A Sweet, Sparkling Surprise
Birmingham is only second to London in terms of population. With more than two million people, Birmingham used to be one of the gems of the industrial revolution, when it housed many skilled tradesmen. The city was known for producing a wide variety of goods: from arms and ammunitions to glassware and jewelry.
Today, only the jewelry quarter remains, and you can see over 200 years of golden history at the museum in Birmingham 's "Jewellery Quarter." By 1871, over 7000 skilled craftsmen were engaged in this trade. The quarter is also home to an array of art galleries, restaurants and plenty of shops selling baubles and big discounts.
Following the Second World War. The Birmingham-based BSA (British Small Arms Company) became the world's largest manufacturer of motorcycles including the famous Triumph brand. See this history on display at the National Motorcycle Museum – considered the finest museum in the world dedicated to these two-wheeled machines. Known as a place where "Legends Live On," it's a tribute to and a living record of this once great British industry that dominated world markets for some sixty years.
The museum is adjacent to the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), the busiest in Europe, just south of the city connected by rail to downtown Birmingham New Street station or even London, which is just over an hour. There is a wide range of consumer shows – from the "Supreme Cat Show" to the "Classic Motor Show."
Birmingham boasts the world's largest navigable canal system with approximately 100 miles of waterways. Enjoy a meal at one of the many eateries surrounding the canals. Or for something sweeter…
Head to the home of deliciously decadent Cadbury chocolate. You can visit the world's biggest Cadbury candy shop, see how the candy is created (using more than a glass and a half of full cream milk in every half pound), and enjoy interactive exhibits, a playground and rides.
A little over 30 minutes away, the medieval Warwick Castle sits on a bend of the River Avon. Built by William the Conqueror in 1068, the castle changed hands many times in history – and even imprisoned King Edward IV in the 15th century. The Tussauds Group (of wax museum fame) purchased the castle in 1978 and it's now a popular tourist attraction.
Coventry, approximately 20 minutes by train from Birmingham, is home to the 12th century Coventry Cathedral. Bombed during the war, the remaining ruins are quite remarkable, not to mention the spectacular replacement cathedral that still welcomes worshippers.
With a BritRail Pass, you could be visiting so much more than London (which is less than 90 minutes from Birmingham.) Hop from Birmingham to York in less than three hours, Manchester in less than two hours. Birthplace of Shakespeare—Stratford Upon Avon-- in about one.and a half hours Make Jolly ‘Ol new again by visiting cities not on your traveling list. You'll be in for a sweet (and chocolately) surprise.
Contributed by: Duncan, Chief Commercial Officer, a European who has traveled on trains in 19 countries in Europe.