Well I promised a more detailed write up of the trip so here we go. We arrived in Heathrow on the morning of the 19th and since the tailwind we had for the flight gave us a few extra hours we decided to splurge on a hearty breakfast in the airport. It was immediately apparent that we were in England, me with a huge plate of ham, eggs and chips and Jo with bangers and beans and eggs... wonderful! We quickly worked out the tube terminal transfer and made our way through to terminal 2 with almost no hitches. I say almost because the first train we hopped on never left the station, only shuddered a few times and went black. The official diagnosis was that the train was 'broken' so we hopped to the next platform and all was saved.
We took a one hour British Midlands flight to Manchester where we were met by Jo's Aunty Kate (her Dad's sister) and Uncle Chris, who kindly braved the cold, dark and wet Christmas traffic to collect us and drive us to Bolton, their home town just outside Manchester (a two hour round trip for them!) It was about 6pm and 2 degrees by the time we arrived at their house, where we promptly embraced both showers and food!
The next morning we were going to head out to a place called Styal Mill, but as it was back out in the same direction we had come, with most of the drive on the motorways, we changed plans and instead decided to go touring around Greater Manchester. It was cold but not too bad and a little drizzly, but luckily that was the only sign of rain we saw the entire trip!
It was an interesting drive from Bolton to Manchester, with Chris pointing out all the sites and explaining about the industrial history of the place while Jo and Kate chatted away in the back of the car. We stopped in Manchester and wandered a modern incarnation of a Roman road, overlooked by an enormous glass monstrosity known as Beetham Tower, currently the tallest building in Manchester and absolutely impossible to miss!
Beetham tower reflected in a canal
The Roman road...although I forget the actual name of the street!
Then we decided to mosy through MOSI, the Museum of Science and Industry, starting with a much needed coffee. The museum was wonderful! Ranging from trains to power generation to all kinds of communication, textile production and prehistoric computing. Kate and Chris were involved in getting the place started and knew a lot about it, so it was even better to wander with those possessing insider knowledge. The set of Coronation Street was just behind the museum too, but we didn't get to peek in there :)
One of the warehouses that make up the MOSI complex
Another coffee break later and we went to check out some canals and warehouse developments that were just gorgeous! Then is was off to the curry mile for lunch at a halal place called Saajan where the chicken kebabs were just so good!
Part of one of the canals
Later we went to the Salford Museum where they have the most wonderful section in the bottom level of the building that is set us as a tiny cobbled street full of Victorian era shops known as Lark Hill Place. My favorites were the toy shop, the tiny pub and the chemist and druggist! Oh and the mail box of course...
We headed home mid afternoon, partly because it was on the way to freezing but also because the cousins were coming down to have an early Christmas dinner with us! Robert from Sheffield where he is at Uni and Andrea and her partner Ronnie from Leeds. Dinner was wonderful and very traditional. Turkey with chestnut stuffing (so good), tiny sausages wrapped in bacon, sprouts, parsnip, carrots and roast spuds! All that was topped with gravy, bread sauce and apple cider jelly...oh boy!
The next morning Andrea and Ronnie drove us to their place in Morely, a little town outside of Leeds, and we were able to spend the next day and a half hanging out with them. They took us to the German Christmas market where they originally met, which was brilliant! There were rides and stalls selling all manner of Christmas trinkets and candy and food. We lunched on spicy sausages and potato pancakes made with finely grated spuds battered and fried! Perfect on a chilly day. We followed that down with hot chocolate or spiced wine and a brisk walk.
We also got to see the Town Hall where they are getting married later this year, and in the morning they took us for a walk around the reservoir lake in Tingley (what a brilliant name for a village). The light was perfect that morning and the lake and village were so pretty so of course I took a billion photos.
From Leeds we took the train to Bedford to meet Jo's Aunty Ruth (her mum's sister) and family. The train was a brilliant idea and much better (and less stressful) than us hiring a car. It meant we were both able to enjoy looking out the windows at the gorgeous countryside. The only down-side was the group of three obnoxious drunk folk in our carriage, but we survived with only the briefest of interactions and mostly they were just a minor annoyance. The train was surprisingly stress free and we only had one change, where we stopped at King's Cross and walked over the road to St Pancras to catch the final train to Bedford. I did have a rather shocking moment when I stepped out onto the street and realised I was standing in London, the real London!
More about that soon...