Manchester: A trip of good service and bad.

So I’ve just come back from a night in Manchester. I had some errands to run while down there, but primarily it was a way to see my sister as she had a 24 hour layover in Manchester, the first time she’d been in the UK this month.

So, once I found out she’d be over here, I checked out train fares.
Blimey! Nearly £90 return to Manchester! Where the bloody hell did that come from?? No thanks. That’s that idea out.

And I don’t want to drive. My little convertible Streetka wasn’t built to be stuck in motorway traffic for eons, and neither was I. Plus I’m always doubtful about driving into a foreign city’s inner roads and confusing one way systems. Oh and I plan to be very very drunk whilst there.
So, my thoughtful and glamourous little sister suggests the Megabus. Now, I frequently get trains, planes, taxis, boats or cars to places but I’ve never been somewhere on a coach before, excluding school trips way back when. I check it out; it’s £8 there and £12 back. Thats a steal! It takes 3 hours but surely I can sleep that, right? Bit of a disco nap and arrive Ready To Party. That was the plan.
It starts well. I pack my enormous Louis Vuitton Antheia Ixia GM (a fabulous Christmas present of my fabulous boyfriend that had just been sitting, waiting for an excuse to be used) and set off for central station with plenty of time to spare for a chillax and a white mocha in Starbucks. My print-out says to arrive 15 mins before my bus leaves so at 1:15pm I exit Starbucks and start hunting for the Megabus. My printout tells me Neville Street. Very unclear. That’s an awfully long street. I walk the length of it and arrive right at the top to find a Megabus coach parked at the side of the road. It’s dark. I peer through the door and the driver (I assume) scuttles to hide. Um… Not very professional. So I wait and am eventually joined by a lovely cockney girl who tells me she’s going to London, a posh boy going to Durham and a quiet girl going to Leeds. Surely this can’t be right? It dawns on me this is some kind of decoy coach and my actual bus must be boarding somewhere else. Fuck. I leg it down to the very bottom end of Neville Street to find sudden hoards of buses and crowds of people that were not here before. Obviously the Manchester -bound coach is here. So that was nearly a disaster. After that I settle into my teeny tiny seat, plug in my Skullcandies and busy myself with iTunes, nibbling on my thoughtfully packed Graze box (thank you Graze, more about you later).
Three hours, three stops, three boxes of nibbles (I didn’t dare eat the garlic and basil olives in the confined presence of other live humans) and approximately twenty-three terrible micro-sleeps later I arrive in Manc.
It’s raining and night time. I’m so disorientated and I have a headache. I’m in a city I don’t know (I’ve been all over the world but never been to Manchester!) and I have to find a list of things for my sister, a toothbrush, some paracetamol, the Chanel boutique, book a table at a restaurant, grab a taxi and make my way to the airport Marriott for 7pm to meet ma sœur and change for dinner/drinks/debauchery.

Thank heavens for my iPhone. Where would I be without it?
Probably still lost in Manchester city centre. I honestly can’t remember how we used to survive without map apps, apps, google apps…

So, thanks to my little green map arrow, I manage to negotiate my way around the dark, soggy city like a confident, semi-normal person. I barely even look like a tourist. Brilliant. I manage to drag my wet self to Selfridges, where I am eyed up by the security as I enter. I am of course quite bedraggled by this point, I’m sure, and carrying a rather oversized leather bag. He clearly doesn’t recognise it as being a hideously expensive oversized leather bag. But I ignore him and stride confidently to the Chanel boutique to be enveloped in a cocoon of loveliness. I had phoned ahead to confirm my visit and they were expecting me. Instantly I feel better, I am greeted and welcomed in and the nice lady there promises they will of course fix my earring and promptly send it straight out to me via Fed Ex at no cost to myself. Couldn’t fault the service one bit. There’s one thing to be said for high end products; you really get the attention you pay for. Excellent. Thank you to the staff at Chanel.

(Incidentally, when the earring did arrive the next working day, in a new Chanel gift box, tied with a new Chanel ribbon, in Chanel tissue paper, in a new Chanel jewellery gift bag, with a Chanel card and handwritten note on a compliments slip, in a MASSIVE Fed Ex box, I obviously thought even more of their impeccable service. I love all that shit, I really do. That’s when you know you’ve got a good product. Seriously, if you have the cash and want to feel decadent, buy things from Chanel.)

Leaving the boutique I feel a bit drier and more human. Time nearly up, I grab a cab and head for the hotel. Just in time to plonk myself down in a seat in the lobby before my sister and the other Emirates crew sweep through the doors, two by two, in their uniforms. I’m barely even able to pick her out of the group. They’re all so groomed. We get to the room, we unpack. She’s brought me snacks we used to eat as kids in S’pore. We scoff the whole box as we compare new acquisitions, shower and change. Then we’re on our way back into the city for dinner and cocktails. And it’s just like old times. I miss my little sister heaps. Far more than I expected I would. I’m quite independent normally so when everyone moved away I thought I’d barely notice. Silly me.

So we eat and we drink and we shout excitedly at each other and generally have a fabulous time getting squiffy. The service in the Manchester ‘The Living Room’ was shoddy to say the least. The staff were young, lazy and horribly unprofessional, the food and drinks took weeks to arrive and we received items we hadn’t ordered! But we had lovely night none the less. And our adorable taxi driver from earlier had given us a direct number for when we wanted picking up (Thanks Frank!) and treated us to a karaoke of all the classic boy band ballads on our way back to the hotel. Frank knew every word. What a star. We were smitten. If we could’ve kept him, we would.

The next morning a full day of shopping and lunching ensued, a new Michael By Michael Kors trench coat for me, a new See By Chloe blazer for Kate, and all too soon it’s time to stick Kate in a taxi and shoehorn myself back into my coach seat. I take preemptive paracetamol and settle myself down for a snooze.
Alas we get as far as Sunderland and the coach driver tells us he has exceeded his ‘driving time’ and cannot legally drive us any further without a minimum of 45 minutes break. It’s 7:45pm and I should’ve been back at home by 6pm. I decide to forgo his kind offer of sitting in Sunderland bus station/shack for the best part of an hour and find a metro to bring me home. It felt like a far longer trip than it had been. Getting off at Haymarket metro station and walking up my street felt so good. As did the large glass of vin rouge and bowl of pasta ready and waiting for me when I finally got home. I do miss my sister… but I’d missed my other half more.

And the cat, obviously.

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