Monday, 28 October 2013

España: Gaudí, Historia & Playas...

Are you craving for the warmer climate of Europe's Mediterranean? I suggest Spain, but not the usual haunts that attract the Brits abroad! I had the chance to visit the region of Catalonia, which is home to the outstanding city of Barcelona. Choose to fly from Birmingham Airport, where Monarch Airlines flies to BCN's El Prat Airport! No seas estúpido! Adiós ahora Inglaterra!

Barcelona has to be the perfect city to experience a slice of Spanish sophistication! I traveled to Spain's cultural capital during the first week of July 2013,  I'm still feeling quite in love with this city now in October 2013. To the left is 'La Rambla' where the best alfresco dining options are ripe for the picking. Finding my bearings in this part of town was really easy as most of the main streets crisscross with 'La Rambla' so getting lost is pretty much out of the question. I took the metro to see the city of a thousand streets because time wasn't on my side! I wanted to be the transport savvy traveller, Barcelona helped me with that part! Barcelona has many tales that pickpockets are on the lookout, but during my time I didn't come across any harm and felt safe at all times! I'm intrigued by other parts of Spain but Barcelona proved to be the city for me to experience my Spanish inquisition during the summer of 2013. Te Amo B! 

I escaped the dreariness of Mother England to experience 'Plaça de Catalunya' where I was part of the action in and amongst the vibe of Barcelona's heart. I kept my ears open because Spanish wasn't the main language spoken within that region of Spain for Catalan is widely spoken, its more like a dialect but the locals couldn't hear my thoughts! Keeping with the foodie theme I took a stroll along 'La Rambla' where I found a wondrous market known as the 'Mercat de Sant Josep la Boqueria'. This market welcomed me with a whole host of pungent and alluring aromas, I got lost within the many aisles of that endearing market where even the fish section looked very appetising! I still have visions about that market for their was an abundance of colour, vibrancy and a sense of community within the urban sprawl that is Barcelona! Barcelona choose me for a reason! Need I say anything more about Barcelona being the perfect Summer getaway for 2014? Donde esta mi Barcelona?! Vamos B!

Need I be so careless not to mention another reason why I visited Barcelona! For the great Antoni Gaudi, architect and genius has left a rich treasure chest of places to admire in Barcelona. Captured to the right is 'Parc Guell' a stunning work of art that stands over Barcelona's unique city skyline, its a picture postcard view for sure! Sure, I had heard of the 'Sagrada Familia!' I knew my visit to that Gaudi themed point of interest needed some consideration, it was special! Back to the park, I could have stood there all day without a care in the world. Te Amo 'Parc Guell!' It was the first time I felt like I was in my own postcard! Barcelona served me chicness in one breath with a wave of historical charm in the next with its timeless architecture! It was easy for me to get lost in the side streets that eventually lead back to 'La Rambla'. The works of Gaudi suited me just fine, but still no Brits abroad! Don't ever! That's for Beni! 

A house made of bones? I knew that sounded like a peculiar term of phrase but artistically the 'Casa Batllo' was believed to be crafted out of bones? This former stately home was once the residences to one of Barcelona's richest families that preserved this architectural wonder, helping it become the museum it stands to serve as today. I don't usually entertain museums but I was astounded by the beauty that this building inhibits! I got down to the 'Passeig de Garcia' to experience the house that never had a construction plan but turned out to be spectacular! The icing on the cake has to be the 'Sagrada Familia' meaning 'Sacred Family' in English this cathedral towers over Barcelona with its Gothic designs, setting the tone for Barcelona's unique flare of architectural icons. This magnificent place of worship has been a work in progress since 1882 its projected to be completed in 2026! Yes, I go to the 'Sagrada Familia' early to beat the queues! Huesos y articulaciones? Si! La casa dels ossos! 

After I had spent two days in Barcelona, I simply had to see more of this heavenly region! Taking the Renfe Media Distancia train from Barcelona Sants Station to Tarragona. I spent the afternoon walking around this historical and culturally rich town, I was amazed by the understated beauty as it touched my heart with its beauty! Captured to the left was 'La Plaça del Font' the courtyard that took me back to Old San Juan, PR! From that point of view I guess Tarragona could have been a blueprint for San Juan, Puerto Rico? This small oasis of calm was made up of many rustic eateries and is the home of the 'Ajuntament de Tarragona' council headquarters. The train had me confused but it was fine, I took my train from the seaside town of Sitges and got a little mixed up with the lines but everything runs on the same line. It was a place that set the tone for my day's worth of premium sightseeing! Tarragona sure stole my heart!

I stepped back to Roman times by taking some time out to see the 'Tarragona Amphitheatre' as it had great views overlooking the Mediterranean Sea! Tarragona served a quaint beach but I left the sun worshiping for another time. Taking a stroll down 'Rambla Nova de Tarragona' to be at the centre of the action for showed me where the locals did their shopping and its the perfect way to be at one with 'Balcon de Mediterraneo' translating to the 'Balcony of the Mediterranean'. Tarragona wasn't the grandest of places but it had a special small town feeling that take the stress away from Barcelona even though things don't get to stressful their either. I admire places that ooze character and Tarragona did just that so all is well. Lunch time in Tarragona is a special time for a bite to eat at one of the the side-street restaurants that have the best lunch deals make chowing down on some local food doesn't have to cost the earth. Using the most basic of Spanish goes a long way! Dios mio T! 

I bowed down to Sitges, the queen of the seaside! That fabulous beach town was definitely somewhere over the rainbow for that Catalonian premier Gay beach town. I took some time to rest and really get to know Sitges, its had everything I needed to enjoy the days lazing on the beach amongst the 'beautiful people!' Rainbows were the code in Sitges for all things fabulous, everybody stood welcome in Sitges! During the day I saw it as a must to see 'St. Bartomeu Church' to catch the best vistas. I enjoyed one of the delicious restaurants through many kitsch side streets. Better still there's always time to be a 'Material Girl' in Sitges as their's a never ending collection of boutiques that sell the best of everything fashionable! Sitges didn't specialise in large hotels because its a modest beach town. I stayed in a hostel that wasn't far away from the beach in a quiet residential street. That sexy Spanish town was on fire!  

As the sun set on Sitges the party truly started! I found 'Carrer Bonaire' for some the best nightlife in town, where I found 'Queenz Bar' and 'Prestige Strip Club'. I will endorse 'Queenz Bar' for the music was fabulous and the local drinks taste strong, it was the right place to be! It was carnival night, I was ready to do some crazy things with squirty cream! Things didn't liven up until later on so it gave me the chance to have a few pre-drinks before getting down on the town. I kept my eating options simple. I won't lie I had an amazing time in Sitges, so I wouldn't rule out a return visit in the future! Sitges allowed me to be unapologetically and have a great time in the sun! How did I reach Sitges? I took the 'Rodalies de Catalunya' train from Barcelona Sants Station to Sitges, the journey only took around thirty minutes and ticket prices were very reasonable! I chose Sitges to conclude my alternative Spanish trip that didn't to cost me the earth. I have tempted myself to return to Spain soon! 

Spain: I Love You, I'm With You! 

Joseph Harrison

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Birmingham: More Canals Than Venice?

Life in Birmingham has meant a lot of studying for me recently, for that reason I wanted to be productive and get some work done before allowing myself to a free afternoon. I took advantage of the weather because it has been pretty dismal recently, it has made it difficult to do anything especially when I'm so stressed with university at the moment. The canals would help!

Rumour has it that Birmingham has more canals than Venice! Would you believe that crazy fact? I said goodbye to the Maltings due  to finishing all my coursework for the day to set off in-pursuit of some culture. Birmingham is a great city in my eyes, its modern, yet full of history and with its compact layout I can get around the main parts without any problems. Back to the canals, captured to the left is the Mailbox complex that sits overlooking the central canal basin in Birmingham's Westside. With some nice weather finally making a rare but ever so short appearance I snapped away like a paparazzo it was just nice to be out and about rather than going back and forth to university. Right now I miss my fresher year of mayhem! Currently my halls of residence is only a stones throw away from the waters that overlook the Mailbox and Cube. Of course, Birmingham has got me feeling real lucky! Brum, those canals!

I reckon the key to the Mailbox's pulling power is the Harvey Nichols department store? Now that does the trick! Even though my student loan is dwindling I still want to eat at Rodizo Rico, a Brazilian Barbecue restaurant that has recently opened in the Cube that sits next to the Mailbox. I will make it my mission to get some tasty Brazilian food back in my life because Newark's Ironbound seems like a distant memory right now! Talking of progress I suppose time is a healer? I know that I actually paid more attention to the Cube today, noticing that more restaurants are being constructed to make their home amongst the Gym and Spa, Hotel Indigo and the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse. I look forward to these new places opening as the Cube has definitely had a bumpy ride. Time is passing by within the respect of my university degree course in Birmingham so I'm taking every second seriously, I really don't want to miss a beat! Brummie, just take a deep breath because it's all going to be fine! 

So back to that Venice theory, I saw on ITV Central News that this West Midland city was compared to the luxurious Venetian city due to having more stretches of canals than the Italian counterpart. I have not yet been to Venice but have seen it on numerous travel television shows but Birmingham stays close to me because its my university city! It was lovely to make the most of the bright blue skies to walk towards Broad Street. The burst of sunshine was a hit with the locals and tourists alike as I heard many a folk talking in different languages, we're very cosmopolitan here in Birmingham! Those canal boats are really charming, they were just sitting in the water that overlooked the Hyatt Regency hotel now if that's not a world class city standing in front of me then I don't know what Birmingham stands to be? We serve nothing but urban realness here in Birmingham! There's no other place I would rather be! Canals for days! 

Canals came to Birmingham during the Industrial Revolution, acting as the urban waterways that connected the world to our fabulous West Midlands region. It's clear to see that investment has beautified out urban waterways to allow them to shine, creating sophisticated spaces for the city folk to wine and dine. We don't need that Venetian show for in Birmingham we only serve the realest state of mind! Reminiscing back to my fresher days makes me think that my year away in America shaped my blogging ways, I didn't think to have days out within Birmingham because it was all about hitting Broad Street till the small hours of the morning. I probably sound like a broken record but as my studies have been turned up several notches I have learnt to seek the realness out in Birmingham when the need finds me. Enough of that chat I need to hit the books and cut the booze, no chance! Venice, Italy can keep its classy city! Birmingham has more canals than you! Truth, B! 

After powering beyond the canals and Broad street I made my way through Centenary Square to be greeted by Birmingham's Town Hall. Even though the Town Hall is a sight I have seen many times during the last three years, it felt I had seen things through new eyes! That cherished moment made me feel thankful for Birmingham, its been sobering now because I haven't long started my final year. Dodging the Great British weather is a skill to use whenever the time is right, I made it for the nearest point of interest! I was stood amongst the growing crowds that were powering their way past me, I needed to find someplace to shelter from the rain! The workload from the start of my final year at UCB had to be tackled that morning, I gave myself a limit of time before seeing fit to having a break! I know that with the city on my doorstep I will use it as my push to complete my lengthy assignments. Everything looked Roman! 

The corner of Birmingham that I was in lay a stone's throw from Birmingham's main council buildings, there's occasionally people protesting about something! Freedom of speech, Birmingham keeps it 100! Yes, those protesting people were dressed as animals, they must have been protesting as part of an animal cruelty charity but their costumes didn't match up to the standard of Mickey Mouse and his friends. I haven't been to the Council House because its for official events, I'm going to need to blog like I've never blogged before in order to secure a gig that might well have a function there! During the months of November and December the area around Victoria Square and the Town Hall is alight with the Frankfurt Christmas Market, an event that I shall be attending this year for sure! Yes, the market gets mad hectic, the passerby and protesters made it look quiet. Sure, its no jar of honey when she gets busy in Birmingham! I was off to see the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery!

I loved the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery! In all my student years here in Birmingham I had never thought to have paid a visit here, it was free admission so for a poor student it was a winning choice! Captured to the right is the 'Modern British Art' section, which I really loved the simplicity of this exhibit it was just nice. I'm not one to focus my attention on something for a long time so I made my way around the art gallery pretty quickly but made sure I took in the beautiful and thought-provoking art work and exhibits that were on display. I encountered exhibits of Ancient Greek artefact that have certainly stood against the test of time. For the next exhibit would definitely impress me much! I walked down the stairs from the worldwide art section to a whole section dedicated to the history of Birmingham, now I was loving what I was seeing! Give a shout out to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery! Get it! 

From the Medieval stands that informed me about Birmingham's beginnings as an average market town to a thriving industrial powerhouse I was astounded! The World War II section topped off my whole visit to a new high, there was a display about Women's fashion throughout World War II in Birmingham that depicted a rather extraordinary dress made out of different types of material, it looked very hip! Free admission is how I roll, appreciate the visual offerings that Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery serves to all of us who decide to visit. People underestimate Birmingham as an artsy city but when you take a closer look its easy to see that this city has class. It's true to say that Birmingham showed me something new and something free that I can look back on and say that I loved! Don't be a fool, just take some time out of your seemingly busy schedule to appreciate Birmingham for what she truly is! Remember Birmingham has more canals than Venice, Italy! Figure that one out!

Hold that Gelato! I'll have a Chicken Balti! 

Joseph Harrison

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Back To Birmingham... The Waiting Room!

Life can be a funny thing, at this current time I feel like I'm a in a waiting room, I'm not exactly waiting for anything but for my degree to be completed. I had visions of this year being stress free but things crop up when we least expect them to happen. For such reasons I don't feel its appropriate to divulge at this current moment or at all really. I've got this one good!

I'm not going to lie there are a lot going on at the moment for me both academically and personally but I am a fighter! Have you ever felt like your stuck in a waiting room of some sort? In a manner of speaking University College Birmingham could be classed as my waiting room at this current time. I'm in my fourth and final year of BA Hons Hospitality and Tourism Management degree and the intensity has been turned up a few notches to boiling point. Call me dramatic but I would love to go back to first year, no stresses and no worries about getting a 10,000 word dissertation started. Going backwards isn't what I really want to do but things get tough every once in while so I know it will all be worth it. I only have to spend two days in university due to my timetable being focused around two modules and my dissertation. I've got Operations Management and Strategic Management this semester! I want to go now!

The photo above is from my third year when things didn't feel serious, times do change! The dissertation is a 10,000 word research project that I must complete by April 2014, so no pressure! Things have been hectic for me over the last week but I'm keeping tight lipped for once, trust I like to talk! Gone are the days where I can turn up to a lecture hungover from the previous night or even still intoxicated its time to wake and get on with things. No way! Strategic Management has to be my ultimate foe at the moment, we have a group presentation to put together and I'm not enjoying this module. I know that eventually this module will be wrapped up in time for the Christmas holidays so I can switch off for two whole weeks and forget non of this business ever happened! I've already got a deadline for an assignment and my dissertation proposal has to be in on the 23rd of October! I have stepped up to the plate to tackle all of these obstacles, instead of breaking up I'll stay!

Like waiting for a train I just feel that all the fun has to wait for another time. I admit that things are getting crazy at the moment but I just want the simple things to resurface, just to have a day our without thinking about university. Captured to the right is the view from the Empire State Building in NYC, its a sight that took courage to enjoy so I'm going put madness into my method. This blog was born because of my American and Canadian adventures during 2012 and early 2013 so its been a bitter pill to swallow to not get on a train and see somewhere new. I have to remember that I pretty much coasted through last semester so that blasé approach will no doubt return in due course. I'll get a grip eventually! Time's going to keep on turning for a new horizon isn't far away! I haven't strictly been completely truthful because all being well I will be in Liverpool for my 23rd birthday! I'm going to enjoy this time period. Go B!

I am really looking forward to getting away for the night to shake Birmingham away for a little while. I would like to rewind time back to my placement year as I had structured working times and used most of my days off to visit New York City and lots of other exciting places, after my summer of adventure I almost feel I can't say no to my university work and go to Lichfield for the afternoon to blog about it. I suppose this leads back to my situation, being in the waiting room for the next few months where I will get all the necessary things completed. I can't say that things are all bad at the moment or for the next few months because like I have said about Liverpool I have some exciting things planned! December's going to be good because I'm going to the pantomime and paying a visit to the German market in Birmingham as well. If my finances permit I would love to visit Manchester for the weekend to get inspiration for my dissertation. I'll find one way or another to get out!

Could Dubai be my destiny?! If I put things into perspective and stop being such a little diva about things I don't have a problem sitting in this waiting room. I have the desire to become a flight attendant for Emirates Airline, all being that the interview and everything else going well I could be living the Dubai life! Looking at the photo captured to the left I could get used to stressing about modules and my dissertation if it means I could have the chance to live in the dazzling Middle Eastern metropolis that is Dubai! Essentially, everything will be about having my priorities in their rightful places. I want my degree more than anything but just need to get real with all of the studying, I have friends that graduated this September and have revealed that they can do anything after concurring the dreaded dissertation. I know in my heart that my Middle Eastern dream has every chance to become a reality. Let's see what will happen?

I know a back up plan should be something to consider but I have everything covered! Here's goes the next eight months, a period of time that will change my life for the better because there's no other way its going to go! Okay so I'll have to limit the amount of day trips I make out of Birmingham this next year and get over working stupid hours on my research project but I want to be standing there with my degree at graduation looking over everyone else and thinking 'Bitches I did this!' Life does throw horrid things in our faces, some of these things may cause us to have set backs but we have to be stronger than yesterday and just get back up and survive! I should be a motivational speaker sometimes because I talk utter rubbish! I know achieving what I want will take lots of study that may put Desperately Seeking Adventure on the back burner, but I will endeavor to squeeze out maybe one or two extra blogs per month because I use blogging like therapy. Patience is a virtue!

Time Goes By So Slowly!

Joseph Harrison

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Friendships From A Far... My International Loves: Part 2!

When I was younger friends were not really my thing but as my adulthood has moved forwards I have been very fortunate in that department. I am fully aware that the world is a very large place so I feel blessed to have made friendships from the four corners of the globe! From Newark to Dubai via Orlando! Yes, I know that having 'International Love' can be and is amazing!

The only way is Dubai! I first met Inês Ladislau during my second year at UCB. My flatmate Filipa Martins introduced me to this beautiful lady who would in time become my dear friend. I recently saw Inês in Birmingham just the other weekend during her super quick turnaround from Dubai. Inês has been a flight attendant for Emirates Airline for almost a year and is based in the Middle Eastern metropolis that is Dubai. She's a girl after my own heart! We have stayed in contact since we said goodbye in Birmingham after our Scottish trip in 2011. I have always wanted a career in the skies ever since I was a small boy I would admire the passing cabin crew as they passed through the cabin, something told me I could be a fly boy! Yes?

I love travelling and meeting new people who from outside of England, so I always welcome new international friendships that take me to another side of the world! I do hope to see Inês and Filipa together soon because its been a rather long time since we have been a trio like we were in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I don't know what the future holds but I know that somewhere down the line we'll have a fabulous reunion! I feel like my placement year in Newark's Ironbound kept me close to the Portuguese culture that's present in their lives, something that I'm proud to be familiar with. I'm really glad I met these girls at UCB for they introduced me to the Erasmus society, which enabled me to meet people from Lithuania and Denmark! Eu te amo tanto! Sim!

Everyone needs a fierce hunty to call their own sister friend! I have mine in the form of the fabulous Zach Airstarr! I met Zach Altstatt during my Walt Disney International College Program in June 2011. We shared the same flat for my first few weeks, but after he left we always remained in contact throughout the summer. I just had a gut feeling that me and Zach would be great friends because we hit our first conversation speaking about Lady GaGa, true divas from the very beginning! We made it to Parliament House and Pulse Orlando for a fierce night out, I couldn't drink alcohol that night because I was only 20 but we worked it on the dance-floor nevertheless! I do remember our shifts at Walt Disney's Epcot where we merchentained with the sparkly Minnie and Princess headbands, only to be told by our managers that we should tone it down. How very dare they say that to such a fabulous and fierce pair!? I knew that I had to pay Zach a visit once my placement had finished! Yes, gurl!

That trip gave me the opportunity to meet Zach's boyfriend Dawin, he is a darling person! My Orlando weekend was filled with fabulousness and campery as we had a 'Kiki' at IHOP and shopped like 'Material Girls!' at American Apprael. I met Fendi, the dog with a drag name 'Miss Fendrea Shitzonyou' and a suitably diva personality to go with him. Myself, Zach and Dawin had a great day at Walt Disney's Epcot where we sipped on Margaritas, eating Mexican food at the Mexican pavilion at Epcot's World Showcase. I stayed at their apartment, feeling like a queen in her castle because my were ace! I should have stayed longer but I always have a habit of keeping trips short! Finishing our crazy weekend with a wicked night at Orlando's Parliament House, it was a great time to just be ourselves and enjoy our time together for we are the 'Flower Bomb Bitches!' Zach, Dawin and Fendi make sure you stay in my life because you three make it more than fabulous! Yes, of course I will be back b*tches! 

Britney Bitch was born, she recruited her angels wisely! These ladies are my shining stars, possessing a special charm that makes me love them for life! I love them dearly and even though I haven't seen them for sometime I think about them everyday. I met my two angels at Newark Liberty International Airport during my Industrial Placement throughout 2012. We all worked for Virgin Atlantic Airways, an airline that will always be special. Let's begin with Valerie Calinawan, she made my Christmas Day so special! Valerie worked with me in the Clubhouse, she's my Filipina! Valerie knows I'm on that Tagalog hype! Salamat! Let's turn Manila on its head one day Val? Yes! I know you'll show me the realest! Trust and believe V. Yas!

Fiorella Sanchez has my heart, this Peruvian princess will forever be my Clubhouse Sister! I love this girl like a sister, she's my cosita! We went for Cuban food and finally Peruvian food during our time together whilst I was on placement in the USA. I usually travel independently but welcomed Fiorella on my penultimate USA trip to New Orleans for a lovely January weekend in the French Quarter. I came down with a rather horrid cold but Fiorella nursed me back to health by making sure I had my medicine and hot tea. Myself and Fiorella have made a definite pact to visit her homeland of Peru to experience the wonder that is 'Machu Picchu'. Life has parted us for the time being but our 'International Love' will go on! Don't get it twisted, Britney loves her angels much!

Catherine, where do I begin? Meeting on the first day of our UCB experience at the Students Union at the Maltings, we became friends fast! We spent the first semester partying our way through Birmingham, we loved our lives and spent those post-club munchies along Broad Street's finest after hour joints. The group routine got crazy, we were out every weeknight then spent the weekend in our rooms where we would watch S Club 7s Miami 7. Those pre-drinking sessions within Davenport House were the best! Cat knew I wanted to see the Vengaboys at the Nightingale, she knew what I wanted to achieve from the night. For that reason I'll always be thankful for that push in the direction I was destined to take. Our university experience was rapid, Cat made her own sweet way off into the world after the first semester and it was a blur due to the fresher group falling apart, sure we made our reunions count in 2013!

I bopped to the beat of Broad Street with Catherine, finding that not all those new faces will stay and when others blur your vision it can make things seem rather different after the smoke clears. Our friendship might be from a far now but you'll always stay in my heart! In the here and now I have found myself nearing my final semester at University College Birmingham, the last three, almost four years have been blessed because a handful of amazing people have come into my life. From UCB to those Disney days with my placement year taken into consideration. Valerie and Fiorella will always my stateside sister friends, they will always be in my heart! Inês and Filipa joined me for my birthday for the trip to Glasgow and Edinburgh. Zach became my Disney friend, dancing the night down at Pulse Orlando and Parliament House respectively in Orlando, FL. The 'Flower Bomb Bitches' will reunite one day! The comeback will be real! Friends, you don't need many to have the best! Truth!

International Love Is The Best! 

Joseph Harrison

Friday, 4 October 2013

Birmingham's Balti Triangle...

I'm a fan of South Asian cuisine but I've never really been adventurous enough to breakaway from a mild Chicken Korma dish. Until now I ventured down to Sparkbrook, Birmingham to check out the Balti Triangle. Being a university student in Birmingham can usually mean sticking within the city limits only taking in the Bullring and the Canals. Bring that Balti back! 

Welcome to Sparkbrook, the homeland of Birmingham's Balti Triangle. You don't need to be fancy, so get off that high horse and experience something authentic. Ladypool Road is the part that I discovered yesterday to find some spicy food and eastern promise. If truth be told I was following a Google map from my iPhone so I was relieved to see the sign for Ladypool Road. You could say that I'm quite daring because until yesterday I had not ventured past Highgate in all my time as a student in Birmingham. I really felt like I needed to take a chance and just go with it! I'm quite accustomed to areas like Sparkbrook as I lived close to Southall, London until I was six years old. Back to the Triangle, I loved the variety of convenience stores that were on offer as I turned onto Ladypool Road, it was great to see the long lines of fresh fruit and vegetables ripe for sale out front. So, I will now choose alternative Brum!

This Balti Triangle is a testament of Birmingham being a multicultural city with a rich tapestry of communities that complement each other. I believe we have to tolerant and willing to be part of these international factors because it's what Birmingham is famous for! I timed by walk from Birmingham's Westside to Ladypool Road, Sparkbrook finding out my journey had taken less than thirty minutes, proving this hot 'n' spicy area is conveniently located from Birmingham's inner city core. Now I urge you to trust something that you're not completely sure of because its so worth it. I shall never be told where to go, I plan to keep on seeing places that are away from the city centre because life's just too short and danger lies in the most unassuming places. I honestly don't know why I hadn't been to Sparkbrook for a walk around before that point? Sparkbrook reminded me of something from the 90's film 'East Is East' I mean that quite literal, why would I lie about that? B, I was living! 

You've heard of 'Haute Couture?' Well, I want to turn that definition of fashion on its head because I saw some beautiful Asian saris and wedding dresses that could be certified 'Halal Couture!' Call me controversial but if I was a Pakistani or Indian bride to be I would jump at the chance of having a dress made at one of Sparkbrook's many bridal boutiques! I did not just see normal dress shops I saw Islamic fashion shops that specialised in the sale of headscarves like the Hijab and Niqab, the shops windows in those shops were very brightly coloured with a wide range of fashionable headwear available for the modern and more conservative Muslim women of Birmingham. I nearly forgot to mention something! Are diamonds really a girl's best friend? Birmingham's Balti Triangle features a series of eye catching jewellers, I prefer diamonds. Men are suited with select range of barbershops to congregate around. Good call for a cut B! 

Still on the subject of religious and bridal wear there was a huge range of men's fashion wear for all important occasions, I would say that definition of 'Halal Couture' could utilised once again for the gentleman from this part of Birmingham. No one wants to look like a hot mess so these Arab ladies work their 'Halal Couture' instead of wearing clothes from the western fashions houses that don't comply with the Islamic way. How have I gone from fruit and vegetables to Asian bridal wear, no matter what Sparkbrook has something that the city centre doesn't possess. Do Asian bride wear white on their wedding day? I feel like I'm going off on to a tangent but with all the colouful wedding fashion the bridal wear looked refreshing with a Eastern flare. A fair amount of modernisation was being carried out when I made it to Ladypool Road, I suppose the streets of the Balti Triangle are just been beautified? If I was an Asian bridegroom I would be back to Sparkbrook for my threads. Yes!

I did not just go to The Balti Triangle for a walk around, I went for the food! Choosing to eat at Shabab Balti Restaurant on Ladypool Road, Sparkbrook. Birmingham is undoubtedly the home and creator of the Balti dish, originating from the Pakistani and Kashmiri communities this dish has allowed the Curry to become the national dish of England. Back to my orders, I chose Onion Bhaji and Chicken Pakora to start with accompanied by a Poppadom with raita. I honestly didn't realise how much food I was going to be faced with so I had the rest of starters packaged for later. I took a breather from eating by enjoying a cup of Desi Masala Tea it tasted superb! Finally, I ordered the Balti Chicken Mushroom and Spinach with a Naan bread instead of Pilau rice. I literally enjoyed every single mouthful, even though I'm not one for extra spicy food I opted for medium spice that tasted just right. Don't be so beige!

I could not fault the service conducted at Shabab Balti Restaurant as it was exceptional. My whole order cost £14.00, which for an occasional treat didn't break my tight budget! Would I choose other places to eat upon my next visit to Sparkbrook? I don't think I would even though variety is the spice of life, I did really enjoy the food served to me. Also I shall rethink my curry of choice for next because I wish to sample other types of Balti dishes. Challenge yourself because as trivial as it sounds I don'r stray away from a Chicken Korma so I did good! Let's keep things simple, the waiters might only have limited English but my waiter was polite and nothing was too much trouble for Shabab to execute. Choose Shabab Balti Restaurant for an uncomplicated and flavoursome dining experience in the heart of Birmingham's Balti Triangle. To finish things off I even got a 10% discount card for my next order at Shabab Balti Restaurant, so I know where to eat next time. Consider that done! Deal!

Balti Triangle, Birmingham .... Thank You For Welcoming Me!

Joseph Harrison

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

2013: Those September Days...

September has already been a month full of excitement and changes, looking back what did I actually accomplish? What things do I still want to seek? October will be the judge of that! From the Coffeeshops of Amsterdam to moving back to Birmingham, did I forget anything? I'm awaiting my student loan because there's more to life than eating! September was a lovely month!

Beginning with a bang myself and my younger Brother made the trip to Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Mary Jane Holland! When in the Dam it was the done thing for us to experience the Coffeeshops, choosing GOA as a top pick for its chilled vibe and modern music. Be prepared for the soothing smells of the Coffeeshops, we loved it! Amsterdam is a beautiful place that has many temptations, some of those temptations were not for us! I must admit the working girls that we saw posing from the windows in the Red Light District are a sight for sure! Being cultural during a boys weekend in Amsterdam was possible. We took the liberty of going on a canal cruise, taking in the iconic warehouses and new developments that keep this Dutch city a cut above the rest! No Royal Taste! Negatives aside the energy of the city can be felt in the centre of Dam Square. Amsterdam writes its own rules, enjoy it and respect them!

We made a considerable effort to be responsible tourists that didn't do the typical things that are expected. Dankuwel Amsterdam! Note to self, always be mindful when taking the train from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport because lots of trains all go to stations that end with Centraal. We took the train that called at Utrecht Centraal instead of Amsterdam Centraal, it was a mistake because quote me wrong those Centraal's all read the same when you don't speak or understand Dutch! Nonetheless with the help of a fellow passenger who happened to speak English we made it to our desired destination instead of Rotterdam as that's where our original train was bound for. Flying with Flybe the flight only took one hour, quick and easy it was from Brimingham! Taking it easy on the first night we went for some beers, not wanting to be boring we got our drink on and went to Escape to enjoy our final night in Amsterdam. No takeaways open at 3am in the morning? No stress found in Dam!

Whilst at home in Bilston I made it to Wolverhampton to run a few errands. I've been quite the globetrotter over the last two years so I have not been faithful to places that are closer to home. Like most places over the last two to three years the economic situation hasn't been too kind to our high streets and retail companies, I wanted to see if Wolverhampton still had its spark that I remember from my college days! I made my way around the city taking the current sights in with an analytic approach to determine how I felt about Wolverhampton. To be truthful I was not really impressed but also felt sorry for this city as I had grown up at one of the city's Irish pubs that's now a betting shop. Wolverhampton will make its comeback soon. Wolverhampton certainly didn't resemble the edge that Amsterdam did, remembering my location it was like life had came crashing down, I was not impressed by those sights! I needed NYC!

Located by the headquarters of Wolverhampton's City Council is St.Peter's House a building that brings back fond memories. For two years I went to St.Peter's House for my drama classes with the Christian Drama Club (CDC). With my six other fellow actors we had a great time rehearsing for shows and having a great time, it was a place that allowed me to make some great friends for sure! My September visit to Wolverhampton was a sobering state of affairs, I saw some fashion faux pas committed by the locals, sort it out Wolverhampton! I'm no Gok Wan but I would be serving some shade towards the ill-dressed Wulfrunians, girl they need the truth!  I don't really know when I'll be returning to the city streets of Wolverhampton. I see another blog on the cards about Wolves! Birmingham would take me back underneath its wing, I need that positivity back into my life! My final throw of high education was about to begin! Looking back, Wolverhampton needed to play caught up, quick! 

Birmingham has some hidden gems that have brighten up my university life. Cannon Hill Park allowed me to have a relaxing afternoon. The weather had taken a turn for the better with sunny spells blessing the Birmingham area, I took a chance on something new so Cannon Hill Park sounded like a plan. Leaving my student halls behind me I was excited to see something outside the Maltings because it can be boring sometimes. Setting off for the park I made a pit stop at Aldi to buy lunch as breakfast time had past by then. My eyes were opened up to the Edgbaston Cricket Stadium, new discoveries are made everyday! I'm no stranger to spending time at a park or open space for last semester I spent some time at the Edgbaston Reservoir, its so much better to enjoy the best of the weather beside some nature. Birmingham is landlocked so any lake or man-made water space is much appreciated. How Birmingham still looked great! Oh!

Back to my park-life, I took some much needed time to clear some head-space for the stresses of moving back to Birmingham had got to a level! I opted against having an ice cream because my last serving was less than satisfactory. Captured above is the view that I had at Cannon Hill Park, it was bliss just to take time out, others can be so draining! I'm a cultured soul who likes to mix things up compared to the average university student. I would say to any university student in Birmingham to get up and get out to see something new. I've been at University College Birmingham for almost three years now and I'm constantly discovering new places within Birmingham. Entry to Cannon Hill Park stood to be free! There were no excuses about not having enough money! My liver needed a little break, the park healed that! I had a great time at the park and look forward to more days spent out and about that don't hurt my already weak financial predicament! Who needs money? I didn't! 

September, DONE!

Joseph Harrison