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We started off the trip with a 6:15 AM train from Edinburgh, Waverly station. Early right? I think we all assumed we would get adequate sleep the night before, but we might have miscalculated the magnitude of our assignments (Billy was still working on one :O), and between the three of us, we probably had a total of about 11 hours of sleep. On the train, we all attempted to fall asleep but I don’t think any of us successfully made it…. the sun was too bright.
After a 3.5 hour train ride we jumped off – quite spontaneously at Deansgate station (because we almost missed it/were planning to get off at a different stop) and headed toward our first destination – the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI).
First impressions of Manchester? It’s kind of like Birmingham, very industrial type but also it’s kind of not. The buildings are a little more ornate (though the classic red brick is a reoccurring theme here). Also it was a very quiet Saturday morning. Even at 9:00am (late by my standards) there weren’t many people wandering the streets. This, along with the 10 or so bars/dance clubs/pubs we passed on the way to the museum suggested that… Manchester likes to have fun. A lot of late night fun.
MOSI was one of our top sites to see because historically Manchester was a booming industrial town. Why? 1) because it was close to the port of Liverpool 2) it didn’t have a lot of structure so it was easy to build it into an industrial town.
Manchester was incredibly pioneering in the field of engineering, Some fun facts about old Manchester:
- First computer (named “baby”) to run a program from its memory. Also the birthplace of first commercial computer named Mark I
- First continuous wire making process
- Standardized screw threads
- First mass production of quantum dots
- Manchester used to be known as the cottonopolis. At one point, it produced 70% of the worlds cotton!!
One of Annie’s favorite part of the “Manchester Revolution” exhibit was learning about and seeing the whole process of making cotton into cloth. They start from taking these huge batches of dehydrated extremely compressed cotton shipped from America then pulling them into thinner and finer lumps of fiber and spinning them into thread. I really liked this thistle coat:
“You can give me anything and I can make something out of it. All materials are valid whether dust or diamonds” – Adrian Shannon (Artist)
We also tried our hand at braiding (a way thread is woven in garments because it makes it stronger)
Manchester has long moved passed heavy industry and now does some pretty cutting edge work in nanotechnology and materials – like graphene!!
Graphene was one of those modern inspiring science discover stories. Basically two guys Andre Geim and Kostyra were awarded for putting tape to a piece of graphite and isolating graphene. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s the unusual and superior properties of graphene that make it such an exciting discovery! Here was a material that was super thin, but still had incredible strength and electrical conductivity as well as being lightweight and thin. There are tons of potential applications for graphene such as new parts for your cell phone to make the phone even smaller!
Just to give you a feel on Andre and Kostya. From Andre “I highly recommend winning the Nobel Prize to everyone… in an experience junky and the Nobel prize offers many of these incredible experiences, meeting different interesting and weird people” and co-published a paper with H.A.M.S ter Tisha which was the name of the hamster he levitated as part of an experiment
Overall the exhibit was fascinating! My favorite part was the graphene suite. I love how they decided to make art inspired by science, which seems particularly meaningful when you think about the number of things inspired by a piece of art. The graphene suite is made up of six parts to reflect the six carbon atoms in each unit of graphene. Composed by Sara Lowes, the six movements are:
- The pursuit of discovery
- Graphene’s theme
- The walk forward
- The female theme
- Into the wave
You can have a listen to two of the movements here (soundcloud)
We also saw an art installation called “Everything and nothing” – which was basically an endless video of rocks being crushed – very satisfying actually.
And of course no exhibit is completely without some interactive activities! Check out our Bucky ball. We tried gently passing it without breaking it (kind of like hot potato), then rolling it, then throwing it… then it broke.
The last exhibit we explored in MOSI was the Experiment room. There was a dance-dance-revolution-type recycling game, writing with light (demonstrating phospholuminescence), and brain teasers! Annie’s favorite part was solving the puzzles and we solved them so much faster as a group #teamworkmakesthedreamwork. I also really enjoyed the sound beams exhibit. Essentially sensors shot ultrasonic waves downward, and as your hand moved to interrupt the waves, the pitch changed depending on the distance the waves had to travel – so we could make music!
Next we wandered into Manchester proper – or downtown Manchester. Manchester is interesting…
We planned to have lunch at church street market, which wasn’t as big as I expected, and wandered into a nearby busy looking restaurant called “Northern Soul.” Billy got the “jerky mango chutney”, Annie got the “mac attack” (mac and cheese in the grilled cheese), and I got “the classic” with caramelized onions. The bread and butter pickles that came with the grilled cheese were on point.
We found out later that Northern Soul was actually the number one cheap eat in Manchester.
Along church street, there was also a cheap second hand book shop with some very interesting books. Exhibit A:
As we kept wandering we found a market that sold fruits, desserts and jewelry.
The weather was so nice and warm (for the U.K.) – perfect ice cream weather. Naturally we looked up the “best ice cream shop in Manchester” which yelp claimed to be Ginger’s Comfort Emporium.
We walked in circles looking for it. Back and forth, up and down Church’s street. We were about to give up when we realized from the photos, that Ginger’s was on the second floor of a building we had passed several times.
This building introduced itself as Affleck: “the eclectic arcade of geeking hip and the lovingly handmade and skillfully pierced not to mention treasures and trinkets and tokens.” Essentially it’s a conglomeration of stores ranging from alternative, punk, vintage, girly and everything in between.
An ice cream store seems like it could be quite out of place in a building like Affleck, where everything is a bit “slanted” or off center, but Ginger’s fits right it with it’s “lovingly homemade” yet also very eclectic assortment of flavors. To give a small sample: I got a plum gin and juniper sorbet, Billy got the Apple mint and wheatgrass, and Annie got the Apple mint and wheatgrass with the plum crumble.
My honest biased opinion of Ginger’s and my sorbet is “okay.” It wasn’t what I was craving and Ginger’s didn’t really have any flavors that I fell in love with BUT if I took a totally objective stance, I think Ginger scores a 5/5. It fits perfectly with Affleck, it’s fun, it’s super unique, it’s got a great atmosphere with comfy couches, the staff and service is amazing, and I could totally see how some of these flavors would blow someone else out of the water. So highly recommend checking it out!
In fact, I highly recommend checking out ALL of Affleck – if only just stopping in and making a few rounds around the store. I’m surprised that NO tourist website I browsed even mentioned it since It’s such a unique part of Manchester.
Charlotte, the lady we met in the “creative learning space” believes Affleck shows Manchester’s true quirky nature. Last point on Affleck, the creative learning space: essentially it’s a space in the store that just has a bunch of art supplies and provides a spot for people to be creative. While Annie and Billy learned some new ukulele chords, I was attempting to paint when i dropped the bottle on the floor (classic). Then i thought…. Hey! You wanted me to be creative? Here’s creative for you – and I drew this design on the floor.
And just like Afflecks, it’s a bit lopsided.
We decided to wrap the day up with a taste of Manchester nightlife. There was no way we were going to lug our super heavy backpacks around so we took the metrolink to our airbnb in the suburbs of Manchester.
This was the first time Annie and I have been to the suburbs (not sure about Billy). Normally we travel from one city to the next and stay in a hostel inside the city so airbnb was a new experience. The home was super cute!
Billy got the “Sidney and Kate” (Kidney and Sate, like satiated?), Annie got the “Saag pie-neer” like (Saag paneer) and I got the Wild Shroom (not sure about this one). The food was really good and pretty filling. I still think it comes second to Piemasters in Edinburgh because that one has more variety (like sweet pies!) and it’s about half the price for everything, but I think Pieminister does a better job creating and pulling off creative pies and full meals. Definitely recommend getting a pie if you visit the UK because it’s a thing – like tacos in Austin, but the market’s not as saturated.
After Pieminister’s, we couldn’t decide where to go, so Billy used his random number generator. He dropped his keys and counted the number of clinks (which ended up being 6) and we would go to that # bar on yelp. My only stipulation, it had to have more to have at least 4 stars. #6 on Yelp was the Fitzgerald, and going to the Fitzgerald rounded out a series of good decisions that started with MOSI in the morning.
Fitzgerald is an elevated, prohibition-style bar with live music/DJ who played “high quality elevator” music according to Billy. Not only was it a nice music venue, it was also a cocktail bar. The menu – prohibition themed of course! – had a whole list of really neat cocktails, some way too boozy for their own good. I got a spiced choc manhattan – essentially a Manhattan with some chocolate liquor. I’ve never been a huge fan of heavy liquors like whisky and bourbon but this was definitely one of the better bourbon cocktails – tasted a bit like a whisky/bourbon-tootsie roll (never had pure bourbon so I can’t give an exact assessment). Billy got the“corpse reviver,” a prohibition classic with a dash of absinthe.
Over cocktails, we reflected on what we’ve learned through study abroad (since we’re almost done!)
- The value of friends. It’s hard to find people who truly accept you for who you are and be there for you no matter what.
- What not to do when in a completely new place. I should have focused on establishing relational security in addition to physical, mental, and academic security. I wish I challenged myself to be to meet more people.
- Increased mindfulness and self-awareness. I find myself more present and in the moment in Edinburgh, I’ve learned to start put myself first when my mind and body demanded it, I’ve learned to be more self compassionate and minimize the voice inside my head.
- The value of friends
- The importance of developing social skills as learned from positive and not-so-positive interactions with people during his study abroad experience.
- To be more proactive and participating in life rather than observing from the sidelines.
- Prioritizing myself
- The necessity of predetermined deadlines. It wasn’t easy for Annie to keep up with school work at Edinburgh and part of that was because she didn’t feel the urgency – as we do at UT – to keep up with the material to be able to do a homework set. We just didn’t have as many assignments to keep us accountable.
- Overall increase in maturity from having more freedom to make decisions than she has back in the US (like to go to Salsa on Wednesdays!), and adulting.