After watching the D on Friday, we thought it'd be a wasted opportunity if we didn't spend a little time looking at the old stomping grounds. Birmingham has always been a good, if under-rated city (lots of people only know it by the view from the M6) - it's now a great city. We left Birmingham 12 years ago, I've only been back for brief visits, and not at all in the last 8 years or so. It's totally changed. The city centre, in particular, the Bull Ring, has been completely rebuilt and they've made a fantastic job. The vision involved is impressive.

Selfridges in Birmingham It was so different at first, that it was hard to orient ourselves - the area near the new Selfridges was so different!

It wasn't long before we were walking around reasonably confidently, but every so often something wasn't quite as we remembered it, which provoked mild confusion.

The area around Victoria Square was particularly well used, there was a German Christmas Market, with a free gift wrapping service, various German delicacies to try out, drinks both hot and cold, mulled wine, and little crafty nick-nacks for sale.

On the whole, Birmingham is the first place I've seen in a while that felt, well, festive - much more so than London, or the towns near where I live.

It's got a great deal to offer.

We ate at the hotel that evening, we stayed at the Campanile - the hotel was reasonable, but eating at their restaurant was a mistake. The food, though reasonable, was disappointing - starting with us having to send the bread rolls back as they were stale. At the end of the evening we watched the 'chef' carefully put the buffet under clingfilm, presumably to serve up again the next day. It did make us wonder about what we'd just eaten - how long had it been there?

On sunday, we had a look around our old university, driving up Milner Road where we used to live (the old house looks smaller than I remember). The University was deserted, which is a shame as we couldn't go into the Guild. We drove around, then parked up and walked in past the Muirhead tower (not under it... that was sealed off - that building has always been a problem). We turned to go toward Biology, then back toward the guild past Physics.

Old Joe

The place felt so familiar, at the same time it was just the same and it had big differences. As an example, the area near the station had been remodelled, and part of the physics building had become the Nuffield Education Centre).

It was just weird - though it felt like home, it also felt like it was a lifetime away - so distant. It was a really odd sensation for both of us.

We went up to the vale, to find what we know as Mason hall surrounded by fences, and apparently in the midst of at least partial demolition. What we know as High and Ridge had been merged (and renamed) and also extended again. They'll need to be careful not to encroach too much upon the green space of the Vale.

Lake (my old hall) and Wyddrington were pretty much the same (although, not known by those names). The self catering flats had been extended quite substantially - and with nice designs.

Birmingham is a fantastic city, and we were sorry to have to put it behind us and head home.