My idiot day-trip to Manchester last Saturday actually went really well – and taking the train was an inspired choice, if I say so myself.
Readers of old (and pre-Wordpress, so we’re going back a fair way!) will remember my old rants about train travel, and the problems involved in it (mainly people, with added cruddy service and delays) so it’s quite a surprise for me to have become so positive about train travel again recently. Of course, it might change if I were doing those routes on a regular basis again, but the only way to know that would be to be doing the routes. Short of moving and being in the same situation again (which is less likely than Leicester winning the Premiership) we’ll just never know.
In both directions though, the journey was fine – and fast. From Milton Keynes to Manchester Piccadilly is now just 90 minutes – much faster than I can do it in a car. It cost less than the fuel and parking would’ve done, too – although not by much. If I hadn’t been right in Central Manchester for everything else, the times and costs would’ve been different, but for the purposes of what I was doing, it was all excellent.
I actually ended up getting the train an hour before the one I was booked on (the ticket was still valid, and it gave me the chance to walk round Manchester as well) so got there in plenty of time. I’d miscalculated slightly on the weather front – it was nice in Milton Keynes, and I’d forgotten that Manchester tends to rain regardless – but I was indoors for most, and only got slightly damp while walking, so it was OK too.
I’d also forgotten just how slowly most people walk in Manchester. I don’t know why, but it’s a real plod of a city – frustrating when one naturally walks as fast as I do. It makes for an interesting walk, carving through gaps and spaces, making more progress than anyone else.
I covered a lot of the centre, seeing what had changed over the years since I was last there – as usual, a lot of new stuff, a lot of roadworks and expanded tram lines – and revisited some old favourites. I was truly saddened to see the changes at Triangle – it used to be a fantastic and quirky multi-level place, but the entire basement level has been covered, and it’s now really just a bundle of restaurants. Mind you, at least it appears to be occupied fully – and I assume busy – which is an improvement.
An early lunch was had at Yard and Coop, which had been recommended by another friend, and was pretty good.
Then on to the Royal Exchange to see King Lear, which I really enjoyed. I hadn’t seen it before, so didn’t know what to expect, which probably helped. I do have some reservations about Shakespeare stuff – that’s a post for another day – but it’s a damn good production, and impressively staged for such a comparatively small space.
And then a train back home, with no delays, no hassles, and back in Milton Keynes an hour and a half later.
For me, it means that kind of day-trip is actually doable, and likely to be repeated. I’d not really thought of it on that level before, but with the train travel, it’s now within the realms of possibility. Could make things interesting in future…