I love living in Spain, but I'll admit that it was a gulp of fresh air to step onto English-speaking soil. It was almost stunning how easily I understood everything (well, nearly everything--Brits say some funny things), and how easily I was understood in return. John and I visited Manchester last weekend, a simple Ryan Air flight away from Madrid, to visit my grandfather, who was in town for business.
Manchester was cold, as you might expect, but the rain held out until our very last day. Our hotel was very conveniently located downtown on the river (below), so everything was comfortably within walking distance. We went on a business excursion day with my grandfather to see what a day in his life is like when he's in Manchester, and spent the rest of our time touring around the city as well as visiting nearby Chester.
It's very obvious that Manchester was once a very industry-based city, and we learned more about that part of the city's history when we visited The Museum of Science and Industry. It has great, hands-on exhibits (perfect if you have kids, or are a big-kid-at-heart, and love to learn), including one on 3D Printing (see photo below). The best part? It's free, but you are encouraged to give a donation. It also had a nice cafe for resting your feet and delaying the inevitable cold and probable rain outside. From the photos below, you can probably tell that Manchester is a mix of old and new, historical buildings neighbor sharp-angled modern construction. And you know what? It works. I loved the feeling I got walking around Manchester. Definitely not as much green space in the city as I would have liked, but it's somewhere I would love to return to one day...maybe in warmer weather!
We also took a morning/afternoon trip out to Chester. My parents visited Chester a few years ago, and wholeheartedly recommended the city; we were not disappointed! (We asked one British woman what she thought about Chester, and she said it was "boring"--what Europeans don't realize is that we can't sit in a pub from 1293 in the U.S. We took her comment with a grain of salt and went to Chester anyway!)
Upon walking out of the hotel in Manchester, I realized that I had left my camera switched to "on" for a week, so my battery was dead. So I relied on my trusty iPhone camera for photos this trip.
Chester was a perfect destination for a few hours of walking, stopping in little shops, eating at a 13th century pub (playing 21st century music), walking the city walls, touring the cathedral, having afternoon tea, and buying a couple of books in a second hand bookstore (I exhibited some self-control). I'd recommend this little, charming town to anyone visiting the area--it's a nice escape from the big-city feel of Manchester, and allows you to see oh-so-green English countryside on the train ride there and back.