Perhaps this sounds strange but I actually enjoy playing tourist on my own – at least during the daytime. So, on this trip, I did what I’ve done once before in San Francisco, and took myself around the town where my husband was on a work trip.
For me, the fun of going solo is the freedom to do what you want. The harder part is getting the motivation to get out of the hotel in the morning. This is why I usually only plan to be out for half a day – and always allow myself liberal coffee breaks.
So on the Monday of our stay in Macclesfield I decided to go into Manchester – I tend to start with the hardest problem first. I had a look on the internet for the top things to do in Manchester, worked out the train (after a false start – who knew there were two different train companies on the one line?), got a coffee, and by mid-morning found myself standing in Manchester Piccadilly station.
I only had a hand-drawn map with me (no printer in the Travelodge!) and my first goal was to find the Tourist Information Center. Now, this turned out to be actually almost impossible, because the center shows no external sign that it exists. I spent 30 minutes within 2 minutes walk of it (and actually walked right past it once) before I found it. However, I did find it eventually, and procured a lovely map.
That was goal number one sorted. The next goal was to find the Manchester Arndale Centre for a bathroom break and some lunch. I duly found the shopping center (hard to miss, luckily) but then spent another fruitless 30 minutes wandering around in circles failing to find either the bathrooms or the food court. The Arndale Centre has no proper maps (only electronic ones – which are crap) and no signs. However in time, by more luck than judgment, I found the food court, such as it was. The only non-deep-fried option was at a baked potato place, so one egg-and-cheese potato and a cup of tea later, I was happy. Goal two, done.
Goal three was to find the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). This proved simpler than the previous two goals – I actually managed to walk almost directly there from the Arndale.
Now, MOSI is a great place, not least because it only cost 3 pounds to get in (voluntary donation). I spent the rest of the afternoon there, learning about Manchester’s cotton industry and engine engineering history. I also watched a very amusing video from the fifties giving instructions to women on how to use a ‘washing machine’ (an agitator). I couldn’t decide if newly married women really had no idea how to separate out the whites, or if the washing machine company was being super patronizing. Anyway, I learnt something…. I also went to two demonstrations – one on steam engines and the other on making cotton.
The final rule I have for solo travel is to set a “hometime” time. Once I’d got to 4pm I could say I’d officially done a good day as a tourist. So I had a hot chocolate at MOSI then headed home on the train. Within minutes of getting back to the hotel my husband arrived back from his conference and we went out to dinner. Perfect.