On Saturday, I decided to spend my day a little differently.
Manchester is full of amazing people, places and architecture, so to try and grab a slice of this artistic action, I joined a photography walk.
We kick started the walk in Piccadilly Gardens. The sun was shining beautifully and for a city that has gained a reputation as being one of the rainiest places in the UK, it often likes to prove itself otherwise. I guess that’s the thing with Manchester; it’s always full of surprises.
The only way I can describe walking through Piccadilly Gardens is by seeing it as a random combination of activities and individuals. There’s people sitting alone – thinking, relaxing and sometimes napping. There’s groups of friends enjoying coffee and conversation. There’s families watching their children play with pigeons or running through the bursting fountains. And more often or not there’s the sound of music and smell of food running through the air.
As we walked across the gardens, we could hear a piano and spotted a guy who was playing the theme tune to Titanic – not the chirpiest of songs to start your Saturday with! But he was really talented. A few feet away, a duo of reggae-style musicians were playing some pretty cool beats on their drums. We couldn’t help but move our feet and hips along to the rhythm and with the sun blazing down, it felt like we were abroad, someplace exotic and certainly not in Manchester.
Piccadilly Gardens is also host to an amazing market every Thursday and Saturday. The stalls are packed with local produce including cheese, bread and speciality pastries to worldly-inspired flavours from Italy, Spain and China. I’ve been to Piccadilly’s food market many times and I love the buzz that the stalls create. The vendors are always smiling and look proud to share their delicatessens with the people in Piccadilly. I absolutely love being part of such a multi-cultural city and within this small market, it actually proves how varied Manchester is.
More often than not, whenever I walk down Market Street I am rush through to escape the crowds. On weekends, one of the things that makes me stay away from the city is the sheer amount of people. But on this particular Saturday, things were a little different. Armed with my camera, I felt like a visitor of the city – not somebody who has been living here for five years. It did feel a little strange, I must admit. However stopping for a few moments to look around and actually witness the street performers was rather entertaining. You’ll find illusionists hovering above the ground, street dancers busting their moves and singers belting their hearts out. Like any city centre, I’m sure. But there’s just something different about Market Street, Manchester… and no, I’m not just talking about the native Indian Americans playing their pipes.
I was ever so lucky to have met an adorable and ever so cheeky four-legged friend… But don’t tell Max! I didn’t catch the name of this gorgeous pup, but after our brief time spent together (for which he simply wouldn’t stop giving me puppy cuddles), it has confirmed that at some point in the future I’m definitely going to have my own King Charles.
But, back to our walk. One of the stops on the route was at the Urbis. Forgive me, fellow city dwellers, but I had absolutely no idea where this was. Despite visiting The Printworks numerous times over the years, somehow the hugely impressive Urbis building had quite simply, ‘gone over my head’. The striking glass features capture the sunlight and make it glisten radiantly. In comparison just over the road, The Printworks’ old fashioned building is wrapped in an assortment of eye-catching typology. The area by the Urbis was full with local residents sunbathing and teenagers practicing their skateboarding moves – before you ask, I refrained myself from trying out a boardslide, ollie and 180!
One of my biggest highlights of the day was going to Manchester Cathedral for the first time. I have passed the cathedral on numerous occasions, but for one reason or another – I’ve never gone inside. One of the first things that struck me about the cathedral was the size of it. From the outside, it was fairly big – but when I walked inside I was stunned by not only its beauty, but it just seemed to have doubled (if not tripled) in length!
The colourful stained-glass windows soaked up each ray of sunlight that shone through, which helped to make the cathedral simply dazzle. I wasn’t just taken aback by the stained-glass windows, but one aspect which really struck me was how there were pockets of natural light dotted all around the cathedral. From shining on the impressive paintings, to lightening up the alter and statues – it just worked so beautifully well. The golden decorations were another stunning feature and I loved seeing the amount of detail which went into every bit of furniture and framing.
The cathedral was set up for an end of year ball and I found it was a great insight to see how much can be done with the space for events and functions. Although I don’t have any plans to get married in the not-so-distant future, I can definitely see how charming the cathedral would be for a unique wedding. Often when in a place of worship, there can be a humbling sense of reflection and I could definitely feel a sense of this and a intermission of calmness. I guess we all need time to reflect and explore. By having the cathedral on the city’s doorstep, there’s all the more reason to breakaway from the hustle and bustle for a few moments.
The next stop was somewhere I visit often. There have been many moments when I’ve visited St Alberts Square, from the Manchester Christmas Markets, Food and Drink Festival and to times when I’ve been tottering about on the cobbles in my heels attempting to visit my favourite restaurants. Although our stop at St Alberts Square was fairly brief, it was lovely to see the Town Hall standing tall in the Spring bloom – as opposed to having a gigantic Father Christmas attached to it!
One of the great things about St Alberts Square is the juxtaposition between the old and the new. It shows the city enriched in the past, mixing with the present and developing the future. Surrounding the Town Hall you’ll find fashionable bars and restaurants, favourite coffee shop hangouts and hot spots for arts and crafts.
I think it’s important to always learn and essentially take something away from each day. On Saturday, for me it was noticing the little things. From discovering a new statue in Piccadilly Gardens, visiting the Urbis and Cathedral for the first time, to simply admiring Manchester’s architecture, I felt like I had seen and learnt a lot.
The sheer diversity of the city struck me and made my heart skip a beat as I remembered how it’s one of the reasons why I love Manchester. Walking down the streets, seeing a variety of people from all over the world and hearing multiple languages and music gives the city such a unique feeling.
I know we all tend to get stuck in a rut and having the time to try new things isn’t always viable, but I am going to make more of an effort to do so. Yes it was simply a walk around the centre (a route I’ve travelled many times), travelled with people I’ve never met before and I have to say, it was a lovely stroll in the city.