Recently it’s felt like the world doesn’t go much further than the stretch of canal near my flat and the handful of shops/cafes I’ve been venturing into as the world begins to open up again. I’m so lucky to live somewhere where I can wander to my favourite bars, bakery and coffee shops (and to have spent the majority of lockdown elsewhere with access to a garden and lovely woods), but the city centre completely lacks the kind of green spaces that always calm me down and make me my happiest. A few weeks ago we had the dreamiest weekend away near Hardcastle Crags and this weekend whilst feeling restless and bored on a Saturday evening booked train tickets to Windermere for the next morning.
It was such a wonderful lil day trip, despite being rather busy – just to see different people boarding or leaving the train and to get that feeling of going somewhere or arriving home again made me feel so much more hopeful and content. Seeing the countryside and different towns and villages through a train window, clambering up a hill and feeling the satisfaction as you reach the top and heading out onto lake Windermere on a lil boat was all just so so lovely. We had the best ice cream at The Little Ice Cream Shop, which I’d definitely recommend making a trip to if you’re either in Windermere or Hawkshead. Windermere is a busy town and doesn’t quite have the same kind of charm as more rural areas of the Lakes (it definitely feels more like a lil holiday seaside village) so I was worried we wouldn’t be able to get any walking/exploring in but we stumbled across a route out up to Brant Fell View Point – a wonderful lil walk that wasn’t too exhausting (after months of very minimal exercise…).
I’m feeling very grateful to have been able to see more of the world again – it’s so easy to get caught up in feeling restless, especially without a car to get out exploring with but getting back to Piccadilly station feeling exhausted, in a satisfying leg achey kinda way, yesterday evening has left me feeling so much brighter!
Today I thought I’d finally get around to writing my first Sunday in The City post – a lil collection of lovely places to visit/things to do on a relaxed Sunday morning in some of my favourite parts of Manchester. I’m starting with Ancoats and The Northern Quarter, though there’s too many lovely spots to recommend so it’ll most likely get a second post at a later date.
All the best Sundays start with brunch and Ancoats/the NQ offer up endless options. My absolute favourite though is Pollen Bakery, who offer up the most incredible pastries and cakes (best.lemon.cake.ever.), wonderful coffee and the best brunch choices – whilst a traditional fry up isn’t on the menu there’s options for hungover days (incredible sandwiches with bacon/mushrooms/eggs heaped on sourdough) and for coffee dates (ice cream pastries!!!). The cafe itself is beautiful too, right by the water at Islington Marina and filled with sunshine on bright days. Plus, there’s extra seating outside (for optimum dog spotting – you’re never far from a French Bulldog in Ancoats…).
After brunch, head out for a Sunday stroll through Cotton Field Park and by the canal. In summer there’s space for BBQs by the water and in winter nothing helps me feel cosier than watching smoke rise up from the chimneys of long boats or stumbling across a little cottage that seems out of place right in the city centre. If you follow the path round you can wind up right back at Piccadilly Station through a much quieter, scenic route.
If you’re looking for a few bits and pieces to pick up whilst you’re out and about, head to Tib Street in the Northern Quarter for Northern Flower. This lovely lil shop has all the house plants you can dream of, along with beautiful bouquets and bundles of dried lavender. It’s super cosy inside and the staff are always really friendly and helpful too.
Armed with a pretty bouquet and ready for more wandering, if you’ve come on the right weekend (the second Sunday of every month) you’ll find the Makers Market just around the corner in Stevenson Square – the best place to do any gift shopping whilst supporting small, local businesses and creatives. A few of my favourite vendors that have been there in the past include Old Man and Magpie Candles, LucyLooDoodles and Arctic Fox & Co. With everything from tea to art and candles on offer it’s the perfect way to finish up a Sunday in The City – wandering home or for the bus with something cosy and dreams of being able to eat your earlier brunch again every day for the rest of the week…
I didn’t get around to blogging yesterday, but I did have a post published on one of my favourite websites (!!!!) – it’s talking about something I’d originally written about on this blog – hair loss. I was so proud of myself for opening up about something that’s really impacted my self esteem over the years (you can read the piece here), particularly because when I last tried to talk about on this blog I’d really struggled to fully be open about my experience/feelings – it’s hard to open up about the most vulnerable parts of yourself and put them out there for the world to see.
I’ve always wanted to be a writer – I’ve just always written for as long as I can remember and I struggle to express things properly in conversation, am pretty introverted and just can’t quite see myself doing anything else and being truly content. And I’ve always been as open and honest as possible in my writing, whether that made the writing seem lazy or overdramatic or angsty as hell. But when I started sharing stuff online I suddenly became self conscious of that. In some ways, this is definitely something I need to work on – it comes with wanting to be a writer to put yourself out there, expose yourself and your insecurities and your emotions to others. But I also think there’s this sense on the internet that you must bear your soul when expressing opinions and I struggle with it – it can be so emotionally draining and I don’t always have the energy to share my perspective on issues because the place that that perspective comes from is so deeply personal. It’s something I’m trying to get more comfortable with and figure out my boundaries surrounding and I hope I’ll get there in the end. But until then, I’ll try and keep reminding myself that I don’t have to expose the rawest, most vulnerable moments in a quick tweet responding to the news of the day. I don’t have to share anything I’m not comfortable with. And that doesn’t mean that I don’t care or that I’m not honest or that I’m less of a writer.
Today I thought I’d write a lil post about my top three coffee shops in Manchester – spaces that feel like a bit of a refuge for me in the city and that I always like to escape to when I’m having a rough day. They’re spaces that are filled with memories, whether that’s catching up with friends, fuelling myself entirely on mochas whilst tackling an essay or just taking some time to slow down and escape with a book and some cake.
The Art of Tea – Didsbury. I first stumbled upon The Art of Tea, just off of the high street in Didsbury village, in my second year of University and quickly fell in love. Not only do they do the best hot chocolates, this place is particularly wonderful because if you wander to the back you’ll find Didsbury Village Bookshop. Books are stacked in their hundreds everywhere you turn and you can get some beautiful editions for no where near as much as you’d usually pay – definitely something to keep in mind if you’re looking for gifts for bookish friends too! One of my favourite ways to spend an afternoon is to pick out a book from the shop and then get cosy (tip – the sofas near the counter are the comfiest ever) with a hot chocolate and read. It can be busy on the weekends, but if you go when it’s quiet this place is the loveliest. (a lil shameless product promo of my poetry collection thrown in for good measure)
Takk – Tariff Street, Northern Quarter.
Takk is a relatively recent haunt for me after trying their new store at University Green on the University of Manchester campus. They have three spaces in the city centre – one in Hatch, one at the University and one in the Northern Quarter. I love all three, but the Northern Quarter space is definitely my favourite. Whilst the other two are more clean, minimal spaces their Tariff Street location feels how I think all coffee shops should be – cosy, with slightly steamed up windows and lots of different types of seats and tables. Their mochas are amazing but my favourite thing is their salted caramel brownies, which are one of the best desserts I’ve tried. When I’m having a bad day this is one of my favourite places to retreat to for some quiet.
Chapter One Books – Northern Quarter.
Chapter One feels like an obvious choice when it comes to Manchester coffee shops – a dreamy lil space that’s open until midnight every day. It’s been my location of choice for countless evenings panic writing essays and they do the best cakes – their vegan ones in particular are so good. I’ve lots of fond memories writing or reading or just hiding from the world in Chapter One and I love having a quiet, calming space to go to late in the evening when I’m in need of a pick me up. Finding a seat during the day can be a bit of a struggle but later on it’s usually quiet enough. It’s also beautiful in there, with pretty fairy lights, a fountain and lots of cosy seating – some is perfect for watching people and buses passing by outside, some is completely tucked away up a set of stairs with cosy cushions. Out of everywhere, it’s definitely my favourite coffee shop – the world feels like a much softer place when you’re tucked away from the cold with a slice of lemon cake, a chamomile tea and a good book.