What seems like rather a long time ago now, way back in August, we took a last little road trip in W’s car (Steve the Seat has now found a new home, sob). We headed up to where his dad’s family is originally from, Bolton, whilst stopping off at one of the favourite place of my childhood (more about that next week), spending some time in Manchester and generally just exploring the North.
It’s strange, whilst away at uni I actually classed myself as a Northern girl. I said ‘bath’ rather than ‘b-arth’ (I hate people adding the “r” in once you get south of Leicester, my sister had trouble learning how to spell in primary school due to it!). I liked proper Yorkshire tea. I enjoy chip butties. And all my friends where very definitely from the South. Yet actually, I’ve seen very little of the North at all. I mean, I adore Edinburgh, I’ve visited and loved Northumberland, and the Lake Disrict always made for a good (if slightly wet) family holiday with the dogs. But other than that, my experience remains very firmly in the Midlands. This visit definitely persuaded me to try and change that though!
The countryside around Bolton was stunning; if I’m honest not at all what I expected. Rolling hills, gorgeous views, open countryside, plenty of green. Give me a good hill over a flat landscape any day! Bolton was also a pleasant surprise – a decent museum to escape the rain in, a rather enviable new shopping centre in the old market place. And pasties. The Carrs Pasty is something I’ve only ad when W’s dad visited and brought them back for the freezer. And they’re delicious. We made a point to visit for lunch on our first day, then return before starting our journey home to stock up. Crisp buttery pastry, and a mash’n’mince filling that’s intensely savoury. So very different from my beloved Cornish pasty, but so very good.
Manchester, however, is a city I fell suddenly and unexpectedly in love with. I loved the hustle and bustle (that lacked the franticness of London). The Arndale had every shop I could want. There were so many restaurants I wanted to try. But most of all I adored the stark contrasts between the old and the new. Sparkly new offices being built next to the stunning cathedral. I wish I could have stayed longer, explored the city more. I only had a few hours; it definitely wasn’t enough.
In need to (again) escape the rain we found what is perhaps the most Instarammable teashop I’ve ever been in. Enviable tiles, distressed wood, hanging light-bulbs. But most importantly, the tea was damn good. Everything was loose-lead, provided with an ‘egg timer’ to allow it to brew correctly. My standard English Breakfast was delicious. W’s Hibiscus was sweet and fruity, vivid in colour and so refreshing. The cakes looked gorgeous, but with an evening of Italian food ahead we didn’t indulge. Guess I’ll have to go back soon!
We spent our last morning being all cultural. We visited Salford Quays, had a wander around Media City (including a really rather yummy mac’n’cheese lunch at Pret), and viewed the Lowry Gallery. One of my favourite artists, I really enjoyed the chance to see much more of his work. Plus I couldn’t resist a quick browse in the outlet stores. Finally picking up a pair of heeled brogues I’d been coverting for years for an absolute bargain ended our little trip perfectly!
Have you explored much of North UK? Anywhere you’d recommend?