Friday 27 June 2014

A Trip to Birmingham

A couple of weeks ago I took a mini holiday and went to Birmingham for a few days.

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!


Lily said...

Enjoyed the trip :)) thank you, Laura. Good weather, pleasant surroundings and a nice refreshing snack - what more does one want while travelling?
Looking forward to visiting Stratford... =)

Bugs and Fishes said...

Exactly - that is a great combo for a nice day out! :)

Maydijo said...

Okay, here's my Birmingham(ish) story . . . Back in 2010 my husband and I, with our two kids and his parents, travelled from Australia to England so that my father in law could see the very small town in Norfolk where his parents were born. We decided to spend a week in Norfolk and a week in Cornwall, and rather than make the trip from Norfolk to Cornwall in one day, we decided to stop off in Rugby on the way.

My father in law decided he wanted to see the transport museum. But I thought it might be a bit boring for our kids (ages not quite 2 and 4) and so my mother in law and I took them to Warwick instead. We made plans to meet up at a Little Chef's, knowing that between the time our atlas was published (2003, the last time my husband and I had road-tripped through the UK) and 2010, the Little Chefs had been replaced by Burger Kings but the building itself was still there.

All good, right? Except - My MIL was using a much newer, but not nearly as detailed, atlas, and I forgot the Little Chefs were all on A roads and not on the M roads. So in my head, it was "the Burger King on the M road" - quite a different place indeed.

Meanwhile, we had a disasterous time in Warwick, topped off with my baby having an explosive nappy. I mean, poo was everywhere. All of the kids' clothes were in the car with my husband, but we did have a spare sweatshirt, so there he was, in a clean nappy and sweatshirt, with poopy clothes in a plastic bag on the floor of the car. I thought, Not ideal, but we'll be meeting up with the guys in half an hour and can change there.

Remember, though, that I was headed for a completely. different. place. We got to what I was sure was the right place, and waited. And waited. Two hours past the appointed meeting time they still weren't there. Frustrated, I thought maybe they'd got it wrong and were waiting at the next rest station.

We headed down the road to the next service station - they weren't there. After a bit of discussion we decided to just head on down to Cornwall. I was cursing them the entire time for not showing up. We both assumed they'd gone to the wrong place, and when they couldn't find us, they thought we'd all just meet up in Cornwall. We were delighted when we'd beaten them there, full of gloaty pride.

Hours passed . . . At 10 PM there was a knock on the door from the manager of the caravan park. "I thought I'd let you know we just recieved a phone call from the Birmingham police. Your husbands are okay, they'll be here in the morning." We were worried and confused -

We got the story the next afternoon. (They arrived in the morning but were furious and did not want to talk to us.) They'd gone to the Little Chef-turned-Burger King and waited for us there for hours. At first it was, "Oh, they must be having a lovely time, they'll be here shortly." Then it was my husband saying, "Oh crap, my wife's got in a fight with Mum and stormed off," because I do have a bit of a temper. Then it was, "There's been a car accident. They're in hospital." Finally after 8 hours of waiting it was, "Someone's dead." They went to the police station to ask them to call around to hospitals. Immediately, upon explaining that they had come from Australia with their wives but now their wives were missing, they were led into a room - and interrogated for our murder!

Well, once they managed to convince the cops they hadn't killed us, the police called the rental car company, got the license plate number, ran it, and said, "Is there a reason your wives would be in Cornwall?" "Oh yes, that's where we were headed, but we agreed to wait for each other." "Well, they didn't wait."

All was well in the end; and four years later I think it's a hilarious story . . . My husband's not quite there yet.

Bugs and Fishes said...

Oh wow, what a mix-up! I expect you always travel with mobile phones now to stop that ever happening again :D