The rain falls hard in a humdrum town... -Steven Morrissey
Manchester felt like being at home, in all the best ways. No city reminded me so much of Minneapolis in terms of music and social architecture - and I loved it for all those reasons and more.
We arrived early in the morning, dropped off our bags, and immediately went to the Manchester tourist center to meet up with our first walking tour. Our trip very fatefully overlapped two historical walking tours of Manchester - the first a "Manchester Music" walking tour and a second "The Smiths' Manchester" walking tour, departing the following day. What luck!
Of all the walking and guided tours we did while traveling, these two tours were the best (imo.) Our tour guide was excellent, clearly a fan of the area's music and creative forces. He was also well versed in the historical and social context surrounding the development of the music and the area, which made it an interesting and inspiring tour. The tour groups were also very small - and many of the participants were from Manchester themselves. You know you're in for something good when even the locals are interested!
The tour took us throughout the city, simultaneously familiarizing us with the area. The first tour focused more on The Buzzcocks, Joy Division, and New Order and ended with (of course) a trip to The Haçienda.
But, quite sadly, what was a vibrant club before is now apartments.
Behind the apartments, along the water, is a commemorative sign highlighting the Haçienda's historical and musical significance.
The saddest sign ever.
Our tour guide asked how long we were in town... and excitedly told us that we were very, very fortunate. You see once a month, there's a club where they spin Smiths/Morrissey songs all night. Did we go?
We sure did.
When that first tour ended, we explored Manchester more, visiting the Farmers Market and some local shops. After an awesome sushi dinner, we headed over to the Star and Garter.
The lower lounge of the Star and Garter was straight out of a David Lynch Movie, and I loved it. Albums along the wall and red velvety curtains...
At just after ten, the upstairs rooms came to life. For the next few hours - yes, hours - we danced to the songs of Morrissey and the Smiths. It was absolutely magical. The Smiths were such a huge part of my formative teenage years. Not that I was a terribly brooding teenager, but... these were the songs that I loved. To be in Manchester dancing with Nick and so many other Manchesterians in such a warm, welcoming environment was incredible.
Music really can bring people together, you know?
We woke up early the next morning, had some breakfast, and headed out to see more of lovely Manchester.
On our second day we took the "Smiths' Manchester" tour. Every bit as good (if not better) than the Manchester Music tour. The weather was a bit drizzly and grey... in other words: absolutely perfect weather for truly experiencing the Smith's Manchester.
These geese had a thing or two to say about the tour as well.
The second tour had very little overlap as far as information goes, so the tours didn't seem repetitive. We did, however, walk past the Haçienda tribute sign again - because how could you not?
If you ever find yourself in Manchester we highly recommend these tours, and wish we could have taken a few more: Manchester Walks.
We left Manchester in the late afternoon... though I wish we could have stayed even longer.