Europe | United Kingdom (UK), Great Britain | England | North West | Manchester – In search of a Camper
If we are ever to learn about Campers we need to see some. What better way to do that than an exhibition. As luck would have it there was one scheduled for later in the week in Manchester. Not exactly at the end of the road but the Jag is so comfortable and eats up the miles so we booked some accommodation and went. In line with the spirit of adventure we avoided the usual Travel Inns, Chain Hotel deals and Bargain Breaks. As always our favourite accommodation site http://www.laterooms.com came up trumps. Three options all in or near the centre of Manchester and all under ?40 for the night including breakfast. One stood out because it wasnt a B&B, hotel or guesthouse but some sort of conference centre it even had its own chapel. Too different to resist. Booking by telephone was easy and the receptionist was very helpful, reception would be closed by 7.00pm but she gave us the security code for the front door and promised to leave the key and directions to our room on the reception desk along with breakfast vouchers. She also promised to turn on the direct dial telephone.
We set off to travel through The Borders intending to go by Selkirk and eventually hit the M6 around Penrith. We missed the Selkirk turn at Galashiels and decide at St Boswells that since we would be losing the light around five oclock there was no point in driving on unknown country roads in the dark so headed by way of Hawick and Langholm to pick up the motorway at Carlisle. A quick hop down to Manchester and guided in by the ever trusty ‘Autoroute’ we arrived at our accommodation on schedule.
The room directions were awful, the phone was not switched on, our room was also used as a housemaids store, the bar was closed and there was no sign of a lounge. Well, we will no doubt find worse in other parts of the world but they probably wont be claiming three diamonds from The English Tourism Council. Luther King House will not enter my top ten places to stay in the UK. Its weeks since I wrote and complained, believe me you dont want to hear about the other problems, yet not even an acknowledgement.
The good thing about our accommodation was its location a few hundred yards from Curry Mile. Not up to Birminghams choice but we found an excellent Pakistani Restaurant and I discovered Lassi. I havent learned the correct names yet and I still cant bring myself to ask for a Sweet Lassi but it was delicious and Alison promises to try to make it at home.
The benefit of having to rise for breakfast by 8.30 was that we arrived at GMex just before ten, opening time. Thats when we discovered that there were only two exhibitors showing Campers at the show, not what the web site had told us. Well, we had a good laugh at the usual show suspects. High speed wands for mixing your thick shakes, bread-makers for that essential breakfast freshly-baked loaf, the oil=less grill that looked like a very expensive hubcap and the mysteries of cassette toilets. Just what we had travelled two hundred miles to see. We did find a few things out about Campers but none of them good. Nothing left for it but to take a wander through Manchester and see the sights.
Not far from GMex. are the Granada studios, home of Coronation Street. What else to do but visit the set of The Street unfortunately it closed as a tourist attraction two years ago. Luckily the Manchester Transport Museum is next door and entry is free. Our only regret is that we spent too much time at GMex. The museum needs at least four hours and is well worth the time.
Time to eat again and as Manchester has a Chinatown, where else to head for. Unfortunately we chose the restaurant which appeared on Restaurants from Hell the following week. Alison did notice the cellar kitchen and comment on the bin but we must admit it was the best meal of the trip.
Back to an early night, we did check out the residents lounge and you really dont want to know! We were early again next morning and had to wait for the Manchester Costume Museum to open but it was well worthwhile. They have an excellent collection at Platt Hall. We were expected by friends in Burnley that afternoon so headed north; just in time to drive through what must have been Manchesters Jewish district as the congregation gathered. The variety of traditional clothing styles was marvellous to observe. For people like us who had lived most of our lives in the country it was also an interesting surprise to see so many people walking to a religious service as their tradition demands.
Much to our surprise our friends, at least the male half of the partnership, was a keen and experienced caravanner. The trip was made by his useful advice and direction to a couple of Camper dealers next morning. The variety of Campers on offer convinced us that VWs are for enthusiasts. No point in spending several thousand pounds just to rough it in such a basic vehicle. The design of the better Campers also convinced us that Britain still has much to learn from the USA in Camper design. Time to head back north. We reached the south end of The Lake District and decided to find a pub for the night so turned off and followed the A6 until, just outside Penrith; we found a Traditional English pub with excellent beer and good red wine. The meal was just what the doctor ordered and reasonably priced. At ?45 for the night including breakfast the comfortable room was good value. Breakfast next morning was expertly prepared by Mine Host and we left, replete and ready for the day. Just to vary our route home we used the M6/M74 as far as Moffat and headed east by way of ‘The Devils Beeftub’ to Edinburgh. Our next trip will definitely be overseas.