Manchester city break: That first overnight trip as a family
Manchester. It’s a place Jenna and I have fond memories of, having travelled to the city for two nights back in March, just as the third trimester was about to kick off.
It seemed appropriate that we returned for our first overnight stay with Roma, which would provide an air of familiarity.
The first time around we went via train, which really wouldn’t have been possible this time around – we just about made it there by car with all the baby-related equipment we had to pack, inclusive of, but by no means limited to:
- And extra clothes in case of drool, sick, wee or poo
- Car seat
- Carry cot
- Doughnut cushion thingy
You get the idea – I’ve no doubt Ariel would envy all of our gadgets and gizmos aplenty.
I had the week of 24th July booked off work, so we decided we’d spend the Tuesday-Thursday in the north.
The strategy to get on the road was simple. Rather than setting alarms on our phones, we’d made a human alarm in the form of Roma, so when she awoke for her 5am feed, we’d load the car up with our ready-made bags and set off early doors once her milk had been guzzled.
Sounds good right? Beat rush hour and all that. It would have been had Roma woken up, but she decided to mix things up.
Jenna and I awoke at 7am to find Roma still sound asleep. When does that EVER happen?!
By the time she awoke – because we stupidly thought it would be best to wait for that – had a feed, got changed and the like, we didn’t get in the car and move until 9.35am!
After a, shall we say, extended and scenic journey – I won’t point fingers at who was navigating, but it wasn’t me or Roma – we finally arrived at Manchester at 2.30pm, having only stopped off at a service station the once.
Creatures of habit, we returned to CitySuites, a serviced apartment building that served as home during our March visit, at which time it was newly opened. Rather than an Uber like before, we pulled up to the front door in the Dadmobile, which was kindly valet parked once we’d unloaded – part of that serviced bit I mentioned.
We were met by a warm welcome from the receptionist in the lobby, while a concierge took our bags up to our room as we went through paperwork.
The greeting in our empty 14th floor room was just as inviting. A note addressed to the three of us was found on the coffee table, which saw site manager Gavin welcoming us back for round two; a particularly classy and personalised touch.
It took a while for us to summon up any energy as we collapsed on the sofa, before hunger got the better of us and we rolled out.
Where to eat? We hongry
We did a bit of homework on family-friendly places to eat, one of which was multi-cuisine buffet Red Hot (it was cheat day, don’t judge me), although – unhelpful for my cravings but a blessing for my waistline – it had closed down.
Further along on Deansgate though and we decided to go for Turkish, our favourite, as we happened across Topkapi Palace.
We’ve eaten out several times as a family and have been fortunate enough that Roma has slept through the meals, but she decided to stay conscious for this one. We took it in turns to feed/comfort her as she watched us guzzling the food as though it were our last meal.
It would be our last meal at Topkapi at least. It tasted fine, but the standard and portion size was nowhere near on par with what we’re used to at home. In fact, it’s cheaper at home, but the quality and quantity is higher, so you might want to swerve this place if your daily food intake demands more than a gnat’s.
When I questioned where the pitta bread and salad were – they supposedly come with all meals according to the menu – I was told they wouldn’t have complemented our particular starters well.
That nonsensical response worked them out of a tip, which we invested in pitta bread and dips from Tesco during the walk back home in hope the extra rations would silence our howling stomachs and see us through the night.
You don’t mess with someone’s carbs on cheat day – surely that’s rule one of operating a restaurant?
A slow walk back to CitySuites after we picked up some supplies and we chilled for the evening, finding a nice film to fall asleep to, while getting Roma settled. While she could have slept in her carry cot, the staff had kindly provided us with a travel cot.
Roma is still sleeping beside our bed in a Moses basket at present, so the cot was a bit of a transition – at least for us. She was out for the count soon enough and made no fuss. It was us left wondering how she was getting on at the foot of the bed in her new sleeping set-up, but she did just fine.
Things to do
Last time we visited, we used the CitySuites gym and trained together. Although we did briefly ponder whether we could have taken Roma down in the carry cot, common sense prevailed and we simply took it in turns to bash out an hour each.
After that, we spent the day pottering around the town, clocking up our step count as much as possible – that’s a thing we do now – but with a twist, as I used my Lille Baby carrier for the first time.
I may not have the capacity for breast feeding, although that hasn’t stopped Roma head-butting my chest in attempt to latch on, but that doesn’t mean I can’t forge some close-up bonding reminiscent of that shared between her and Jenna.
The carrier was brilliant for that. My hands were totally free, giving so much room for activities – though out of instinct I’d often have at least one supporting her anyway.
I did notice myself cop a few stares – it’s more common for mums to wear the babies than dads, I imagine, but that’s an entirely separate debate. One very uplifting stare from an old boy passing by resulted in him giving me a smile, a thumbs up and a hearty cry of “Good man”. I haven’t taken the carrier off since.
Gave the carrier a spin for the first time today and it felt brilliant – especially loved the old boy in town who randomly caught my eye to give me praise, dishing out a smile-thumbs up combo as he said “good man!” Is everyone up north this friendly?! Spag bol ingredients in the bag in case you’re wondering; @jenpole is preparing the goods as we speak 😀👍🍝 #DADultLife #Manchester #LilleBaby #LilleLove
After being A. Bitten by Topkapi and B. New parents on a budget, we had a cosy night in, during which Jenna acted as chef and whipped up spag bol while I fed Roma.
The next day, our timekeeping was shambolic – as I’ve said before, parenthood means you may as well get rid of any watches you own. We hadn’t gotten around to using the pool since we checked in, but it was a must before we left.
After negotiating a late check-out, we got our kit on and headed downstairs for Roma’s first swim.
Knowing what her first bath was like, we were apprehensive about what her reaction to the pool would be, but thankfully it was empty. Jenna entrusted me with the task of giving her the first dip and, to our shock and awe, she didn’t scream the place down – probably a result of her own bewilderment.
She whinged ever so slightly, but a few soothing words soon calmed her down and she was as chilled as could be.
Stealthily filmed by @jenpole at @citysuitesmcr taking Roma swimming for the first time 🕵️📽️🏊 She hated baths in the beginning and now seems to be quite fond of them – still, I thought she’d be scared of the pool, but she was absolutely chill! When did you first go swimming with your little one? It was quite a poetic moment too, as it was here we had our first family swimming session during the pregnancy 👶🌊👪 #DADultLife #LittleMermaid #WaterBaby #FirstSwim #EightWeeksOld
After saying goodbye to the staff, who earned a box of chocolates out of us for being so accommodating, we bid the north goodbye and set off on the drive home.
All too quickly the trip was over, but it gave us some valuable lessons ahead of our next city break – chief among them, don’t use your baby as an alarm clock.