Watching Manchester United at Old Trafford

I’ve been a fan of Manchester United since I was a small boy, still I have never seen them live. And since the Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is playing there this season, I decided that this was a perfect time to go and see the club play. Now, getting tickets to see Manchester United at Old Trafford can be a bit tricky, especially games in Premier League, so I chose to see them play the return game against FC Rostov in the Europa League.

manchester united zlatan
Manchester United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Old Trafford.

Getting tickets to Manchester United

Tickets to Premier League home matches are only sold to official members. Register at the site to become a member. Due to high demand, you need to apply tickets to some games (against Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City). Read more here.

It may be easier to get tickets to other games like Cup mathes. A list of upcoming matches can be found here.

Another alternative is to buy tickets via a travel agency like Thomas Cook. That ususally requires that you also buy a hotel package which might be a little more expensive than if you book hotel yourself, but at least you will be able to get official tickets this way. Please be wary of unoffical sites selling tickets.

How to get to Old Trafford

The easiest way to get from the city centre to Old Trafford is to take the Metrolink trams from central stations like Victoria or Picadilly. Trams stop at several different stations that are within 5-10 minutes walking distance from the stadium, like the Old Trafford or Trafford Bar stops. You can also take the D/E lines to Pomona or Exchange Quay. See full network map here.

A full day pass on the Metrolink is quite inexpensive and costs about 5 GBP. That pass is also valid on the tram to the Manchester Airport, but it takes forever (about 1 hour) so I would recommend taking that train instead to and from the airport.

Where to stay

Trains and trams to and from the airport stop at the Picadilly station (tram requires a change at Deansgate), so staying at a hotel nearby is highly recommended. I stayed at Motel One across the street and it was great value for money. Clean, great location and it won’t break the bank.

 

An experience to remember

Old Trafford is the second largest football stadium in England, only second to Wembley. So naturally it was quite an experience to watch the team play live. I was lucky to get tickets really close to the pitch, fourth row, in the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand. How did the game end? United won the game against Rostov 1-0, Zlatan Ibrahimovic with the back-heel assist to Juan Mata’s goal.

After rain comes puddlegrams

It’s not always fun when it’s raining on your vacation, but there’s one advantage of rain and it’s called puddlegrams. I really like to take photos of new cities reflected in a pool of water. It often results in cool new perspectives.

So the next time you are on holiday and it stops raining, hit the streets in search of the biggest puddles.

Here are puddlegrams from our trip to London the other week.

A weekend in Belfast

 

belfast2016a

A weekend in Belfast
It’s amazing what you can accomplish in just a weekend if you just plan a little. Or a lot…  I like to plan my trips so that I get the most out of them. I recently travelled to Belfast for a weekend with a friend and we managed to experience both fantastic nature, some whiskey tasting, shopping and a local beer or three.

We landed on a Thursday afternoon and had a rental car waiting at the George Best International Airport. From what we had gathered it would be as cheap to rent a car for three days as it would cost to take the bus from and to the airport. Cheap, in other words. The only challenge was driving on the right side of the road, but I managed to not get us killed during any point of the trip. Goal one achieved.

The Crown Liquor Saloon
Once we had settled in we hit the streets for a bite to eat and some drinks. Everything is within walking distance so we left the car at the hotel.

Our first stop was the Crown Liquor Saloon, a former Victorian gin palace and one of Northern Ireland’s best-known pubs. We sat down at a table and although I’m used to finding Swedes wherever I go, I was a little surprised that the couple next to us were Swedish. I didn’t see Belfast as a typical destination for Swedish tourists, but there you go.

Anyway, the other couple told us to try the beer tasting option, so we did. You could choose three out of five different draught beers in smaller glasses which was perfect for me. I can’t drink three pints of beer in one evening.

beer

 

Here are the hard working bartenders trying to explain to confused Swedes what to order.

belfastbeers2

 

Giant’s Causeway and the Dark Hedges
We got up early on Friday morning because we had a lot to cover during the day. We drove north for about an hour and 20 minutes to get to the natural wonders of Giant’s Causeway. This was a must see for me during this trip and I was not disappointed. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is nothing short of amazing. As a result of volcanic activity millions of years ago, there are now some 40,000 hexagonal shaped basalt columns down by the water and it’s just spectacular.

Goal two achieved.

Giants Causeway
Giants Causeway

Everywhere we went we were told that we were lucky because the weather was great. It was sunny with some light overcast, so it was a great day to take photos at the causeway. As one guide told us:

“two days in a row in Northern Ireland without rain is called a drought” 

Giants Causeway Northern Ireland

Bushmills
After our visit to Giant’s Causeway we drove only a few minutes to Old Bushmills Distillery, the oldest whiskey distillery in Ireland. Bushmills was founded in 1608 and has been producing whiskey for more than 400 years.

Once again we were lucky because a tour of the premises was starting only two minutes after we arrived. So we walked the tour and got to smell the different barrels used to store the whiskey. All barrels that they use are “second hand” because the whiskey is supposed to aquire taste during the aging process from the previous liquids. Bourbon barrels, sherry casks and madeira drums are used for example.

We finished the tour with some whiskey tasting and a visit at the store to bring some bottles home.

Old Bushmills Distillery
Old Bushmills Distillery

The Dark Hedges
On our way back from Bushmills we took a small detour in order to visit the Dark Hedges, which is a tunnel of old beech trees from the 18th century. The Dark Hedges have appeared on Game of Thrones and it is a magnificent place. Unfortunately it was damaged quite a bit during a recent storm, but it is still impressive.

Game of Thrones - The Dark Hedges
The Dark Hedges – as seen in Game of Thrones

Gobbins Path
After a short stop at the Dark Hedges, we were in a bit of a hurry. We had a tour booked at Gobbins Path at 4.30 PM and we had specifically been asked to arrive fifteen minutes before in order for us to be all set when the tour was about to start.

But it’s quite a drive from the northern parts of the region down to Islandmagee on the coast north of Belfast. Roads are small and we were starting to become just a little concerned that we might be late. At 4.26 PM we stormed into the reception only to find out that we weren’t the last of our party to arrive.

Anyway, Gobbins Path is a cliff path originally built in 1902 as a tourist attraction. It was rebuilt and opened to the public again in August, 2015, and consists of a path along the cliffs, through caves and more than 20 bridges. The Tubular Bridge below is a replica of the original and the most famous of all the bridges on the path.

The tour along the path took about 2.5 hours and it was a true one-of-a-kind experience. I don’t think you can find a similar path anywhere else.

Gobbins Path
Our guide Robert at the entrance to Gobbins Path

Gobbins Path

The Tubular Bridge below.

Gobbins Path
Gobbins Path

Saturday
On Saturday it was raining, so apparently there was no drought this weekend 😉

We spent most of the morning at the Titanic Belfast, the museum to honour the legend of Titanic. We could have spent some more time there but we had an appointment after lunch, since we had managed to get tickets to the Irish Cup Final in football.

Titanic Belfast
Titanic Belfast

We had to grab a taxi in order to make it to the game in time and 30 seconds before the referee kicked the game off, we sat down in our seats.

It was a great atmosphere with fans from both teams singing and chanting throughout the game. In the end, Glenavon beat Linfield 2-0 to become champions.

Irish Cup Final 2016
Irish Cup Final 2016

We had dinner and beer at McHughs, a classic pub located in the oldest building in Belfast.

Belfast Castle
Belfast Castle

Sunday
Our KLM flight back to Stockholm on Sunday was scheduled at about 2PM so we had the morning for some last minute excursions.

We drove past Falls Road which is a road with significant political history. It has several political murals that we stopped to look at.

Then we drove up to Belfast Castle which was situated beautifully on the hillside with a view of Belfast. At least it used to have a great view, now trees blocked some of the view for us. We skipped the wedding exhibition inside the castle, since neither of us plan to get married again 😉

If we had had more time, I would have loved to walk up to Cave Hill, which is at the top of the hill, but that will have to wait until next time.

Before we left we stopped by the Victoria Square Shopping Centre. It has a really cool domed ceiling and you can go up to the top and get a great view of the entire city through the glass.

We did that one evening at sunset and it was a really cool view.

Victoria Square Dome
Victoria Square Dome

All in all, we had a great time and Belfast can be recommended as a weekend destination, at least if you make that a long weekend. There were a couple of things we didn’t have time to see, so maybe we’ll meet again…

The streets of Belfast

I think that one of the best ways to get to know a new city is to walk. That way you get a better sense of what life looks like in the city and how everything is connected. And you can take some great photos.

I took a series of black and white photos last weekend in Belfast and here are a few of them.

Image above from the area near Windsor Park, the national football stadium.

Above: beautiful building across the road from City Hall.

McHughs is a classic pub and it is located in what is claimed to be the oldest building in Belfast. And of course, we visited the pub to grab a Belfast Lager!

The Bank Buildings in Belfast

I spent the weekend in Belfast with a friend and had a great time. This is a thriving city with a nice mix of both old and new architecture.

We really didn’t have much time for shopping so we just walked by this nice old building called the Bank Buildings.

Originally it was home to a bank, and because the four founders of the bank all had the first name of John, the bank was called The Bank of the Four Johns.

Now the building houses a slightly less prominent business – a Primark store.