Pinkies out: Birmingham bits and bobs

Birmingham canals.

When we weren’t at the dog show last March, we were exploring the city. We found Birmingham to be a modern British city with a long industrial past – perhaps best illustrated by its 35-mile network of canals, most of which were built in the 1700s and 1800s.


The canals were quite busy during the Industrial Revolution, transporting coal, iron, and other heavy goods. Today, many of them have been restored into an attractive network of trails, parks, and urban development.

Words of wisdom for the joggers.

And yes, it rained basically the whole time we were there.

Dreamer tries to keep dry. Behold, the ingenuity of those steps in the middle in preventing slips and falls.

The city also boasts some beautifully-preserved buildings.

While we did start our food explorations this trip at the dog show, the culinary adventures certainly did not stop there.

Fish and chips with mushy peas for lunch at the exhibit hall.

Every day got off to a good start with a PROPER breakfast, mind you (Spain, take note!).

Starting the day off right with a Full English Breakfast and the obligatory stiff upper lip. We decided the dogs could wait.
Dreamer quickly found her favorite British breakfast: porridge.

Birmingham is actually well-known for a particular kind of curry made in a wok-shaped cast iron pot called a balti. We went out to the Ladypool Road area to try some authentic balti curry and it didn’t disappoint.

We certainly got our fix of spiciness.

Well worth the half-hour wait.

One thing we tried very hard to do on multiple occasions, but ultimately struck out: High Tea, aka Afternoon Tea. Every time we showed up at a reputable place, we were told we couldn’t have tea without a reservation (who knew?!).

Doer has a cuppa at breakfast.

It’s a shame, because Doer was READY to show those fancy Brits that we Americans also know how to drink tea real proper like, yeah?

We had a few OK tea experiences, mostly with breakfast (see above), and one overpriced experience at our hotel.

Stiff upper lips in the lobby of our hotel.

While it wasn’t a legitimate high tea, our best tea was at the City Museum (one of the few places outside our hotel that deigned to serve us without a reservation).

At the museum.
Tea Room at the City Museum.

Alas, we were told high tea was more of a thing in other parts of the U.K., but not here. Undeterred, Dreamer had her own set of British punchies for this destination as well; she discovered some exciting information while researching Birmingham during a train ride on one of our other trips.

“There’s a Cadbury Museum in Birmingham!”

Ultimately, we decided to skip the Cadbury Museum because it looked pretty schlocky, but you can bet this woman – who was always deprived of her Easter favorite because she was made to give up candy during Lent – wasn’t going to let an opportunity in the Land of Cadbury pass her by.

“I don’t care if it’s giant. I want it!”

And lo, the giant egg and “créme”-filled smaller eggs in that box did last most of our trip.

They also have Krispy Kreme donuts in the U.K.

We decided to skip the Spanish food, however, since we can get enough of that where we live right now. Fun to see it trending, though.

And last but not least: oh, the beer.

A selection of nice stouts for Dreamer.

Some warm [real] ale pulled from a beer engine for Doer.
“I don’t like these warm beers.”  – Dreamer

Enjoying a beer in our hotel bar, though, we noticed something wasn’t quite right with the fireplace. Can you tell this is actually just a theatrical smoke machine with an orange light?

Cutting-edge, we know. The local library also appeared to be state of the art, but for real this time.

A very modern library.

All of this modernity comes with a catch: the area around our hotel was a giant construction zone.

View from our hotel window.

When we got tired of the new, we took another look at some of the city’s history by visiting the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter. The best part of the tour was our very old-school British guide, who demonstrated how jewelry was made back in the day. For example, how to make a hollow dangly-dangly:

Soldering demonstration by our guide.

The old museum truly seemed trapped in time.

Old dies used to cast jewelry pieces.

Polishing stations.
Packing and shipping room with some original supplies.

Raw materials.
Finished products.
Some U.K. novelties in the gift shop next to a photo of a “mispach” ring made in this building and sold to Jewish families. The word is Yiddish for “family.”
Nope, this guy is not a stereotype at all 😂

All in all, we’d describe our whole Birmingham experience as very British.

Mail trolley.
Wastebasket for what us Yanks would call diapers.
Family meeting point.

Although America and Britain share a language, we don’t always express ourselves the same way. The British-isms we encountered were particularly fun.

British English is sometimes described as rather wordy and we can’t say we disagree.
Or in American English, “If you see something, say something.”
We’ve seen this boast before on a bag of rice in Valencia (“probably the best rice in the world”). Such confidence!

And passing through the city, Doer kept thinking all these places were advertising a public toilet, but they’re actually just for rent.

As we waited at the airport to return to Madrid, Doer fit in one last tea.


Leave a Reply

Commenting requires registration. It's super quick, we promise!