Planning a week of exploration: Manchester & Wales

Duration: 3+ days
Where: Manchester to Bangor
The Low Down: Experience the Mancunian culture and admire the peaceful beauty in Wales. Book cost efficient hostels for accommodation and meet travellers from all over the world. Go for intriguing wanders and bask in the splendor of your explorations.

When I went up to Manchester, for design training at my full-time job, I accordingly coordinated some travel plans covering Manchester City and Wales while I basked the northern air. The training course was over three days and although my time over that course was immersed in work I was able to allocate time to enjoy the city-scape, dine at a few of the many restaurants and absorb myself in conversation with the locals.

It was the second week of November so it was mildly cold and days were short. I was put up in the Travelodge, at Ancoats, which was a comfortable place to stay and also close to the Northern Quarter, so the best of Manchester was within a good walking distance. The Northern Quarter is within the main city centre and down each street and around each corner the expansive area exuberates quirky eateries and bars, street art, stores of fabrics and crafts to fashion and lifestyle and also home to the famous Afflecks marketplace.

The historical Afflecks palace, established in 1860’s as a drapery business and stretching to production of cloaks in 1982, is a building across an alley of 5 levels inspiriting the indie culture. Amongst the colourful emporiums you will curiously discover vibrant clothes, whimsical trinkets, eccentric novelties and collaboratively a fun and expressive shopping experience full of character!

In the whim of exciting Manchester I actively went to find a tattooist; aplenty studios to be found. I had an idea already and most of the studios that I walked into refused to do the personal design. I was pointed in the direction of Tattoo Studio 81 across the road after I approached one in Afflecks (close to closing time).

My bass fairy ink is inspired by music and fantasy. I asked the tattoo artist to draw an organic fairy with fluid lines to capture movement, embracing a dancing spirit and the foundation of a back leg tattoo idea I have. I would like to add to this symbol at a later stage by including watercolours and nature.

My new design also forms a connection with the art installation of a galvanized steel tree that has embellished Afflecks since mid-2011. The mural was constructed by David Hyde, a Manchester blacksmith.

Food & Drink

The Koffee Pot, on Oldham Street, was recommended to me by my colleague from the area, and I was able to work there one morning on my assignment for the course. They have decent WiFi and an extensively assorted menu including full English breakfasts, pancakes, toasted sandwiches and those ostentatious dishes that you sometimes eat your heart over; like buffalo wings, nachos, halloumi and delicious matcha latte. With an easy to please and affordable menu, it’s worth checking out this versatile all-day cafe if you crave comforting food in an upbeat environment, surrounded by urban art.

For dinner one night, fifteen of us dined at The Northern Quarter Restaurant for a set menu with unlimited wine. The restaurant is modest and simple but ticks all the boxes, kudos for comfortably sitting our large group and keeping the bottles flowing. There was a varied selection to choose from and each one of the courses were presented beautifully as well as at the same time.

Manchester, Dessert, Pannacotta, Sweet
Free flowing wine and ambrosia; pannacotta. Enjoying the sweet side of Manchester at The Northern Quarter, near Copperas St.

Dining with my fifteen other colleagues, most of which I had just met at the training, I embraced the cultural diversity among us as individuals. There was a Polish girl living in Ireland, a single dad from Newcastle and others with roots from Romania, Spain and Brazil, just to name a few.
On a contrary note, there are some lonely times whilst travelling and a few days later when I was exploring Wales, I found myself enjoying some solo dining in the city of Bangor and a small town, Caernarfon.

In Bangor, for mouthwatering Japanese and Indonesian noodles, walk 10 minutes (past the Asda) from the train station to Noodle One; noodle bar for ramen and pad thai.

Along the eastern coast of the Menai Strait; down in Caenarfon, a royal town boasts old buildings with gothic-style architecture and a medieval fortress castle. Amid the town walls, delight in a diversification when you wander through Hole in the Wall St for Greek, French or Italian cuisine. I consoled in lasagna at Stones Bistro.

Transport

It’s easy to buy another ticket for the hourly train if you miss your Arriva train like I did. I purchased my one way fare on Rail Easy for 15 quid, including booking fees and it cost more when I forked out for a replacement (tip: give yourself more time than necessary when you need to catch transport to your next destination, it’s better to be early than late, but hey ho potato every traveller learns a thing from experience!)

The journey is scenic and enjoyable on tracks from Manchester, stopping through Warrington to Runcorn and breezing by Chester into Wales. Entering the Clwyd district you can admire the stops in Flint, Rhyl and Colwyn Bay, continuing into Gwynedd to Llandudno Junction, Conway and terminus, Bangor. If you board at a good time and get a table with four seats to yourself, the comfort of power plugs, regular trolley service carrying hot tea and crisps, in addition to a good view from your seat, is luxury.

When confirming rail tickets online, I was offered to acquire a bus pass, in Bangor, for a few extra pounds however, the distance all the way to the pier is an easy enough, half an hour, quest on foot. Spending a few hours through the booming university town and betwixt the charming streets of cottage dwellings, I appreciated the appealing eateries, an impromptu hair trim and routed, regular buses to next stop, Caenarfon.

The Bangor pier was barren of human existence but reflected beauty on the vast waters and mountains. Subsequently taking a glimpse of the Irish sea and promenading down the Menai Strait I was blessed with luminous landscapes.

Accommodation

A place to recharge is the foundation to a happy adventure. In the past I have optimistically enjoyed booking accommodation through Booking. Be that as it may, this journey was satisfied by sifting through Hostel World to book a base camp at Hatters, on Newton St in Manchester, for 15 quid per night and Totters, in Caernarfon for 16 quid a night.

A happy camper I was and a trip worth sharing and recommending.

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