This thread is still going on, great. Don't even remember if I replied before.
Driven a manual since 1969 and prefer it over automatic except in a traffic jam. I like the control it gives over the performance of the car as well as the gas millage and savings on brakes. This is highly driver dependent. I am a gentle driver still running the original brakes on a car over 10 years old.
Wife drives automatic. It is boring. It does not shift where it should. Start to slow down for a stop sign and the automatic shifts up a gear speeding the car up requiring harder braking. A manual can truly coast and actually slows down when the you let up on the gas. Even at a stop, the manual idles while the automatic pushes against the brakes. On hills an automatic does not take advantage of the gears effectively, racing downhill in high gear (more braking) and not downshifting early enough going uphill till forced to stressing the engine by staying in a high gear too long. Going downhill a manual transmission can be used to slow the car down reducing the amount of braking. I have out climbed many a "big" car in my little manual car with an engine 1/3 their size by using the gears effectively and then watched them race downhill riding the brakes all the way while I coasted. Curves are the same way, manuals slow down and power when you need it.
If you want to have fun, try a hand clutch vehicle if you can find one.