England for a weekend – Birmingham and Stafford

For many months we have promised ourselves and our friends – Karolina and Michael (warmly greetings) that we will finally visit England and visit them. We must honestly admit that we were not particularly tempted by England, mainly due to the fact that we are not big fans of London, who basically did not make a staggering impression on us a few years earlier. We do not fully understand the fascination with the capital of Great Britain, but everyone has their feelings in this topic and we respect it absolutely. However, due to the fact that Karolina and Mike have just moved into their home in English Great Haywood, in the village of Staffordshire, we could not visit them. And thanks God, because England is not just London!

In December, we bought Malta-Birmingham-Malta tickets, departure on Friday in the morning, return on Sunday morning, so a short weekend trip, but how successful and full of excitement. For the tickets we paid the whole 36 euros per person, living in a country where a lot of English people live is a definitely advantage! 🙂

We got to Birmingham, gaining one hour thanks to the difference of time, Karolina was already waiting for us, who even though she lives a year in England, has not had the opportunity to visit Birmingham. Thanks to this, we could all enjoy the walk around the second largest English city. And we must admit, especially after the comments of many friends describing Birmingham as “nothing special” that we were very positively surprised. The weather also helped us, because although we were prepared for the typical English “gray”, the sun and the beautiful blue sky greeted us. Below City Council:

Birmingham, like most English cities and towns, is mostly made of red brick. Typical English architecture, lots of Victorian tenement houses and so characteristic English order. Did you know that Birmingham is a city that has more canals than Venice? In general, the canal system in England is incredibly developed, thanks to which you can travel by boat instead of expensive trains through England.

Of course, we could not do English trip without a Traditional Breakfast, more known to us as Full English Breakfast:

We recommend you to visit the local library, where you can enter the observation deck. Although there is currently one large construction site around, even the library itself is impressive – we would dream of spending hours reading books here. Style from the outside is very modern, inside very classic, wooden shelves, the smell of centuries old books, comfortable armchairs. Amazing!

Unfortunately, we did not have enough luck (the weather is already too much), to visit the biggest attraction of Birmingham, that is Back to Backs, a place where you can move back to the XIX century to a typical industrial, working class England. Unfortunately, until 30/01/2018 closed due to renovation works. Well, next time.

Instead, take a look at the Gas Street Basin, formerly workers’ slums located by the sewers, today alleys, bridges, restored brick tenement houses, boats and small pubs encouraging to taste of course Fish & Chips and English beer or cider!

However, using the opportunity, we also went to the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (free admission), where we must admit we felt a bit lost. The building itself is undoubtedly beautiful:

However … where is the order and composition? Picasso paintings scattered around the halls in places where they are completely unobtrusive, works from various eras spread out without any logic. Oh, chaos and mess. Aesthetic experiences, even if the museum has a great collection, not fully satisfied.

Do not forget about the famous Jewellery Quarter, a bit away from the city center, but it’s worth taking a walk even for a moment. Do not expect a huge district, it is just a few streets, crowded with jewelry stores, but the enormity of neat, stone houses, order and English architecture delights. Within the district there is an interesting, old cemetery, left alone by the road between the tenement houses. Graves from the nineteenth century, covered with moss and forgotten, make an impression.

You cannot miss the amazing church of St. Martin from the thirteenth century located next to the Bull Ring Shopping Center. It’s worth to look for a moment to feel the atmosphere of centuries-old walls. And if you have an excess of time, you have a modern mall right under your nose, whose architecture is in contrast with the ancient church. But the contrasts are interesting 🙂

Being in Birmingham, no matter if you are religious or not, it is worth checking out the St. Philip Cathedral, which is one of the most important English monuments. The stained glass windows inside are amazing!

Of course, Birmingham is a mass of other attractions, but we came here primarily for our Friends, so sightseeing was a small addition, in fact. However, we have finally learned that the rest of England can delight and intrigue. We have a plan to come back to Birmingham! There is still plenty places to discover, such as Tolkien’s house and surrounding gardens, Back to Backs, Aston Hall, for which we did not have enough time and we were not lucky cuz they were just closed at this time of the year.

Time for the English countryside, beautiful area!

Great Haywood, although officially a village, is a more small town for us. Of course you will find pubs here, such a culture that the pub is the basis in England, but although close to nature, it is NOT as rural. But what is certain, it is beautiful, green, peaceful, idyllic! And this time the typical English weather, but thanks to that the views are more real!

If you have the opportunity, you have to look to the local Shugborough Hall, the mansion and the park around. Apart from the mansion which was closed that day, the gardens around are beautiful. It is also worth visiting a local farm located in the park, one of the oldest ones. In the past, the entire estate was much larger, unfortunately, the floods that took place there took with it other elements, such as the Chinese pagoda. Peace and quiet, closeness to nature, greenery … the perfect place to get engaged! Karolina and Michael can say something about that! 🙂 Congratulations! 🙂

Later, we went to nearby Stafford, a charming town full of beautiful tenement houses, with centuries-old churches, which the natives can tell with such passion that you cannot stop them, because you listen with open mouth and interest 🙂

Being here, you cannot fail to taste a typical English dessert – scone, served alone or with cream. It’s hard to say what it is, a bit like yeast dough with nuts and raisins 🙂 We heartily recommend The Grove Coffee House – delicious coffee and a brilliant scone!

And something that caused that, forgive us the vocabulary, we just fell down and we got so excited! Have you ever imagined that an old theater, beautiful, with decorated ceilings, wooden balustrades, old machines and cash registers, should be converted into … PUB !? Yes,  pub. We could not believe our eyes, but if the theater did not have much interest, why not? Today, as a pub, it is a very popular place among residents. Fortunately, the decor is maintained with taste, matching the theatrical interiors. And drinking beer and cider in THIS place was a pleasure in the full sense of the word! If only you have the opportunity – The Picture House, you will not regret it!

We had only 2 days, and we saw more than we expected. After all, we are very happy that we could visit Karolina & Mike and see them blooming, happy. And by the way, admire the beautiful, green Central England, to which we already have a plan to come back! Somewhere we will have to press another lap between our other year’s trips that are coming 🙂 Have a good day, Guys! 🙂

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