies and drizzle most of the week but that's ok. We spent some of the week hanging out with friends, seeing a couple of local museums, shopping, and we did a couple of road trips.

Early in the week was a meal out in a country pub in Cheshire, the Lighthouse.
We visited the Imperial War Museum on another morning and the John Rylands Library in the city center on another afternoon. Shopping at the Trafford Center was on the books for another of the days.

On Thursday we decided to go to York, one of our favourite cities but it turned out to be a disappointing visit. We had in mind a visit to the Yorvik Viking Centre/Exhibition which I'd never seen but heard good things about. Mind you, that was some time ago now. Things had changed.

We used one of the Park and Ride lots which worked really well. You park for free and buy a return ticket on a shuttle bus that goes into the city centre. We did that and got off at the stop nearest the grand York Minster. But, it was closed because it was being used for a university graduation. We went into the church next to the Minster, St. Michael le Belfry which was a nice little church. It also happens to be the one where Guy Fawkes, he of the Gunpowder Plot, was christened. Some nice stained glass in the church.

We decided to have lunch before the Viking museum and found a nice pub, the Golden Lion and we did enjoy that. We chatted to a couple sitting next to us about Canada as they wanted to go on a vacation there sometime.

When I finished lunch, I went outside to take a photo of the pub but the camera was acting funny. First it displayed a nearly black screen, and then it would not let me take a photo and gave me a "memory card error". I tried turning it off and on, taking the card out, using a different card, resetting the camera, everything I could think of. Very Bad Thing: My camera, just a few months old, seems to be buggered. That's going back to the shop as soon as I get home. Graham had his camera which is one of my old ones so he kindly handed that over so I could use it.

We made our way to the Yorvik Viking centre but in spite of hearing good things about it from people that have been there in the (distant) past, including Graham, it's changed and has been sanitized and we were quite disappointed over all (review to follow). What next? We just walked a bit and decided that was enough, made our way back to the bus stop and then to the Park and Ride to get the car. Basically we went to York for lunch.

The next day we headed to Sunderland for an overnight visit with friends. We took the scenic route through the Yorkshire Dales National Park which was great! It was misty and foggy and it added to the remoteness of much of the countryside. We stopped in the market town of Hawes for a meal at the White Hart Inn which we enjoyed and got to Sunderland about teatime. We had a quick drink at a seaside pub, just around the corner from where our friends live, and then enjoyed a really good meal at Jayelle's cafe next door. (review included).

The next day was sunny, yay! We started off the day with bacon sandwiches and drove down to the North York Moors National Park where we planned to visit the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey. We'd seen it on a tv documentary earlier in the week and Google told us it was not that far from where we would be so that's where we headed. It's in a little valley down a narrow road. The cafe was excellent for lunch and we spent a few happy hours exploring with the aid of an audio guide. Very much worth visiting!

We got home on Saturday evening and on Sunday, took in the Manchester Christmas markets which were crowded but I did enjoy seeing them.

I flew home on Monday but am already planning another quick visit in January to attend an event and see my sweetie once again!

Not worth the money

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by tvordj on November 28, 2012

I had heard the Jorvik Viking Centre was good. This was from several people who had been there a number of years ago, so I thought I would like to see it. They all said it was great, lots of earthy and even gruesome displays and really awful smells, which were to show you how it really would have smelled in the villages of the day. We discovered that it was a disappointment, at least to us.

We made our way to the Yorvik Viking centre and paid almost 10 pounds each. There's a room with some displays and a glass floor over a model of the excavations in the area where the original Viking settlement was found. You get in a little cart on a track and are moved through a village with a narration. But it wasn't gruesome, there was no smell, and it was littered with animatronic villagers talking in some ancient language to you in reply to the narrator who then translated. It felt very sanitized and even Disneyfied, not really appealing to adults, not us anyway. There was a display room with lots of artifacts they've found in York while excavating, all Viking aged items including skeletons, coins, jewelry, glass etc. Overall, not really enough to be worth 10 pounds. It might appeal to families more, I guess, but we could have happily skipped it, had we known.
Jorvik Viking Centre
15-17 Coppergate Walk
York, United Kingdom, YO1 9WT
+44 (1) 904643211

Brave the crowds at the markets

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by tvordj on November 28, 2012

This year was the first chance I had in my many visits to Manchester to go to the annual Christmas markets. They set up in the city centre around the middle of November and run until Christmas. They're modelled after the markets on the Continent and many of the booths are German or French in theme. They have small wooden huts set up in the main square, Albert Square, in front of the Victorian Town Hall but they also spill over to several other streets and squares in the city centre.

There are over 200 stalls and a scattering of "cafe" style set ups, such as a couple of German beer gardens and a French cafe, that I saw. Many of the stalls are food related with delicacies and goods locally sourced and from other parts of Europe. There are hand made items and crafted items, food, drink and lots of interesting things to look at and to buy.

We started at St. Ann's Square and worked our way towards the Town Hall which is the main site. It happened to be my last day in Manchester or I would have bought a lot more, especially various meats and cheeses to try back at the flat but since I couldn't take them with me on the plane, they had to stay where they were. I did get some flavoured coffees and a scarf and tried some mulled wine from one of the many booths. The hot drink kiosks also gave you the drinks in a souvenir mug. They charge 2 pounds for it and if you bring the mug back, you get the deposit back but you can keep it if you want. I did though the type of mulled wine I chose to try wasn't to my liking unfortunately but there are many other types to try.

We started browsing around noon and by the time we got to the Town Hall square, the crowds there were very thick and it started to feel very claustrophobic. Inside the Town Hall was another market set up for the vendors of the alternative Northern Quarter market Affleck's. Inside the Town Hall where that was, was even more of a bottleneck for people and we lasted long enough to get in and get out.

There's no free parking but there are NCP car park garages scattered around and the busses run down Deansgate. The markets are all accessible. It's a great place to pick up interesting gifts or try a new type of sausage or fudge or find a unique ornament for your Christmas tree.

Locations: Albert Square, Brazenose St, King St, St Ann's Square, New Cathedral Street, Exchange Square

All market sites (except Albert Square*)
Nov: 10am - 7.30pm (bars open until 9pm)
Dec: 10am - 8pm (bars open until 9pm)
Albert Square 10am - 9pm every day
Manchester Christmas Market
Albert Square
Manchester, England

Relaxing bar and restaurant in Didsbury

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by tvordj on November 28, 2012

We spent a very relaxing evening at the Metropolitan in West Didsbury, close to Whalley Range in Manchester recently. The venu is quite large, with a pub on one side and a more formal restaurant on the other. There's a large outdoor seating area as well for nice weather. They have a parking lot as well with free parking, always a bonus. There are fireplaces, and also some large screen televisions but they aren't intrusive, not in the section where we were sitting.

The menu had interesting choices, a step above the usual "pub grub" with vegetarian options available, with good sized portions and some very interesting drinks choices. We had some cider, raspberry and also a pear cider which was delicious! They do a breakfast (opening at 10 a.m. so it's more of a brunch) and they do afternoon tea. Most main courses between 10 and 15 pounds with a steak at nearly 20 as the most expensive thing. The sandwiches and starters are under 10. I think our total bill was about 90 pounds for four people including a drink.
Corner of Lapwing Lane
Manchester, England, M20 2WS
+44 161 374 9559

One of the best Abbeys to visit

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by tvordj on November 28, 2012

Rievaulx Abbey was the first Cictercian Abbey in the North of England and grew to be one of the most important. The ruins there today are some of the most complete you will find. They are nestled at the bottom of a narrow winding hill in a valley in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park and we spent a lovely few hours exploring them.

The Abbey was founded in 1131 by Walter Espec, Lord of Helmsley as a temporary building prior to a stone abbey built shortly after under the supervision of the first Abbot, William and was expanded and rebuilt several times as the needs changed. The Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII in 1538 marked the end of the Abbey and it was dismantled.

When you visit the abbey, I would definitely recommend getting the free audio guide. You first go to one of the outbuildings where there is a little museum telling you about the history and the life of monks in the abbey. Through the ruins there are storyboards and you enter the number in the audio device to hear about that part of the abbey. It's described by a narrator posing as a monk who lived there during the end of the abbey's "life" in the 1500s. It's very interesting and really brings the site to life. The ruins have enough to them that you can picture what it would have been like in it's heyday. We spent a couple of hours traipsing around the area listening, on a cool November Saturday afternoon.

It's not that easy to find though it is signed on the road above, the B1257 road that winds across the hills of the moors. We picked up the road from Stokesley off the A19. It's a very scenic drive.

The cafe is small but modern with a great view over the Abbey grounds. We ate lunch there and the food was hot and delicious. There's an accessible toilet in the visitor center and a really good gift shop. There's also a picnic area.

It costs just under 6 pounds per person and they do charge to park but if you are visiting the abbey, you get the 4 pound fee back which offsets the entrance fee somewhat. We visited on a sunny day in November and in winter it's only open on weekends except in February when it appears to be open every day. They do offer guided tours on Fridays through November and December (probably through the summer, more often) for 20 pounds which includes lunch in the cafe. Full details for the various opening times are available on the website. Definitely check beforehand as they do seem to vary.

Rievaulx Abbey
Leeds, United Kingdom, YO6 5LJ
+44 1439 798 228

Excellent seafront cafe in Sunderland

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by tvordj on November 28, 2012

While on an overnight visit to friends in Sunderland, we were taken to Jayelle's cafe on the seafront for a meal. This is a small cafe that does a booming business at lunchtime and does "Bistro" type meals in the evenings with a few specials on offer in addition to the normal menu. We had a lovely bottle of wine and a very good meal. The price was excellent for the four of us including starters and dessert and we most definitely went away full and happy.

They take Visa for payment as well as cash. There is onstreet parking nearby and it's accessible with a flat entrance. If you sit by the window you can look over the seafront. We would definitely go there again.
6 Queen's Parade
Sunderland, England, SR6 8DA

Comfortable Country Inn

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by tvordj on November 28, 2012

While on a scenic drive through the Yorkshire Dales, we stopped in the market town of Hawes for lunch. Hawes is the main town through the Dales and sits on the River Wensley. It's best known for the Wensleydale cheese produced in the area and there's a Creamery in the village you can visit.

We parked at the lot by the Dales Countryside Museum and walked up into the town, crossing a bridge over the river where we could see a little waterfall.

The White Hart Inn was the first pub we came to and we decided to go in there. The interior has several small rooms, some with a fireplace and one a more formal restaurant and was very comfortable. The bar staff were friendly and the food we ordered was very good. The food is fresh, much of it is locally sourced. I had a Ploughman's lunch with some excellent cheese and breads.
White Hart Inn
Main Street
Hawes, Manchester
01969 667 214

War Museum, Northern style

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by tvordj on November 28, 2012

As many times as I've been to Manchester, I've never been to the Imperial War Museum at Salford Quays. It was time to rectify that. The museum has been open for about 10 years and is located in the Salford Quays development, across a footbridge from the Lowry theatre but you can get to it by road as well.

The modern building looks over the Ship Canal and has a viewing platform that you can pay a couple of pounds and go up. The platform is enclosed by the tower structure but it's not weather-proof. It's like viewing from a fenced in area so it can be a bit chilly.

The musuem is not large and is an open concept with some smaller cubbyhole type areas for specific displays. The theme is the 20th century and covers war from WWI to the present day. There are vehicles and artifacts and a lot of memorabilia donated by military members over the years. They have letters and audio and video as well. When we were there, they showed a video presentation on all the walls around us and it was chilling to see the Nazi flags and images so large, filling the room for a few minutes. The presentation was about how war affected the lives of children and was narrated by actors, children and probably even some people who were telling their own memories and stories. There were quite a few groups of schoolchildren there that day as well. The stories were very moving. This "Children and War" is part of a three-video presentation called the Big Picture Show that has won awards and rightly so.

There are sections about women at war, the British colonies at war, nuclear age, etc. You can do research there as well.

When you first enter you are presented with a full sized Harrier jump jet hanging from the ceiling and a modern cross-shaped white sculpture interpreting the artist's view of war, it's called The Crusader and while i don't usually take to modern art, it was very good. Other vehicles on display include a firefighting odd looking thing that was used in Manchester during the Blitz and the pod of a fighter plane where the gunner would sit. It looks very tiny considering.

One display that gave us both shivers were two pieces of twisted, rusted metal. One was the remains of a car that had contained a bomb and the other, a taller piece, was the twisted remains of a window framing from the World Trade Centre.

The museum is fully accessible with a lift and accessible toilets. The gift shop is decent and the cafe is a good size. They are open every day until 5. You can get the Metrolink tram to one of two stops across the canal, MediaCityUK or Harbour City and walk over the footbridge. The museum is free but you have to pay for parking if you have your vehicle.
Imperial War Museum North
Salford Quays
Manchester, England, M17 1TZ
0161 836 4000

Beautiful city centre library

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by tvordj on November 28, 2012

The John Rylands library was built as a memorial to a husband, from a wife, in the late 19th century. It now is part of the University of Manchester and is open to the public. The building is Victorian Gothic and is really beautiful, almost church-like with stained glass windows in the main reading room and vaulted ceilings.

When we went there were several temporary exhibits including one on Charles Dickens and one on the 50th anniversary of the publication of A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, with personal correspondence, newspaper articles and a few movie props as well. Their permanent exhibits include some ancient Egyptian papyri, some of which they believe are the first written copies of the Bible though it's only fragments of pages. They have an illuminated hand written copy of the Canterbury Tales along with a plain copy.

The architecture alone is worth a visit. The staircase has an elaborate ceiling and also has a few old printing presses for examination. It was a very interesting place to visit. Doesn't charge an entry fee and there is a small cafe and shop. They have lifts and accessible toilets.

Visitors can see the library:
Monday 12noon - 5pm
Tuesday - Saturday 10am - 5pm
Sunday 12noon - 5pm
Readers and researchers most days until 5.
John Rylands Library
150 Deansgate
Manchester, England, M3 3EH
+44 161 834 5343

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