Old Trafford Stadium Tour

On Saturday we took my 8-year-old nephew to the Old Trafford Stadium Tour in Manchester. He’s a big Manchester United fan, and had been eagerly looking forward to the visit for weeks.

We set off early for the airport, to catch our flight from Dublin to Manchester. We then took the tram from the airport to Trafford Bar, which is 18 stops and a 40 minute ride. We changed platforms and got onto another tram, and took 1 stop to Old Trafford. The tram station itself is beside the cricket ground (also called Old Trafford), and so there’s a 1km walk to the football ground.

We arrived at the ground at about 1pm, and headed for some lunch in the Red Cafe, which is part of the visitors attractions in the ground. The food is pretty standard fair – burgers, fish and chips, and so forth – but it’s pretty good quality, and reasonably priced around the £10-12 range.

After lunch we headed for the museum, which is included in the price of the tour. The museum contains thousands of items of memorabilia stretching over the lifetime of the club. There’s hundreds of different trophies, football shirts, programmes, and other items – and an interesting section about the Munich disaster, when a plane carrying the team in 1958 crashed and killed 23 people.

At our pre-booked tour time, we gathered up at the meeting point, and our two guides took us into the stadium.

It was pretty cool to see all the different parts, including the dressing rooms, VIP room, press theatre, director’s box, and the player’s tunnel. My nephew was especially excited as he was picked to lead out the ‘team’ from the tunnel to the pitch-side.

Old Trafford Selfie

Old Trafford Selfie

I was interested to note the marked difference between the home and away dressing rooms. The home team definitely have an advantage, in terms of facilities and atmosphere, to help them in their preparations before the game – but I’m sure that happens in all sports stadiums.

After the tour, which takes around an hour, we then had just enough time to visit the Manchester United Megastore to pick up a few souvenirs, before it was time to head back to the airport for our flight home.

It had been a long day by the time we got home, but we enjoyed it – especially my nephew, who will no doubt be talking about it to anyone who’ll listen for weeks to come!

Tour

It was, perhaps, the most undemanding choir tour I had ever been on. Usually these tours are organised to try and cram in at least three or four different concerts. But in Loreto, our only commitment was to sing a single concert on the Thursday evening.

We were performing with a local Italian orchestra, orchestra, and conductor. And we would need two rehearsals on the proceeding evenings with them, to ensure that everything would gel on the night. But apart from that, the rest of the time – during the day – was our own.

Now Loreto is quite a small town, and apart from the magnificent basilica and the picturesque cobbled streets, there’s not an awful lot to see or do – particularly in March when it’s off-season for tourists. But we managed to find a rather pleasant café to sit outside and watch the world go by. The coffee drinkers in the group, of course, were in 7th heaven – gulping down those expertly-made espressos as if there were no tomorrow. And the shopping wasn’t bad either, as long as you’re keen on religious memorabilia.

The music was very satisfying too (well our part anyway – I didn’t hear any of the other choirs singing in the festival), and the orchestra was excellent. We started our concert with a short selection of contemporary pieces, but the main event was an abridged rendition of Handel’s Messiah.

Every seat in the basilica was taken, with quite a few people standing at the back. A whole load of the town’s dignitaries were also in residence – indicating that this was a really big deal. And they were a very appreciative crowd. Our standing ovation at the end seemed to go on for ever. And as we were leaving the building afterwards, I think we were all being stopped by people offering congratulations (I’m assuming it was congratulations, as my Italian is none-existent… in response I just smiled, nodded, and said “grazie” a lot!).

It was a brief first taste of Italy for me, and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would definitely love to go back in the near future and see a bit more of the country.

Off the rails

Despite the very best efforts of National Express East Anglia to try and delay me on Tuesday morning, I did eventually make it Stansted Airport in time to catch my plane to Italy and join the rest of Christ Church choir on tour.

My timetable allowed me just over 3 hours before check-in closed, to make the 90 minute journey from Peterborough to Stansted. And I ended up needing every single spare minute. The train out of Peterborough was late arriving, and then got cancelled in Ely; throwing its passengers off onto the platform with little clue how to proceed. The next train then got us as far as Cambridge before that terminated too. And the third train was a good 20 minutes late leaving for Stansted – although it did manage to make it all the way to its destination.

In the end it took us a full 2 hours and 45 minutes to get there. And from some of the phone calls I overheard from my fellow passengers, some of them had completely missed their flights.

I was lucky, however, and made it with 20 minutes to spare. However, the whole experience probably took a couple of years off my life; what with the stress of it all.

In contrast, the two trains we caught in Italy itself (on the other end of the flight) both ran exactly to time – to the minute. And the Italian ticket inspector even waived the €50 fine we should have paid, when we failed to validate our train tickets before boarding.

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