Sunday, January 26, 2014

Warwick- Birmingham Weekend Trip

17th January 2014- 18th January 2014

Firstly, I want to thank Shawn for hosting me! It was surprisingly pleasant experiencing a closed university lifestyle- from eating at cutesy named university campus restaurants (Dirty Ducks and Xananas) to strolling along the river at 8pm to spy on the obese Warwick ducks out in the countryside. Sorry I came at such an inconvenient time; I guess that's the trouble of buying advance tickets (but it can't be helped). It was lovely despite the fact we barely hung out because you had assignments and a swimming competition :)

This was a time of many firsts- it was also my first time taking a midnight bus (1am, to be exact- and another reason to thank Shawn for putting up with my cheapskate ways), doing all the planning, and traveling by myself!

Traveling around Midlands wouldn't cost you a bomb- you can opt to buy the Daytripper ticket if you're from around the Midlands area, or take day trips to Warwick and Birmingham from London because they aren't very far away.

London to Birmingham 

£4 to £30 for a single

Bus: £1.50 (Megabus is your friend) to £16 (National Express buses are generally nicer though) for a single

London to Warwick

Train: £5 to £30 for a single

Bus: £1.50 to £13 for a single 

For my trip, I spent £1.50 for a Megabus ticket from London to Coventry (because that's where Warwick university is situated) £6.60 for a return ticket from Coventry to Warwick, £6.20 for a Daytripper ticket to get myself from Warwick to Birmingham (and within Birmingham), and £4.95 from Birmingham to London. 

PS: The Daytripper ticket is amazing! Do check if out if you're traveling around the Midlands area. 

I keep forgetting that it gets dark so early here! I didn't cover as much as I would have liked to in Warwick because I woke up late- 1am buses do not work well for your system- but I did manage to cover the main to-dos. And don't get brainwashed by the locals telling you that there's nothing to do in Warwick! It might be boring if you've been there 10+ times; but there's more than enough to keep you satisfied for a full day (I believe you can stretch it into 2 if you really want to) if you're there for a one-off trip.

Warwick University- unlike what the name suggests, is located in Coventry and it takes a 30-ish minute bus ride to reach Coventry City Centre. In fact, it's quite far away from a lot of places (you need to take the bus if you want to leave the campus because walking anywhere would probably take you half the day) and kind of reminds me of Klang location-wise. Warwick University prides itself of being a 'modern university'; proof enough are its very modern-looking buildings.

And finally, an obligatory picture of Shawn and I! 

You could really spend the whole day here in Warwick Castle. This medieval castle is thick with history- from its beginning when Princess Ethelfleda (an Anglo Saxon Princess) ordered its construction to protect England and Warwick from the Danish invaders, to its current use as a tourist attraction owned by Merlin Entertainment. From being a fortress, stately home, prison, and party destination, Warwick Castle has more or less 'been there done that', including holding a King of England captive in Caesar's Tower in (the hence called) Kings Room. Besides the exhibitions in the castle itself (including lifelike waxworks, the reason being Madame Tussauds had bought the castle for approximately £1.3m only from the heavily indebted Greville family), there are also extras; namely Merlin: Dragon Tower by BBC (aimed at families) and The Castle Dungeon- both which I didn't go for. You can book tickets online and save some money here.  

Here are some of the pictures I took while walking in, around, and around the castle grounds.

Here my journey begins! *Draws out sword like all fictional males embarking on a quest to save the princess. Err, prince*

The brief tenancy by Madame Tussauds would probably explain all the life-like wax works in the castle.

And yes, I love suits of armour.

The Princess Tower has various exhibitions on the aristocratic castle inhabitants.

King Arthur in the souvenir shop.

Various birds roam the castle grounds and I think it's even some sort of challenge to spot them all (they have a board which tells you all the different birds found in the area).

Peacock Garden (ironically, I saw peacocks there as well)

Meet Bruce- a grey eagle buzzard. And later, I had the opportunity of seeing him perform in the Birds of Prey Arena during one of the castle shows. 

I always find something calming about roaming the countryside; Warwick castle from the castle grounds.

A majestic catapult.

The Mill and Engine house along the Riverside shows you how the previous tenants supplied electricity to the whole castle during their period.

Say hi to Bruce!

Climbing up the Mound.

Vew on top of the Mound.

I met a local who told me to walk out of the Warwick Castle car park towards the bridge for the best view of Warwick Castle. So I stamped my hand, got out to take a few pictures, and came back in again for the 'Ultimate Castle Tour; our entire history...abridged' free tour. I would really recommend this tour to anyone considering it- it gives you a really expansive history behind the castle and its inhabitants.

After that, I decided I was hungry so I explored the city centre for some food!

East gate of Warwick.

I went to Bread&Co for lunch/tea after being recommended by more than 3 shop owners.

I didn't try any of their cakes, but it was quite obviously a favourite among locals- there were a lot of people coming in just to take away these delicious looking cakes. 

My lunch and the map given to me by the friendly shop owner- he is Australian and currently has 3 branches (the other two are located in Leamington Spa)

The tea house- another recommended place to eat! It used to be a doll museum before it got converted to a tea house when the previous owner died. 

And then I went back to the Castle. It's sad how only 50% of the artifacts remained and the other 50% were sold off to private collectors while the Greville family was trying to repay their debts.

This sword actually killed people before!

After the tour, I took a walk to Saint Mary's cathedral to climb to the top; this will cost you £2.50. The priest was nice enough to let me up the tower although it was already 1 hour past closing time (whoops). 

The interior of the church.

Dean's Chapel Window

West gate of Warwick

Later, I wandered around for a bit before heading back to Warwick university. Aren't the houses here really pretty?

The next day, I made a transit in Coventry (but didn't enter the city center because the opportunity cost was too great) before hopping onto the train to Birmingham using my Daytripper ticket I purchased on the Warwick bus.

So for awhile I wandered around aimlessly, browsed through a few small shops, bought a dress for £6, found the Bull Ring Market, decided to ask for directions to the Birmingham Art Gallery, and got shown around Birmingham city centre by an old 60 year old man by the name of John Austin. He took me in a circular circuit until lunch time where we parted at the bus stop. He gave me a peck on the cheek and clasped my hand, making me promise him I'd write to him and send him a post card of Malaysia. 

The very famous Bull in Bullring

St Martin's church

Selfridges! 'Blobitecture at its best.

Birmingham- simply famous for being a shopping destination.

Victoria Square and Town Hall

'The Floozie in the Jacuzzi' named dubbed by the locals

The International Convention Centre (ICC) and Repertory Theatre by the side

The New Library (they also have the Old Library- this reminds me of LSE's New and Old Building)

Interior of the New Library- does 't it look like a spaceship?

The lower viewing area in the New Library

To the top floor! (This one reminds me of a space shuttle)

That's the BT (British Telecommunications) Tower in case you're wondering

The Cube from afar!

I watched a mini piano performance in the Repertory as well

The interior of ICC.

Walking along the canals (unless I'm mistaken, this is Brindleyplace). Did you know that Birmingham has more canals than Venice?

Town Hall

The Birmingham Museum & Art Museum (right back to Victoria Square area)

They have really cute mechanics as well- the puppets moved when you press the button

John was really proud when he showed me this, saying that he used to own one of this (except it didn't have as many badges)

The train station

(Excuse the rude scribbling)

After the mini tour, I embarked on a bus ride-The bus took me to a Pakistani concentrated area of Birmingham where I set foot to try out the local Birmingham delicacy- Balti. I got lost for awhile, and rambled along Ladypool Street, Stoney Lane, and a few other streets I can't remember. The neighbourhood reminds me of Indian Street back in Klang- except quieter and placed quite randomly in a housing area. After much walking and turning around in circles, I finally found Al Faisals! One of the restaurants of the Balti Triangle. 

Lamb Khurry, naan, and papadum with 5 sauces- sweet chilli, green chilli, mango, mixed pickles, and ment.

After that, I returned to Birmingham City Center and walked around for the rest of my trip.

The Odeon- Britain's oldest working cinema which has been in operation since 1909. Although I didn't catch a movie that day, I heard you can find many arthouse and quirky films inside this electric cinema.

And of course, since I revisited the same places while walking around, here are a few pictures of the earlier landmarks taken at night:

Gas Street Basin- it used to be the main port while Birmingham was still trading coal.

The Mailbox- another shopping center (mostly food) and also houses the BBC Public Space. Something really cutesy which you can do in Birmingham! 

Aha! Now we know why the backgrounds are always green when they want to superimpose the actor/speaker on top of another background. (See: Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio, fly on a broomstick and special effect section) 

I pretended to be a reporter in the Arctic talking about polar bears :P Cute? I know

The Mailbox from a different angle.

While walking back to the train station

Popped by the Ikon Gallery because it was (somewhat) on the way- the exhibition area is really small and a large part of the building is dedicated for classes and etc. If you do go there, go onto the lift! 

Spoiler: The lift will start 'singing', going into higher tones as you go up.

And that folks, was the end of the trip I wished could go on forever

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