This time I had booked my train tickets well in advance so that I would not decide against travelling at the last moment. I decided to visit Yash in Manchester. Initially I had decided to take a train to Manchester Picadilly on Friday evening and return on Monday evening - Monday being a bank holiday. but the train services were disrupted on Monday, so I decided to return on Tuesday morning. The plan was to report for work straight from the station. And that was what I booked my tickets for.
Suddenly the flat in MK where I was staying looked very big for the two of us (Puru and I). Prasanna had left for India only a day before. Puru would be home alone during the weekend and I was feeling very bad for him. But then, I had asked him if he would come with me and he had declined.
The holiday begins:
I reached the station around 8:15pm, fairly excited. The train was on time. It was the 8:36pm Virgin service to Manchester Picadilly. My plan was to spend the night at Yash's, visit Blackpool on Saturday, travel around Manchester on Sunday and visit Liverpool on Monday. Well, the plan had always looked hectic to me, but it grew upon me after I was docked in my seat and the train left the platform. I had a chicken sandwich and a cup of tea on board (don't look so surprised, I am trying to cut down on alcohol). Then, I switched on my laptop and tried to read a few documents - didn't have much option, as I was not carrying any book or magazine with me.
The train reached Manchester Picadilly on time and I rushed for the 'Metrolink'. I had thought that it was a tube as we have in London, and was looking for a ticket counter to buy a ticket. However, I could not find any open window. I went back to the train station thinking I would find something there, but I was told that I could get the tickets at the platform itself. I went back and found a ticket machine at the platform. Thank God I had some change with me! My destination was Gmex. I got on the metro and once it rolled out of the station, I realized it was a tram. The first thought that came to my mind was KOLKATA! But the trams there were so different from those in Manchester. The ones in Kolkata are considered to be a menace for the traffic. The tram tracks have caused so many accidents there. Strangely, none of that seemed to be a problem here. I was in my thoughts when I reached my destination. I found Yash waiting for me when I came outside the station. His place was just 2 minutes walk from there. He was staying in a service appartment. We had dinner and hit the bed as we had to leave early the next morning - Destination Blackpool.
Day1 - Blackpool
We woke up early on Saturday, had our breakfast after our morning ablutions. But by the time we were ready, we only had enough time to run all the way to catch our bus to Blaclpool. We did manage to catch the bus at 8:30. The bus reached Blackpool before time. We got down at the bus station and walked down to the Promenade. Promenade is the stretch of road that runs along the coast in Blackpool. Before I go any further on what we did there, let me tell you something about Blackpool. Blackpool is called the Las Vegas of UK because of its casinos, pubs and other attractions. We saw all that all along the Promenade. From the bus station we reached North Pier on the Promenade. The Promenade was a very broad strech of road, with space for usual traffic and a separate lane for trams too. Also, there was ample space for everybody to walk and have fun.
We looked around the North Pier, then went into the tourist information centre, bought ourselves discounted tickets to the Sea Life Centre and gathered some more information on what was there to see for us in Blackpool. We had planned to visit the famous Tower in Blackpool as well. We went there but the ticket to the Tower also included a Circus show and other stuffs which we did not have time for - we had to return the same evening. So we looked at the Tower only from the outside and moved on. Our next stop was the Sea Life Centre where we saw beautiful fishes, sea horses, octopusses, even ray fish and sharks. The Centre had taken a lot of care in creating the same environment for the creatures as they would find in the sea. The has even recreated the Amazon rain forest which was very interesting. I left the centre mesmerised by the sharks.
We skipped Louis Tussaud's Wax Museum which is the biggest wax museum outside London, because I had already been to the biggest. Our next stop was MacD for lunch as we were feeling really hungry by then. By that time the sun was shining in all its splendor and people had come out to enjoy the sun and have fun at the beach. We went to Central Pier next, hit the beach, clicked some photographs and came back. What did you expect? No we did not play in the water, because we did not have any change of clothing for one and second we had only about 4 hours before we had to catch the bus and we still had so much to see.
From the Central Pier we moved on to the South Pier. South Pier has many attractions. There is a mini golf course for you to have fun, the fun-filled Pleasure Beach and a huge indoor water park. Though there are fun and games on all the Piers and all along the promenade, these three attractions at the South Pier stand out. Golf was not out cup of tea, water park was a no no, so we went to Pleasure Beach. The entry to the park is free which is very good, because that way only those have to pay who really want to enjoy the rides (Did someone say good for parents?). Once inside, you have 3 options - to buy a wrist band for £30 to enjoy all the rides unlimitted number of times, or to buy tickets to rides which you want to take, or to just see people having fun. I would have loved to buy the wristband, but again time was a factor. Probably the most famous ride in the Pleasure Beach is the Pepsi Max Big One roller-coaster - which was, at one time, the biggest roller-coaster in UK. So we decided to take that ride. Yash wanted to see the river caves as well, so we bought tickets for those as well. It cost us £11 each for both the rides. Considering this, the £30 wristband is a great bargain. But to enjoy it completely, you need to have one full day. The roller-coaster ride had a fair share of waiting time involved with it. We had to wait for almost 20 minutes for the 3 minute ride. But you forget all that as soon as your ride starts. The feeling is just exhilarating. After that the river cave was a smooth sail through time. It is more for the children, so you people keep that in mind when you go in there. We had a llook around the park and then moved on to our next destination - Ripley's Believe It Or Not. They have a lot of fascinating stuff in there. You would be mesmerised and awestruck at the sight of their collection.
Pic. View from the top of the ride - probably the most thrilling ride of my life till date
After all this we still had sometime with us, but our legs were begging for rest. We dragged ourselves to the benches made near the South Pier and sat in the Sun. There we saw people taking helicopter rides. Yes, you can take helicopter rides for £25 each and I felt it would have been a nice experience. But Yash vetoed it and after resting for some time, we took a tram to North Pier as we could not walk any more. We reached North Pier and decided to take a close look of the sea from the Pier head. The view of the sea from the pier was amazing. I wondered how the sea would look like at sunrise and sunset and left the place to return to the bus station for our return journey. We were parched by then so on our way we picked some juice from a store. We reached the bus station at 6:30pm and our bus was standing there. But the drver had locked himself in and would not open the door till 6:50pm as the bus was at 7:00pm. That was wierd and Yash and I spent the time sipping at the juice (it was a life-saver).
Finally the driver let us in, and we set off for Manchester. We reached Manchester at around 8:20 pm. on our way back home from the station, we picked our dinner from Sainsbury, came to our room, washed up, had dinner and lay dead on the bed with the thought that thankfully we had decided to stay in Manchester on Sunday. However, I did regret that I did not have enough time to enjoy all the rides at Pleasure Beach. Blackpool is certainly not a one day trip. You would have more fun if you decide to stay the night there.
Day2 - Manchester
We woke up the next moring, very relaxed as we were in no hurry. My legs were still paining from the abuse I had subjected them to the other day. However, the weather outside was gloomy. It was clouded and raining quite heavily. I really wanted to see around Manchester, but the weather washed my spirits away. Yash and I had a late lunch and finally when the rain stopped, we headed for Old Trafford - yes you guessed it - to see the famous footbal stadium, home to the current premership champions - Manchester United.
Pic. MUFC Stadium, Old Trafford
We took a bus to Old Trafford, got down at the Lancashire Cricket Club and headed straight for the football stadium. I cannot explain how it felt to see the stadium, even from the outside. We reached the museum reception all excited, but our spirits hit a rock bottom when we were told that all stadium tours were fully booked for the day. We could see the museum, but I felt that it was not worth, if we could not see the stadium. So we decided against it. We click a few photographs of the stadium from the outside, visited their store and came back to the Lancashire Cricket Club. Those of you who know Yash would be knowing how crazy he is for cricket. He wanted to get inside and see the ground, but they were having a match and we were not allowed inside without a ticket. It was not our day I guess! And so we headed back to our abode. It was better to rest and prepare for another tiring day in Liverpool.
Day3 - Liverpool
This time around we got ready and reached the bus station in time. Our bus reached Liverpool well before its scheduled time. I had checked on the net and the tourist information centre would have opened only at 11 am - it being a bank holiday. So we had a lot of time. We walked to the City Centre, waitin on our way at beautiful Victorian buildings like the World Museum, Library, etc. The City Centre in itself was buzzing with life, though all the shops had not opened till then. It was bright and sunny and the city looked splendid in the morning sun. We collected as much information from the tourist informationc centre as we could and then caught a City Tour Bus to Albert Dock. The history of Liverpool and Albert Dock is very intersting. I will skip the history of Liverpool and get to Albert Dock. The guide told us that it was designed by a dock supervisor and not an architect. Strange, and hard to believe when you see the dock. The War Memorial at next to the Albert Dock is also very beautiful - probably the biggest war memorial in the world. We took a cruise on the Mersyside Ferry and I must say it was a nice experience. We were sitting in the open on the Ship at first, but then it became very chilly soon, and we moved indoors. The sight on both sides of the river was beautiful. The cruise lasted for about 50 minutes and I would have missed something had I not taken it.
Pic. Anglican Cathedral, Liverpool
After the cruise, we went to see the famous Anglican Cathedral. No matter how much I praise it, you have to see it to believe it. However, I have to write something about it. The huge red structure took my breath away when I first saw it. To put it simply... it was huge. The main entrance of the cathedral has a huge metallic statue of a man which appeared very strange to me. The inside of the cathedral was simply majestic. The calmess and serenity of the place just bowled me over . The rise of the tower, the beautiful painted windows... it was all so divine. The church was made by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. It was very intriguing to know that this was Sir Giles first such assignment that too when he was just 21. The architect is the same quy who designed the red phone booths that are synonymous with England. The view from the top of the tower is equally breathtaking; on a clear day, it is said that one can see as far as the Blackpool tower. Rest I would leave for you to see whenever you have the chance visit the land of the Liver bird.
From the Cathedral we went back to Albert Dock to take the Beatles Tour, but the tour had closed down by then. So we took another bus and went to the City Centre once again hoping to catch a quick bite. We spent some more time wandering around in the market but then the shops had begun to close down and we couldn't do much. We decided to return to the bus station and wait there. We still had some time, but we were tired to the core and had no more strength to walk. I got burgers and fries to much on while we waited at the bus station. Finally the bus came and no surprises... we dozed off within mimutes after the bus left the station. After we reached home, we just freshend up and hit the bed... the holiday was over and tomorrow was going to be another hectic day at office.
The next morning, on board a Virgin Train for my return Journey to Milton Keynes, I slept all along. Whoever said holidays are relaxing had surely not walked as much as I had in the past 3 days. As the train reached MK, thoughts of how the journey had come a full circle came to my mind. It had been very tiring but the enjoyment was worth all the pain. There was, however, one regret. Yash and I had visited the football heartland of England - Liverpool and Manchester each are home to two famous football clubs (Liverpool and Everton footbal clubs in Liverpool and Manchester United and Manchester City in Manchester) - but could not see any stadium. Had that been possible, I would have felt it was a complete journey.
Looking forward to many such sojourns.