A Day Out in Manchester, UK — a City Guide
Freelance/self-employed life is an odd one. It no-doubt differs from one person to the next as every situation is unique, every profession comes with its own nuances and we all like to do things our own way. Brittany Bathgate recently shared her thoughts on the subject and we found it really refreshing to read. For us, despite being a year and a half into working together full-time, it still feels a little new.
I've been freelance since my second year at uni (with the occasional coffee-shop/bar job/admin job to supplement my 'wage' in the beginning) so it's safe to say that I'm used to the ebb and flow of life, I actually really like it. I feel like I'm in control of it whilst at the same time floating freely in its current.
Magnus joined me nearly two years ago (he was a project manager for a manufacturing company) and we're just about adjusted to our shared life and starting to really appreciate the plus points.
One of the advantages of having a 'fluid calendar' is that we get to be creative with our lifestyle, take a day out and rejig computer time to the evening hours when the light has gone.
A few weeks back we went to Manchester and met up with Mat (of Buckets and Spades fame) and Dan (of Dan Marc fame), who showed us around the city centre and filled our day with hot coffee, inspiring interiors and of course, great company.
Our starting point was Atkinsons in Mackie Mayor; a calm and peaceful coffee shop that is off-shot from the main chamber of Mackie Mayor itself and cleanly presented in a uniform of blue paint (Stiff Key Blue maybe?!) and really simple shelving (mahogany I think - they look like the shelves we have in our bathroom!) Mat drew our attention to the super-sexy and newly-restored roasting machine that they have tucked away in the corner - Atkinsons roast their own beans and they're available to buy here, along with various teas and merch too.
Before we moved onto the next stop, we climbed the stairs at Mackie Mayor to survey the space. Built in the 1850s as a meat market and serving its purpose until 1972 when it closed its doors, the building lived a brief life as a skate park until its recent redevelopment by the founders of Altrincham market who have managed to turn a dilapidated wreck into a building of real beauty. Mackie Mayor provides a home for 10 independent food and drink retailers and has a similar vibe to Foodhallen in Amsterdam or Copenhagen Street Food - or at least we thought so.
We loved that they'd kept so much of the building's personality; that the huge atrium remains open instead of being dissected into smaller spaces and we also love the more contemporary touches such as the mis-match gymnasium flooring.
Form Lifestyle Store is a neat little courtyard-conversion with a spiral staircase that greeted us as soon as we opened the front door. It's a small-but-perfectly-formed shop in the Northern Quarter that sells a curated selection of functional and considered homeware.
Owners Elly and Harry champion independent makers and designers by stocking their wares. Names/brands include some familiar faces; Earl of East, Copper and Solder, Tom Pigeon, Consall Forge Pottery and Hobo Soy Candles to name but a few. Take a look at their website to learn more - or visit them and tell them we said 'hi!'
Lunch: Evelyn's Cafe Bar made us all very happy. Really unique flavours and satisfying servings, plus exceptionally good service - something that we are sticklers for. We will definitely return and we don't just throw recommendations around will-nilly, we really mean it. :-)
Dessert (or what us northerners call 'pudding'): delicious doughnuts from Siopshop on Tib Street in a variety of flavours including cherry bakewell and a reliable favourite - vanilla custard.
It was the fluorescent signage that drew us in originally and once inside the space was light, bright and 'happy' - if a room can be such a thing?! At first glance the interior is simple and clean; a hodgepodge of mismatch furniture and random decorations but on further inspection it all seems to form a very cohesive interior language... We found Valchromat surfaces, custom ply furniture and bespoke artwork. Iwan (part-owner with partner Lucy) cited his friend Steve Hockett (Wonder Room Studio) as the brains behind the identity/branding and overall look of the place.
We loved the interior (in particular that WOAH rug/wall-hanging - you can find out more about The Knot Collective's rugs here), the friendly service from Iwan and of course, the impeccable doughnuts.
Mat insisted on showing us The Refuge which sits on the ground floor of the Principal hotel and we're really glad that he did. Although we didn't stop long enough to sample the service (or take any photos aside from a handful on our phones) our short visit did make us put it on the list for next time. If a full wedding party hadn't walked in at the same time as we did then trust us we would have made ourselves very comfortable in one of the booths. Next time!
Thank you to Mat for heading up our tour and a belated congratulations to him for reaching a milestone 10 years of the Buckets and Spades Blog. We salute you! Another 'thank you' is due to Dan who helped Mat in keeping us entertained - you guys are great company and we hope to spend more time with you IRL in the future.
Here's a recap of the stops on our tour:
The Refuge (hopefully we'll revisit soon to properly experience this place!)