Posts Tagged ‘lights’

Surviving the Blackpool Experience

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Many places in the UK and the people who live in them have reputations that precede them. Cambridge is toffy-nosed, Essex is orange, no one cares about you in London and it’s best not to admit to being from anywhere even remotely close to Wales. When I told people that I was going to Blackpool, I received a lot of raised eye brows, “Why are you going there?”s, and a few bemused smiles. I also had people becoming very excited, telling me to go to certain places and saying they wished they were going. These mixed responses meant that I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. My excitement levels grew – Blackpool here we come!

Honestly, I knew I was going to hate it. I am ultimately a snob and love white table cloths and multiple wine glasses on tables. I don’t like theme parks, I hate going on rides (except for bumper cars) and I really, really can’t stand overpriced novelty items that glow. So keeping that in mind, imagine my joy when I got to Blackpool and found a mile long road lined with rides, theme parks, and shops selling novelty gifts, many of which involved lights. Welcome to Blackpool.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Sir Pubert Gladstone and I had booked ourselves into one of Blackpool’s many el-cheapo B&Bs. It was difficult to differentiate between the very similar looking hotel options, but we ended up going for cheap, clean, decent reviews and with breakfast and parking included. At first I thought it was silly of us to pay an extra £2 for breakfast to be included, but having now visited Blackpool and seen the restaurant/cafe options in town, I am quite pleased with our decision. £1 each for some toast, orange juice and Kellogg’s cereal was definitely a good call.

Blackpool hotel room

Romance.

We checked into our hotel and having left our bags in our black and white themed ‘Love’ room, we headed off to see the sites with a mixed sense of trepidation and excitement. What wonders would await us?

Blackpool’s main promenade runs along the beachfront. I think they were going for the Los Angeles Boulevard look with the following features:

  • a wide footpath that just cries out for rollerbladers in hot pants
  • a tram line with various novelty trams carrying people from pier to pier (according to Jon, Blackpool has done some significant work on making their trams energy efficient so big ups to them and thank you, Jon, for that incredible fact.)
  • a very long road, that during the winter months is heavily decorated with company sponsored fairy lights
  • an endless row of fish and chip shops, tourist gifts, casinos, palm readers, whacky mirrors, doughnut carts, Mr Whippy vendors and haunted houses. Madame Tussauds was there, as was Mr Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

As we walked down the main drag, my mood towards the wonder that is Blackpool changed from “Wow!” to “Is this real?” to “More light sabers?” to “Can we go home now?”. I think we both contemplated leaving and returning to Manchester within the first 30 minutes of being there. But we were determined to experience Blackpool and see why thousands of people flock to this seaside village every year for their family holidays and to learn what makes it such a great location for a hen’s/buck’s party.

Blackpool tower

Blackpool tower.

So we bought some fish and chips. And they were good – I even managed to enjoy the mushy peas. Clearly they know how to make not-disgusting green slop in Blackpool. We then decided to join in the party and went to a bar for some drinks. Our original thought of doing a mini-pub crawl turned into us staying in the same bar all night as the entertainment was far good to leave. We watched as themed t-shirted buck’s parties stumbled over to sash bearing hen’s groups to try out their moves.

We managed to stay out until midnight and our walk back to the hotel was quiet with all of the shops closed for the night. We are clearly are more made for the Blackpool party scene than we realised. As we wandered back, I ventured down on to the beach to look at the tide that had gone far out to sea. It was beautiful listening to the sound of the waves and being hit by the warm autumn winds off the sea. Nothing beats fresh ocean air and Blackpool had plenty of it. It is just a shame that the rest of the town is run down, tired and lacking the money to do anything about it.

Blackpool beach

Out to sea.

Blackpool clearly brings enjoyment to many people’s lives and I know that most of the reason why I wouldn’t choose to go back is because it just isn’t my cup of tea. I would never choose to spend my money and time at a theme park and on carnival food but I know these things bring great pleasure to a lot of people. So it just good that everyone is different, isn’t it?

We did have a win at the casinos though. Along the main drag are countless games rooms with slot machines, hand-grabbing-soft-toys machines, and those games where you try and knock hundreds of 2p coins out by inserting your own 2p coin at exactly the right moment. Occasionally, random coins will tip over the edge for no reason other than gravity and what I can only presume is some sort of ‘higher power’. Over our less than 24 hours in Blackpool, we made a total of 38p by walking past all of these machines and finding coins that had fallen out. WINNERS!

So our time in Blackpool wasn’t wasted. We saw the sights, discovered what Blackpool was all about, met some locals, had decent fish and chips and won 38p. I don’t plan on ever going back, but if you like flashing lights, roller coasters and cheap B&Bs, then come to Blackpool. They do a good mushy peas.

Hotel sign

We came as guests but I don’t think we’re friends.

Christmas in Manchester

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

According to the calendar, there is only one month to go until Christmas. I’m in a slight state of denial about this as I am not entirely sure where the rest of the year has gone and I am avoiding facing the arrival of 2014 and the fact that it is about time I grew up. But I can’t deny the red, green and silver tinsel and Santa overkill in every shop window I walk past. Maybe it’s just a phase…

In the same week as Bonfire night, I attended a second lot of fireworks to mark the turning on of the Christmas Lights. Leading up to this potentially momentous occasion, I had witnessed cherry pickers and electricians attaching strings of lights to lamp posts at various points throughout the city. My expectations were great – soon the city would be covered in glorious oh-so-pretty sparkly things that would bring festive joy and endless happiness to young and old. I went to the light-turning-on ceremony at the Town Hall with my friends Damien and Eli and we pushed our way through a crowd of teenagers and old people to find a good viewing spot to watch ex-winners of X-Factor perform LIVE for our entertainment. We patiently waited through the average singing to finally count down to the pushing of the Lights-Are-Go button by James Arthur (X-Factor winner, 2012). Three… Two… One…

Waiting patiently for James to push a button.

Waiting patiently for James to push a button.

Not only did lights apparently turn on, but fireworks exploded from the roof of the Town Hall and we witnessed a ten minute display that consisted of the same fireworks over and over again. My favourites were some horizontal flames that spurted out from the side of the clock tower. Once that was over, it was time to go home, and as we walked away, my friends and I asked each other – where were the Christmas lights?

Boom! Bang! Whizz!

Boom! Bang! Hiss!

It would seem that Manchester City Council has spent most of its Christmas money on markets (there are nine market areas across the city) and a giant, fat Santa who sits menacingly in front of the Town Hall. There are some gold winged-star things attached to most lamp posts and some very funky (this is sarcasm), flashing-pixel Christmas tree things down the pedestrianised King Street, but that’s about it. However, since the installation of hundreds of wooden huts for the Christmas markets, things have improved. Now there is definitely a festive Christmas vibe spreading across the city and everyone is loving the hot wine. It now takes me 10 minutes longer to walk home from work as I have to go through at least three Christmas markets, dodging people carrying collector mugs filled with dangerous staining glühwein.

Wooden tower of Christmas wonder

Wooden tower of Christmas wonder

I’m not a complete Scrooge – I have been one of these festive revellers and I do enjoy a good cup of warm, spiced wine myself. I also have to give Manchester two thumbs up for their markets – while there is a lot of repetition of stalls, they are of a much higher quality that Paris’s Champs Elysées. Nothing will beat the markets in Germany and eastern France, but Manchester has put in a fine effort. So here’s to more overpriced glühwein and bratwurst – Merry Christmas Month to all!

Ho. Ho. Ho.

Ho. Ho. Ho.

 

Christmas is Coming!

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

There’s something about Europe and it turning me into an anti-scrooge – I actually like Christmas here. Weird. As a result, I went and bought a mini Christmas tree and decorations from my favourite store, the Hema. I managed to get a tree, red baubles and lights for a mere 9 Euros! BARGAIN!

Christmas decorations

What a great buy.

Today Tom and I ceremoniously started decorating our apartment, getting into the festive spirit for our first Christmas living together (Nawww! How romantic!)

Christmas decorations

Technically these are stars, not baubles.

This afternoon I am going back to the Hema to buy more baubles because there just isn’t enough bling on our tree. So stay tuned for “Finished tree” photos but for now here is the gang getting ready for Christmas in Paris.

Christmas trees

Everyone is excited about Christmas – particularly Martin

We have hung the fairy lights above the couch because there were too many for the tree. They look so sparkly and provide additional light in a normally dark corner of our apartment!

Christmas lights

Ooh sparkly!