Now, you may think we’re bonkers anyway and we wouldn’t blame you, but wait till you find out what we had planned for Easter, it may just confirm your judgement.
It just so happened our days off all coincided with Easter and we wouldn’t need to use any of our leave, but because work can be a wee bit sneaky sometimes this meant we couldn’t really book a site, just in case our days off were cancelled. Hate paying deposits which had the potential of being lost through no fault of our own.
So, we came up with a devilish plan, a ‘staycation’ in Manchester. She’s in the papers a lot, usually through football and most recently due to the terrible terrorist attack but we wanted to try and look at her through tourists eyes and see what she had to offer.
Pod would be moved onto the driveway and days out would be had around Manchester, the best part being we would still be able to stick a travel pin in our map because every night would be spend in Pod.
Good Friday arrived and out Pod came, she was filthy from our last trip away and once the bed was made up she was treated to a bit of sponge bath. Some fabulous Aldi waterless wash/wax followed by a good coating of Auto Glym. Took some doing but she did shine after.
Next came a car ride into Stockport, somewhere we’ve passed through on many occasions but never given it much thought, but one museum had caught our eye and after a little research we discovered another not too far from it. After a 20 minute drive we arrived outside The Hat Museum, as it was a Bank Holiday parking was free and we even managed to snaffle a spot just outside the old entrance.
Once inside we discovered it was free entry, with a donation if willing, but if a guide was required it would be £5.00 ea. We opted to go for a walk at our leisure and a donation was made. We began downstairs, two floor down and this took you through the whole process, from the making of the fabric to the moulding and decoration of the hats. Machinery was everywhere and you could easily imagine the deafening noise, we doubt they would have had ear defenders so goodness knows how they coped. Health and Safety was unheard of.
Next we went up a floor the display area and here we found a huge variety of hats of all shapes and sizes. Some were very delicate and intricate in detail and others had a work purpose and made of sterner stuff, but the quality of all of them was impressive. There was also a brilliant play area in the middle, great for the kids to try on hats and play out their own little fantasies.
Up the stairs we went again and this brought us back to the exit and reception, we had a peak in the room off here and this turned out to be a café/eating area, but it wasn’t open today which was a shame. It was still a great experience, lots of history and stories to be told about so many different types of hats.
We gave our thanks and left, once outside phones came out of pockets and good old Google gave us direction to our next Museum, the Air Raid Shelter Museum. This worked out brilliantly as it was only a 5 minute walk.
Entry was gained and £5.00ea was handed over, this gave us access to hand held audible narrators which we were instructed to carry round and when a disc mounted on the wall was located, point the device at it and you would receive a variety of information covering the shelter and those that lived and worked in there. All seemed pretty good.
Off we went down the steps and into small brick lined room, here we received a small presentation on the beginnings of WWII and Air Raid Shelters. Once done we were directed through another door and left to take our time travelling along the tunnels using the hand held devices. As soon as we dropped into the tunnels there was a marked decrease in temperature and we were immediately hit by the workmanship that had gone into the making of them, each and every side held deep gouged out marks by either hand held tools or the pneumatic drill they were able to use. Also on display was a very detailed map of German bombing targets, which had been found on an airfield in Berlin after the war.
Onward we went, using our hand held devices to clock into each section and here we delved into the lives of many who spent their days down here. From children, the sick and the elderly, they spent many an hour entombed in the depths of Stockport and did their best to pass the time they had. Kitchen and Nurses station was also on offer, along with 74 toilets which had to serve all those down there, very simple design but must have worked like a treat.
Once back out into the sunshine we walked the short distance back to the car and as it was Good Friday we treated ourselves and stopped off at a local Fish and Chips Shop, delicious and a great end to a good day.
Back at Pod we used the site facilities and as bed time approached we tottled off to Pod and were soon snug under the duvet planning the next day ahead.
Woke to another dry day and we seemed to be faring better than many who had travelled to their Easter Holiday destinations. Today we had a bus trip planned to Manchester City Centre, On the menu we had the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry as Astronaut Major Tim Peake’s capsule was on display.
After a 3/4hr journey into the city we finally found ourselves walking in the direction of the Museum. School holidays were on the go but it didn’t seem too busy. In we went and it was free entry with donations of £3.00, it didn’t cost any extra to see the capsule either, so that was great news. They were however charging £8.00 each for those who wanted to go into the Robotics display.
The capsule was amazing, awe inspiring and very small, as was the Majors suit. It was hard to believed it had contained 3 people and landed them safely back on Earth. Incredible. So wanted to touch it, but it was securely sat behind a barrier, well out of reach.
We then strolled round the rest of the museum which took us through a Mill Factory and we were given the opportunity to play with the large screen display in the centre of the Museum. A cylindrical display of screens which projected images of those brave enough to have their picture taken, you can guess we had a go, but can you spot us ?
Next onto the steam trains, fantastic smell of oil and diesel when you entered and a huge selection of engines, steam trains and locomotives. There were some amazing feats of engineering. One of the smaller ones was in the process of being started up to the delight of those surrounding it.
Air and Space Hall next, this was fabulous, enormous planes with contra rotating propellers to small homemade gliders were on display. Whilst in here we had to have a go of the Virtual Experience, this was to be the re-entry of Major Peake’s Capsule and for £6.00 it was very educational and informative. It would have been 10 out of 10 if the chairs could have moved too, but guess it wouldn’t of been £6.00.
Back outside we headed towards one of our favourite Restaurants and passed through North Gate, Castlefield. Much to our surprise we discovered an old Roman Gateway and this was one of four which led a Roman road into the city centre.
As we walked through the city we passed numerous Mobikes, strategically placed by their previous riders and positioned in such a way that they teased passerby’s to give them ago. Not for us on this occasion, we wanted to walk around as we weren’t in any rush today. Onwards we went and passed the beautifully historic John Rylands Library and the new stark looking Armani building. Very different but in an odd way complemented each other.
Next stop was The Grill on The Alley, a steak heaven for one of us but it was lucky enough to serve the other extremely well too. Service and food in here is next to none and we were even treated to complimentary cocktails as they were currently training new staff.
Bus was eventually caught back to our home village but we had to stop off at a local bar on the way, here a few cask ales were had and these finished our day off before we caught a taxi home for the last few miles. Those bus passes definitely came in very handy.
Easter Sunday arrived and the weather was again dry and bright. A walk was on the cards today and Dunham Massey was chosen as it was only a 20 minute drive away. We thought we couldn’t go wrong with this as we presumed children and their parents would be ensconced within their own homes devouring mountains of chocolate. We were wrong.
Traffic queue began over a kilometre away but it did keep moving, even if it was at a crawl. We eventually entered the grounds and after showing National Trust Membership Cards we found it quite easy to find a parking space. We then joined another queue, this was a little frustrating as we were all stood in single file working our way to the main door. Once reaching the door Members and non-Members were eventually separated into two queues, just wish they’d done this from the beginning.
Once through we were in the grounds and decided to head for the Mansion, entering the main door we were greeted by staff who informed us they had several displays on offer. One of the rooms had been set up as the hospital as during WW1 the Mansion itself was used as a hospital for those returning from the war, a very moving experience. Other rooms were dedicated to ‘Year of the Woman’ and displayed clothing worn by the ladies of the house.
We eventually found ourselves in the grounds and strolled along the tree lined avenues, we couldn’t believe how lucky we had been with the weather, little cold, but if wrapped up not an issue.
Lunch time was calling so The Axe and Cleaver caught our attention on the way home. Very busy inside but they managed to find a table for us tucked away in a corner, perfect. Good pub fare and reasonably priced. Friendly service too which always adds to a good experience.
Bedtime beckoned and after checking the weather it seemed for the following day our luck was about to run out, it wasn’t going to stop us though as we had tickets booked for the Waxi, also known as the Water Taxi. Return tickets were bought at £8.00 each outward journey and £6.00 for the return.
Rain met us in the morning and it looked like it was going to be hit and miss for the day. Decision was made to drive to the Trafford Centre and walk the short distance to the Bridgewater Canal for a Waxi ride into Manchester city centre, quite exciting really and something new to us.
Car was parked and the rain had stopped, so our fingers were crossed we’d make it through the day. Waxi arrived on time and ourselves and 3 others were soon on board and heading in the direction of the city.
Brilliant experience and a very leisurely journey was had, we were passed by numerous barges and all their occupants waved and swapped pleasantries with a smile. Trees were still bare but we could imagine this being a wonderful experience in the summer when trees were in full bloom.
We landed not far from the Museum of Science and Industry and once off the Waxi we thanked our driver and discovered he would be the pilot of our return trip later in the evening, good to know, as we didn’t want to be stranded in the city centre later.
First stop was the John Ryland Library, absolutely incredible building and we couldn’t believe we had passed it so many times over the past 20 plus years. It was one of those buildings we were always curious about but just never found the time to explore. So glad we found the time today.
We walked through a new build extension and entered what felt like a ‘time tunnel’, stepping from a smooth plastered white stark stairway and onto a warn, warm yellow toned, stone lined corridor.
The corridor led from room to room and took us on a journey through time using the many books on display. The Historic Reading Room and the staircase that took you there were breathtaking, still open for those who wanted to use it to study and it was great to see the mix of books and electronic devices being used by the many students who were bent over their chosen medium in deep thought.
Next stop was the Cathedral and anything we found in between. It seemed rain had passed whilst we’d been in the Library so we began our walk up Deansgate and found ourselves in Barton Arcade.
Amazing glass roofed three tiered shopping arcade, beautiful tiled floor and wrought iron railing surrounding the balconies, the shops were home to cafes, shops and a brilliant old fashioned barbers. ‘Barber Barber ‘ treated its customers with that extra special care, no appointment system but a place where a beer could be ordered, then you could sit and relax until a spot became available in one of the chairs. Once thing that could grate on some though.. no women were allowed, a men only zone.
From here we arrived at Manchester Cathedral, free to enter but donations were welcomed, there was a charge of £1.00 should you want to take pictures. Another wonderful building, beautiful stone floor, incredibly ornate ceilings and colourful stain glassed windows, always look up because you never know what you might miss.
Looked like it was going to be a late lunch for us so walked in the direction of the Printworks, great building with a huge in door area catering for everyone’s taste buds, Chiquito caught our attention and with the App we were lucky enough to get it at half price. Great food and good value for money.
The clock was slowly edging it way towards our Waxi pick up time but we thought we might just squeeze a beer in if we timed it right. Off we set and once within shouting distance of the river we stopped off at Dukes 92 for a wee beverage, by now it was pouring down so we sat outside under the veranda and watched the world go by as the rain bounced off the floor and surrounding tables and slowly ran down the courtyard in the direction of the river.
Waxi time arrived, we hadn’t been waiting more than a minute when we saw our bright yellow Waxi appear from under the bridge, it crawled to a stop and was soon turned 360 deg and lined up against the river wall, very competent handling we thought.
Others stepped off the Waxi as our driver greeted us and we were told we were the only two passengers for the return trip, how cool, we had it to ourselves for the next 45 minutes. The journey back was as relaxing as our arrival and between the three of us we discussed the delights our waterways have to offer and adventures we’d had over the past years. A very pleasant trip back, despite the rain. Once back at the car it didn’t take long to get back to Pod, our last full day had come to an end but at least we had one more night in Pod to look forward to.
Woke to a dry day and with cup of tea in hand we relived our ‘staycation’. We’d only touched the surface of what Manchester had to offer, it’s a fabulous place with a lot going for it, from a diverse culture and history, wonderful dining experiences, a variety of bars and some beautiful countryside.
Now, as we’d stayed true to Pod and spent every night of our break in her we had earned the right to stick a pin in our travel map, so the time came to pack up and head for home … to the front door. It had been a great Easter break and we did our best to see Manchester with fresh eyes, we think we succeeded too.