My lamentations about the decline of Manchester's gay life from an undiscovered delight to suffering the same (though milder) Northern disease that seems to be taking hold everywhere outside the M25 remain valid, but Manchester still holds a special place in my heart. I'll never forget the unbridled joy that seemed to flow forth on Canal Street on my visits there over the first many years. So while it's disappointing to see the changes, I still enjoy its company. And to be fair, some bars along Canal Street have started implementing firm no-hen-night/stag-do policies (though stag-dos are not the problem - few straight men want to spend their last night of freedom trolloping from gay bar to gay bar), so perhaps there's some fight in the community yet.
Anyhoo, to Manchester we went, glitter headbands and matching sassy tee-shirts be damned, and had a very good time. I went to my current favourite bars, discovered some new ones, and succeeded spectacularly in showing Marco and Jan what a Manchester hangover felt like. However, going with them there was very different from my previous trips with Russ. Apparently there's a whole city out there beyond the train station, Canal Street and the path between the two. Who knew?! And what's more, Marco and Jan (well, Marco) wanted to go see it as well. So I can safely say I discovered a whole new side to Manchester this weekend.
Next time? I'm going with Russ again.
View of Manchester from the flat we rented.
Machester Town Hall (lovely, innit?)
Random agreeable architecture
Jan was a little less keen on standing under his own power than Marco
Two old pub buildings in the city centre. Apparently, they were picked up from elsewhere and moved here to save them.
In 1996, the IRA bombed Manchester's city centre, destroying much of it, and setting off the regeneration that has allowed it to clearly become the main city of the North, and arguably on the way to usurping Birmingham as Britain's second city. This is Exchange Square, part of the redevelopment, and designed by Martha Scwartz.
This is the pillar box (mail box) that survived the blast and serves as its memorial. I was really quite taken with this. Had this been in America, there would likely have been a shrine built around it, with water features, jagged glass sculptures, gardens, poems etched in walls, all of it drenched in red,white and blue light features. Here, they simply allowed the box to remain in service, inconspicuously standing on a through street (you'd never know what it was if a local didn't tell you) with a small bronze plaque reading: "This postbox remained standing almost undamaged on June 15, 1996 when this area was devastated by a bomb. The box was removed during the rebuilding of the city centre and was returned to its original site on November 22nd 1999".
The Northern Quarter, Machester's Dalston...
...where we had great Lebanese food at The Cedar Tree, and were completely beguiled by the decor...
...though they didn't quite seem to get the meaning of vegetarian.
Last, but certainly not least, Canal Street, before the boys have come out to play.
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