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A Trip To Birmingham, England With Ron Virmani
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When you think of visiting England, the image you probably conjure up an image in your head may not include Birmingham. So perhaps it may come as a surprise to discover that the country's second largest city is actually one of the most popular and fastest growing travel destinations in Europe. I took a short break there in the company of Ron Virmani recently, and we were surprised and impressed by what we found.
Birmingham has its own international airport with a train station attached, so reaching downtown Birmingham - or "the city center" as the Brits would call it - is very easy. It was fun to mingle with the locals, known here as "Brummies", from the get-go - you may find their accent a little tricky to understand at first, but like most places, if you take some time to get to know them you'll be well rewarded.
The heart of Birmingham has been completely redeveloped in the last few years, and it now seems much more like a major international city than it did when Ron Virmani first came here a few years back. We started off with some shopping since the Bullring mall is packed with major name stores. There's even a branch of Selfridge & Co., the storied London department store, and it's a great place to find souvenirs.
After we'd checked in at our hotel, we went the short distance to Broad Street to experience some of Birmingham's great nightlife. This is the major party district in the city, and it's not a quiet place - but it's safe and welcoming as long as you take the usual precautions. Ron Virmani, being the sort of guy he is, just walked up to club-goers and started chatting. I don't know how he does it sometimes!
The next morning, we explored some of Birmingham's canal district - amazing as it sounds, this city has more miles of canals than Venice! As well as the colorful boats, inviting restaurants, and interesting boutiques, there's a fantastic Sea Life Center close by. I couldn't help being a little crept out by the sharks and rays. You've guessed it: Ron Virmani took it all in his stride and was totally cool the whole time.
The weather was still pretty nice - our trip gave the lie to the idea that it always rains in England - so we took a stroll to the Thinktank, an awesome science history museum. It's maybe a little more aimed at kids than adults, but we still loved it. I guess we're just big kids! In Victorian times, this city was known everywhere as the "city of a thousand trades" and it's still very proud of that heritage today.
Our time in Birmingham was coming to an end now, and I realized how sad I was to be leaving this vibrant, exciting city. It's fair to say that Ron Virmani also shared this view, telling me that he felt he was already becoming a "Brummie" at heart! There's still so much left to see: the hoard of Saxon gold in the city museum, the amazing Symphony Hall concert venue, the Town Hall where Charles Dickens once performed, and so much more.
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