Going back to Manchester (photos here) after 7 years was a revelation. We landed at Manchester Airport last Wednesday morning after a red-eye Continental flight from JFK. Food was bad even by economy seat standard. Our very stylish hotel is in East Didsbury, which is south of centre Manchester and just as we were getting settle down my mom called me on the cell phone. It turned out she and my dad were already outside Manchester even though I’ve emailed her two weeks beforehand that we were meeting up for lunch on Friday instead of Wednesday! Still, since they were already in the city we changed our plan and took the number 42 bus into Chinatown in the centre.

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As the bus drove into the city, we were greeted by the sights of all the changes of the last 7 years. Many landmarks such as pubs, Indian take-out places are still where they were all those years ago but everything have a more polished look and feel. I was shocked to see that they are demolishing the University of Manchester Maths building, even though it was one of the worst looking building I’ve seen.

After lunch with my parents in Chinatown, Leah and I ventured into the centre proper. Everything are so much nicer now. Piccadilly now has a grass field in the middle and people are having lunch there! I can’t imagine doing that 7 years ago. The new Arndale Centre is very modern and glassy looking which I like (BBC photo gallery). Though I was somehow expecting a much more different layout as Leah had always told me that they totally rebuilt the whole centre after the IRA bombing. But once we walked past the Arndale and into what was and is Mark & Spencer I can see what she means. That whole area has been completely re-architected. Out was the old 60’s/70’s concrete building, in are the glass/modern structure. They even put a wide walkway in between two buildings where previously was one.

Anyway, we went into Kendal and bought the belated wedding gift. Then we went into the Thomas Pink shop to try to get a shirt for me for the wedding. I’ve always had great shopping experiences from Pink but this time was different. We were ignored by the one and only salesman there from the moment we walked in to the moment we left, despite our obviously need to purchase a white shirt. I was highly annoyed and am very tempted to email Pink and complain, even now. So off we went to Selfridges and I got a nice white shirt from a Swedish salesman who provided the type of service I expected for the price I paid!

That night we had dinner with Leah’s cousin and his girlfriend. They recently moved to Manchester and they cooked us a very nice home cooked meal, which were hugely appreciated by both of us.

The next day we slept in and managed to get to the church 10 minutes late. It was a very small wedding (~40 people), even smaller than ours and they had a Star Trek loving priest performing the ceremony. It was very nice to meet up with people that I haven’t seen for over 7 years. Not much to say about the reception apart from we drank, we chatted, we ate, and some of us danced 🙂

Then Leah and I made our way down to London by train the next day. The change in Manchester also extended to the Piccadilly train station. The once boring and crappy train station now sported a mini-shopping mall with Starbuck. I even managed to get onto a Wi-Fi hotspot to check emails and worked on ecto. That evening we went to see Kevin Spacey in Richard III at the Old Vic with Leah’s dad and his girlfriend. I’ll leave the play’s review to Leah since she is the art expert of the family, and I am just the dull husband.

On Saturday Leah and I, with her mom and brother, had lunch at one of Gordon Ramsay‘s restaurant: Angela Hartnett at The Connaught. It was the best meal I’ve ever had thus far. The food were perfect and the service was excellent. With the current foreign exchange rate it was an expensive meal but it was totally worth it. Next on the day’s agenda was to see Rob Lowe in A Few Good Man at the Haymarket theatre. This was the one and only play that I’ve seen that I did not doze off, and I have a tendency to do that. Yes, it was that good! Again, I’ll leave the review to Leah.

And so that was our trip back to the U.K. Not terribly exciting, very action packed, and a complete waste of time in bringing my laptop. Oh well, you win some and you lose some.

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