Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013: The Final Countdown...

2013 has passed us by and I have to say that it was a good one. I miss 2012 but I have hope for 2014 because I know that I shall find my golden ticket. From my Louisianan holiday to the days spent beside the Bosporus. I can't say that I don't miss my Newark days because I do, I'm not one for moping about as I have visited some places and made memories this year. Blessed!

Taking to the skies I said farewell to my Industrial Placement in Newark. I then made my way to New Orleans and then Orlando to conclude my 2012 American adventure. Me and my friend Fiorella spent time in the French Quarter in New Orelans for two lovely days, even though the weather fared to be dreary we had a great time. My next Delta port of call was Orlando, where I was reunited with my Disney diva Zach Airstarr! Call me sad but I loved transiting through Atlanta Airport! 2013 was staring me in the face so I wasn't about to give up, it was time to keep pushing on. But nothing can last forever so it was time for me to return back to England to continue my degree for the new term. I travelled so much throughout 2012 so I had ambitious plans for the year ahead of me. Life has changed! Sure, I enjoyed an outstanding year in the USA, looking back through the crazy working hours I would do it all again! Yes!

January turned into February, I resumed my studies in Birmingham, moving forward into my next chapter. I had grown close to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Newark Airport so attending lectures was a shock to the system. Being back home was super cool in the respect I got to meet my then baby cousins for in a few months they would be turning one. Being back in Mother England again wasn't that bad. As the semester progressed I kept the faith that I was going to get through the course. I was back at the 'Maltings', I was away from my shared apartment on Lafayette Street, that was another bitter pill to swallow. I had to just be happy with that situation. From 2012s year of travel, I wanted to recreate the same mission for 2013, I made my mark! I had Dublin, Ireland and Bordeaux, France confirmed! I kept my head high and embraced Birmingham once again. 2013 certainly began with a bang, I wanted things to get better month by month! This blog had to work out of the USA! Mark made! 

Getting back to UCB was great, I have loved being back in Birmingham. Yes, I do love my student city! I moved back to the 'Maltings' to find a new challenge, let's just say it was an eventful first semester back. I jetted off to the far flung paradise of Huddersfield! Taking my first National Express coach trip from Birmingham to Huddersfield proved to be a bearable experience, I had a great time reuniting with Paolo Fiorello who I had worked with at Newark Airport. We missed Thomas Johnson from this trip so we met again a few weeks later in Tom's hometown of Northampton. I loved Northampton, some people don't think its got much to offer but I thought it was quirky. The Las Vegas three made their third meeting in April as we spent the day in London, us boys were about town! Working in the airport was great, Newark Airport is a dynamic place, seeing people make their flights each day. Let's move things up! 

I booked my flights and a bed in hostel, seeking adventure in Dublin in March. I saw many places like the Ha'penny Bridge and Kilmainham Gaol both sights impressed me much! I wasn't completely satisfied by just seeing Dublin for the whole trip, I took the Enterprise train link from Dublin Connolly to Belfast Central, Northern Ireland for a day of discovery. I loved Belfast because it showed me a slice of its dark past, a Taxi Trax Tour took me around the Protestant Shankill Road area of Belfast and also across the Peace Line and finally into Catholic West Belfast. Closer to home I loved being back in Birmingham where I found Caffe Chino for a Bubble Tea! American's don't have a clue about Eurovision so I was overjoyed to be at home watching the contest streamed live from Malmo, Sweden! 2012s winner Loreen came back from her winning show with a new song along with her winning anthem 'Euphoria'. Get me to the Village Inn, I really needed to dance! Summer time of my life? It was ace! 

Being realistic, I knew that I wouldn't going stateside! Saving the USA for another time, I had planned a series of European trips. France showed me Bordeaux, Cognac, Chatenet and Jonzac. I stayed in Chatenet, a small hamlet, located 50 minutes from Bordeaux Airport. Thanks to a promo deal with Monarch Airlines I purchased my flight to Bordeaux and then to Barcelona, another trip that got down right scandalous! I wanted to get back to Europe to experience something extra. I embarked on my Spanish adventure from July 1st to July 5th starting in Barcelona for two days I took in all of the sights including La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. Moving onto the charming town of Tarragona for my third day, I loved life as I lapped up the culture! Yes, I lived it up in Sitges, a rainbow seaside town, needless to say things were eventful! Spain loved me mucho! Ireland, France and Spain kept me living, I crave travel! Oh, I do!

I had to take one more holiday during the summer of 2013 before Amsterdam! Jetting off from Birmingham Airport with Turkish Airlines had to be done! Aside from the family holiday I took a few days out to spend one weekend in Istanbul, I loved my time in Istanbul! Take me back to Istiklal Caddesi where I found a Topshop and Turkish tea house on the same street! Things got real near Taksim Square! I spent three weeks in the Turkish holiday town of Calis Beach that is located along the Turquoise coast. I missed two holidays in Turkey due to my American work commitments, I suppose I couldn't have everything but I loved what I experienced in Turkey. I spent the day lazing at the world famous Oludeniz beach and finding a bargain or two at Calis's Sunday Bazar. It was time to finish my degree at University College Birmingham. Time was ticking, it would soon be time to dodge passing bicycles and meet Mary Jane Holland! Taking it back to Turkey felt correct, it was time. I'll be back!

Rounding off 2013 with another foreign trip me and my brother Lewis went to Amsterdam, we had a great weekend! Mary Jane Holland was definitely around so things were very mellow! Things had to get back to business, my studies kick-started the final year of my higher education. Birmingham had showed me something new, with the festive season upon us I had to make the best of what time I have left in my student city. Things have been changing but I'll always have my student haunts to remember. From seeing the new Library of Birmingham to spending the last days of sunshine at Cannon Hill Park. Friends come and go so I was ready for the change, if you don't make the cut then move on. Studies were getting really intense so my blogging had to take a back seat but I got to see my Portuguese lovely Ines Ladislau whilst she was on a layover from her Dubai flying duties for Emirates. 2013 wasn't bad! It was major! 

I would like to say that my blogging is starting to pay off, with a Christmas video for Visit Birmingham and an invitation to a Visit Berlin tourism event. Things have been challenging trying to balance my studies with blogging so I kept things local around Birmingham so I could have the best of both worlds. Visiting Cadbury World to find out that Bournville is really sweet like chocolate and experiencing the Frankfurt Christmas Market kicked off the festive season just right. In November I took the train up to Liverpool and Chester for the night, seeing the RopeWalks and reuniting with my Disney friend Kat. I extended my Scouse trip to see the Clock Tower in Chester for a few hours, I really liked that place. Looking back on Christmas 2013 I have to say that I got into the Christmas spirit good and proper, I ate, drank and got very merry indeed. After being back for the year since my year in Newark has been a challenge to say the least I can say that 2013's been great! 2014 be so beyond!

Goodbye 2013!

Joseph Harrison

Sunday, 29 December 2013

2013: Once Upon A Christmas...

It's no secret that Christmas changes for us as we grow up but I still want to have a memorable day each year. Being back in Bilston this year for the festivities has been really nice. I was feeling some kind of way, after experiencing 2012s Christmas in the USA. Being back home for the holiday was nice, it was easy falling back into the rhythm. 2014, Christmas will be where?

I have always been used to the same wonderful Christmas tree that's put up every year at my Grandparents house. During 2012 I spent the festive period living in Newark, New Jersey so things would be very different. Being home in 2013 felt so strange, if it had been the previous year I went to visit the iconic Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center in New York City. Christmas Eve on both sides were very different! From NYC to Birmingham, the build up to the big day had me capturing those Christmas vibes from very different angles. Birmingham's Centenary Square did serve an ice rink but NYC Rockefeller Center did it better! OK, I was doing my best not compare both Christmas experiences but it was difficult. Leaving my student halls, I made it home for Christmas after seeing Aston Villa play against Manchester United with my friend, Kelly. Truth be told, that family decorated Christmas tree looked great! Home! 

To get in the festive spirit I booked two tickets to the Pantomime in Birmingham, I booked these tickets as soon as they were released as it had been a good while since I didn't want to miss out! I chose this outing to be a present for my mum, I went to see Madonna in NYC last September without her so the Panto was our treat. Sure, the Panto has changed for sure, new songs and set featured in Brum's latest seasonal show. This years Panto was Snow White at the Birmingham Hippodrome theatre with an outstanding headlining cast. Gok Wan played 'The Man In The Mirror'. I was living to see Gok Wan, he had recently been out at one of my favourite bars with John Partridge in Southside! Stephanie Beacham dazzled as 'Queen Sadista' whilst actor John Partridge played the heroic 'Prince John'. It was the perfect way to spend our Christmas Eve in Birmingham, it's a testament Panto still makes me laugh! Americans don't do Pantomime nor do they understand what it is? Yes, I needed that 2013 show! 

Food glorious food! Christmas Day is all about the food so I'm happy to say that my dinner was great! I consumed a healthy amount of Christmas spirits by dinnertime so I did the good thing by just eating my dinner. It was all about self-service this year, we all chose what we wanted to eat and that worked out just fine. My Grandparents had cooked up a storm of tasty Christmas delights, we had the choice between Pork and Turkey accompanied by a hearty selection of vegetables. I think we had Brussels Sprouts but judging by the photo captured to the left I had decided against that Christmas dinner choice. I look back to last year's Christmas dinner with fond memories as I was served some super tasty food but nothing compares to family, even though I was suitably inebriated but it was Christmas Day! I don't think I overindulged with my food during Christmas Day but I mad allowances in other areas! Sherry Trifle please!?

I didn't want a lot this Christmas, but I love each and every present that I received this year. Christmas changed for me this year, the gifts are lovely and the money that I received will set me for some great trips in 2014 but it was all about the whole experience this year. Like I said before Christmas changes, I was embracing it all. Captured to the right is my first attempt of a 'haul' I got a great Espirit travel bag and a bottle of Gordon's Gin, I love Gin! I have a dream to visit North Korea so my North Korea: Undercover book will make the perfect read. I recently saw the show 'Cabaret' in theatre so I look forward to watching this Berlin inspired musical. My blogging is getting to all parts of my life, its got to be that way! Bringing the music to the table I asked for Icona Pop's new album This Is ... but I received their EP titled 'Iconic EP' so that was nice! My simple Christmas wish list was fulfilled! From the airport duties in 2012, to unwrapping presents at home, it felt bizarre! Yes!

I would like to introduce my cousins Poppy and Micky who are both aged one. I missed their first Christmas for I was working in Newark, USA in 2012 but they were only small babies then so their grasp on Christmas wasn't as crazed and excited as it was this year. Christmas is all about spending time as a family so I would have to see that I loved it even if it proved to be extra crazy the children made the day for sure! Indigo who is the older brother of Poppy had a great day opening all of his presents and he knew what was going on more than anyone else there, that boy is clever! Me and Indigo shared a present, we will be seeing Charlie and The Chocolate Factory in London at the Theatre Royal on the 18th of January 2014 so I'm very excited, Indigo will be as well for children have their own special way of saying their looking forward to something. Poppy got her kitchen and Micky got his car! How are they only just one? Craziness! 

This year's Christmas was unique and very different compared to last Christmas and other previous Christmases. From my pre-Christmas Panto at the Birmingham Hippodrome to my first Christmas drink I know that every moment was equally as good as each other. I loved all of my presents and spent some quality time with my cousins compared to the previous Christmas before my family had expanded. All the trimmings tasted great and I enjoyed maybe a little bit to much Gin but Christmas is for enjoying ourselves and if that means Boxing Day is plagued with a hangover then so be it! As for Christmas 2014 I'm hoping to spend it away in somewhere further afield than Bilston. I've just got over this Christmas so I'm nowhere near ready to think about next year's shenanigans! It makes me feel very grown up when I think about the countless years I would run downstairs on Christmas morning, that's the way the cookie crumbles! So, Christmas only falls once a year, the hangover lasted that long!

Tis The Season To Be Jolly! 

Joseph Harrison

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Sunday's Service... Aston Villa FC: Match Of The Day!

I have been so busy recently, well from a university perspective so me and my friend Kelly decided to book some tickets for the football on a whim to The Villa for an afternoon at the football. Our premier league football match happened to be played between Aston Villa and Manchester United. I had hit the sauce hard the night before the match, not the best idea! Not well! 

Before kick-off I got the chance to see the original facade of Aston Villa Football Club's Villa Park entrance, dating back from 1894 I was loving what I saw. I'm not one for sports, well I have never been really but I guess its a captivating event that grabs people's attention so I'm willing to give that notion a try. During my year in New Jersey and New York I made it my mission to view as many sporting events as possible, so I knew that one football match would put me in good stead. I had never been to a football match in Birmingham before that day. The weather wasn't so nice but me and my friend Kelly didn't pay any attention to the grey skies for the kick-off was waiting for us! I'm known for supporting Birmingham as a city and as a tourist destination, so I thought I would extend this passion to the football match in hand. Sport is still an ingenious way to attract people to a city! Visit Birmingham get it down! UCB got me riled! 

I was looking forward to the beautiful game to begin, we had acquired our tickets for a rock bottom price compared to our fellow students from University College Birmingham, for the outing had been organised through the International Guild. I had passed Aston Villa's football ground on many occasions whilst on the train to and from Lichfield so I was quite excited to be formally acquainted, good things come to those who wait! I was very impressed with the red brick entrance to the home fans section as we would be in the Aston Villa home supporters section, when in Birmingham I fiercely support my student city no matter what capacity it may be. Aston was in my sights so I'm pleased I made it to the Villa, next time to Aston Hall though! I had over indulged in some mulled wine and cider the night before so my state of mind appeared to be quite fragile, let's just say that watching a football game was quite a good hangover cure. I showed my ticket to enter the stand without judgement.

The pace and energy of the game gained momentum as each second past. I was the envy of my brother and my granddad for they would have done pretty much anything to get tickets to a Barclay's Premiership match like this one. Manchester United picked up an early lead by scoring their first goal during the 15th minute by Welbeck, securing a second goal in the 18th minute to a rapturous applause from the United fans but a defiant crescendo of dismay was displayed by us the Aston Villa fans. We kept things positive, jumping up and down at a seconds notice as each time the ball drew nearer to the home-side's goal area. I was getting into the spirit of things, cheering on the Villa, I felt myself get emotional about the game because Villa needed to score! Yellow card after yellow card were dished out by the referee, tensions were rising. So, Wayne Rooney played a fair game but made some off-side tackles. AV, I cannot! 

Benteke made the crowd cheer, I could sense that the loyal supporters cared much more about the capability of the player rather than the status of the player, not mentioning various members of the Manchester United squad. It wasn't looking to good for Aston Villa but our commitment and applause didn't wane for we knew that good things would come Aston Villa's way. It became evident that Manchester United would take the lead, for in the 52nd minute United's Cleverley scored the third and final goal that decided the fate of the match. Villa tried their best but for me it wasn't about the winning, I'm not that into football. I would say that throughout all of the match the tempers never frayed in the Villa home side for we had this covered anyway, whereas a sea of police officers descended upon the front of the away fans section of the football ground, no trouble took place that boded well. I might book another ticket to see Aston Villa, the next season looks packed!

Moving away from the match I couldn't help to notice that Turkish Airlines happens to be Aston Villa's official airline partner. Captured to the right is an image that caught during the half-time competition where one of the three prizes appeared to be a free return flight from Birmingham Airport to any airport within their route network. I have had the opportunity to fly with Turkish Airlines on two occasions to Dalaman via Istanbul and more recently this July. Looking back at my TK experience I would definitely fly with Turkish Airlines again for they are a formidable airline. Keeping in line with Aston Villa I see the partnership to act as an integral part of the future development of Birmingham Airport and Birmingham as place to do business. I'll be looking for tickets for matches at Aston Villa in the new year. I'm not an avid football fan it's always great to show some love to my student city. Oh B, an airline! 

It's easy to say that Aston Villa FC had a winning formula even though things didn't pan out so good for this match, I know their winning luck will return on Boxing Day for their next match against Crystal Palace. I'm super glad I managed to get tickets to see this match between Aston Villa and Manchester United for it was a great experience that took me back to my afternoon at the New York Red Bull's in Harrison, NJ. I won't be going back to the NYRB's but I will have that Montreal Impact gave available in my back catalogue from 2012. I'm hopeful that next year I shall return to Aston, Birmingham to experience the Gregorian manor house Aston Hall. I'll be leaving Birmingham for the Christmas break, it was a great day besides the epic hangover but somethings are just so. Football isn't my first thing but I like to challenge myself once in a while because life is all about taking chances. Let's just say that Aston Villa FC has been serving footie realness since 1894! Football? Yes, it was a one off! 

Up The Villa!

Joseph Harrison 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Birmingham: It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

Birmingham, its beginning to look at lot like Christmas! This time last year I experienced the glamour of New York City's festive charms but this year I have been loving Birmingham's festive Christmas delights to the fullest! From the Centenary Square wheel, to the formidable Frankfurt Christmas Market I've been spoiled for choice! Who needs the Rockefeller, Brum?

The Frankfurt Christmas Market came to Birmingham once again this November for the festive season. It's my last Market this year, so I went all out this season! I always say that when the market comes to town the festive season can truly begin in Birmingham. I'm planning to visit Berlin in 2014 so I wanted to get the best of the market this year to be acquainted with a slice of German culture. Upon my visit this year I indulged by enjoying a Bratwurst hot dog and I bought a Birmingham themed cookie, which took me about a week to eat fully. Ironically, the market opened on the 14th of November this year, which happened to be my 23rd birthday. To get the best of the market I chose to visit in the week because the weekend's have been crazy busy, but it's definitely worth the crowd for the atmosphere is great! Aside from the mayhem I love the Frankfurt Christmas Market in Birmingham. Yes, Berlin is calling!

Last Saturday afternoon I decided to breakaway from my studying to take a walk around Birmingham's city centre to begin the festive season as the last semester has been bedlam, plagued with deadlines and presentations. I would like to say that with the dark nights drawing in before 5pm I saw it as a benefit to be proactive by taking some Xmas snaps. The Christmas Market was buzzing with all types of people enjoying their Glühwein and German Beer during that ice cold December night. It's interesting to see that most of England's cities are embracing the German Market during the festive season, but Birmingham reigns supreme! I must admit I love to people watch so it was a great opportunity to see people enjoying themselves, might I add that some of the market-goers were speaking Turkish and French! Birmingham has definitely been attracting people from across the continent to enjoy the Frankfurt Christmas Market. Brum, I loved it but it was so packed! B, it's good to be back!

Throughout the festive period the Mailbox always looks charming. I might be a penniless student but I love that place! As of recent the adjoining Cube complex has flourished with the opening of new restaurants and existing eateries that have relocated from the Mailbox to make way for its 2015 redevelopment. As I walked along Wharfside Street I could hear several languages, as Birmingham is a very multi-cultural city but the Turkish speakers that I heard took me back to sunny Turkey! Captured to the right is Christmas at the Malibox, the largest Christmas tree made an appearance in November in-preparation for the festive season to commence. Bearing in mind that it was a Saturday night whilst I was out experiencing my Birmingham Christmas evening I did notice more of a hubbub of people enjoying themselves, its a time like that when I wished I wasn't a poor student! You know I love you Birmingham!

Christmas is a time when people just shop and shop, that's how it looks this season but when you don't have any money it doesn't have that appeal. I've probably already mentioned in my previous blogs that Christmas coming is my last in Birmingham as a student. Looking at the here and now I'm prepared for this year to signify the last of my serious Christmas's at home in England so I'm excited to enjoy the whole rounded experience. Spending the time away from England for the Christmas season it opened my eyes to how Christmas is spent. I went to  Los Angeles for Christmas, I learnt that Americans don't say 'Happy Christmas' it's more like 'Seasons Greetings' its always good to recognise that people do things different in other countries. Birmingham gets a little bit of a bad rep from time to time, but I have to say that this Christmas the city lights made all the main points of interest shine fine. Oh, Birmingham is great for now but I'm buzzing to spend a Christmas somewhere new! Go!

Dressed in all of his 'Christmas Jumper' finery is the Bull who guards the Bullring. It's great to see this part of Birmingham's flagship shopping centre all dolled up for the big day. Birmingham has become one of England's fashion capital's for this time of year brings incomprehensible amounts of shoppers to buy their fill of Christmas presents. Going from Macy's on 34th Street in NYC to Birmingham's Bullring has been a contrasting experience for sure, but there's nothing that beats Birmingham's retail delights. My Christmas shopping this year has been non-existent but I did treat myself in November for my birthday for it would be inhumane to not treat oneself. Le sigh! Those darker afternoons come in handy from time to time! I love the Bull for it always makes an effort during the seasons and always makes the perfect holiday snap for Birmingham's growing number of international visitors. Get it, get it BH!

Whatever the budget Birmingham has something for everyone, let's be honest the smile on someone's face on Chrismas morning is priceless! I always make a point of having a browse through Selfridges because I'm a sucker for their fancy products! If I could write my dream Christmas list from Selfridges I would choose a range of items from Paperchase, I just adore the stationary and pens that are sold just by the food court. Taking the escalator up to the Men's wear I would ask St. Nick for some BOY clothes and a few high-end t-shirts by Vivienne Westwood. Lastly, I would love to have some beauty products from the cosmetic section as I always like to look good. As I made my way around the luxury of Selfridges I enjoyed my Mocha Frappuccino with the feeling of Christmas all round me, the busy bodies passed making their frantic pre-Christmas purchases, I finally felt Christmassy! We all want to be Material Girls, so a little luxury every now and then doesn't hurt? OK?

I missed the festive season last year, I spent Christmas in New York and New Jersey, so I have really appreciated seeing the Christmas magic that Birmingham has offered so far this year. This festive season in Birmingham has surpassed my previous Christmas experiences for the Wheel has come to town, overlooking the Library of Birmingham that recently opened in September of this year. Birmingham's got talent for the view from the raised gardens at the Library always gives the best night-time view over Birmingham. No, I'm no Torvil and Dean so I only watched the ice skaters as I pass the ICC to and from university on a daily basis. The ice rink is a great addition to Centenary Square for it was quite a bore to put up with the partitions and workings of the developing library and the REP Theatre, everything looked fantastic under the December moonlight! I'm excited for the big day on the 25th! Glow up, B!

So I say! Let's keep this short, well I never that that promise when I blog. Make Birmingham your new shopping destination during Christmas period? I'm always learning something new about my student city, getting to grips with the new developments that this city has been going through so let's go! The streets might be packed with busy shoppers making their way around the Bullring and the other shopping spots but its all about doing your own thing, I try not worry about that when I went about my business that December night. Birmingham is changing, I won't be spending Christmas here next year but I'll return in a few years to see if things change, from what has been developed in Birmingham its not looking too bad, only joking its going good. The Christmas lights will be shining bright for the next couple of weeks so we can still enjoy the atmosphere about in the city of Birmingham. I need to stop going on about Birmingham, I'll say what I want! It's Christmas! Thanks, Brum! 

It's Almost Christmas! 

Joseph Harrison

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Bournville... It's Sweet Like Chocolate!

Do you know a place that's 'Sweet Like Chocolate?' Me and my friend Kelly both made a sweet escape from Birmingham's bustling city centre to experience the city's confectionery wonder! Stressed out by our current university assignment workload, we wanted something to do! We decided to take a trip to Bournville's famous Cadbury World! Life is always sweet!

Arriving into Bournville felt like I was revisiting somewhere familiar as I had been to Cadbury World numerous times as a child. It had been a few years since my last visit, so I was very excited! This semester has been a trifle stressful but holidays are coming! The streets of Bournville were quiet but very cold as me and Kelly walked from the train station, we marvelled at the wide array of Cadbury built houses that dated back to the 1890's! I decided on a complete whim to book our tickets, with the help of Cadbury World's social media team I was assured that we could use our student cards to get student discount, save more money for chocolate I say! Getting to Bournville from Birmingham city centre is really simple for London Midland trains run every fifteen minutes from New Street station so we found it effortless. I wanted something different compared to the big smoke of Birmingham! The city gets crazy!

Above to the left is one of the 'welcome' signs to Cadbury World and its operational chocolate factory, for this chocolate-making empire acts as both a tourist attraction and a integral part of Birmingham's history as a key innovator from its Quaker beginnings to their recent partnership with Kraft Foods. Being from Bilston means that I've always been close to Cadbury World as I have had the chance to visit many times before my most recent experience. I wanted to see what Cadbury World had to offer for I'm a degree student in my final year so I would be able to see things from a different perspective compared to my previous visits. I won't lie to anyone because on that morning I was so excited to get on the move I woke up before my alarm that morning, Christmas arrived early! I wasn't prepared for the difference with the attraction but times do change. So, let's get to grips with the here and now, I wanted to eat a lot of chocolate! Kelly? Let's go and get some chocolate! Let's go! 

Located four miles away from Birmingham city centre is the town of Bournville, this is a town that truly has that 'chocolate box' look. It's just beautiful! The cold harsh December weather made Bournville's village centre look very Christmassy, we have both been busy with our assignments the festive season had not entered our minds all that much. We were looking to have a nice day out, the halls were getting boring! With some time on our hands we chose to grab a bite to eat at the Bournville Bread Basket, to the right, we found a wide selection of freshly prepared pasties, pies and sandwiches. We enjoyed our cakes and pasties outside for its acceptable to partake in alfresco dining in Bournville, aside from the cold weather we had a perfect view of Bournville's quaint village heart. Cadbury is a large part of Bournville so we made the effort to support one of the smaller Bournville businesses B!

Pardon me for my tardiness, I haven't explained the meaning of Bournville, the Cadbury brothers took inspiration from the Bournbrook river and the French word for 'town' that created the then village of Bournville. This village like town gave the workers of Cadbury a sanctuary, a place to raise their families away from the smog of Birmingham's growing industrial centre to enjoy the greener pastures of Birmingham's french fancy of a town. Bournville welcomed us with opened arms, so I know a return visit will be in-order soon! We felt like we had both been transported to another time for the feel of Bournville's Victorian architecture is like a breath of fresh air compared to the fast paced life of the city! To quote I was like a child in a sweet shop, Kelly was feeling the same way! I know that I might sound like a five year old child but I really don't give a hoot! If you visit Birmingham I recommend a visit to Cadbury World! We can never have too much of the sweet stuff! Kel, it's time! 

The time had come for us to experience the 'Chocolatey Fun' promised by Cadbury World, our journey through the life and times of all things Cadbury was mighty fun. No visit to Cadbury World would be incomplete by not learning where the 'sweet stuff' originated from, now I understand why I visited here for my school trips so many times! I personally enjoyed my supply of chocolate that was kindly handed out during our visit through the Cadbury visitor experience and factory. It was great to see new and existing parts of the exhibition for things have to grow and change, I saw lots of new things that amazed me! Our day out was becoming the perfect 'sweet escape' that we needed to forget about our tiresome final year studies! Who knew that George Cadbury opened his cocoa shop on Bull Street, in the heart of Birmingham's city centre? Remember that Birmingham is the best! Hershey, who? C, keep it British! 

To the left is one of the Cadbury Chocolatiers who was crafting a range of beautiful looking bespoke chocolate high-heels, I was really impressed with the skill and quality of the product as they were displayed in a glass cabinet that sat a few metres away from the assembly line of chocolate Chocolatiers. I'm sure I saw these tasty heels in the factory shop at the end of the exhibition? It's a key thing to bare in mind that the Cadbury factory is fully operational so I had to re-frame from taking photographs in the packaging areas that were on display to us, its always best to respect rules! Anyway, I loved the factory tour even the brief ride on 'Cadabra' a great experience for young and old, which I do remember from my childhood visits. I tried to take some snaps throughout the ride but my camera fails me. It was like we had entered into 'a world of pure imagination' where we did view a interpretation of what could be called 'paradise', we were in a chocolate factory after all!

It's no secret that in recent years Cadbury's has changed the way that it advertises it's confectioneries and chocolate brands for its been mirrored within the final stage of the Cadbury World exhibition, no longer are we 'so excited' for Crunchie for there's a new series of adverts that have been seen on our television screens and on YouTube, one of the new adverts featured a Gorilla playing a drum kit, it was great! But it was also nice to see the older marvels of Cadbury's advertising efforts featured an exhibit that was themed around the popular soap opera that advertised Cadbury's Astro's, a chocolate treat that are no longer made, shame that is Cadbury! This new addition to the Cadbury World experience showed a modern, detailed and interactive glimpse of the future. From the Aztec beginnings to the Quaker way, ending with the projections of the future, Cadbury World is definitely worth it! Kelly, did you like Cadbury World?

Our day spent in Bournville at Cadbury World was ace! Thank you for allowing me and Kelly to use our university student card's that allowed us to enjoy our day at Cadbury World on a budget! I have every intention to continue eating Cadbury chocolate and being proud of my student city producing such great chocolate! From the chocolate high-heels to the quiet streets of Bournville, I'm glad that I chose to spend my day in this part of Birmingham with Kelly! I almost forgot to mention that by suggesting a friend to visit Cadbury World for the first time should warrant some extra chocolate for me? Sort it out CW! It was really nice to get out of the city centre and do something nice before breaking up for the Christmas holidays, need I say no more? I held back from buying any treats from the shop, its changed so much since visited when I was a boy. I write because I love it, so having a blog to publish about chocolate was great! Thank you Cadbury World for our 'sweet escape!' Yes!

Sweet Like Chocolate!

Joseph Harrison

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Back To Birmingham... Half Time Whistle!

Honestly, I seriously underestimated the complexity of my final year! I know that the Christmas holidays are just around the corner, things will be fine has the 'Half Time Whistle' sounds for this part of my final year at University. It's not all been stress and deadlines, I have been busy with other ventures that have opened my eyes to a new country! My blog will prosper further!

Back from the summer holidays, I had plans to see another side of Birmingham. My time as a student in the city is dwindling, I wanted to experience the Balti Triangle! Being curious about discovering Birmingham's most famous dish I found Sparkbrook to be like a scene from 'East is East!' I chose to eat at 'Shabab Balti Restaurant' where I had a delicious Balti dish, worth the price I certainly ate well during my Balti session. Getting to Sparkbrook was a memorable task because the walk from the Maltings showed me the sketchy neighbhourhood of Highgate, it was an eventful evening! I'm glad that I hadn't discovered the Balti Triangle until this September for it showed me Birmingham has many different international communities that open my eyes to a new side of this vibrant and emerging city. I might well return to Sparkbrook before I say goodbye to university life in Birmingham. No, I can't answer that BH! 

Chinatown, Birmingham gave me a new found zest for this blog, I subconsciously created my 'Southside: Birmingham's Oriental Heart' blog from a simple visit to the Chinese Quarter on the 4th of November with my friend Kelly. We do try and make time for a Bubble Tea or two at Caffe Chino for all this academic reading for our Dissertation's can get very tedious, so a little break down Cathay Street sorted us out. Getting to grips with Day In Supermarket proved to be a lesson of discovery for I learnt about some of the different products that sat on the shelves ready for purchase, compared to the usual visit to Tesco it was very interesting to see another culture go about their grocery shopping ways. I look to Birmingham's Chinatown as my first stepping stone on my way to visiting Hong Kong as I have learnt a lot about the Oriental cultures from this part of town and real-life stories from my friend Kelly. I found Oolong Tea, I had not found this tea for an age plus it was loose leaf! I loved it! 

From an academic stance, this semester has been crazy with the constant barrage of new assignments that frankly have too many words! I admit that things have been tough but I'm learning that pushing through the stress works a treat because there's nothing more fulfilling than a finished piece of final year coursework. The dreaded Dissertation hasn't been too brain-taxing so far, I'm actually enjoying the process at the moment so I hope that positive term of phrase sticks for the remainder of the year! I'm putting the finishing touches to my draft Literature Review, my experience so far with this research project has rubbished the whispers from previous final year students! We will approach our Dissertations in our ways, some of us will wait until the last moment where the rest of us will prioritise time for the deadline and binding date to arrive problem free. I'll treat every word with a night-out! J, drink up! 

The Christmas holidays are insight, for sure the last few weeks have been a struggle to say the least. Aside from the Dissertation I have been studying two other level six final year modules, Operations Management and Strategic Management have been the highlight! Operations Management has so far been really quite interesting for its allowed me to focus on functional practices from my placement in Newark last year, so I have a lot of material to utilise for my 3,000 word essay. Strategic Management has been the bane of my life just recently for it can only be described as 'laborious!' Yes, strong words I know, but the presentation that me and my group presented yesterday took some stress to complete. Our company was Merlin Entertainment, they own Alton Towers. We all had a lot of work so we would grasp the subject let alone be familiar enough with the company in the first place! The whole experience has been a worthwhile process even the drama! It's all done now!

I would like to think my blog has reached new audiences throughout the last three months, further broadening the types of visitors that boost the overall viewings of my blog. Using social media platforms like 'Twitter' has alllowed me to gain support from 'Visit Birmingham' for my 'Brummie' orientated blogs. I would like to think that they have been a hit with their social media team? Thankfully, most of the posts have been retweeted, I see that as a positive step! I took part in a promo video for 'Visit Birmingham' as a part of their Christmas campaign, highlighting one of my favourite things to do in Birmingham at Christmas. I hope to remain in contact with Birmingham Airport as I was delighted to be contacted by their social media team after posting my blogs on their official BHX Twitter feed. With the first direct flight from Beijing, China slated to happen sometime in 2014, I'm really excited about that development B! 

Above to the left is the promotional bag I received from the event I attended on Thursday, which was hosted by 'Visit Berlin' to showcase its new 'Pink Pillow Collection' hotels in Berlin. The 'Pink Pillow' hotels will cater especially for Gay and Lesbian guests. I remember checking a strange looking email to find that I had been cordially invited to an exciting event, well I was very surprised because I have never been invited to fancy events like that one! I made use of some advice given to me by a fellow 'blogger' friend to design some 'blog' business cards for the event to publicise my blog website further. I exchanged business cards with the spokespersons from 'Visit Berlin' and 'Out Now Global' to see what opportunities may arise from attending this event. I'm hopeful to book a trip to Berlin, Hamburg and possibly Bremen soon! Deutschland better watch out! Some sweet developments, transformed that Facebook note in 2012 into a blog post was the best decision to make! Oh, yes! 

I Better Work!

Joseph Harrison

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Sud-Ouest France: Culture, Vins et Campagne...

Bonjour! Comment ça va? France is a country that's ripe for the picking and that's just the vineyards! I've been to France a few times, but its always to the country's Southwest to the Charente-Maritime region that's close to the city of Bordeaux. During my last visit I saw three places, getting to grips with the countryside, wine and culture during my French holiday. Oh, Jonzac!

Getting to France was really quick and inexpensive from England, my flight from Birmingham to Bordeaux took only one hour and twenty minutes! Located on the banks of 'La Garonne' river that's distantly connected to Bordeaux's 'Dordogne' river. I spent the day in Bordeaux where I was amazed by vast amount of historic buildings such as the 'Place de la Bourse', a point of interest that I was hoping to see. I really liked what I saw in Bordeaux, it was lovely! Bordeaux served beauty, that French city surprised me with its different personalities. Having visited many cities in many different European countries, I found that 'Je ne sais pas' feeling as Bordeaux was just darling with its cutesy French sophistication! How I loved 'Rue Sainte-Catherine', after my visit I learned that it is the longest pedestrianised street in France! Everything in B'deaux seemed like perfect sense to me! Bordeaux était charmant! Oui!

For many Bordeaux stands as a gateway city, with its airport being modest but nothing to shout about, I was very happy to be seeing more than just the airport! Who would want that? I don't! I've not been to Paris but can only imagine that Bordeaux could be classed a little sister for I imagine Paris is just a huge version of this endearing French city. From the quaint side streets to the grand squares, I loved the 'Place de la Comédie' for this regal setting is a great place to people watch as the holidaying Parisians can be spotted a mile off! Like many other provincial French city's Bordeaux is speeding ahead with its developments of high-speed rail but I reached Bordeaux by a local SNCF train from Montendre to Bordeaux St. Jean Station, a station that has a whole personality of its own. Never say never but I saw all the best bits during my time in the city of the river 'Garonne'. My day in Bordeaux consisted of a lot of walking but that was fine. Croyez-moi, Bordeaux en valait la peine! 

Stepping back into Jonzac during May 2013 had me feeling like I was 'Belle' from Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast'. Catching the quaint bakery and butchers cemented that I was well away from the buzz of Bordeaux's city centre. I first visited Jonzac during January 2011, would I see anything new? Keeping my eyes peeled, I definitely recognised the 'Hôtel de Ville'. The town hall had one fabulous former purpose as the 'Château de Jonzac', meaning in the 'Castle of Jonzac!' Half feeling like a Disney princess, the grandeur of Jonzac's town hall looked like a mini castle. Did I have any treats from the pâtisserie because my student finance loan wouldn't cover any small luxuries, I don't feel bitter about that because that small town bakery looked beautiful from the outside. In that moment I knew that my future visit to Paris would be filled with rich baked treats! Jonzac still looked fine, one burning question remained!

Walking away from the castle like town hall along 'Rue des Carmes', my paternal Grandfather informed me that the river below us was called the Seugne River. Having recently returned from North America, the architecture remained me of Montreal's old town. Made up of French Canadian charm, I was transported back to those Vieux Montreal moments in Jonzac, France. Their was a certain feeling that I felt during that day in Jonzac, I wouldn't be returning to France under the same circumstances! Let's just say that family doesn't always need to come first, I made the best of my location for that week. Even though Jonzac looked lovely, I knew in that moment that other parts of France deserved to be discovered. Marseille and Nice both look charming, I need to some time in the future to visit them! With all this sightseeing I was in need of some more liquid refreshment, I had a little town with a big Brandy secret on my radar! Jonzac, stay pretty because I need to visit new places!

I never realised that one small French town held so many famous brands of Cognac! I made my way to the medieval town of Cognac to find the 'Maison du Hennessy' translated into English to the House of Hennessy. There may be many fashion houses in cities like Paris, New York and London but Cognac is home to Courvoisier, Remy Martin and Martell. Each brand of Cognac has their own 'Maison' of Brandy. I saw it was only right to try a small measure of the good stuff! It wasn't just the Cognac Brandy that brought me to that charming town, the many winding street corners that amazed me. Captured to the right the 'Maison du Hennessy' sits peacefully on the flowing 'Charente' river. I was certain that every town within that region had its own river? Forget Haute Couture it was all about Haute Brandy! I won't lie, if money wasn't at the centre of everything I would have had a few more glasses of Remy Martin Cognac! 

The town of Cognac is part of the Poitou Charentes region within Southwest of France, it is part of the many towns that recreate a fairy tale nature. Cognac's small market square resembled a classy version of a British open air market, it looked a little bit more French. Back to the Brandy vibe, I found a lovely cafe that faced a regal looking hotel for at that time it was undergoing renovation work for the up-coming summer season. I ordered a small measure of Remy Martin Cognac, I won't lie it was a lovely drop! Let's just that certain factors during that day had me less than amused but I wasn't going to let that negativity get me down, I used every factor to my advantage! Savouring my Remy Martin serving, I don't regret anything about my reasons for wanting to visit Cognac! Set aside the river that I mentioned just now, I was at one with the nature of Cognac that May 2013 day in Cognac. Bordeaux and Cognac have been flashed back, I know there's one more place to remember! Oui!

During my French holiday I spent most of my time in the hamlet of Chatenet, a serene and peaceful part of the Charente Maritime commune that's mostly made up of countryside and vineyards. Getting away from it all was great, now we're in November I would love some sun! Christmas is on the way so I can't complain! I spent one afternoon away from everything to walk down the country lanes that are relatively quiet, with the odd tractor or passing car for its only form of traffic. I loved the pure and organic feeling of the fields and the vineyards that make up most of this area. Holidaying in Chatenet has to be planned with meticulous precision for there is no public transport for miles and hotels are sparsely located in this region, choose a Gîte, which is a holiday cottage that are managed and some owners offer transfers from the nearby Bordeaux airport. Chatenet took those student stress away completely! Merci, FR! 

Above is one of the many vineyards that produce one of France's most famous exports of Wine. Red and white Wine is produced from the grape in this region amongst other grape based beverages that are used within the local community. There's obviously Wine that is the most recognisable product, but there's 'Pineau des Charantes' which is fortified wine and Brandy that's famously known as Cognac, along with the nearby town that's been previously mentioned. Chatenet's best kept secret is 'Eau de Vie' meaning 'Water of Life' its the strongest grape based beverage which acts as a cooking spirit but can also be savoured as a liquor to drink with caution due to its 90% volume. I had a little taste, no word of a lie that 'Eau de Vie' was strong! I live in the centre of Birmingham's city centre so when I had my French holiday I loved the serenity that Chatenet offered me, a welcome change from the hubbub of city life. I'll be back, France hasn't seen the last of me! A bientôt France! 

CultureWines and Countryside!

Joseph Harrison 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market

Birmingham has decked the city with its Christmas lights once again, bringing the city streets back to its sparkling festive glory. New York City looked after me last year, I missed the last Christmas so I wanted to get the best of this years festivities! Even though the crowds get maddening at the weekends, I was up for the market! Let's enjoy the Frankfurt Christmas Market! 

It's that time of year when the Frankfurt Christmas Market sets up shop along Birmingham's Victoria Square and New Street! From the 14th November to 22nd December, dates vary annually. the market would trade. Marry the night and let Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market make all of your holiday dreams come true! I was in New York City last year so I have been looking forward to this event! Indulge in some rich picking because the gifts and crafts that are on offer are out of this world. Birmingham brings it big during this time of year, I love it! I know that you will as well! Be dazzled by the glittering lights in the winters evening sky. Birmingham has been serving some chilling winter weather recently and we don't want to let that be our excuse for not visiting this German Christmas Market! Navigate the sparkling and winding paths that are laden with possible purchases, we should all enjoy this! B, I'm back! 

Above is the Birmingham craft market that over looks Paradise Forum and Birmingham's Town Hall, don't be fooled because this is an extension of the German Market as it all merges together, well it all looks so good there's really nothing to worry about. I have fallen in love with Birmingham all over again, each time when I see the vista captured in the photo above. This city has got to have one of the best Christmas markets and I'm not just say that to make this blog sound perfect. I'm being truthful because at the end of the day, who likes a liar?! Last year I spent the festive period in New York City and funnily enough I never saw one Christmas market, I guess Birmingham's 'Got Talent?' From gourmet snacks to mulled cider and the hippest stocking fillers this market pleases the whole family, now that is genius! So put your hands up and make them talk to give your applause to Birmingham for serving us with such a fab festive treat! Birmingham will always be my student city! Go!

Happy Christmas Birmingham! Well almost! Victoria Square is alight with the joys of Christmas, the festive season is definitely upon us! Me and a friend broke away from our hectic university lives, looking for something festive to do. People come from far and wide for this vibrant addition to Birmingham and I don't blame them! I have been to many places across Europe and North America over the last two years but know that Birmingham holds the key to my student heart. The month of November is special to me for it's my birthday day month and the Frankfurt Christmas Market opened on the 14th November, a nice coincidence! Now that's what I call immaculate timing Birmingham! I'm not a fairground person but the merry-go-round impressed me much. I cleverly chose to visit the Frankfurt Christmas Market in the week, I wanted to take my time to experience the market stress-free. Brum is my shining star! Yes!

I like to do things at my pace, I would definitely say I have a mature mind for my young 23 years spent alive! I have recently been quite anti-Christmas but as soon as I saw the bright lights and heard the singing of Christmas songs, my 'Bah Humbug' Scrooge attitude melted away like an ice cream on a boiling hot summer's day! Variety is the spice of life because a bit of cold weather is welcome once in a while, I'm going to make the most of the market and the city as I only have one semester left. Let's keep this simple, Birmingham is becoming a well known tourist destination so with the longevity of the market being in Birmingham its no secret that the market gets super busy. Timing is crucial when going about town during the peak times, I made it my mission to enjoy the festive season in Birmingham without dodging the crowds at the weekend. After the stress I should say a big thank you to Birmingham for bringing back my Christmas spirit! Don't be a scrooge! It is my last Brum Xmas! 

Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market is all about the food, choose between one of the many stalls that sell delicious German snacks and treats. From Frankfurters to handmade chocolates there's a rich and delicious treat to suit every taste. I went crazy by having two German hot-dogs because they tasted so good! Save those pennies because they are worth it for a delicious bite to eat at Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market. Christmas is only once a year so it doesn't matter if you have one or two many treats from the market during this festive season! Enjoy a Bavarian Beer or some Mulled Wine, when choosing to indulge in one of these beverages you will be able to keep the themed glass for the Bavarian Beer or the decorated cup for the Mulled Wine. Things get packed at the weekend so I visited on a quiet Monday evening. Birmingham, you served me some treats! I want more! This student life! 

I've not been to Frankfurt yet but I felt closer to what some of the qualities would be like for the Frankfurt Market always seems to be very authentic. Talking of Germany, I wouldn't mind visiting a market compare with Birmingham. I shall be back before the 22nd December for I have to enjoy some Mulled Cider because it's the perfect winter warmer, also what else is a student supposed to do after lectures for my final year is shaping up to be very hectic! All work and no play, now that's a grim thought! What would be your favourite treat to enjoy at Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market? Birmingham's New Street comes alive during the late afternoon into the evening for the glittering Christmas lights dazzle in the cold winter skies over Birmingham's premier shopping street, being at the German Market only accentuates the feeling of Christmas season. Mix things up with a spot of shopping in the Bullring because the German Market is located close to the stores. B, you be stylish! 

Are you on the hunt for a collectors item or something to impress one of your nearest and dearest? Yes! Well, you have abundance of choice at Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market it's like being a child in a sweet shop there's just so much choice! Captured to the right is one of the stalls that sits in the middle of New Street that sells a wide range of beautifully crafted Russian dolls and many other Christmas themed collector items that could make the perfect stocking filler for this Christmas. I loved the Russian dolls, I suppose buying one of these would be lot more cost effective compared to travelling to Moscow, Russia to buy one? But we can all dream! By the time I walked past the stall captured to the right my hands full with food purchased from other stalls along New Street so it wasn't the best time to think about handling ornaments! Remember, go shopping and then grab some drinks! I saved my money for the food! Go!

I couldn't spend freely with my paper but I made the most of what I purchased at the market. I took more from the experience and atmosphere of the market itself rather than the delights that were on offer. I will be revisiting the market in the coming days for its located practically on my doorstep so that's cool with me. If you plan to extend your stay in Birmingham because of the Frankfurt Christmas Market then I salute you! Let's get on with this festive season already, I'm not waiting one second longer! This time of year brings Birmingham's best features to life, along with the colourful and inviting market its the perfect time to experience England's second city. I'm really glad to be spending my final year at University College Birmingham in this city because it allows me to get back to what is great about this place. Birmingham is where my life is right now, I'm just going to embrace it! I feel blessed to have the Christmas Market back in Birmingham for this final student winter celebration! 

Holidays Are Coming! 

Joseph Harrison 

Monday, 18 November 2013

Chester: Rivers, Cathedrals & Clock Towers

I never knew that Merseyrail's Wirral line terminated at Chester, making my way from Liverpool to Chester effortless because James Street station offered me a direct route from Liverpool's city centre! I was ready to be amazed by Chester and to see the unmarked border with Wales. For sure Chester 's city centre shared striking resemblance with Stratford-Upon-Avon! Yes!

I reached Chester early on, after my short walk from the city's train station I was greeted by the Eastgate Clock Tower, I instantly loved it! Dating back to 1897 had I walked into a Medieval settlement, going back in time was the theme of the day! Yes, I had stepped back in time during my Liverpudlian experience but Chester took me further back into history, I was in a completely different age, more like the 1800's! Needless to say I had just left the bustling city of Liverpool behind me to find an equally lively Chester going about its business, the build up to Christmas was in full swing for sure! I had already been to other parts of Cheshire before but I had never heard of Chester until my latest Liverpudlian trip. Was I on time? I was bang on time but if truth be told, I didn't have the foggiest what significance the clock tower had bestowed upon Chester? Informing myself, the arch dated back to Georgian times! 

Leaving Eastgate and its clock behind, I stumbled upon Westgate Street, where I saw quite a lot of quirky medieval sights! Westgate Street offers some of Chester's best shopping hot-spots, my whistle stop trip didn't allow for any purchases I did see many top brands such as The White Company and Barbour. Independent shops were plentiful with a wide range of price brackets carefully considered. Going hungry in this part of town would have been impossible for the wide range of cafes and restaurants broke away from the usual high street chains that shall not be named. Chester's city centre core looked so beautiful, I had only ever seen such a history before in William Shakespeare's hometown, Stratford-Upon-Avon. Yes, there was hearty serving of Shakespearean-like charm in Chester that effortlessly serves medieval-like realness! I'm not into shopping, leaving the stores to the streets folk I carried on with my Chester tracks. Yes, the speedy Merseyrail made that day possible! 

Chester had a vibe that took me back to my days as a Walt Disney World Cast Member, I saw some striking similarities that stood before me. As I stood on the corner of Chester's Abbey Square, I felt as if I was standing within EPCOT's UK Pavilion around the World Showcase in Orlando, Florida! The Rose and Crown themed part of Disney's World Showcase screamed back at me, the architecture looked just the same! Aside from the magical exteriors I loved the personality and class that Chester's side streets served, there was a rich and tasteful chocolate box feeling for sure! Chester's Medieval charm goes further than being a replica of Disney's Epcot, simply painting the perfect picture of this city's past. That November afternoon in Chester wasn't too cold, I was on hot pursuit of all the delights that this city had to offer me. I wasn't in any rush, Chester isn't a large city so I set own pace. I won't forget Chester in a hurry! No!

Armed with a sense of adventure I got an idea of what Chester possessed. I generally have high standards when it comes to capturing a photo but I had to rely on my iPhone to produce the perfect photo. I'm pleased to say that the atmosphere of Chester's Abbey Square vibe has hopefully been encapsulated within my photos because the streets were filled with eager shoppers and tourists, who were going about their business in quite a hurried fashion! I won't be bitter about my hectic photographic task because Chester was proving a charming and chocolate box like city, if its even possible to brand a city with that term? I wanted to see as much as possible within the short time I gave myself. Stopping for lunch didn't happen but Chester has an abundance of cutesy cafes that sit within the city walls. American's would fall over yourselves to find a city like Chester. A border now separates England and Wales within the proximity of the city, Chester was once a part of Powys?

I make allowances for cathedrals because each place I visit they all have different quirks and stories to tell. Chester Cathedral stood opposite the quaint chocolate box shops overlooking Abbey Square so I was in my element snapping away with my mobile camera. I'm not a religious soul but I love visiting places of worship because they also have many stories to tell about the place they have stood in since its construction, yes bricks and mortar really have their own personalities! I did see street guides passing by the cathedral informing eager tourists about the delights of Chester's yesteryear's, I'm an independent traveler so I made my own way around the cathedral grounds. On another note, I love Christmas but when decorations and market get in the way of a place, that business really annoys. Chester's Christmas cheer didn't interfere with my photos, everything was quite subtly done. I appreciated that!  

I wanted to see as much of Chester in that one afternoon before taking my train back to Birmingham, My train would be departing from Liverpool's Lime Street Station in only a matter of hours. I had already seen quite a lot of Chester, that race commenced right from the very moment my Merseyrail train service terminated at Chester's train station. I had a feeling that this city would show me something special. I found out pretty quickly that I wasn't going to need public transport during my time exploring in Chester. From the Eastgate clock tower to the chocolate box Victorian architecture I was very impressed at what sort of city Chester prevailed itself to be. The cathedral was nice and the streets that surrounded it were very pretty, leaving that cosy corner of Chester behind me, it was time to search for the Welsh border. I wanted to break the record, two cities and two countries in one day! To find the Welsh border, all that I needed to do was to find the River Dee! Sure, the UK! 

My final port of call was a stroll along the banks of the River Dee. Up until this point I had only looked at a map of Chester to see its close proximity to the red Welsh border, I wanted to walk over the border but ended having the footpath disappear before me, so I decided to turn around to admire the views of the Welsh border closer to the city walls. Technically, I could have already been in Wales because the buses were all heading for Wrexham (Wrescam) and Chester were spelt (Caer). Even though I crossed the wrong side of the river I experienced two countries in one afternoon! The River Dee had a chilled effect as it made its way through the city of Chester, if only the sun had made an appearance that would have been a fine thing! I must back up my previous statement that the weather wasn't a negative reflection towards Chester, merely a declaration of England's sublime November weather.

Walking back to Chester's city centre was a period discovery for I had simply walked outside of the Roman city walls, now that's what I call a history lesson! I wouldn't want to compare Chester with Liverpool for the two cities have very different histories and city-spaces, those differences made them both very individual places to visit. I missed the Mersey River but the River Dee gave me something calmer, I appreciated those two waterways all the same. Chester will always have a place in my heart, it's one Great British town that exudes nothing but the best Victorian, Medieval and Roman architecture in the same place!  Keep those city walls strong Chester stood as a great city to take a chance on, with the cathedral, city walls and chocolate box medieval style. Yes, another member of the United Kingdom lies across the River Dee, Wales only stood a heartbeat away from Chester's centre! If time permitted I would have extended my trip with some time spent in Wrexham. 

Yes, Chester!

Joseph Harrison   

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Who's Calling? ... It's Liverpool, England!

Venturing back to the city of the Mersey River had to be done! Liverpool holds the connection to a distant family port arrival! I allowed the Port of Liverpool and the Albert Docks, I knew that Scouse city had many hidden treasures to show me second time around. Revealing Liverpool's Chinese secret and the RopeWalks had me ready to learn. Cilla, Liverpool's the boss! 是的! 

Liverpool had called me back for a second time, alluring me to recapture the true maritime city of England! Sorry, not sorry London! I had seen the Port of Liverpool and Albert Docks during my first visit, so I wanted to experience a part of the city that I never knew existed! Choosing the RopeWalks as the new discovery, I was transported back to pure maritime Liverpool that dated back to the days of Thomas Seel! I chose Duke Street for a slice of true Liverpool because this side of the city centre served standard Liverpudlian grit! I identified with the working-class vibe because that's my background, that corner of Liverpool satisfied my expectations for certain! Liverpool will always be a mint city, from Scottie Road to the Liver Birds it will always be one of my favourite English city's! I don't return to places unless they capture my heart, Liverpool had done that and so much more! L'Pool, I wanted much more! 

Liverpool's RopeWalks served an abundance of restaurants, bars and shops that were right up my street! Choosing Bold Street for the best buy for the independent boutiques exuded kitsch and cool! Cutting to the chase, I was looking for more history from Liverpool's industrious past, I had to look closer! The RopeWalks got its name from the use of the narrow streets that were used to make the rope for the ships that docked in Liverpool's bustling port, serving ships that sailed to the four corners of the globe! I was impressed by the lanes where those tight ropes were walked! Rewinding the clock back some more to the 1800's, that's when Liverpool walked those ropes the house down! Yes, I mentioned those ropes twice! Liverpool wasn't about come for me, she had my back completely, showing me the sights I trusted that Northern city implicitly! London knew to take several seats during my day of learning that was spent in Liverpool, the empire wouldn't have anything without Liverpool! No!

Liverpool has two iconic cathedrals but I chose the Anglican Cathedral around the Chinese Quarter. If I'm honest I would have to say that Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral gave me a sense of warmth with its deep crimson stone structure, even though I'm not a religious soul I loved this place of worship. I took a stroll down to the cemetery to get a different view of the cathedral to find a place that exuded a quiet and calm aura surrounding the gardens of remembrance. Now, come to think about it I haven't been to Birmingham's cathedral so I must put that on my list to do. But one thing that made sense was that I felt a connection to this grand cathedral for it sits on a slope, looking over the city of Liverpool protecting the city of the Liver Birds! I blog for the love of it, its very rare if I get paid for it so I hold its blog with a special place for the memories made. Of course Liverpool's a priceless city for me! Yes, LPL!

Keeping close to the Anglican Cathedral stands Liverpool's Chinatown, I learnt that the first vessel sailed form Shanghai to Liverpool in 1834, carrying silk and cotton wool. Unlike other Chinatown's Liverpool grew in popularity with the Chinese sailors who chose to settle in Liverpool, a demand for the comforts of home signified the beginning of Liverpool's Chinatown in 1866. Come to think of it Liverpool must have set the trend in the terms of multiculturalism because it wasn't just the Oriental folk that decided to call Liverpool home. I didn't dine at one of the restaurants in the Scouse Chinatown but I will next time! Liverpool's Chinese Quarter had an understated feel that I liked. Don't get me started because I've being looking for that Shanghai Lil! Liverpool has a vintage Chinatown if I never saw one before!? Liverpool will always have a lasting legacy to its booming port days, things haven't stopped because the ships keep on trading! 我的上海百合...? Shanghai lil, where were you?

Liverpool One is a postcode that I remembered well, its really quite simple! I was not in the mood to shop, wanting to do some window shopping I saved my pennies! Upon my initial 2011 visit to Liverpool, I was pleasantly surprised to see such an abundance of gleaming developments considering the recession had beaten the country's spending capabilities. I didn't feel an immediate need to eat as mentioned before, saving myself for later on that day I returned to Liverpool One for a cheeky McDonalds. I already knew during that early afternoon phase that I wouldn't be drinking anything alcoholic that night! I had had enough of that dancing juice in Birmingham, I didn't want my Liverpool birthday weekend to have any mishaps. Liverpool One still impressed me much even though I didn't spend any money, being a student I really have to watch my pennies if I wanted to keep travelling! 

I wondered what the area around Liverpool One looked like when my family stepped off from their boat from Eastern Europe? Nevertheless, I suppose regeneration is the key? Yes! I chose Days Inn  Liverpool, getting to Liverpool One from my hotel meant I could take advantage of this complex once the sun had set. For food! I chose Days Inn Liverpool because of its convenient location, which placed me close to the world famous waterfront and James Street station connecting to the rest of the city! I saw my independent trip to Liverpool as something that was meant to be, that's just life. Who needs people to get in the way of your plans? I won't apologise for not visiting the Docks, because I wanted to see a more of LPL! Friends, I won't make another allowance for those who attract drama to every situation. Liverpool knew that category had been firmly closed! Retracing my steps, I made my way closer to my next destination for the day, only the Merseyrail could help there! Southport!

Liverpool wasn't the only place that I visited during my birthday trip, I took the Merseyrail up to Southport to catch up with my Disney pal Kat. Luck was right on my side because Kat had won two tickets to a comedy show in Liverpool's city centre! I grabbed something to eat from the chippy and jumped on the next train to Liverpool Lime Street. The comedy show was hosted by Hot Water Comedy Club, a comedy company I hadn't heard of before that evening! I loved the jokes told by the three comedians, it made a change to my usual going out routine. Is comedy your thing? I loved it! The comedians brought their banter and jokes to the audience, most of it was very tongue and check but hilarious in the same breath. I became familiar with Scouse words like 'Boss' and  'Lad' so I learnt some of the quirks from the Scouse accent. This comedy lark might have to become a regular thing!? Hot Water Comedy Club is Boss! 

I don't revisit places but Liverpool was an exception, I'm glad I chose not to see the Port of Liverpool building or the Albert Docks because I knew that something else was waiting for me. I never knew I would be seeing a comedy show or learning about the date of the first Chinese settlers in Liverpool! I'm not one for spontaneity but Liverpool brought that hidden trait out of me for sure. Where's the Hot Water now?! I have to say that learning new things about Liverpool was great upon my second visit to this regal Liverpudlian city! So, whether maritime history is your thing or shopping till you drop suits you, I suggest you book that coach, train or plane to Liverpool! I loved the RopeWalks, Cathedral and the comedy served by Hot Water! The Cavern Club looks good to serve some Beatles realness?! You best get that Flyover sorted Liverpool! Other cities are cool but Liverpool serves up realness and shows the Wirral how to do things! Liverpool, this isn't goodbye! See you later!

Lad, I Love Liverpool! 

Joseph Harrison