25 January 2014

The Jekyll and Hyde: Victorian Gin Parlour - Birmingham

I love Gin! I wanted to do something different for I don't make enough time to be a cultured soul, I always choose a night out on the tiles compared to a darling meal out that doesn't end so shamelessly! After seeing a link on Twitter I booked a table at the Jekyll and Hyde, a charming Victorian Pub and Gin Parlour that caught my eye for the right reasons!

Reporting for our 7:30 pm reservations we took our seats, I must admit that we were bewildered and quite amazed by the bar within the quaint Gin Parlour for the vast amount of Gin's that were on display were quite amazing! Like I previously mentioned I had first seen The Gin Parlour at the Jekyll and Hyde from a tweet so I had high expectations for the Gin as I can't get enough of the stuff, being a student its quite rare to see one of our kind having a Gordon's Gin and a mixer for pre-drinks! Anyhow, I still couldn't get over the bar, for the presentation was second to none!  The bar downstairs was abuzz but that wan't our intended location, for we wanted the Gin Parlour! Our servers Kate and Kathryn both knew their stuff when it came to Gin and the different variations for the speciality brews and cocktails, that's what I call perfect product knowledge! Kelly would agree with me on that view.

We decided to dine and drink that night for it would have been rude not to have done any different! Should we have a bathtub of Gin first or should of we ordered a speciality cocktail? I had seen many photos of the fancy Gin drinks that I wanted to try, but on a student budget it's always a challenge! I must say that I would have never expected a place so grand to be located with Birmingham's Business District but I guess Birmingham has many hidden depths! Brum is best! I shall be turning to Twitter for any future dining inspiration, those twittering blue birds have been tweeting the right stuff! Book in advance to secure your table at Jekyll and Hyde because things can get really busy on a Friday and Saturday night. I always thought I knew Birmingham better than I did before I found out about Jekyll & Hyde's Victorian Gin Parlour but the rest has already been done. I wouldn't mind another Gin infused drink like I had at Jekyll & Hyde, I'll always love Gin! Don't be a fool!

Our first Gin infusion had to be a bathtub of Gin, captured to the right was our first wondrous serving at the Jekyll & Hyde. Madame Genevers Bathwater was served in a darling ceramic bathtub, it was a sight that neither me or Kelly had ever seen before! Our bathtub sharer was laden with a infusion of Bole Genevers Gin, Apricot Jam, Peach Schnapps, Rose Water and Lemon Juice. We had barely thought about ordering any food yet so we took some time to take the plunge, enjoying each glass of our sumptuous Gin sharer! Only costing £25.00, so we split the price to £12.50 each so our student loans weren't damaged. My experience at the Jekyll & Hyde Victorian Gin Parlour was showing me that Gin should be savoured and measured to a sensible level for it was more about the taste experience rather than becoming inebriated. Birmingham had never looked so classy to us students! Be fancy at the Jekyll & Hyde!

We had enjoyed our first ever Gin bathtub and by the look of things it was going to get even better! The overall ambiance of the Victorian Gin Parlour was simply lovely, the attention to detail of the design was effortless! I honestly felt like I had been transported back to a Victorian time, now I would have loved to of seen Birmingham during the reign of Queen Victoria! I cast my mind back to my time here in Birmingham as a student and wonder for a while to think why I had never stumbled upon this charming place!? I suppose Gin can be enjoyed in a more civilised way rather than knocking back several treble measures before a night out on the town. Gin is done differently at Jekyll & Hyde for the team know their varieties of liquor. If truth be told I haven't found anywhere else in Birmingham that serves Gin in a miniature bathtub, so its kudos to Jekyll & Hyde, Birmingham! If you want to experience something more opulent then make it the Jekyll & Hyde, Birmingham!

Our purpose at the Jekyll & Hyde wasn't just to drink Gin, oh no we were ready for some lovely food! Branded the 'Eat Me, Drink Me' themed night at the Victorian Gin Parlour from Thursday through Saturday, Gin and food could be enjoyed as one exquisite experience! We couldn't of passed this opportunity up for we enjoyed some rather delicious food that Friday night at The Jekyll and Hyde! Choosing two courses for £12.50 I and Kelly felt that it was necessary for us to stay away from the deserts as the offerings of Gin provided enough of a sweet escape for us! Both choosing to start with the Home Smoked Mackerel fillet, served with a rustic arrangement with a Tomato Confit, accompanied by a Olive Ciabatta and Parsley on the side. Our starters were amazing, We were both in agreeance that we had not such good food in Birmingham for a while. How did we not know about this place until now?! I'm hungry now!

Through all the Gin we ordered we waited patiently for our main courses, the Victorian Parlour was filled with lively chat. To complement our starter we both chose the Chicken stuffed with Chorizo and baked Brie, which was served with Scallion pureed Potatoes and Sweet Potato chips. All food served was flavoursome and the portions reflected the deal that was on offer to us. Both courses were faultless and served piping hot so that did impress me much! Nothing was hurried along nor nothing took to long, the timing performed was just right and with a packed Parlour its ''Hats Off!'' Jekyll & Hyde, Birmingham is waiting!  Feeling suitably satisfied by our meal we decided to enjoy a final drink before departing for home. Deserts are for fools, I don't use that term of phrase! I chose the 'Blueberry Thrill' and Kelly chose the 'Joseph Jekyll' both Gin cocktails were served in a beautifully decorated Hendricks bone china cup and saucers, one way to end a lovely meal and Gin experience. 

When's The Mad Hatters Tea Party?

Joseph Harrison. 

19 January 2014

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory - The Musical

I muscled in on my cousin Christmas present to see Charlie and The Chocolate Factory: The Musical at the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane, London. I'm still a kid at heart, try convincing a five year old child that was no easy task! It wasn't just the show that I loved, it was great to be back in London for the day even thought it was probably one of the quickest days in London!

Bright and early on the 17th January 2014 our Virgin Train hurtled down the West Coast Mainline towards London Euston for the matinee performance of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory: The Musical! Opening on the 25th of June 2013 at London's Theatre Royal, Drury Lane this new musical hit London's West End! From its humble beginnings of a simple storybook written by children's author Roald Dahl this story of Charlie and that famous chocolate factory is now a all singing and all dancing theatre show. I jumped at the chance of seeing this show for it was a Christmas treat that I received, so I couldn't wait to see if I was going to be transported to a world of pure imagination!? I must say that Theatre Royal on London's historic Drury Lane looked splendid from both the inside and out! It's true that I love London's West End theatre district!

Never mind the child within me for it was time to take our seats, it was a interesting trip to the theatre from Euston Station as the London Underground love to close lines for maintenance at the weekends, how considerate! Curtain up, the show began to find Charlie Bucket sitting within a rubbish dump relishing in his urchin-like existence, finding bits and bobs to make inventions. I somehow needed to forget the book and the original movie for this bit as I quickly realised that I wasn't going to see original Charlie, this would be a complete other extravaganza! Charlie couldn't even afford a bar of Wonka chocolate, for the market-seller threw numerous playful puns that children would be blissfully unaware of the meanings but the adults could have a chuckle for the audience predominately consisted of children and their parents. His Grandparents bed was extremely good, with interchanging parts the geriatric four brought a West End like dance routine from their beds!

Four golden tickets had been won, firstly by Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde and Mike TV! Each presentation of each winner was fashioned into a mock television news special, crafted with a signature show tune and dance. Keeping inline with the new musical theme this segment showed a whole new Violet, something that I commend the writers and directors for executing! Charlie kept his optimism for even his birthday Wonka chocolate bar didn't provide a golden ticket to gain him access into the chocolate factory of Willy Wonka! Charlie Bucket found some money that been left behind by a seemingly wealthy and pretentious couple, that was Charlie's chance? Charlie went on to experience his own television news interview, that segment proved different for Charlie didn't care about the song or dance. A level of integrity remained intact to stay true to the book. 

Moments away from the interval stood the gates of Willy Wonka's factory, a mix of simple theatre set and computer graphics made their way into this section of the show. Willy Wonka stood in-front of the five bewildered children who had all rightfully won their golden tickets, his entrance did resemble such steps taken by Gene Wilder from the original film. Played by Douglas Hodge, this Willy Wonka brought a simple level of eccentricity to the show that captured the real meaning of this story! Looking back over the first half of this sweet show the attention to detail for costume and set alike translated to the audience effortlessly, this new musical wasn't like anything I had ever seen before on the West End or Broadway and I have been to a considerable amount of shows in my 23 years of life. I would have been elated if I was Charlie Bucket, winning a golden ticket to see one of the most secretive chocolate factories for the closest I've got to that is a visit to Cadbury World!

Charlie, Violet, Veruca, Augustus and Mike made their way around Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, accompanied by their unique looking relatives. The famous five took some time out of their exploration of the factory to find a room with edible grass, flowers and a lake made of pure milk chocolate. Augustus made a speedy exit through a suction pipe for his gluttony led him to be in a unfortunate place. Violet over-indulged in a gobstopper gone wrong, for she ballooned into a blueberry to her father's delight! The special effects were plentiful, with sights that I haven't previously witnessed in the West End. Veruca learnt her lesson for she proved to be a bad nut, she had it coming! Charlie and Mike remained, the lucky two moved further into the depths of the factory, the Oompa Lumpas danced about with the use of their get-up!

Charlie waited for his fate as he was the last child, greed or disobedience seemed to be the trigger to the other children's exits. Charlie remained the golden boy! Through the insanity of Willy Wonka, Charlie and Grandpa Joe almost walked away with nothing, but one stroke of genius brought back one of the most iconic song's from the original film! Willy Wonka invited Charlie into his glass elevator after realising Charlie was a born inventor, taking Charlie to new found heights the elevator glowed in the dark theatre amongst a scene of glittering stars! Charlie was welcomed into a 'World of Pure Imagination!' I was astounded and delighted for this song had been saved for the finale! Charlie inherited the factory, welcoming his family into a life that didn't mirror their situation at the beginning! This musical was like a blend of the book, original and remade films placed into a processor to become one magical and mesmirising musical finale! I want to see another show! Oh Charlie!

Will Charlie Bucket ever make it to Broadway?! After-all he does have a Golden Ticket!

Joseph Harrison 

16 January 2014

2012: My Year In New Jersey

2012 was the year of all years, it was amazing, tiring and just a little bit more awesome! I recently rounded 2013 into a retrospective blog, but this time last year the thought didn't really cross my mind to look back at my placement year. It's all meant to be as the two year anniversary of my flight to Newark airport is fast approaching. Britney B is making a comeback! 

Arriving in Newark was an experience that I'll never forget! The sirens of the speeding police cars put the fear in me as me and my fellow interns were driven from the airport along Broad Street, Downtown Newark! Soon after I boarded a NJ Transit train to NY Penn Station for my first experience of Times Square to make the most of our first real day in the city. Not forgetting the real reason I made it to Newark, New Jersey, I had been selected to be a Passenger Services Agent for Virgin Atlantic Airways at Newark Liberty International Airport. It would be sometime before I would completely settle in the swing of things at the airport. I had yet to learn that my new neighbourhood, the Ironbound would serve a hearty portion of Brazilian and Portuguese culture. I had made my first month before I knew it! I spent the day with Paolo going about the city on the NYC Subway then we had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant. Britt!

Life in Newark changed me, waking up at 3:00 am in the morning made me value the luxury that was definitely sleep. I had big travelling plans that would have to wait. I donned my new VS uniform with pride, I was learning a job that would unknowingly leave me in good stead for my future endeavours after I graduate from university. I faced my fears at work, eventually my persona was born! Britney Bitch, a fierce part of my Newark being helped me work my way through the first two quarters of my industrial placement. BB took no prisoners but always keep the passengers best interests at heart, professionalism is definitely her middle name! Shopping at Pathmark was tiring, the check-out girls were ratchet! I tell you one grocery shopping trip at Pathmark turned nasty, the check-out assistant demanded me to pay quickly, I was like 'hold up!' Newark was changing me! No one talks to BB that way! I had to be fierce in Newark because some people were not friendly!

A visit back to England could wait, I had no commitment so I travelled to my hearts content, well within my vacation allowance! I kept things local at first with trips to Philadelphia and around New York City to sights like Battery Park, the Statue of Liberty and Greenwich Village. My time in Newark was a chance to see places that I didn't get the chance to during my Disney program in 2011. I worked my shifts but wanted to make the most of my time because what good does it do sitting in your room? I wanted to get to know my co-workers, after-all if I was to spend most of my time at work I wanted to make some friendships! I met Paolo and Tom, two fellow interns from Blackpool and Northampton. I classed these guys as 'my boys' we would go for food in the Ironbound and eventually embarked on our Las Vegas weekend to celebrate Paolo's 21st birthday! Southwest Airlines served me with a journey to remember! It was so mad!

I got into the grind at the airport, I mastered check-in and wanted to be transferred to Clubhouse! As the summer rolled in the weather changed from the chilly temperatures to a sweltering humid mess, how I didn't appreciate the Newark air! I chilled at Point Pleasant Beach and loved my life on the beach sunning myself in the sun, I was better than the Jersey Shore lot! I reunited with Ritika, my Disney friend, we enjoyed the sights of NYC and several tequila shots a Applebee's. I booked a super short trip down to the presidential city of Washington, D.C. Nothing lasts forever, it was time for Tom and Paolo to make their sweet goodbyes from EWR, I stayed strong when Paolo left, I knew I would have gotten a slap! When Tom left I cried like a baby! BB had a mid placement crisis! Ironbound life was a great distraction, I loved to do my laundry at the laundromat on the corner of Lafayette & Polk St! I survived on a small diet of barbecue chicken, rice and black beans! How, I was super slim!

Rewinding the clock back to the 24th June 2012, I stood along NYC's Christopher Street in Greenwich Village to see the NYC Pride March 2012. Cyndi Lauper was the Grand Pride Marshal so I guessed girl just wanted to have fun?! As I made my way closer to the edge of the summer I embarked on another memorable trip in September 2012 to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Captured to the left is the vista from the El Yunque Rainforest! Old San Juan showed me so much, that break gave me some solace back in my life. I missed the births of my two new cousins so I needed to relax to be away from work. Puerto Rico cured me! Looking back on random parts of my placement year in Newark I made an effort to see live sports games, firstly with the Superbowl, followed by a basketball game at Newark's Prudential Center, a football match at the New York Red Bulls in Harrison. The Yankees played a memorable game!

October brought new check-in desks and the upcoming opening of a new Clubhouse for Virgin Atlantic at Newark Airport, I had worked as Arrivals Lead at that point and I can say I quite enjoyed that fast paced role. Canada called me in October to a weekend in Toronto, it was a Disney reunion for Alexandra who I worked with in Orlando showed me the sights! Boston showed me a great weekend where I saw the sights and spent two tonight's in a hostel for the first time! I booked a trip home to England, a lovely week was spent at home in Bilston. I experienced Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class cabin for my outbound flight to LHR, seriously its how the other half live! I got to know my new cousins Poppy and Micky, went to Mamma Mia in London with my mum and enjoyed a serving of Major's fish and chips! Back to Newark for one week's work and the opening of a brand new clubhouse! I flew to Montreal for a great weekend on my 22nd birthday! Well what happened, that's all a secret really!

To the right is the entrance to the current Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at EWR. I always believed that this time was meant to be as I looked forward to every shift working in the new Clubhouse as a number one! The grand opening signified the final chapter of my placement at Virgin Atlantic. My role as a Clubhouse Agent grew with the encouragement of the fabulous new manager who transformed EWR's Virgin Atlantic Upper Class operation to something that would have never been possible in the previous location. I worked with truly beautiful people in that Clubhouse, amongst my favourites I will always be grateful for Fiorella Sanchez! My Clubhouse sister and I welcomed some famous faces into the Clubhouse, ensuring their experience were always Upper Class! My Clubhouse angels made my shifts working with Thayciria, and Ruth and the rest of the dream team! I also loved working with Jake, he's my top Clubhouse star!

My final few weeks of my industrial placement saw me tone down my cross-country trips for a day down to Baltimore, Maryland! I saw the backdrop to the movie musical Hairspray, so I loved its realness! New York City at Christmas time was amazing, the month of December saw me visit The High Line! New York City had become my place of escape, I would pack my little bag of essentials and hop on the PATH train over to the Empire State! I had been to a Broadway show back in September, Ricky Martin starred in Evita so I jumped at the chance to book a ticket. I also rubbed shoulders with the Material Girl Madonna at the Yankee Stadium during the U.S leg of her 2012 MDNA Tour! Looking back further I trusted my instinct to find the Jewish Hasidim area of Williamsburg, Brooklyn! It was an experience for sure! But my lasting memory of New York City would have to be my Christmas Eve trip to the Rockefeller for the Christmas tree shined bright. I promise I'll be back one day!

2012... BB's Year! 

Joseph Harrison 

12 January 2014

Next Stop... Bristol, England!

Time waits for no one, I extended my trip to Bath with an afternoon in Bristol. I wanted to experience Bristol's city centre to see for myself what Bristol has to offer! Enough of this introduction, I want to see Bristol already! Let's get this together because this Bristolian Harbourside city has got hidden talents with S.S. Great Britain in the yard! Bristol, no parties please!

Fresh from my day of Roman discovery in Bath I was ready to hop on the train back to Bristol for an afternoon of sightseeing before my return back to Birmingham. I mentioned before I had previously been to Bristol but it was only for the night and I literally went to a party and saw the train station so I wanted to see the city behind that eventful party! I retraced my steps from the moment of I disembarked my Megabus the previous morning to begin my day in the Harbourside city. Ditching the tourist map, I relied on my memory from looking at Bristol from the medium of Google Maps. Captured to the left is Central Promenade, which stands in the heart of Bristol's city centre. I was ready for my Bristolian afternoon to begin! Why did I choose to visit Bristol? I say why not?! My coach back to Birmingham left Bristol that evening so after arriving from Bath I took to the streets to experience Bristol. Work Briz!

I appreciated the Central Promenade, I could tell that Bristol would serve up tonnes of understated realness! The previous day started off as a whirlwind, hot in my pursuit to reach Bath so I remembered this central point well for its located just a couple steps away from Colston Hall where the Megabus makes its Bristol stop. Bristol had a lot to show me, I recently remembered 2013 in a retrospective blog so I wanted to follow from my travel successes to start 2014 with a new zest for seeking adventure! I really feel quite frustrated at the moment, whilst I'm not stressed out my with University work I just feel very restricted with my budget for my student loan lacks funds, I think days out like this will be the key to keep on travelling until I finish my studies and secure a job! South-West England isn't too far from Birmingham so I was up for a change. Bristol didn't really have that busybody vibe, everyone got on with their day in a cool and collected manner! Get it!

Adding a royal flare to my afternoon in Bristol I took a stroll from the Central Promenade to Queen Square. I gained a higher appreciation for this part of Bristol's city centre. Queen Square reminded me of London's Grosvenor so this side of the city impressed me much! I must add that the weather was absolutely darling that morning, it was slightly chilly but the bright blue winters sky was quite tolerable. The semi-busy Bristolians made their way around Queen Square as this meeting point meets in the middle of Bristol's Harbourside and the Temple Meads Railway Station, it possibly acts as a convenient path between the key spots in Bristol's city centre? Queen Square now acts as centre of business as most of properties are now solicitors, times have changed. Queen Square showed that modern Bristol has time for monuments that tell a story from the city's past to keep living to this day. Choose Bristol!

Dating back to the 1700's Queen Square really has a story to tell, with the statue of William III now being declared as a grade I listed building along with Custom House, which is now a grade II listed building so lots of history still lives within Queen Square today. Bristol has huge shoes to fill for my day in Bath showed me the Roman legacy of yesteryear so I was loving my surroundings during my time in Bristol. I could envisage myself strolling across Bristol's Queen Square during the 1700's for that would make me feel so lucky! I noticed a slight spat of development going on but I think it was all in order to regenerate the other side of Queen Square and the surrounding area. Make your mind up, throw caution to the wind and get to Bristol! I have a feeling that I'll be getting back to the West Country within the next couple of months for I have to experience a nightclub that goes by the name of Capones, I can't wait for my next Southern trip! Serve that Royal Highness!

I never knew such a picturesque sight would greet me in Bristol, not to talk down on this West Country city because I don't want to direct any hate towards Bristol! The Floating Harbour and Harbourside were lovely additions to the fabric of Bristol's city centre for I had only seen this side of town on a map. Captured to the left is the Floating Harbour that lies only a heartbeat away from Bristol's Central Promenade within the centre of town. As I walked beside the Floating Harbour I was very much enjoying my current surroundings, Bristol is quite brilliant! I noticed that the 200th anniversary of the Floating Harbour was being celebrated with displays that explained the mechanisms of this former Bristolian waterway. The Floating Harbour has hidden depths! To the left is Brunel's SS. Great Britain, I would have to say that Bristol reminded me of Baltimore, USA due to the similarities of the historical waterfront B!

Not to forget that located at the foot of Bristol's Central Promenade is the Harbourside, a vibrant area that brings the waterside, restaurants and the cathedral together as one. The time I spent along the Harbourside may have been brief but I made damn sure I took in all of the sights that stood before me. I could tell that a night out at one of Bristol's Harbourside establishments would be an exciting affair! I did make a brief trip to Bristol's Cathedral to find that it had the look of a mini Notre Dame. I loved this side of Bristol's city centre, it showcased a vibrancy that was translated effortlessly. From the Central Promenade to the charms of Queen Square Bristol's credentials shaped up pretty damn fine! Getting around Brizzle by foot is easy, everything is very accessible. The Harbourside and Floating Harbour acted as a fond reminder of my time in America, moreover I am learning to be content with visiting places in England. Bristol impressed me much, I'll be returning!

Bristol ... You Haven't Seen The Last Of Me!

Joseph Harrison  

11 January 2014

Bath Spa - Welcome To Roman Britain

Bath Spa, a small city located in Somerset, England happened to be the location of my latest adventure. I had read a blog about Bath a couple of months ago, which made me want to book a trip immediately but the idea disappeared for a while until just a couple of weeks of ago when I decided on a whim to just book up and go! Can Bath be explored on a budget? Yes!

Arriving in Bath was a relief as the journey down was at an ungodly hour! Bath is beautiful, steeped in so much history, with period architecture that was good enough for the likes of Julius Cesar! This regal city welcomed me with no problems, I was ready to see what Bath had to show me, I was in for a treat for sure! I decided to keep on moving, being tired didn't stop me from finding the Roman Baths, a former health spa for the Roman elite during the Roman Era in England. Dating back to its earliest records around 60-70 AD the Roman Baths date back up to 300 years to this day! As the years past this hot spa acted as Bath's social stomping ground for all the elite that could afford to enjoy the opulent facilities, if I would have lived in Roman Bath I would have been a frequent visitor to the Baths. If truth be told I have been looking closer to home to find something opulent, I struck gold! I loved Bath!

Students keep your student cards handy for the discount really makes the visit worth it! I tried my best to listen to the audio guide but I got a little impatient, I just wanted to see the Baths! Captured above is my view of the Roman Baths, I can wholeheartedly say that the Roman Baths fulfilled one of my expectations. Now declared by English Heritage as a grade 1 listed building, preservation and excavation has obviously been the key to showcase such a marvel of the past. It was amazing to see the detail of the Baths through the workmanship that was originally crafted to make such a grand structure. Julius Cesar's statue stood proud around the top of the Baths, he being the main reason for the Roman invasion and the construction of these Baths. I suppose in this instance the Roman invasion of Bath Spa amongst other places now acts as legacy for such sights like the Roman Baths?! Such a shame I was 300 years to late to have a swim. Cesar was a clever ruler!

The future has been safeguarded for the Baths! Bath just kept serving flawless architecture that dated back well into the 1700's and before. To the right is the Royal Crescent, a regal development of thirty terraced houses and flats dating back to the 1700's, which were constructed from 1767 to 1774. I was looking for something different to see outside the confides of the historic city centre, so a stroll away from the Roman Baths and the hoards of tourists led me to these regal houses, overlooking a lovely wide vista that gave a great view over the Royal Victoria Park and the rest of Bath. I don't say this much but I do love my country, well maybe sometimes! Hailed as another grade listed 1 property, this stately figure of Bath will be protected to continually be royal into the future. The Royal Crescent isn't just a housing complex, its a film and television set to give the illusion of a 1800's residence. 

Keeping with the royal theme the area surrounding the Royal Crescent and the Royal Victoria Park rewinds the clock back some more, its like walking into a period of time that hasn't changed or been influenced by our modern age. I loved Brock Street for it stood effortlessly with its Georgian charm, how had I woke up in Birmingham that morning to then be stood in such a regal setting?! This area was the reason I had chosen to visit Bath alongside the Roman Baths, I wasn't looking for high street brands at all, I wanted to see the Bath of yesterday! The shops along Margaret's Building were sublime, kitsch and very upmarket, completely out of my student price range so I just took a little walk past and imagined how much the items costed. Moving closer back to Bath city centre I stumbled upon The Circus, that happened to be a period looking cul-de-sac of townhouses that sat in a perfect circle. I had chosen wisely to visit Bath Spa! I love my foreign trips but England that bad!

I shall be honest from the very beginning I'm not the religious type at all but when its all in the name of tourism I make allowances for places of worship. Making the most of my final morning in Bath I knew what I needed to do. I originally saw Bath Abbey on my first morning in Bath but decided against having a look inside until the next day for my early start and lack of sleep was catching up on me as my first day in Bath progressed. Captured to the left is Bath Abbey, I must say that I was very impressed by the architecture for Bath is a winner when it comes to appearance for the whole city is pretty as a picture! I found that the image captured of the Abbey looked the best from within the confides of the Roman Baths. I paid a visit to the Abbey to see the interior, marveling at the great beauty and detail of the ceilings. Who knew that this Abbey dated back to the 7th century?! Like a prayer? Yes!

Throughout my short trip to Bath I experienced great things but there was one low point, let's just say my original hostel wasn't up to standard so I made my feelings clear and chose to stay at the Bath Backpackers Hostel. I would highly recommend staying at this hostel if you're in Bath for a short while as doing things on budget can sometimes be challenging! I loved Bath from the moment I stepped of the First Great Western train that transported me from Bristol Temple Meads Station. From the opulence of the Roman Baths to the attention to detail of Bath's Abbey, I have to say that I also loved the noble and stately Royal Crescent for it was royal! I would like to say that Bath chose me rather than me choosing it! I urge anyone to visit this enchanting Roman inspired city! I didn't make it to Stonehenge or Salisbury but have that pre-historic monument in my sights for sometime this year! I still had my day in Bristol so I moved onwards! Visit Bath, you will love it!

Roman, Roman, Roman! That's Bath! 

Joseph Harrison

7 January 2014

Destination: Manchester

Hello 2014! Leaving 2013 behind I embarked on my first trip of the year to Manchester. This trip was planned in November to aid my Dissertation as I'm investigating Manchester as a successful Gay tourism destination. Booking my train and hotel I waited for the first week of January 2014 to travel north to Manchester. Yes, Manchester knew that I would be shameless B!

I didn't know where to begin, I consulted the Metrolink map and decided to see the Salford Quays and MediaCityUK to get my Manchester trip going. Taking the Manchester Metrolink is a piece of cake and it doesn't cost the earth to discover this Mancunian wonder! Departing from Manchester Piccadilly Station I took the Metrolink bound for the cobbles of Coronation Street. Passing through Deansgate was great I saw lots of Manchester and I had only just stepped off my train from Wolves. I would like to say that I'm the type that says 'No' to tourist maps at all costs for I like to make my own mistakes. I loved Manchester from the very first moment I stepped onto the Metrolink platform at Piccadilly Station for the staff answered my question with a smile and even engaged in conversation for a second, other cities need to take training from the Mancunians! I saw my Manchester trip as research! Go on MCR?

In hot pursuit of the Rovers Return pub I chose to get off at the Salford Quays to find MediaCityUK, but by surprise I saw the home of Manchester United Football Club, Old Trafford which stood before me so that was a nice addition to the day. You already know that I wasn't in Manchester to see the football! Reaching MediaCityUK didn't take too long for I could see the ITV and Coronation Street logo's standing before me across the quay, I wouldn't be permitted entry to the studios but it was good enough to see the studios anyway. I walked around the quay I saw the Lowry Theatre and other amenities before seeing the main MediaCityUK headquarters, new home of the BBC. I noticed that everything looked so new, I guess this new out-of-town facility is the future of television production? One thing I loved about the BBC side was that The Voice logo could be seen so I can only surmise that Kylie Minogue will be appearing at MediaCityUK for the new series of that show?

Manchester was the first city of the Industrial Revolution so I wanted to see a former Cotton Mill. Choosing to visit Ancoats, a part of Manchester that's bouncing back from its Industrial past by the continued renovation of the various listed mills into high-end apartments. I looked past this new beginning to visualise what things would of been like for Manchester during its cotton making days. Established in 1798, New Old Mill was originally built as part of the McConnell and Kennedy Mills. Dating back to its 1912 beginnings the New Old Mill pushed Manchester forward to be one of the great cotton mills in the region. After one royal visit in 1942 by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth this mill was renamed to be called Royal Mill. Located beside the Rochdale Canal had its benefits for Manchester acted as a trailblazer for cotton production in England during the Industrial period. Trust and believe!

Moving into today's modern era the area captured to above is part of the upcoming residential area known as New Islington, who really wants a new build house when you could live in a former Cotton Mill? I would not mind living in one of those new apartment for the skyline of modern Manchester looked to be quite progressive, let's keep going on with this Manchester malarkey! Manchester kept on showing me sights that I didn't expect to see, I know that reviving a previous project for my Dissertation subject was the correct decision to prompt a visit to Manchester. Being home sometimes make travelling more challenging compared to when I'm in Birmingham but this trip was worth it! I'm glad my Dissertation took me to Manchester! Now, the weather had been damn awful after the Christmas period so I was expecting the worse for my Mancunian weekend, but I have to say that first half of my Manchester discovery stayed dry but overcast, enough about the weather I say? Yes!

I chose The Printworks over the Arndale Centre. I had heard a lot of things about The Printworks from my friend Lucy, so I had high hopes for my visit to The Printworks. Once the Withy Grove Printing House, this former Printworks produced publications from its 1873 opening where such newspapers ranged from the Manchester Evening Chronicle to the Daily Mirror until its closure in 1985. I wasn't there to buy a newspaper, I actually watched new release Last Vegas, it was a really good film that complemented my day in Manchester and my time spent at The Printworks. Boasting several restaurants, a nightclub and a Virgin Active Health Club I guess The Printworks has a lot to offer to visitors and Mancunians alike. I really loved The Printworks, If I choose to visit Manchester again in the future I would definitely watch another film at The Printworks! I just did things my way in Manchester, let's got back!

I would have to say that Manchester has such a warm feeling, well I mean the people were much nicer than in the West Midlands just in the simplest of ways. If I accidentally bumped into some one in the street, like I did as I was walking through Piccadilly Gardens on the way to The Printworks the Mancunian in-question even said sorry to me, now I hate to say this but that wouldn't of happened if I was walking down New Street in Birmingham. I have to say that Piccadilly Gardens looked great in the early evening sky, I had just finished watching Last Vegas at the Odeon at The Printworks and I have to say that I loved the golden lights that sat in the trees that I walked past, considering I don't care for Christmas lights I was quite impressed! Manchester, you're doing very well! Leave the cinema out, I went back to my Premier Inn hotel to get ready for the night ahead! I had research to conduct! Manchester had showed me a great day so far but my night was going to be shameless! 

Canal Street, the heart of Manchester's Gay Village was the main motivator for my trip to Manchester. I had branded this excursion a Observational Educational Trip! Even in the afternoon I was ready for the night! Captured to the right side is Canal Street, I decided to take all my photos of this part of town during the day for I decided against taking my camera out with me that night. I had seen the television programme Queer As Folk so I had visualised what the Village would of looked like, That show was filmed a few years ago so things change but I wasn't put of by what I saw. My main focus of my visit to Manchester happened to build a picture for my studies, my main theme being around Canal Street so it was only right I took a trip up to Manchester to experience what I'm studying. I've got my sights set on Birmingham Pride this summer so I can't answer when I'll be rocking back up to Manchester's Gay Village?

Dressed to impress I made my way down to the Village to partake in some research, I chose Rembrandt's where I saw Belinda Scandal perform her cabaret show. It was nice not to have my phone with me so I didn't have a clue what the time was, as the clock struck 1 am in the morning I left Rembrandt's for AXM. AXM was slightly quieter than Rembrandt's but it was all an experience! I wasn't satisfied with my night until I had thrown some shapes on the dancefloor so I traded AXM for the New Union on Princess Street. I had a great time at the New Union for I enjoyed a few drinks and danced to my hearts content, I must say that I'm pleased I chose to party at the New Union for it was a down-to-earth venue that didn't take itself to seriously unlike some of the other super-clubs! I suppose it being the first weekend after New Year's made some places quiet, that wasn't a problem for me! Lunch next time at VIA Manchester sounds like a plan! You haven't seen the last of me! 

It's Got To Be Manchester! 

Joseph Harrison