Sunday, 16 June 2013

Blackpool

Blackpool… I have to admit I’ve been avoiding this place.  We’ve been to nearby Lytham St Anne’s over the years, which is lovely.  However it was time for us to bite the bullet and visit Blackpool.

It’s very easy to get to Blackpool from North Manchester. Just jump on the M61, M6 and M55 and you are there in an hour.  Once you get into Blackpool it’s like entering the largest car park ever.  On a good sunny day or during the illuminations Blackpool can be heaving.  So it’s understandable the local council has worked hard to provide adequate parking.  We had decided to go to the town centre, as the Pleasure Beach doesn’t hold much fun for a couple of 40 odd year olds.  So we parked up and paid £3.50 for 3 hours parking. 
 
Blackpool is very much a Victorian town, which was its heyday.  Red brick buildings dominate the town.  The vast majority of pubs are of the traditional variety.  The shop fronts are bold and brash as befitting a seaside resort.  Before you get into the town centre the side streets are packed with large Victorian terraces, which now serve as local bed and breakfast dwellings for tourists and DSS-funded homeless families. 

However the big fly in the ointment to this trip was the weather.  When we left Manchester it was chucking it down with rain.  Then again that is not entirely unusual for Manchester.  As we approached Blackpool the rain had subsided and we could catch the odd shard of sunshine through the clouds.
Once we had got to the seafront, whilst the rain was holding off, it was windy.  The Irish Sea was very choppy and I felt sorry for anyone sailing on the sea that day.  I’ve spent many sea trips on the Irish Sea to know that choppy seas are the norm.  As it was high tide we decided to walk along the North Pier.  Given the wind and the occasional spatter of rain it was a feat of endurance to walk the full length of the pier.  We found a man bravely fishing at the end of the pier, whilst in a function room we saw a lone organist playing to the seagulls.  We also did spot the odd alcoholic pensioner sipping a pint in the end of pier bar.  This was truly depressing, so we practically ran back down the pier to find some shelter.  The amusement arcade wasn’t much fun either.  Just the usual set of machines set to fleece you.

We decided to eat at the Harry Ramsden’s restaurant on the seafront.  Our decision was in part due to it being a recognisable name and looked safer to eat at than some of the other fish and chip places we had found.  Naturally we had fish and chips.  I noticed the waitress did make sure that Neil had the largest fish.  The food was fine and I’m glad they have stopped serving bread and butter as part of the meal.  I know some people like this, but it makes me feel too stuffed by the end of the meal.
Despite the windy weather the seafront is looking much better these days.  I know millions have been spent to regenerate the seafront and it does look a lot better.  However the shops facing the seafront really do need a makeover to match the sandstone loveliness on the other side of the road.

I noticed the old trams had been replaced with brand spanking new ones.  It’s hard to know whether this is a good thing as the old trams did lend the place character.  Although I reckon the local residents are happier with the new ones.
As the walking along the seafront was proving a challenge we headed into Blackpool Town Centre in search of charity shops.  The charity shops are located in the rough end of town with the fast food shops and the scruffy pubs.  There were quite a few charity shops, but there was nothing exciting to report.  Neil was almost outraged when he found the ABBA ‘Visitors’ album priced at £10.  Apparently it’s only worth £1 in second hand record shops.  Although when we walked past the Winter Gardens ‘Mamma Mia’ the musical was on, so that might explain it.
 
We noticed lots of people in Blackpool had worn faces showing they had led hard lives.  As a result it was difficult to work out people’s ages.  There were quite a few disabled people out and about too on mobility scooters.  From what I have heard about Blackpool it’s a really deprived area and people’s health is not very good as a result.  The seasonal nature of the town means there must be high levels of unemployment here too.  There are lots of seaside towns across the UK in similar circumstances to Blackpool like Morecambe and Rhyl.  It’s sad to see, but these towns haven’t the same appeal to tourists as an all-inclusive in Spain or Turkey.  Blackpool is very much a day trip town or a wild weekend for 18 to 25 year olds.
In the centre of town it does perk up with some modern street art, pedestrianized streets and the Houndshill shopping centre.  There are two theatres in the centre of Blackpool: the Winter Gardens and The Grand.  They show a mad mix of musical theatre, comedians, psychics, cover bands, concerts and some weird cash-in theatre shows like ‘Faulty Towers – The Dining Experience.’
 
Houndshill shopping centre is definitely the classier shopping experience for the locals.  Whilst it’s nothing that exciting with the regular high street names, it’s still better than the rest of Blackpool for shopping.  I now understand why my colleague, who lives in Blackpool, always goes to the Trafford Centre to do her clothes and presents shopping.
We grabbed a coffee and a cake at the local Costa.  I have to say the lady who was doing my decaf coffee was really conscientious, as she noticed my coffee hadn’t developed the crema and knew it would taste bad so did it again.  Not all coffee bar staff would do this and she made me realise why sometimes decaf can taste vile.  Well done lady for explaining that to me!
We missed out the Pleasure Beach as the weather was too bad.  We also didn’t go to BlackpoolTower either.  Neil isn’t a fan of heights and I’m not a fan of windy days on top of a tall tower.  That meant we also missed out on the Tower Ballroom which is supposed to be lovely.  However we had already been somewhat disheartened by our trip and decided to head home a bit early.
Blackpool is a slave to the elements.  On a good weather day this place is buzzing, whilst on a bad weather day it’s dead along the seafront.  We can’t say we’ll be back soon and if we do we will make sure the weather will be good. 
Blackpool is a marmite town – you either love it or hate it.  We know people who absolutely love the place and go back whenever they can.  The local council have also worked really hard to modernise the seafront.  It’s just I’m still not convinced, but I think it’s down to my taste more than anything else.