Birmingham, England in a Day

Victoria Square and the City Councilor Building in the heart of Birmingham

Victoria Square and the City Councilor Building in the heart of Birmingham

We set out to explore on our first full day in Birmingham. Distances are not far in the city center, so we walked. Map-reading skills came in handy because the city’s streets are a random network of arterials, one-way streets, pedestrian promenades, dead ends and twisting roads. Throw in a central canal that cuts through the heart of the city and you begin to envision downtown Birmingham.

The Birmingham Cathedral in the heart of the city

The Birmingham Cathedral in the heart of the city

The city sees itself as a cultural center with several museums and six universities. I see Birmingham as a shipping and industrial city with a history of industry and manufacturing. It has some interesting sights like the Birmingham Cathedral (aka St. Philip’s) and St. Martin’s Cathedral, all part of the ABC Tour (Another Blessed Cathedral), and a maze of shops and malls in the town center called The Bullring.

Small by cathedral standards, St. Philips is elegant inside.

Small by cathedral standards, St. Philips is elegant inside.

Birmingham’s industrial history differed from other factory cities. While manufacturing plants for weaving textiles or refining chemicals required a low-skilled workforce for assembly line work, Birmingham was much more specialized. They operated smaller shops and highly skilled workers provided custom products on a smaller scale. Birmingham became a center of innovation during the Industrial Revolution as indicated by registering more patents than any other British city.  Notable innovations during World War II included the cavity magnetron, a key component in radar and eventually in microwave ovens.

Most recent stop on the ABC Tour was St. Martin's Cathedral near The Bullring.

Most recent stop on the ABC Tour was St. Martin’s Cathedral near The Bullring, Birmingham’s retail business center.

The public library was not open for us which was a disappointment. It was bad timing because the new Central Library is in the process of moving to a brand new building scheduled to open September 3rd. We have been in internet limbo this week as we depend on internet access to stay connected to family and followers. That situation was partially solved with the purchase of a dongle which connects a laptop with the mobile phone network.  We only purchased one. We will definitely get a second one since they cost only about $15/month for unlimited use.

The ultra-modern new Birmingham Library Photo credit:

The ultra-modern new Birmingham Library
Photo credit:

It has been exciting times in the UK. We were in Scotland when Glaswegian Andy Murray took the Wimbledon men’s championship.  Of course the whole world was watching as the birth of the future King of England took center stage. I still do not quite grasp the British fascination with their monarchy.  A couple of locals tried to explain how it is essential to the Brits.  I do not think it is something we Americans are equipped to comprehend.  Nonetheless, congratulations to the Royal Family!


17 comments on “Birmingham, England in a Day

  1. I love your life Mike – you’re on a forever vacation. Paul’s jealous of you, by the way. Celeste 🙂

    • Mike Lince says:

      Thank you. We wish you were here, Celeste. You would love it, I know. Maybe the two of you should plan a visit? 🙂 – Mike

      • Oh, I wish we could! But…Paul’s vacation time is already spoken for this year. We’re off to Seattle/Vancouver tomorrow, and next month we’re taking a trip to Boston to help Paul’s parents get ready to move. We would like to visit you guys at some point, however. Maybe on your next 6-month stint. Anyway, I’m having fun exploring through your words and photos. Celeste 🙂

  2. kerril29 says:

    Us Brits are obsessed with the Royal family – don’t ask me why, I couldn’t explain it to you even if I tried! I live in Vietnam and yet still celebrated the birth of Prince George, maybe we’re just born with it haha? My brother goes to university in Birmingham and he absolutely loves it. I personally don’t see the appeal of this particular city, but I think that’s because I’m a bit of a countryside Brit. Your photos are lovely though 🙂 so glad you’re enjoying your time in my home country!

    • Mike Lince says:

      Ha ha – your comments help. Brits I have spoken with cannot explain the relevance of the Royal family in the modern UK so that I can understand. It’s more like, ‘if you don’t understand, I cannot explain it,’ like quantum mechanics or Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Perhaps the mystery is that it cannot be explained. If so, I can accept that.
      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. We are anticipating several more months of enjoying the UK. – Mike

  3. Amazing, but that library seems so out of touch with everything else around it… hmm.

    • Mike Lince says:

      Birmingham is a city on the go. Construction cranes are visible all along the skyline. There is some preservation of the old but no hesitation about erecting something new. I could have gathered photos of a variety of fancy architecture with resident towers, office buildings and stores. However, that does not seem to me to be where the charm of a city comes from. I think it is how well a city integrates the old more than how fancy and unique is the new that defines a city. Thus, Edinburgh is more appealing than Glasgow. And Pioneer Square in Seattle is more interesting than Westlake Plaza. At any rate, we prefer to be in smaller towns.

  4. reocochran says:

    I enjoyed the comments, Mike, about the birth of a new Royal, the ABC tour, what a clever acronym! and the different features of Birmingham, England. I suppose we had a similar Love of the First Family with the Camelot of the Kennedy’s. I think that we are not quite as obsessed, sometimes we are quite “cruel” to our Presidents and families. I did love the movie, “The Queen” and also the one that is award winning with Colin Firth about Prince Phillip and his stuttering. I am a little forgetful of that title, it will hit me on the way to work! Take care and enjoy!

    • Mike Lince says:

      Good point, Robin. We treat our leaders like crap after we elect them. I remember the movie you are talking about – The King’s Speech. We did not see it when it came out. The nearest movie theater was 30 miles away at the time. It won and Oscar as I recall. We do not go to the movies much. Perhaps we will now that there is a theater just a couple blocks from our new apartment. 🙂

      • reocochran says:

        My mother watched it with my brothers and youngest daughter, she gave us some “inside” comments and helped us to enjoy it afterwards even more. She was a college graduate and saved to go to Europe for (I believe) 3 week tour with her friend, Priscilla. They had a chance to be there right around when the Queen was crowned. They also got to have an “audience” with their tour group with the Pope at the time. So, she was in second heaven about “The King’s Speech.” Thanks for the title! I hope you and Florence see it one day, also recently mentioned “”Quartet.” So lovely about the home for aged musicians. Dustin Hoffman directed and it has quite a cast of actual musicians and beautiful and familiar music. Formal but nicely done.

  5. This Seattle girl doesn’t get the fascination with the Royals either…but my in-laws (located in Manchester) are consumed by them. I have family in Birmingham as well…I like it there! Your photos are really great…I don’t remember Birmingham being so attractive 🙂

    • Mike Lince says:

      Honestly, I didn’t find Birmingham to be all that attractive either. However, my camera has tunnel vision and I focused on the old and charming (with the exception of the new library). It served as a good based to see other sights since it is such a fine transportation hub.
      Thank you for your comments from one of my favorite cities! – Mike

  6. Pit says:

    Birmingham is well worth visiting, isn’t it? we enjoyed it on a narrowboat tour two years ago [].
    Best regards from southern Texas,

    • Mike Lince says:

      We walked along the canals in Birmingham and Bournville, and they were picturesque. Then I saw the canal boats in Liverpool and they looked like a great way to travel inland. That would be a fine adventure.
      Thank you for sharing your comments, Pit! – Mike

  7. I recently wrote a travel blog on Birmingham for senior travelers and wanted you to have a copy.

    Please share this site/information with interested persons.  Below is the link.

    Jim Becker, Webmaster
    Professor Emeritus
    University of Northern Iowa (USA)

    Homepage for the above:

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