When I arrived in Manchester, England, this morning, I was expecting plenty of beautiful Victorian architecture with along with some striking modern structures. Well, they definitely have that there — a great mix of old ornate buildings with some shiny and new. But what intrigued me the most as I wandered around the city jet-lagged were three things I wasn't expecting: canals (pictured above), a Chinatown and a Roman Fort.
After a nice long nap (I don't care what the experts say about beating jet-lag by fighting through the fatigue, I love a long nap after I get off a sleepless redeye flight), we left our hotel and walked down Portland Street. We had gone about two blocks when I did a doubletake: what was that colorful arch?
Yes, I was looking at the Chinatown Arch (pictured left), which turned this area of Chinese restaurants and businesses officially into Chinatown in 1987. I haven't had a chance to eat there yet, but I did noticed that there wasn't just Chinese cuisine on offer, but lots of Thai and Japanese restaurants lining the streets too.
Our destination were the canals, which we saw on the city map. Initially I was surprised to learn that Manchester had canals, but I really shouldn't have been considering that guest blogger Jill Martin wrote about the extensive canal system of nearby Birmingham.
Manchester's canals were built in the 1700s as a way to transport goods to the factories, as this has always been an important industrial area. The canals had fallen into disrepair but were revitalized in the 1980s. Now you see lots of long, narrow leisure boats floating through the canals or just parked in them. The surrounding area just keeps improving, as now there are lots of outdoor waterside pubs and restaurants. We even noticed a few wedding parties.
That area is called Castlefield, and it gets it's name from the Roman Fort that was built there in 79 AD, aka Castle-in-a-Field. While it's no Ephesus or Ostia Antica, these Roman ruins are still pretty cool and definitely worth a look.
And while they felt unexpected to me (partly because I was so amazed they were able to be preserved in such a famously industrial area), I shouldn't have been that surprised considering that renowned Hadrian's Wall isn't too faraway from Manchester.
I had fun exploring the canals, Castlefield and Chinatown today. On tomorrow's agenda: Manchester's museums and galleries!
Comped But Never Compromised: I am visiting Manchester as a guest of CreativeTourist.com, a consortium of Manchester museums and galleries, but I am free to write whatever I want.