Waking up on another blisteringly sunny day in Manchester, I had until 3pm to kill some time.
I couldn’t be bothered hauling my bag everywhere, so I checked out, hopped the bus into Piccadilly and stowed it at the lost luggage – instant surprise with it being £3 cheaper than London!
I braved the sunshine again as I went for a wander in the city centre. I wasn’t the only one taking in the sun… I went into Primark to see if I could get a cheap hat, and there was a woman shopping in only a bikini… she had her debit card stuffed down the back of her bikini bottoms, something that seemed to discourage the cashier from holding the card with more than fingertips! You see something new every day…
I wandered off, still hat less, and toured the shopping centre that doubles as it’s own postcode, The Arndale. Managed to pick up a new shirt for myself – as most of my other ones were still soaked with sweat – and a football shirt for my son. Liverpool, of course. What else would you buy in Manchester?
While in the Arndale, I took in some lunch – and an surprise treat – a TACO BELL!!! I’d read all about these wonderous places in the states, but never knew they’d made it over here. I had a burrito and Mexican fries. Nice enough, but the burrito couldn’t hold a candle to the beauty that you get in Illegal Jack’s in Edinburgh.
Never the less, a good solid afternoon of doing exactly nothing was had. I should note, that for most of the day, I was listening to local Manchester-ish band DamageScape – well worth checking out!
I picked up my bag and headed for the train to Newcastle.
The train was a nightmare. Absolutely packed solid. For once, I made a point of pointing out that someone was sitting in my booked seat and secured it for myself, not without glares and dirty looks from the seat stealer.
Seriously, what is this country’s problem with booking a seat in advance and wanting to sit in it? Unreal…
Then, horror of horrors, someone put the heating on. Horrific! It was on for an hour, and aside from that and someone sat behind me recounting blow for blow a game of poker he’d played last night, it was a pleasant journey, some nice views of the countryside, especially Durham.
Arriving at Newcastle, my friend pointed me in the direction oft he pub we were eating in – The Town Wall. I had a burger, but couldn’t finish, more due to the heat rather than quality of the food itself.
A qucik jaunt up to his flat to drop my bag, cold shower and change of clothes, and we were off. Meet the rest of the group at Tilleys, where a sign for deep fried Mars Bar caused everyone to look at me knowingly, and then a taxi trip to Byker.
We hit the Tanners, a really nice rooftop terrace and a cold pint was heaven. A couple there, then off down the road to The Ship Inn. Now, this for me, was a highlight of the week. A seat outside at a table, a fresh, cold pint of Edinburgh’s finest ale (Deuchars) and great company. The pub itself had a singer in, who we could hear outside, and some Scottish folk dancers. Don’t ask me, I don’t know either. A fine, fine night.
After they closed, another quick taxi ride to a late night bar in the city – The Shark Bar – and a couple of relaxing pints to wind off the night – and trip – before wandering over to St James Park to take in the statues.
While walking to the Subway to pick up some food, 2 guys stopped us and said “Mate, we’re from Glasgow, where’s the late night bars round here?” – when I said I was born in Glasgow, cue a 10 minute conversation about Maryhill, Cranhill, Parkhead and Argyle Street. Brilliant.
We departed, got food, headed home, had a few games on the PS3 and called it a night. Absolutely great night. Couldn’t have wished for a better way to round off my trip.
In the morning, I packed up, said my goodbyes and thanks to Doug and Christine, wandered off to the station to catch a breeze and some cold water for the train, and that was me. No drama on the trains all the way home, and I was in my house by 2.30pm, crashed onto my couch with my son filling me in on his holiday.
I had a superb, fulfilling, busy, hot week… but that first seat back on your own couch… you can’t beat it.