Sunday, 2 September 2012

Manchester: That Time I Went to the Olympics

I just love the way they talk, these people in the north. 

If I could pick my English-accent heaven this city would be a winner. It also helps that everyone appears to be wonderfully happy and friendly and their sing-song way of speaking only emphasises this.

We were in town for the Olympic Football - NZ vs Egypt and Brazil vs Belarus - and it was the perfect excuse for a weekend in Manchester.

The rail journey from London was largely hassle free. We kicked back and relaxed with the stresses of the working week left far behind.

It was a different story when we arrived in Manchester.

Knowing that the Olympics Opening Ceremony would be kicking off in a couple of minutes we were eager to find our hotel in record time. This didn't exactly go according to plan and thanks to the city's winding old streets we were soon wandering in the wrong direction. TIP: Bring a good map and take time to work out where you are going before you head off from the train station. Manchester's street can weave around a bit.
Old Trafford

After finding our bearings we came to our home for the next two nights - the Portland St Britannia Hotel. A rather grand affair, it was in desperate need of a good freshening up. We were sharing the place with several wedding parties, stag nights and school groups, but it was surprising quiet at night.

Much has been said of the over-the-top price hikes in place during the Olympics. To illustrate how insane pricing was we paid £30 for our room on the Friday night and a massive £100 on the Saturday - the night before the game.

We were up early on Saturday to make the most of our time in the city. First stop was a breakfast of tea cakes (kind of like English Muffins with currents in them) before making our way to the shopping area around Market St.

After spending a good few hours browsing we jumped aboard the easy to use tram service and made our way to pay a pre-match day visit to Old Trafford Stadium.

If you want to visit Old Trafford for a tour, or just have a look around, definitely don't go the day of a game which we would soon discover transforms the place into a sea of people.

Back in the central city it was dinner time. Thanks to my other-half's love of all things all-you-can-eat we headed to the Red Hot Buffet

Personally, I've never liked buffets preferring to have my own meal cooked specifically for me and brought directly to my table, but if you must make me go to one Red Hot is certainly one of the better choices.

It certainly was the place to be that Saturday - the dining room was packed with groups of twenty-somethings all dressed up for night on the town and families celebrating. 

Far from offering the usually rubbery, dry fare left under heat lamps, Red Hot offers several cooking stations where chefs whip up dishes on demand and starters that you could almost describe as elegant. 

Sunday: Match Day

Come on NZ!
Up early, we didn't want to get caught in the mad rush to the game. Sadly, it wasn't early enough.

The ride on the tram that morning was even more crammed then on a London commute as supporter from all four nations pushed their way onto the carriages

As expected, the Brazilians showed the rest of us how a supporter is meant to celebrate! With their bright yellow outfits and banging drums they made the stadium atmosphere come alive.     

New Zealand were up first and while Egypt were clearly the better team our goalie worked overtime to keep the game to a draw.

After a rather long and chaotic security queue (seriously, did they need to seal our bags in plastic!) we were right there in the Theatre of Dreams.

Despite not being the biggest soccer fan in the world, the whole match, combined with the vibrant crowd, was thrilling. A real once-in-a-lifetime experience.

I can now say I've seen an international football match at the legendary Old Trafford, been to an Olympic event and spent a lovely weekend in Manchester.

GETTING THERE: Virgin Trains, London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly, booked through
OLD TRAFFORD: Metrolink tram to Old Trafford stop
ACCOMMODATION: The Britannia Hotel, booked through Expedia

No comments:

Post a Comment