I left Birmingham late August in 2014 and this was my first trip back. The city has changed so much with the redevelopment of the station at the heart of it all. Grand Central is a slice of London in the centre of the second-city. Glitzy shops, every restaurant chain and wonderful architecture (despite an unfortunately shaped glass window in the floor, which I’ll describe as a bean pod and hope you get the gist.)
Grand Central is ten times what Birmingham Central Library aimed to be. Interesting from the outside, the inside of the ‘new’ library was devoid of value. It should have been a place centred on learning and education, but it was launched as a a tourist attraction with coffee and wine facilities on each floor, and its core resources – computers and shelves, painfully empty and unused.
On the contrary, Grand Central is hideous from the outside but remarkable internally. A shopping centre, a travel hub and a restaurant complex; it’s as if it’s organised as to be a bit of a maze, in order to keep you interested. I can’t review it as a station as I took the bus to the city, but I’ve heard it’s not the easiest to manoeuvre. Different lounges per platform section you off and you’re never quite sure where you are.
During the trip, I met three old but close friends. We explored the Chinese Quarter, the Jewellery Quarter and enjoyed lots of coffees and snacks from a range of places. We ended up visiting two Urban Coffee Company shops, 6/8 Kafe – which was much better than I remembered – and went for dinner at Giraffe.
Walking around the Jewellery Quarter was inspiring. Old factories sit abandoned and heavy with stories of their former lives. Broken windows allowed us a sneak peek inside some, and it was fascinating.
It was a glorious day which always makes a place look good. This shot pretty much sums up the city for me:
In the Jewellery Quarter:
I imagine these street teeming with people, the families who resided in the flats above these former shops. The couples who argued; the couples who loved.
The whole day was a walk back in time, reconnecting with old friends, seeing how my former haunts have changed, moved or disappeared altogether. Walking through the Jewellery Quarter reminded me of the times I cycled out of the city centre in new directions and got so lost, but found the inspiration I needed to get through my degree.
In all honesty, it was great being back.
One of the best parts of the trip was 4 hours of travel time accompanied only by my music and headphones.