Thursday, 27 March 2014

Birmingham Hippodrome... Singin' In The Rain: The Musical

Returning to Birmingham's Hippodrome Theatre for another musical fix for this month of March! That time around I had booked tickets to see the current UK tour of Singin' In The Rain. I'm sucker for a classic film that's been artistically crafted into a musical show, It that it was right thing to book my tickets for another show at Brum's Hippodrome! Oh, my student loan! No!

Typically the rain was bucketing down as I made my way to the theatre for the evening's performance of 'Singin' In The Rain', so I knew that I picked the perfect night to see the show! I couldn't wait to see the musical because I just adored the film based in the 1920's, I was very excited for being a student can mean cultured evenings to the theatre because I'm leaving the stereotypical antics for another time. Captured to the left is the ever-changing sign at the Birmingham Hippodrome theatre that displays Don Lockwood, known in the movies as Gene Kelly. I had recently been to see Fiddler On The Roof just the other week so I wanted to see something more uplifting! Would my mid-week theatre treat match or exceed my usual night out on Hurst Street? Rewriting this book, I am tho!

Curtain up! I loved the show from the opening act at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood. I wanted to keep the image of the film in my head as the musical spectacle progressed in front of me! Cosmo Brown began with his hopeless personality of always getting over-shadowed by the main stars, but I knew he would have his time to shine! Ready and waiting the stars of the 'Dueling Cavalier' made their way to centre stage to greet us the audience, poised to tell his ramshackle of a story Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont presented themselves to their adoring fans at their glitzy movie premiere. The ensemble played their part well but I wanted to see it rain. Had I been transported back to the 1920's? I was sold by the first opening scenes for the acting and attention to detail was ace! Do I sound too positive? No!

Where was the rain? With a romance blossoming between Lockwood and Seldon the momentum of this show only picked up the pace to reveal the next 'wow' moment! Lamont with her awful squawk of a New York accent was slowly silenced for the time being, but her plot would be announced within due course. It didn't take a genius to work out that a new edge needed to be carved for the fate of Monumental Pictures. The news from the 'Fan Magazine's' reported that Lockwood and Lamont would be engaged to be married but I just didn't see any genuine chemistry between those two starlets off stage. Warner Bros had stole the show, but something would turn up! I shamelessly admit that I would have loved an accent portrayed by Lamont, a 'Tragedy?' Times were changing, the invention of a talking picture so Lockwood, Brown and Seldon got thinking! Singing 'Good Morning' the triumphant trio plotted to dub Lamont's voice over with Seldon's to save the 'Dancing Cavalier!' Play on!

New dance scenes burst on to the stage, sung to the tune of 'Got To Dance!' Somewhere and somehow the head honcho J.R Simpson had to agree to the new plan that the clever trio had concocted! Now, I did think that Cosmo deserved to get some credit for renaming the new show, I think that guy deserves a promotion! I wish you a very 'Good Morning' to you and you and oh you! Every 'Good Morning' has to inevitably have a few rain clouds for Lockwood wished Seldon a fond farewell before royally 'Singin' In The Rain' I shall not tell a lie for I witnessed real life rain, well as far as the Hippodrome could forecast! With little under fifty minutes to go until the finale I made sure I tweeted all about the show to the theatre in question and to the show's twitter feed. I must watch the DVD of the original movie at least twice now because the show and the film are just as good as each other. I want to see Wicked! the tickets were berserk in price so I said no to that prospect! The rain though BHM?

The curtain call beckoned, a few home truths had to be dealt with! The rerecording of the 'Dancing Cavalier' proved to be effortless for Seldon but for Lamont a certain microphone got in her way, it had to be Seldon's way or the highway! Lamont thought she got wise once she discovered her vocals were being dubbed over with Seldon's harmonies, citing her contract Lamont blurted a pack of lies to the magazine and newspapers to try and set some story straight or whatever way was good for her, well she was actually right for once! Cosmo thrived in his role, making his presence known during Lockwood's elocution lessons to sing 'Moses Supposes' alongside Lockwood to the vocal coaches dismay! Yes, the guy finally got a chance to prove himself! Get on! 

The show remodelled with Seldon's vocals worked a treat, but to who's disadvantage it was about to become clear. With the rapturous applause growing ever louder Lockwood and Lamont made their final bows at least five times before Lamont decided to deliver a speech, bearing in mind she was always forbidden from talking in public due to her squawk of a New York accent but J.R Simpson decided to let her go forth with her speech at her own peril, she didn't realise what consequences would become of her actions! Booed off the stage Lamont didn't realise her accent sounded so hard to bare! It was decided that Seldon would provide the vocals to an impromptu performance of a specific song made my Lamont. Seldon didn't approve of the decision but knew she sure served her contract.

I Loved 'Singin' In The Rain!' 

Joseph Harrison

Sunday, 23 March 2014

England: Sent To Coventry!

Located on Birmingham's doorstep is the city of Coventry, I chose Coventry on a whim with not much of a reason for my visit. I was drawn towards Coventry to reunite with my Hallmark Aviation colleagues just a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to revisit the home of Lady Godiva to execute a day of random adventure teamed with a medieval discovery. I was 'Sent To Coventry!' 

Built in 1300, Coventry Cathedral stood before me not in its original state due to the heavy bombing it was beaten with during WWII. I noticed as the centenary year dawns for this once operational place of worship a phase of restoration was being carried out. Located less than thirty minutes from Birmingham I saw a day trip to Coventry the perfect antidote after handing in my draft Dissertation and a additional assignment as the pressure's been turned up at uni. Making my way from the train station, through Broadgate to the cathedral took the pace for my Coventry city day. I really liked the open air feeling of the original Coventry Cathedral so I felt it wasn't necessary to visit the back-up cathedral for the 1300 Coventry Cathedral served up some medieval realness! The weather took a few turns for the worst with spots of rain but my time at the cathedral was bright and fresh. I trusted in Coventry!

Coventry you say? The phrase 'Sent To Coventry' doesn't mean the best of terms, I wanted to put that meaning into my own interpretation. Being a Travel Blogger means I'm up for a challenge so I can safely say Cov served up one heck of a task. I had been to Coventry several times before my independent visit but I had not applied the same thought like I give to cities that don't get the best mention in the media. The uncertain future of Coventry's Football Club hasn't been the best card dealt for the city so I bought my super cheap £3.40 train ticket from Birmingham New Street station to do some investigating for myself! I visit some odd places for Coventry isn't really on the general tourist map for England. Coventry should really be given a chance for what I saw was worth my day out from Birmingham! There's word on the street is that Coventry is getting its own 'TOWIE' style television show named 'Sent To Coventry' so just watch this space! I wasn't in any position to hate on Coventry! 

Like many places in the West Midlands and Warwickshire industry has played an integral part of their development and legacy. Coventry's Transport Museum stands out as a modern and informing place of learning to educate visitors that Coventry contributed immensely to the production of motorcars and motorbikes since 1896. The many exhibits on display at the Coventry Transport Museum painted a picture that Coventry relied on its motor production heavily. Displayed vehicles from the Singer Company and Jaguar looked great, so I gained a picture of what contribution this industry gave to Coventry's development as a city. Yes, I love anything from trains, planes to even cars so it was a great way to see something in Coventry that was free! Muriel Hind became the first woman to own and ride a motorcycle, I suppose in the 1900's it wasn't the done thing for a lady? Ms Hind was the female boss during her day! Slay! 

Back to the Cathedral, Coventry received a beating during WWII with a series of heavy bombing during the Blitz, effectively destroying a larger proportion of the city. But why was Coventry hit the worst? I learnt throughout my day in Coventry that the Warwickshire city produced a large proportion of the ammunition for the British army to defeat the Germans, I don't see that a fit reason to shower Coventry with a storm of bombs? Coventry is a concrete city for sure but I don't know whether that look will suit the future groove of Cov? Could a Coventry made motor hit 763 mph? You could say that I was pleasantly surprised by the offerings that Coventry served to me during my day of discovery. From cars, to concrete my day in Coventry was a welcome break from perfecting my Dissertation so I'm appreciative for that if nothing else! I wonder if Visit Coventry would approve of my experiences in Coventry so far? Sure, I chose Coventry for its story, she's had some drama over the years! Yes!

We all need to spice up our lives sometimes! In hot pursuit for some good Indian food I set off from the city centre limits in search of Foleshill. Teamed with my iPhone map I found Foleshill Road with no bother, it was a walk of thirty minutes or so but I haven't been so good with going to the gym recently so I saw my walk to Foleshill as a workout! I try to not judge people when they walk past, I kept my wits about me throughout my day in Coventry and especially as I approached the heart of the Foleshill Road. Birmingham is famed for its Kashmiri cuisine so I wanted to see what Foleshill, Coventry had to say! The cultural contrasts from the city centre to the changing businesses dotted along the Foleshill Road told me I was walking into a Asian area. Fosehill had edge, that's good. From the barbershops, Gurdwara's and sweet centres I was getting closer to Foleshill. It felt good to leave my comfort zone going to Foleshill Road! 

I chose to eat at Panjab Sweet Centre and Curry Hut located on the Foleshill Road. Sure, I enjoyed a Chicken Balti that was served with a Naan, I traded a Coke for a Masala tea because a hot drink works better with spice. I'm more of a Korma person but on the two occasions that I have enjoyed a Balti dish I have been pleasantly surprised. After I finished my Balti, Naan and tea I chose to buy some Indian sweets. I believe that I bought some Chamchams, Besan and Gulab Jaman that I planned to enjoy another time with a nice sweet cup of tea. I have to say that the Besan fared to be my favourite Indian sweet out of them all! Foleshill showed me a scene and vibe that I saw in Sparkbrook, Birmingham so my experience was authentic as it was going to get! Do multi-cultural city's like Coventry really benefit from areas such as Foleshill? Panjab Sweet Centre served me a nice meal but I wouldn't choose to eat their for a formal occasion, it had a different function more like a takeaway. OK!

Broadgate, Coventry is home to the city's main shopping amenities and the gateway to the train station, I made my way past the statue of Lady Godiva twice that day. Not feeling satisfied with the appearance of the main square with the farmer's market set up so I waited until I returned from Foleshill to capture the true image. Who's this Lady Godiva? The 11th Century Anglo Saxon Lady Godiva rode horseback through the streets of Coventry in her birthday suit, all because she didn't agree with a taxation law her husband had passed. Out of all the places that I saw in Coventry I would have to say that I love Broadgate's concrete theme for it looked quite retro! I know it worked! Having been to this side of the city a little while before my recent trip to Coventry I was glad to be back to take some snaps! I had to grab a white t-shirt for a upcoming photo-shoot the next day, I tried my luck in Broadgate's flagship Primark store.

Coventry impressed me, no word of a lie I proved the cynics wrong. My planned yet spontaneous afternoon in Coventry surprised me for I saw sights that were great like the Coventry Cathedral and the statue of Lady Godiva. I learnt about how badly Coventry was hit during the second World War and that the motor industry took Coventry to new heights back in its heyday. I did take an air of caution to leaving the city limits in order to visit Foleshill for some dinner but all was good. Places and people are judged by what happens by a small scale of a place so I can say that I was fine whilst in Coventry. Regeneration is definitely the key for Coventry and its city centre core, but I liked the concrete time warp feel that Broadgate exuded. Don't judge a book by its cover because the story might just surprise you!? I said before Coventry is the concrete city but times are changing, it may take sometime to change this motor-city! Honestly, it wasn't that bad being 'Sent To Coventry!'

Visit Coventry!

Joseph Harrison

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

2014: The Waiting Room

Here I go again! I wrote a blog with the same title 'The Waiting Room' in October 2013 when things were not very good and I was really feeling the pressure of final year. I want to revisit those feelings and thoughts to challenge them with what's going on in my life right now. I can't hardly believe that the final submissions are looming and my draft Dissertation is due in soon!

I said 'Hello!' to Manchester early on in 2014, I had some research to do. Before my trip I got my head together and decided that my state of mind wasn't going to get me anywhere, so I took some time and powered through my Dissertation research to find that I had more in common with my topic than I previously thought. So Manchester was great, I got my facts and figures whilst having a great time exploring a new city, so I could say that I've been to more than just the airport! But all at the same time I still feel like I'm a departure lounge of some sorts, more so now than ever because I just want to know what future has in store for me, maybe I should be patient? Adventure is amazing and I'm really glad I could find some positivity in Manchester to bring me back to my best! My draft submission of my Dissertation is due very soon but I have faith! Dissertations can be fun! Birmingham, I don't have time to be stressed!

Like I expressed before in first time around in 'The Waiting Room' that my blogging would need to slow down, I have a confession to make that doesn't shock me in the slightest. Blogging has been my therapy for I can just get out of the stress of being a final year student with all this unnecessary work to do and just be happy. Manchester hasn't been only trip for I've been a busy Travel Blogger recently, making my way to Bath, Bristol, Cheltenham Spa and Dursley. I now plan my blogs out so I know when its best to fit in university work around them to get the correct balance. Let's just say that one blog in-particular will act as a prompt for an upcoming assignment that I just want finished! Birmingham has charmed its way back into my life, I'm looking at publishing a 'Benefits Street' blog soon, breaking my vow to visit parts of the city that I didn't fancy my chances. I'm looking forward to Birmingham Pride at the end of May, that'll be my last turn up as a student! A change is coming! Yes, B!

Lectures! Yawn! I'm so over them I just want to pack and fly! But burying my head into any form of academic text could easily give me an allergic reaction! I'm joking! Hospitality Operations Management wasn't so nice to me, I tried my best to get a plausible grade for the main assignment, I questioned the marking because I toiled over that 3,000 word essay for far too long! Another woe that plagued me during the first semester of final year was Strategic Management because that Merlin wasn't very good at magic. Teamwork can be stressful but all about keeping focused! Oh I really love the drama! The grade awarded for that sorry state of a module wasn't as ghastly as I was expecting for the saying goes 'be careful what you wish for?' So from October 2013 to now I feel like I've been waiting for a delayed flight longer than necessary but I have faith that the revised time of departure will be revealed. Get on with it, now! 

Don't get me wrong I now see some kind of path that I could be taking after I finish university but since 2012 things have changed several times, all to the extreme really from being in Newark working full time to then being thrust back into the learning environment to either sink or swim. I've travelled several times since returning from America but always end back to where I began each trip, I mean all this in the best possible way. The analogy to 'wait' has transcended to more than my studies and the feelings I had at the beginning of my final year at university. I'm my own worst enemy because I'm never satisfied with what I've got its always got to be more and not so much in the dreariness of this setting. I know that my nearest and dearest understand that adjusting to the next stage in my life will most probably take me to a far off land but I know they are cool with that. If Emirates doesn't work out I have a plan that's on the back burner, I will be teaching English in China! Go!

I don't want to tempt fate but I successful secured my desired jobs since I applied for the Disney International College Program in 2011 and then for my Virgin Atlantic Internship but this time its real! The last few months have been like a hurricane of emotions and job applications for I bit the bullet and applied for the Open Day in Birmingham to become Emirates Cabin Crew. I'm brushing up on my phonetic alphabet and modifying my resume so I can give myself the best chance to be what EK is looking for. I might have blogged about this ambition of mine several times but that's so! The date and location has been set, my outfit has been sorted for the big day! I need to get other things sorted so I can secure a chance to have an office at 40,000 ft instead on a mundane nine to five job that's just not me! I have confidence in confidence, watch this space! What will be will be, that's the question? Graduating is looming, real life beckons! 

I'm confident my deadlines will be met and I will aim to make a few day trips before I fly off to Germany in April. Final year has been a struggle but I look back at the main body of this academic year to believe that life is one great challenge with many obstacles to accomplish. Securing my dream job would make the reality fit perfect, I will even learn Arabic to conversational level to ensure I would live a authentic Emirate life. With my Dissertation almost done and the pressure of other commitments making themselves known I'm going to keep on doing what I can in order to get where I want be. Waiting isn't so bad after all but getting to the final destination sounds like a plan to me! I look to destiny to guide my path in the right direction to know that being in 'The Waiting Room' wasn't bad. I would like this flight to start boarding to take me to my next challenge! Patience is a virtue they say? Let fate take its course, I might not be so lucky, life must be the reminder!

I Need To Work!

Joseph Harrison

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Desperately Seeking Adventure: The Second Year!

Happy 2nd Birthday! My blog has made it to the age of two! never anticipated keeping this blog as a permanent fixture. My transition back into life in England after placement relied on the future of this blog. Desperately Seeking Adventure has carried on tracking my life. I have no worry that the next milestone for this blog will be it's 3rd birthday in 2015! I'll carry on! 

As my blog has grown and prospered into its second year I was sure the terrible tantrums would soon follow, but things have been pretty calm because I keep my blog disciplined by a strict routine. Money has been tight but during the summer of 2013 I finished that previous semester with a thirst to travel. I reunited with my boys from placement in Huddersfield, Northampton and London but I wanted to use my passport for the next trip. Being the independent traveler once more I booked my trips to Barcelona, Istanbul and Amsterdam. I believe that my summer escapades and autumn getaway made very good reading, I had became quite used to when writing about the American cities that I had been to in 2012. Four colourful Spanish publications such as 'Barcelona - Cuitat De Gaudi', 'Tarragona's Little Secret' and 'Sitges - Queen Of The Seaside' live to read I had captured all the mayhem from Spain! July 2013 was great!

I've been a busy tweeter this year, I discovered how those blue tweeting birds could take my blog to a whole new height. I had already secured a favourable following for my first year of blogging but I wanted to make a permanent commitment to Desperately Seeking Adventure. This blog keeps me grounded but very much on the move at the same time so I wanted make the best of what the world's favourite social media tool had to offer me. Monarch Airlines followed me in July of 2013, I flew with them twice throughout 2013 in May and then July so I was really happy to be recognised with a follow-back! Receiving financial reward for blogging has never been the aim, it wasn't the reason why I began this blog in March of 2012 but money talks so I won't rule that possibility out. It's definitely a case of never say never! Looking back at the first year of my blogging I had began my Birmingham days again to capture that next chapter. To good health and more blogs! Let's go! 

Going back to basics has been the current theme, being honest and truthful is all what Desperately Seeking Adventure aims to achieve. During mid 2013 I had some down time after finishing the Spring term at university so I decided to have a day out in Wolverhampton. I wanted to get under the skin of that economically troubled West Midland's city for one afternoon, taking things for face value I found a city that needed to change in-order to prosper. Northampton showed me another honest urban representation I loved its quirkiness a lot, the cobbles of 78 Derngate Street impressed me much! I have found that my approach during 2013 and onwards is that adventure is wherever we find it, down the street or a short train journey away! 'Sent To Coventry' is next! For now, the continent of Europe will be my playground, I know that expat life will return eventually. England has so far given me certain surprises. 

For the time being I know deep that I won't be returning to the fields of South-west France. I loved blogging about Bordeaux, Cognac, Chatenet and Jonzac but that week will never be repeated! I have to say that I had never wrote a blog about Christmas, so when last year's shenanigans came to town I got very merry indeed! Valuing family time is what life's all about for me, because if our nearest and dearest can't feature in a blog post then I really don't know what else to think? I'm pleased 2013 led me to blog and capture so many memories that I can now treasure well into the future. I long for this blog to be taken back to Newark, that's where the magic began back in March 2012! I might not be going to Dubai but I have another way to help my blog flourish! I had a great time in Amsterdam last September! Amsterdam was everything, me and my Brother enjoyed the weekend very much! Birmingham will lead the way for the moment, university comes first. Yes B, it's all good! 

I have experienced a new wave of exciting blogs and experiences that have pushed Desperately Seeking Adventure to a new place. I will never compromise the humble beginnings that this blog set its foundations on for we have to remember where we started! Birmingham has been very good to me in all aspects, my blogging has transformed my view of my student city! Time moves forwards for all of us and that has meant a whole new frontier of blogging for me. My waiting around won't be forever but I have had a wonderful time! I was lucky enough to spend one night at the Rotunda to enjoy the Staying Cool Apartments, a great opportunity and experience to document for Desperately Seeking Adventure. Captured to the left is the modern and contemporary apartment I reviewed, the view was unforgettable from the 19th floor, I could see Birmingham's skyline! Birmingham is now a cosmopolitan city!

Keeping my feet on the ground, it was lovely to get back to Liverpool! I recaptured the true essence of what that Scouse city meant to me the first time around. I'm usually a solitary soul when I make a trip but I always make a stop in Southport to see my Disney friend Kat, I met Kat on the morning that I flew out to Orlando for my Disney Program in 2011. Since our Disney days I visited Liverpool in October of 2011 and more recently back in November of 2013 for I spent my birthday weekend beside the Mersey River! Harrison's brought it back! For my previous birthday I returned to the North-west of England to see Liverpool and Chester. My overnight trip took in two city's that had very different flavours, I wasn't on the party hype so finding a comedy show through my friend Kat was the perfect fit. Chester had a lovely feeling, on the borderline I was so close to Wales. Going back to Liverpool allowed me to see RopeWalks and to find out about the historic Chinese community. 

Tea for two? Yes! The title 'Desperately Seeking Adventure' implies many things, should I break from the ordinary and be adventurous by seeking blog ventures with food, theatre and fashion? Yes! This pre-determined outcome saw me publish a Gin infused blog and a 'Dressed To Kill' fashion post! Little did I know that my Gin experience and fashion fix allowed me to experience a complimentary meal at Coast To Coast, Birmingham where I wrote a professional review of my experience. With my reduced student loan I have made a fine decision to keep my latest blogs within Birmingham, creating new and exciting experiences that have felt just as extraordinary as my New York City blogs I published back in 2012! I'll return! To the right is my 'Blueberry Thrill' I enjoyed at the Jekyll and Hyde Victorian Gin Parlour! Girl I live for Gin! Switching things up worked for me and my friend, Kelly during our final year at uni! Life is good now!

I look towards the future of Desperately Seeking Adventure, I hope that positive developments keep blessing my blog with exciting opportunities and that I get to travel again! I wish for my university studies to be taken care of now for I want to desperately seek a new adventure! Take me back to the days where I would not have the option to sleep my days away but to be in a new foreign land, I'm ready for pastures new. I look back with a smile to think that my blog has retained its integrity to be honest and real about what I publish, I'm prone to speaking well of places because if I don't have anything constructive to say I tend to hold back. I'm finding that my writing style and attention to detail has been overhauled since 2012, I find myself tweaking blogs from 2012 and 2013 to mirror the publications presently from 2014. I shall leave 2013 behind for we celebrated New Year's over two months ago, I'll remember the beginning! Here's to another year of blogging! Keep on going! 

No Temper Tantrums Allowed! 

Joseph Harrison 

Friday, 7 March 2014

Serving It Up... Bodega, Birmingham!

I have been missing the Ironbound, Newark home for a while now. I wanted to find a link back to the Latin and South American vibe that I became accustomed to during my placement year in 2012. I stumbled upon Bodega, a vibrant and contemporary South and Latin American Cantina, so I made my reservations to try it for myself! B, I need more Hispanic food! 

Just make mine a Margarita! Bodega has a very attractive daily cocktail happy hour from 4pm to 7pm everyday to enjoy! I might have been in Birmingham but there was a certain feel in the air, I could have mistaken my surroundings for a charming Cantina in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico?! Anyway, I loved my first cocktail in the form of a bitter sweet Margarita that certainly packed a healthy shot of Tequila for it tasted mighty fine! I noticed the drinks menu featured the word 'Bebidas' that means 'Drinks' or 'Beverages' in Spanish, I just love a bit of Spanish it just makes things perfect for me! Priced at £4.00 for a refreshing beverage as pictured to the left I wouldn't argue with that one bit!? Bodega, Birmingham is located on the corner of New Street on Bennett's Hill, which is within a few paces from Birmingham New Street Station so making the last train home should never be a problem. Check @BodegaBirm out on Twitter.

Quenching my thirst twice more with a Daiquiri and a Caipirinha I made the most of the cocktails that were on offer to me at Bodega, Birmingham. Ordering my meal didn't take much thought as I had already studied the menu beforehand, both online and numerous time I have walked past the restaurant on my way to New Street via Bennett's Hill. I took the plunge one Friday evening I decided I was going to be cultured by having a nice meal rather than getting inebriated. It's definitely a chore to find some quality Latin and South American food in Birmingham, or maybe I've been looking in all the wrong places? Nevertheless, the waiters and waitresses were approachable and knowledgeable of the delights that were on offer. I should have really said 'Camareros y Camareras' which translates to the obvious in English translation 'Waiters and Waitresses' I think my knowledge of Spanish is returning? The Margarita, Daiquiri and Caipirinha was talking!? Yes, my student loan was in pain! 

Choosing to begin my dining experience with the Beef Empanadas, which were really nice. I last ate Empanadas in Tarragona, Spain in July 2013 so it was great to be reacquainted with that dish again! Captured to the right is what I enjoyed for my main course, named 'Pollo con Arroz' meaning 'Chicken with Rice' I visualised my usual Newark Brazilian favourite dish. Served to me was a contemporary version of my beloved Newark street food, the flavoursome chicken tasted great with the cinnamon infused rice. Accompanied by some corn on the cob and black beans, my meal took me back to my Newark and Puerto Rico days for sure. I'm all spent out! Back to my meal it did not take me long to enjoy the whole portion that was presented to me, the infusion of Latin and South American flavours marinated together like a dream. Did my starter suit my main course? Yes, I would have loved a second helping.

I took my seat at around 5pm to a half full restaurant that was mostly made up of young professional types, for Birmingham's branching out to be a trendy affair for dining nowadays. I didn't need to wait long before the 'Cantina' had grew in numbers, chatty tables enjoying their wines and Latin American beers such as 'Modelo' that happens to be a Mexican beer. How did I find out about Bodega? I would purely say it was utterly by chance as I don't chase the usual chain restaurants all the time for its nice to try somewhere that doesn't pull in the masses, you get the picture? Did I not mention that the cocktails are immense?! I did! With my appetite satisfied by my starter and main course I was swayed between the 'Brazilian Carrot Cake' or 'Churros' so I needed to make a choice! The 'Churros' won the battle for desert and they tasted mighty fine! What was I doing having 'Churros?' I'll want to be back at Disney World next?! I'm entitled to a treat, that will be the end of that spark! I miss it! 

Moving away from the food served, I would have to say that the overall ambiance of the 'Cantina' was pleasant. With the appropriate music playing and decor I did strangely feel like I was back in Cafe Puerto Rico, a nice feeling for me to experience. Birmingham's got some great restaurants that range from Chinese to South American so it's always tough to put a winner amongst all of the competition but I did really love my dining experience at Bodega, Birmingham. Captured to the left is the main body of Bodega's lively 'Cantina' please forgive the orb like lights for the actual setting exuded a romantic dim light, so I guess you'll have to judge that for yourselves! Need I be so careless not to mention the 'Sugarloaf Bar' downstairs from the lively atmosphere of Bodega's restaurant. The 'Sugarloaf Bar' offers an intimate Latin experience that can be reserved for special occasions. How about your special occasion? 

Bodega, Brum is definitely a restaurant I would return back to! I need to remember the key times for Happy Hour because I could do with a few more Margarita's in my life! So, I look to Birmingham to say 'Where are you hiding all of my student life?!' Being honest sometimes means that negativity can be present but I ate some lovely food at Bodega so I simply wanted to express those minor aspects. I hate to see journalists that just spout horrid and depressive things about a restaurant, I only eat at places that are nice so I guess that's just my luck? If I remember correctly the cocktail happy hour is from 4pm to 7pm? Don't quote me on that! Until then I'll just have to get a grip and find restaurants that bring that familiar taste a little bit more real. So thanks Bodega for a really nice meal and bringing back some Latin and South American flavour back in my life! Muchas Gracias! and Muito Obrigada! Choose Bodega, Birmingham! I say have a liquid lunch or after work drink?! Do it! 

¡Realmente extraño América

Joseph Harrison

Thursday, 6 March 2014

2014: Our Day In Buxton Spa...

Buxton, an endearing town located in the Peak District, Derbyshire waited for our student arrival. Beckoned to this Spa town for educational purposes I wanted to enjoy my entire day in Buxton town to the fullest. Now the word 'Spa' springs to mind and also the popular brand of 'Mineral Water'. Our final outing brought 'Destination Management' altogether! Cream tea, OK?

I'm a city boy at heart and shall forever be so it definitely made a change to see Derbyshire's Peak District. Making the two hour journey from Birmingham City Centre proved to be a challenge for the M6 motorway couldn't take us directly to Buxton. Stoke-On-Trent passed us by signifying the beginning of the country lanes that provided us with a series of twists and turns, but the views of the country lanes and hills were worth the negatives. My day in Buxton was part of my 'Destination Management' audit of a chosen destination, in our case Buxton had been chosen for us to critically analyse, so the intent for our visit had to be strictly educational! My January visit to Manchester was branded an 'Observation Educational' visit so I rest my case before sounding too much like a hypocrite. I foresaw that a good day would be enjoyed by all no matter how much or how little people decided to take from the day. Yes!

With the obvious theme of Spa's in the title for Buxton I reflected on my time spent in Bath, a Roman infused Spa town that definitely brought home the bacon when looking at the league of England's iconic Spa towns. I did wonder whether Buxton would live up to its marketing slogan to be 'England's Leading Spa Town'. I wouldn't be alone in wanting to challenge that bold statement, but I shall leave that analysis for later on. I knew Buxton had to be looked at differently because comparisons can sometimes prove be stark with some Spa towns some just have it and others unfortunately do not. I think a rethink of the tourism marketing strategy needs to be reevaluated and then some!? With the journey progressing we reached a point when we had truly left the city and the M6 motorway was far behind us, we had entered the striking hills that proved a heavy contrast between the concrete paradise of Birmingham. Buxton Spa looked sleepy! We didn't have all day, four hours if that!

Buxton's Pavilion Gardens greeted us pleasantly, that March afternoon provided us with a day free from rain! I liked what Buxton was serving, it was time to disperse from the other students to see Buxton a little bit closer. Making a pit-stop for the obligatory tourist maps and other Derbyshire based tourist literature to hopefully enhance our afternoon in Buxton. I must say that the air and environment exuded a quality that no big city could ever offer for the fresh air definitely detoxed our lungs! The pubs didn't open until dinnertime so I decided to wait for my cream tea and scones later on. Life has a habit of throwing things at us, we just have to deal with them and get on with it! Little did we know that Buxton is a university town, there is a campus that's part of the University of Derby so it was interesting to see that a town so inviting could be home to hundreds of students! I wanted the city back already!

Taking our pursuit for quintessential Buxton we made our way up the hill to Higher Buxton to find a more inviting sphere of shops, bakeries and other ordinary amenities that impressed me much! Being independent students we decided to ask some questions about Buxton to people from the Town Hall and Museum, both institutions gave uninformed answers and gave off an feeling that our questions were more of a hindrance to their already quiet environment! I'm mild mannered most of the time but don't disrespect us like we're children please! Please don't make me think of my assignment, just don't! I saw a bus wait at it's stop that was bound for Manchester Airport, now the realisation had hit that we were not in a familiar setting but its doesn't excuse the less than positive vibe we had been given from the people we had sought information from. Buxton, you might not be the liveliest of towns the views could have well been a picture postcard town! Why had UCB chosen Buxton? Bux?

Buxton might lack in Spa amenities at the moment compared to the likes of Bath and Cheltenham Spa but a £35 million regeneration plan has been unleashed to make way for Buxton's Crescent Hotel and Spa. Upon first impressions it was evident to see the breath of fresh air that this restoration project will bring a boost for Buxton, as a natural revival for the town to benefit from. Me and my classmates found a fountain opposite to the construction site that didn't stop running with fresh mineral water. We got speaking to a passerby who stood filling numerous containers of the natural water from the roadside elixir. This gentlemen kindly engaged in conversation with us and proved to be a wealth of knowledge about the Hotel and Spa project, he had a much better tone and demeanour compared to the other three people we spoke to. We finally found a spa in Buxton! Sort that marketing strategy Buxton Spa!

With our new found knowledge of the Crescent Hotel and Spa fresh in our heads it was amazing to think that something that was constructed from 1780 to 1789 is being given more than just a second chance to shine once again in a lovely looking town like Buxton. I wanted an explanation as to why this piece of history was ever allowed to decay in the first place!? With the new plans surfacing it was clear to see that Buxton's restoration project is receiving funding from the National Lottery and English Heritage so I hope that's enough of a responsible line of backers to see this grand project through to the provisional end in 2016? The Pump Rooms will be restored back their former glory so Buxton can showcase another key feature that reaffirms it truly could be 'England's Leading Spa Town'. Time will only tell us if the project will be finished, I hope something good happens for Buxton. I must remember to pack my swimwear next time I visit your Spa town! Work it Buxton, bring it, B! 

To conclude our day in Buxton we found The Square Tea Rooms, a lovely tea room that served a delightful serving of Derbyshire charm. Located at No.6 on The Square I highly recommend a spot of tea and sympathy is enjoyed at The Square Tea Rooms. All four of us opted for the Derbyshire Cream Tea, consisting of a pot of tea with either a sultana or cherry scone, each serving was accompanied with strawberry jam and clotted cream. I chose the sultana scone to accompany my cup of tea because that's just what I wanted! I really enjoyed my quintessential English lunch for its nice to do something different every now and then. My classmates enjoyed their tea and scones as well, I guess that's a good thing because it was nice to spend time away from Birmingham in a different setting to enjoy some chat! That addition to our day was bright for the rain clouds were breaking through. Babbling on, sipping our cream tea and gossiped! 

Buxton might be a small Spa town located within the Peak District in Derbyshire but its surely got a hidden depth! From the darling Pavilion Gardens to the calmer streets of Higher Buxton I really did like Buxton for it served something different, it served something that I wasn't expecting as we all preempt an idea of a place before we have even reached it! I admit that I wasn't impressed by the tone of the local representatives of Buxton but the gentlemen who we spoke to about the Buxton Crescent Spa Hotel ensured a positive lasting memory would be taken away from our encounters in Buxton. Considering our purpose to visit Buxton remained 'educational' I believe that we had a well rounded experience that gave us the chance to compile information for our audits whilst having a pleasant day out away from the city. I want another Derbyshire Cream Tea! I'm going to need an intervention to get this Destination Audit done! I'll leave it before Germany! Oh Buxton, she better don't! 

Buxton Spa... Thank You?

Joseph Harrison