East Coast Wine Trail

East Coast Wine Trail
East Coast Wine Trail

Saturday, 24 July 2021

When too much sport is not enough: Birmingham is calling

With the Covid Olympics well underway in Tokyo, there is good news for fans anxious  about their next multi sports fix. 

The 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, are just 12 months away. 

Birmingham, for those not familiar with the West Midlands city, is the second-largest conurbation in Britain - ahead of both Glasgow and Manchester.

Sports-wise it is known for under-achieving football teams like Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City, so locals in the Black Country are probably already looking forward to a gold medal or two. 

The multi-million-dollar construction of Alexander Stadium (above) is on track, thanks for the pun Visit Britain, and visitors will get to see first-hand a city that has been transformed from industrial hub to a "futuristic city". 

Locals highlights include  the dramatic Library of Birmingham and gleaming Bullring & Grand Central, which is described as (raising of eyebrows here) as "one of the most stylish shopping centres in the world". 

There is the revamped Grand Hotel (which has hosted everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Winston Churchill), and the restored Roundhouse, with a 19th-century curved building converted into a spectacular tourist destination.

For those so inclined (and I am definitely not) there is something called Bear Grylls Adeventure, an activities venue opened by someone who appears ion TV. Far more appeling is a Cadbury Factory Tour (the chocolate brand was born and bred in Birmingham). 

While Birmingham became famous for a tangled road network nicknamed Spaghetti Junction, the city harbours (another pun from Visit Britain) more kilometres of canals than Venice, with 56 kilometres of waterways. 

You can walk or cycle along the canal paths, or take a narrowboat tour. Or maybe check out some Peaky Blinders locations.

Birmingham has always seemed a little bleak when I've visited, but it does have a remarkable music history. 

Think of bands including The Move, Spencer Davis Group, The Moody Blues, Traffic, ELO, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Steel Pulse, UB40, Duran Duran, Fine Young Cannibals and Joan Armatrading - and half of Led Zeppelin (Plant and Bonham).

Non-musical regional highlights within easy distance from Brum include Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick, Worcester and more. 

For day trippers, Birmingham is just an hour and a half train ride from London. 

The Cotswolds are just down the road, and Oxford is nearby for those who don't give a jot about sport. 

Rev heads might like the British Motor Museum, the National Motorcycle Museum or a Jaguar factory tour a Castle Bromwich. 

Here is Visit Britain's Guide to 48 hours in Birmingham: www.visitbritain.com/au/en/48-hours-birmingham 

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