Broadening horizons in buzzing Birmingham
Arriving in Birmingham on a sunny spring day it certainly shows off its handsome architecture sitting in front of a bright blue sky. The streets are abuzz with Saturday shoppers and the energy of Brindley Place in the centre of the city is gearing up to fill the bars and restaurants set alongside the famous canals.
And then it rains!
One thing I’ve learned when visiting a new city in Britain is to find a guide who knows the score. My guy seemed unperturbed at the rain and said it was just a soft shower as I huddled into a doorway to stop the torrential flow from drowning me.
But we soldiered on – ‘Brum’ style – to poke around the city that is not only a tourist drawcard but one of Britain’s favourite post-industrial destinations for conferences and business meetings. Work and play is what Birmingham lives for!
We walked to the Jewellery Quarter where, after a couple of centuries 40 per cent of the UK’s jewellery is still produced. The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is a perfectly preserved workshop. The owners, after 80 years of trading, locked the doors and left a time capsule for future generations that are now enjoying the museum and its trade secrets.
The rain began to pelt us again – so what better place to be ensconced in than the splendid Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery where the world’s largest collection of PreRaphaelite works is on display?
There’s more than 500 years of life in this city that was built on passion, strife and achievement. Birmingham is a shameless show-off and wears its heart on its sleeve via a host of museums, especially this Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and its galleries of the city’s heritage. (The galleries are free and the best are on the third floor of the museum.)
Birmingham has more Michelinstarred restaurants than any other city outside of London, and there are more than 200 eating places in the city – with culinary cultures of 27 different nationalities on offer. But this part of England’s favourite dish is Balti curry. Birmingham is famous for its ‘Balti Triangle’, home to Britain’s best spicy Indian cuisine. Just outside the city, the ‘Triangle’ is home to an excellent selection of Balti restaurants, great fabric shops and the pervading aroma of exotica! One of the establishments that serves the famed dishes is Shabab, serving delicious authentic Balti dishes - a type of curry served in a thin, small pressed steel woklike ‘Balti bowl.’
Grab a Tolkien Trail leaflet from Birmingham Welcome Centres and visitor attractions throughout Birmingham, including Sarehole Mill.
This free trail will show you parts of the city to explore connected to the Lord of the Rings author, and the special places that inspired his writing.
JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit have become one of the most successful movie franchises of all time. Tolkien grew up in Birmingham, and often referred to how growing up near Sarehole Mill and Moseley Bog, inspired his writings about characters and places in The Shire.
With the Tolkien Trail leaflet, Tolkien fans and explorers can visit locations with Tolkien connections in Hall Green, Moseley, Kings Heath, Edgbaston and Ladywood. Among the sites listed are Sarehole Mill, Moseley Bog, the houses where Tolkien once lived, places of worship, and many others.
This story first appeared in Get Up & Go and has been edited.