Visiting relatives is one reason to go to Manchester, but Brigit Grant has discovered many more
I don’t have any family in Manchester, but my friends who do, moan about it. It’s not that they don’t love the beloved relatives they left behind for a life in the Big Smoke; but with such a definitive move comes the inevitable guilt-induced visits home.
According to my Mancunian mates, the familial call to return to Prestwich, Whitefield and the like can be for a million different reasons – some of which are totally legitimate. But going back for some means a weekend squashed in with the kids in your old room or sharing a single with the hubby and the laundry in the spare room. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Have you ever thought you could go back to Manchester, stay in a really fabulous hotel and enjoy seeing your family?
Just think what a difference it would make if you could leave after Friday night dinner with the parents and avoid the angst by returning to a suite overlooking the banks of the River Irwell to watch TV in a memory foam king-size bed. And that is entirely possible if you book into the Manchester Marriott Victoria & Albert Hotel which is adjacent to Spinningfields and a pleasant walk away from the Opera House and Palace Theatre. The four star V&A was first built as a warehouse in 1844 and the original oak beams and exposed brickwork have been retained in the spacious guest rooms, which makes them a lot more interesting than the average business hotel.
As I cannot even lay claim to a distant cousin in Manchester, I have had no obligation to visit the city, but when I was invited to see the brilliant actress Maxine Peake in a play at the Royal Exchange, I had a legitimate excuse to head north – and I loved it.
The V&A Hotel was one of the reasons my stay was so enjoyable as the staff are efficient and unlike most Londoners, friendly. That said, it is not the only warehouse renovation in the city as there are many grand Victorian structures of historic interest that give the place an old New York feel. This has not gone unnoticed by filmmakers and in 2004, the remake of Alfie starring Jude Law and “set” in NYC was largely shot in Manchester, while director Guy Ritchie used the back streets behind the V&A to create an authentic 1891 London setting for his Sherlock Holmes.
The V&A is a good place to stay if you want to explore the “old town” namely Castlefield which was once the site of the Roman era fort of Mamucium and is now an inner city conservation area where live music events are held and a lot of drinking outdoors takes place on warm nights.
The hotel itself has also become popular with celebs who frequent the Lounge Bar and the brasserie- style restaurant is the ideal place to invite the relatives for a relaxed dinner.
Better still, have them all over for breakfast and then head to Coronation Street, but be sure to do it soon as on December 31st the famous cobbled streets, familiar front doors and legendary pub, The Rover’s Return will disappear forever as the original site which was home to the show for 53 years is going to be demolished. Now filmed on a purpose built site at MediaCity UK in Salford, the old set has been available to tour since April 2014, with half a million visitors turning up to salute the TV institution. But with developers keen to strike the set, this is your last chance to peer in through Rita’s Kabin window or pull a pint behind the bar at The Rovers.
My late grand-mother never missed an episode and it was with her lovingly in my thoughts that I walked around the corner from the V&A and straight up to Ken Barlow’s front door. Unmissable Northern nostalgia is the only way to describe the tour and left to roam the cobbles alone I was lost in the memories of Ena Sharples sipping milk stout with Minnie Cauldwell in the snug and Hilda Ogden unveiling her murial (sic). You have to be as old as me to get the references, but anyone who has grown up within earshot of the show will be warmed by the sight of Deirdre Barlow’s glasses and Bet Lynch’s earrings among the classic exhibits.
The tour is an urgent must, but another way of making your visit to Manchester memorable is to see a play at the Royal Exchange. With its chequered history which includes being damaged by an IRA bomb in 1996, this beautiful building which first opened in 1729 now stages an average of 350 performances a year in the round. I saw the utterly surreal The Skriker starring Maxine Peake as an ill-intentioned fairy which I won’t forget in much the same way that I won’t forget about Manchester. And if you have family there neither should you as it’s a great place to call home and to visit.
The V&A Hotel is available on Fridays room only from £79 and Saturday room only from £125 Water Street, Manchester M3 4JQ Tel: 0161-8321188
Remaining tickets for the Coronation Street tour are available at www.ticketmaster.co.uk/coronationstreet
Royal Exchange Theatre, St Ann’s Square, Manchester, M2 7DH Box Office: 0161 833 9833 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
JS Restaurant is a contemporary style eateries that serves European dishes alongside British option
7 King’s Rd, Manchester M25 0LE Tel: 0161 798 7776
Ta’am is a middle eastern restaurant renowned for its shwarma sandwiches and kebabs 19 Bury New Rd, Prestwich, Manchester M25 9JZ Tel: 0161 773 1645