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Full disclosure here: having led museum tours for ten years, I’m not at all a fan of going on guided tours myself. And our visit to Manchester did not start off on a high note: our ride in from the airport was on a bus whose driver blasted heavy-metal music the entire trip, including, not a word of a lie, AC/DC’s ‘Highway to Hell.’ We looked out at the garbage by the road and the graffiti on buildings and were prepared to be completely unimpressed by Manchester.
That had all changed after we spent an incredible afternoon touring this beautiful, historic city with John in his comfy taxicab. We had just one day in Manchester and are we ever glad we chose to spend part of it with him. John was voted Manchester’s top tour guide and is in the top ten guides for the whole country and it’s easy to see why.
We are HUGE fans of the soap ‘Coronation Street’, and not only has John appeared on the show, he was able to show us plenty of the filming locations as well as some of the streets in Salford which were the original inspiration for the show. (Ask him to show you where Rick Astley recorded ‘Never Going to Give You Up’).
Architecture is one of my main interests, and John seemed to know every building in Manchester and took the time to show us his favorites. We started off with the Royal Exchange, which is pretty magnificent, and continued on to Chetham’s Library. It’s the oldest surviving library in the world, a stunning Elizabethan building, and definitely not the sort of thing we’d have stumbled upon by ourselves. John took us to his favorite spot in the city, where you can see nothing around you but medieval Manchester, which was absolutely magical.
Thanks to its importance as a textile centre, there was plenty of money in 19th-century Manchester and the High Victorian architecture will knock your crinolines off. There’s another gem down every side street and John knows them all.
John’s insider knowledge is phenomenal but what really made this tour so worth while was the passion and affection John has for his city. Manchester may have known its share of hard times, but it’s coming back up, and by the time John dropped us at the Coronation Street: The Tour, we had fallen in love with the city. John may very well be the best booster the city has. Thanks to John we are already talking about another trip to Manchester and we absolutely want to see him again.
One technical note: my husband doesn’t find it as easy to get in and out of cars as he once did and the London taxicab John uses was perfect for him – there’s no lowering yourself down to get in, and because it has two jumpseats facing the back passenger seat, the space for two people is nothing short of extravagant. If you have to bring your luggage along on the tour it’s the perfect vehicle.