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Jenny Lippmann (@queenofthesonic) is a writer, heritage worker and day tripper. Look for her in pretty cafés and picturesque places across Greater Manchester and the north of England.

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Manchester is awfully special, isn’t it?

I was born here, in a Withington birthing ward that no longer exists. I worked on the same street for a lot of my career – Lower Byrom, in two different locations – and I went to University in Salford. I have family and friends rooted here, and I suppose my soul, too.

Manchester has a personality not easily found in every city. Its character is etched on every red-bricked building, every inviting bar, stage and footwell. Manchester is Manchester and never anything less, never anything more – because it doesn’t need to be.

Everybody who has an affinity with Manchester has their own favourite corners and haunts. Here are some of mine.

A stone’s throw away from Piccadilly Station is my favourite hangout in the city – the Northern Quarter. The streets wind, twist in circles, connect the city with bars and cafés and shops and individuality. You can amble down Tariff Street and see where Steve Rogers disappeared into Brooklyn Antiques and exited as Captain America. Watching over you are red-brick New York-esque buildings… all square and rough and pure northern grit. Scuttle down crimson China Lane and find incredible architecture in the form of old press buildings or warehouses from when the city was cloaked with the smog of the factories, which choked its workers in turn.

Stevenson Square tantalises with cocktail bars and once you hit Oldham Street there’s boutiques (Thunderegg, Magma, Piccadilly Records, need I go on?) and the king of independent shopping itself – Affleck’s, a several-hundred-times rescued building crammed with character. I can find anything in there – from beads for bracelets to badges for coats, independent cafés to feed my soul and once, yes, a 50’s swing dress, much needed for a Secret Cinema event in 1955 (or London, 2015). Be careful, though, every time you head into Affleck’s, you enter a different dimension – I’ve never come out of the same door I went in, and more often than not it flickers to my mind that I may never escape this time.

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The Northern Quarter can’t have all the fun. Castlefield is a pocket of urban beauty. My brother’s wedding reception took place there (the ceremony in the shadow of the iconic Town Hall) and we all crowded onto the heavy steps of the amphitheatre to peer into the autumn sun and capture memories. Castlefield Bowl is special to a lot of people – gigs and events aplenty – but for me, the arching bridge, gleaming canal and watchful Beetham Tower make it what it is. Walk over the cobbles if you will and venture across the bridge. Ogle the view, count the colourful canal boats and stop off at The Wharf for a drink - or several. On summer days there are people strumming guitars, laughing, singing on the banks of the canal outside and it’s quite the atmosphere – and the food is good, too.

Loop round the canal, scurry up the stairs and you’re back on Deansgate. Say hi to Walter White in the window of Grindsmith Coffee and if you fancy, cut down St John Street to find the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI). MSI is special for many reasons, but what many don’t realise is that it is wrapped around the first passenger railway – something you can still see, and ride a small distance on to this day.

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If I’m up that end of town, heading back, I may dip into the John Rylands Library. I usually haunt this place if I want to show off the city to a visiting friend, and it never fails to impress. The building itself is neo-gothic in style and towers over Deansgate, jarring spectacularly with the ultra-modern glass architecture of Spinningfields. Inside, the staircases wind and chandeliers hang, casting a golden glow over everything touched. I always find it a surprise that John Rylands opened in 1900 – the Dracula-esque vibe it gives off makes it seem like an excerpt from a desperately old and atmospheric novel.

I’ll finish up this imaginary walking tour of my favourite place with some gushing about the café scene in Manchester. Anybody who knows me is well aware of my fondness for independent cafes and thankfully the city has them in abundance. I can’t pick one, in truth; Manchester’s café scene has something for every vice, but to end the post we’ll head to the place I like to get cosy in at the end of a day in the city.

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Open until 8pm every night, Ezra and Gil never lets me down. Their mugs of tea are deep, their cake counter sumptuous. Need to charge your phone before you catch a train at round-the-corner Piccadilly? Ezra’s got you covered. Fancy a healthy, veggie friendly meal? Ezra’s got your back.  Want to look stylish whilst reading a book and sipping your coffee? Ezra’s the one.

In truth, there’s scarcely a thing I don’t love about Manchester. I love traversing the centre and enjoying what it has to offer. This post only scratches the surface of my love for this place.

I’ll leave you there, sipping your imaginary coffee in the fairy-lit window of Ezra and Gil.

Keep up-to-date with Jenny on her Instagram page: www.instagram.com/queenofthesonic

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3 Comments

Comments

  1. Kerry
    Ace, Jenny ❤
  2. Tombo
    Great read Jenny, always enjoy a blog which so accurately describes the best places to go for anyone visiting Manchester. As a Northern Quarter resistant, you nailed it with this one!
  3. Bunny
    This is the Manchester I know and love <3

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