The flight across the ocean was fine but the connection to Manchester from Heathrow sucked. The arm rests in the seats didn't fold up flush with the seat so it was digging in my back the whole way. Mercifully, the plane was only 25% full and the flight was only a half hour. The luggage Gods smiled once again and everything arrived with me.
Most of this weekend was spent with many friends in the Manchester area, some of whom came from outside the area for a meal on Saturday night. We visited, we shopped, we thoroughly enjoyed each other's company. We ate twice in a Weatherspoon's pub, the Sedge Linn in Chorlton, we pub crawled our way around Chorlton and hit a few in the Manchester city centre as well. There was a meal at a Chinese restaurant that was formerly a pretty good place to go. Perhaps we hit a bad night but with one disaster after another, we aren't going to take the chance on it again. See the review for Woo Sang for details.
My friend Alan and I took the bus to nearby Stockport to visit the Hatworks musem (see the review for details). It's only a half hour by bus and I had wanted to see their Hatworks Museum. This area, Stockport - Denby was one of the most important hat making areas over the last couple of centuries up until about the 1940's. Felt was the main material hats were made of around here, from wool or fur, mainly rabbit fur. The big London hat retailers may have stamped the hats with their mark but the hats were manufactured here.
We had a guided tour through the museum and learned all about how the hats were made (see attraction review) then had a late lunch in the lovely cafe. We then had a walk around the city center of Stockport. Alan knows it well because he lived there for years. There is a nice mix of some very old buildings including a few lovely 16th century half timbered houses. One is the Underbank Hall and is used now as a NatWest bank. We saw the market which was just about done for the day a nice pedestrian shopping area, remodeled from it's 1970's origins. It was a beautiful spring day, sunny and warm and a far cry from cold Halifax.
On Easter Saturday, four of us went for a drive out in the countryside through the Peak District National Park area to visit Matlock Bath. on a sunny if hazy day! We drove through the Peak National Park, so beautiful with it's rolling hills sectioned off with low stone fences and sheep dotting the hillsides. There were several flocks today that had lots of newborn lambs skipping about or nestled on the ground in clusters near their mothers.
Matlock Bath was a spa town and is in an area that used to be concerned with lead mining along the River Derwent that winds it's way through Matlock. You can rent rowing punts or short kayaks to travel the river. The high street, or promenade, is lined with gift shops, a few amusement arcades, a Mining Museum in a large pavilion and lots of little restaurants, pubs and takeaways. Matlock also seems to attract hundreds of touring motorcyclists and today was no exception. There were several hundred bikes parked in sections along the street and the sidewalks were filled with men and women dressed in brightly coloured full body leathers and helmets out to enjoy the early spring day.
We parked in a car park about a kilometer outside of the town center and walked in along the road that follows the river. One of the local attractions is the Heights of Abraham which is on top of a cliff overlooking the town. You can get there via a cable car and we can see the cars drifting back and forth from their cables high above us. John and I plan to have a ride on it later though Alan and Nikki have already decided Heights, both the attraction *and* the physical sensation are not for them!
We wandered along the main street looking for a place to have our lunch, someplace that appealed to us all and that wasn't too crowded. We ended up at a small pub called the Princess Victoria and the food and beer both were pretty good! We had a stop at an ice cream stand and a look-see in a couple of the shops before seeing if we could get to the Cable Car depot via a path on the other side of the river. We can't. Back across the old footbridge and up to the train station which is near the cable car thingo. We paid £7.30 for the ride but that includes all the attractions at the top of the cliff, including a couple of old mining caverns you can go into.
But we had a time restraint because we had to be back into Manchester to get ready to meet others for dinner tonight so in the end, we paid all that just to ride up, get off, take a few pictures and queue up to go back down again! The cars are small, fitting 6 people max in each of a group of three that goes up at a time. Still the views *were* pretty great and we could see off in the distance on the top of a hill Riber Castle which glowed in the late afternoon sun.
Traffic was pretty slow coming out of Matlock. Later we crossed over the Chatsworth estate and took a quick drive in and out of the village of Eyam. It's a gorgeous stone village that is famous for self-isolating itself in 1665 from the plague which reached them via some infected cloth from London. In doing so they managed to prevent the disease from spreading around the area outside the village and saved hundreds of lives or more.
That night was the Woo Sang disaster though it has to be said, the food was as good as always. I've just never had service so bad!
We all convened to a nearby pub for a nightcap before going separate ways.
On Sunday night, Annie and i went to an outstanding production of Midsummers Night's Dream at the Royal Exchange Theatre. We sat on the banquette benches on the stage floor (this is a theatre in the round, see a separate review for more details) with all the action at our feet! It was an absolutely amazing and very imaginative production and very physically demanding for some of the actors. There was a little pothole/puddle that most of them ended up in at some point and they were leaping around, on and off the stage, down from the rafters on ropes and a light standard. At the end, the play within the play was hysterical and at one point they had a few audience members on stage with everyone else clapping, line dancing to Achy Breaky Heart! Yes, this really is Shakespeare but it really worked!
We went for a drink after so we could sit and rave about it. I made sure I'm all packed as much as I can be for tomorrow. I can get a city bus directly from Fallowfield to the airport. I'll be traveling most of tomorrow so I don't think we're doing much tomorrow evening, just hanging out and visiting with Rose and Malachy.