Back in the summer we worked with Virgin Trains on a summery trip to Liverpool, where we had a lovely time exploring the city in the sunshine. Fast forward a few months and we were excited to be working with them again this past weekend, this time exploring in a much more festive and cold environment up in Manchester, where we were looking forward to visiting the christmas markets which are on once a year. We absolutely love Manchester. Jon was born and bred there, not moving away until he was nineteen, and his family all live there still so we were really looking forward to going back and exploring the city and seeing what it had to offer for families.
We headed up on our Virgin Train from Milton Keynes, where the journey time was less than two hours. We were really impressed with the service last time so were looking forward to see if it again lived up to our expectations. After travelling by train a fair bit over the summer, both myself and Jon had said that we would try and do it more as it really is so much easier than travelling by far with children. While we love going places in our car, just because you can jump in and head off, we all do actually find it easier by train. It means that you can all relax on board, you can move about easier which is of course nicer with our baby boy as he doesn’t have to be stuck in his car seat, and also it is generally a little quicker too. The Milton Keynes to Manchester service is direct, meaning you don’t even need to change so you really can settle down and relax for the journey.
We soon settled in onboard, me catching up on some emails on my phone with the onboard wifi, while the girls played with Beam, Virgin’s on board app which has lots of films, tv programmes and games for you to enjoy. We got some snacks from the shop (why don’t all trains have shops on board?!) and all was going swimmingly. We pulled into Chester and listened to the driver tell us that the next stop would be a station in Wales. Cue a massive panic as we dragged three children, a pushchair, a camera bag and a suitcase off the train in approximately 6 seconds. Mads was screaming as she panics (like her Mummy!) but luckily we got off in time. Us being stupid had managed to get on the wrong train, however I can report that Virgin Trains are lovely whatever route you go on! What wallies.
After a small detour we arrived in Manchester ready to explore and enjoy our weekend together. We checked into our apartment for the weekend, which was one of the penthouse apartments at City Warehouse. It was a great place for families and in a perfect location in the cool Northern Quarter area of the city, about 5 minutes away from the main city centre. We would definitely recommend it, as long as you are aware that you might get groups of people coming back from a night out on a weekend if you stay, as inevitably stag and hen groups stay in apartments. That said, we only heard people on one night and it didn’t bother us in the slightest.
It was a lovely weekend and we managed to cram a lot in considering the fact that the weather wasn’t great. On the Sunday morning we headed back on the train home, (on the right one this time!) and we were again pleased with the service we received from Virgin Trains. It was comfortable, quick and easy, and we all agreed that we definitely prefer the train to the car for long journey’s, especially when doing city to city travel as there is no taxis or other things to think about.
Here is our time in Manchester in photos and a video…
Beam, Virgin’s on board app is great for entertaining the little ones. The girls were obsessed with Monster Snake.
A quick picture at our random detour to Chester!
The Manchester Christmas Markets are huge, with over 350 stalls spread across the city. They run from the 1oth November till the 20th December so there is still lots of time to go if you fancy it, we definitely recommend them for getting you in the festive mood. It was the first time we had tried out his new buggy, which is the Cosatto WOW and we had two people come up and ask us where it was from. I’m a little obsessed with a fox print and I think this might be my favourite buggy we have ever had.
Before hitting the markets we stopped off for a hot chocolate and a festive muffin at Costa.Our girls are obsessed with little random bits and pieces and collecting things, so we let them pick out a little bag of stones each from one of the stalls. They literally spent ages picking every single one out while we stood in the cold regretting our decision. 😉
I think she looks like a mini teenager in this photo. We basically ate far too much while we were there, all the different food was so tempting. We had to share a marshmallow skewer covered in white chocolate. This photo makes me laugh, I don’t know why. I thought I was filming instead of taking a photo!
We met Jon’s side of the family for dinner after we had a mooch around the markets. We went to Pizza Express as we know that the girls will always eat all their dinner there. This photo makes me smile, they were in hysterics playing with the filters on Snapchat with their Uncle Mark, Jon’s brother. The next morning there was a beautiful sunrise amidst the rain and I snapped this photo from the balcony of our apartment.
Whenever we go away anywhere I will always spend a little while before hand researching where we would like to go and what we would like to do. I had seen Home Sweet Home online and thought it looked like somewhere we would really enjoy. Situated in the Northern Quarter near where we were staying, this retro style cafe does pancakes and is known for its milkshakes, making it perfect for our family!
I can confirm that the milkshakes were delicious and the ‘kids meal’ pancakes were absolutely huge but delicious.
After filling up on a delicious breakfast we walked back through the markets to have a look now it wasn’t raining. We stumbled across this chocolate stall and in a bid to eat as much as humanly possible in the aid of research, we bought a few chunks to eat later.
This boy is as good as gold when we go out and about on our travels, he just sits in his buggy taking it all in and snoozing here and there too, we rarely hear a peep out of him.
After a little wander round the markets we headed to All Star Lanes, a cool little retro bowling alley to have a game. I had been to the one in London before, but it was good fun. It was the first time we had taken LL bowling and she absolutely loved it. I am pleased to say I won, which is a complete fluke as normally Jon is so much better than me. We will definitely do it again soon as we all had so much fun together.
After a fun game of bowling we headed to The Oast House to get us even more in the festive spirit. Jon had been there before last year when he came up to visit friends on a night out, but the lovely Kerri Ann commented on my instagaram and recommended we go there. We are so glad we did, they have two huge tepees there for christmas, with twinkling lights everywhere and roaring fires. We sat and drank mulled wine and it made me feel so cosy and happy.
We then headed to a little park for a run around to let off some steam. Our girls absolutely love city breaks as much as we do but it is definitely good to let them have a bit of time to run around.
We then headed to the Museum of Science and Industry to have a little look around as it was starting to rain. It is free to get in but a donation is always welcomed, and there is lots for children to do there, including a whole fall of experiments to help them learn and discover.
Love this man so much.
We then headed to a place called Yard & Coop for dinner, which was fantastic. Yard & Coop is in the Northern Quarter of the city is all about serving up proper fried chicken with tasty sides, classic cocktails and craft beers. Apparently it is the home of buttermilk fried chicken and we can confirm it was delicious- they were really kid friendly too considering where it is and who it normally caters too, with a great kids menu and lego and colouring for the kids to do.
Then it was time for one last mooch around the christmas markets before heading home to bed.
The next morning we had to get up bright and early because we had to be back home to go to my Grandma’s 80th birthday lunch party. We passed this cool street art on the walk back to the station.
We had another great trip on the way back and were really impressed with the time and ease it took us to get to Manchester with Virgin Trains. As we do go up there reasonably often to see Jon’s family, we definitely might think about getting the train next time as it really is so much better with children. The girls love the adventure of the train and I must admit it is definitely easier in terms of entertaining our baby boy.
Manchester is such a fantastic city and there is so much to do for all ages. We had such a fantastic time up there and only wish we had longer to explore. While Jon’s brother lives in Manchester itself, his Mum now lives in Cheshire and so when we visit we don’t often go into the city. We have said that we will try and make an effort to go in more often in future. Here is a little video of our fun time in Manchester…
We definitely feel in the festive mood now- roll on Christmas!
NB: We are working with Virgin Trains on this campaign and they kindly sent us to Liverpool. All words and opinions are entirely my own.