Getting Drunk in Manchester

Trip Start Apr 30, 2011
1
6
9
Trip End May 10, 2011


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Where I stayed
Holiday Inn Express Oxford Road

Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Friday, May 6, 2011

Max took the wheel when we left Hardwick Hall, and it was under leaden skies that we drove onward to Manchester.  As had happened to us before, once we approached the city, we got sort of lost, because the map in our road atlas wasn't all that detailed.  We ended up going south when we wanted to go north (we were coming in from the south-east), but finally managed to turn ourselves around and make it to our hotel, just south of the city centre.

I'd been in communication with my friend Laura (whom you may remember from Mt. Fuji, Okinawa and the neverending road trip), who was at school in Sheffield, close enough to meet up with me in Manchester.  Since we only made a hotel reservation the day before, and I hadn't received a reply from Laura, I hoped she'd gotten my message and would be waiting for us at the hotel.

We got to the hotel just as the clouds burst, but there was no Laura to be found.  I wasn't too worried, as I'd told her 6 o'clock and it was only 5, but she still hadn't replied to my email.  We went out to dinner at Bar Odder, a couple of blocks away.  I ordered the sweet potato burger, because I can never resist trying sweet potato in any form, and it was lovely!  At 6, I ran back to the hotel, but found no Laura.

Finally, when we returned to the hotel at 6:30, there was Laura!  Us young folks got ready for a night out to celebrate Tristan's birthday (my baby brother is 24!  How strange!) and were joined by Nicky, a cousin (or friend?) of a former roommate of Tristan's.  She's a student, so she knew where to take us for cheap drinks.

First, though, the birthday boy demanded shisha, so we went to a shisha bar not too far away, where they also did really good specialty mojitos.  I like mojitos.  Tristan chose melon for the shisha, but I couldn't really detect any melon flavour, though it was sweet.  I've had apple shisha before where I could definitely taste the apple, but it could be that I've grown too used to Japan's thousand and one melon-flavoured sweets and drinks, which often have an almost cloying fragrance.

Before moving on to the next place of entertainment, we stopped at Archie's (home of milkshakes, pizza and other fast foods) so Laura could get pizza, seeing as she hadn't eaten supper after driving all the way from Sheffield.  I don't remember the name of the first bar (or was it a pub?), but it was a nice place with cool art on the walls, and very cheap cocktails.  Tristan kept ordering us rounds of Jägermeister & Red Bull shots.

Later, we ended up at another bar, this one featuring very small pool tables.  Things were getting blurry by this point, but Max and I beat Tristan and Nicky at pool (at least, I think those were the teams!).  Afterwards, a local challenged Max to a game for very high stakes: a pint of Guinness.  In spite of the most fail-tastic attemps at breaking I've ever seen (first try: missed the cue ball; second try: the cue ball jumped over the other balls; third try: the cue ball jumped over the other balls and went right off the table!), Max managed to win.

Tristan, still celebrating though it was past midnight and technically not his birthday anymore, convinced a bartender to mix him a birthday drink.  He ended up with a pint glass full of a truly vile mixture of pretty much every type of liquor they had.  He made himself drink it down to the last drop, in between maudlin speeches to us about the importance of family and friends.

Laura and I left at around 2 o'clock, stopping by the 24-hour convenience store so Laura could buy one of the discounted Cadbury's Easter eggs she'd spotted earlier.  The others stayed at the bar until closing time, and Max told me that Tristan had great fun asking people for high-fives on the street because, "It's [my] birthday!"

The next morning I was feeling surprisingly well (no repeat of Prague for me, thank you very much!) and all of us but Tristan partook of the plentiful breakfast buffet.  It was under a bright sun that we walked toward the centre of town, stopping for some food along the way: milkshakes for Laura and me; an enormous hangover-curing kebab for Tristan.

Manchester felt really relaxed compared to London, and though the old buildings are large, square and imposing, the red brick they're made of makes them seem somehow lighter, much in the same way as the red brick Gothic churches I saw in Poland.

My brothers' running joke this time (as in Europe last year it had been of castration, police brutality and medieval medical techniques) was about child labour and the Industrial Revolution, i.e. "The bricks are red from the blood of the children!"  Nevertheless, the old buildings of Manchester are quite pretty, I thought.

We ended up splitting along gender lines so us women could go shopping.  Laura showed us Primark, which seems roughly equivalent to Walmart, and I got several very cheap items.  We had lunch at Spudulike, a fast food chain specialising in jacket pototatoes.  Mmm, baked potato with cottage cheese.  I miss cottage cheese!

Daddy: Was I at this jacket party?

No, you were not.

We also found a Pound Island, because it's always fun to check out another country's dollar stores!

Back at the hotel, we bid farewell to Laura, who had to get back to Sheffield, then napped for a bit before heading out for supper.  We ate at a place whose sign promised "Vodka & Food", then us young folks once again headed out to meet Nicky.

We went to another student bar not too far from the hotel, where we met a couple of her friends.  Nicky is from the south of England, i.e. doesn't speak like a local, but Barry and Kerry both have true Mancunian accents, much to our delight.

I didn't stay too long, as I was tired.  My brothers returned separately, after I had turned out the lights, and managed to confuse me.  The first night, Laura and I had shared the double bed, Tristan had taken the fold-out bed, and Max had slept in the fold-out bed in our parents' room.  That night, however, the first brother to return took the fold-out bed.  I assumed it was Tristan, but how strange was it that he should return before Max!  When I awoke the next morning and found Tristan passed out beside me, things made a lot more sense.

Daddy: Tristan reacted appropriately when I talked about Manchurians.  I felt it was a nice, manageable sized city, much like Vancouver when I lived there.

Maman: C'était bien, ça m'a plu, j'ai aimé l'ambiance.  Les gens sont sympathiques.  Il y avait deux pound-o-ramas!  J'ai trouvé des bandages pour mon gros orteil.  L'hôtel était agréable.  Mon "Spud-u-like" était bon, avec un mess de fromage cottage.  C'était amusant de magasiner avec toi et Laura.

Max: Aaah!  We managed to find the hotel without too much difficulty.  We did pretty well coming into Manchester.  The hotel was good; it was easy to find the parking.  Except the wi-fi was crappy.  [We paid for wi-fi in the room, but it didn't seem to want to work half the time, so Max and Tristan had to go down to reception several times to ask for new codes.]  I humiliated a local guy even though -- god, it was insane! [Remembering his spectacularly bad breaking skills.]  He challenged me to a game for a pint.  We looked in two HMVs and they actually had CDs.  The fries are good here, in general.  They call them chunky but I maintain they're normal.

Tristan: I really don't know what to say.  Everything is made of red brick, but there's no law that obliges them to do so.  Rain.  I ate a kebab with mango sauce.  I like the accent.  Ian Brown is a greasy rat.  [He's the singer for the Stone Roses, and there was a poster of him in one of the bars we went to.]  That's all I can think of.
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