Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

What to do for a weekend in Manchester 

Manchester is a thriving city, brimming with things to do and places to see. However, getting around the UK can be a bit of a nightmare at the best of times, trains may be slightly quicker but prices are extortionate. So, I opted for a cheaper – and in my opinion – far more comfortable alternative. If you are wondering what to do for a weekend in Manchester, read on…

Departing Oxford just after 8am, I boarded my National Express coach to Manchester. I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised, all National Express coaches come with leather seats, air conditioning, power sockets and toilets as standard. They ever offer a downloadable entertainment system VUER for free, which offers films, TV programmes and magazines.

VUER, National Express to Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

If you have ever been on a long coach journey before without a charger and toilet – and I have – it is not a fun time. The coaches are modern and comfortable, with adjustable leg rests, spacious seats and supported head rests – just perfect for a little mid-journey snooze. With a brief stopover to switch coaches in Birmingham, we were off again and before you know it, we were in Manchester, ready to explore the sights.

We arrived in Manchester city centre at around 1pm and were ready to kick start our weekend of cafes, culture and cocktails galore. Here are my top 10 things to do for a weekend in Manchester:

Top 10 things to do for a weekend in Manchester

Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester | The LDN Gal

Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester

We needed an infusion of culture so headed to the Manchester Art Gallery. The gallery is spectacular, housing an assortment of classic and contemporary pieces. A particularly interesting exhibition space was dedicated to the relationship between art and mindfulness. And Breathe… allowed guests to stop and pause for a moment, appreciating the connection between the two.

Afflecks, Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

Afflecks, Manchester

You could spend an entire day in and around the Northern Quarter, soaking up the area before strolling through Afflecks indoor market and many a quirky shop. There is lots of retro, nostalgic and vintage treasures to be found and bought in Afflecks. It’s a lot of fun to rummage around the many shops and I have to admit, it reminded me of Camden Market on a much smaller scale.

John Rylands Library, Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

John Rylands Library, Manchester

The John Rylands Library was founded by Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her husband, and is housed in an impressive Neo-Gothic building. Step inside, and you will discover its grand history and architecture, alongside its vast collection of treasured books and manuscripts. We were lucky to stop by as the Women Who Shaped Manchester exhibition was on. It detailed the journeys of incredible women, past and present. Women who used their wits and determination to overcome many a societal challenge.

National Football Museum, Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

National Football Museum, Manchester

I am not a fan of the great game but the National Football Museum is impressive. My other half was delighted, heading around the various exhibitions and it was a highlight of his trip. Inside, discover a diverse range of worldwide memorabilia and interactive skills-based challenges. The penalty shoot game ever featured the old Wembley goal!

Starters, eXchange Food and Drink Lounge, Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester | The LDN Gal

eXchange Food and Drink Lounge, Manchester

The eXchange Food and Drink Lounge is a rustic restaurant that does not fail to impress. Within, discover a restaurant area, bar, sports screens and even a kids area. Perfect for all the family, the eXchange Food and Drink Lounge offers incredible dining, spectacular cocktails and an evening of chatter and memories. Read my review of my experience here.

The Liars Club, Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

The Liars Club, Manchester

While in Manchester, we proved to be frequent patrons of The Liars Club. It is a tropical tiki bar with an enviable selection of global rum and a vibrant and funky interior. The cocktails were incredible and good-value for money. You could lose hours sipping away listening to Reggae tunes aplenty. They even offer a two drinks for £10 happy hour on weekdays!

Sunset by Australasia, Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

Sunset by Australasia, Manchester

Sunset by Australasia is an Instagram dream. It offers a  stunning pastel pink and gold interior, alongside an outside terrace embellished with vibrant flower wall and plush seating and cushions. Sunset by Australasia is gorgeous – but the cocktails are even better. So, grab a frozen Prosecco sorbet blend and let the world go by for a few hours.

Sugar Junction interior, Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

Sugar Junction, Manchester

Sugar Junction is a coffee, cake and cocktail lovers dream. This vintage venue in the Northern Quarter offers lots wholesome and homemade produce. I had a cake (gluten free, which was a nice touch) alongside pink lemonade – which was beautifully decorated. My other half opted for a rather filling and well presented sandwich, which was accompanied by chips. You can enjoy breakfast, brunch throughout the day and afternoon tea – or a cocktail or two, if you feel inclined. 

Home Sweet Home. Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

Home Sweet Home, Manchester

Looking for the best pancakes in town? Home Sweet Home offers an American breakfast and brunch in a cosy and quirky location. The pancake stacks are huge, doused with fresh fruit, cream and sauces – there are some savoury options too, don’t fret. Do be wary though, if you get there at the weekend and are looking to quash your  comfort food cravings, there may be a bit of a wait.

Bees in the City at Manchester Cathedral, Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

Manchester Cathedral, Manchester

We spent some time in Manchester Cathedral, appreciating the many Bee in the City bee’s dotted around its interior. Although Manchester Cathedral is rather small, it was as expected, beautiful. It is the perfect place to take a few moments away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city centre.

So, if you are looking for a fabulous UK city break, look no further! There is plenty of things to do for a weekend in Manchester.

You can book your next journey to Manchester (or the rest of the UK) with National Express here or give them a call on 0871 7818181.

National Express travels to over 900 destinations nationwide and offer thousands of tickets for £5 or less (plus a booking fee). The best bit? Travelling by coach proves to be the most environmentally friendly form of public transport!

Where would be your first stop in Manchester? Have you traveled via National Express before?

Stephanie xox

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This post is in collaboration with National Express

Why I'm over the blogger follow/unfollow game | The LDN Gal

The follow to unfollow saga: the ugly side of blogging

If you blog often, you will know exactly what I am talking about here. The follow to unfollow game is a tedious affair to say the least. So, here is why I’m over the blogger follow to unfollow game.

So many bloggers work so hard to organically increase their following and engagement, interacting with others in their niche and producing killer content time and time again.

The follow to unfollow saga is simple. Select bloggers will follow on mass, await for you to follow them back and then remove you by unfollowing within 24 hours. Most go unnoticed and almost cheat others out of a follow.

Follow to unfollow on social media? You are part of the problem…

If you have experienced this, it leaves you feeling a bit rubbish. Blogging is as much about content as it is community. If you love someone’s content, you follow them to read, embrace and even share it from time to time. However, the follow to unfollow saga diminishes the blogging community and this mutual respect, tarnishing organic growth.

Of course, you don’t have to follow others back that don’t speak or relate to your interests, that is absolutely fine. But for those who follow just to unfollow again – it’s really not cool.

Instagram tends to be the social media platform that falls victim to the follow to unfollow game the most. Leaving many a blogger keeping an eye on their social following each week through third party tools that track unfollowers. It isn’t a numbers game but it’s never nice to see your counts dip up and down relentlessly.

If you love your community and fellow bloggers, share your fabulous content, engage with others and follow with intention. It’s really not all about the numbers and quality should always trump quantity.

#rantover

What do you think of the follow to unfollow saga? Have you fallen victim to it?

Stephanie xox

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Spellbound exhibition witch, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford - The LDN Gal

Spellbound exhibition, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

The Spellbound exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, features a quirky and eccentric collection of oddities, thwrawt in superstition. The exhibition illustrates over eight centuries of magic, ritual and witchcraft.

As a country, we have always been wary of magic and Spellbound illustrates this fear, showcasing many a mystical and fascinting object and artwork to entice discussion and reflection.

It looks at our ongoing and emotional relationship with magic, superstition and ritual – ever avoided stepping under a ladder or putting new shoes on the table? 

Within Spellbound, discover a collection of “spellbinding stories, fascinating objects… from crystal balls and magic mirrors to witch bottles and curse poppets.”

Spellbound: Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft exhibition

Exhibition highlights include a witch in a bottle, a heart in lead and silver casing and a copy of The Discovery of Witches by Matthew Hopkins, 1647.

You will explore the history of magic, ritual and witchcraft over 800 years. The objects and artwork on display highlight people’s superstition, witches practice and the tools used to eventually condemn them.

Magic and the unknown has always historically caused people to be fearful, and when married with religious views, it was linked closely to devil worship and ultimate despair.

Once inside, you will discover Medieval texts, binding jewellery and crystal balls, as well as magical objects aplenty alongside contemporary art instillations. If you are a fan of magic, the supernatatural, the cosmos and the occult, this enchanting exhibition is for you.

To book tickets for the magical Spellbound exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, please take a look here. The exhibition runs until the January 6, 2019.

Are you fascinated by magic? Which exhibition highlight would you be most intrigued by?

Stephanie xox

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Boobie Bears for Breast Cancer | The LDN Gal

Scarlet’s ‘Little Orphans’ raise breast cancer awareness

Boobie Bears are from the creative genius of Scarlet of Scarlet’s ‘Little Orphans’. What started out as a fun pasttime to connect with friends exchanging ‘Boy Bears’, has turned into a micro movement.

The concept is simple. Scarlet sends out her travelling Boobie Bears from her home in Winterton, North Lincolnshire in the UK, with a very special mission.

After developing cancer herself in 2018, Scarlet decided her bears could help to raise awareness of breast cancer. Boobie Bears are sent out to travel the world, bringing a smile to all who come across them and their heartfelt message.

In February 2018, Scarlet was told she had Paget’s disease, a form of breast cancer that affected her nipple. When asked about her diagnosis, Scarlet said:

“I had a tiny flake of skin on my nipple that wouldn’t heal. Paget’s disease doesn’t show on a mammogram or ultra sound.”

After an operation in March 2018, Scarlet lost a nipple, lots of breast tissue and had to undergo a reconstruction. After three weeks of radiotherapy every day, the cancer was gone!

“I wanted to turn a negative into a positive and send the girl bears out for breast cancer awareness.”

Boobie bears are not looking to raise money, they are simply on their adventure to raise awareness.  Scarlet said: “We are asked all the time to donate money to what seems a million charities and I just wanted to raise awareness.”

So, where do the Boobie Bears come from?  

Scarlet sources her bears from her own pocket, picking them up from charity shops and car boot sales. She also asks her Facebook followers for teddy bear donations where possible.

“People in my village have been amazing and I often get up in the morning to teddy bears being posted through my letterbox.”

As the bears leave Scarlet and travel on, their adopted finders post on Scarlet’s dedicated Facebook page, Scarlet’s ‘Little Orphans’.

These prompted social media posts on Facebook spread their message, as well as creating an oh so cute travel diary. When it’s time for a Boobie Bear to move on, it is carefully left in its next destination to be adopted once more and continue its journey.

“I’m very proud of my Boobie Bears and their feedback. A few ladies have had their boobs checked after seeing one of my bears, which I think is amazing.”

Over 300 bears have been sent out so far. Unfortunately, they do not always turn up online but Scarlet keeps a track of the ones that do, adding people’s photos to dedicated albums illustrating their journeys.

“The bears are everywhere from Skegness to Australia, to the Caribbean and Europe – and lots of places in between.”

Scarlet says she will contine to send out the Boobie Bears for as long as she can – and even hopes her grandchildren will carry on the Boobie Bear mission when she is gone.

“It really is amazing to see where they go and what they get up to.”

She gives bears out to friends, family and colleagues to take on adventures, as well as leaving them wherever she goes. She has been posting them out to people all over the UK too, so that they can join in on the fun!

You can keep an eye on Scarlet’s ‘Little Orphans’ page for all of the Boobie Bears adventures. You never know, you may even find one of your own some day!

What do you think of the Boobie Bear concept? Where would you take your Boobie Bear?

Stephanie xox

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York Minister, York - The LDN Gal

York Pass: best things to do in York, England

A city famed for its culinary delights such as chocolate, Yorkshire puddings and even their tea, some may say that York has it all.

Step into the beautiful city of York and be prepared to stand in awe. This Medieval walled city is brimming with attractions and bursting with a quaint charm that is hard to find elsewhere in the UK.

Surprisingly, York is rather small city considering its fascinating and lengthy history. Bordered by just two miles of Roman walls, the city centre is easy to navigate on foot and it lends itself to being a perfect destination for a long city break.

So, when exploring York, what must you do and see? Here are my recommendations on the top 10 things to do in York on a budget, including the best sights to see and the best local hotel to unwind in. The best thing? Pretty much all of these attractions are free to visit with the York Passthere’s over 30 included!

Here’s how to visit York, England on a budget 

York Minister Stained Glass Window Interior, York - The LDN Gal

York Minister:

The York Minister is a grand Gothic cathedral, highlighting pretty much all of the Gothic architectural styles over its development. It is famed for its ornate Medieval stained glass and is one of the largest churches of its kind in Northern Europe. Within, discover its artefacts, wander through the undercroft museum and take a trip up the tower. Did you know, no building in York can be higher that the York Minister?

York Minister is free with a York Pass – the tower is charged additionally

York Dungeon, York - The LDN Gal

York Dungeon:

You really cannot prepare yourself for what you will discover in York Dungeon. Pre-warned by the staff of its gruesome interior on entrance, its safe to say you are put on high alert. A few posed pictures are thrown into the mix before you and the group await your guided tour to start. As you wait in this darkened room – be sure to not mistake people for statues – a door creeks and you are beckoned in. The 75 minute tour takes you through York’s dark and dreary 2,000 year history via 10 live shows from Vikings to the plague and Guy Fawkes to Dick Turpin. Consequently, you will learn about bandits, witches and heretics and leave with an elevated heart rate.

York Dungeon is free with a York Pass

River Ouse cruise, York City Cruises, York - The LDN Gal

City Cruises York:

On a summers day, what better way to explore a city than on its waterways? An hour long cruise on the River Ouse is a charming affair with City Cruises York. Your captain will navigate you, enhancing your local knowledge with a myriad of interesting facts. Basically, expect folk, wartime and downright peculiar tales, as you watch life in York slowly go on by.

A daytime City Cruises York cruise is free with a York Pass

JORVIK Viking Centre, York - The LDN Gal

JORVIK Viking Centre:

Entering the JORVIK Viking Centre, I was not quite sure what to expect. As you make your way downstairs, you discover an excavation site beneath a glass floor, making for interesting viewing as you are informed of its origin and purpose. Follow the room round, and you are greeted with a hanging ride cart, select your language, secure your seat and you’re off! You gently weave through Viking Jorvik (York) and are greeted with a host of realistic animatronics, their at times woeful tales narrated within your cart. On exiting, discover Viking artefacts found within this archaeological site –  and a few skeletons to boot!

JORVIK Viking Centre is free with a York Pass

York's Chocolate Story, York - The LDN Gal

York’s Chocolate Story:

Ever wondered how chocolate was made? Now is your time to find out in the UK’s most famed chocolate city. York founded many an esteemed chocolate making company including the famed Terry’s and Rowntree, responsible for the chocolate orange and Kit Kat respectively. Who’d have thought that all these family favourites could be found in the same place! On this guided tour, you will delve into chocolate’s dark history, the making process via interactive workshops and will even devour a few sweet treats along the way – as well as get to have a go at creating your own!

York’s Chocolate Story is free with a York Pass

York City Walls, York - The LDN Gal

York City Walls:

Across York you will quickly discover the city walls, it is a sight to marvel in a UK city. These Medieval walls encircle the city in parts with around two miles to peacefully stroll along. They offer some incredible views from their ramparts and make for some cute photo opportunities!

The York city walls are free for all

York Castle Museum, York - The LDN Gal

York Castle Museum:

York Castle Museum offers a multitude of fascinating and varied exhibitions detailing over 400 years of York history. These include a walk through Victorian York down a recreated street, a history of toys, the best of the 60s, a focus on the body and health, powerful women, fashion history and even a throwback to WW1. Lastly, you will get to explore York Castle Prison beneath which allows for reflection on York’s sinister justice system over 1,000 years – the infamous highwayman, Dick Turpin, even had a spell in these harrowing cells. You will leave with many an interesting fact and lets face it, a superb local knowledge of York’s history.

York Castle Museum is free with a York Pass

Clifford's Tower, York - The LDN Gal

Clifford’s Tower:

Clifford’s Tower is the only real structure that remains of the former York Castle, originally built by William the Conqueror. In its long history, the castle has served as a tax office, treasury, an administrative headquarters, a court, military base, royal mint and the city’s former prison! Once you ascend its gruelling steps, the rather dilapidated Clifford’s Tower offers a wonderful panoramic cityscape view.

Clifford’s Tower is free with a York Pass

The Shambles, York - The LDN Gal

The Shambles:

The Shambles is a quaint cobbled street in York, close to The Shambles market and many of York’s attractions. Here you will find cafe’s, restaurants, bakery’s and a host of themed shops. It is said that The Shambles inspired J.K. Rowling’s Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. Therefore, any self-confessed ‘Potterheads’ will find three stores dedicated to the franchise within The Shambles. So, it is certainly a must see for fans.

The Shambles is a public street and free for all

Yorkshire Museum, York - The LDN Gal

Yorkshire Museum:

The Yorkshire Museum offers history buffs a treasure trove of delights. Inside, take a stroll on a genuine Roman mosaic floor, see the Middleham Jewel and gaze at a four and a half billion year old meteorite. The best part? The new Yorkshire’s Jurassic World exhibition where you will have the chance to learn more about and actually feed an actual dinosaur – it’s a lot of fun! Most noteworthy, The Yorkshire Museum is simply brimming with archaeological, historical and geological finds.

Yorkshire Museum is free with a York Pass

Where to stay in York

Middletons Hotel York Double Bedroom, York - The LDN Gal

We stayed at the Middletons Hotel in York, around a five minute walk into the town centre. The hotel is situated amongst beautiful landscaped lawns and gardens. There is plenty of places to sit out in the sunshine, with picnic tables and decked area, there is even a pond. Almost every corner of the Middletons Hotel is embellished with flowers and the buildings are a mixture of complimentary architectural styles. Furthermore, the rooms are clean, spacious and bright and there is a bar, restaurant and gym available to use on site. What more could you want?

So, how much can you save with a York Pass?

So, how much did we save with the York Pass? With all these attractions in mind, they totalled £83.10. We took our time and did these over two days but all of these attractions could be easily be in a full day. A one day York pass is £42 and a two-day is only £60! If you get it done in a day, that is a saving of £41.40 each!

Lastly, for more inspiration on where to go in York with your York Pass, take a look at the Visit York website.

Have you ever been to York? Which of these attractions would you like to visit? 

Stephanie xox

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This post is in collaboration with York Pass and the Middletons Hotel

Library Lates: Tolkein exhibition, Oxford

Library Lates: Tolkien exhibition

This weekend gone, the Bodleian Libraries held a very special evening, a Library Lates: Tolkien exhibition. As the largest J.R.R Tolkien archive in the world, they certainly know a thing or two about Tolkien.

Curator of Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth, Catherine McIlwaine, held the first talk of the exclusive evening. Detailing her journey, she told the audience how it took 5 years to plan the exhibition, which included travel across to the US on more than one occassion and the approval of the Tolkien estate.

Her expert knowledge was simply astounding, and Catherine wrote two publications to compliment the exhibition itself. It was originally meant to be an exhibition solely on hobbits, to tie in with Peter Jackson’s films.

After visiting Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, she decided that this exhibition needed to be bigger and better. It needed to present more than just hobbits and it must delve deeper into Tolkien’s world – it was to be a never before seen event. 

The Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth exhibition itself, all stems from the creative genius of its curator and the dedicated work of many within Oxford University.

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth exhibition review

When planning, Catherine sought to borrow Tolkien’s manuscripts and visual items which had been sold to Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the sum of £1,500 in the 1950’s.

Tolkien had been informed by his publishers that Lord of the Rings would not sell well, so he agreed to the selling of his manuscripts after two years of no revenue. The Tolkien archive is highly prized to Marquette and includes plot notes and visual items which are now on loan to the exhibition.

These include interesting things such as character name changes, plot amendments and alternative endings. Catherine said that she “was looking for items that would shed new light on Tolkien’s work” and that each item had to speak strongly for itself. “I chose items that would surprise the visitor,” she added.

Tolkien’s attention to detail was phenomenal. So much so that not only did he map the realistic distance a hobbit could walk but also invented his own Elvish script for the books. As Tolkien said, “mythology is language and language is mythology.”

He agonised over numerous elements of the book, frequently changing his mind back and forth as shown is his rapidly written plot notes within the exhibition. He finished Lord of the Rings in 1949 and it was meant to be one text but proved far too long for the publishers, eventually being split into three.

Discover Tolkien’s family, educational and literary history in a city which proved a massive influence in the creation of Middle-earth, right in the heart of Oxford. You can book tickets here until the 28 October, 2018.

Are you going to attend the Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth exhibition? Who is your favourite Lord of the Rings character?

Stephanie xox

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