The Black Country town of Walsall

Visiting Walsall, near Birmingham, May 2013

When traveling, especially for as long as I am, it is a gift when a local extends their friendship with a personal invitation to see their town. So it was I ended-up visiting the unlikely destination of Walsall, essentially a suburb of Birmingham now but born in the days when such an idea was not conceivable.

Situated 35 minutes by train from New Street Station in Birmingham, the town of Walsall is a destination in it’s own right. “I was wondering if you might like to meet me in Walsall to visit the Art Gallery and Arboretum,” I received as a text from a sweet woman I have met at meet-ups twice before.

“It’s disgustin'” “It’s alright, cud be worse.” “There’s just nothing there.” Similar commendations from Brummies who have never been to Walsall as I heard from Southerners who have never been to Birmingham. “Have you been there?” “No.” Well then, your opinion must be very accurate I’m sure.

I take a photo of the approaching train comparing the sight with the trains that approached me in India. India has left such a strong impression on me, I still think of her often. (I think most Indians consider India a “she”.) The gleaming structure approaches the platform VERY slowly, leaving me holding my camera up to my face for much longer than I would have expected. So slow that it could easily stop very short if someone were to do something stupid, incredibly safe approach. “Quite a contrast to Indian trains,” I share with the girl beside me, “the ones I rode were not able to close their doors and people hung outside.” “That does sound quite different.” “People were jumping off the train before it even came to a stop,” I added.

From Nottingham, this girl with long, curly cranberry-blonde hair moved to Birmingham to do her PHD. I sit closely enough on the train as to be able to chat with her from across the aisle, I had hoped we could continue our discourse and she was happy to do so. Two other gentlemen join in the conversation. A student of the Birmingham Conservatoire is going to Walsall to try-out the pipe organ at Walsall’s Town Hall before being part of a group performance there tomorrow. He has never been to Walsall. Another gentleman sitting behind me overhears me explain how it is that I come to be where I am today, on a train from Birmingham to Walsall. Sometime after becoming single I sold my business and my home and now completely untied I am traveling the world. “I’m trying to start a development business,” he starts, “oh no, this is my stop.” “Look-up Launch48,” I tell him, “It could be useful to you, it’s a weekend conference where people form groups to brainstorm and set-up businesses in the course of 48 hours. It could be a really good start for you. . . .” and he is away.

The lovely PHD student exits where the University of Birmingham has a suburban campus and the young organist and I chat until the end. “What are you playing tomorrow?” “Something nasty, I really don’t like it.” He tells me what it’s called but I don’t recognise it. I guess something modern. For a pipe organ. One doesn’t really think of modern and pipe organ together, but I suppose why not. “How did you choose it?” “Oh, I had no choice, they told me what I have to play.”

We exited the station onto the high street 20 minutes early. After he gets directions to the Town Hall from a friendly local we part ways. There is more than one exit and we did not decide where to meet because texting makes one lazy that way. “Where are u?” “I’m at . . .” “Okay, walk to your left see you in a minute.” That’s what usually happens.

“I’m here, where should we meet?”
“Unable to send.”
“Unable to send.”
“Unable to send.”

I enter the Carphone Warehouse located right at the exit where I am standing. I don’t have any signal but I know I have credit on this pay-as-you-go phone that I got from ee. “Do you work with T-Mobile?” I ask. “We can top-up T-Mobile.” “My phone isn’t working, can you take a look?” An Indian woman accepts my phone, “You have no connection.” She then goes through the very highly-technical process of removing the battery and SIM card, replacing, and repowering the phone. “It’s back now, I don’t know why it disappeared. Do you want me to check your balance?” “Sure.” She presses some buttons and an automated voice tells us, “You – have – 8 – pounds – 68 – pence. For – more – information – press – 1. To – hang – up – press – 2” or something like that.

“I might as well top-up, can you add £20?” “Certainly, Sir.” “You should take your phone to ee if you continue to have problems, they are just down the high street, just turn right after you go out.”

“Thanks very much.” “You’re very welcome, Sir.”

Outside I run into Clare who is climbing the steps towards the entrance of the Shopping Arcade in which the station is located. “Hi Ya!”

Well that was good, I guess I must have come to the most obvious spot. “Shall we go right to the gallery?” she asks. “Absolutely.”

I really like pedestrian high streets in Great Britain. People walking and lingering and meeting-up on lovely cobbled spaces without the noise and intrusion of vehicular traffic. I cannot understand why these areas are so rare in North America, would it kill traffic to close off one central street to cars? Imagine the feeling in Toronto if Yonge Street was a long pedestrian park, still lined with the streets and shops, but closed to vehicles. Places to walk and sit and relax, all on lovely paving stones with the occasional sculpture, statue, and arrangements of flower gardens and shrubbery. Of course, there would need to be infrastructure on either side of the street to allow it, and at some intersections traffic would need to cross as it does here. It may be impossible for most of our cities as they are now, but imagine the warm and pleasant feeling it would create and does create throughout many cities of Europe and many places in the world. Birmingham has a great pedestrian zone. And so does Walsall.

20130521-172117.jpg

20130521-172132.jpg
The rain was really coming down as we walked along Walsall’s pedestrianized high street, but it was still a lovely time.

20130521-172301.jpg
The New Art Gallery Walsall.

We enter the New Art Gallery Walsall which sits at the top end of high street. A tall, modern structure it stands proudly in front of of a canal pool. Completed in 1999, the gallery was designed via an international competition and has become the largest building in the UK that was designed by a British architect under 40.

“What a pretty puppy!” Clare exclaims when I remove my scarf. I’m wearing one of those horrendous but fun and cheerful t-shirts that have life-like oversized animal faces on them. It’s hard to be looked at too seriously when wearing one of those. I feel like I must look approachable with such a silly shirt, will people judge me as someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously, or will they just assume poor taste? I find that I get both reactions.

“Is it a girl or a boy puppy?” I hadn’t thought of this. Spot decision, “He’s a boy!” “What’s his name?” I look down to my chest in consideration. “He needs a name,” she informs me. His eyes, enormous from the enlarged reproduction, look very bright. “Sparkles,” I suggest. “Sparkle Pop!” Clare corrects. “Ahhh, cute little Sparkle Pop! Are you ready to see some pretty pictures?” she asks as we exit the lift to start the exhibition from the top, 4th floor.

David Rowan’s display of photographs will be shown here until July 21st, 2013. Although I would not call his collection, Pacha Kuti Ten, pretty, they are intriguing and I relate to them. I would want to take these kinds of photos myself were I a photographer. He is showing us the bowels of Birmingham. The underground facilities that are rarely seen by the public. I find this kind of thing fascinating. Below this lovely paving stone walkway with trees and flowers, beyond your view, is this dark sewer tunnel system. Is this former coal mine. Is this underground vault. Is this hidden canal.

The Tenth Pacha Kuti is an Inca prediction of apocalypse and translates as being when the world turns upside down. In this collection, Rowan shows us the subterranean world that lurks below us, just out of view as we go about our lives in Birmingham. To me, the message feels sort of like: your world does exist, but at the same time this also exists.

You can see a few of these images by clicking on the following link.

http://www.davidrowan.org/work/pacha-kuti-ten/

One level down we are greeted by a sculpture by Patricia Piccinini. This looks like a deformed animal made out of chicken flesh wearing a hat and training hair. “It’s not pretty!” Clare screams. It is very, very not pretty. Clearly it is not supposed to be. You really must click on this link to see the sculpture I’m referring to.

https://www.google.ca/search?q=patricia+piccinini&client=safari&hl=en&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=XeyUUY_nCcXChAfL-oD4Bw&ved=0CDgQsAQ&biw=1024&bih=672#biv=i%7C46%3Bd%7C5PHAhK6oH8-UEM%3A

Her other sculpture present is of a “sphinx”, also looks like a chicken-flesh blob. Her work is unique, interesting. I would recommend clicking on this link to see some more of it, I have never seen anything like it myself. (If the link doesn’t work, just Google Patricia Piccinini, this is a link to the Google Images.)

https://www.google.ca/search?q=patricia+piccinini&client=safari&hl=en&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=XeyUUY_nCcXChAfL-oD4Bw&ved=0CDgQsAQ&biw=1024&bih=672

Hanging on the wall in the same gallery are life-sized paintings of bulls by Mark Fairington.

http://www.markfairnington.com/page26.htm

These are part of the exhibition, “Nature of the Beast” which is on until June 30, 2013.

An installation piece by Tessa Farmer, a Birmingham-born artist who now resides in London, involves mostly insect taxidermy. Ants of various sizes on the open floor consuming a dead snake. Very creepy. A food chain of shell fish to insects. Hundreds of flying wasps, very unsettling to stand at, all dangling from invisible thread within reaching distance. Her piece de resistance, she has made little people using insect body parts.

Definitely worth a look by clicking on this link. If the link doesn’t work, just Google Tessa Farmer and you will see lots of images.

https://www.google.ca/search?q=tessa+farmer&client=safari&hl=en&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=efCUUYyDPIeK7Ab6-YDgAQ&ved=0CDcQsAQ&biw=1024&bih=672

Polly Morgan creates very disturbing works with her taxidermy. But I like it. “It’s creepy! I want to touch it!” says a distressed Clare, who now realises that she has not brought me to Walsall to see some pretty art. It is all fantastically interesting though. Pretty pictures can only capture my attention for so long.

A small fox intertangled and pierced by octopus tentacles, a tentacle goes in one ear and out the other, a tentacle protrudes from an eye socket. Some taxidermed birds are involved as well.

<

20130521-172907.jpg

View more of Polly Morgan’s work by Googling her name.

This very cool video shows the amount of work that it takes to put-up such an exhibit. Less than 2 minutes, take a look, it’s interesting in a general museum way.

http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=Nonk2-KWkkQ&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DNonk2-KWkkQ

Perhaps the main exhibit was anatomy works by Damien Hirst. A photo of him when he was 16 provides a good introduction. At that time he used to visit the anatomy department at Leeds University where he worked on anatomical drawings. This photo is of a happy, young, smiling Damien with his face posed nearly touching the severed head of a cadaver that sits on a table. It is astonishing to behold. I don’t want to violate copyright, so again here is a link to the photo rather than the actual image:

http://www.damienhirst.com/with-dead-head

Overall I was very impressed with the New Art Gallery Walsall. If you live in Birmingham or somewhere nearby, it is definitely worth a visit.

http://www.thenewartgallerywalsall.org.uk/

Following our artistic appreciation we stop for lunch at the Costa location within the gallery. It’s a nice open space with windows onto the canal pool.

r />
20130521-173016.jpg
A view looking out the window of the Art Gallery.

Outside we walk down the high street and past a statue of Dorothy Wyndlow Pattison who was a hard-working and highly respected nurse in Walsall. When she died in 1878 she became the first woman in the country to have a statue commemorating her who wasn’t a member of the Royal Family.

<

20130521-173121.jpg

Near Pattison’s statue stands a more modern sculpture of a Hippo (See photo of me riding it.) and another of a head with tools of the trade in his/her very ample hair, or falling towards them, I’m not sure. This is not one of my favourite statues.

<

20130521-173121.jpg

20130521-173212.jpg

20130521-173224.jpg

Continuing our tour of Walsall we walk past the lovely Town Hall, a library and another museum, as we make our way to the Walsall Arboretum. We enter the park through the gates of a lovely brick structure that sits across from the school where Clare attended with all girls. She had earlier recognised her former uniform on a group of grade 7 girls who were drafting some of the sights in the animal exhibits in the museum as we wandered about.

br />
20130521-173351.jpg

20130521-173402.jpg
Walsall’s Town Hall.

20130521-173432.jpg
The entry gate to Walsall’s Arboretum.

20130521-173515.jpg
Fortunately, today’s rains had completely abated by the time we were walking about. Colours really come out just after rain too.

The arboretum is a gorgeous park surrounding a boating lake. Occupying 80 acres, it includes more than 200 species of tree and shrub. It also has a play grounds, a bowling green, a playhouse, and a children’s park. We enjoyed walking the circumference where we chatted and met some friendly dogs. And dog owners.

20130521-173647.jpg
When one thinks of Walsall, one thinks of the lovely central boating lake surrounded by trees, flowers, and fields where one can take a country walk very near to downtown.

20130521-173854.jpg
Okay, perhaps one doesn’t, but I do.

20130521-173937.jpg
It’s a perfect picnic spot also.

20130521-174018.jpg

20130521-174030.jpg
This is not a headless swan, he/she was grooming and each time his/her head came up I missed it.

20130521-174134.jpg

20130521-174145.jpg

20130521-174202.jpg
“Ma-ma, are you able to have guests?” Clare asks into her mobile phone. “You could make us a nice cup of tea?” Clare’s parents live nearby the arboretum. Wandering in their direction we meet a wonderful pit bull. Snoopy has a limp. Turns out that 3 years ago he was running full-throttle with a stick in his mouth. He’s a very heavy dog and when the stick suddenly caught on the ground it went right into him through the back of this mouth. Sounds like it was touch-and-go with some major surgeries and they needed to borrow a leg muscle as part of the reconstruction. Poor little guy. He’s as happy as could possibly be now though, he loves his cuddles!

We greet a welcoming retired school teacher upon entering Clare’s home. Clare’s Mum taught young ones, primary school, before keeping herself active with various different activities. Today she had been shopping in Birmingham, bought some clothes. “Don’t tell Father,” she jokes, kind-of, to Clare. She seems young for her age, the high activity of being in the classroom every day has done her well. Running around with children must be better than sitting behind a computer all day when it comes to one’s well-being. “One had to be high energy,” she offers as way of explanation. So true.

Clare’s Dad returns from playing snooker and after some friendly banter retires somewhere to listen to organ music. “He usually plays it much louder, ” Clare tells me. “Guess what Darren’s new name is,” Clare tells them, “Blossom.” Yes, she has decided this to be my appropriate nickname while we were sauntering through the park where there were lots of apple and cherry blossoms. Mostly it was in response to me telling her that in Scotland some of the girls at the office called me “Petal”. The guys called me “Daz” or “Dazzer” (pronounced da-zah).

Our teas long gone Clare walks me back to the station to catch my train back to Birmingham. A lovely day.

20130521-174312.jpg

20130521-174412.jpg

Birmingham, Reflections on Visiting England’s Lovely Second City

Birmingham Overview
May 19, 2013

href=”https://personaltravelstories.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/20130621-191637.jpg”&gt;20130621-191637.jpg
I sit at a cafe on a Sunday morning watching a steady stream of people going up and down Birmingham’s New Street. The centre of the pedestrian zone in Birmingham’s downtown, New street is a lovely cobbled area that links Victoria Square on one end to the Bull Ring on the other.

Stately buildings and fountains that have welcomed visitors for many years flank Victoria and Chamberlain Squares and lead pedestrians onwards through the Paradise Forum and along Broad Street. The new, controversial library (I like it, but many don’t) can be seen from far away, the Rep Theatre, the very well-used Symphony Hall that was opened by Queen Elizabeth herself in 1991. Beyond is the lovely area of Brindleyplace which takes full-advantage of the somewhat recently refurbished canals. A photo showing the area in 1970 is barely believable. It looked like an industrial wasteland. This had been a coal city, but those days are long gone. Perhaps that is what people think of when they consider Birmingham? The reputation of this city comes nowhere near to the actual glory of what Birmingham has become.

Turn left at the head of Broad Street, or follow the canals over to The Cube and The Mailbox. These are other impressive centres I have already written about.

At the opposite end of New Street lies the Bull Ring. Far from being the bull ring that it was in Roman times, this is a modern, sophisticated shopping zone. This area, too, has been transformed in recent decades. An ugly 60’s concrete shopping mall has been replaced by state-of-the-art architecture presenting all the brands one could ask for. From budget stalls of the markets below where traders rent spaces indoors and out to hawk their new and used wears, to the high-concept spaces and couture fashions available inside the main centre, this shopping district offers something for everyone.

One can sip a £3 latte at a chain shop or a 50p coffee from a caravan. St.Martins church remains the one thing still original, behind which stands the glorious sculpture that is Selfridges Department Store.

I spent my first week in this lovely city staying at a hotel by the Paradise Forum, the area between Broad Street and New Street. I would recommend this area for a visitor as it is not only convenient for daily wanderings in Birmingham, it is also near to the New Street Train Station for wanderings further afield. The other main stations of Moor Street and Snow Hill are in close proximity also.

For my second week I stayed in the Jewellery Quarter. This was once more industrial than today, where numerous companies made jewellery. Today, there are more than 500 jewellery shops making this a popular destination for couples-to-be. There are more than 200 heritage listed buildings in this district. The canal network is easily accessed for quiet city wanderings where one feels suddenly transported into the country by descending only a few steps and putting on some headphones.

I did not know what to expect when I decided to visit England’s Second City. What I do know now is that it seems a wonderful place to me. With friendly locals and a plethora of cultural activities to appreciate, this is a place that I could call home. I think it is well worth a visit.

20130519-135151.jpg
New Street is a central pedestrian zone that ties to other pedestrian side-streets and creates a wonderful hub of activity in Birmingham’s core.

20130519-135408.jpg
A side-view of Victoria Square, which lies at one end of New Street.

20130519-135643.jpg

The famous Bull sculpture outside the Bull Ring Shopping Centre.

20130519-135902.jpg

St.Martins Church at the Bullring.

20130519-140030.jpg

A view of Selfridges Department Store at the Bull Ring.

20130519-140144.jpg

Chamberlains Square, home to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and Paradise Forum which leads to Broad Street, is connected to Victoria Square.

20130519-140434.jpg

The colourful building in the middle is Birmingham’s new Public Library opening in the fall of 2013.

20130519-140619.jpg

The Front of The Mailbox. I have written more about this structure in other Birmingham postings.

20130519-140801.jpg

The far end of The Mailbox enjoys canal views and leads on to The Cube.

20130519-140908.jpg

The 25-storey multi-use building known as The Cube.

20130519-141048.jpg

The Jewellery Quarter is a very special area consisting of many heritage buildings. It is considered a special neighbourhood even for Europe.

If you have enjoyed this overview of Birmingham I hope you will take a look at my other Birmingham postings! And please, click below to share this link on your Facebook! Cheers! Darren

20130519-141335.jpg

20130621-191637.jpg

A Brummie from Blackpool

Trevor

“Is this seat taken?” With a egg and bacon bap in one hand, a small coffee in the other, I am hoping to sit for a few moments at the outdoor market below the Bull Ring in Birmingham’s central shopping district. I’ve usually been taking my morning coffee at Costa on New Street, but meeting folks for 10-pin bowling soon, I decide to find somewhere nearer to the Leisure Box. This way I can take my time knowing that my destination is less than 5 minutes away.

Below the major shopping zone of the impressive Bull Ring, on the lower side of St.Martins Church lies some very grass-roots level indoor and outdoor flea markets. Vendors sell discount home items, clothing, luggage and shopping trolleys, cell phones, sell-off bric-a-brac and the like as well as fruits and veggies and inside a fish and meat market. I approach a vending caravan near to the pavement to order my late breakfast. They have a collection of tables and chairs nestled under a tarp.

We’re having a rainy week in Birmingham. Of the next 7 days, only one is not calling for showers to some degree. It’s raining now, as I try to find a space under shelter.

“Don’t sit on that chair,” an older gentleman replies, “this one is dry.” The chair I had indicated towards was at the periphery of the shelter and had been permeated by moisture. He stands for me to be able to get by to the chair he has offered, which is behind a table and sits between him and another, less talkative, customer.

“Thank you very much. Another lovely day we’re having.”

“Yes, it is.”

“Do you live in Birmingham?”

“Yes, I live 30 minutes outside though.”

“Do you come into the centre quite often?”

“Aye, about 3 times a week. I wouldn’t come so often if I had to pay full fare, but it’s very reasonable to come in, there’s a scheme for pensioners.”

“The government does some things right, don’t they.” It seems to me that providing seniors with affordable transportation not only improves the lives of pensioners, it also has benefits for NHS (National Health Service). Active people stay more well than do non-active people. If seniors can afford to get about easily, they will get about more often and this increased activity level helps them to maintain their mobility, it keeps their minds more active, it benefits their mental health, and overall it is very good for their well-being. I have no doubt that giving them access to public transportation not only improves their quality of life, it also saves money for public services.

“You’re not from here, are you?” he asks.

“No, I’m from Canada. I’m just passing through. I’m spending 10 weeks in the central UK. Are you from Birmingham?”

“No, I’m from Blackpool. I moved here 12 years ago.”

“I might visit Blackpool, it’s on the water, isn’t it. What brought you here then?”

“I retired when I was 65. I have no family and I thought, now is the time to move if I ever will. I knew a church minister who had just moved to Birmingham. With only him as a contact, it was more than I had other places and it was enough for me to decide to move here. I knew it was a bigger city so it would have lots of things to do and lots of people. So I did.”

“Was it a good decision?”

“Oh yes, I had no reason to stay in Blackpool. I like it here. I miss the water though, and the fresh air.”

“I grew-up on a river near to the ocean, and you always do have a draw to it, don’t you.”

He looks me in the eye. “Yes, you do.”

“Do you come to the market area often?”

“Oh yes, every time I come into town.” This market area for sure has the cheapest offers downtown. He sits here watching the comings and goings of people to the Bullring sipping a 50p coffee. Nearby, coffee starts at four times that in most shops.

He points to a table on the walkway where an Islamic group preaches and offers pamphlets to passers-by. He makes a comment that I don’t quite hear. “I don’t remember noticing Muslim recruitment groups other places,” I add, “They also have another location nearer to New Street with loud speakers. Do you think some people become Muslim from a recruitment drive?”

“I suppose so,” he answers, “there are Christian ones too.” Yes. I know this, I’ve noticed a few crazy ones yelling at the crowds brimstone and fire and such. Not a positive representation going on for Christians. I’ve seen the same kind of representation at Dundas Square in Toronto. I would think these representers are an embarrassment to most Christians, not to mention they are certainly are a deterrent, they tend to have a repellant nature. “YOU HAVE TO ANSWER TO GOD,” a black man angrily yells down New Street in the manner of a lunatic. Finger-pointing and judgemental, his hostile rantings will help no one. Pedestrians cross the street to keep a wide birth, he seems more like a time-bomb than a missionary.

“Are you Christian?” he asks me. Funny, just yesterday I wrote about my disagreement regarding the doctrine of Jesus being the only way to God. I tell him of this and explain that I am too well-traveled to accept a mono-cultural religion as being the only way. Agnostic, I believe there are many ways to God. I just cannot accept that one group is correct and all the others are wrong.

“I can’t explain why,” he tells me, “but there are a chosen people, and they are the ones who seek Jesus. I can’t tell you why if someone has never heard of Jesus they won’t go to heaven, but I know they won’t. There are a chosen few, anyone who looks for Jesus is chosen.”

Of course I cannot go for this. Any God who would choose people and put the chosen above the unchosen, is a God who is unfair and unjust and I cannot accept that as possibly being true. The people who came-up with these written ideas were misguided and lived in an era when humans were not considered equal to one another. Not to say that humans are considered equal to each other now, but they should be.

A little gust of rain lifts the tarp sending a pocket of water splashing onto the seat I nearly sat in from the start.

Time to move-on to my bowling meet-up, I thank Trevor for his sharing and for welcoming me to sit with him. “Traveling Mercies,” he wishes me as I depart. “My Mother always says that when I leave!” “Well, remember me to your Mother then,” he adds.

I will. I will remember him to lots of people.

_____________________________________________

20130514-181317.jpg

St.Martins at the Bull Ring stands between the major shopping centre and the market area below. Trevor and I were sitting just a few metres from St.Martins on the outdoor walkway.

The Grumpy Brummie Awards, Because the World Isn’t Perfect

Good and bad experiences happen everywhere. Overall, I have found the people of Birmingham (Brummies) to be exceedingly friendly and polite. But, bad apples are found in every bushel and I decided to separate the few bad apples from the many good. So, here are some stories about rotten apples in Birmingham. To be fair, the main cause of any discontent I experienced in Birmingham came from someone who grew up in a family of another culture that is not necessarily known for it’s warmness.

NOTE: Scroll Down to read about my experience with UK Car Rentals
_________________________________

The full address was Teensy Street 99, Globe, Birmingham. A black cab pulled-up to my hotel and I loaded my considerable luggage, nearly doubled by traveling with a folding bicycle. The driver knows Teensy Street, as do I. Quite nearby, I only take a taxi for the carriage of my belongings.

The taxi metre is still just at £4 as we make our way along Teensy Street. The numbers on the left of the street ascend and contain both odd and even numbers. The numbers on the right descend. We get to the end of the street and have not found a 99. It’s a one-way street so we reverse, this time focused on the numbers on our right. Still, there is no 99.

“You must have the address wrong,” my driver, a small man in his 40s with a very long beard, suggests. I pull out my iPad to look at the address exactly as given rather than looking at my written-down version. No, it really is number 99. I show the driver. “Globe must mean something,” he comments, “Globe is the key to finding this address. Ask the landlord if it is supposed to be Teensy Street North or Teensy Street South rather than Teensy Street.”

I text the flat owner to ask for clarification.

My text: “Hi, taxi can’t find 99, is it teensy st n or s?” (11:40)

Reply: “It’s apt 99 3 Teensy street and entrance is on Britain street” (11:44)

Well the entrance not being on Teensy seems like a detail that should have been shared before. Why would I have assumed the entry was not on Teensy Street, and if it wasn’t, how would I know where it was? I get out to find the entry on foot, easier than having the driver manoeuvre his cab. Around the corner on Britain, there is no obvious entrance. I pass a beauty salon and see a door, but it doesn’t look like apartments. The driver has also come out of the taxi to look about.

“Is it marked 15?” I text, looking at the only possible door. (11:46)

“No it’s 3” (11:47)

The two of us continue to look about.

“It’s not marked anything I’m confused as to where you are. Taxi takes you to Britain street and the entrance is there where you input the code cheers” (11:50)

With this I continue walking down Britain. Nearly at the corner of the next street there is a large car gate with no markings, beside it is a gate door with two different keypads. I call the flat owner after it doesn’t accept the code. I had followed the instructions written above the pad which tell me to press “b” followed by the number. “Use the keypad on the right, and key in the code exactly as I told you. hash – etc.” Okay, now I understand, the number sign is part of the code. She had texted the code as #1234 (except different numbers). I key in the number pressing “#” first and the door opens so the driver goes back to bring the taxi over. By this time the metre has risen to £10.

Inside the gate there is a car park surrounded by structures with various different entrances. I leave my things in a heap to wander about, the signs are small and I need to approach each door to be able to read which flats it leads to. I find my grouping and enter with my belongings. In the elevator I hit the 9 button.

The doors open onto a worksite, builders renovating the hallway. “Is number 99 on this floor?” “No mate, I don’t know where number 99 is. Is it it this building?”

I press the 8. Nope, but the numbers are high enough that now I can guess what floor it might be on. I find the door that is marked 99. Thank goodness.

“Hi did you get in all ok?” (12:18)
(Note: I of course did change the address details so don’t bother to look for it!)
__________________________

I set-out to visit the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter only to discover that it is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Instead, I decide to go for coffee at what has become my daily haunt, Costa on New Street. It is a different walk getting there now and I enjoy taking photos on the way. I am getting used to ignoring the intermittent rain, life must go on.

Approaching the coffee shop it becomes readily apparent that it is undergoing major renovations. A construction crew use power tools in what was the front seating area. I’m disappointed, this was the one place I kept constant and intentionally visited at some point every day. I end-up at my last resort, Starbucks. There I meet a friendly gentleman who is on business from Germany. He is stunned that I have chosen the UK as a travel destination, it is his first time. He’s not interested in sight-seeing, but he does want to visit the Chinatown because he likes Chinese food. He doesn’t catch my love for the UK during our brief discourse. Mostly we chat about cars, I had been researching my car hire possibilities before he sat beside me in the window overlooking New Street. He wouldn’t try to drive on that side of the road, he can’t imagine it. For me it’s only odd for the first day. Traffic is also on the left in Japan, where I spent two years, so I have an accumulated 4 years of interacting with left-driving traffic.

After coffee I head out in search of getting my hair done, it’s getting long and there is too much white showing. “We don’t dye hair,” a large American woman tells me at a nearby drop-in hair salon. “Try Snow Hill.” (Snow Hill is a Station and probably also describes the area of the station’s surrounds.) In the end, I do not get my hair coloured or cut. Another day.

20130519-181953.jpg
I was sad to find that the one place I visited everyday, Costa on New Street, was suddenly closed for refurbishment.

20130519-182108.jpg
I was even more surprised when only 48 hours later it was completely finished and open for business again!
___________________________

First impressions are often correct, often not. After experiencing what felt like a lack of consideration, it seemed like if she cared at all about making my arrival smooth she would have provided adequate information. Of course perhaps she did in her mind, she provided the mailing address, but since that address does not provide useful information for entry and she knew I would not be arriving by post, she should have provided the required information instead. The apartment does look out onto Teensy Street, but that street should not be mentioned since one does actually step foot on Teensy to access the flat. Given this direction, not long but containing the needed information, I would have had no problem at all finding the flat, “North side of Britain road, second entry from Hacker Street.” It’s not the mailing address, but it is the location of the entry. That kind of thought seems so obvious to me, I fear my new host is perhaps not too very thoughtful

I meet Helbi when she returns from work around 6:30. I had invited her to join me to a group dinner but she never replied. Brief hellos and she turns on the tele and props herself in front. I attempt to make some conversation, I hope to be friends with someone I will be sharing a space with for the week, but she is not interested. Her eyes on the tv, it doesn’t seem to be on anything in particular, she occasionally looks my way. That’s fine, she wants some space after work. I get that, but I also think one should make an effort for a few minutes when meeting someone who you have rented your spare bedroom to.

It’s awkward so I decide to depart early for my meet-up at a nearby restaurant. Too early to go in, I go across to a pub to while-away my spare 30 minutes.

20130519-182521.jpg
___________________________

I know one girl at the meet-up from bowling on Saturday. I sit at the end of a table with her on my left and a boorish man on my right. “Can I see the wine that comes with the steak deal?” he asks our server. Everyone at the table had started with red wine as a pre-drink and the server returns momentarily with a bottle of red wine to show what will come free with every two steaks. “Is there not white wine as well?” he asks the server. “Yes, would you like to see that too?” “Yes please.” She returns to the bar and comes back with a bottle of white. “We’ll all have the red,” he informs without bothering to look at the bottle.

“Did you make her get the white wine for no reason?” the girl to my left asks. “Yes, we’re all having steak, aren’t we.”

What a twat, I think. My impression of him strengthens throughout the meal. This is not a high-end steakhouse by any stretch of the imagination but he acts so incredibly pretentiously. “Do you have the cote du boeuf tonight?” No, sorry Sir, that is not one of our specials today. “Can you ask the kitchen anyway?” “Yes, Sir.” She returns with the same answer, which she already knew. “Can you try again?” He is such an idiot, I want to slap him. “Is Tony here tonight?” “No, Sir, he’s off today.” He goes on to tell us that he has eaten here twice before and that Tony is very good. Playing the regular at a run-of-the-mill restaurant after two visits. Such a full life he must have.

The meal completed, I move to the other end of the table just to meet the people when someone goes to the loo. “Could I please have my seat back!” an indignant woman gripes on her return. She is one of the organisers. Apart from thinking that after the meal perhaps she wouldn’t mind chatting to the other end of the table for a moment as well, I am taken aback by her harsh tone. I go back to my seat and give the woman from bowling too much money for my share so that I can just leave. I do not want to speak with that bore a minute longer and now I also also feel embarrassed by how I was just spoken to. In my haste to put the group behind me I leave my fleece behind. I hope the group leaves it there for me to pick-up later.

Back at the flat I talk a few moments to a still unconversant Helbi before going online to un-join that particular meet-up group. I see that the woman who was protective of her seat is the person in charge. An automatic form asks why I am leaving the group. “I’m sure I don’t need to explain why I’m leaving the group,” I key in and press send.

I email the lady that I had known from a previous meet-up. She’s quite nice. “I left my black fleece jacket behind, do you happen to know if it was left there for me to pick-up or if someone took it?” Three days later she has not made the effort to reply. I go to the restaurant. Yes, they remember my group. No, the group did not leave anything behind, someone must have taken it for me. How thoughtful. Too bad they didn’t go the next step and actually let me know who had it. I hate shopping to replace things that were just right already.

Perhaps it’s good I’ve had an off day. No where can be perfect and now my experience in Birmingham has more balance. Lots of great, warm people and a few cold ones. It’s a real place after all. Downside is, I have rented this flat-share for 7 days and it wasn’t cheap. It’s a decent flat and costs about the same to share as a hotel room. Not finding the host to be friendly is not reason enough to cancel for a refund either, although it could be reason enough to walk away from it. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe she just gives poor first impressions. I need to allow myself to have a change of mind.
____________________________

The Flapper is a low-end student bar that sits on the lovely Cambrian Wharf. It has nice outdoor seating areas and the view of the quiet canal where domestic barges are moored is pleasant to behold.

“Cocktails £3.50, two for £5,” listed on a chalkboard with Mojitos on offer. I love Mojitos, rum, sugar water, lemon, and lots of muddled mint. The cheapness of the drink has me assume the portion may be lacking. “Can I get a double mojito for £5 rather than two?” I’ve noticed that most people take the offer and carry two cocktails with them to drink one and then the other. “No.” “You can’t just make me a special Mojito and I’ll pay for two?” “You’re better off having both of them, mate. You’re just throwing a drink away.” “Never mind, I’ll just have one then.”

“What do you have for food?” “Pizza.” For a self-appointed “gastro-pub” that is not a lot of gastro on offer at 7PM on a Thursday. I planned to eat before coming, but since I am hungry and will be here from some time joining a group for a pub quiz, I will eat whatever they have. “Okay, I’ll have one of those, please.” “What kind?” “I don’t know, what kind do you have?” He is not pleased with this question, such an annoying customer I am, I should inherently know what they have on offer even though he doesn’t know himself. “Just a minute,” he complains with a sigh, “I’ll go check.” He returns with a list of what he probably scanned the freezer for. When it does arrive it is clear that it was some sort of brand-less frozen cardboardy food-like item for £5.

I watch in dismay as he prepares my cocktail. He puts some ice in a glass into which he dumps a pre-made UHF packet of mojito. It’s coloured a light yellow-green.

I take a sip when I return to our picnic table outside. It tastes like lemon-flavoured toothpaste. The chemical alternative for mint tastes more like spearmint. It is acidic and too sweet and gross. I wish he had explained why he was unable to make a special mojito rather than just being defensive about it, I would have had a pint.

20130519-182656.jpg
Cambrian Wharf is lovely to behold. Just make sure you keep walking and save yourself the trouble of visiting The Flapper, pub. There are countless pleasant pubs to visit instead.
_______________________________
.
.
UK CAR RENTALS – UK CAR HIRE – UK CAR RENTALS – UK CAR HIRE
.
.
I spent considerable amount of time researching how to best organise my rental car. I am well-aware of the insurance scams and I don’t want to be gouged when hiring a car for such a long duration.

I research the idea of buying my own insurance coverage, separate from the car. All I could find was excess insurance. (In North America we call this deductible. This insurance reduces your deductible.) Perhaps it was poorly worded, maybe the deductible covers the value of the car? If your deductible is $35,000 it would cover that? I don’t think it does, anyway this was not presented as a product that would do what I wanted it to. Additionally, not all companies accept this insurance, so check with the company.

I found an insurance website through which one can purchase insured rental cars. The cars come from 3rd parties but include this company’s insurance. Now that I have ascertained that it is not easy for me to travel through Central England without, I’m looking to rent a car for 7 weeks. I’m not a backpacker so it’s awkward to transfer from place to place by train or coach. I can’t sling my bicycle, suitcase, and carry-on onto my back and walk away. Additionally, there seem to be many day trips that are easily accessible by car. Castles, towns, villages, museums located outside of the city centres where public transport is plentiful. Trains and buses mostly go where people live and work.

The initial search using this insurance site looks promising. Cars start at less than £800 ($1200). However, most cars here are manual. I’ve not driven a manual since about age 20 when I occasionally borrowed Shanon’s car at uni, and I am not about to relearn driving on the other side, shifting with my left hand, with all the different road signs and rules and roundabouts on unfamiliar roads. When I click on the filter for automatic, the prices double. Ouch. Automatic cars do cost more but they certainly don’t cost double, so this is clearly how they maintain the ability to gouge the North American who most commonly drives with automatic transmission. I find an economy car and click through to rent it from Argus Car Hire. Reading the fine print, they need an international drivers licence. I call the number to verify. Easy to get, you just take your licence into an issuer and they issue you one, when you’re in Canada. It’s purpose is for countries like Russia and China, when people travel their licences are not readable. I didn’t need it last year when I rented a car in Dover. Regardless, this path to getting a car is over. They do require me to have an English translation of my English-language drivers licence which I don’t, I only have the original.

I continue my search and eventually choose Hertz via Hotwire. This rental is only about £900 ($1431) for a mid-size car and includes insurance. Seems like a great deal, even if I do end-up deciding I need more insurance when I get it, it couldn’t be that bad.

Yes it could.

The only location I can visit to get this deal is at the airport. I’m not sure why the Hertz location downtown cannot do the same, but that is what it says. I make my way to the airport for 10AM on a Friday morning.

“You’re insurance only covers 3rd party, Sir. If anything happens to this vehicle at all, you are fully responsible.”

“So if the car was stolen, I would have to pay the purchase price to Hertz.”

“That’s correct Sir. You can buy theft insurance for £10 ($15) per day, that comes to £490 ($750) but that only covers theft.

“Is theft very likely here?”

“Not really, Sir.”

“So how much is damage insurance then? If I had an accident, what would cover repairs?”

“That is Collision Damage Waiver, it’s a flat rate of about £20 ($30) per day sir. Actually, a bit more than that, for 49 days you would be looking at £1293.60 ($2600).

“Does that insurance also cover the theft?”

“No Sir, you would need the theft insurance separately, Sir. That’s £1783.60 for the insurance.”

OMG. How did I let this happen! I read about it, I researched it, and now I’m falling into it! I can’t believe it, I am just in shock. Rental $1400, Insurance $3500. Total, $4900. It is unbelievable. It doesn’t create such a shock when renting for one week, but renting for 7 this would be $100 per day which is beyond ridiculous.

“Could you tell me those numbers again.” I am writing down the details so I can write about it. He has noticed me taking notes already. “Writing your memoirs are you, Sir?” he says, flippantly. “No, I’m a travel writer.” “For a magazine?” “Yes, I do have a magazine, as well as a blog and I’m working on a book.” “Oh, good for you, Sir.” “Let me just see what I can do, Sir.”

I have never used this card at a hotel or a restaurant, but now I’m going to tell this story anyway so I might as well try to save some money. As it stands, I am ready to walk away without a car and lose my deposit. In fact, all I want to know at this point is how much I am going to lose by having made the reservation because I have no intention of spending that much on a car. For that much, I could probably just take taxis everywhere I go.

When you pay for Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) you are not actually buying insurance in any real sense. What you are doing is buying the car rental company’s agreement that they will not come to you to pay for damage after a certain amount of excess (deductible). So it is not any real cost to the rental company, it is paying them to assume the risk. There are 3rd party insurers for rental insurance, but CDW is not that.

“You’ll have to go to the office at the car bays, love, I’ll be a while at this,” he says to new customers who approach the Hertz desk. I don’t know what he does but it takes a long time and he finally comes back with a new answer.

“I can give you a free upgrade to an Audi A5 with Collision Damage Waiver for a total of £1873. ($3700) Seven weeks. Just more than double the cost of the car I have sitting at home seems almost reasonable, this one being a rental. I never should have leased a car in Canada. But looking back things are often 20/20.

It seems like if he had told me this figure in the beginning, I would probably have walked away then. Insurance cost the same as or equal to the rental cost when it appeared to be included in the price already? It could truly be the same technique used by unscrupulous shop keepers who start ridiculous high and come down to what would already have been high but in the process making the price suddenly seem reasonable compared to the amount they were initially trying to cheat.

I’ve also made much of an effort coming out to the Birmingham International Airport, so I have much invested in leaving with a vehicle. I would have been more likely to leave without a car had I walked to their downtown branch. I don’t know who would do better anyway, nowhere in my research was I able to uncover an honest and fair car hire company in the UK, I was only able to uncover the countless horror stories and bell whistles.

“So what is the excess with this CDW? How much would I have to pay in the event of an accident?”

“You would still have to pay the entire amount of the repair, Sir. Hertz would only pay you back if the insurance claim is later approved. Then they would pay you back everything except £900 ($1400) which is your excess amount.” So even after paying the steep waiver fees, according to him but I’m not sure he’s correct in his understanding of this procedure, they will still try to not approve the paid-for waiver. “And who does this kind of appraisal?” “Hertz does, Sir.” Well, that shouldn’t be legal. Just saying.

I decide to accept his offer, I don’t want to repeat this process again at another company and I do not have reason to believe that it would be any different. UK Car Hire agencies are known for this.

“Do you need to add a Sat Nav (GPS), Sir.”

“Nope.” I had bought one since the charge for renting theirs exceeded the cost of purchase.

In my car I realise that there is a built in Sat Nav anyway, it is present whether or not I pay the rental fee for it. I wasn’t sure if Audi UK would have these as standard. I spend a few minutes learning the buttons before setting my destination and pulling out of the parking lot, turning the wrong way onto the wrong street when the voice guiding me calls the traffic circle a square. “Turn right onto the square,” would have not turned out well, what was she thinking? She should have told me to enter the roundabout and take the 3rd exit. With telling me to turn right I instead enter the roundabout and take the first exit which leads me to a secured personnel zone. My mind didn’t jump fast enough to translate the circle into a square and go round it as if turning right from my starting position, which in fact involves a left turn after coming around.

Oh, this is going to be fun.

_______________________________________

Staying with Helbi has turned out to be not only emotionally voiding but also very expensive. She is pleasant, but it is painfully obvious that she wishes I were not there. I’m a sensitive guy and I am not good at ignoring that kind of thing. Also, in addition to not wanting to share her space, she often works from home. The first two evenings I eat healthy salads from the supermarket in the living room, but after my initial groceries are depleted I never do again. My room only has a bed and I’m not going to sit on my bed and eat. I was happy to bring healthy food back to my hotel room last week, but here I feel the need to avoid going home. It’s a bad feeling.

I sometimes find myself not wanting to go out, but I also don’t want to stay in feeling like I’m crowding Helbi. The unwanted house guest who paid to be there. Not ideal. I go in search of quiet places and find none. I use my ear plugs often. Days of $20 and $30 spent on food have become days of $60 and $80 when I add extra time working in coffee shops rather than being home for occasional breaks during the day. Being at her house is too awkward so I try to leave in the morning and return after dinner at night. This situation has nearly put me off trying another flat-share in the upcoming weeks. I certainly won’t for a bit, and when I do I will first verify their character a bit by emailing back and forth before just sending my rental request. She’s just not normal in her refusal to converse.

She was deceptive on her listing in saying that she works a lot and even on weekends too. That gives the impression that she is often not at home, not that she will be using the computer and talking on the phone in the one and only open-concept living area where you will feel completely in the way when she is working and also when she is on the sofa watching tv.

“I hate Birmingham,” she has told me, “except for where I live.” This in response to, “What other areas of the city do you think I should explore?”

“I don’t recycle, to be honest. I put all my trash with the recycle bins.” If you don’t recycle with all the damage we are doing to our planet, I do not want to know about it. Seriously.

“I haven’t been to New Street in 5 years.” This in response to me asking her if she had a favourite place to eat or drink downtown. A 10 minute walk to the lovely downtown, how has she managed not to go there for so long?

“I hate pubs, you know how people dress. Why can’t you go to a proper bar or restaurant? And at an Irish pub people might start singing. I hate it,” in response to her mother asking her to join something at a pub.

“I don’t meet people, ” in response to me telling her about meet-up groups.

After a week or awkward exchanges, I have to consider the possibility that she may actually have a mental disorder or two. Her disinterest in the world and in interacting makes me wonder if she might be suffering depression. Her blankness and lack of communication skills has me consider ASD. Whatever the case, she does not make an ideal host or flat mate

For this and more, Birmingham-born Helbi receives my Grumpy Brummie Award. Hands Down.

Runner-Up: Hertz Car Rentals UK. Actually UK Car Rental Agencies in general for having methods and procedures that gouge the non-UK resident, customers they must figure are unlikely to be regular anyway so they might as well try to get all they can anyway they can.

20130520-201024.jpg
Here are some more photos around Birmingham’s lovely Jewellery District.

20130520-201200.jpg

20130520-201212.jpg

20130520-201220.jpg

20130520-201229.jpg

20130520-201238.jpg

20130520-201255.jpg

20130520-201309.jpg

20130520-201318.jpg

20130520-201326.jpg

20130519-183144.jpg

Black Country, Home of England’s Industrial Revolution

Black Country

The Black Country is situated in Central England in an area of the West Midlands. This area may have been the earliest industrial area of it’s size and scope in the world. Industry from the 18th century onwards included coal mining, tube manufacture, anchor forges, ironwork, chain making, making locks and keys, and more. The three anchors and chains used on the Titanic came from this region, the entire collection weighed more than 100 tonnes. The heaviest piece, one 12 tonne anchor, took 20 horses to transport it to the ship.

The term “Black Country” is seen to have been used since the 1840’s. Heavy industry in the area polluted the air with soot and darkened the skies, hence the term. Industry situated here naturally due to the existence of Britain’s largest coal seam running through the area.

The coal industry contributed mostly to the creation of the vast canal network to ship this heavy, cumbersome commodity in great bulk on barges pulled by horses. The horses were tethered to the barges and walked along the “tow paths” which are now fantastic areas for cycling and walking all throughout Great Britain.

Today Black Country is no longer black. The heavy industries and mining that created that dark environment have all but gone and anti-pollution laws control discharge from the little that does remain.

I have also written separately about my visit to Walsall to be posted soon, and this is one of the main towns in the Black Country. I did not notice that this town had an industrial past, I did not know that until after my visit. Today, it seems a quaint, modern, nearly-suburb of Birmingham.

20130521-162826.jpg

20130521-162859.jpg

A replica of the world’s first steam engine. The original was built in the Black Country in 1712. It was not very efficient in it’s coal usage so it was only feasible for use near a coal mine source, which it was. In fact, it’s original use was pumping water out of coal mines. Sometime later it was improved upon to the point of being mobile and more efficient to be able to create the locomotive.

20130521-163227.jpg

Some artefacts from the entry of a coal mine.

20130521-163325.jpg

20130521-163344.jpg

A little Black Country home.

20130521-163440.jpg

20130521-163447.jpg

20130521-163455.jpg

20130521-163519.jpg

Another little home in the Black Country.

20130521-163601.jpg

20130521-163611.jpg

20130521-163629.jpg

I’m not sure, I guess it’s a scrapyard for scraps of centuries past.

20130521-163748.jpg

20130521-163817.jpg

I stopped for a lunch break in a civic hall.

20130521-163848.jpg

The recommended Black Country dish to be tried was quite hardy. “Faggots and peas”, the peas mushy and in that too-green colour. Faggots are essentially meatballs made from pig’s heart, liver, and belly or bacon with added spices and cooked in a gravy. To me it tasted like a spiced meatball that had pate mixed-in. I don’t know how these got their name. I understand the term faggot used for cigarettes in the UK, because it refers to something that is burned. It became applied to gay people when the Nazis decided that homosexuals were also something to be burned. Alive. Little trivia for you.

20130521-164606.jpg

Although we may think of this as a more modern development, the movement towards equality was long and of course still continues.

20130521-164721.jpg

20130521-164741.jpg

20130521-164806.jpg

High street shopping as it was before the advent of the supermarket, a change made possible by the common use of motorcars. (More people can travel from further away to one large store, and they can carry more items away from it.)

20130521-165112.jpg

20130521-165132.jpg

20130521-165141.jpg

20130521-165152.jpg

20130521-165202.jpg

20130521-165212.jpg

20130521-165230.jpg

It was raining all day and all these places felt cold and damp. I think life might be a bit more comfortable now than it was.

20130521-165353.jpg

20130521-165404.jpg

20130521-165424.jpg

20130521-165444.jpg

20130521-165455.jpg

20130521-165521.jpg

20130521-165551.jpg

This is the inside of a traditional pub. (Public House)

20130521-165653.jpg

20130521-165712.jpg

A raising bridge over the canal. Notice how the platform lifts completely up rather than tilting.

20130521-165824.jpg

The creation of canal networks facilitated the industrial revolution making transport of coal and finished goods much more feasible. Later there was very strong competition between the canals and the railroads for the transportation of goods. Railways eventually operated much faster than barges which were pulled by horses and were very much slowed by land gradations (many labour-intensive and time-intensive locks needed to take a boat uphill or downhill). Canals were eventually rendered obsolete.

20130521-170310.jpg

20130521-170328.jpg

Canal-side workshops.

20130521-170402.jpg

20130521-170416.jpg

20130521-170432.jpg

20130521-170446.jpg

20130521-170507.jpg

It is still popular for amusement park features today to be decorated in this style.

20130521-170640.jpg

20130521-170650.jpg
I love the sound that came from this automated air pipe music maker. It must have been quite a marvel in it’s time.

20130521-170758.jpg

20130521-170814.jpg

20130521-170829.jpg

20130521-170846.jpg

20130521-170856.jpg

Although much of it is no longer in operation, the auto making industry of Britain naturally centred in the midlands.

20130521-171034.jpg

The previous photos were taken at the Black Country Living Museum. This is a large open-air museum set in Dudley, 35 minutes from Birmingham. Covering 26 acres, the reconstructed canal-side town with costumed inhabitants is a fascinating place to visit. Plan to go in the morning so that you can enjoy having lunch there as nice break.

20130521-171329.jpg

Walking around Birmingham Enjoying the City

There a loads of beautiful buildings and lovely areas in Birmingham. I have talked about specific and well known places in other postings. Here are some more random shots taken around the city.

20130519-150248.jpg20130519-150310.jpg20130519-150329.jpg20130519-150344.jpg20130519-150411.jpg20130519-150426.jpg20130519-150444.jpg20130519-150501.jpg20130519-150514.jpg20130519-150527.jpg20130519-150541.jpg20130519-150557.jpg20130519-150608.jpg20130519-150622.jpg20130519-150701.jpg20130519-150718.jpg
20130519-153909.jpg20130519-153925.jpg20130519-153939.jpg20130519-153953.jpg20130519-154004.jpg20130519-154021.jpg20130519-154042.jpg20130519-154101.jpg20130519-154121.jpg20130519-154144.jpg20130519-154215.jpg20130519-154232.jpg20130519-154247.jpg20130519-154314.jpg20130519-154327.jpg20130519-154401.jpg20130519-154418.jpg20130519-154510.jpg20130519-154538.jpg20130519-154441.jpg20130519-154636.jpg20130519-154650.jpg20130519-154708.jpg20130519-154728.jpg20130519-154802.jpg20130519-154815.jpg20130519-154829.jpg20130519-154850.jpg20130519-154908.jpg20130519-154934.jpg20130519-154948.jpg20130519-155005.jpg20130519-155022.jpg20130519-155041.jpg20130519-154345.jpg20130519-161027.jpg20130519-161055.jpg20130519-161110.jpg20130519-161147.jpg20130519-161205.jpg20130519-161311.jpg20130519-161340.jpg20130519-161404.jpg20130519-161419.jpg20130519-161443.jpg20130519-161455.jpg20130519-161230.jpg

I took a lot more photos than this, but I hope you enjoyed these ones. I may go back and label them if enough people are looking at this posting. Birmingham is a great city, I hope you will check-out my other posts about Birmingham that contain more than just photos.

If you like my this post, please share it with your friends!

Click on the Facebook link below to share a link to this specific posting with your friends, or tell them about http://www.PersonalTravelStories.com Cheers Everyone! Darren