My First European Road Trip
Sixteenth Week of a New Life
When one moves to Europe, one of the very first things that comes to mind is how much easier it will be to take European vacations. My biggest challenge was to decide where to go first. My decision was made for me: Manchester, England.
First Destination: City of Champions
Manchester City (Man City), my favorite English football club, were headed to the European Champions League final in Istanbul. Without a ticket, I needed a place to watch the biggest game in the team’s history. No where in Lisbon would provide the same experience as watching the big game in the team’s home city so I booked a flight and hotel, packed my bags and headed for Manchester.
The team had never won the Champions League which has been their goal for several years. This season, they had already won the league title and the English cup. If they won the Champions League, they would be the second team in England to win all three titles in a year.
The historic “Treble”. It does not get any bigger than that.
Manchester: Nothing to See Here
Whenever I’ve mentioned going to Manchester for a game, people have told me not to plan much extra time as there is nothing to see. It’s a very industrial town, I’ve been told, so go to the game, have some pints in the pub, and head for the airport. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Spoiler alert: I had a blast in Manchester!
Over the course of the weekend, I explored different neighborhoods, from scrappier, rough around the edges streets with plenty of places for pints and pub grub as well as a prostitute if you like; to polished locations with nice restaurants and bars featuring 12 euro cocktails on the menu. There was both a neighborhood with several museums and one filled with graffiti. On either end of the city are the stadiums for rival teams Manchester United and Manchester City.
Luckily, my hotel was somewhere in the middle of all the wonderful diversity so I was able to enjoy quite a bit of it. However, I did skip the prostitute.
On the day of the game, I woke up early, had breakfast, and headed to the stadium, just a 30-minute walk out of town. As I approached the stadium, I felt the energy of all the games that have been played there and I’ve watched from afar. I stood staring at player pictures on the side of the stadium and sending them my best winning vibes. While I wished I could be at the stadium in Istanbul, this was a wonderful alternative.
My stadium pilgrimage complete, I headed back into town to meet my friend Greg from nearby Blackpool. I first met Greg and some of his friends in St. Petersburg, Russia years ago. Ironically, we were in a pub where I was sitting transfixed in front of a TV that was showing the Man City game.
Today I met Greg along with five of his friends in a pub full of Man City fans. We worked our way through the city towards the place where we were going to watch the game, having pints and chatting with other fans. There were plenty of opportunistic vendors roaming the streets, prematurely selling shirts and hats declaring Man City the winner. You could hear the noise from the large outdoor fan zone which was already packed. The city was electric!
As game time approached we settled into seats in front of a big TV in a German beer hall, the perfect raucous environment in which to watch the game. When Man City eventually won the game and the Treble, the place erupted in crazy happiness. Beers were spilled and singing commenced. I may have been gently escorted off a table by a very patient security guard, while dancing through my celebrations.
Farewell for Now Manchester
What a fantastic time to make my first trip to Manchester. The city gave me such a wonderful long weekend, I hated to leave. While it is definitely not your picturesque English town, if you make a little effort, it will show you its charms. If you are a football fan, it will definitely show you a good time at one of the stadiums or while watching games in the many old pubs.
As I headed out of town on the train to the airport, I watched the city fade in the distance, knowing I’d return.