It’s a short train ride from London to Manchester, but the trains weren’t running on Boxing Day – something we found out just a few days in advance when we started figuring out the transportation options. We caught this just in time and after some desperate online research found that Megabus, one of the super-cheap buses in the US, had service on this day (actually, they started in Britain & Europe).
Thus, we arrived in Manchester midday, after some moderate traffic, and immediately went from the station to our AirBnB, walking through the city center. It felt authentic and industrial – I guess Manchester isn’t a huge tourist destination, and although the downtown area was small, it had a distinctive feel.
We chose Manchester because of its location midway to York, and because we wanted to see a top-tier Premier League soccer team. I would have content to see any of the top clubs, but because of the location and because only Man City was playing at home, that’s who we chose. Their opponents were Sunderland, not a very good team this year.
The whole thing was an awesome experience: the huge crowds of people walking from downtown Manchester (our apartment was on the way); the stadium, and so on. Our neighbors in the stadium were about as British as you could get. And the game turned out to have a lot of goals (here’s the highlights). The only disappointment was not getting to see Sergio Aguero.
After the game we went out looking to get food and drinks. Unfortunately, pretty much everything was closed… partly due to Boxing Day, but also I think things just closed early (a friend described London nightlife as “people desperately getting hammered before the bars close”). Food options were limited (grubby ‘world buffet’ open for half an hour longer, etc…) but we did find a supermarket and picked up a ton of food (UK staples for us: cheap yogurt, Baby Bell cheese wheels, pre-made sandwiches and pasta, apples).
We found a pretty sweet spot with Caribbean vibes and super-cheap happy hour drinks. Turns out this bar, Turtle Bay, was a chain. This was a theme throughout Britain – mistaking chains for one-off restaurants… small chains seemed much more common. The drinks were good (observation: the British absoutely love passionfruit), but the low cost was because they were basically fruit juice.
Because everything closed early we headed home and spent the rest of the evening in, watching Master of None on the complimentary Netflix subscription and devouring our snacks.