Budget Adventures This Summer

“The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also” – Harriet Ann Jacobs

 After a wet, windy and chilly winter with temperatures reaching sub-zero levels at times, the summer spring has finally arrived in Manchester. With dried up branches showing signs of carrying beautiful buds which would blossom into myriad hues of colours in the near future, the atmosphere around the city is one of merriment and joy. People have started coming out of their coops and hibernation and have started enjoying quality time with friends and families sun-bathing in open gardens, pubs and restaurants. The sun rises early in the morning and stays late till the night. With the change of seasons, the spirit of the people is also changing from one filled with laziness and boredom to one with enthusiasm and adventurous.

Summers also mean summer vacations, travelling with friends and families and exploring new places. If you want to travel this summer for a short stay or even a one-day trip; but not too far from Manchester, then here are your options.

Leeds

Leeds

1.Leeds- situated at a distance of about 30 miles from Manchester, Leeds is a city with history, tradition and culture in every nook and corner. The famous University of Leeds has made the place well-known and well populated. Leeds also boasts of a strong heritage through its museums, galleries, docks and ancient ruins.

How to Reach?

By Bus: Megabus is a budget travel option with tickets costing less than £5/ person. (http://uk.megabus.com/)

By Train: Trainline travel with tickets costing £16.50/ person (https://goo.gl/cGJTt0)

Where to Stay?

Budget Hotel: Hotel ibis Budget Leeds Centre. (http://goo.gl/rmIhrp)

This hotel is very near to the city centre as well the Leeds bus and train station. It is accessible in every way. The room rates start at £26 per night with free Wi-Fi.

What to See?

There are a number of places to see in Leeds. The must see ones are:

Kirkstall Abbey

Kirkstall Abbey

Ruins of the Kirkstall Abbey (www.leeds.gov.uk/kirkstallAbbey) (Entry Free)

The Abbey Museum (www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/…/Abbey-House-Museum.aspx) (Entrance Fee: £2-£4)

Royal Armouries Museum (https://www.royalarmouries.org/visit-us/leeds/) (Entry Free)

Thackray Medical Museum (www.thackraymedicalmuseum.co.uk/) (Entrance Fee £7-£8)

Leeds City Museum (www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/Pages/Leeds-City-Museum.aspx) (Entry Free)

Total Budget: (Estimate)

Day Trip: £30

Overnight Trip: £60

 

Windermere

Windermere

2. Lake District, Windermere “Wordsworth said of the Lake District that there was ‘nowhere in so narrow a compass with such a variety of the sublime and beautiful’. Thirty-four miles across, the area boasts a breathtaking range of tarns, fells, forests and countless chic and cosy hotels to stay in.”-  http://www.cntraveller.com/guides/europe/england/lake-district/where-to-stay

If you want a cosy relaxing weekend away from the hustle and bustle of the main city, then the Lake District is the perfect destination. This beautiful district features miles of sprawling natural beauty, fields, lush greenery and lakeside. At times, just sitting by the lake with a book or trying your luck at fishing makes a great family vacation.

How to Reach?

By Bus: Go Euro runs regular services connecting Manchester to Lake District. The bus tickets cost around £22. (http://www.goeuro.co.uk/)

By Car: It is a one and half hour journey from Manchester by car taking the M6 highway.

By Train: Direct trains run from Manchester Piccadilly to Windermere, Lake District. The journey costs £10.50 (https://goo.gl/zhJynT)

Windermere, Main Road

Windermere, Main Road

Where to Stay?

Hostels and Camps: For budget travellers or students, financially this is the best option. Sharing rooms cost around £20-£23 pounds depending on the type and availability (http://www.dmslakedistrict.co.uk/)

What to See?

Windermere is the perfect place to indulge in some outdoor activities. You can book in to trekking groups, or walking tours around the district. It is highly recommended to visit the lakeside and if possible to hop on a boat and explore the beautiful waters. That apart, activities like balloon flights, horse riding, golf, swimming and also encouraged. It is advisable to have a look at the official visitor information for booking activities in the following website http://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/

Total Budget: (Estimate)

Day Trip: £20-25

Overnight Trip: £45-50

 

Backpool Tower and Beach

Backpool Tower and Beach

3.Blackpool is the perfect place to enjoy the beach and indulge in some natural tanning treatments. During the hot and humid summer, the cool beach side breeze and the sun comes to the rescue. Many take to building sand castles and sculptures, swimming in the sea or just enjoy sitting in the beach with a glass of cool drink. 

  How to Reach?

By Bus: Go Euro (www.goeuro.co.uk) services run from Manchester to Blackpool and vice versa everyday from £3 per heard. It takes around four hours to reach Blackpool.

By Train: Trainline (www.thetrainline.com) services run regularly from the Manchester Piccadilly station at £17.70 per head. It takes around an hour and a half to the destination.

Where to Stay?

Budget Hotels include Tiffany’s (http://www.tiffanyshotel.co.uk/) and Hotel 33 (uk.venere.com)

 What to See?

Blackpool Zoo -Not many cities near Manchester has a zoo and thus, the Blackpool zoo is an ideal attraction while travelling with children. The admission prices cost around £12-£15 pounds depending on whether it is booked online (http://www.blackpoolzoo.org.uk/) or in person.

Grundy Art Gallery – An art Gallery does not only put up paintings, sketches and sculptures, it puts up the interests of an era and displays parts of the heritage of the city. Admission is free for all in the gallery.

Theme Parks –Theme parks are a great way to spend family quality time. They also form part of the favourite children attractions. The theme parks in Blackpool include Blackpool Pleasure Beach complete with roller coaster rides and Sandcastle Water Park which provides the much-needed respite on hot summer days

Beaches – The beach is the main attraction of the city, although care has to be taken of the timings of the tide. Near the beach is the Blackpool Tower which is a must visit attraction of the city.

Total Budget: (Estimate)

Day Trip: £40-£45

Overnight Trip: £100

 

 

River Punting in Oxford

River Punting in Oxford

 4. Oxford- “There are more museums in Oxford than even the most cultured vulture can take in on a short break. The highlights include the iconic Ashmolean Museum (Beaumont Street); the Pitt Rivers (South Parks Road); the Museum of the History of Science (Broad Street); and the Museum of Oxford (St Aldate’s) to learn about the city’s rise to fame and fortune.”- http://www.wanderlust.co.uk

Oxford can well be called the city of the museums and galleries. A city which grew around the world-famous University of Oxford hosts a lot of activities for visitors and tourists all year around.

How to Reach?

By Bus: Go Euro runs regular services to and fro both cities. Tickets start from around £30. (www.goeuro.co.uk)

By Train: Trainline runs regular train services per day with prices starting from £73

Where to Stay?

The holiday Inn Express is the budget hotel in the city centre. More details can be found at the official website in http://www.ihg.com/

Christ Church Oxford

Christ Church Oxford

What to See?

The best way to see Oxford is on foot and on water. While one can take a leisurely walk around the city centre and exploring the museums, galleries and churches; one can alternately take to river punting and see Oxford through a new perspective. Some must visit places include Bodlien Library, Sheldonian Theatre, Radcliffe Camera, University of Oxford, Oxford Museum of History and Science, Museum of Oxford, The Headington Shark Sculpture and Story Museum.

Total Budget: (Estimate)

Day Trip: £60

Overnight Trip: £200

 

Liverpool Docks

Liverpool Docks

5. Liverpool- This port city is the epicentre of two major happenings in history – The sailing of the Titanic and the rise of the Beatles. Thus, it is an absolute must-visit when in the UK. With museums, Liverpool docks, shopping malls and pubs within a walking distance of each other, the city is great for both day trips and overnight trips. 

 How to Reach?

By Bus: Megabus runs direct coaches daily from Manchester to Liverpool and vice versa starting from £1.50p (https://uk.megabus.com)

By Train: The train line runs regular services which takes you Liverpool in an hour. They cost £3 one-way and £12.50 open return. (https://www.thetrainline.com/)

Where to Stay?

The Tune Hotel in the City Centre is the best budget hotel in an area close to the train station and the docks. The room rates cost about £34 per night. For more details check out the official website at (http://www.tunehotels.com/)

What to See?

Liverpool Street

Liverpool Street

A short walk from the Liverpool Lime Street Station is the main attraction of the city –The Albert Docks (www.albertdock.com). Surrounding this dock area are the major attractions of the city – The Liverpool Museum, The Merseyside Maritime Museum, The Museum of International Slavery, The Liverpool Eye and the TATE Museum of Modern Art. All of these museums have free entry. For a one day trip, this is the perfect place to be in. There are many street food joints and eateries near the dock area. The shopping centre is also a short walk from the docks and can be easily reached.

The Conde Nast Traveller especially recommends the Liverpool Museum for its unique collection of the city’s history and culture. “Located on the city’s waterfront by the famous Albert Docks, the first national museum in the world that is devoted to the history of a regional city . . . . . Over 6,000 objects will be showcased across the museum’s three floors. Many of these items have never been on public display before and range in antiquity from the ice age to the present day.”http://www.cntraveller.com/news/2011/july/museum-of-liverpool

Additional places to visit would be the Beatles Museum and the Cavern Pub. The Liverpool Cathedral is also a beauty worth visiting.

Total Budget: (Estimate)

Day Trip: £20

Overnight Trip: £50

 

These are some of the best places to visit this summer with your friends and family. They are also great for group travellers or even solo travel. Thus, this summer take out your adventure boots and backpacks and start exploring the world away. . . . .

 

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Restaurant Review: Akbar’s

The dreams of one man led to the establishment of the first Akbar’s restaurant in Bradford. But dreams and aspirations are not easily satisfied. Thus, started an array of Akbar’s restaurants being opened in various parts of the United Kingdom. From Birmingham to Manchester; from Newcastle to Leeds all have been blended in the subtle flavours of authentic Indian cuisine through the various branches of this restaurant.

Akbar’s is situated in the Liverpool Street, just off the Deansgate Road in Manchester. Surrounded by the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry on one side and the Roman Mamucium and Castlefield on the other, Akbar’s is a regular hotspot for tourists and travellers and those who like to soak in the flavours of India in this multi-cultural neighbourhood.

IMG_9838

Akbar’s from the Streets 

The restaurant functions from supper times and is opened only from 5 pm to midnight Mondays to Saturdays and from 4 pm to midnight on Sundays. The rich cultural heritage of India and the diversity in its cuisines can be experienced the moment you step inside. The huge statue of Lord Buddha welcoming the guests with folded hands at the reception coupled with a smiling assistant to guide you to your seats form a pleasant ambience. The interiors are beautifully decorated with gold and black patterns which are interrupted by classy glass designs.

If you are to enter around 5 pm, you would probably find it deserted but by half past five, the whole restaurant is buzzing with activities. The managers and assistants are running about ushering in the guests; the waiters are busy taking orders and serving the guests; the bar is filled with bartenders making various hand gestures while preparing some of the best cocktails and mocktails on the floor. The activity and the adrenaline levels in the kitchen rise up too, as they have to keep up with the pressure of serving quality food to their customers. At times, when the kitchen door opens one can catch a glimpse of the head chef shouting for more spices , the sous- chef quickly scanning the food that is to be put on the table, the waiters colliding with each other or cutleries and pots banging against one another. But even amidst the chaos inside, the output on the plates outside smell of a rich aroma of mixed spices and butter.

Being an Indian myself, I was elated to see an Indian restaurant but also wondered about the authenticity of the flavour. I ordered for a jar of Mango Lassi, Butter Family Naan, Chicken Tikka and Prawn Curry.

IMG_9831

Chutneys

After a while, the waiter came in bringing a large tray of papads with four types of chutneys. The Papads were crisp and the subtle aroma of coconut oil in which they were fried came drifting up my nostrils as I sat eating them waiting for my main course to arrive. The chutneys however, were a delight. It seemed as if the wide range of flavours which complement a traditional Roti or bread was put in front of me in only four small bowls. There was the traditional sweet mango chutney, which is made using sweet mango pulp and spices. It was spicy yet sweet. A raita which is a mixture of cucumber, onions, nuts and at times tomatoes in curd. A bowl of sour onions dipped in vinegar as well as a bowl of a paste made of green chillies and mint leaves. These chutneys satisfied ones palette and left  them with a taste of sweet, sour, spicy and chilly.

IMG_9836

Mango Lassi 

As I was sitting, munching my papads, the Mango Lassi made its appearance. It was a huge jug, big enough to feed six people. The Lassi, at the first sip tasted what I had expected it to taste like. The sweet mango flavour mixed with the thickness of the curd and milk gave it the much-needed refreshing taste. The drink however was too sweet given that most of its ingredients were naturally sweet and would only add up to its sweetness.

I looked around  and saw that all the tables were full. In fact, the little I could see of the reception area from my seat, I saw was full of guests waiting to be seated. The murmurs around me grew louder and louder with the entire restaurant filled with people and staff. Soon after, arrived my main course-a huge steel stand holding about a 2 ft long Butter Family Naan with butter dripping from all its edges followed by my Chicken Tikka and Prawn Curry. By now the waiter realised that I was Asian and after politely asking me about my native language started talking to me in Hindi, our native language. He explained that the Family Naans were a speciality in Manchester and UK and was not available in India. I agreed with him on that as such huge Naans were indeed not available in Indian cuisine.

It was now time for me to taste each of the items I had ordered. The moment I put the Naan inside my mouth, the overpowering taste of melting butter took me instantly. The Naan itself was just the way it should have been – crispy at the sides, a little burnt even, due to the process of making it. It had a smooth tear and smelt of burnt charcoal and butter.

IMG_9835

Chicken Tikka 

The Chicken Tikka came next on my list. It was served in the traditional copper bowl with two handles on either ends. The dish was sprinkled with coriander and garnished with lemon slices. The gravy was thick and oil-rich. The chicken itself was cooked to perfection spicier on the outside and soft and tender on the inside. The gravy was spicy but not hot.  The Prawn Curry came as a pleasant surprise. Small round prawns cooked beautifully in red chillies and turmeric was the dish of the day for me. Served again in the traditional manner, the prawn curry was the first of its kind that I had tasted.

IMG_9834

Prawn Curry 

After finishing my food, I awaited the cheque. I was recollecting all the flavours and dishes that I had. Interestingly, though Akbar’s served Indian cuisines, its values had blended tradition with modernity much like the city itself. The plates were a mixture of tradition in modern style and flavours. The beauty of such a combination is that it gives a chance to rediscover the potential of traditional Indian Cuisines in modern times. Thus, the restaurant had delivered its promise of authentic cuisines and had also added to it a modern twist.

Akbar’s is a highly recommended restaurant due to its quality, quantity and flavour. It delivers what it promises. The chain is a recipient of various awards and honours and is currently running the nominations for the English Curry Awards 2016.

Additional Information:

Address: 73-83 Liverpool Rd, Manchester M3 4NQ

Opening Times: Mon – Sat: 17:00 – 00:00
                                            Sun: 16:00 – 00:00

Website: www.akbars.co.uk / www.akbars.co.uk/Manchester

Rates (for 2): £40-60