Saturday, 17 March 2018


A week off in March, what to do? A city break sounded like a good idea and I'd not been to Birmingham for a long time. Also never had a chance to explore properly on previous visits which were either for work or to the Children's Hospital. So train and hotel booked and away I go.

Day One 12th March 2018

The Train - GWR late again.

Sandhurst station platform.
Sandhurst Station, please wait.
Up early, check travel information, everything running OK. Have breakfast, check again, all OK. Leave in good time to walk to station. Check again, train now shown as delayed by 13 minutes. Hmm, gives 8 minutes to make the connection at Reading, should be do-able.

Arrive at station. 11;35 train now expected at 
no, 11:51
no, 11:52
no, 11:51
no, 11:53... 11:52... 11:54... 11:52... 11:51...

Eventually it slowly rolls in at 11:53 which means assuming it isn't further delayed about 3 minutes to get across Reading station to get on the CrossCountry service to Manchester calling at Birmingham New Street. Also it's now raining.

Made it with seconds to spare. Evicted the squatter from my reserved seat and settled down for the journey in the plasticky ambience of CrossCountry's slightly cramped and toy-like train. One carriage of which was out of use which meant a very British round of polite "excuse me but that's my seat" musical chairs at each subsequent stop. They took the train out of service at Birmingham and transferred those going further north to a replacement. Cue much confusion amongst those who'd boarded after the guard had been along and explained that was going to happen. 

Birmingham New Street Station. I'm sure you could get lost in there for ever but I managed to find the right exit and escaped into a very wet city centre.

A hotel with no obvious reception.

Ibis Birmingham New Street hotel is actually in Ladywell Walk in the city's Chinese Quarter, a short wet walk from the station. On entering I was thrown for a moment as there's no actual reception desk. Instead you are met by a staff member who checks you in on a small tablet computer - could have been a large smartphone actually - all very quick, easy, and 21st century.

The hotel itself is fine, small but comfortable and well furnished rooms, and free Wi-Fi throughout. Wi-Fi moreover that worked, was connected to a decent fast internet connexion, and did not require you to enter 13 items of personal information including your inside leg measurement before you could use it. Full marks. 

A wet wander around.

China Town from the hotel window
China Town from the hotel window
Settled into hotel room. Time to start exploring and find some dinner. Also it's still raining.  
I checked out a couple of likely eateries (the Ibis has a 24hr restaurant but I didn't fancy anything on the menu) and headed out through China Town (didn't fancy Chinese either) into the city. Ate at  The Windsor in Cannon St. Standard pub fare, reasonable prices (lots of pensioners amongst the clientele 😐 ), good service, not a bad beer selection. 

The rain has eased off a bit so time to walk off the steak and Guinness pie.

Birmingham has trams.
I didn't actually travel on one but here's a quick photo anyway.

Midland Metro tram.
Through the Bullring centre and a view of the very modern Selfridges building that sits opposite the very traditional Moor Street Station.

Selfridges Building

Birmingham Town Hall, Victoria Square, and Queen Victoria Statue.

Town Hall

Down by the canal. Old boats and new flats.

Canal at night

Open till late

And back at the hotel. In spite of the advertised late night action opposite thanks to triple glazing I had an undisturbed night on a comfortable bed.

More to follow....

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