Take 12 Trips January: Politics and prosecco in Manchester
Being a part-time traveller, I’m always looking to fit in as much travel as I can possibly manage, so the ‘Take 12 Trips’ challenge was made for me. Started off by Claire from Need Another Holiday, the idea is to commit to taking a trip each month of the year – whether that’s a day out, a weekend away or an international trip. I made a start at the end of last year, but am going to try and make at least one trip a month for the whole of 2014. My first trip of the year was to a destination I know well – Manchester. My visits normally involve visiting friends and family rather than sightseeing, but this time I was determined to take my own advice to turn every trip into a holiday by seeing what there is to see and do in the city.
Our first stop was the People’s History Museum in Manchester’s Spinningfields area. I’m a big fan of the city’s Museum of Science and Industry, but after three visits in a row it was time to try somewhere different and I’d heard great things about this place. The redeveloped museum reopened in 2010 in a converted Edwardian pump house with new four-storey extension, designed to turn from steel to rusty-red in Manchester’s damp weather. It covers 200 years of political history, focusing on what changes in society meant for ordinary people. The exhibits start off from the Peterloo Massacre in 1819 – which took place just down the road from the museum – then go through the fight for the vote and the start of the trade unions on the first floor, then into the twentieth-century on the second floor.
My knowledge of political history is patchy at best, so it was fascinating to see the impact that political decisions made on how people worked and lived. There’s a good mixture of different exhibits, from vintage posters to interactive hands-on features, starting with a machine at the entrance where you can clock yourself in. There’s also the world’s biggest collection of trade union and political banners, beautifully embroidered and conserved by the museum’s in-house team of experts. Or if that all starts to sound a bit too serious, you can always find a ridiculous hat or costume to try on…
The museum also has a great café overlooking the canal, but we had to head to our next stop – across the city centre to the Northern Quarter. Manchester has the UK’s second-biggest Chinatown so it’s not surprising that it’d gone all out to welcome the Year of the Horse. Over 3000 Chinese lanterns had been strung from trees and buildings, and there was a street parade complete with 175ft-long dancing dragon and fireworks display coming up later that evening. Until then there were martial art and dance displays going on, as well as food and drink stalls. But we had a more traditionally English feast in mind.
Manchester’s Northern Quarter was redeveloped in the 1990s and is now home to alternative fashion and design shops, music venues and plenty of café and bars. And one of these was our destination – the vintage-style tea rooms at Sugar Junction. I love all things 50s-style, so was at home among the Saturday afternoon crowds, taking a break from shopping with a pot of tea or a glass of prosecco. The café serves its own custom-blended teas with homemade scones and cakes (their Chocolate and Guinness one is a speciality), all served on original vintage crockery. And if that wasn’t enough tea, I also managed to squeeze in another cup later with Claire herself – we’ve been chatting online for ages but it was lovely to finally meet in person. Can’t think of a more appropriate way to start off 2014’s Take 12 Trips!
Are you taking part in the #Take12Trips challenge? You can find out more about what the other take 12 Trippers have been up to in this post. Next month’s trip takes me even further north in the UK where I’ll be spending the weekend in Newcastle for the Traverse travel blogging conference.