For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamt of visiting Europe. Well, it happened, and my body is still in shock that my first experience was going to Great Britain, and my first city was Manchester. This little-big, hip and humble, bustling city had me swooning around every corner. There’s a cool rhythm that you become accustomed to immediately after you start exploring.
Getting there was like floating on a cloud (literally) because I flew first class for the first time. Cue the happy tears and sound the alarm...how can I turn back now?! My crew and I flew direct from San Francisco via Virgin Atlantic. It all started in the Virgin Clubhouse (another moment of silence as I process that sentence) and this experience was not limited to a full menu, speciality cocktail list, and rows of red swiveling captain's chairs...what is life?
I got a squash and pear salad to start and then the steamed salmon and veggies for some protein. We each got to enjoy an array of cocktails, which were better than some of my favorite back home.
Let’s talk about the flight. When something DOESN’T feel transatlantic, you’re doing it right. I was immediately greeted with a smile and a glass of champagne. Then I lost all control because I couldn't believe that my seat went fully horizontal. I was also told that I was going to have my bed made for me with a fluffy duvet (only if I wanted to!) so naturally, I enjoyed this ride to the fullest.
I had carbs in roll form, steak with veggies, and berry cheesecake (woah vacation mode!). Considering this was my longest flight ever, it felt like a four-hour jaunt in my head. It was also just so incredibly nice to fly direct. It didn’t feel like we went as far as we did! We got off the plane and hopped into our car to head into central Manchester.
We stayed at The Lowry Hotel, which included a great view of the River Irwell and beautiful pedestrian bridge. The rooms are so spacious and the decor so cute, and its location near the city center can’t be beat! As badly as I wanted to fall asleep, I went out with a few of the girls to explore the city. Here’s where the adrenaline comes into play!
We started off at the John Rylands Library, which is like a movie set except so quiet and peaceful. It’s a late-Victorian building that opened to the public in 1900. As a quick side note, the stained glass on this trip was A+ throughout.
We wandered over to The Refuge which I believe to be my spirit animal, mainly because of the center atrium room of the restaurant. The characteristics from floor to ceiling, the decor, the vibe...it was perfect in my eyes.
Enter: Albert's Schloss. This was our first meal out together and it did not disappoint. First off, upon walking into the restaurant is a giant floral installation surrounding the entire entrance. 10 points already.
Something big was going down that night that we couldn’t miss: England vs. Croatia in the World Cup! We gathered in Albert Hall, an insanely gorgeous venue attached to Albert's Schloss. This was an experience, and I am so glad we made it. The spirit and energy was wild in a way that’s hard to describe.
Day two started off with a solo journey to Frog Flowers, a floral artistry studio in the Northern Quarter. I took some photos of the studio space (and we vibed). The entrance was my favorite and there is visual proof below:
There was one in particular on the side of a brick building that originally was a mill 200 years ago. The mural that is displayed today calls back to what the mill used to create: beautiful textiles of all kinds. This was such a unique nod to mixed media as the piece had different textures throughout. There’s also bits within the piece that references Tib Street’s history, where the mural shines today.
Next we were on our way to afternoon tea at the Midland Hotel (pinky out...you know what I’m sayin’?). I’ve only had traditional tea one other time before so I was very excited to experience this ride again. You truly cannot go wrong with precisely cut rectangular sandwiches, tiny treats, and champagne.
Shortly after tea we wandered the streets and took photos. I somehow acquired a 2.5-foot tall bouquet (half my height) that stayed with me throughout the rest of the trip.
The happy hour clock struck and we met for drinks at the The Washhouse. When you walk in, it looks like a tiny laundromat and the entrance is behind a secret door that looks like a washing machine. First time for everything!
We ordered round one, and I was presented with a terrarium with my drink inside. There were elderflower notes with a kick and I was off to the races! The presentation and creativity was 10/10 and the entire experience was a blast. I got the giggles at least four times which made for a great ab workout right before we got pizza (dream scenario).
The next morning we went in different directions, and I’m hashtag blessed to say I took a road trip through Wales and into Snowdonia — a travel diary and many happy tears are in the works!
Upon returning from Wales, we explored Manchester one last time. It was sunny and wonderful, making me even more sad that it was our last day. We all got fancy that evening and went to The Refuge for dinner.
I have no shame in mentioning that I played Janet Jackson’s “All For You” from my phone as we walked back to the hotel after dinner. We danced and, although that situation was documented, it will not see the light of day. I do want to mention I had that song in my head since our Virgin Atlantic flight played it upon landing in Manchester. That’s when you KNOW it’s going to be a good trip.
This was so memorable and lovely and every feel-good word I can think of. I’ll never forget this trip. I’m so thrilled that my first experience in Great Britain was exploring Manchester and that I got to do it all with the best of the best. Cheers all around! I can’t wait to go back!