One of the things I wanted to do more of this year was to travel, and that didn’t mean necessarily just outside of the UK but within the UK as well as there’s so much I haven’t seen yet! I’ve already managed to go to one new place this year with my trip to Edinburgh in January, and now I can tick Manchester off my list as of February 1st.
We left Northampton at a time too early for a Sunday morning to set off on our journey quickly stopping only for breakfast and coffee, until we got seriously distracted by a sign for Sherwood forest and a sudden absolute need to detour, and so we got off the motorway and onto a very random countryside route to Sherwood forest. Not quite realising how far out it was we ended up at what we thought was the right place but was actually the more commercialised Centre Parcs area of it, which was still pretty but not quite what we expected!
Journeying on from that we drove on through Sheffield heading towards the Peak District but of course got distracted once again as we drove towards a forest that was a) full of snow and b) surrounded by log piles. Just pretend the heart eyes emoji is right here because I’m pretty sure that’s what I looked like as soon as I saw this.
We walked round to the biggest log pile to take photos (my heart was so happy to finally take a 52 Weeks photo in a location like this) and despite the snow it wasn’t actually too cold there which was a massive plus! It was such a serene area and we encountered quite a lot of people out for a Sunday walk with their family and also lots of dog walkers, all of whom were incredibly pleasant! Everyone said hello and good morning to us regardless of how strange it looked with me posing in front of the log pile with my camera on a tripod and Caitlin filming me doing so! It was a pleasant surprise to the norm of strangers walking past without even a glance – a smile with a hello made for a nice change.
After leaving this little location (quite reluctantly) we soon began to drive through a very snowy Peak District and we couldn’t believe just how beautiful it all looked. Remember what I said about the heart eyes emoji? Imagine it again. x10.
Suddenly it felt like we weren’t even in England, the beauty of it all felt far too different. We stopped off at the side of the road and almost got blown over it was that windy but the views were just insane. The Harry Potter geek in me thought it looked a lot like some of the aerial shots over the lake by Hogwarts! It was simply the best area to drive through.
Shortly afterwards we found ourselves heading towards Manchester city centre and were soon parked up in the Northern Quarter ready to stretch our legs and explore! Immediately we were loving the creative graffiti and the mix of architecture Manchester had to show and it helped as well that the weather was being an absolute treat. The sun wouldn’t stop shining and you can never complain about that!
Our first stop was Fig & Sparrow, a little independent coffee shop. Recently I’ve become somewhat of a home decor obsessor and this coffee shop covered all the right bases for me. Unfortunately we went in at lunchtime so there wasn’t space for us to sit down and enjoy it for long but the homeware they had in there was absolutely divine and considering it’s an independent coffee shop the prices weren’t extortionate! I had to stop myself from buying half the shop but when I next go to Manchester I’ll definitely be paying this place a visit again.
After warming up we wandered round a bit more and stumbled across a shop called Fred Aldous and it had a couple of really fun old analogue photobooths! One printed in colour and the other black and white, I couldn’t resist getting some done because I adore how they look and they’re so hard to come by these days with digital taking over so much. Fred Aldous is mainly a huge craft shop but it also had some photography studios downstairs that could be hired for £15 per hour (£15!!! Amazing.) and the most impressive array of sketchbooks, papers, paints and everything that would basically be in an art students dream I imagine. It was a creative explosion in one shop and I loved it, very happy with that discovery.
While in this shop I realised how much of the stuff in Fred Aldous I’d seen in other stores shop fronts or used as part of their decor which is just fantastic. If you scroll up to look at the photos I took in Fig & Sparrow you’ll notice a cardboard antler on one of their walls – that could be found in Fred Aldous! Also the cardboard letters that are in a photo that I’ll pop just below were in Fred Aldous as well and I can’t help but think that this is simply small local business’ helping each other out and sourcing their decor etc from each other and almost cross-promoting in a way? If that is the case and it’s not just a crazy coincidence then I think that’s bloody lovely.
As we were walking back towards a restaurant we’d seen and wanted to go for lunch in we noticed this shop window that had a piano covered in sheet music which looked incredible, and then when I looked at it properly I noticed that the shop name had my initials in and then the initials for the Northern Quarter which I thought was so cool! Even better was that it was in a flamingo design which means a lot to me – but I’ll talk more on that a bit later on in this blog.
We stopped off to eat in a restaurant called Simple which had quite a small menu but it was made up of very yummy choices, it was such a struggle to pick what to have! Caitlin decided on the 3 Mini Burgers while I went for pancakes with bacon as I don’t think I’ve ever had it? They sounded too good not to finally try, and boy were they good!
I wish I’d taken more photos of the decor of this place as it was so quirky but unfortunately these are the only two I’ve got. You can see from a glimpse into the window though the style they were going for. This is one thing I really loved about Manchester, everywhere was effortlessly individual. Sometimes you see places that try to do this but they can’t really pull it off, but in Manchester they managed to ooze personality without making it look like they were forcing it.
After our late lunch we started walking towards the University of Manchester. The whole reason of me wanting to come to Manchester on Sunday was because it marked a year since my friend Hannah passed away. She had studied her Masters degree at the university there and after she passed away they put a plaque on one of their benches in her memory and I’d not yet been able to visit to see it – it seemed like the most fitting day to finally do so. Over this past year I’ve been learning how to deal with grief because everyone handles it in different ways and when it comes to anniversaries like this some people like to treat it like any other day whereas others use it as a day solely to remember whoever they’re grieving. I know I prefer to be busy on these days, and having a little adventure in the day really helped as well because it felt like building new memories and being able to happily associate them with Hannah. I bought some lovely roses on our walk up to the University and laid them out onto her bench which is in such a beautiful little spot – the perfect place for it. Hannah loved the artist P!nk and flamingos were her favourite animals hence why me seeing my initials in a flamingo design was so surreal, it’s the little things that you can’t even make up. I absolutely can’t believe it’s now been a year since she had to leave us and it still breaks my heart.
On our way to the university we’d bumped into a couple of Mormons who were on their missions from Utah and Las Vegas and we saw them on the walk back and I had to ask for a picture with them. They were so sweet and of course I had to ask them if they’d seen The Book of Mormon musical – they hadn’t but they wanted to! It’s quite funny how many little coincidences we had that day – first my initials in the flamingo print and now meeting some Mormons exactly a year to the day since I first saw The Book of Mormon and then found out the devastating news about Hannah.
It was then time to head home and for our adventure to come to a close. I was really sad to leave Manchester as we’d had such a lovely day and it felt like the most welcoming city. Saying that, as we were only able to explore a bit of the Northern Quarter I’d love to go back soon and see a lot more of it, but we had an incredibly fun and exciting trip and I’m so impressed with how much we managed to fit in in a day.
The biggest shout needs to go to my best buddie Caitlin for being so supportive and understanding of me – all the time really. She happily agreed to drive us to Manchester because I wasn’t sure how my emotions would be and I didn’t want to risk driving in case I was a mess, but as well as that Caitlin just knows how to be even if I am a mess. She’s an incredible person to have as a friend and I’m just so grateful to have her in my life for all the fun and laughter we have. Soppy moment done!
Manchester you were a beauty, hopefully we’ll be back soon.