Friday, June 24, 2016

Oh Manchester Oh Manchester!

Finally I stepped foot into UK! But instead of London, I was in Manchester and it was lovely to begin with!  Disclaimer: I was here for work in May, but had a long weekend which I totally took advantage of!  The weather was so lovely when I was there that apparently that was it for Manchurians - the summer was there and then and over!  Yes, Manchester is notorious for its bad weather (sounds just like Netherlands) but I had the glorious sun especially during the long weekend I was there and you know how much I love the sun shining on me. 

I met up with my lovely friend Sarah Ashton who so kindly hosted me for the weekend.  Can't give enough thanks to her for letting me sleep on her cozy spare bed with 3 layers of blanket, wearing her cute colourful PJs, and sharing her oh so delicious fruit flavoured cheese that I can't get enough of!  And also for introducing me to Eurovision! Watching this cheesy European song competition in a gay bar was kinda pretty darn cool!

So what can I say about Manchester?  We did lots in the 3 days - I did a walking tour of Manchester city myself and it was easy and quick - love the architecture - those old medieval buildings mixed with modern structures - that was pretty cool!  And of course an English tea with scones is a must to get into the English lifestyle - Richmond Tea House is a great place to check out.
English scones and tea

There isn't much to sightsee in Manchester city itself but the area around is awesome with lovely towns and parks. 


Where we had our English ale!

Chester is a lovely town with the remains of the old Roman walls.  It was easy to get to with the train - just make sure you take note of the tickets you buy - if you buy the restricted ones (cheaper) you can only board certain trains.  We made the mistake of boarding just about any train and had to travel back to Manchester to change.  Because of that, we got to know the lovely Stockport which we passed through 4 times in total....... It's about an hour ride to Chester (or slightly more), and from Chester station, it's a 10-15min walk to the town with signpost to direct you exactly where you should turn and walk.  It was really crowded on the Sat we were there but the town is lovely!  The really old buildings that are now transformed into pubs, bars, restaurants and shopping areas.  The old church.  And of course, take the time to walk the entire Roman wall!  Took us about 1-2hours to complete the whole cycle including an ice cream stop.  Yes, you have to try the Cheshire ice cream!  It was there that I had my first taste of the real English Fish & Chips, complete with mashed peas and beer battered fish.  And also a half pint of English ale!  I now know why English drink so much ale - it's so light, it's like drinking water!!!  But they are darn cheap at 1.5 pounds it's a steal!

Lyme Park

The next day, once again a glorious sunny day, we made our way to Lyme Park - a state park which was once privately owned.  These people were bloody rich!  The whole area was so darn big that you couldn't possibly finish it in one day!  The gardens were beautiful, while in comparison the house itself was small , though still grand but small... Perspective.  Highly recommend locals to get the annual pass which allows you free entry including parking to ALL state parks in England and Scotland.  I had to pay like 9 pounds for entry.  The tour of the house itself took us about an hour or so and you could really see how grand the rich were.  The outside area was the main highlight I think.  We walked to the far away tower (where they apparently kept the hounds) and the view from up there was amazing!  There are also a number of hiking trails you could take (get a map from the information counter)  We did 2 hikes that brought us up to a height where you could have an almost bird's eye view of the whole area.  Really loved it.  We drove there, but public transport is possible as there's a train station nearby.  It's also a really great place for a picnic when the weather is nice!

The Peak district

The next day, I bade farewell to my wonderful hostess and made my way to hike the Peak.  I did the Kinder Scout trail which start at Edale station.  The information center is just a 10min walk from the station and there you can get information on the trails.  Unfortunately the maps are not for free but you could get the simplest one for 2.5 pounds, which is pretty useful unless you are a seasoned hiker in that area.  I went for the route that was supposed to take 6hours to complete, but I did it in 4 - woohoo wonderwoman!  Anyway, the hike in itself is not hard.  The hardest part - depends on which direction you start, I started from the Penine Way - for me was the steps going up at Jacob's Ladder - that was the steepest but on a scale of 1-10 it was a 6 or 7.  Then after it was more smooth sailing walking.  The trails are well marked as they were pretty well trodden but there weren't really signposts to indicate which direction or route you are on, so a map or compass is a safe bet.  The view was amazing, overlooking the valleys and you also pass through some cool rock formations!  I came down via Grindsbrook - just follow the path and you get to the end and the last part going down could be a little tricky as they were a little steep but still a 5-6 only.  Do check the train timings at the visitor center before you set out as the trains do not run every hour!!  Because I had time on my hand before the next train and I finished my hike earlier than expected, I went for another hike to the other side of the valley up to Hollins Cross!  This was a little trickier to find - the hike was No 2 on my map and the starting point was through a gate that looked kinda private but once you get close, you will see a sign that points you to the correct entrance. 

From there, keep your map and guide close by as the sign posts are far apart - you'll see them still but the guide gives you pretty precise directions on how you should turn and how many gates you should pass.  Finally reaching a granite road, follow the map directions if you want to get up to the peak.  It was really windy going up there and you know how you expect a sign or board that tells you that is the peak? Nope, you get none.  You just have to assume that's the peak according to the map and the fact that it then branches out to different tracks.  From the top, you can see the view of the town from the other side and also the trains that run through.  This hike took 2 hours - could have been shorter if I had NOT made a wrong turn.

Highly recommended to give the Peak a go especially on a great day!  It'll always be kinda windy and slight chilly there even if it's a sunny day so pack appropriately!

That night met up with another friend from Singapore and we had a nice drink at a crafts beer place Brew Dog where we tried 5 different types of beer!  Lovely strong beer - much better than those English ale.

There are loads to do outside of Manchester city so do give those a try!! 

The famous Manchester Tart! Custard with coconut and cream and glazed berries

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