On Tour: Manchester 🐝

The last couple months have been absolutely crazy for me and July will be the craziest yet. I feel like a musician on tour almost, except I’m not performing for everyone, but I’m going to a bunch of places in a short period of time and it feels like a whirlwind. I’m hardly going to be at home this month, so it’s hard to find time to unwind. The good news is this time I’m not travelling that far so I’m not going to have to deal with crazy jet lag like when I went to Australia or America. Like in those travel blogs, I’ll be sharing my adventures. So if you want to see what Manchester has to offer for classic rock loving vegans… keep on reading!

Why Manchester?

My husband is a PhD student and he goes to at least one conference a year and sometimes these conferences are in other countries. Last year, he went to one in Sydney and I tagged along to Australia and this year there was one in Manchester. I like to tag along because I like to travel and see new places.

Manchester Worker Bee Street Art in Piccadilly Gardens

Manchester is a significant city and not just for music. It’s significant in industry and science. One of the symbols of Manchester you’ll see everywhere is a worker bee. I mean there’s a Science & Industry Museum there. As someone from Chicago, I was like wait a minute… Where’s the whispering gallery?

The nice thing about the museum in Manchester is that it’s free, like a lot of the government funded museums in the UK. They do ask for donations, but if you don’t have the money no one will make you feel guilty. Sorry Chicago! Though if you’re an Illinois resident there are some free museum days.

There are exhibits on computers, electron microscopes, and the textile industry. My husband who works in microscopy was totally nerding out over the electron microscope.

 

The Industrial Revolution put Manchester on the map, changing it from a small market town to an important city. Manchester was a marketplace and distribution centre for textiles, had one of the first telephone exchanges in Europe, and had the world’s first steam passenger railway. Because Manchester became industrialised, it attracted people from the countryside in the UK, Irish immigrants, Jews from Eastern Europe, and many more immigrant groups over the years.

Manchester is also a very interesting city that has brought us a lot of great musicians: 10cc, The Buzzcocks, Davy Jones, The Fall, Herman’s Hermits, The Hollies, John Mayall, Joy Division/New Order, Oasis, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, and Van der Graaf Generator.

Manchester Music Section at Manchester Central Library

What should I see?

Conveniently, the hotel we were staying at was near the Northern Quarter, which is where pretty much all the vintage shops and record stores are. I didn’t buy much at the shops because nowadays 90s stuff is considered vintage. My favourite shop I visited was Affleck’s. Reminds me a lot of Toronto’s Kensington Market – lots of cool shops all in one place. Vintage stuff, rock and roll stuff, alternative fashion, lots of unique stuff, and some vegan food too! If you’re into comic books and anime, you’ll find shops in there you’ll like. Other vintage/charity shops you can check out nearby are Cow Vintage, Blue Rinse, Oxfam, and Pop Boutique.

 

Manchester has lots of cool architecture too! I enjoyed walking around and taking pictures of old buildings. There’s also some modern architecture too and it’s cool to see the mix of old and new.

 

It’s a really walkable city. Besides getting from the airport to the city, I didn’t once take public transport within Manchester. However, there are lots of buses and trams so it’s easy to get around. One of my favourite things I saw was John Rylands Library – looks just like Harry Potter!

 

Another cool thing about Manchester that I mentioned earlier in the post is that museums are free. I went to Manchester Art Gallery and the People’s History Museum. My favourite museum I went to in Manchester was the People’s History Museum because of its focus on democracy, activism, and human rights. When you go through the galleries you learn the history of democracy and activism in the UK from the 1800s to the present.

 

One interesting thing I saw in one of the galleries was looking at progress through the perspective of one family comparing and contrasting what each generation’s lives were like and what rights they had. We take social safety nets like welfare, public education, and universal healthcare for granted, but these things didn’t always exist. As well, not everyone had the right to vote. Another cool thing I saw was this jukebox full of classic rock hits.

At the end of my trip in Manchester, the Manchester International Festival began and one of the events that kicked off the festival was Bells For Peace, an event Yoko Ono came up with where people make their own bells at events set up earlier, can bring their own bells, or ring bells given away at the event – which have an engraving on them: Bells For Peace, y.o., and MIF19. Yoko Ono wasn’t at the event, but on a big screen there was a video that explained the significance of the event, why it’s being held in Manchester (in memory of the victims of the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert in May of 2017), and a few people told stories about their bell and why they’re at the event. One story that stood out to me was about a woman from Liverpool whose kid was at the Ariana Grande concert. Since the terrorist attack, she didn’t return to Manchester, until the Bells For Peace event. I luckily brought ear plugs because thousands of bells ringing would be very loud! Here are some pictures from the event:

 

What to eat?

Day 1:

The first meal my husband and I had in Manchester was a Greggs vegan sausage roll. At about £1, you can’t complain! It’s a good snack to keep you going.

 

For dinner, we went to V-Rev Vegan Diner. Whenever my husband and I travel, we always end up finding our favourite place to go in the city and this was it! It reminds me a lot of the Chicago Diner and Champs Diner (Brooklyn) – delicious vegan comfort food that even non-vegans will enjoy! You can get breakfast foods like pancakes, burgers, “chicken” tenders, mac and cheese, mozzarella sticks, chips, hot dogs, and for the healthy folks – salad. The menu names are also really funny. My husband’s favourite name on the menu was the “Monte Burns” – “cheez and baecon sourdough sandwich, dipped in pancake batter, deep fried, dusted with icing sugar, and served with maple syrup”. Who said vegan food had to be rabbit food? Look at the milkshakes and burgers we had! Delicious!

Day 2:

For breakfast, we went to Earth Cafe, a mostly vegan, but 100% vegetarian cafe (only non-vegan option was dairy milk). I ordered a smoothie and some soup with bread. They even brought some vegan butter. It’s a reasonably priced place, but it’s cash only so that’s the only downside if you’re a tourist coming from outside the UK – you’ll need some £.

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For lunch, my husband and I met up with some of his co-workers so we had to go someplace that had options for all of us. We walked around and decided to go to Tampopo, near Piccadilly Gardens because of the menu variety and reasonable prices. The games were a plus. I ordered pad thai, which isn’t easy to get vegan. I noticed in the drinks section there were Pokemon themed fizzy drinks, or really just sugar water.

 

The games available were Connect 4, foosball, air hockey, and a Super Nintendo with a few games built in. I didn’t grow up with older video game consoles because my parents wouldn’t buy me video games when I asked for them, so all I’m familiar with is the PS2, Wii, XBOX 360 – that generation and later. We tried playing Mario Kart and that was much harder than the Switch because the graphics are not very good. If we got a time machine to the 90s and brought a Nintendo Switch and showed it to gamers back then, it would blow their minds!

tenor

For dinner, we went to a Chinese restaurant called Red Chilli where there were not a lot of vegan options. I mean I’m the lone vegan and I’m way outnumbered by everyone else so my husband and I got tofu dishes with some rice. It was decent. We had lots of food left over, but since we were staying in a basic hotel, no microwave to heat up the leftovers. 😞

 

Day 3:

I was in Chester most of the day, so I’ll talk about the food there in another blog post, but I made it back to Manchester for dinner. My husband’s coworkers were at the last conference in Manchester and they knew of this really good taco place called El Capo next to a bar with a really good open mic night. When they were talking about it, I was worried there wouldn’t be any food options for me, but there were lots of choices! A few choices of tacos and even vegan mac and cheese! The diablo hot sauce didn’t come to play! So if you want a really spicy hot sauce, try the diablo hot sauce!

 

Since it was Taco Tuesday, the tacos were £1 each (some were more expensive, but the vegan ones were £1). I got 3 tacos and a vegan mac and cheese and my husband got 5 tacos. Personally, I wouldn’t get tacos here unless it was Taco Tuesday because I don’t think they’d be worth it at full price.

Day 4:

I was in Liverpool the whole day, so I’ll talk about the food there in another blog post.

Day 5:

For lunch, I went to Vertigo Plant Based Eatery and got this aubergine and veggie bowl with tomato sauce and vegan cheese and a smoothie. It’s a nice place to relax and there are charging outlets, yes!

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Just before I went to Bells For Peace, I went to Veggie Pret. Yes! There’s one in Manchester! Sadly I didn’t see as many vegan options here as I did in the one in London, but I’m glad I ate here because where my husband and his co-workers decided to go for dinner was not a place I had a lot of options.

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For dinner, we went to a world buffet called Tops. Getting in is like paying admission for an attraction. You can’t take a look at the buffet to see the options. The food had allergy signs and labels that were hard to read and a lot of typically vegetarian foods weren’t vegetarian. Like corn and rice not being vegetarian? How do you mess that up? Food wasn’t the freshest either.

If you’re a vegan, good luck! Personally, I don’t like going to buffets generally (unless it’s Dou Dou in Camden or Sweet Tomatoes, a salad buffet chain in America). My husband, who is a vegetarian, had no problems.

The only vegan options seemed to be a couple Indian dishes, seaweed salad, plain rice, fruit, and chips. Couldn’t even eat the samosas or bhajis. Pasta? Not vegan either. I would have been much better off getting good Indian food somewhere else for the same price or lower. They didn’t even have vegan sushi rolls. Come on! It’s just cucumber or avocado.

Day 6:

We finished our trip to Manchester on a good note, by going back to V-Rev. I got a vegan bacon cheeseburger and chips and my husband and I split vegan chicken tenders, which reminded me so much of the vegan fried chicken from Token. Of course, we got milkshakes! This is how you do vegan food!

 

What else is there to do?

Manchester is a great base for exploring other parts of the UK and there are some great day trips easily accessible by train like Liverpool and Chester, which I’ll talk about in other blog posts. If you want to go to the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, or Peak District, it’s not too far from Manchester. It would probably be better to go by car though.

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