Exploring Manchester / by Julia Walck

After Festival Number 6 (how was that already almost 3 months ago?!), Emily and I stayed a few days in Manchester to wind down. It mainly consisted of drinking and thrift shopping. No complaints here.

DAY 1

Give me a moment while I re-live getting from point A (Festival Number 6 in Portmeirion, Wales) to point B (Manchester):

It was raining when we woke up. We were pretty tired due to the night before. We had watched Noel Gallagher in the rain while eating chips and I convinced Emily to go to a DJ set for Maribou State, which resulted in a late night. 

We had pre-packed most of our things the afternoon prior to make it easy getting out. I gathered up the last of the glitter and we said goodbye to our yurt. 

Then came the mud. I mentioned it was raining right? Somehow my suitcase seemed much heavier, and I now had to hoist it over an ocean of mud while simultaneously not falling in said ocean. We made it to the shuttle filled with fellow groggy, wet festival goers, (a very different scene than when we were going TO the festival), and were off.

When passing the car park, Em and I were both very happy we didn't have a car at this festival. All the mud from the rain was like quicksand to the cars and multiple people were stuck. 

We got to Bangor for our train a bit early so I got Em and myself some flat whites and pastries while we waited. A Virgin train worker came up to us with trash bags and asked if we wanted them for our wellies. I can't tell you how amazing that moment was. I removed my mud soaked (now crusted on) rain boots, managed to shove them in my suitcase, and changed into tennis shoes. 

The train ride was alright. People had taken our seats and they put up a fuss about moving and then continued to be quite loud all the way to Crewe, our connecting train. When getting off this crowded train, I had to lift my suitcase off in a way that wouldn't hit people. Funny thing though: when flying in, the side handle completely broke off my (borrowed) suitcase while in the baggage claim. Broken handle side was towards me when I lifted this suitcase off of the train, and it got caught in my pants. It ripped and slid it's full weight down a few inches while I cringed and we ran to our next train.

The second train ride was much smoother. Once we got to Manchester Picadilly we walked about a mile with our suitcases to our AirBNB down the road. 

We instantly threw ourselves onto the bed and let out a big sigh. There was a debate whether to nap or actually go out and celebrate. It was my birthday after all. 

It was decided that we first get some lunch. We ate at Gorilla Bar and Kitchen which we actually had twice on our trip because it was so good. Not to mention basically just down the stairs from our AirBNB.

After lunch we slipped into a food coma and took a nap. We rested up, got ready, and then went out for the night.

Our first stop was Guilty by Association. It's a basement bar in the Northern Quarter which drew us in with a pinball machine and a neon sign. The bartender kept trying to perfect a lemon in the shape of a rose for me in my drinks, which was nice. And funny.

We ended up at a ping pong bar next. Twenty Twenty Two was tucked away in an alley and down some stairs. Sounds sketchy, but trust me it's not. It's a very artsy, underground space where you can watch people get smashed and be terrible at ping pong. AKA it's awesome. 

I ordered a bees knees (as usual). Gin, honey and lemon. Up. For some reason I thought to myself, "They love gin over here, they must make a good bees knees." The bartender had no clue what that was and this was their first time making it. It wasn't good so he made me something else that was. Let's just say I got quite a few drinks on the house this way.

Just around the corner was a bar called Allotment. They had at least fifty different types of gin, so I figured why not try one I've never had? I ordered a gin and tonic with Forest Gin (because the packaging was so pretty) and it was really good. The atmosphere in Allotment had an open floor plan, and was good for drinks or dinner. Nice quiet spot. 

Day-1-allotment.jpeg

We walked past this bar called FAB which was covered in comic books and playing cards. I was drawn in by the nerdiness of it so we went up to the door. In a British accent, the bouncer asked us, "Do you ladies know whats on tonight?" We each shook our heads and he said, "Wrestling match". Haha. Thinking that might be too rowdy we continued on.

The next spot was The Temple. It's a pub that's a renovated public toilet turned bar. 

It's really little in there but quite charming. The fact that we were out so late on a Monday night meant there wasn't a ton of people inside and we had full reign on the jukebox. 

"Grounds for Divorce" by Elbow and "Blue Orchid" by The White Stripes were two of my picks. Manchester is a very musical town which you could really see by all the band posters wallpapered all over the pub.

By this point we had each switched to beer. We chugged and went on to the next bar, because this night had somehow turned into a pub crawl of sorts. 

Our final stop was Rain Bar. This was a minute walk from our AirBNB so it felt like the proper spot to wrap our night up. (You can even see it from our window).

I think I had like 7-8 drinks in total that night? We did good for just having done a 3-day festival and endured so much travel. 

DAY 2

Surprisingly neither of us were hungover from the night before. We got some brunch at Moose Coffee, and then went vintage shopping for most of the day. 

We started at Afflecks. A fellow festival-goer actually told us about this spot. It was a lot bigger than we anticipated. I think there was about 4 stories to this labyrinth of shops. Punk stores, record shops, condom factory? This place had a bit of everything. We wandered around for a long time here checking out all the little shops. 

Down the road we saw Cow Vintage. What a cute shop! Two stories of glorious vintage clothing. I found three dresses here and each were like 10 pounds. The dressing room was awesome too: floor to ceiling carpet. It was a pattern lovers dream! 

When we were checking out, the cashier noticed our accents and asked where we were from and what brought us to Manchester. She mentioned she had gone to Festival Number 6 a few years back and thought it was awesome we came all the way from LA for it. She took out a notepad and started writing a list of great bars and other vintage shops in the area for us to check out. Her name was Melissa and she was super helpful and awesome to us! We already had a lot of the same spots on our list, but some new ones were Blue Rinse Vintage, American Graffiti, and Junk. Melissa also told us about a speakeasy bar where you enter through a washing machine. Her words were "Google 'hidden bars in Manchester'". If only we had more time in the city! 

Pop Boutique was next. This vintage shop had two stories as well, but the lower story had a lot of furniture and decor. 

I got the most awesome retro pillow here – which was a little hard to travel home with but worth it. 

We took a break from thrifting and got some coffee at Foundation Coffee House. Really clever branding and good design here. And good coffee. And good sense of community. Basically good everything. That next night (Wednesday) they were doing a screening of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to honor Gene Wilder's passing. They told us there would be candy galore! And drink specials (because it was also a bar). They had movie nights every Wednesday. It seemed like there was always something to do in this city.

Walking down the street a window display with a disco ball, confetti and cake in a shopping cart drew me in to a bakery called Milk Jam. I ordered a slice of cake since I never had any on my birthday. 

This cake was chocolate with shimmer dust topping and gummy bears, bubble gum, Cheetos, sour straws and cookies. It definitely filled my sweet tooth craving.

That night Emily and I went bowling at a spot called Dog Bowl down the street from our AirBNB. The bowling ball returns were dog butts and there was a massive disco ball. I lost, but those two things definitely made up for it.

Day 3

Federal Cafe was our spot for brunch on our final day in Manchester. I got the smashed avocado on sourdough toast with a poached egg on top and a bloody Mary. I'm still drooling about this meal to this day.

After brunch we stopped at Primark and TopShop. I bought entirely too many things but I just kept finding great items! I literally had to sit on my suitcase to fit everything in before coming home.

The Manchester Art Gallery was on our walk back to the apartment and we figured we should stop and get some culture while we were here. 

One of my favorite rooms was an interactive art piece where you got to play dress up with plastic neon shapes, oddly pieced together scarves and weird tube things. 

There was also a Vogue exhibit happening. Vogue 100: A Century of Style. You entered into a room where a video projected onto two walls, and a mirror was on the other reflecting the videos. Behind the scenes of photoshoots, moody music and photographs plastered the walls.

Walking further into the exhibit, large scale framed famous portraits hung stacked floor to ceiling. There were also cases with every single issue of Vogue laid out cover by cover; the progression was really cool to see design-wise and fashion-wise. 

The rest of the museum was filled with renaissance style art. Here's two of my favorite eclectic pieces below.

We went to a trivia night at Common. It was Flight of the Conchords themed and I embarrassingly did terrible. I blame the gin and bottle of wine Emily and I split.

Despite the letdown on the trivia, this spot was really cool. I grabbed a "grab bag" filled with little flyers and things to do around town for that month. It made me a little sad that I was leaving and wouldn't be able to go to any of the things like a Nicolas Cage movie marathon, more trivia nights, or one of the fifty some odd concerts happening. Lots of great print design in there though and nice little souvenier. 

By the time we got out of trivia all food spots were closed and we decided to just walk back to the apartment. On the way, we saw a sign from God that said "late night food"! 

It ended up being Black Dog Ballroom, which was associated with Dog Bowl where we'd gone bowling. I got a hot dog some fries and a beer and was happy.

Day-3-Black-Dog.JPG

We got a good night's sleep and headed to the airport in the morning to go back to LA. Manchester was great and I wish we had even more time to explore.

Bill Murray 

Street art

Neon legs

Locks above the canal