Ali and I were married on Friday 5th November 2021 – coincidentally Ali’s birthday, the pictures can be found here.
On Sunday 7th November we drove north on a ‘staycation honeymoon’ to Manchester and Liverpool.
We’d already contacted the Crowne Plaza hotels in both cities and negotiated access to the club lounges, particularly as I was spending loyalty points for our accommodation.
I’d stayed at the Manchester Crowne Plaza a few times while working at the Co-op between 2012-14 and had been impressed, so figured it would be a cool place to honeymoon.
Our drive north was uneventful, we arrived in Manchester at about 1pm; the ‘Printworks’ car park was just a hundred yards from the hotel.
The guy on check-in was dubious that we would be entitled to check in at 1pm, but on checking our reservation and my loyalty status (top of the shop) he checked us in and confirmed our club lounge access.
Our room – 811 – on the club floor was clean, smart and well-appointed.
It overlooked the Co-op campus; including new buildings that had been constructed since my departure in 2014 and the – now unoccupied – CIS Tower.
We unpacked and went exploring the Northern Quarter and I was disappointed to find that some bars that I used to enjoy – Terrace and Common were almost deserted. A check of the draught beers in Terrace – formerly a favourite haunt – quickly suggested why they were empty so we headed over to ‘Mackie Mayor’.
‘Mackie Mayor’ was derelict during my period working in Manchester; the former ‘Smithfield’ meat market it had been opened in in 1856 when Cllr. Mackie was the Mayor of Manchester and ‘Mackie Mayor’ features prominently on the outside of the building.
Inside there’s a large, trendy, food court with bench seating and tables, surrounded by specialist kitchens serving global foods. We grabbed a table and a couple of beers, then ordered some Satay Chicken and Thai Fishcakes.
All were delicious, an ideal snack after a long drive north.
We headed back to the Crowne Plaza for drinks and canapés in the club lounge, then out to one of my favourite places during my previous stay, an eccentric ‘Cal-Mex’ diner called “Luck, Lust, Liquor and Burn”.
I’d reserved a table for 8pm but our greeting was unimpressive, we were unceremoniously dumped on a table downstairs in the bar area. We ordered spicy chicken tenders and burritos, accompanied by a frozen Margarita (for Ali) and a ‘Lagerita’ (for me).
Our drinks were poured and sat on the bar for about ten minutes, waiting for a waitress to deliver them, they arrived a minute or so before our starters and main courses arrived at the same time.
To be fair, the Chicken Tenders we’re delicious, but the Burritos were dry, overcooked and unimpressive. The staff were hiding out back eating their own dinners as we completed our meal, we got the distinct feeling we were overstaying our (lukewarm) welcome. It was coming up to 9pm on Sunday evening in Manchester.
I’d enjoyed some great meals at ‘Liquor & Burn’ back in the day, but this was a major disappointment. If we return to Manchester, I’m sad to report ‘Liquor & Burn’ is crossed off my ‘to do’ list.
It was a reasonably mild evening, so we headed over to the Port Street Ale House, another of my erstwhile favourites and were not disappointed, we both enjoyed a couple of excellent brews before we returned to the Crowne Plaza for a sound night’s sleep.
Next morning, refreshed, we strolled down High Street and managed to get a table at ‘Federal’, opposite the Arndale Market. We’d seen a review of ‘Federal’ on a YouTube video and they didn’t disappoint. Ali enjoyed ‘Turkish Eggs’ (poached eggs with garlic yogurt and sourdough toast) while I tucked into poached eggs, crispy bacon and avocado on sourdough. Both accompanied with some of the best coffee we’ve enjoyed in a very long time.
From there we wandered over to the Arndale centre, buying some early Christmas gifts, and a coat and jacket for Ali. We took the shopping back to our room and then hit ‘This & That’ for a traditional ‘Rice & Three’ curry lunch.
Another of Manchester’s ‘Rice & Three’ cafés – Al Faizal -was being used to film a TV drama, there were large film and lighting trucks on Thomas and Tib Streets.
We then strolled through Manchester City centre, through the streets that would shortly be occupied by Manchester’s Christmas Markets – we were a week too early. Then a sneaky drink in the Brewdog Hotel bar, a shopping trip to the Apple store, and then back to the hotel for canapés in the club lounge.
Bob had reached out Michael Paulson, to a former Co-op colleague and had arranged to meet up in ‘7 Brothers’, a bar in the Ancoats district, about half a mile away. Michael, about the same age as Bob, had moved on from the Co-op and married a new lady but, and this is where the stories divert, his new wife fell pregnant and he found himself the doting father of a beautiful four year old daughter.
Michael recommended a local pizza restaurant but, on our arrival, they declared that they were fully booked for the evening. We wandered back to the Port Street Ale House for a beer or two, including ‘Duchesse de Burgogne’, a fine Belgian ale I’d never before seen on draught.
We then had to decide on dinner and I explained that, on my previous stays in Manchester, after a few drinks I would call into ‘Hunters’ for a ‘dirty kebab’; so we decided to do the same.
To my delight and surprise the server – Ahmed – actually remembered me! We chatted while our ‘dirty’ kebab was being prepared and had a couple of photos taken, including one with a ‘photo bomb’ by another customer.
On Tuesday morning we strolled around the Northern Quarter before enjoying an excellent breakfast of Kedgeree at “Evelyn’s” on Tib Street.
We also explored Affleck’s Emporium, a vast four-story counter-culture store.
We then enjoyed rides on the two free city circular buses, covering much of Manchester that we’d walked the day before, then snuck into the Crown and Cushion pub for a drink – I remembered this pub from my previous stays. It has a simply astonishing decorated ceiling and has, in recent years embraced the craft beer scene.
In the evening, after cocktails and canapes in the club lounge, we returned to Mackie Mayor for some excellent pizza with a side Caesar salad and some more excellent beer.
From there we checked out of the hotel and hit the road westbound to Liverpool, calling into to the cemetery at Allerton to lay some flowers on Val’s mother’s grave.
We arrived at the Liverpool Crowne Plaza – adjacent to the iconic ‘Liver Building’ by lunchtime, conscious that our room might not be ready.
We checked in and spent a couple of hours strolling round Liverpool’s Albert Dock and the Liverpool One shopping centre.
Our room was ready by the time we got back to the hotel, an excellent ‘Club’ room overlooking the Mersey.
We’d booked a late afternoon meal in ‘Mowgli’, a well known Indian ‘street food’ restaurant not far from the hotel. It was okay but, when compared to the splendid food we’d enjoyed in Manchester, it was distinctly underwhelming.
We returned to the hotel for cocktails and canapés in the hotel before a fairly early night, we’d had some busy days.
Next morning we checked out early, grabbed a sneaky McDonalds’ breakfast, then headed homeward. There were tailbacks on the M6 and M25 but arrived home safe and sound mid afternoon.
All in all we’d had an unusual ‘staycation honeymoon’, enjoyed some exceptional meals, interesting beers and stayed in two great and well located hotels.