The Grand Tour – College Reunion!
Friday November 25th 2016
Forget Clarkson, Hammond and May! Below is an account of my trip over to Lancashire for a College Reunion! I attended Leigh College between 1998 and 2000 (I studied Media Studies, Spanish, IT and General Studies for the record) – and after 16 years, it was time to see people once again who I studied with… A night away on the other side of the Pennines!
This was me – back in 2001, with Alan Travers. I was just 19!!! From the days when I drank cheap lager…
Me and my school friend Adam (who I hadn’t seen in nine years!) leave Bradford (shortly after I’d almost set our kitchen on fire – but that’s another article for another day!), first stop was the Starbucks Coffee Drive-Thru at Rooley Lane, Bradford – just a couple of minutes from the end of the M606 motorway. Time for a festive drink to get our road trip underway!
My experience of Starbucks was on Saturday afternoons in Manchester – in their St. Anne’s Square café. My weekly treat was a Caramel Macchiata, and me and my friends Craig and Antony would sit in the basement and put the world to rights.
Back to present day. There’s a couple of ‘Starbucks Drive-Thru’ outlets in Bradford now, one at the bottom of the M606 motorway (just off junction 26 of the M62) and the other is close to the Asda supermarket on Rooley Lane, just a couple of minutes from the A650. Of course, this is just a couple of examples from near to where I live, but all over the UK, there’s plenty of Starbucks outlets to try this year’s winter offerings.
I decide to order a Gingerbread Latte – the biggest size available to order on the menu… And it’s gigantic – it almost lasts me until I get to our hotel! Good value too. Drive-Thru service took literally a couple of minutes, would have never considered using a Drive-Thru stop for coffee before – after all the interior of the Starbucks at Rooley Lane is appealing too with quiet corners to sit and watch the world go by. But it’s good and quick service – just want you want before a long journey ahead.
Adam orders a Frappucino, and I order a cookie to fill my stomach before it gets lined with various liquid at the college reunion! I could have picked one of their ‘Winter Sandwich’ offerings – including the Roast Beef and Blue Cheese Brioche Baguette… Or the Turkey Feast Baguette… All sound tempting… I will have to return before Christmas.
Now, drinks loaded up – we head for the motorway. Adam’s radio station of choice is Radio 1. All new to me – I’m a Radio 2 man normally… It’s rare if I’ve heard of a song that was released after 1989!
We arrive at our lodgings for the evening – the Mercure at Wigan. It’s literally a couple of minutes walk from Wigan’s Grand Arcade shopping centre – it’s in the heart of the town centre.
If you’ve never ventured to Wigan, there’s plenty to entertain you. It’s the birthplace of Northern Soul, home to the Wigan Warriors Rugby League team and Wigan Athletic Football Club, there’s also the famous Wigan Pier and Haigh Hall nearby is also worth a walk around. Wigan is also the home of Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls and the Heinz Beans factory – did you know that?!
Me at the Mercure, Wigan (with Christmas decorations in the background!)
Inside the Mercure, Alexis was on Reception and greeted us warmly and we were shown to Room 406 – a twin room – with tea and coffee making facilities (I enjoyed the Twinings Green Tea – the Mango and Strawberry one wasn’t bad either), and a Freeview TV on the wall.
Bathroom was very clean – a bath/shower – and there were complimentary toiletries too… Also a couple of chairs and a table, which was useful to sit and catch up with my journal.
My 3G signal on my network wasn’t great, but not a problem – I went back down in the lift to see Alexis on Reception and she kindly provided me and Adam with a some free Wi-Fi codes; a really nice touch.
Time to catch the bus into Wigan! I’d downloaded the Arriva bus app, to assist us on our journey. Did we need to call a taxi? No, we had plenty of time to walk to the bus stop and catch the 593 into Leigh. The Arriva app has live bus time information, and will tell you the exact time your bus should arrive – for us, the information was spot on.
A screenshot of the Arriva app I was using. Really useful program – and as you can see from this snapshot, easily to see if the bus is running to time along the route.
An Arriva Adult Day Bus Ticket costs just £4.20 – this provides Unlimited travel for one day on all Arriva services operating within the Greater Manchester zone, including Altrincham, Bolton, Eccles, Manchester & Wigan. For our journey, we used the Greater Manchester ticket, but other tickets are available.
A comfortable 30 minute bus ride, spacious seats – compare that to the £12 it would have cost in a taxi from our hotel to Leigh and the bus is a brilliant option.
On the bus, we had our first college reunion – Janet Howkins got on the bus, and we started talking straight away. In an instant we were back in 1998 – who needs a De Lorean time machine?!
Reunion time! A brilliant evening – and for those who think a reunion might be awkward… Speaking to people you haven’t seen in 16 years… It was far from that. The four hours passed too quickly. Julie Mckiernan, who organised the event even arranged a cake to celebrate the occasion. We all gathered for a large photo for posterity – with former pupils from 1975 to 2005 in attendance.
Me at the College Reunion. Where’s the lighting in the room?! (Left to Right – Alan, Me, Paul and Carolyn)
I’m normally a ‘real ale’ man, but the venue didn’t have any such offerings. Oh well, San Miguel it was.
Me at the College Reunion. (Left to Right – Amanda, Anthony, Adam and Me)
Saturday November 26th 2016
Wake up – first thing to note was I’d had a good night’s sleep, the hangover could have been so much worse! Comfortable bed – thumbs up from me! Also have to note that there was no traffic noise either; which I’ll be honest came as a surprise to me, particularly as the hotel is quite close to the town centre. But, peace and quiet – a blessing! I’ve lost count how many places I’ve stayed where I’ve been kept awake from traffic during the night!
I put the TV on – Fidel Castro has died! Sky News with ongoing coverage.
Sky News on TV in our hotel room before breakfast. The 2016 Death List continues to grow…
Me and Adam head down to breakfast, which is served till 11am on Saturday, and is based on the ground floor of the hotel. It seems like ages since I’ve had a full cooked breakfast in a hotel, and this one did not disappoint. Friendly, attentive service from the hotel staff – our breakfast started with coffee, perfect for a cold Saturday morning. Then, onto the toast and cooked breakfast – all available to help yourself to – sausages, bacon, beans, etc… even my old favourite, black pudding.
Alexis is there on Reception to say farewell to us as we leave – a thoroughly enjoyable stay, and a complimentary copy of today’s ‘i’ newspaper available to read for all guests too.
The Mercure on a frosty November morning!
I’m back in Bradford – will there be another reunion? Will I see my college friends again? I for one, hope so. Although, next time I might not have any hair 😦
Our coffees, hotel stay and bus travel were complimentary but all views are my own. Many thanks to Starbucks, Mercure and Arriva for their assistance with compiling this feature.