A Midland state of Mind
I am here, in Italy and thinking of where to go next. I am in a decidedly Midlands state of mind. First, I want to tell you about Dervilla's house in Ballinamuck, Co Longford, Ireland. This is a county steeped in history. It was here in 1798, the English defeated a gallant band of Irish revolutionaries, aided by a French army. This battle is remembered all over Ireland, but particularly in this area. On a more peaceful note, Longford is famous for lakes and waterways. There are 30 lakes to enjoy, super for fishing and boating. You can cruise on the River Shannon, or walk in the preserved bogs of Ireland's Midlands. These bogs are areas of special environmental importance, which provided peat (and heat) to warm homes and hearths (pun intended) for generations. It is great cycling country also, with lots to offer the nature lover. The oldest pub in Ireland, Seán's bar is here and, if you are into dancing, the Seán Óg (Young Seán) festival takes place from November 18th, so get your dancing shoes on for Ireland's biggest set dancing weekend. Stop by St. Mel's Cathedral, lovingly restored after a devastating fire. The spire of this imposing edifice dominates Longford Town and has a special place in the hearts of the inhabitants. Longford is connected, by train, to Galway and Dublin and is accessible from all over Ireland by a very modern road network.
Next, we go to the Midlands of the U.K. We start in Lincoln and Lorraine's house. Lorraine lives in an area of natural beauty, with access to wonderful walking trails. In nearby Lincoln City, the Christmas lights will be lit on November 17th, just before Handel's Messiah is performed, on November 19th. The Lincoln Ice Rink will open on November 26th, until January 1st 2017. There is theatre, pubs, restaurants and shopping. What more could you ask for?
Next to Manchester. Those of you interested in football, soccer that is, will know that two of the greatest teams in the premiership are here: United and City. Take a tour of the stadia, but be careful not to wear the wrong scarf! Here you can stay with Isabel . Her house is 15 minutes from the airport, close to the Bridgewater canal. Manchester is famous for the soap opera, 'Coronation St', which has been running since the 60's. It is a city full of art galleries, theatres and is the home of the Northern Quarter, a shopper’s delight. A good place to visit at the moment thanks to the favourable exchange rate for Sterling. There are funky cafes, artists and craftspeople selling their wares here. Manchester also has the biggest concentration of Asian restaurants in Europe, so if you’re hungry make sure you head to The Curry Mile.
Birmingham is a city of 1.1 million people, one of whom is Carol, who is waiting to welcome you. Birmingham is the home of Cadbury World, the Natural Sea Life Centre and museums galore, including the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter. The shopping is great and fine arts are in abundance. Visit the Thinktank, the city's science museum. Here you can see an exhibit featuring the Supermarine Spitfire, the iconic fighter which played such a vital role (along with the Hurricane) in WW2.
On to Stoke now, a town of 240,000. Abi lives here, close to the famous Peak District National Park. This area is famous for pottery and ceramics. Staffordshire, Wedgewood, just two of the world-renowned producers in the area. Call into The Trentham Estate with its Italian gardens. Stoke has 2 canals, offering cycling, walking and boating possibilities. If you fancy an adrenaline rush, Alton Towers is in the area, too. Shake yourself up on the many roller coaster rides there. If you’d prefer to base yourself in Stoke, you can visit Manchester and Birmingham by train. The journey takes about 35 minutes. After all this planning, I best start my packing!
Be as free as a bird!
The Freebird Club Team
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