• I have just spent a very pleasant weekend visiting friends in London. The trains were delayed, the snow fell continuously and the pavements were treacherous but it was a lovely weekend.

    I rarely visit London; the last time was about 6 years ago and I can’t remember the previous visit!

    A two hour walk around the sights of the Southbank felt like we’d been hiking for hours but it was well worth it. The streets were fairly quiet and, although we had to concentrate on walking in the snow, we were able to get in a pretty good walk. From the Shard to Lambeth Palace we went along the river and I took some photos. They have a very different quality to pictures taken on a clear day with a blue sky but I think they are lovely and atmospheric. Take a look and see if you agree.

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  • I was born in Manchester and I went to school there, although I lived in Stockport; as a teenager I went shopping in Manchester most Saturdays with my friend. In my late teens and early twenties Manchester was the place I went for a night out or to the theatre. Manchester is also the home of my beloved Manchester City. I live in Cheshire now but I still love Manchester.

    This weekend as the sun shone on Manchester, I took my son to some workshops at The Royal Exchange and found myself with a few hours to spend in the city centre. It was only two days since I had last been there and I kept to the area around the Royal Exchange and Corn Exchange.

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    On such a lovely day lots of people were around, enjoying the sunshine at cafes and bars. There were plenty of people about in Exchange Square too just taking a rest and soaking up the sunshine in our all too brief summer.

    We had a lovely walk around the cathedral, an area I haven’t been to for many years, and a quick visit to The National Football Museum. I will certainly be going back for a longer visit as I didn’t have time to explore thoroughly, but what I did see was really interesting and well displayed. I found myself wondering if my Grandad went to matches in a suit and flat cap, very unlike the replica kit and team colours worn to matches today.

    The new Co-Operative building is looking pretty good now too.

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    Manchester is a really beautiful city, especially if you take the trouble to look at all the amazing buildings. Of course, we don’t always get the sunshine which improves the look of almost any town, but next time you go to Manchester just lift your head from the shops and take a look around, even on a dull or rainy day you’ll see something to lift your spirits.

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  • I have just come home from a weekend in Madrid. I’ve never been before but my daughter moved there to work late last year and this was my first chance to pay her a visit. The daytime temperature is usually around 12° in February but was much colder this weekend, not getting above 5°, and very windy. The nights were well below freezing but the sky was mainly blue and the sun pleasant if you could get out of the wind. Most of the fountains and ponds were frozen but walking around the city centre kept me warm enough and there was plenty to see.

    Arriving on Friday evening I had a long walk to the Metro at the airport but the journey into the city centre was quick and easy. The Metro is clean, quick, efficient and cheap, the only disadvantages being the number of stairs I had to climb and the fact that you don’t see anything of Madrid while travelling underground!

    Having climbed the narrow stone stairs to my daughter’s very cold 3rd floor apartment it was time to set off to explore at 9.30 in the evening.

    La Latina was our destination that evening, taking in the river and views of the royal palace high above us as we went. La Latina is one of the oldest parts of Madrid and the streets are narrow but the squares are large. Like everywhere in Madrid there are hills and steps to climb and cobbled squares to wander through. We decided on Korgui as a place to eat and it was a good choice, the food and wine was excellent and the atmosphere busy without being rushed. A very enjoyable evening.

    The next morning we set out to explore further. Again we walked so that we would see as much as possible. We walked miles, passing the royal palace, shops, gardens, cafés and statues. We explored the Egyptian temple of Debod and took lots of photos. Churros and hot chocolate in a café warmed us and we found a lovely café for paella and cava at lunchtime and a good bar for cocktails in the evening.

    On the Sunday we visited the Prado art gallery and, after tapas and sangria, explored the Parque del Retiro. The weekend was over all too quickly and it was back to the airport for an evening flight home. I was tired but I had enjoyed a lovely weekend exploring Madrid and spending time with my daughter. All I need to do now is book in another weekend when it gets a bit warmer!

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