My exams ended on the fourth day of the two-week exam period, after the winter break. On the better second half of January, my friends and I relaxed with simple things like potlucks, karaoke sessions and hanging out at friends’ place, and eating out. It was a nice change from cramming for exams and surviving on takeaways in the Mill. As part of my “try new things” resolution, for January, I have taken a special interest in trying different cuisines around Manchester, which include: Mexican (Barburittos), Chinese, Vietnamese (I am Pho), Greek (Rozafa), English (Retro Bar), and New Zealand (GBK) cuisines. I also had my first try in cooking pork chops and roasting sliced pork ribs, and made Japanese cotton cheese cake!
After the hectic exam period, my friend SF came to Manchester for her first time. The best motivation to explore Manchester is when a friend comes to visit. With the ever-changing weather, we experienced snow, rain, strong wind and (fortunately) a few hours of sun all in a span of three days.
Day 1: Chinatown & Old Trafford Stadium
12 pm: We had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant “I am Pho”. I tried the delicious minced crab soup with rice vermicelli while SF had a beef-based soup. We walked about in Piccadilly Gardens to look for souvenirs and snacks before taking the 250 bus to Old Trafford stadium.
2.30 pm: After we purchased the stadium and museum tour for £14.50, we quickly rushed to the stadium tour meeting point that began every half hour. The guide was less friendly from my last visit in September 2009, nevertheless, still very informative. The stadium tour took slightly more than one hour as we were brought around the stadium, and behind the scenes such as meeting rooms, changing rooms and players tunnels, etc.
Old Trafford is the second largest football stadium in England after Wembley in London, holding a maximum capacity of 76,000 spectators. Nicknamed known as the Theatre of dreams, the stadium is the home of Manchester United Football Club. The spectator seats painted white with black as shadow spelt out “Manchester United”, “Stretford End” and Nike “swoosh” on each end. My personal best experience of the tour was the opportunity to sit on the Home Team seats.
3.40 pm: After that, we were left to tour around the museum with no guide. There were a lot of information about history of MU, legends, trophies, managers, and sadly the Munich air disaster. As both of us were not particularly football fans, we spent about less than an hour in the museum.
5pm: The next stop was Trafford Centre, a shopping mall close to the stadium. We met up with some other friends, with plans for a mini golf session. After a full meal at GBK, it was late and both of us decided to cancel on the mini golf and head back home early more intensive research on Peak District the following day.
Day 2: North Campus of UoM, Peak District, Manchester Arndale
2 am: There are so many places of interest around Peak District and we finally narrowed down our choices and mapped out our itinerary to Hope, then Castleton, then Bakewell, then Buxton. We researched on transportation – thankfully – as we realized that the bus does not run frequently, and train does not run from every town.
8 am: We toured around the North Campus on the way to the train station and walked ‘the road most taken’ to the Mill in the past four years. As the 50-minute 8.45 am train took us closer to Peak District, the scene changed from city view to picturesque white snowy landscape. The pine trees are crusted with snows and there are herd of goats grazing on the mountainside.
9.40 am: When we reached Hope station, it was surprising to see how thick the snow can be. Although it had snowed the previous day, we did not expect that unstepped fresh snow can be as thick as 6 inches.
As there are no bus that runs from Hope to Castleton until 10.30 am, we set off on foot. The walkway was so thick with snow, that even with high platform boots, they got very wet eventually. So we walked on the road, and had to give way for the occasional cars that rushed by. Later that afternoon, a bus driver told us that he almost hit us, but I was not aware of it at all.
On the way, we saw two horses (at least I think they were). The owner was there to throw stacks of dry hay for Phoebe and Jimmy to graze on. It was quite difficult to take a proper picture of the two animals as they constantly stuck their muzzle between the cracks of the gate.
10.45 am: Castleton! Castleton is known for a precious mineral, Blue John, which is found at Blue John Cavern and Treak Cliff Cavern. We did not visit the caverns, but we went into several shops that sell the precious mineral. At one of the shops, the shop keepers was very friendly and after must hestitation and thoughts, both of us got Blue John jewelries. I wanted a necklace but I do not want to take my 21st birthday gift off, so I opted for a bangle instead.
1 pm: We took Bus 173 from Castleton to Bakewell. I dozed off in that one hour ride, occasionally waking up in between to see if we reached our destination. As soon as we reached Bakewell, we went to eat the famous Bakewell pudding. What better way to eat an English dessert than to eat it at the origin? The pudding was served with hot custard, and was more delicious than I expected it to be. 🙂
3.30 pm: The bus from Bakewell to Buxton was a whopping £4.60 single way. We went to Buxton because it was the nearest town that had a direct train back to Manchester. Upon reaching Buxton, we had an hour to kill, so we strolled around the town. I built a miniature snowman, less than 6 inches tall, but was mistakenly thought to be more than 2 feet tall. 😀
4.30 pm: Our return ticket stated Hope Derbyshire – Manchester stations, so we were unaware if we could take a train from Buxton. We gave it a try, and luckily we did not need to purchase new tickets! Upon reaching Manchester, we took the free Metroshuttle 1 bus to Manchester Arndale, the city centre shopping complex and walked around for souvenirs. I bought myself clip on earrings. That night, I cooked dinner for both of us and chatted up a bit before heading to bed.
Day 3: UoM Campus, Town Hall, Hard Rock Café
A bright and sunny day greeted us as we head down to Oxford Road where the main campus lies. The main University of Manchester buildings are the University Place and the Whitworth Hall. We entered the Manchester Museum, and was disappointed to discovered that one of the level was closed for maintenance. We had dimsum at Pearl City and later snow ice at Dessert Room.
Two hours later, we head of to Town Hall, which was beautifully decorated with lanterns. It really sets the mood for the coming Chinese New Year. After some shopping, we visited Hard Rock Café which was the city largest music experience destination.
SF left that evening, and hopefully will be coming down to Manchester for another Peak district trip! 😀
Thank you readers for scrolling all the way down! The cute bear above thanks you too