Manchester’s Canals Now a Backdrop for Cafe Life

The Manchester Wheel.

Right near where this gigantic ferris wheel is now, a bomb was planted by IRA terrorists in 1996. The bomb was 3000 pounds, and the destruction included an entire Marks and Spencer department store plus city blocks far from the epicenter. It was a horrible amount of destruction that surprisingly had only a few injuries.

But this massive attack was the spark for a downtown renovation that opened up a new area of renovation in the city center. Today this wheel is either a boon or a bane, depending on which businessman you ask.

The city center has an area with outdoor cafes and pathways that cross over a network of canals. It’s pretty seeing the mix of nineteenth century brick buildings with the newer, glass-sided ones.

The city was named Mamucium by the Romans because of a breast-shaped hill where they built their first settlement.  It got famous in the 1800s because there were no work rules; without the guilds, laborers were free to come and work wtihout  joining the unions. The population shot  from 20,000 up to half a million between 1789-1846.

Cafes and shops by the canals in downtown Manchester.
Cafes and shops by the canals in downtown Manchester.

Right before I shot this photo, we came upon a giggling group of ‘hens’ who were out on the town. Two of them were down in a trench, while others held cameras and told them to ‘get their goods out’ while they shot photos. They said they would send the shots to a husband who was serving over in Afghanistan.

All over the city later at night we saw well dressed women, teetering on high heels, out on the town with their Hen mates. I can’t think of another city where more women in skirts, dresses and revealing tops were out in such force. It was a sight to see.

On the top of this Hilton hotel’s 23rd floor, there are another 25 stories that are luxury apartments. Quite a few famous Manchester United players have lived here during their playing days, we were told. One of them had an entire floor for himself and a second for his children. Sounds like  a perfect plan to me!