Now, as you know, just because I live in France in the countryside does not mean that I do not love Manchester. Today I’m going to do a top ten favourite things in Manchester, just because I feel it’s time. I know you’ll appreciate that it can be hard to pick out only ten things – and this will be.
#1 St Ann’s Square. From cool little shops around a spacious square to Barton Arcade – a glass and iron arcade that links St Ann’s Square to Deansgate – it never seems crowded and it never seems run-of-the-mill. I love the flower stall by the church, and I love walking round through the little arcades that go lots of other places.
It might very well be raining in the picture, but there’s about a million little places to explore off this one – it’s a kind of meeting-place for all the narrow little roads that run from Deansgate to Cross St. You can go through the Royal Exchange Arcade – never as good as the Royal Exchange used to be before the bomb, of course. You can cut up via the bank, up St Ann’s St, via Half Moon St. And, best of all, the Victorian Chop House, secreted away behind the church. Cut through to King St via Barbour – this place leads everywhere. The buildings are elegant. There are places in the sun. There are lovely shops. There’s the Royal Exchange theatre… this is the quiet, still-beating heart of the city for me.
#2 The University and Oxford Road.
From being about 13 to right now, this is always cool. Students might be annoying, but they are also cool sometimes. This is where I bought the purple coat from yesterday’s blog. It’s where I bought comics by the dozen, and records. It’s also home to the fabulous University museum, with its mummies and its skeletons. It’s not the Natural History museum, not by a long shot, but it’s culture meets grunge all in one place. It’s home to the Cornerhouse cinema, where I became a fully-fledged indie chick and watched arthouse movies in French or Spanish. It can be utterly pretentious, but it can also be a cultured dream. It was also home to the legendary Banshee club, and Jilly’s Rockworld, where I cut my teeth on places that opened late. It’s a world of all tastes. From rock clubs to the Whitworth Art Gallery, it’s a world of contrasts, too.
#3 Oldham St.
Across town, in the pretentiously named ‘Northern Quarter’, there sit lots of age-old businesses that fuelled the indie revolution, provided the wardrobe for the Second Summer of Love, for Madchester, for Cool Manchester. Afflecks Palace – a warehouse souk of epic dimensions which stocked everything from faded, pre-owned levis to funky silver jewellery – the only place for a girl to buy purple hair dye back in the day – still hosts a hundred tiny businesses with the coolest clothes. Shabby chic, kawaii, thrift shop, club-land neon, corsets… if it’s alternative, you’ll find it here. Couple that with Piccadilly Records, Eastern Bloc records, the Vinyl Exchange, all the second-hand stores, and it’s still cool.
# Chinatown. Manchester’s Chinatown sits around George St, forming a square completely made up of East Asian foods, restaurants, shops, bakeries and art galleries. You could spend all day here and share in this strange little home-from-home.
#5 Curry Mile. Manchester’s neon capital of curry, Wilmslow Road, is a golden marvel. Sweet shops, sari shops, curry restaurants, Asian grocery stores, it’s a mile of exotic smells and tastes that leads into the heart of the city like an artery of cumin and turmeric.
#6 St Peter’s Square. I love the Manchester Library – it’s round, which is always a good shape for a building. It’s another place you can feel a bit cultured and arty. It connects up the Town Hall with Oxford Road and Chinatown – and it’s another place to escape. If you come up via the University, along Wilmslow Road, it becomes Oxford Road and you can see it all in its splendour.
#7 Castlefield and Deansgate locks. Right down at the far end of Manchester’s Deansgate, you can see some of the original city – the Roman fort – and the old fortress is a good place to spend a sunny day. The locks are also a quiet haven away from the chaos.
#8 New Cathedral St.
With Harvey Nichols at one side, Selfridges and Louis Vuitton on the other, it’s a dream shopping parade. Zara, LK Bennett, Lacoste, it’s a consumerist dream. I like to window shop these days, but it’s still a fab place to go shopping.
#9 Old Trafford cricket ground.
Cricket might not be the first sport you think of when you think of Manchester, but it’s a classic part of Manchester life.
#10 The Triangle.
To take a city destroyed by an IRA bomb and rebuild it is something amazing, especially when it’s so well done. Hopefully, it will still look as great in the future and won’t end up all dated! Urbis is a weird-looking museum, all strange glass ski-slope and I’m not sure I approve architecturally, but then I’m a classic-loving girl. Go round the side of the old Corn Exchange and there’s an array of amazing old buildings, from the world’s first public library at Chetham’s to the back of the Cathedral.