Nel’s 18th Birthday trip

After breakfast and present opening, Nel, Billy and I set off for Manchester and made good time getting there. We decided to drive to our first stop, which seemed a good idea at the time, it ended up taking us in circles around the city centre before we finally ended up where we wanted. Further time was spent trying to park, but at last, we made it and entered the University of Manchester Museum at around 2.30pm. We were particularly interested in the Egyptian exhibits especially the mummies and their stories, as an appetizer or the following day’s arrangements. Nel and I also enjoyed the evolution exhibits -fossils, dinosaurs, extinct animals and the evolution of existing animals. Billy and I braved the vivarium, though actually all the animals were behind secure glass so it wasn’t too bad. This is a decent museum with small but well thought out exhibits, and it’s free of charge so well worth a visit if you are in the area.

Next we I decided to drive to the hotel and check in so we I could ditch the car after so long spent driving, and relax. Again,we took a bit of a tour of Manchester though not as stressful as the previous one. We found the hotel which we’d chosen so as to be close to the Trafford Centre ready for the next day’s activities, but I was slightly nervous about my car (with its City stickers) being so deep in enemy territory.(It turned out to be fine and in fact I hardly saw any references to football.) We checked in and were pleased enough with our rooms. Nel had a double to herself and Billy and I had a family room (basically the same sized rooms, but ours had a sofa bed in it (in case Nel felt insecure in the night and wanted to come in with us (which she didn’t).)) We’d paid extra for Nel to have Wi-Fi access during our stay so she set that up on her laptop whilst I had a cup of tea and freshened up and then we headed off for dinner.

Nel specifically wanted a Chinese meal as her birthday meal and the friendly lady on reception had advised us that there were several Chinese restaurants in the Trafford Centre. Although it was only a short walk, it was about £3 for a taxi so as it was a cold night we decided to take the warmer option, on her advice, and picked up a business card of a local firm. They operate a system whereby you call and are put through to the next available driver so that you don’t have to wait long, and we only waited a couple of minutes before we were picked up. We looked around the various restaurants before settling on the Yang Sing Cathaywhere we had a gorgeous meal sharing half a crispy duck for starters, and a beef, a pork and a lamb dish with noodles and rice for main. A little strangely, diners are given a knife and fork by default so we had to ask for chopsticks as Nel and I prefer chopsticks, though Billy was happy with his fork. Nel and I had a glass of wine each whilst Billy had beer and we enjoyed a relaxing, beautifully cooked meal. Then Billy suggested we have a look to see what films were on at the cinema and I realised it was Wednesday so we could make use of an Orange Wednesday (two-for-one)deal, and so we went and watched Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (part 1.)

It was just as well we did use the Orange Wednesday deal since tickets were £8.30 EACH! Good job that isn’t our local cinema as we wouldn’t ever get to go! It was a good choice of film, even though Nel has seen it twice already (it was her choice and apparently she likes to watch films a few times.) Billy and I have both read the book but having seen all the previous films it was nice to see this one. Nel and I got the giggles after once scene in which big, bad, scary, snake falls down a hole with our heroes cautiously peeping over the edge. Now you know what happens next don’t you? It’s obvious that the snake is going to leap up at them. You know this, I know this. I knew it at the time too. So I was all tensed up waiting for it. Then when it happened, I leaped a foot in the air with arms raised. Nel found it hilarious and every time one of us would master the giggles, the other would set us off again. 😀

After the film, we got a taxi back to the hotel, which was just as well as the fog was so thick we could barely see a thing – good job the taxi driver knew the way. At least, he did in the end, after making a scary U-turn at one point and driving rather fast given the poor visibility. Anyway, we turned in for the night, Nel to watch TV and chat to friends online, and us to an old, slightly saggy and lumpy mattress which nonetheless wasn’t too bad. I was so tired I felt like I was on a ship, and it was just nice to lie still and not be on the move.

In the morning I enjoyed the breakfast picnic bag provided (little pre-packed bowl of cornflakes with milk, croissant and muffin) with coffee, and later Billy and Nel had a croissant and muffin respectively, before we checked out. It was a very short and easy drive to the Trafford Centre and to my surprise, there was plenty of parking space.

First stop was Appy Feet where Nel was keen to try out a fishy pedicure. It was very quiet at the time so happily, they could accommodate her immediately so she sat for 15 minutes with her feet in a fish tank whilst the fish nibbled away all the hard, dead skin on her feet! She loved it and said her feet were really soft afterwards – I think she might be hooked! (Good job there is a store in the Metrocentre now too.) The staff were very friendly which added to the enjoyment and made it fun so we left there feeling good about the day ahead.

After a little wander, we stopped for lunch though we had to change our plans for this as we’d intended picking up something light from Greggs or similar. Sadly, nothing like that existed there so we went instead to Pizza Hut and had the all-you-can-eat buffet which was delicious. The service was good too – quietly efficient and friendly without interfering.

Nel wanted to go and play on some of the machines in the casino area and managed to win some sweets. Billy mischeviously challenged me to a game of air hockey which I love – and I thrashed him! 😀

Finally, it was time for the main point of our trip: The Tutanhkhamun exhibition at the Museum of Museums. This was brilliantly done and really brought history to life. Very well worth a visit if you get the chance before it closes on March 26th this year. I liked the fact that headphones and audio guide are provided on entry and we could all go round at our own speed. The exhibits start with life size arrangements of how the archaeologists saw each chamber as they discovered them before going on to reproduce each item in painstaking detail. Most importantly, Nel loved it. 🙂

After leaving the exhibition, we decided to head off home since none of us wanted to go shopping (and in any case the shops would all be the same as any other shopping centre) and we were soon on the M60 homeward bound. It was a very tiring journey with thick fog the majority of the way, reducing visibility and speed and increasing the amount of concentration needed to drive. At the last services, Nel wanted a burger from Burger King and then surprised us by buying us each a thank you present – Maltesers for Billy and daffodils for me. I just about remembered in time not to cuddle her in public, but it was such a lovely thing to do. 🙂

And so, that was her 18th birthday trip. All that remained to do at home was to make her the cheesecake she’d requested and drink champagne so she could keep the cork and silver coin for luck.

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