I'd treated myself to a ticket to Birmingham-based blogging conference Blognix and had decided that instead of having a crazy long day with an early start and two long train journeys, I should travel up the night before, stay in a hotel, and be fresh as a daisy for the start of the conference. This of course soon turned into the perfect excuse to spend a few days in the city and have a little birthday getaway!
I was rather looking forward to my trip, especially as Birmingham is somewhere I've never really visited before - I've just passed through it on the train to other places, been to conferences in the city in uninspiring hotels, and (of course) been to the NEC for events like the Festival of Quilts.
Booking holidays in the UK is always a bit of a gamble as you never know what the weather's going to be like, but it turned out to be pretty darn perfect with amazing sunshine on the days I'd set aside to explore the area and just a bit of rain during the conference itself (good timing, weather! Cheers!). I had a lovely relaxing journey up, doing some embroidery on the train in between staring out of the window at the passing countryside.
I'd planned to go to a museum or two on the day I arrived but actually the weather was so nice I didn't want to be indoors, so I just pottered about the city enjoying the sunshine, peering in shop windows, admiring the architecture and stopping every now and then for a cup of tea or an icecream (yum).
Unsurprisingly, there's lots of Victorian loveliness to enjoy in Birmingham as, like Manchester, it was a booming city during the Industrial Revolution. I love seeing the old and new bits of cities rubbing up against each other!
As well as some nice Victorian architecture, I saw some lovely Victorian art. I had a quick look round the City Museum & Art Gallery the morning I left the city and half wished it had been raining all week so I'd been forced to spend hours and hours exploring it's galleries. I just had time on this visit to admire the building, to check out their excellent Pre-Raphaelite collection and to resolve to come back for a longer visit next time (whenever that might be).
There's a whole gallery in the Museum devoted to the work of Pre-Raphaelite artist and designer Edward Burne-Jones, who was apparently born in the city. His work turned out (unexpectedly) to be one of the highlights of my trip.
I hadn't really done much research about things to visit in Birmingham before my visit, save for printing out a city centre map and looking up a couple of museums, so it was totally by chance that I happened to pass St Philip's Cathedral and think "oh, I'll just have a quick look round in here"... only to get my socks absolutely blown off by the most incredible stained glass windows, designed by Burne-Jones and made by Morris & Co.
I could write several paragraphs about these and how wonderful they are, but I shall refrain from doing so & just they say they are quite, quite stunning! (Click here to see some pics).
There's also a lovely Burne-Jones -designed window at St Martin in the Bull Ring. This apparently narrowly escaped destruction in 1941 as the Burne-Joneswindow had just been packed up for safekeeping when a bomb fell next to the church that night, destroying all the other windows.
St Martin's also has a nice quiet little cafe which I'll definitely be popping into next time I'm in the city and in need of a break from the hustle and bustle of the shopping centre.
After exploring a little of Birmingham's city centre when I first arrived, I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and take a day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon the next day... then the day after I went to Blognix and spent the day absorbed in the universe of blogging. I'll be blogging about both days very soon!