Growing up, I spent many a weekend in Manchester. If you didn’t already know, I was born in Manchester, and a huge chunk of my family still live there, so we spent a lot of time visiting them. Nowadays, we don’t quite make it down as often, what with work and life getting in the way, but when The Courteeners announced a date at the Manchester Arena for the anniversary of their debut album – St Jude – it seemed like a good excuse for a trip back down. Or up, in Paddy’s case.
We’d originally planned on just staying the Saturday night, as it was a pretty busy weekend in Manchester with the derby and the marathon both taking place and finding a hotel was proving to be a bit of a struggle. We changed our mind at the last minute, however, and decided to meet in Manchester on the Friday night so that we could spend a bit more time in the city.
Where we stayed – Motel One Royal Exchange
This decision to stay a bit longer was partly fuelled by our choice of hotel. We’d previously booked an Ibis for a night, as it was one of the few cheap-but-decent options on offer at the time, but when we looked again just before we were going we managed to find a room for two nights at Motel One Royal Exchange
that proved to be slightly better value for money.
We paid £198 for two nights in the hotel, not including breakfast, and for such a last minute booking on a very busy weekend in the city, we were pretty impressed with what Motel One had to offer. I arrived first, having jumped on a train down from Glasgow that saw me arrive just after 6pm, so I headed straight to the hotel to check in and dump my stuff before heading back to the station to meet Paddy off his train at 8pm.
From the moment I stepped into the building, the staff couldn’t have been nicer. They were attentive and friendly, making sure to recommend things to do over the weekend and having a good ol’ natter about The Courteeners gig the next night. Checking in was a breeze and within minutes I was off up to check out our room on the first floor of the hotel.
The room itself wasn’t the largest, but still had ample space for a two-night stay, and didn’t scrimp on storage like so many of these budget hotels often do. Much like the rest of the hotel, it was decorated to a high standard and had all of the standard amenities you would expect. The bed was super comfortable and had plenty of space, and the excellent blackout curtains kept any light from the street out. Our room did look right out onto the street, but we had no problems with noise. I did find that the shower took a really long time to heat up on the Friday night, but this could have been due to the time as it wasn’t an issue throughout the rest of the weekend.
We didn’t try breakfast in the hotel, as it was apparently a bit expensive for what was on offer, and instead picked up some pastries from the supermarket across the road. Motel One Royal Exchange is perfectly located for the city centre, being a stone’s throw from the Arndale and a short walk from the Arena. It’s right across the road from the Royal Exchange Theatre (as the name suggests!) and is only a few minutes walk from Piccadilly, Victoria, Shudehill or the Coach Station. Plus, checkout is 12pm, so there’s no rush to get out on time in the morning. I think we chose pretty well, to be honest.
What We Did
Um, not very much? We didn’t have any big plans for our weekend in the city, minus the show on the Saturday night, so instead, we spent our weekend wandering around the Northern Quarter and popping into some shops to hide from the rain. The majority of our weekend revolved around food, which is nothing new, and otherwise, we just let our day be dictated by whatever we came across on our wandering.
Highlights included shopping in the Northern Quarter – particularly a pit stop in Magma
where I tried to resist stockpiling magazines – and stalking the cats in the Manchester Cat Cafe
through the window. We popped into Fred Aldous where Paddy got sick of me wanting to buy every single notebook I came across and we stopped in a couple of art shops, planning out the artwork we’d have in our dream home. Like the Instagram cliche I am, I was pretty keen to spot some of the beautiful bees that adorn the city’s walls and was pleasantly surprised with some of my finds.
The main event for us, as I’ve said, was a trip to the Manchester Arena to see The Courteeners for their St Jude anniversary show and it did not disappoint. It was great to hear the songs that captured my heart in the first place played live again, and although the majority of my favourites weren’t on the setlist for the evening, it was still one hell of a show. I don’t think many crowds compare to the energy of a Glasgow gig, but this was something special. I think seeing them at Heaton Park will always be my favourite Courteeners show, but that night at the arena had the added benefit of not having a cup of piss thrown over my head, so it might just edge it.
Where we Ate
Food is always the primary focus of any of our trips – and to be honest, this applies to just about any trip I go on, not just going away with Paddy. As often as I’ve been to Manchester, I haven’t actually eaten out there much, so I was keen to get stuck into the food scene and tick a few places off of my list. We always go places with a list of recommendations in hand, and after spending a few days curating quite a list of potential venues, we ended up with a good weekend food-wise.
For lunch on Saturday we stopped at Mackie Mayor
, as recommended by Jess
, and got stuck into some pizza from Honest Crust. Mackie Mayor was probably a real highlight of the weekend as I loved the casual food market-style setting and the beautiful building. There were so many delicious options on offer that it was hard to choose what we wanted, but the pizza from Honest Crust was just brilliant. It was a little bit on the pricier side but I think it was worth it as I really did love the food, the setting and the atmosphere. It was the perfect place to hide from the rain for a couple of hours.
After a spot of shopping, we stopped off in Ply
for a quick drink before heading back to our hotel for a nap. We weren’t here for long, and didn’t try any of the food – having just polished off our pizzas at Mackie Mayor – but I did really enjoy my cocktail, which had a mix of gin, raspberry and basil.
Our dinner choice saw a lot of deliberation, but eventually, we decided to pay a visit to Yard and Coop, and we were not disappointed. Fried chicken isn’t something I eat very often (as much as I love it) but for some reason, a craving took over and I just had to go. We had a half hour wait for a table, as you can only book for tables of six and above on a Saturday, so we grabbed a couple of drinks and sat by the window to watch the world go by. The food here was top notch, particularly the Monkey Balls and the Oreo Brownie, with a brilliant cocktail menu to match. I’d definitely go back for more.
We were leaving early afternoon on the Sunday so decided to go for brunch instead of trying to squeeze in two meals, and after asking for some recommendations on Twitter we settled on Moose
. We had to wait 40 minutes for a table here, which we took as a good sign, but in all honesty, I was a little bit underwhelmed. The menu is huge
and I maybe didn’t quite make the right choice, but it didn’t live up to my expectations and the service was pretty slow. The cookie dough milkshake was good, though.
Before long it was time to jump on my coach back up to Glasgow (booooo, rail replacement works) and wave goodbye to my home city for another spell. I’m hoping to head back down again for a weekend with Geraldine once my deadlines are out of the way, but I’ve been saying that since she moved down in September so who knows if that’ll actually happen…
What’s your favourite way to spend a staycation?