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Not to rant (well, maybe a little bit), but there is nothing more annoying than people forgetting that Britain is so much more than just London. Don't get me wrong, London is a special place, I love it, and I'm certainly not dissing everyone's favorite city this side of NYC. But let's just all remember that it's a special place on an island full of them.
One of those special places is my new hometown of Manchester. And you know what? You could always go to Manchester when you come to England next. Why?
The Fabulous Football
There aren't many other cities in the world that are home to two soccer clubs that 1) are so ridiculously associated with their town and 2) have had as much success lately as Manchester. Man Utd and MCFC have made "United" or "City" the first responses when you play word association with "Manchester" around the world, and have combined to win seven of the last ten Premier League titles.
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Both Manchester United's Old Trafford and Manchester City's Etihad Stadium are shrines to soccer, and if a match isn't on when you're here, a tour is a great way to still get up close to the action. When I took one at Old Trafford, they let me sit in the locker room and jog down the runway, despite the fact I've never kicked a soccer ball in my life.
In addition, the National Football Museum, which includes the English Football Hall of Fame, is located in a sparkling new building downtown.
Downtown Done Right
Speaking of that downtown, Manchester downtown passes the big city sniff test - great public transport, cluster of tall buildings, cosmopolitan population - but it does so without being dizzying. You'll never be overwhelmed by crowds or public transport here, but you can't swing a dead cat at night (or on the weekends) and not hit anyone like you can in many American cities. No, downtown is always lively, and getting around is a breeze as free shuttle buses loop downtown (yes, I said free) and the Manchester Metrolink is efficient, clean, and has complimentary Wi-Fi, baby.
Manchester's Music Scene is Sick
Oasis. Morrissey. The Smiths. Stone Roses. James (remember that song "Laid" that starts "this bed is on fire with passionate love"?). Joy Division. These are just a few of the artists that have come from Manchester. You can do tours that re-trace their steps or just catch the latest generation at happening spots like The Deaf Institute or The Soup Kitchen.
Manchester was an integral cradle of the Industrial Revolution and a hotbed of associated political revolution, and this history is still alive and kicking today. The Manchester People's Museum is a must-see, as it documents the lives and struggles for democracy of working people through the centuries; and The Manchester Ship Canal, which was built in the 19th Century to link landlocked Manchester to the sea helped shape the modern cityscape. Its offshoots crisscross downtown adding a "factory cool" water-fringed vibe to hip districts like Castlefield and the Gay Village.
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Oh, and if you see bees when you're here, don't swat at them. The bee became a symbol for the feisty "busy as bees" factory workers of Manchester back in the day, and are still a quirky point of pride you'll find plastered all over the place.
If you keep your eyes peeled, you'll see bees emblazoned on everything from bollards and trashcans to Manchester's coat of arms, proudly displayed at the city's gorgeous neo-gothic town hall.
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