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The Odyssey – Summer 2008 Day 18

Posted by indigodream on 4 July, 2008

Blue and Lou on \'Holliday\'

Blue and Lou on ‘holliday’

We’re on holiday in Birmingham and it’s great! What a city (well, this bit anyway) – it’s tremendous. I could imagine spending a week here exploring (though we’d have find somewhere for the greyhounds to run or they’d go insane!). Among the other unlikely places we’d put in our holiday brochure are Macclesfield and Huddersfield……
I can recommend Cambrian Wharf as a mooring. Richard recalls reading that the late Mike Stevens had moored there last winter which sounded like a good recommendation. Although the pub opposite is loud, at least it doesn’t stay open that late. By 11.30 last night it was totally quiet here – not even the sound of trains or traffic. There was a curious disturbance at 12.30am when two helicopters whizzed around but other than that it was totally peaceful. There weren’t even any birds so I was spared the usual dawn chorus of ducks banging on the side of the boat! I felt very safe here by myself, though I did leave a small LED battery light on overnight to let any potential vandals know that the boat was occupied and not an easy target. I don’t think I need have bothered – I’m not convinced that anyone passed by.
Birmingham New Street train station is within easy walking distance (though it’s uphill from the station to the wharf!). The Cross-country trains convenient to us seem generally busy so I’d advise pre-booking a seat if you can. If you’re getting a taxi from the station to Cambrian wharf then ask for Brindley Drive – it’s the quiet cul-de-sac at the back of the basin. But it’s worth walking just to see the square by the ICC (not sure what that stands for, International Convention Centre? – it’s by the REP restaurant and bar). The paving here is so attractive – a modern block mosaic with lovely geometric patterns of red, blue and yellow brick – stunning. There is also a golden sculpture of some of the town’s notables – we didn’t get close enough to see the inscription but it was an impressive sight.
Blue on the train

Blue on the train

The dogs survived the long train journey up from Croydon – Richard very sensibly bought a first class ticket which meant they had enough floor space to lie down and stretch out on their ‘travel’ beds – two thick sheepskins. Just as well, for half the journey the standard class hadn’t an inch of floor space that wasn’t occupied by a commuter. The dogs were very good and the guard on the train was extremely helpful. Blue took it all in his stride but Lou was a bit stressed – all very odd because at home, Lou is completely fearless and Blue is a big wuss….
We explored Brindley Place tonight. This is a great place – there’s no end of different eateries and bars all well-frequented with totally tarted-up young ladies and young men with their a**** hanging out of their baggy jeans. Women of Birmingham – demand more from your men!!!! Mind you, we did see one young lady in a flouncy fairy ballgown, smoking, chucking the butt onto the pavement then ripping open a pack of gum with her teeth and spitting the paper on to the floor – classy….

Oozells Square

We strolled around for ages just enjoying the ambience. There are several squares with lovely fountains, water features and modern sculptures. The buildings, mainly new, have been built with care and attention using the best materials (polished granite, staffordshire blues interspersed with red hand made bricks – look for the smile in the clay assuming the brickie has laid the bricks the right way round); all the trees were lit with an array of tiny blue-white fairy lights and the canal bridges and parapets are swathed with fresh flowers in tubs and hanging baskets.

After much aimless wandering we decided to eat in an up-market Italian-ish restaurant called Cielo. We’ve not heard of them before – are they part of a chain? Anyway, all very tasteful and understated inside and the food was delicious. If you’re a meat-eater then we can recommend the belly pork – it was so succulent – the sort of main course we’ll remember for a long time. I wasn’t so sure about my starter – I opted for the bruschetta and I gave up halfway through with 10 large cherry tomatoes still on my plate. I’m quite convinced that no-one can eat that many tomatoes in one go without stripping all the enamel off their teeth. Chef – change the recipe – add another slice of french bread and take out three quarters of the tomatoes! We tried a new wine – Inzolia – not a wine to quaff by itself (bit sour) but very mellow with the intensely savoury food. It wasn’t a cheap meal but I’d say that you get quality for your cash.

For those that like statistics: Miles traveled today: 0 Locks done today: 0 Bottles of wine drunk: Ah now that is getting interesting.

Brindley Place by night

Brindley Place by night

The junction by night

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