Living in the North

Since October this year I have been living in Manchester. I came here to complete my Masters degree that I was previously doing from home studying modules that required trips abroad and allowed distance learning, mostly through coursework.  Having gone on my field trip to Tanzania, and met such a cool bunch of people, I remembered how much I loved living away from home for Uni. So I decided to just pack up and move there for a year, to see what all the fuss was about.

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Every year since I was a kid we have spent each Easter in a different place in the UK, exploring the little towns of the British countryside, but I have never really ventured up North properly, and certainly not to the big cities like Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle. I had heard that Manchester was the “London of the North” so naturally I was excited.

I found a house quite centrally located, more like in suburbia, to share with 3 course mates. It wasn’t hard to find somewhere, and not even very hard to negotiate the rent down a fair bit, in the end I’m paying £100 less than I paid to live in Reading during my undergrad degree, absolutely shocking!

The area I live in is called Withington, just south of the main student area, but its still thriving with trendy bars and vegetarian shops – its very alternative here. I’ve spent the last 8 weeks trying to explore as much as possible and I have had such a good time.

At first I couldn’t help but realise how small Manchester was, not like London at all. I hear there is a lot on the outskirts but the central area is quite tiny, mostly because the main areas of entertainment are all in one place, the Northern Quarter (for the snazzy bars and clubs) adjacent to the Piccadilly area (where there is the Arndale centre and a mass array of shops). When I first discovered this I was really excited, the Arndale centre was huge you could easily get lost in it. There is even a ‘Manchester Eye’ which looked pretty cool in the town centre.

In the evenings I’ve attempted to visit as many different places as possible, and so far my favourite destinations are:

  • Temple Bar, an old converted Victorian underground toilet, small but funky, just off of Oxford Road
  • Taps in the Northern Quarter, where you get your own personal taps on your table to help yourself
  • Odder Bar next to MMU for dinner and drinks before evening lectures, really good food and friendly staff!
  • Deaf Institute – lots of old school music on a Saturday!
  • Soloman and Grundy’s in Withington on a Tuesday night for some live Jazz
  • TV21 – a science fiction themed bar/club in the Northern Quarter

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During the days when not studying or working at my part time job, I took to exploring the museums and shopping districts with course friends. We visited the Natural History Museum first, located opposite main campus of Manchester University. It is fun in there, much like the one in London but with a lot of education stuff for kids, not that that stopped us getting involved! We then headed down to the Whitfield Art Gallery, where there was a particular display called ‘Dark Matters’. It was all very “out there”, but there were so many very cool interactive displays, particularly this one that films you and projects the image on the screen, but instead of you it picks up all the dust particles around you forming your shape. We also visited the Manchester Art Gallery, which had lots of religious and historical pieces, but not at all a big collection.

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One evening we were exploring Piccadilly and discovered that it was in fact the evening that the Christmas lights were being switched on, so we headed to the town hall to see the entertainment. We had performances from Nicola Roberts and Tynchy Stryder as well as a fantastic fireworks display from the roof of the Town Hall, which was so well timed to the music that it definitely trumped bonfire night! Then as the lights turned on it really was beautiful, every street was lined with them, including the trees and a giant Santa sat happily in the town square, whereas his giant reindeer were in Piccadilly Square.

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During the day time the Christmas markets arrived, with stalls set up in so many roads it was impossible to explore it all in one day. The food available was incredible, from all different continents and so many Christmassy themed areas that it really made you feel like a kid again with excitement.

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So far my time in Manchester has been amazing and there is still so much I want to see, the Science and Industry Museum, Salford Quays, and the surrounding country parks, so I’m sure there will be a ‘part two’ to this post. I’m really glad I decided to come up here!

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About wilsoemi

A 1st Class Biological Sciences graduate, with a Masters degree in Conservation Biology. Dedicated to nature and conservation, with over three years voluntary experience in environmental and conservation charities and NGO's. Currently working for the World Society for the Protection of Animals and volunteering for London Wildlife Trust.
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