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!

Old Jameson Distillery

This morning I did the tour at the Old Jameson Distillery in Dublin.

But before I tell you about it, I should probably mention that a friend of mine works there as a tour guide – and in fact she took my tour today – so my comments may not be entirely objective (even though I don’t think she reads this site).

It was pretty quiet in the reception of the old distillery when I arrived at about 11.00am. On this cold December day, only a week before Christmas, the tourists were a bit thin on the ground – and those just ahead of me had only moments earlier set off on one of the regular tours.

But I wasn’t here to see any old tour – I wanted to see my friend in action, and she wasn’t starting the next tour for another 30 minutes, so I decided to settle back in the café and treat myself to a hot whiskey (Jamesons of course). I don’t normally drink spirits so early in the day – and rarely drink whiskey at all – but it seemed like a good idea at the time. And I must say I did enjoy it very much, and it helped the wait pass very quickly.

The tour started, and my small group were ushered into an auditorium for an introduction and film about Irish whiskey and the history of John Jameson. My friend was taking the tour, and we had kind-of colluded not to disclose to any of the other visitors that we knew each other – mostly so as to not spoil things for them – but also so that I could secretly infiltrate the group and encourage them all to laugh at her jokes.

After the film, we were taken through a series of rooms, each showing the different stages in the manufacturing process. This isn’t a working distillery however (the production of Jameson moved from Dublin to County Cork some years ago) – it’s more of a whiskey makers museum, with mock-ups of the different parts of the whiskey making processes. As you go from room to room, you learn about the preparation of the barley, the mashing of the grains, and the distilling and ageing of the resultant spirit.

It’s an interesting tour, and slickly put together. But best of all, everyone over 18 years of age gets a free shot of Jamesons (with a mixer if preferred) to try for them self at the end. And three people from each tour group are also invited to take part in a tasting – which involves sampling five different drinks (3 different Irish whiskeys, a Scottish whisky, and an American bourbon), with the eventual aim of picking out your favourite.

Of course, I made sure that I volunteered for the tasting at the end (it was free booze!), joining two enthusiastic American gentlemen from Washington DC. And all three of us ended up selecting Jameson as our favourite – for my part because I found it more smooth and drinkable than the Scottish and American varieties (a statement that will no doubt get me into a lot of trouble with my whisky-drinking Scottish friends).

Anyway, so I really enjoyed the tour, and ended up feeling pleasantly merry by the end of the tasting (just in time for lunch), so it was all good. And I enjoyed the Jamesons so much, that I even stopped off to buy myself a bottle on the way home. Here in Dublin, I hear the cool thing to do is to mix it with Cranberry juice, which I’ll have to try. But in the mean time, I’ll just make do with a dash of water in it (which is how I was taught to drink whisky in Scotland).

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