Sunday, 26 July 2015

Ibis Bordesley Circus, Birmingham

I spent 2 nights here, and the only thing that let it down was the location which was slightly desolate, the civil engineering works going all through the night didn't help.

On first sight the outside was a bit shabby and uninspiring and was right next door to a 24 hour McDonalds, but as soon as you entered the lobby it felt welcoming.  The staff were attentive and check in was quickly sorted.

Due the high number of foreign visitors, all signs were pictorial which was a nice touch.

I was on the 3rd floor and the corridor was not inspiring, it looked very much budget and council flat inspired so I wasn't expecting much from the room.  

But the room was large, airy, bright and clean.  

The bathroom was a bit of a shock, it was a prefab built offsite and installed as a single unit, despite the feel of being in a caravan, the vanity was large with plenty of space for toiletries, make up, etc.  The shower was large, the water hotter and more powerful than I have experienced in some so-called 'premium' hotels.

Soap and shower gel were supplied and the towels with the thickest, fluffiest and softest I think I have ever had.

There was 24 hour food service, the menu dependant on the time of day or night.

There was an airy bar on the ground floor, but the prices seemed very high, but this is probably standard for a hotel in the UK, a bottle of Cava was £23.  There is a Morrison's supermarket 10 minutes walk up the road, so I bought sandwiches and a bottle of Cava (£5) there for my dinner.

St Andrews football ground is a 5 minutes walk away too, so the hotel is very handy if you are attending a function there.

The hotel was very quiet overnight, this is probably due to it not being right in the city centre, there was no-one running up and down the corridors, shouting and banging doors.

Free wifi was available in all areas of the hotel, something that other hotels could take note of.

All in all, I enjoyed my stay at Bordesley Circus, and should I have cause to visit the area again, it will certainly be my first choice of hotel.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Parc de la Ciutadella (Citadel Park), Barcelona

In all the years I have been visiting Barcelona, and more specifically the Zoo, which is housed in the park, I have never explored the park itself.

This year I did, and I have been missing so much.

The Citadel itself was built and then destroyed, restored and destroyed again on several occasions for various reasons, not least because it was seen as a much hated symbol of central Spanish government by the Catalan people. Only the Chapel (now the Military Parish Church of Barcelona), the Governor's palace (now a Secondary School), and the Arsenal (now home to the Catalan Parliament) remain with the rest of the site now forming the park.

On the day I visited, three of the Gigantes i Capgrossos (I have blogged about these before here) were being received into the Parliament buildings, along with their associated bands and groups.

After the puppets entered the building I wandered off down a different path.  

And got lost.  

As the park is 70 acres, this is not hard to do!

I continued wandering round knowing that, assuming I could find one of the exits, I could find my way back to the nearest metro or train station.

The park has a bandstand, I have always seen these as a peculiarly British thing, but evidently they are not.

It has a boating lake, something else I had seen as essentially British, it was a minimum of two people in a boat so I couldn't show off my (lack of) rowing skills.

There are plenty of play areas for children and plenty of little outside cafes where you can get a cold drink.

And then there is this....

It is the Cascada, it looks huge and it is fantastic.  It was first inaugurated in 1881 without sculpture or detail and was thoroughly criticised.  The addition of the modifications, including the fountain, continued until 1888, the building has remained the same since.

It was erected by Josep Fontsére and to a small extent by Antoni Gaudí, who at that time was still an unknown student of architecture. The aim was to loosely make it bear resemblance to the Trevi Fountain of Rome.

Quite randomly, down one of the paths leading from the Cascada, there is a model of a mammoth.

The park as a whole is well worth a visit, there are free wi-fi areas available too now.

I will definitely be spending more time there from now on.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Barcelona Zoo - An Update

It has been two years since I last visited Barcelona Zoo and a lot of changes have taken place.  As I mentioned before, there is an ongoing programme of refurbishment and renovation, and having left a two year gap between visits (instead of annually) I can see a big difference.

The whole place feels lighter as soon as you enter, even though you can't really see much difference from the turnstiles you can feel it.

The rather small pen where the camels were housed is now home to mongoose, which are much more suited to the size of the pen.

The Montserrat display, with mostly goats, sheep and vultures, has had a facelift, this is still ongoing with areas being closed off, but it is still a vast improvement, the smell has certainly gone!

One of the dolphin pools is now inhabited by seals.  There is a large display detailing the dolphins and whales that can be seen in the Mediterranean, I knew there were dolphins as I have seen them, but I had no idea that there were Sperm and Fin whales too.

The 'Savannah' area is being renovated too, most of it was still closed off, but you can see that the elephants, rhinos, hippos and giraffes are going to be much happier when it is all finished.

Part of the monkey/ape area is closed off, but there was one Chimpanzee that really did scare me.  He looked straight at me and grinned a really weird grin.  I moved,  Quickly.

Apart from the lions and tiger, the big cats have been moved out to allow refurbishment of their areas.

After many years of visiting, I finally saw the Red Panda.

You still exit via the gift shop, that hasn't changed.

I will give it another two years before I visit again, the changes are more dramatic.