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Manchester area has something for the country mouse and city mouse

May, 2010

Though everyone is familiar with London, England, up-and-coming Manchester is also on the radar these days.

The city ­– where a Sex Pistols concert started the punk-rock movement – is so hot they are now twinned with L.A. Phil Griffin from City Life magazine mused: “Park a van for too long in certain bits of Manchester nowadays and you’re likely to find it converted into apartments.”

Manchester is in northern England, not far from the scenic Lake District. A perfect vacation might include a little bit of city and a little bit of country.

Manchester was put on the map in 79 AD by the Romans, but it was King Cotton that wove England’s northwest into a global textile industry from the 1700s to 1970s. Ninety per cent of the world’s cotton was spun and traded here, the first industrialized city. The golden cotton ball on top of the clock tower reminds citizens that wherever the sun shines in the world, they sold cotton.

Since the decline of that industry and the rise of football, the city has been repurposed. The Manchester United team and three other English Premier football clubs have put it on the map again.

For Coronation Street freaks: The most-watched TV show in British history has been filmed here since 1960.

Taking lemons and making lemonade: An IRA bomb in 1996 devastated the central shopping district, but it has risen up as a car-free shopping area around Market and King Sts., with designers Armani, Hugo Boss, Jaeger, Vivienne Westwood and others ensconced there.

For fun: The Wheel of Manchester (a bit like the London Eye) twirls right in the centre of this area.

For Smart Shopping fans: Just a bit out of town there’s the Lowry Outlet Mall, offering 260 brands in 80 outlet shops.

Abe Lincoln? You might be surprised to find an Abraham Lincoln monument in the centre of town. During the American Civil War, fabric manufacturers were aligned with the North, and even though it caused unemployment in Manchester, they supported a blockade and wouldn’t buy or process the South’s cotton.

Brain food: At the Free MOSI Museum of Science & Industry, you can get a grasp of the history of gas and coal mining, rail and road transport, social changes and communications, from newspapers to computers. For builders: At Legoland on the outskirts of town, families can enjoy the 4D cinema and an immersive ride.

Romance is alive and well at Lake Windermere

Reach for the sky: Don’t miss the Hilton tower, the tallest residential development in Europe. If you can get into the Cloud 23 bar, you will be wowed by the four-sided glass walls overlooking the city. Ian Simpson, the architect, loved it so much that he lives at the top and has olive and orange trees growing there (brought in by helicopter before the roof was completed).

Feel the buzz: Stay at Roomzzz Aparthotel, which was originally a cotton warehouse. The red halls have Asian lady prints on the doors, the rooms feature glass bathrooms with a waterfall faucet facing the low futon beds, a full kitchen, an apple computer with Internet, and spotlights in floors and walls. 36 Princess St. Tel: +44 (0)161 236 2121

After you’ve revved up in Manchester, it’s time to take a short drive to the Lake District and relax. Lake Windermere is England’s second-largest lake and surrounded by jaw-dropping scenery, mountain passes, valleys, waterfalls, little villages and locations for attractive walks.

music lives at the shiny MTV building. Photos courtesy of Stan Posner and Sandra Phillips

This area, similar to our Laurentians, is where the cotton barons built their summer “cottages,” which have become inns and hotels. For short forays, there are a few key historical spots and 66 lightweight attractions like cruises, some soft adventure and there’s always a castle nearby.

Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top is the farmhouse where she wrote many of her stories. Her treasures are on display as if she just left.

Dove Cottage, part of the Wordsworth Museum and Gallery, is a former home of poet William Wordsworth, where he wrote some of his best work.

The Bond Museum shows off props and more than 20 vehicles: Aston Martins, a Lotus, a Russian t55 tank from Goldeneye and, of course, there’s a 007 shop.

Blackwell, the Arts & Crafts House, was designed by Baillie Scott. Almost all of its original decorative features have lasted, like the leaf-shaped door and window handles and its window seats; its flowing lines relating to nature (views of lake Windermere) make this an architectural treasure.

To rest your head, if you want a luxurious manse right in town and on Lake Windermere, head for Macdonald Old England Hotel & Spa, Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria. Tel: (0)844 879 9144. For more information, see and



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