Whitby Gothic Weekend UK: Goth rock concerts & style! Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Last Dance, Bella Morte.

victorian fashion market

I’m pleased you enjoyed my first report from Whitby Goth Weekend 2015! It was my first time at this massive British alt music and culture festival, and the entire town was filled with dark inspiration.

Let’s continue this WGW series with style snaps of attendees, a browse through the fashion bazaars

(Find Goth corsets, boots and more below)

sigue sigue sputnik singer

… and a review of the Goth and Glam musical performances. 

whitby uk ocean scenic

Whitby is a seaside town in Yorkshire (northern England). At first, this seems to be a bizarre location for a Goth music and culture festival.

However, when you witness the dramatic skies, crashing waves and Dracula abbey on the horizon, it all makes sense.

english countryside farm cat

Photographer Joey Wong spotted this appropriately black cat, giving us the evil eye.

haunted house ghost girl

To get in the mood, I dressed as a Victorian “woman in black” and haunted our Sykes Cottages rental.

We were glad to have a quaint, comfortable place to relax between the various Goth concerts and activities.

japanese ghost woman

Staying with Sykes Cottages meant we got to experience “country living,” yet stay within walking distance to the center of Whitby. And we weren’t at all “roughing it” — the cottage rental had several bathrooms and a fully stocked modern kitchen.

I recommending finding accommodations through their site, if you’re coming to Whitby Goth Weekend. If only my ghost could linger here longer!

whitby england water shore

We spent most of our time at the Spa Pavilion, where the live music takes place. The Spa also has a cafeteria and multiple halls filled with vendors.

As I noted before, you’ll have to climb a steep flight of stairs to reach the Spa, so wear appropriate footwear…

steampunk metal suit

The Spa is also the best place to people-watch. We were stunned by this gentleman’s DIY steampunk suit. Those clockwork gears and details!

He even rigged the outfit so that at the press of a button, steam emanated from the top of his headpiece. 

whitby fashion goths

We saw an enormous variety of fashion at WGW — carnival, cyber, Goth, deathrock, Victorian, pin-up.

Many attendees wore elaborate clothing that they made themselves, out of materials like feathers.

whitby gothic weekend tickets, passes

We recommend getting passes in advance via the Whitby Goth Weekend website, since early birds get discounts. The next event is in October, so you can plan ahead.

The organizers graciously gave us press passes. All of the staff was knowledgeable and well-prepared, and happy to answer questions.

steampunk shop, england

Bring British pounds with you, as there are at least three different locations for vendor markets. These independent sellers set up booth, and sell one-of-a-kind alternative accessories, sweets, clothing, you name it.

whitby goth bazaar market

This is what the scene looked like, in just one of the halls… As you can imagine, it gets overwhelming! I suggest briskly looking through everything first, and then coming back to narrow down what you want to purchase.

steampunk pocketwatch, watch

Steampunk is one of the most popular aesthetics at Whitby Goth Weekend. You can complete your outfit with a top hat or brass pocket-watch.

goth decorated skull cake

I’m loving this Goth wedding cake, which looks like a weathered book.

skull chocolates, skeleton cake

It was Whitby Goth Weekend’s 21st anniversary, so they prepared a chocolate skull cake! There were also bat lollies and absinthe chocolates for sale.

cameo gothic jewelry

The bazaar had lots of spooky-cute designs, like these coffin earrings and Victorian cameo necklaces.

(Below are some Steampunk items for sale.)

stuffed toy bat, goth toys

I gave the giant stuffed bat a squeeze. There are gifts for all ages, from kawaii-Goth pillows to toddler t-shirts.

cyber goth gasmask

Now, let’s take a closer look at people’s personal style at the festival. There was no set dress code — you’ll come across all ages, all aesthetics.

The only overall link was “dark creativity,” as exemplified in this apocalyptic gasmask and steampunk explorer.

deathrock shaved hair, goth hairstyle

My friend Nyx wears Dracula Clothing — love her vampiric collar and collection of silver rings.

baby goth, gothic kids

We saw a fair number of baby-Goths and children at the event. This one loved posing for photos, and rocked her pink cyber locks.

Very cool to see how Goths from the 80s and 90s now have families, who all take part in the lifestyle.

used gothic clothing market

The Spa also holds the “Bring and Buy,” where you can sell and purchase used clothing at discount prices.

Be sure to arrive early, since all the vending bazaars close around 5pm. After, only wristband-wearers (who bought passes) are allowed into the venue to watch the concerts.

the last dance singer

Joey and I got to see the bands from the photography area, just inches from the performers. We began the evening with The Last Dance, a Goth rock band that has been releasing consistently strong albums since they formed in California in 1990.

whitby goth weekend bands, concert

Vocalist Jeff Diehm sang a few songs with female guest Velvet Shadow. The band’s category-defying dark synth sound, coupled with a joyous stage presence, made for one of the most enjoyable performances of WGW.

goth band, vocalist last dance

The Last Dance ended with a raucous cover of “Dead Man’s Banter.” You couldn’t help but smile when Jeff and guest Ed Banshee linked arms and swayed together on stage.

whitby goth concert, spa stage

Whitby Goth Weekend’s concert hall has impressive acoustics. The space has an intimate feeling, perhaps since everyone in the audience traveled a long way to come to this festival.

For every band, there were fans leaning over the railing, singing along to every song. 

sigue sigue sputnik performing

Next, it was glitter-punk decadence with Sigue Sigue Sputnik! Mohawks, sequined tops, horse tails, and codpieces took over the stage, and we knew we were in for a wild ride.

glam rock band, female bassist

The band tore through glam rock numbers from the 1980s to the recent “Electronic” incarnation. The outfits and shenanigans took center stage, but each members had the musical chops to back up this visual candy.

sigue sigue sputnik singer

Martin Degville looked like a dystopian punk, with his fishnet mask and salacious gestures. Near the end of the set, he launched into a cover of David Bowie’s “Jean Genie,” to the delight of the crowd.

bella morte singer Andy Deane

Last but not least, we have Bella Morte. Joey’s image captures the pure, visceral energy from frontman Andy Deane. He leapt all over the stage — sometimes veering dangerously close to the equipment and ledge — and kept everyone in rapt attention.

bella morte gothic band

The group’s name means “beautiful death,” and it fits their music: sometimes hard and dark, but always beautiful. Bella Morte’s latest album, “Exorcisms,” encapsulates the feeling of watching them raw and live on stage.

goth dance party, whitby england

After the last set, the Spa turned into the ultimate Goth party! The DJs’ playlist veered towards old school Gothic, New Wave and post-punk tracks, which I personally love to hear.

The dancefloor looked like a coven of witches, swaying in their long black gowns.

See these bands and dancers in action, in the video above and on VideofyMe.

dracula abbey ruins, whitby uk

I leave you with the ominous Whitby Abbey… Later, I’ll show you an editorial magazine cover photoshoot that we did right against the church ruins.

Isn’t it wonderful to see dark, alternative bands and fashion thriving, at Whitby Goth Weekend? Perhaps you’ll make the trip out for the next WGW during Halloween 2015!

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There’s a La Carmina room at Hotel sáv! Hong Kong boutique hotels, Floor of Love art theme rooms.

la carmina themed hotel room

Remember when my team and I went to Hong Kong twice, to participate in the opening of Hotel sáv? At last, I can unveil the colorful fruits of our labor:

1) We decorated a La Carmina themed room at the hotel, featuring original paintings by First Mate Naomi Rubin!

2) And our video about Hong Kong’s most colorful travel attractions — from the Big Buddha statue to Miffy stores — is out. Watch it above, and published on Business Insider.

I’m constantly amazed at the opportunities that come up from travel blogging. Decorating my own room at a boutique hotel is a new milestone, and I was honored when Hotel sáv asked me to take part in their “Floor of Love” project.

hong kong interior designer, bedroom

In a nutshell, artists from around the world are selected to create a themed room on the 22nd floor. We visited last year before the hotel opened, and our room (#2219) was a blank canvas

The team at sáv gave us free reign to decorate the room however we wanted — as long as it fit with their message of love, community and charity. 

hong kong empty apartment, kowloon

Hong Kong is a compact city, and hotel rooms are inevitably on the small side. However, sáv’s modern materials and large windows gave the space an airy feeling. Artist Naomi says, “It was from those initial views that the ideas for these paintings began.”

black white gothic shoes

Our room had a vibrant view of the Hung Hom, Kowloon surroundings. I balanced on the ledge in my black-and-white Steelground Shoes – aren’t the metal heels and buckles marvelous?

blogger designing decorating room

The theme of “love” could take on many different meanings — where to start? I knew I wanted the room to represent the universe seen on this blog — the love for travel, Japan, alternative culture, and wild creativity.

I brought in my First Mate Naomi Rubin, who I run La Carmina & The Pirates with, to put this vision onto canvas.

hong kong hotel construction

In September 2014, the hotel was still under construction — only the bare skeleton was in place. My filmmakers captured the tremendous “before and after” transformation, in our new video.

nails on big wood cross

Leave it to me to find something Gothic, even on a construction site.

(Photos and videos by Borderless Media.)

floor of love, hotel sav

When we returned in February 2015, what a change! The building had blossomed into a stylish, contemporary boutique hotel.

The special 22nd floor looked like a gallery, with beautiful theme rooms and hallways lined with paintings.

tactile art for blind people

Some of the pieces were by artists with disabilities. This one had tactile elements, for a blind person to enjoy.

la carmina bedroom door

So exciting… the placard on 2219 marks our “Love the Dream” room. (Yes, you can request to stay here when you visit!)

la carmina decorated hotel room

And here is what the La Carmina x Naomi Rubin decoration looks like! (Can’t believe this started out as a bare room, as seen at the top of the post.)

The hotel’s website says: “In this room, Naomi and La Carmina jointly created a different perspective that we have never seen through imagination, sub-consciousness and dreams. To spice up the décor, they created 5 paintings based on what they explored during their stay in Hong Kong.”

hong kong art design hotel

I’ll show you more photos from our room later in this post, but first, let’s see some of the other artists’ designs. 

Hotel sáv brought in creative talents working in a variety of genres, from all over the world. It was inspiring to see how they all did their own unique riffs on the “love” theme.

sav floor of love rooms

In this room, Sarah Tse displays her pencil drawings and papermaking, inspired by her childhood memories and dreams. She included shelves of nostalgic found objects throughout the room.

chocolate rain, chinese artist room

Room 2201 – Love the Memory

Remember when we visited the cute character studio, Chocolate Rain in PMQ? Creator Prudence Mak filled her room with her handcrafted, smiling pieces. Her works range from postcards to bedspreads to a giant statue, all evoking the wonderland feeling of childhood.

e herder artist china

Room 2202 – Love the Planet

I spread my wings in this room designed by E Herder, a contemporary artist living in Beijing. His “circles” are reflections on life and connectedness, drawing influences from Zen Buddhism. Meditate on these circles, and you’ll notice unexpected materials like artificial fur pressed into patterns.

janine claase south africa painter

Room 2203 – Love the Community

Hailing from South Africa, Janine Claase hung up works that reflect on our interactions in social media and “real” life. She explores human connections and how modern media can either help or hinder our ability to create communities. 

hong kong hotel room

How did we go about, decorating our own room?

Naomi prepared two circular acrylic paintings, which she cleverly framed with the skeleton of a clock. She brought these works to Hong Kong — and with the help of Eric’s arm, we figured out the best locations to hang them on the walls.

hanging painting on wall

Now that’s what I call “using man-power!”

sav hotel hong kong rooms

Once we had finalized the location of the artworks, Hotel sáv called in a maintenance team to nail them in place.

How many people does it take to hang a painting? 

naomi rubin artist naomiyaki

In this case, a minimum of six!

travel blogger hotel room

“La Carmina Room” #2219 – Love the Dream

And here you have it: our finished room! Of course, we chose purple pillows and lights as our color scheme. (Each room at Hotel sáv comes with a remote, which lets you change the color of the lights in your room.)

hong kong artist exhibit

Artist Naomi Rubin writes: “Floor of Love can be interpreted in many ways, but because the Pirates live on travel, I wanted guests to feel like they could venture out, even while back in their own hotel room. Both pieces explore things we pirates love about travel from different views: one is up in the clouds and the other is grounded, with an aesthetically detailed view of a community.”

naomi rubin painting

She adds, “The framing of the two paintings was chosen to make the pieces feel like additional windows in the room: portholes that would add to the view of the Hong Kong skyline.”

The circular paintings are acrylic on paper, and the Honk Kong drawings are ink wash with pen.

hong kong people sketches

It was Naomi’s first time in Hong Kong. She says, “Above the bed are 5 pieces that I did while in Hong Kong during the hotel Sáv opening. These show a more personal record of how I absorb some of those same elements of travel shown in the window paintings: people, family, fashion, and the balance of nature with human architecture.”

goth steampunk shoes art
“While both porthole paintings feature imagery based on the things that La Carmina & the Pirates focus on when traveling, the Window Community piece goes a bit deeper, drawing from Japanese and neo-victorian fashion and buildings. There is even a reference to one of the Pirate’s favorite Tokyo late-night eateries in the background.”

(See more of Naomi’s art on her Naomiyaki website.)

cool unique hong kong hotels

If you’re coming to Hong Kong, wouldn’t you like to stay in the La Carmina room? Well, you can! Just book Room 2219 via the Hotel sáv website.

Best of all, you’ll be making a contribution to charity. When you stay on the Floor of Love, 15% of your fee will be donated to “Make-A-Wish Foundation” and “Arts with the Disabled Association” in Hong Kong. After a year, all of these art pieces will be auctioned to raise funds for charitable organizations.

miffy cake 東海堂

If you need more reason to stay at Hotel sáv, then watch our travel video about the many cool attractions nearby.

These include Arome Bakery, who make the infamous Miffy cake!

stuffed plush miffy toys dolls

Walk down the street from the hotel, and you’ll find Wonderland. This store that sells every character good imaginable, even pirate Miffy.

blue colorful flowers

This nearby flower shop sums up the “color journey” of the hotel. Sav’s philosophy is that colors can inspire and elevate a guest’s stay, and encourage positive action in the community.

Their name sums it up: S is for style, A for attitude, and V for vision.

hotel sav staff team

Thank you to the staff for inviting us to take part in this artistic love-in! Find out more — and book a stay in the La Carmina room! — through the Hotel sáv website.

cute lion dancers, chinese new year

And please take a moment to watch our travel video here. Wouldn’t you like to visit Hong Kong for yourself? (Above is a joyous memory from the hotel’s Lion Dance, one of the Chinese New Year celebrations that we experienced.)

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Fashion blogger profile on FashionOne TV! Tokyo’s Cutest Stores: Kokokim pastel goth, Harajuku girls.

cute japanese teen girls, harajuku twins

Tokyo remains the cutest place on Earth — and there’s no better place than Harajuku for fashion inspiration! 

Wouldn’t you like to follow along with me in Tokyo, and see what happens on a typical day? You can, thanks to the magic of television…

military gold brocade dress

I’m honored to be profiled by FashionOne, the international style TV network that broadcasts to 120 countries worldwide!

The “day in a life of La Carmina” episode first aired on June 15, but you can see it on repeat and online on FashionOne’s channel (or just click play below).

In this feature, you’ll catch glimpses of the Pokemon cafe, Line Friends store, and Odigo travel launch party — where I dressed as a Grand Budapest Lobby Girl.

Thank you to Stephanie and everyone at FashionOne TV, for letting me share my world with you. The video is created and produced by my travel filmmaking partners, Borderless Media.

tokyo airbnb apartment rental

In the video, you’ll notice that my team and I stayed at an AirBNB in Shibuya. We’re big fans of this short-term apartment rental site, which lets you live in comfort — as if you were a local — while spending less. Our apartment had two bedrooms and a kitchen, and was a five minute walk from the station. (Psst, here is my AirBNB discount link that gets you $31 off your first booking!)

A lot of people ask me where to stay in Tokyo. If you’re only visiting for a short time, I urge you to stay in one of the major districts (I prefer Shibuya or Shinjuku). This way, you won’t waste time and money on getting to the city every day. Also keep in mind that the trains stop running around 1am, so you might as well be in a neighborhood where you can party and then walk home.

harajuku punk clothing

But let’s go back to fashion blogging in Japan. To celebrate the release of the FashionOne episode, I thought I’d share photos of the best alternative shopping destinations in Tokyo.

Let’s start with Harajuku, since it was featured in the travel video. Over the years, Takeshita Doori has gotten more and more commercial. Nonethless, you can still find Goth, punk and metal fashion here.

goth harajuku boutiques

At AC/ DC, the clothes are inexpensive ($10-40 US per item), and have cute-Gothic prints you can’t easily find anywhere else.

cool harajuku tutus hoodies

Such as tutu-dresses and this Miffy-mouthed hoodie.

kera magazine lolita dessert dress

Many of Harajuku’s shops are quite mainstream now, but if you wander down the side-streets, you’ll find the gems. Here’s a sign for Kera Magazine, featuring a cute model in a dessert-pastry-print Lolita JSK.

stayreal japan shop, hello kitty

The StayReal brand is actually from Taiwan. The Heavy Metal Hello Kitty sign gives you a hint of the cute meets edgy fashion inside.

hyper core, japanese designer

It pains me to report that more punk and Gothic brands are closing doors. Sex Pot Revenge is now no more. On the bright side, Hyper Core and Listen Flavor are still around.

dog harajuku, punk store

And the experimental fashion boutique, Dog, is as madcap as ever. (Address: 3-23-3 Jingumae, Harajuku)

avantgarde harajuku clothing shop

Every time I go down these stairs, I’m astonished by their intricate, avantgarde designs. Dog’s pricetags are expensive — I’ve never bought anything here, but I love to loo.

famous japanese punk boutique

Lady Gaga and others go nuts for the various handmade garments, from Japan and all over.

mori girl clothes, vintage

For more affordable prices, stop by Kinji, the secondhandstore on Meiji-jingumae. Mori and dolly-vintage fashion is big here.

funny japanese graffiti

And if you have no money to spend at all… Well, Death Is Free!

shibuya crossing buildings

Onward to Shibuya, another favorite neighborhood for the young and trendy. There are endless restaurants and bars here.

black cherry jrock band

Inside Tsutaya (the music and DVD store), we saw these posters for the Jrock band Black Cherry. Looks like the two guys are giving some “fan service”…

kawaii statue japan

Everyone has a smartphone these days, even this cute bear sitting at the top of a skyscraper.

rainbow lights tokyo shibuya

Neon lights — Shibuya at night! (Photos by Borderless Media, using my Sony Alpha 7 (A7) mirrorless DSLR)

japanese flower manhole covers

Don’t forget to look down, or you’ll miss these Japanese manhole covers, decorated like flowers.

feather crown hat

High-quality images are important to me, so in recent years, my blog photos are all from DSLR cameras. However, there are times when I’m in a hurry, and simply use my iPhone to capture inspiration.

I usually share these snaps on my Instagram, but felt I should also put some in this post for you. Keep on reading for my Tokyo smartphone snaps…

fairy kei retro clothes

… including a peek at the Kokokim pastel goth boutique, which sells coffin purses in mint and lavender!

♡ Lots of photos below, click to see ♡ More here!

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Manchester’s hipster Northern Quarter: Afflecks & Cyberdog! Goth punk shopping, modern British restaurants.

Affleck's Palace manchester england sign

When I announced I was traveling to Manchester, I received a lot of messages that said, “You must visit Afflecks!” To my surprise, there’s an alternative fashion palace in the city’s Northern Quarter, with several floors dedicated to Goth, retro, pin-up, rave, you name it.

I say we take a tour of this hip district, followed by a round-up of Manchester restaurants that shattered my expectations of “bland British cuisine.”

jpop fashion style, punk pop

That day, I went for a “cat in the hat” look. My sweater is Sex Pot Revenge, and my striped hat is Super Lovers (both are Japanese punk labels). My spooky patterened pants are by Killstar (they make a mean studded rocker jacket too).

sex pot revenge japan fashion

“Guilt and Punishment” — gotta love Tokyo clothing that gets a bit lost in translation! (Photography by Joey Wong, at The Light Aparthotel.)

I buy a lot of my clothes in Japan, since it can be hard to find creative Goth/alt/punk clothes in local stores. Manchester residents are lucky: they have an entire building dedicated to edgy street style! 

northern quarter music sculpture

Afflecks Palace has everything a spooky kid needs to survive. I passed by tattoo parlors, experimental hair salons, a poetry slam theater, candy store, and dozens of edgy clothing boutiques.

Address: 52 Church Street, Manchester, England

afflecks mosaics, tiled murals

Outside, there are mosaics that represent notable Manchester musicians, artists, comedians and other luminaries. On the right: a tiled tribute to Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album.

(More details on my Joy Division music tour, which included a trip to Ian Curtis’ graveyard.)

manchester street fashion, style

I recommend going through each floor of the building (there are 5 or 6), and browsing the independent shops inside. If you’re into fringe fashion, there will undoubtedly be something that catches your eye.

This neighborhood is wonderful for street style snaps. On the steps of Afflecks, I saw two emo teenagers. Inside, Joey took this photo of Lazuli, a local “singer, seamonster, sequin wearer.” Isn’t her unicorn purse adorable?

steampunk boutique england

Affleck’s Palace opened in 1981, offering low-rent short-term spaces that allowed alternative retailers to flourish. During the 1990s “Madchester” era, this was the place to buy tie-dyed outfits for the weekend rave.

Afflecks continues to thrive with over 70 shops inside, none of which are mainstream brands. The space retains a gritty, slightly chaotic feeling — keeping it true to its subculture roots.

Afflecks Manchester Northern Quarter

If you aren’t anywhere close to Manchester, you can shop for disco fashion and more on Afflecks‘ website. 

cyberdog store, cyber rave shop

Look who’s on the ground floor of the building… Cyberdog! Since the 1990s, they’ve been the leading label for futuristic club fashion. Years ago, I went to the original Cyberdog store in Camden Market London, and was amazed by these designs.

cyber goth fashion, manchester afflecks

Neon Clubwear, Cybertronic, Urban Rave… whatever you want to call it, Cyberdog’s clothing seems to come from another galaxy. Many items use florescent fabrics, UV gear and other unique details.

cyberdog models, rave hair

Joey took these photos of the storekeepers, who rock rainbow hair, harnesses, tattoos and piercings. 

british goth tattoos piercings

The Cybergoth and rave scene was a colorful time… I wonder what the future holds, in terms of new subcultures.

northern quarter retro vintage shops

The entire Northern Quarter district is full of adorable vintage / retro / edgy shops. I couldn’t resist the cute store at Thunder Egg, on Oldham Street.

cute fashion manchester uk

How sweet are their owl purses and homewares?

manchester craft design museum

There’s so much creativity in the Northern Quarter. I had fun browsing the Manchester Craft and Design Centre. Dozens of local artists sell handmade crafts here, ranging from sculptures to textiles. At the entrance, there was beehive-like installation designed for taking the perfect selfie.

Outfit details: My striped punk sweater is by Sex Pot Revenge, and my leggings are Killstar – a dark brand I love.

(Below are my favorites from their latest collection. Click the thumbnails to see more.)

Manchester Craft and Design Centre

What a treat, to wander into different galleries and meet young artisans. We saw cute character illustrations at Ink Inc, like these singing cats.

artist galleries, shops northern quarter

Although this is a Victorian-era building, all of the studios here have a modern feeling. This isn’t your grandmother’s idea of crafting.

union jack hat, british flag

Manchester’s Craft & Design center also holds workshops, exhibitions and other free events.

Photographer Joey Wong took a closeup of my Super Lovers hat from Japan, which bears the Union Jack flag on the back!

english rock band performing outdoors

I recommend spending at least half a day walking around the Northern Quarter. 

Go down a random street, and you’ll come across spontaneous expressions of creativity. My friends and I caught the tail end of this English rock band’s performance.

stewy street artist, mr manchester stencil

The Northern Quarter has developed enormously in the past decades, with much thanks to this fellow: Tony Wilson. You may recall my stories about him from my Manchester Music Tour: he’s the charismatic owner of Factory Records who signed Joy Division and New Order. Tony opened The Dry Bar (FAC 201) in the Northern Quarter back when this area was an industrial wasteland. His club invigorated the Quarter, and led to the explosion of restaurants, shops, and hipster hangouts that exist here today.

(Above is a stencil of “Mr Manchester,” which is his nickname, by British street artist Stewy.)

twiggy street art

Today, the Northern Quarter has a eclectic, bohemian vibe. When the stores close, their roller shutters (which secure the windows) become canvases for street art. 

store front gates art

The Northern Quarter is lined with record shops, and indie / vintage boutiques. Many of them are on Oldham Street. (Again, I’ll take you inside in an upcoming article.)

frank sidebottom street art stencil

Pay attention to the crevices, and you’ll encounter street art gems — like this Stewy stencil of Frank Sidebottom. This is a children’s singer/comedian who wore a giant, creepy paper mache head! 

british mod psychedeic rock poster

Manchester has been a center of music and fashion subcultures in the past decades: mod, psychedelic, punk, Goth, rave to name a few. Small clubs and bars have nights dedicated to music from these eras.

Spaces Invaders, Street Art manchester

It was St George’s Day, so a few pubs were decorated with the flag of England. Notice the teal 8-bit Space Invader in the bottom right? That’s an early work by Invader, the legendary French street artist who made these characters out of tile!

invader tiles, street artist uk

We saw another Invader space-creature in an alleyway. (If you’re intrigued by the development of street art, I recommend watching Exit Through the Gift Shop, a documentary by Banksy.)

northern quarter murals

“It’s the small things”, like this evocative painting on a surprising surface, that give the Northern Quarter so much character. 

retro cool coffee shops, england

Retro-inspired coffee shops and tea houses are a-plenty here. Are you surprised to see a youth district like this, in Manchester?

beef and pudding manchester, british pies

If so, then you’ll be amazed at the food we ate all over the city. Photographer Joey writes, “The UK often gets a bad rap for terrible food, but we were able to try all kinds of cuisines in all different environs. You can be having sushi one night, Chateaubriand another, “sticks and stones” the next, and zebra the following afternoon … all within walking distance from our penthouse in the Northern Quarter.”

Above, we had unique twists on traditional pub fare at Beef and Pudding. They serve staples like pies and mash, but the food is elevated with locally sourced ingredients. Plus, there is an immense selection of English beers and ciders to choose from. Ask nicely, and they’ll let you sample a few!

manchester house, egg nest dish

Another evening was full of twists and turns. We entered what looked like a regular office building. However, hidden on the 12th floor is Manchester House, a fine dining experience from Aiden Byrne, the youngest chef ever to receive a Michelin star.

His modern British dishes will stay in your memory, in terms of both taste and presentation. Take, for example, this decadent mousse with peas and mushroom, served in a real egg shell laid on a nest. I couldn’t believe how much flavor was packed into this tiny serving.

modern british cuisine, restaurant

Our main was as Paleo Caveman as you can get. We shared the tender and beautifully seasoned Belted Galloway beef, which arrived on a plank of wood and with a horn filled with “jus” (gravy). At first, we though those were decorative stones – but they turned out to be potatoes, turned grey through some secret preparation!

molecular desserts britain

Finally, the chef gave pannecotta a molecular touch. We also received a chest of macaroons, which I don’t usually like (finding them too sweet) — but Manchester House made me change my mind by infusing the flavors with blackcurrant, lemon and other fine flavors.

hawksmoor manchester, chateaubriand steakhouse

If you’re looking for a more straightforward but equally stunning experience, we’re huge fans of Hawksmoor. This steakhouse, located in a large historic courthouse, served some of the highest quality beef I’ve ever had. All of the day’s available cuts are marked on a board for you to choose from. Above, you’re looking at 600 grams of Chateaubriand (the thickest beef tenderloin part).

We lapped up every bit of their macaroni side dish and impeccable cocktails (their Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew was my favorite, and comes with a fun story). Special shout out to their friendly service — I’d go back to Hawksmoor in a heartbeat.

whitworth park manchester

One of my favorite meals in Manchester was at the Whitworth Gallery’s new restaurant, nicknamed Cafe in the Trees It reopened in February 2015 following a major redevelopment, which seamlessly integrates the art gallery with the beautiful surrounding park.

whitworth cafe in the trees, museum restaurant

We were greeted by the friendly Peter Booth, who runs the cafe with his award-winning company The Modern Caterer.  The glass structure extends into the landscape, making you feel as if you’re lunching while sitting high up in a tree.

whitworth art gallery cafe manchester

Everything in London is notoriously expensive – but fortunately, this isn’t the case in Manchester. A meal at the Whitworth’s Cafe is remarkable value, considering all the love that goes into the preparation. The photo says it all: Fresh home-baked bread with red pepper soup, salmon sandwiches, bruschetta, market salads, Earl Gray tea.

Leave room for Peter’s much-loved desserts, which are baked fresh every day. The selection is always changing, but his acclaimed brownies are a must. (After, we had a lovely time browsing The Whitworth gallery, near the University of Manchester.)

umezushi manchester sushi restaurant

Manchester has an international population, and you can find any type of cuisine here. There’s even a long stretch called “Curry Mile,” jammed with South Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants and hangouts.

We even had Japanese food at Umezushi, located in an unusual nook under the bridge. There’s a wide selection of traditional and fusion dishes, from sushi to spider crab tempura. I couldn’t get enough of the juicy grilled hamachi (yellow tail) above!

japanese punk sweater, nail art

I leave you with a close-up of my grunge-punk look of the day, which fit right in with the feeling of Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

Thanks to Visit Manchester for making our trip such a delight. If you’re now keen to explore this British city, you can find travel guides and more on their site.

PS: I’m currently eating my way around Singapore and Bali… let me know if you have tips!

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