by Maria Cristina Spairani
This is the kind of place that seems immune to the changing world outside.
It’s winter. It’s very cold outside. The type of cold that you can’t fight or defeat even with the heaviest of coats. The type of cold that penetrates your bones. I’m walking through the streets of Manchester, between vintage stores, hipster barbershops, and buildings that have a quality we refer to in Italian as dal sapore antico, which has no direct equivalent in the English language, but loosely translates to “an antique flavor.” I peer through the shop window of a specialty florist with a bizzarre display. I draw nearer, intrigued by the sight inside the shop of a chandelier and the bottom half of a mannequin, its two legs clothed in red and white striped socks, and I smile.
Meanwhile, the intoxicating scent of some plants nestled on typically rustic wooden boxes captures my attention. Everything here has a romantic, nostalgic feel, and my mind wanders as if through a portal to another time period.
It’s five o clock pm, which means it’s tea time. I’m looking for a place to drink a good cup of tea, and as I turn the corner, I see a sign for “Sugar Junction”, which seems to be a hospitable and nice enough place. It’s the kind of place Woody Allen might shoot a film. I can picture the scene. He pulls out a chair for Diane Keaton, beautiful and charming as ever. There’s music in the background, perhaps Fred Astaire’s “Cheek to Cheek.” This is the kind of place that seems immune to the changing world outside.
As I look around me, I admire every detail, from the chinaware to the silverware, which seem to have been chosen after meticulous contemplation. Restored antique wooden tables, mismatched chairs, a chandelier with a fabric lampshade, wallpaper with natural colors, are all chosen with impeccable taste by the owner. The temptation to say, “I’ll have one of everything, thank you!” is strong, but I resist. Instead, I take three different types of cake, each with four layers, fluffy, creamy, brightly coloured and full of flavor. These match faultlessly with a classic English tea with milk. Around me, everyone gives off the air of being alone, in a sort of bubble. There is a feeling of privacy and relaxation here, even if the table next to us is only one meter away.
When a location is truly relaxing, our taste buds emerge more discernible to the palate. When there is silence around us, we have nothing to do but finally hear the peaceful sound of our own thoughts.