When my alarm rang at 6:40 on a Saturday morning and the cool air loomed everywhere that wasn't under my blanket, I questioned my decision to go to Manchester instead of sleeping a couple of hours longer.
But already when I walked through a sleepy morning-sun Nottingham an hour later to get to the train station I knew it was a good choice. Seeing new places always is.
From the train station the Cathedral is only a 10 minute walk away. The Gothic building was errected between the 15th and the 19th century on the site of a church dating back to Norman times. From there on, the next stop was Manchester Art Gallery, again only a few minutes on foot away. The collection is extensive and far bigger than I had anticipated. As so often in Britain, art is made accessible to the public by free entry. While the focus lies on art from Romanticism onwards, there is also a neat collection of Netherlandish art from the 17th century. The presentation is appealing and interactive with plates critically contemplating the works and the history of the collection. My favourite was the Grand Tour Room with a portrait of Angelika Kaufmann and Wedgewood pieces, besides the Nordic Craft exhibition.
After lunch in China Town, a 5-minute walk from the Gallery, the next stop was the Northern Quarter with its independent shops, venues and cafés - also in easy walking range from the Gallery and China Town. Having spent time browsing the shops and adding to my vintage clothes collection, it was time to race back across town to the John Rylands Library to have enough time before it closes at 5pm. On the way I noticed how diverse the architecture of Manchester is, old and new buildings side by side and a general big-city air over everything.
The John Rylands Library is LOVELY! Entry is free and it is a truly magical, spectacular place. The grand neo-gothic building comissioned by Enriqueta in memory of her husband John houses a vast collection of historic works and is in itself a work of art. I felt like I had stepped into Hogwarts and would love to spend a day tucked away in a corner of the splendid Reading Room, studying and exploring the collection.
Having exhausted my remaining time there, I sped back to the train station to get the 16:42 train back to Nottingham (I arrived a minute before departure, just in time) and catch glimpses of the shadowy Peak Disrict outside the windows.