I have always had a rather negative impression of Manchester; I’m not sure why. I thought it was kind of a depressed (and depressing) part of England. But, due to our change of heart as to the Lakes District, we would be heading there. The train was pretty crowded going from Bath to Birmingham so we reserved seats for our trip from Birmingham to Manchester. We hadn’t been able to do this online because we were using a BritRail Pass but found that we could do this at a train station. That worked so well that when we got off the train in Manchester we stopped by the ticket office to reserve seats for the rest of our train journeys. We lost the flexibility of traveling at any time of day but gained the reassurance that we wouldn’t be standing if the train was crowded! And, the ticket seller let us know that the city of Manchester has 3 free shuttle bus lines that take you anywhere in the downtown area. No need to pay for a sightseeing bus!
Again, we reached town before noon. This time, our hotel was less than a mile from the station so we decided to walk. We couldn’t find the correct exit from the station (none of the street names matched the directions I had printed from Google) so asked an employee of the station. He pointed us to a footbridge and said that the street we needed was probably off to the left of it. And, if we couldn’t find it, to go the other direction. We headed off across the bridge but couldn’t find the street name we were looking for. We got lost but found a delivery man to ask directions of. If anyone knows an area, it should be someone that delivers packages for a living! He gave us great directions and we quickly located our hotel, the Pendulum.
The Pendulum is located across the street from the University of Manchester. It is a modern-looking building compared to the places we had been staying. We were too early for check-in but the man who assisted us let us know that we could either wait for a few hours or pay an extra 10£ and our room would be ready in 5-10 minutes. We didn’t want to drag our suitcases around, nor did we want to hang out in the lobby, so opted to pay the extra fee. We also opted to pay for breakfast at the hotel. Normally we reserve rooms where breakfast is included in the rate. However, since we reserved at the last minute, we were mainly interested in finding economical lodgings that we could walk to from the train station. We were happy to pay a little extra to start the day with a hot breakfast.
The room décor was quite modern compared to the places we had been staying. The included amenities were nice; the towels were big and fluffy and best of all, it was quiet.
We walked back to the train station to catch a free shuttle bus and grab a bite to eat. There are 3 bus routes; 2 of the routes go around the outside perimeter of the city. One goes through the middle. We decided to take the longest route first. Though these are not technically “hop-on, hop-off” buses, so no commentary included, you can get off and on as many times as you want because the ride is free. We had a map so could identify sites as we passed by them, but didn’t really see any place where we felt like we wanted to investigate further. I tried to take a few pictures but gave up; too hard to take pictures from a bus!
After we completed the route we decided to do a little people-watching. There is a bar right outside the train station that had some good seats so we got a couple of beverages and sat down to watch the world go by. We got cold pretty quickly so moved inside to finish our drinks. We hopped on another shuttle to see more of Manchester. My impressions of Manchester from our bus tours are that there are tons of restaurants and shops there! There is a football museum and a football stadium (ever heard of Manchester United?) if you are into that kind of thing.
We had dinner at the hotel. We shared a salad and a pizza; both were really good. The prices were reasonable, too. The breakfast buffet the following morning was also quite nice; full English breakfast plus continental breakfast choices. We definitely filled up before checking out of our room and heading back to the train station! Manchester was not nearly as depressing as I had expected. 😉