UK - Manchster, an amazing industrial city on the rise
Updated: Dec 10, 2021
Well, we have to admit - visiting Manchester (or England in general) for sightseeing is a bit of crazy idea in the months of january and february. Well, the flight from Geneva was sensationally cheap with 21 CHF oneway only. This was for sure one good argument. But, as in our previous travels, our reason to visit the UK was because of our spiritual master Paramahamsa Vishwananda giving Darshans in Manchester and London.
So, the cheapies we are, we had booked our flight with handluggage only. So 6 nights in winter in England with handluggage. That's quite a challenge. We were lucky when we had boarded the plane with no checks about the weight of our luggage ;-). We wore all our warm clothes and the pockets of our jackets were filled with additional stuff - but we made it. By landing in Manchester we had a really funny experience. As we had to get up at 4 am to go to the airport, we were really tired. Have asleep the landing was announced and we looked at each other. It was our "normal" routine of travelling the last 4 years mainly in India and by being have asleep we both somehow did not realise that we were not about to land in India. We quickly discussed who will look for the train and who will fight of the annoying taxi drivers and where we get some cash when we stopped discussing and looked at each other - laughing out loud. Hey, we were going to land in the UK. No big hassle was waiting for us. It was a really funny situation. And we were shown how easy it is to travel - outside of India (well, of course there are also some other "difficult" countries as well).
In fact it was a breeze. When stepped out of the plane, got cash in a second and walked through a small little supermarket with vegan wraps and fruits. So lunch was organised. Quickly we went down to the train station, a superfriendly man helped us to get the tickets and off we went to Manchester Picadilly by train. It was easy, straight forward and people were extremely friendly. With 19 years I (Nina) had been to Greater Manchester for a week but I did not remember that people were so very friendly, open, funny and joking. Once in downtown Manchester it was a short walk to our hotel. We had booked in the Ibis Budget - normally not our kind of place to stay (we prefer the B&B kind of accomodation), but it was the cheapest option and a perfect choise. The room was huge, clean and friendly. We had a room on a top floor with a view over the city - and it was quiet.
But we have to admit, the english weather made up for its fame. It was slightly drizzling, it was windy and it was freezing cold. So we got ready to meet our spritual master that evening for Darshan (blessing of the people). The hall where the event took place was a 30 minutes walk along the canals of Manchester. And of course, we walked. Despite the cold. And we were both surprised! What a really cool city! The once industrial buildings are renovated and full of life. It is beautiful. Either those buildings had been converted into appartment blocks (really cool appartments along the canals), offices, art ateliers or restaurants and coffee shops. It really has a certain atmosphere which was enjoyable. We had never expected this. So much about the prejudices: we had expected an ugly industrial city. But what we found was really great.
Happily we arrived in Castlefield where the Darshan took place. Some of our friends from all around the world had also come and of course a lot of locals. It was a wonderful Darshan and we enjoyed it a lot. We are so thankful that we sometimes have te opportunity to travel to some places where Paramahamsa Vishwananda gives Darshan. It is always a very special trip. What a blessing to have him personally in our lifes! At night we walked happily back to our hotel through the silent streets of Manchester.
Next morning we slept in late. Our first task before wandering through the city was to pick up our train ticket to London for the next day. We had prebooked it online. So we slowly went to the train station. Again, a superfriendly and funny member of staff helped us to get the tickets and he talked to us for a while. Well, he was born in Manchester and we have to admit, it was so difficult to understand this accent! But it was funny :-). When we wanted to leave the train station we nearly bumped into a group of devotees and Paramahamsa Vishwananda. They were about to leave for London that minute. We did not know this and were really surprised. Again a big blessing to meet your master "coincidentally" at the train station (well, there are no coincedences). So we waited till they all left and then made our way to the city center in search of food. But walking through the streets we nearly forgot that we did not have breakfast and were really hungry. What a nice city! And how friendly people are! We stopped by an Aldi supermarket and were nosy how these look like in the UK. So we walked in and simply bought a chocolate. At the cashier, I was greeted with "have a lovely day my darling!". Never have I walked out of an Aldi in Switzerland or Germany with a smile on my face! There, the staff mostly even does not look at you. They never greet you and just tell you quickly the amount you have to pay. Wow! But whereever we went in town it was the same. People talking to you amazingly friendly. Some chatting about whatever came into there mind not caring if you are a tourist or not. We started to love this place - not only for the cool and trendy atmosphere but also for the people. Finally we ended up in the Northern Quarters, an area with lots of cafes, galleries, bars and artist. And we loved it. We had a vegan lunch at the Earth Cafe. It was fantastic. They have pure veg and vegan food. You can have your choice of milk (hemp, coconut, soy, almond, regular) for your cappuccino, the lentil burgers were super yummy and again the people amazing. We stayed there for a while to warm up, before exploring all the rest of the city.
It was the day before the Chinese New Year celebrations at night and the city was busy with lots of chinese dance groups around. In the afternoon the sun was warming us a little bit. But after walking through the whole CBD we finally ended up in the National Football Museum. Not because we are big fans, but to warm us up for free for a while. Anyway, it was quite an entertaining experience. Afterwards we walked back to the Northern Quarters to another cool, ecological cafe, the Fig + Sparrow. We enjoyed fantastic eggless cakes and great tea - a real british tea time. And for dinner we went to the crowded Chinatown. We got some place in a nice chinese restaurant and enjoyed a fantastic veg dinner.
That was our time in Manchester. We have to admit that we would love to come back in summer one day and explore more of the surroundings (Peak district) and Liverpool as well. We enjoyed the city very much. It has amazing buildings, friendly people and a great atmosphere. It is obvious in the streets that there is a certain poverty and that there does exist a drug problem. Still we had many amazing encounters with friendly and joyful people. The next morning, we had an early train down to London. After a short night we walked from our hotel to Manchester Picadilly through heavy rain and boarded a comfortable train southward.