I met up with my cousins in Manchester recently, and noticed a huge change in the city from the last time I visited years ago (if you don’t count my trips to and from the airport). The sun even shone every day, and that is not how Manchester is remembered!
I stayed in Castlefield, a regenerating area just ten minutes from the city centre, and although it still has the red-brick industrial building feel, there is a young energy to the area.
Blocks of apartments have grown up on the canal area that reflect the industrial heritage, but obviously suit young city workers.
The view is not bad with interesting engineering both old and new. industrial area,
with well-fed ducks looking out for passers by with food.
On Friday and Saturday evenings the Indian, Sushi, Italian and other restaurants along Waterloo Street were teeming with young people, dressed to the nines,- or undressed on how you view it but they obviously didn’t feel the cold! Taxis dipped into the kerb in a constant ballet of unloading partying passengers, and later in collecting them. seemingly a little more inebriated judging by loud and slurring female voices.
My Cousin and I trudged on in our parkas and boots until we espied a gap in the crowd in the foyer of the Bollywood Indian Restaurant, which sported an award certificate for the best English curry. That greatly amused me.
The Manager took pity on our sad faces and personally led us to a newly vacated table for two, squashed in by the window where we could watch the passing scene. The place did have a touch of Bollywood bling, and was very clean and nice. The waiters passed to and fro constantly with trays of food to be presented in a respectful ritual, and there was no need for music for the hubbub of voices was pleasant and no one had to talk loudly over it.
Service suited couples there to spend time with each other. There was no hurry yet the flow of those coming with those going seemed to blend well.
Our food was good when it came, and well priced. The only disappointment was that they did not have any lassi – the yoghurt-mango drink I craved to counteract my spicy meal. Serves me right for being adventurous. They were most apologetic but the chef had run out of yoghurt.
The Castlefield Hotel seemed perched on the very end of the Manchester Ship Canal, and that spot is home to several over-wintering barges that were pleasant to look out upon. In spring these barges will awaken and return to taking passengers along the route.
Despite looking a huge place from the outside the Castlefield had a calm and friendly atmosphere and nice staff. The foyer seemed a good meeting point in which to wait on the leather settees, especially with the bar, restaurant and front desk ‘within cooee’, as we say in Australia.
The main buildings in our area belonged to the Science Museum (see part 2). They were very varied in style and date, and our nearest part was the Railway Museum. Behind it we could see modern trains and the tramway.
The area had art galleries, tv studios, and music shops as we headed for the city centre, so is a mecca for students day and night. We did have difficulty finding Manchester Art Gallery as we headed into the city centre. It was poorly signposted, but getting lost near a French style cafe with fresh eclairs compensated and refreshed.
Aart from the tram line in the area being under repair at the time of visiting we found Castlefield a handy setting-off point. Not too bustling, but not too quiet. I look forward to next time.