Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Deutschland: Bremen... Danke Für Alles!

By the time I got to Bremen's Hauptbahnhof I was looking for another full packed day of sightseeing, but something told me that I wouldn't be changing U-Bahn lines all day. You're asking, why Bremen? Located one hour away by train from Hamburg's central railway station I just couldn't say no! Beer, small winding German streets and a small city feel, Bremen served it all!

Bremen greeted me with a usual blanket of fog, but I had faith that sunnier climbs and blue skies would find me eventually. I'm going to be honest to the core, I wanted to see some quintessential German architecture! As the St.Petri Dom and Amarkt both came into view, my request had full been granted. I didn't do my research with Bremen but it didn't take me a lot to work out that the cathedral featured to the left had endured those war years! With the earliest records of a church on the foundations of the cathedral dating back to the late 700s, it was like a history lesson in real life motion! Yes B! The whole Amarkt area hit me for the walkway from the Hauptbahnhof conveyed a concrete frame of mind. The buildings by the train station didn't survive the bombings of WWII but that was that. Embrace the fusion between old and new, sure Bremen showcased the perfect balance! G, I was ready for my third city! 

Danke Für Alles? I've gone all German again! I just wanted to say 'Thanks for Everything!' Bremen had showed me a slice of Germany, I wasn't dreaming! I never originally planned to visit Bremen but with another cheap deal from Germany's national rail I couldn't say no! I wanted to have some proper German chocolate but like I mentioned before I take frugal to a whole new level so I kept some chocolate that I had bought from a Lidl Supermarket in Berlin, I beg to you it was still German! My German trip was so fast I just wanted to take as much in as possible during my short time. Remembering Bremen makes me think of not having to take any public transport at all! I had to dodge the Dutch market that was held in the square behind Bremen's Cathedral, it really didn't impress me much. Back to Amarkt where I noticed a parade of bars that tastefully endorsed the local brew of Beck's, I had a duty to stop by for a few German beers before I headed back to the train station. 

Dinner time approached fast so I looked for the Schnoor, a series of streets that date back to the 15th Century that were literally prettier than a picture I was a little bit in love by what I saw! By this time in my Germanic adventure I hadn't really eaten at a completely German restaurant or pub so my final day was a challenge to find some top quality honest German grub and beer! Choosing 'Kaiser Friedrich' had to be the one for it looked the part I tell you! With its wooden-clad interior and friendly German hospitality I was in the right place for a hearty meal and drink. Choosing the Frikadeller with a mushroom creamy sauce that was served with mashed potatoes, I choose to drink a pint of Holsten because it would been rude not to! I was the only Brit in the whole place for the conversations were completely German! Built in 1635 I was dining at a true Schnoor establishment. Wirklich erstaunlich Bremen! So tasty! 

I got comfortable at the Kaiser Friedrich within Bremen's Schnoor until some rude lady asked if she could have my table in German, I was like no! Aside from that lady's display of pure rudeness, I had enjoyed my time at the Kaiser Friedrich pub. Sei nett zu anderen! I didn't hang around much after I had finished my meal for I wanted to make the most of the Schnoor whilst things fared to be relatively quiet for people annoy me when a sight looks as good as the Schnoor did. Bremen's Schnoor was chocolate box chic and somewhat reminded me of the scenes out of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! I also find it quite aggravating to take photos when people are taking their sweet time doing whatever they please whilst I'm trying to be patient to take that photo, one which could make or break a blog. Time didn't pose to be of any essence that day, I made the most of the Schnoor and even had time to pop back to Amarkt to take some more snaps. Trust in Bremen for its authenticity! B, I miss that place!

Bremen wasn't the place for modern skyscrapers, that was good for me! I was nearing the final part of my day in Bremen and wanted to see something new! From the winding streets of the Schnoor to another suitable sight within Bremen's historical quarter. Böttcherstrasse is a charming street that's made up of coffee shops, museums and the daily song of the famous Glockenspiel. At the front of Böttcherstrasse there is the 'Lichtbringer' a gold-plated mural that marked the entrance to Bremen's secret main street, a sight I don't think anyone couldn't love? I was thirsty for some more German beer and with a significant amount of my Euros left I found a quiet pub just around a corner. What's the translation for Böttcherstrasse? 'Böttcher' just means 'Cooper' so after-all a pretty extraordinary street has quite a humdrum name, let's never translate anything into English?! Cooper Street doesn't sound German!? 

This beer in the afternoon lark needs to carry on, I wanted to stay longer in Germany! Regaining some kind of composure I paid for my beers to get back to the centre of Bremen's action. Amarkt looked just fine during the late afternoon sun so I would of been a fool not to have another beer. My train would be leaving within two hours, I worked out that one more pint of Beck's wouldn't really hurt. Compared to the quiet scene that I witnessed in the morning it was easy to see that Amarkt was a hubbub of energy with people sitting in the sun who were just having a great time. Bremen had something that pleased me with its 15th Century pubs and cathedrals I knew that my time in Bremen gave me everything to conclude my whirlwind five day trip to Germany. Berlin was busy and vibrant with lots to see and do, Hamburg had a bohemian edge within the St.Pauli area but I know that Bremen's Schnoor, Amarkt and Böttcherstrasse showed me something truly German! Danke für alles! Ja!

Kaiser Friedrich! That's One More Holsten Bitte-schön!? 

Joseph Harrison 

Monday, 28 April 2014

Deutschland: Hafenstadt Hamburg

Hallo Hamburg! I said Auf Wiedersehen to Berlin for my Germanic adventure continued north to Hamburg! I hadn't done much research about Hamburg but I knew that this port city had something to offer me. Quoting Deutsche Bahn I say Germany has it covered when it comes to cross-country train travel, like clockwork those trains go! Take me back to the port side city! Now!

Looks can be deceiving, Hamburg's Rathaus was crafted to a level of elegance and grandeur. I took Hamburg's tube from the Hauptbahnhof because it was raining when I arrived in Hamburg at the station. Rathaus meaning 'City Hall'. I'm not a fan of guided tours but sometimes it's got to be done, I just don't like to be slowed down by other people who are gawping at the same thing. Taking the tour around the staterooms of Rathuas was the best €4.00 I have spent! Constructed back in 1886 it was partly destroyed in the great fire of Hamburg but architects worked to construct and craft a new City Hall some years later. I want some leather clad walls and marble in the bathroom too! Rathaus was built with some expensive taste! Hamburg put me in my place quick time! So don't be a fool because I thank the Rathaus for getting me out of the rain! The Rathaus needed to takes reservations, we all want some luxury! Do you?

Relaxing is for losers, a challenge worth taking is worth fulfilling, I owed Hamburg! Hamburg served a different realness compared to Berlin. I want to say it resonated a feeling of Birmingham but on a whole other level. From what I had seen so far in Germany had been very positive, I found people to be approachable and some were willing to help me with directions but I had my game head on so I went from one place to another. I limited myself to one day in Hamburg to see as much as possible, I would be off to Bremen the next day so I didn't have any second chances nor would I have anytime to recapture the city centre on my way to Hamburg's Flughafen on the Friday 25th April 2014. Hamburg showed me something I loved for it had an edge that Berlin didn't have, just like Birmingham has flares to it that London or Manchester don't possess. Hamburgers had a different chat compared to Berliners, Denmark was close by? I wanted to relax but Hamburg was waiting! G, I loved Hamburg! 

Hamburg's Hafenstadt was waiting for me! Hafen meaning 'Port' and Stadt translates into 'City' from German to English. Hamburg is one of Germany's provincial port cities, I was ready to see some water! Captured to the right is one of the many canal ways that are located just a few minutes walk from the Rathaus. The gloomy weather continued into the early afternoon but I believe that the gloomy and somewhat cold skies added an extra level of charm to this industrial part of town. My imagination painted a vibrant picture of what early industrial Hamburg would have looked like when its maritime trade was probably just beginning. Being from the West Midlands it wasn't difficult to find a familiarity with the brickwork and smog in the air because that's the scene of the 'working class'. The HafenCity was on point with lots of visible development, a new chapter beckons? Hamburg looked so great! 

I was born frugal so my budget hadn't suffered! I wanted something nice to eat for lunch because breakfast didn't happen that day! Choosing to enjoy a piping hot Kumpir with heaps of cheese, the days travelling had built up a mighty appetite! I loved my Turkish German jacket potato. I forgot to mention that certain parts of Turkish culture and life can be found in most cities but I saw less of this in Hamburg's city centre, for that reason I'll leave that eastern fact for the time being. From the docks of Hamburg's HafenCity to the grandeur of the Rathaus I was pleasantly surprised with the offerings that I experienced during my third day in Germany! Thirsty for a pint or three I made my way to the charming neighbourhood of St. Georg where at first I found a series of shady streets but after taking a random turn onto Lang Reihe I was taken aback by the kitsch townhouses and architecture! St. Georg served a lovely pint of Holsten. I don't expect perfection, I wanted something nice to admire. Oh! 

St.Pauli stood to be the perfect place to spend my Hamburg evenings, a neighbourhood that stole my heart with its bohemian and free spirited vibe! My evening's were spent exploring the hipster-like streets of St.Pauli, it was darling, the sun made a short appearance! As darling as St.Pauli fared to be this part of Hamburg Stadt served an edgy quality that suited its aged streets well. Choosing a place of refuge in Hamburg took some work for I don't like to spend much. Located just a few streets away from Feldstrasse U-Bahn sat a whole other side to Hamburg. I had made a wise choice to stay at the St.Pauli Backpackers Hostel! After a few beers I found some energy to explore the early evening streets of St.Pauli for some Turkish food for Germany's the second Turkey! Pamukkale Grill on Sussanenstrasse served me an authentic Pide, I chose to drink an ice cold Ayran! St. Pauli was a Turkish food heaven! Evet, H! 

Hamburg had served me well with a string of remarkable city sights and maritime memories, so after my Turkish Pide I wanted a few beers to wind down from the epic pace of my trip. I found Kurhaus on Beim Grünen Jäger street, that bar was just what I needed. The trendy and cozy bar caught my eye because it oozed understated cool with the front windows open the hipster-like drinkers enjoyed the view just like I did. I made sure I had a beer in hand first before I people-watched! I got a really nice relaxed vibe from that corner of St.Pauli, better still it was only a five minute walk away from my hostel! After the journey from Berlin with the early ramblings through Hamburg's city centre, my Turkish food and street-side beer had me wanting an early night. The following day I would be taking the train to Bremen, I would be saving my drinking shenanigans for the following night. I found Wunderbar near the Reeperbahn, making my flight the next morning was a miracle! Hamburg's ace! 

Hooray For Hamburg!

Joseph Harrison

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Deutschland: Berlin... Ost Oder West?

I couldn't get enough of Berlin, I was back on the U-Bahn at 7:00am the next morning on my way to a hopefully quiet Brandenburg Gate! I didn't care that my itinerary would leave me exhausted and wanting my bed so I could sleep for a week, my kind of travelling is low budget! Berlin had one final day to bring it big, I was determined to discover as much as I could!

Perseverance is the key! Nowhere did I see a single tourist making a mockery of this magnificent sight! I validated my U-Bahn card at 7:00am on the dot so the photo captured to the left must have been snapped no more than fifteen minutes late? My hectic pursuit for an undisturbed photo of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate took me back to the time I woke equally as early to visit the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona because the queue was also ludicrously long! I guess it's called 'suffering for your art?' I loved it! Berlin definitely embodies a certain stature, the Brandenburg Gate stood strong as it shone majestically during the early morning. I admit the fresh and early morning air felt and looked so much better than the previous afternoon but as you'll find out in future instalments of my Germany trip that certain parts of the country experience Anglo weather. Brandenburg Gate frankly looked amazing! Atemberaubend, B!

Ost Oder West? The title of this blog simply means in English, 'East Or West?' Ja! My morning of calm continued on! I skipped breakfast, beginning to get to know the grounds around the Brandenburg Gate. I slept like a log the previous night, I must have been on the go for over 20 hours? I made the most of my nights sleep, sleep would become a rare commodity during my Germanic adventure. As I have become more familiar with staying in hostels, I always make an effort to talk to fellow backpackers as its always a gamble because some people are less reluctant to talk than others. Thankfully a portion of my nine fellow dormers returned my introduction. I spoke to a few young ladies who were from America, I had something in common to talk to them about. They told how American's have the highest student fees and I said that England seems to have its own problems really. It was definitely a meeting of minds! Berlin is where all the cool kids go! Like really cool kids! Really?

The Tiergarten was calling me! With the morning still fairing to be quiet I made my way from the Brandenburg Gate, past the Bundestag, which is Germany's answer to London's Houses of Parliament. From the Bundestag I found myself amongst the greener pastures of Berlin's Tiergarten, a landscaped 'garden' that made me forget that I was then currently in Germany's capital city! Making my way from the Tiergarten to a spot along the 'Spree' to take some time to think about my next move. I loved the view along the Spree it was just so European! Continental Europe has got it going on but us on the UK are missing something, those views! Of course, Berlin's Tiergarten is a little pocket of calm in a crazy city! The Bundestag, that political centre gets the best of everything for the home of Germany's parliament looked future-proof with its modern looking buildings! That state of affairs has been closed! Fall abgeschlossen! Jaa! 

Berlin wasn't going to be my only destination, I had firm plans to see Hamburg and Bremen before my flight back to England. I had my tickets booked for a super quick train that was bound for Hamburg Hauptbahnhof early the next morning, I wanted to be certain as to what I had planned for the rest of my final day in Berlin! I could see the top of the grand looking Berlin Hauptbahnhof from where I was sitting along the Spree in the Tiergarten, I only had a short walk to reach its glass frontage. I made sure I knew where the platform would be for my train and decided to grab a bottle of Becks beer for breakfast! Germany has a great law that drinking an open bottle or can of alcohol is completely legal and above board, I stayed in the station with my morning bottle of Becks. You might be thinking 'Oh, he hasn't even eaten yet!' That was true but there's always a trusty McDonald's nearby to have breakfast! When in Berlin these things have to be done! I was loving Germany! Yes! 

Berlin are you East or West? That's the question! Back on the U-Bahn to find Berlin's Wall Memorial. I didn't have any internet guided map, I was thankful for the clearly laid signposts. I wasn't born until 1990, I didn't remember the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was going to be a learning experience. 1961 was the year that Berlin was separated by a very infamous barrier that made a new divided Germany with an East and West. I took some time to walk along the Memorial path to see where the wall would have stood back in the day of Germany's partition, I was taken aback with all what had happened so it was sobering to see a reunified Berlin and Germany. I read along the Memorial path that tunnels were dug so people could escape to the East to hopefully vacate Germany for good. I just couldn't begin to imagine how life would be like to live in a parted country? No, I know I'm no bucket 'n' spade person! For sure, not! 

In many ways we can look to North and South Korea, two countries that used to be one but with conflict and war I guess reunification won't happen at the pace it took for Germany to unite its borders. Let's allow the Korea's to get on with their struggle because in that moment it was all about Berlin! I guess it must have been before dinner time before I had took a break to chill out for a bit but I just moved on forwards in hot pursuit of another Berlin sight. From the Wall to the serenity of the Tiergarten I really felt liked what I had seen a lot in Berlin for the short time I had scheduled for that trip, I'm not one for shopping so I find it so much better to see as much as I can that doesn't involve spending too much money. Berlin has a vibe that's too good to bottle up and take home for later, I know getting my uni work done to at least 95% before leaving for Germany was worth it because Berlin gave me the chance to forget about that stress for a little bit! Thanks again, Germany!

Finding one more thing to accomplish before dinner time had to be a visit to Berlin's former Tempelhof Airport, which holds a link with Germany's Nazi past. I just looked at map and made sure I could get the train there, it was definitely spontaneous I tell you! The weather was just lovely with the sun shining as I walked through the airport park! Berlin-Tempelhof Airport's vast airfield now acts as a huge park with the runways and taxiways used for cyclists and rollerblading and I tell you its an impressive space for sure! A picnic could be enjoyed within the limits of this former German airport. Berlin's newest Airport hasn't even opened yet so the pressure is very much on for Brandenburg Airport! No? The airfield has now been fenced off from public use, reportedly used as a film set! Will there be a new airport Berlin? I hope so because Berlin's Tegel Airport did look tired. Tempelhof Airport was fascinating! Let's go! 

Partying wasn't on my mind, I met my friend from university for dinner by the Berlin Zoologische Garten, whilst I waiting for Nadine I found another Dunkin' Donuts but they didn't serve Texas Toast! I had not seen Nadine for a long time so it was great to catch up and see where each of us had achieved since the last time that we saw each of other. After meeting at the U-Bahn station at the Zoologische Garten we headed to a lovely street side restaurant that was located along Kurfurstendamm. I chose the Salmon and Nadine chose the Pasta, I really enjoyed my food and I'm sure Nadine enjoyed her meal. I would have to say that having friends in different parts of the world is a great thing! I had a great time catching up about our experiences of student life in Birmingham to conclude my Berlin segment of my Germanic trip. I knew that my next day would have a very early start so me and Nadine said goodbye. Nadine, thanks for being so gracious! Berlin was super! I was ready for Hamburg! 

Berlin Is Now!

Joseph Harrison

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Deutschland: Ich Liebe Berlin!

I love Berlin! In German 'Ich Liebe Berlin!' Berlin called me, I had been captivated by the presentation and event that was held by Visit Berlin that I attended in December 2013. My sense of adventure got the better of me when I threw all caution to the wind by booking a whirlwind trip to Germany that took a very fast pace, but what good is it sitting in your room? No, I didn't! 

Berlin stood before me, I chose to begin my Germanic adventure with a stop at Checkpoint Charlie to see what all the fuss was about. Located just around the corner from my Check-In Hostel stood the former crossroads that separated Berlin during the Cold War. The crowds of people that congregated around the former border crossing really didn't impress me much, but it was Easter Monday and that's a big deal in Germany. I guessed that was just so? I thought Checkpoint Charlie was really something and it didn't take a genius to find it from the U-Bahn because this sight boasted its own underground station named 'Kochstrasse' on the U6 line. I'm not one for museums, so I did some background reading about Charlie's Checkpoint. To avoid the droves of tourists I randomly returned to Checkpoint Charlie around 10pm to be greeted with peace and quiet. Tegel Airport was 35 minutes away? Ja, B!

From the Checkpoint to the Brandenburg Gate I began to realise that Berliner's took Easter Monday seriously. We don't! Upon arriving at the Brandenburg Gate I was overwhelmed by the swarming mass of tourists snapping a shot of the enormous gate, a definite focal point in Berlin for every tourist to see but I'm no tourist! Admitting defeat to return early the next morning,  I was determined to get a much less disturbed photo of Berlins premier gate. Why did I choose Berlin? I was invited to an event hosted by Visit Berlin to introduce their Pink Pillow Hotel Collection in Birmingham. I was mesmerised by what Berlin had to offer and the quest for Curry Wurst simple had to be taken! I got a bargain for two nights in a 10 bed dorm at only €10 per night! Check-In Hostel was functional and served me perfectly during my stay in Berlin, I loved the fridge full of beer in the reception, it was a welcomed change compared with my previous hostel experience! Sure, Berlin had something to show me.

In hot pursuit for the lively centre of Alexanderplatz I stumbled upon the Berliner Dom, meaning Berlin Cathedral where I took cover from the rain! I had definitely brought the weather with me from Birmingham, UK! Captured to the right is Dom and the Fernsehtrum, a telecommunications tower that reminded me of the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada. Back to the Cathedral of Berlin for the rain decided to belt it down I took some time for reflection in the cathedral to light a candle or two because that's what I like to do. Taking what felt like a thousand steps took me to the viewpoint at the top of the mid-section of the Dom, which gave a great yet rainy view of Germany's capital city! Berlin chose me because I believe I was right on time! I have to say my knowledge of the German language wasn't very good when I first got to Berlin, I decided to stick to the basics of Hello, Please, and Thank you. OK? How I was loving Berlin! 

It didn't take a genius to realise that Alexanderplatz was located just behind the Dom because my map told me so! I did feel typically tourist pinpointing the parts of the city I should head to next but I saw the typical tourists from America who didn't fail to embarrass themselves with their lack of travel expertise, I'm such a nice person! You're welcome! The Fernsehtrum led me to Alexanderplatz, an area where much development had stood still for the festivities of Easter. I found the telecommunication tower very interesting for it looked extremely retro but the whole Alexanderplatz Zentrum area looked positively concrete a stark contrast from the history that stood mere metres away on the Unter Den Linden. I had covered a whole new district of Berlin without realising it, I had made my way to Mitte! Easter brought a series of market stalls that mirrored the same that appear during the festive period in Birmingham. Yes, Birmingham could really learn a thing or two!

Moving out of the city centre on the S-Bahn train to a outer Berlin station that I didn't plan on stopping at but I trusted a train that was travelling in the direction of Spandau! I trusted the train because the Berlin transport systems baffled me with the different names, letters and numbers I knew that train would be 'Gold!' Moving back into the city centre I took a chance on Potsdamer Platz, an avenue of skyscrapers that had the brashness of a New York City business district so that impressed me. There was an enthusiastic protest taking place as I stepped on to the pavement opposite the business district, maybe it was linked with a car manufacturer? To the left is the 'Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe' a sobering sight for sure, some say that time is a healer so I saw the memorial site a fitting installation to come across during my time in Berlin. My first day in Berlin was so busy, but great! I had made up time! 

My body-clock was starting to remember I had woken up at 4:30am that morning,  I pushed forwards to a part of Berlin town that goes by the name of Nollendorfplatz, for it had been mentioned by the ambassadors at the Visit Berlin event back in December 2013. I wanted to get my drink on but the day was catching up with me so I hopped off the train to take a look in a interesting shop where I found some goodies for sure, it was such a pity I had only packed a backpack so I was limited with what I could buy but I was happy with my purchase. I got this! If I venture back to Berlin I will definitely schedule that trip on a weekend for I had arrived on a Monday and I couldn't be sure if this German city would be raring to go for an all-night party? I had seen so much in my first afternoon in Berlin even though my two hour flight delay from Birmingham Airport didn't stop my frantic assault on Berlin town! Western Europe had surprised me once again! Berlin proved itself, it had its own beat! Ja! 

Replenishing my supply of Euro's I made a pit-stop back at my hostel before grabbing some food. I had been too wrapped up with getting to know Berlin I had forgotten to eat, my sausage sandwich from Wetherspoon's at Birmingham Airport had wore off a long time before I jumped back on the U6 U-Bahn line towards Alt-Mariendorf to find Curry 36! Getting off at Mehringhdamm only knowing to look for a bright red sign with the words 'Curry 36!' With a stroke luck I found my desired location, this German fast food counter looked identical to the photo that was displayed at the Visit Berlin event. I ordered two Curry Wurst sausages with chips and onions, it had been a long day at that point so I chose a half-litre bottle of Becks beer to complement my first proper German meal! I really loved the Curry Wurst, that Brat Wurst was the perfect choice to satisfy my hunger, I was already on the next hype BER!

From my delayed start to being faced with the masses at Brandenburg's gate I was happy to get some sleep ready for my second and final day in Berlin! The Berliner Dom was the calm that I needed and the perfect place to escape the rain, I hoped for sun the next day! I made it to Nollendorfplatz even though it was a brief part of my day I loved it even still! Germany proved to be a whole other state-of-mind that the media painted it to previously be so I felt blessed to experience such a positive day even if the lack of sleep caught up with me in the end. Curry Wurst has to be the one when in Berlin because there's no other taste combination quite like it anywhere else, well that's just my honest opinion! Spandau isn't just about the Ballet! It's still Gold! Checkpoint Charlie is great in the day but so much better during the calm of the night, those tourists are a pain in the neck! Berlin is buzzing, Berlin is brilliant! Germany will be on my wishlist for the future! Berlin, thank you next! 

Dankeschön Berlin! 

Joseph Harrison

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Serving It Up... Turtle Bay, Birmingham!

Birmingham might not have the most Michelin star restaurants but this city is continuously welcoming new eateries that suit its International pallet. I'm a lover of Jamaican and other Caribbean cuisines so I was pleased to see a Caribbean orientated eatery in Birmingham's city centre. Get into the bashment groove because It's all going to be irie at Turtle Bay, Birmingham! 

Turtle Bay's Birmingham location was no longer a building site, it was a hype of activity during the launch evening with the chatter of the selected few, we all experienced the Caribbean vibe of Turtle Bay. I would like to think that food blogging is a current avenue to take, life is all about spice so I'm all in favour for some Island cuisine. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the launch evening of Turtle Bay, Birmingham on the 17th of April 2014. The atmosphere emulated something what I could imagine a Jamaican beach restaurant to be like! I was greeted with a smile by a representative of the Turtle Bay team, the vibe from the workforce was very upbeat. I arrived within the time I was given because no-one wants to be on island time! I love a good food blog but I like hearty portions not nibbles! I love food! I hadn't been to any restaurant openings, a new opportunity for me! Good on you Brum! B, I'm hungry! 

Like I mentioned before I'm mainly a travel blogger so each food project I get my teeth into fares to be a whole new experience. The launch of Turtle Bay started around 6.00 pm with a lively set of music played by the in-house band, I recognised the music instantly because they played some 'Lovers Rock' and also other blends of music from the islands. As I enjoyed a complimentary cocktail or two I saw the Lord Mayor of Birmingham - Councillor Mike Teddy who took part in a group photo not long after he was greeted by the Turtle Bay team, Birmingham's definitely warming to the idea of a city centre based sit-down Caribbean restaurant. The launch was the perfect opportunity to have a mosey around the restaurant to see what would be in-store for this restaurant once full service begun. Aside from the proceedings of the launch I thought to myself that I needed to try some Jerk Chicken, Rice and Peas with Dumplings! Yes, Turtle Bay has awoken John Bright Street!

Caribbean food and Birmingham work well together for Birmingham's many districts north of the city centre are famed for their Jamaican and other Island food. I've not yet been to Handsworth or Lozells for some authentic Caribbean food, that's not up for discussion so having the access to a vibrant and live Caribbean restaurant just around the corner from New Street Station and The Mailbox makes a welcome change. I'm a lover of Birmingham but its neighbourhoods each have different vibes so I'll leave it at that. I found it difficult not to get into music as I ate my Jerk Chicken because yes I love Bashment music, I won't lie I can Dutty Wine with the best of them! As well as Bashment music playing the Island themed playlist also featured some Lovers Rock and also some Bob Marley! You wouldn't get that spice and realness anywhere else in Birmingham's city centre! I kept my promise, that's all that matters! Yes!

Whatever food from around the world you like I suggest you embrace the charms of Caribbean food, not just from Turtle Bay, Birmingham but in general terms. I'm a lover of that extra spice from Jerk Chicken to Curried Goat and Ackee & Saltfish because food is for enjoying and blogging about of course! I have feeling I could be back to try something else from the menu at Turtle Bay, Birmingham if that's OK? I'm thinking of a Curried Goat dish with a side of Rum for good measure. To quote a 90's club anthem I think that the opening of Turtle Bay, Birmingham is 'Right on Time!' From launch night to finally getting a chance to have some Island food I know that being a nosy beggar and an avid Tweeter helps me be in the know about the goings on wherever I am and in this case Birmingham! I know I haven't flowered anything up because that's not staying true to my blog and being real is key to me! I rate Turtle Bay, Birmingham because they serve great tasting food in a vibrant setting! 

Unlike the launch night I got the chance to see Turtle Bay's full service layout with a fair few guests who were enjoying their food. It's not just food served at Turtle Bay, Birmingham for there is an extensive cocktail menu and rum selection to choose from, it didn't take a rocket scientist to tell why the bar was bustling with guests enjoying their weekend drink! Like I said before I choose to drink a Red Stripe, a Jamaican lager that was just right considering I'm more of a cider drinker. Guinness Stout is also available because Guinness isn't just for the Irish! As customer service goes by the team at Turtle Bay, Birmingham are friendly and polite, from the servers to the management I was pleasantly surprised. From my tailored meal request I was recognised from the launch so that also boded well for my Caribbean dining experience. Birmingham's got a new winner in Turtle Bay, let it bring its soul food and drinks to town!

I will be honest that I couldn't fully judge the taste of the menu from the samples from the launch, as lovely as they tasted I wanted more to fully satisfy my taste buds. A few days after the launch I returned to Turtle Bay, Birmingham to judge the menu for myself. I ordered a pint of Red Stripe, a Jamaican lager that was ice cold and complemented my main course just nicely. Being real and a bit awkward I asked Jessica from Turtle Bay, Birmingham if I could trade some components of the Jerk Chicken dish for just Rice 'n' Peas and Dumpling, its all about the understated choice to enjoy the full flavour. Hear me now! As conversation goes I learnt that Birmingham just gets smaller and smaller, but its all good! My Jerk Chicken packed a punch with a certain spice but I love to spice things up sometimes. I loved the way the sauces were placed on the table, a little extra something Turtle Bay, Birmingham does for their guests. If you have a gripe with your portions, get down to Turtle Bay!

It's Irie at Turtle Bay, Birmingham!

Joseph Harrison

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

BHX: Hello World!

Birmingham's gone all worldwide! Birmingham Airport wants to say 'Hello World' with its new slogan out there I wanted to see what this West Midlands airport has to offer. I wasn't flying anywhere but I took my passport just in-case, I wanted to just get away but a thing called 'life' got in the way! Fancy a pre-flight meal or find an exciting place to entertain the little ones? Go!

I just needed my bag with me because Birmingham Airport just means one thing to me, a holiday! Change has been going on for BHX for the new International Pier has brought a whole new look for this airport. Our local West Midlands airport has welcomed a whole host of new scheduled airlines that have brought the world to Birmingham so that's a positive thing for sure! Turkish Airlines now fly from BHX to Istanbul Ataturk Airport ten times weekly, opening our eyes to the wonder that is Istanbul, Turkey as well as being a vast transfer hub everyone should be happy with that Turkish Delight!? Dubai is only a six hour flight from Birmingham now for Emirates operates twice daily flights seven days per week. The 'Empire State of Mind' I mean New York City is only a hop, skip and a flight away from Birmingham's own with United Airlines to Newark, New Jersey. Doha soon? Qatar Airways can you make this happen? Go on!

BHX has transformed its two terminals into one functioning entity, now the new facility marries the low-cost, charter and scheduled carriers in specific areas of the terminal to streamline the whole passenger experience. Lounging around at Birmingham Airport is allowed for BHX boasts three lounges for passengers to kick-start their trip with that added sparkle, Aspire Lounge can found in the main departure lounge along with the No1 Traveller Lounge and the Emirates Lounge is located in the International Pier for First and Business guests. Bangladesh is calling! Biman Bangladeshi Airlines shall be serving Birmingham Airport with twice weekly services to Dhaka, Bangladesh and New York's JFK making this venture a very exciting time for Birmingham Airport. BHX shall be saying 'Ni Hao' to China Southern Airlines in July 2014 for a charter service has been agreed to welcome flights from Beijing on the £40 million runway! We need more long haul routes so BHX can fly higher! Yes! 

All this news made me hungry, so I dined at Birmingham Airport's very own Frankie & Benny's restaurant. Located before security on the first floor, its a great pre-flight option for any type of passenger to get into holiday mode! I chose the Spaghetti Carbonara, a personal favourite since I was a boy. Being my first time dining at Frankie's BHX location I was pleasantly surprised to realise that this land-side restaurant tailors their menu and service operation to enhance their guests experience, ensuring that overall guests enjoy their meal within the time constraints to work alongside the flight schedules. The core menu consists of the usual Frankie & Benny's favourites but they keep logistics in mind for nobody wants to be anymore stressed than usually when travelling by air, from a food to a flight its all good! You can make your own choice, now you've been informed. I said you're welcome. How about that? Step it up, BHX! 

My Carbonara was good, I chose a Pepsi Cola to accompany my meal with a few slices of a pizza style garlic bread as my starter. Our server attended to our needs and everything was brought to the table in a time-orderly fashion. Being part of the Blogger experience at Birmingham Airport was a great thing, combined with a hearty serving of good food gave us the opportunity to get to know each other for blogs consist of many different themes and niches so I really did enjoy seeing things from a different perspective. Who wants desert? Choosing the Banoffee Waffle concluded my Frankie & Benny's afternoon dining experience just right. My best suggestion would be to check-in early to ensure that more time can be spent making the most of BHX's pre-security delights. So, if you're looking for a hearty Italian American meal before making your way through the security check-point at Birmingham Airport I suggest a meal is to be enjoyed at Frankie's & Benny's at BHX! More brands! 

Birmingham Airport has its very own mascot, well it's all for the children. Zoom joined us for lunch before jetting off on another important flight, it was a hit for the younger diners during the Blogger meet but I found the 'True Blue' icon amusing as well. Going to the 'Sky Zone' has to be done if you're travelling with any passengers aged from 2 to 10 years old. Located opposite Gate 54 along the North Pier is the 'Sky Side' experience aimed at entertaining the younger passengers who will undoubtedly be extremely excited for their flights. The 'Sky Zone' is packed with interactive activities that all tell an exciting story of flight for Birmingham's youngest fliers. I wondered what a younger 'me' would have made of the 'Sky Zone?' That's a question! For me it's all about having an ice cold pint in the Departure Lounge, but I can remember how excited I would get when I had the chance to report to the airport for a flight! 

Zoom and his friend gave us all Sky Passes to access the 'Sky Zone' but we were staying land-side so it was good to see the ways that Birmingham Airport are engaging with the younger passengers from the point of check-in right through to their experience in the 'Sky Side' activity area. I could definitely see my six year old cousin get excited about the Zoom hype at Birmingham Airport so all is well with the world. I shall keep my pre-flight drinks and the kids can enjoy their time in the 'Sky Zone'. Zoom, I'm really sorry but you already know that I'll be in the Wetherspoons with a pint of Cider! It was also fantastic getting to know the new and recent developments that are taking this West Midlands airport to new heights and opening new opportunities as far as China. BHX, I know I shall be seeing you soon for my flight to Berlin! Birmingham Airport continues to make leaps forward but more long haul directs are needed for us to surpass the likes of Manchester and London airports! Yes!

BHX, Fly High!

Joseph Harrison

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

March 2014: Cheltenham Spa, Musicals & Photoshoots!

March 2014 was an eventful month! I desperately wanted to have a few adventures outside of Birmingham! I will not lie that I'm lacking motivation when it comes to my university work but I know I just have to keep going for just a little longer. I reunited with friends who I had not seen for an age and loved my time in-front of the camera for a good cause. Strike a pose! 

Cheltenham Spa and Dursley was my first trip out of Birmingham for a while. It's nice to get out sometimes! I embarked on my south-west trip at the beginning of March to be reunited with my dear friends Catherine and Lianne, we were in for a right old treat! National Rail delayed me somewhat but we all reunited in the picturesque Spa town that's not so far from Bristol to enjoy some lunch and catch up on the good times! I really liked Cheltenham, it oozed the same Spa qualities like Bath Spa but not like Buxton which I was about to see a few days after my shenanigans in the South-west! I didn't see the racecourse but I wasn't there to see such sights. I met Catherine's boyfriend Ben so it was nice to put a face with a name. We made a pit-stop for some food we carried on reminiscing about our freshers days and gossiped about more recent events that were going on in our lives. C, I really do love a good reunion!

Settled in the small village like town of Dursley we got our drink on, I shouldn't drink cider because its the root of all evil. I was excited to experience a night at 'Capones' a small nightclub that I had heard so much from Catherine back in our first year at university in Birmingham. Making our way into Dursley's town centre we bypassed the kebab shop until later on for our lunch in Cheltenham Spa had felt a world away. Stopping at the 'Old Spot Inn' where Lianne introduced me to pear cider, which went by the name of 'Perry' she warned me that this local brew would taste like juice but bite me in the behind if I wasn't careful. I had already indulged in a few cans of cider before leaving for the pub so I tried not to take much notice, I should have taken heed because that seemingly juice like cider bit me alright! The night turned into a great chain of events, but I remember colliding with the concrete pavement to later realise in the morning that I looked busted! I was a holy mess!

Warwick University called me for a random reunion with my placement brothers, Paolo and Thomas. It was meant to be! Me and Tom spent some time in Coventry the next day that inspired my day trip that I took a few weeks later. It was great to see the boys again because life seems to get in the way of the good things! We need to get back together soon! We went for some food then had a few drinks at the Students Union, where I witnessed the 'Folk Society' Morris dance I wasn't impressed at all! Seriously, get me some Reggaeton to get down! From Warwick to Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre I saw 'Fiddler On The Roof'. I jumped off the train from Coventry, heading for the theatre after my nap. I love an evening at the theatre! I really do, B! 

Did I mention Buxton? Let's go back two weeks to the beginning of March. Me and my fellow classmates went up to Buxton for an educational afternoon to research the town for our pending assignment. Take me back for some cream tea and scones but nothing else. I thought Buxton needed some love for it was looked tired from many angles. I'm glad I visited Bath back in January of 2014 because I could appreciate the sights compared to Buxton. I must admit that I'm lacking motivation for that assignment, I know that all matters shall be taken care of in time for the deadline. March saw the submission of my draft Dissertation, I submitted forty-five pages, I know that I'll be busy putting the final copy together! It's not all been about the fun! I've got a Dissertation to complete! Yes!  

Less of the hate! I took part in the NOH8 photo shoot campaign to raise awareness about homophobia. I was lucky enough to be part of this great cause by being a member of the LGBT Society at University College Birmingham. I tried my best to serve 'equality' realness alongside by LGBT Society friends. Me and my friend Rob did our best to serve the camera and I quite like the photo that has been captured to the right. I have been a member of the LGBT Society since September 2013, I'm not one for groups and unions but I'm blessed to have joined a great society during my final year at UCB. Away from the photo shoot we got our drink on to celebrate the legalisation of same-sex marriage in England. We all grouped together to enjoy the movement that has definitely brought a sense of belonging and freedom for the LGBT community in England. It's been  different for the final year at University College Birmingham! Go!

Marriage is for some but not for all so it's great to have the choice now! Another development with the LGBT Society at University College Birmingham will be the upcoming Birmingham Pride March 2014, our theme will hopefully be 'Gay Travel and Tourism!' We will have to see what's going to happen! I booked my early bird weekend tickets for Birmingham Pride, I my plan is to grace the parade then get to grips with the goings on down Hurst Street, Birmingham. I'm fortunate for the friends I have made from being a member of the LGBT Society at University College Birmingham for its such a great thing to have friends that I can truly relate to and put the world to rights! Remember let's be a part of the love revolution and make sure there's a little less hate in this world! I know I will definitely miss the goings on of the LGBT Society and I have every intention to remain in contact with the friends I have made after I depart from Birmingham to my next grind. Sure, March was amazing! 

Pear Cider? No!

Joseph Harrison