Ugh, early morning. Literally, the earliest morning I’ve had in a loooong time. Me and Annie woke up at 6:39 (yeah, that’s what time the alarm clock was set to) to make an 8:00 train. I got dressed while Annie showered, and I might have fallen back asleep while I waited for her to finish. So sleepy. We made our train and I proceeded to sleep for another 2 hours and 7 minutes on the journey there (to Manchester, duh). I remember Annie being excited about sheep and Annie laughing at me because my head kept bobbing down as I was falling asleep (I think I told her to shut up).
Jinri greeted us at the train station in Manchester (her greeting of choice was “Boo!” because we almost ran into her without even realizing it was her). We then made the half hour walk to her dorm/flat (which she shares with some other Colgate students and British students). Manchester is a lot different that London. To me it seemed cleaner and a lot more open. Most of the buildings are on the newer side, but some of them definitely have that Victorian/ Industrial Revolution vibe. Once we got to Jinri’s flat she made us lunch (noodles!) and after a quick rest we headed out for the day.
Apparently, Jinri doesn’t believe in buses, so we walked to the center of Manchester from her dorm. And then the shopping commenced. Oh, so many cute stores with cute things that cost not-cute money. Jinri is like the Manchester thrift/vintage store queen. She took us into so many awesome vintage shops my heart was close to exploding with the pretty. Some of the places were just straight up thrift shops with some pretty horrific sequined dresses side-by-side with some real gems, others sold clothes that made been remade (think leather shorts made from leather pants, or tunic tops made from men’s flannels), there was even a place selling handmade clothes and the designer was sewing away at a sewing machine in the corner (but with sheer tank tops starting at £25 I sadly had to pass). We took a very brief snack break at the mall (it’s been a long time since I’ve been to a mall). We navigated the Christmas crowd and got food at the market inside (not the food court, the market). I got a cupcake and a Cornish pasty. I’ve been dying to a try a real Cornish pasty ever since I smelled them at a West Cornwall Pasty Co. stand in Saffron Walden three years ago. It was yummy.
Once it started getting dark we took out the map (which Jinri had major difficulties printing out earlier that day) of Christmas Markets that are scattered around Manchester. It was a lot of fun (but I’m sure these markets have nothing on the likes other European Christmas markets, like in Brussels). There were lots of people selling Christmas-y things (ornaments, wreaths, decorations), handmade stuff (scarves, hats, jewelry, toys), and food (sausages, cheese, fudge, waffles, mini pancakes…). The biggest of those markets by far was the one in St. Albert’s Square (giant Christmas light Santa included). It was completely packed. So, with 8 hours of non-stop shopping out of the way we decided to call it a night and took the bus back to the dorm.
Whee! Christmas lights in the streets
Clock tower and giant Santa in St. Albert's Square
Annie left early the next afternoon to catch her flight back to Madrid, but before she left we nipped into the Manchester Museum (which is run and owned by the University of Manchester). The museum is sort of hard to describe, let’s call it a British Museum wannabe. The first gallery was a “this is Manchester” overview with random things that somehow relate to the city, like the skeleton of an elephant that was once part of a circus in Manchester, displays about immigrant populations, and a stuffed capybara from the zoo (also the labels were written with dry erase markers… fancy, not really). The second was a mush of things referred to as the “living cultures” gallery, which ranged from pottery to Japanese ivories to African charm statuettes. Oh, and the archery collection was tucked in the back of the room. The museum also has an Egyptology collection (which is being reorganized, so a lot of it isn’t on display). They have mummies too, but watch out for the one sitting all by itself in a dark alcove, kind of spooky.
The last gallery we went into was something called Living Worlds. It was a really interesting exhibit. The museum website says it “explores the connections between all living things, including us, and shows how we can all shape the future by the choices we make.” You can see pictures of it on flickr. Basically, each display case is based on a theme, which is written out with lights above the glass case. So, an easy example is “Bodies” which is a case full of different animal skeletons. There’s another one labeled “Symbols” that describe how animals are used as symbols (for example, a stuffed lion is displayed next to the MGM lion logo and the Royal Arms of England. One of my favorites was “Peace.” Inside the case was a stuffed crane and a piece of glass/metal that had been melted together during the atomic bomb explosions in Japan. Inside and outside the glass case were hundreds of folded paper cranes strung from the ceiling. It was a very moving display, not something you’d expect from this sort of museum (still not sure what kind of museum it is).
The "Peace" display
We did a little more shopping (more shopping!). I got a little felt ornament for myself (£1, I don’t feel guilty at all) and I also went back to a store to get a dress I saw the day before. I did a lot of thinking about this dress, whether I wanted to spend the money on it, which pattern I liked best, etc., but in the end I bought it, and I’m glad because I like it a lot.
Bye bye, Annie
After Annie left Jinri took me to the Manchester Art Gallery. We didn’t stay long because our feet were hurting so much. But, I did spot a Max Ernst (I wrote about him for my art history paper) and a Modigliani (I know I’ve taken a picture of another Modigliani before I knew who Modigliani was, at the Courtauld maybe?). We hung out at a café (Costa) across the street for a little bit to rest our feet (cinnamon hot chocolate, yum) before walking back to the dorm.
I had a fabulous time in Manchester (but my feet are still a little sore and it’s 4 days later)!