One Big Leap to Manchester

Last month, I had the opportunity to travel to Manchester, UK and if you're headed to England or somewhere nearby, it's definitely worth the stop. My brothers-in-law and I only had a few days in the area, and while we did a lot, there's was a lot left unseen. This was also my first visit to England, and on top of that we had plans to watch a Premier League match between some of the best teams in the league; Leicester City, last year's champions and Manchester City, who have already cemented themselves as this year's champions.

Day 1

After arriving at the airport and waiting for my brothers' flight, we were off into the city center. The trains in Manchester are much nicer than any I've ridden in the US, especially NYC, but it's still hard to top Japan's railway system. We arrived at Piccadilly Station, a frequent stop for us, and made our way to the hotel. My brother-in-law, Brian, made a conscious decision to stay further from the station, towards the edge of the city, so that we'd essentially be forced to explore the area as we made our way from destination to destination. We stayed at the Renaissance Manchester City Centre Hotel, which had a nice, large room and a cool view:

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Day 1 was mostly spent travelling, so while we didn't do much in the city, we did get to explore that night a bit, and came across this pretty cool fountain at Piccadilly Gardens:

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Day 2 

This was the day of the football match, so we decided to kick it off by heading to the nearby National Football Museum. Along the way we passed the Manchester Cathedral, which was unfortunately under construction, but that didn't mean it didn't look nice:

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The Football Museum was also a really rad building, forming a sort of triangle on the inside:

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Inside, I really learned a lot about the history of the sport. I've only just started following the Premier League and soccer in general, so this was a good stepping off point. We were also treated to a really cool exhibit on Pele, who I've obviously heard of, but didn't realize just how amazing he really was. A common theme with the museums in the area is that they're free but donations are welcome. We each donated and I think you can tell that the money is going back into the museum, which had a lot to see and was very well kept. 

After the museum, we met up with some NYCFC fans that had also traveled to see the game. This whole event was made possible by the Third Rail and the connection between NYCFC and Manchester City FC. The trip to Emirates Stadium was pretty quick and despite the rain, the stadium was really impressive:

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We also learned that we had Platinum Box Seats, which mean our own private space, a server, and of course, box seats with a great view of the pitch:

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For the next 105+ minutes we were able to enjoy the match, without being pummeled by rain. We also got to see Agüero score not only a hat trick but 4 out of 5 goals for the top team in the league. And as a Liverpool fan, I was fine with that because it meant we're the only team to defeat this giant. Here's hoping we can repeat that in the Champions League quarterfinals!   

Day 3

Speaking of Liverpool, the city is roughly an hour's train ride from Manchester, so I wasn't going to pass up on the opportunity to visit! We headed out early that rainy morning, and were in the Merseyside city before we knew it. 

Naturally, our first stop was Anfield. I may have been the main reason for this visit, but it doesn't hurt to see one of the most famous soccer venues in the world. After a bus ride with some cool views of the city and then the civilian neighborhoods, we arrived at the Paisley Gateway:

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We headed to the tour desk and got started on a self-guided audio tour of the stadium. We learned about the history of the team, of the building, and more. We got to see the pitch, the locker room, interview rooms, and even sat in the famous Kop.

After the trip to Anfield, we headed back to the seaside, specifically the Albert Dock. Since we only had a day in the city, there was no chance to see all the sights. Liverpool has a ton of museums, most of them free, but we made the decision to stop by the Beatles Museum, one of the not-free museums. On the way, we had a bite to eat on the top floor of this quaint little diner:

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The Beatles Museum looked small initially, tucked into one of the buildings at the Albert Dock, but I was surprised by just how much it had to offer. We were self-admittedly not the biggest Beatles fans, meaning we like their music and understand their significance to music history, but you won't find us listening to Sgt. Pepper's on repeat. That said, we were really impressed by the history and I'm glad we stopped by, because when in Liverpool, right?

After the museum, we decided we'd try hitting up a local pub to watch the Liverpool FC away match. It was too bad the club wasn't playing at Anfield during our visit, but when we stopped at the Rose & Crown, we got to enjoy watching the match with local fans. Liverpool comfortably defeated Southampton, and we made our way back to Manchester for our final full day in the country.

Day 4

Now that we had a full day to explore, with no soccer to interrupt us, we took advantage of the sunny weather to see everything we could in Manchester. Our first stop was the People's History Museum, but along the way we spotted St. Ann's Church:

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I didn't expect much from the People's History Museum. The name was so vague I actually didn't know what to expect at all. When we got started, though, we could see it was set up to tell the story of social movements in England's history, starting at the Peterloo Massacre and ending with modern social movements, like Women's and LGBT rights. I learned about the start of trade unions and the various political parties of England, which was all genuinely new to me of course. If you're in the city and want to learn about England's social history, this is a pretty great spot to do just that. 

From the museum, we took a short walk to the John Rylands Library, a neo-gothic library that houses some rare rare books and is dedicated to a local entrepreneur and philanthropist. Inside, the library's architecture was gorgeous, and included helpful mirrors for the elderly to avoid craning their necks.

Once out of the library, our next destination was the Museum of Science and Industry, but as we made our way there we stumbled upon an interesting find: a historic Roman fort dug up inside a nearby field, aptly named Castlefield. 

After fully admiring the fort, we continued to the Museum of Science and Industry, which of all the museums was the biggest let down. We saw a many varieties of engines and industrial machines, but we really didn't learn how any of it worked. It was more of a collection of artifacts on an old railway station, which makes for a fine museum, but for a science museum you're much better served at the Boston Museum of Science (come visit!). 

We quickly made our way through the various buildings and were on our return trip back to the hotel, where we made sure to see more local staples like the Town Hall, Post Office, and Central Library:

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Our last stop was a quick walk through Chinatown and then back to the hotel to relax after 4 long days. I think we hit all the spots worth seeing in Manchester, but with all that Liverpool had to offer as well, it'll be well worth visiting the area again, and hopefully catch the Reds on the return trip.