A couple of years ago (2018) we decided to do a long weekend in England. We weren’t going to see castles or Stonehenge. No, aside from a nice little get away together this trip was planned so that we could see Taylor Swift in concert (Reputation Tour) and see the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I & II. The concert was in Manchester on Friday and we could get tickets for the play in London on Sunday. We would take the train to Manchester and go to the concert, then on Saturday take the train from Manchester to London, see the play on Sunday, and then head back to Glasgow Monday morning. Easy peasy thanks to the fact that there are multiple trains running between these various places daily and a pretty easy to use public transit system. Go figure!
On that Friday Stuart’s mum and dad dropped us off just outside Glasgow Central Station where we caught a train to Manchester, England. We took a mid-day train both because the schedule would work for us, but also because it tends to be cheaper during off-peak(non-rush hour) times. About three and a half hours later we got off the train at Manchester Piccadilly Station (basically the end of that line, but there is one stop further to the airport). From there it was a short walk to our hotel. We stayed at a Premier Inn. It’s a no-frills kind of hotel: it’s clean, the beds are comfy enough, it usually has a restaurant, and it tends to not be too expensive. They’re pretty common throughout the UK and thus far we’ve always had good luck with them.
It was clear that nearly everyone staying at our hotel and the surrounding hotels that night were going to the concert. It was a maybe 20-minute walk from there to Etihad Stadium. There was no way to get lost as everyone was making the same trek across town.
We got there in time for the opening acts. It was Charli XCX and Camila Cabello. They were both good but let’s just say that the crowd went nuts when Taylor Swift was about to come on. Every time I’d been to a concert before this I had always bought the cheap seats in the back. You know the ones way up in the middle of nowhere? Yeah, that was where I was. Stuart was in charge of buying these tickets though and he got us floor seats and it was awesome. If you go to concerts all the time it would be a pretty expensive upgrade, but if you only go to a concert now and again, and if it’s an artist you really love, I’d say it’s worth the cost to get closer. While I’ve always loved Taylor Swift, after seeing her in concert I think I will always make the effort to go see her in concert. It was awesome. She was on for about two hours and it was nearly non-stop energy with incredible attention to detail. Everyone got a bracelet (you can see mine in the photo below) and they would light up different colors to go with the moods of the song so the entire stadium would be lighting up, not just the stage. There is a reason that she has such a strong following of fans. I always figured it was just her music – it’s not – she puts on an incredible show. It’s not a concert, it’s a production.
After the concert we walked back to the hotel. It wasn’t hard to find our way because there were thousands of fans all making their way the same direction. Luckily for us the hotel restaurant was still open and we shared a pizza.
The next day we sleep in a bit and then made our way to the train station. All of this is walking distance.We arrived at the station a bit early so we could get something to eat. We planned on having a fancy dinner in London that night, so we opted for a quick Subway sandwich for lunch. Now, this wouldn’t normally seem to be worth noting. However, there was a festival called “Park Life” happening in Manchester that weekend. Now, I’ve never been to a music festival quite like this one, because while we sat in Subway eating our food we saw some of the most outrageous outfits I had ever seen on a human in real life. No pictures included here because they were just out having fun. But, let me put it this way, and this might show how limited my fashion sense is, but in general I go by the rule that if you are going to wear a thong, you don’t wear something made of a fabric that could be described as either chainmail or fishnet. That might just be me though?
We eat our sandwiches, make our way to the train station, and get on our train to London. This one is slightly shorter, just over two hours. In London there are a three main train stations that are all relatively close to each other: London Euston, King’s Cross, and St. Pancras. We were on a train into London Euston and we had picked out another Premier Inn to stay at for the two nights that was smack dab between all three of them. London is overall pretty easy to get around using the Underground (subway/metro) system and is quite a lovely city if you’ve never visited.
As we had both been to London before we opted to skip doing much touristy that afternoon and instead just went to dinner and then called it an early night. There was a lot of theater to go to the next day and we needed to make sure we were well rested. Don’t worry, we stopped to grab a picture on the stairs of St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel which is connected to the St. Pancras train station that was quite near our hotel. Wonder why we stopped to grab a picture at a random staircase? It was featured in the Spice Girls music video for Wannabe and Stuart would also tell you it was used in Batman Begins.
From our hotel we took the Underground to the West End area of London. We decided to get dressed up a bit to go to the play and were amongst the more dressed up. While packing for this trip we realized that Stuart’s dress shoes were still on the ship which is why we ended up in a Clark’s the afternoon before the play to get him some dress shoes. I walked into the theater holding a bag with a box from Clark’s in it, looking as though I’d just done some shopping for new shoes, when in fact inside the shoebox were Stuart’s old sneakers.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is separated into two parts, aptly titled Part I and Part II. You can opt to see both parts on the same day, or some people will split it up and go see Part I one day and Part II the next. It’s not like an intermission in between the first act and second act of a play as you have to buy separate tickets and everything. It is performed at the Palace Theater which in itself is worth going into to see because it is beautiful. I didn’t get any good photos inside it without a whole bunch of people in it, so here’s a link to a Google search of pictures. Gorgeous.
I won’t say too much about seeing it other than a lot of the time it felt like you were watching magic happen. When you watch the movies you know that the magic happening is done by special effects and computer animation and what not. When you see it in real life, while they are using special lighting and sound effects to create the illusion of magic, you know that it is happening right in front of you. It was as well orchestrated and choreographed as anything, with each person, prop, and part moving perfectly so that for those hours in the theater the magic happening in front of you was as good as real.
In between the two parts we went to a small pub across the street. We made the mistake of forgetting that a good chunk of British (seems to be more so English) beers are served warm. Not our cup of tea at all. Instead we ended up having a soda and a little snack.
We went back in for the second part, loved it, spent way too much money on souvenirs from the show, and then went across to a sports bar that had some seriously great chicken wings. We were the epitome of class eating chicken wings while dressed up after a nice day at the theater.
After that we meandered our way back to the hotel and then in the morning made our way to the train station. That morning we did make a slight detour though. Our train was going out of London Euston and we opted to leave our hotel a bit early to go to King’s Cross station to go to Platform 9 ¾ to have just a bit more Harry Potter fun before the weekend was over.
We then made the short walk back from King’s Cross to London Euston and got the train back to Glasgow. Aside from the ease of taking the train, not having to drive, find parking, etc, there are also lovely views along the way!
It was a great weekend down to England, and once again reminded me how great having a good public transportation system is!