We got the 6 p.m. train to Manchester after work on Friday and arrived at Manchester Piccadilly station a few hours later, in the heart of the action. While The Mercure (formerly Piccadilly Hotel) wasn't anything to write home about, its location -- overlooking Piccadilly Gardens, all lit up for Christmas -- couldn't be beat, and the breakfast was very good.
the Wolves at Man U match on Saturday afternoon -- don't worry, Robbie, I didn't come back with any swag, and only cheered so the surrounding fans wouldn't hurt me -- so we spent the morning around Piccadilly Gardens and the European Christmas Market in the lee of the imposing Town Hall. (The following day we went inside, which has its own market, and enjoyed tea with a friend of Tea's from the area; really nice spot to warm up!)
Old Trafford was a cinch: a few stops from Manchester Piccadilly. (Unfortunately, getting home after the match was another matter; we probably would've walked back to the town centre if we had our time back.) That first view of the pitch was amazing. With a capacity of nearly 80000, I have to say, the two Premier League matches I've been to have been a spectacle of staggering proportions. The steady thrum of noise, strikingly different from the typical Sens game, makes you feel so alive. Seated well up behind and to the side of one of the goal lines, we had a great view of three of the five goals in the 4-1 victory for Man U. (The Wolves played well, but were simply outclassed.)
Def Leppard's backdrop was toned down by comparison -- I could imagine it would've looked much the same twenty years ago -- but all the better for it: the shuttle footage on the floor-to-ceiling screens during Rocket, with their silhouettes out front, as they played on the three different levels, was fantastic. The whole show was great; everything I thought it would be -- Phil was still shirtless! -- and more. They seemed genuinely appreciative of the reception: Joe reminisced about driving back to Sheffield in a beat-up van in '79, having just opened for a band in Manchester: “You know, Manchester is really f*****' great.” And they ended saying, “Don't forget us; we won't forget you.” Good times!
Port St. Beer House has it by a nose: two levels, and not silly busy on the Saturday night we popped in, it hit a cosy rec room note we both took to immediately. The staff were knowledgeable and friendly: as usual Tea asked for a recommendation, and the barman's "Stunning!" for Thornbridge's Colorado Red was bang-on. Similarly, he raved about a recently-acquired saison that was a collaboration between local Marble Beers and Dark Star brewer, Mark Tranter; and with good reason: honestly, this may be the best beer I've ever tasted. So rich and smooth for a 9%, and much more than I'd dreamed a saison could be -- and I'm a big fan of Saison Dupont, understand.
Other hits of the evening included:
- Utility IPA from Marble: excellent, even after the Colorado Red, which is saying something
- Great Divide's Rumble: an oak aged IPA; so smooth, with caramel notes
- Redwillow's Ageless, a beautiful Imperial IPA
- BrewDog's Winter Porter
- Otley's O-Ho-Ho: while good, it obviously paled in comparison to the heavy hitters
|Enjoying a pint at the Old Wellington|
Other stops included:
- The Old Wellington can't be missed. The surrounding Shambles -– and it really was in '96 -– is a must-see, and whilst you're there, you could do far worse than this twice-moved landmark. Over two visits, Acorn's Barnsley Bitter, Itchen Valley's Treacle Stout, Rudgate's Auld Saint Nic and Venus Black IPA were all excellent.
- Kro Piccadilly was right outside our hotel, and a great place to watch the wet-at-the-time world go by. The pump clip with Elbow's Build a Rocket Boys! called to me: slightly sweet with caramel notes, it went down very well; a good session beer.
- Microbar, in Arndale Market: the location is small and odd, but it really works. Strands Brewery's Brown Bitter and Ellands Brewery's Tinsel Ticklers were both great (the latter being hoppy and bright, with a hint of orange rind).
- Bulls Head: the guide hits the right note on this pub: smacks of professionalism and intimacy; quite the feat for a pub so close to the train station. Had Boondoggle and the Ugly Sisters, and was impressed by the latter.
Check out our Picasa album for more pictures from the long weekend.