Today continues my look back at my European adventure that happened earlier in the year, with a special focus on tips and advice for travelers who are just as broke-ass as I am. After going nearly bankrupt in Copenhagen, I flew to Manchester, England. I knew very little about the city, other than it was supposed to be industrial and that it has a few famous football (or soccer, you can call it pudding for all I care) teams.
We arrived in the dark and, no, that's not a metaphor. It was after 10, and my friend and I were pretty cracked out from our Easy Jet flight, during which I'd accidentally left my passport on the plane, and had to run back like a lunatic. My favorite moment happened when I heard two ladies saying,
"What is he is running back for?"
" I think I saw him drop his pen."
Despite the rough beginning, we were welcomed to our hotel, a Days chain, with open arms. And more importantly: tickets for half-priced drinks. A quick change, and then a short stroll took us to the Gay Village, the largest concentration of LGBT bars, restaurants, clubs and stores I'd ever seen. Drinks were cheap: 3 pounds for a glass of wine, 6 pounds for a whole bottle, and the people were friendly. Plus, people were out on a Monday night, and I got to dance to "Like a Prayer," one of my all-time favorite songs. Manchester was officially awesome, and we hadn't even checked out the city yet.
We spent the next two days seeing the sights, and I was pleasantly suprised at the look and feel of Manchester. It was indeed industrial, but also very modern, with architecture that would rival Barcelona, as well as green public spaces, pretty hisotric buildings, a giant-ass mall, and a ferris wheel that was far less obnoxious than the London Eye. The city's laid back vibe reminded me of San Francisco and its working-class meets the arts mentality took me back to my days in Pittsburgh. It was far cheaper than London--lunch for 4 pounds, what a great deal--and the people way friendlier. So, Manchester and I became fast friends. She got me drunk every night, and let me dance in her streets. It's hard not to love a city that will do that for you.
Now, here's what you need to know...
1. The city's hotels can be expensive, so book on Hotwire.com. The city center is pretty compact, so it's hard to go wrong. Our hotel was a five minute walk from all the main attractions, and cost 70 bucks a night, as opposed to 130.
2. Sometimes the city will smell like poop. You don't have to keep checking your shoes, it goes away after a while.
3. Check out the Printworks, a fun entertainment complex, for a cheapo lunch at Henry J. Beans. Four pounds will get you a burger, fries and beer, wine or soda.
4. The Manchester Cathedral is free and cannot be missed.
5. Happy Hour at The View Bar in the Village: 6 pounds for an entire bottle of wine.
6. Monday nights belong to Club 101. One dollar cover and beers are a buck. The music is 80's and pop, and the crowd is fun.
7. Don't go to the club Poptastic if you are over 22. You'll feel Jurassic.
8. Set aside 4-5 hours to shop at Primark. It's like H&M meets Target, only better clothes.
9. The city is very walkable, and all the attractions are close to one another, so need to take trains or buses unless you have trouble walking.
10. Chinatown is pretty, but you won't find imposter cologne for a dollar, or any other cheapo deals.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I'd join the masses in celebrating the first time religious wig-nuts broke bread with Native Americans by compiling a list of things I am thankful for. So, here it is:
1. My friends and family
2. Television (for those moments when I feel like ignorning those I am thankful for.)
3. Books. I don't care how many things go digital, there is nothing like the smell of a new book. Or an old book. Note to cologne or scented candle makers: design a fragrance that smells like a book, and I'd buy it for sure.
4. The Internet. Try living without it. I dare you.
5. Theatre. The fact that I can write a play, get it staged, and people will actually come and see it. That one never ceases to amaze me.
6. The conditions in which people now offer me unconditional love seem to be diminishing.
7. Drew Barrymore. Do I really need a reason?
9. Mass Transit. It may suck sometimes, but at least you don't have to gas, oil and lube it.
10. Wine. I may have had some before writing this list.
When I was three, I went on a family vacation to Disney Land, and my favorite experience, besides watching my brother and sister spin their guts out on the teacups, was riding "It's A Small World." Enthralled by little mechanical men and women belting out the title song in a million different languages was enough to make my toddler head spin with delight. I must have sang that damn song a hundred times before my brother told me to shut it, which caused my mother to yell at him, and then my father to yell at everyone to calm the fuck down, and suddenly...our magical Disney vacation was turned into an afterschool special. After that incident, I hated the song. And now, thirty years later, I realize: I hate the expression, too. It's a lie, for starters. The world is not small. Earth itself is 24,000 miles in circumference, with 195 countries and nearly 7 billion people. And that's just Earth! Also, and more importantly, the phrase it's a small world chepeans one of my great passions: seeing the damn world.
Since I caught the travel bug during my first trip to Italy in 1999, I have made it a mission to see as much of Earth as I possibly can. I've been to 17 different countries in Europe, Latin America, the Carribean, but have yet to see Asia, Austrlia, Africa...I was never very good with the alphabet. So when my friend Ernest asked me to accompany him on a 12 day jaunt to England, Denmark and Sweden, it took me about twenty seconds to scream, "Fuck yeah!" And so, I had a new mission: proving the world was indeed large, and making it through without using that cursed expression once. I also decided that I should share as many travel tips as I possibly could. First up: Copenhagen.
1) It's fucking expensive. Probably the most expensive country I have ever visited. Not sure why. But no travel book warns you, so my broke ass wants to make it clear: BRING LOTS OF MONEY. Just to give you an example, a cup of coffee from 7-11 (yes, that 7-11, the Scandy's love them!) will run you 4 bucks, while an average dinner will be between 25 and 30. So, find a hotel that serves breakfast, and check out pizza buffets for lunch. At 12 bucks, you can pig out and it'll be worth it.
2) The Little Mermaid has been kidnapped. Okay, not really. She's actually been sold to the Chinese for a while and is currently displayed in Shanghai. So, don't expect to see her in person until next year. Also, she is not Arielle from the Disney version, but the original character written by Denmark's own Hans Christen Andersen, so don't expect her to sing "Part of Your World."
3) SKAT is all over the place, but it's a government code, and doesn't mean people want to engage in that kind of dirty play.
4) The Danish are nice enough, but they'll steal your seat at a bar at the drop of a dime. They will also crash into you on the dance floor and try to burn you with their cigarettes (you can smoke in bars) so claim your space and protect it!
5) Christiana is a cool place, a non-government squatting pad filled with junkies and artists. Don't take pictures, or you'll get yelled at. And don't expect clean glasses at the bar.
6) If you are gay the city will love you (you can even get married there) but the bars close early, so start your night around 10.
7) If a place charges a cover, skip it. It's most likely filled with screaming 21 year olds dancing to Katy Perry. If you like Katy Perry, I can't help you.
8) The Wake Up Copenhagen is an excellent hotel, if you don't mind being off the beaten path on a street that doesn't really exist yet. The rooms are pod-like, but the showers are great for homemade saunas/
9) Best places to visit: Rosenberg Castle, Kastellet, Frederskberg Garden, Nyhavn Canal.
10) If you sit by City Hall, expect pigeons to poop on you and laugh about it.
Stay tuned for more!
Mark Jason Williams
I find trouble wherever I go