Europe a la Carte took to the skies visiting five cities and towns across England, Northern Ireland and Wales between 22 July – 1 August 2009. The Europe a la Carte UK Summer 09 Blogging Tour was powered by bmibaby, who provided my flights from Edinburgh to Birmingham, Newquay, Manchester, Belfast and Cardiff. I asked for tips on what to do and see in each of my destinations on the blog and on Twitter to help me plan my itinerary.
I arrived in Birmingham late on the evening of 22 July, with accommodation at the Staying Cool penthouse apartment on the 20th floor of the Rotunda. The next morning I met up with Jon Bounds who accompanied me on a circular trip on the city’s number 11 bus. I spent the afternoon in The Jewellery Quarter, squeezing in a quick visit to The Balti Triangle before meeting up with Nicky Getgood and Karen Strunks for an evening in the Digbeth area of Birmingham. On the morning of 23 July I visited Back to Backs, a reconstruction of courtyard life in the past. I was very impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of Birmingham residents.
Birmingham city centre by night
Then it was on to Newquay in Cornwall, arriving early evening on Friday 24 July and staying at the Pure Shores Lodge. On Saturday I walked along the Coastal Path taking in several of the beautiful beaches along the route from Towan Beach to Watergate Bay. The next day I met up with Ben Ridding of Surfing is Therapy before heading to the Kahuna restaurant at Tolcarne Beach for lunch. My recommendation for the best cup of tea with a view is the Headland Hotel at Fistral Beach.
Whipsiderry Beach, Newquay
I touched down in Manchester very late on Sunday 26 July and made my way to the Abode Manchester Hotel. On the morning of 27 July I met up with Chris Norwood who took me to a Manchester off the Beaten Track walking tour. In the afternoon I was on the hoof again, this time on an Urbis Combination Tour. I spent the next morning in the Northern Quarter, starting at the Pop Boutique and Mod Pop Cafe before going round the corner to meet up with family travel blogger Susie Stubbs for lunch at the Cup Cafe, where I also bumped into local poet Carol Batton.
Manchester through the centuries
Belfast was next on the itinerary. I arrived there early evening, lodging at the Malmaison Belfast. That evening I visited two contrasting bars, the modern Apartment and the traditional Crown. On the morning of 29 July I made the trip out to the Ulster Folk Museum, then it was back into the city for a look at the Botanic Gardens prior to a ride on the Belast Wheel. Next I walked down along the River Lagan, admiring the art installations of which the Water Feature at Custom House Square was my favourite. The next day I went up to the observation gallery in the dome of the Victoria Square shopping centre, lunching at La Tasca Spanish Tapas Restaurant.
Water feature, Custom House Square, Belfast
Cardiff, the capital of Wales was the final stop on the UK Blogging Tour, where I stayed at the Parc Hotel. Friday 31 July was taken up by a See Wales sightseeing day tour with visits to The Big Pit National Mining Museum, Brecon Beacons National Park and the Penderyn Welsh Whisky Distillery. I was up early on 1 August to catch my flight back to Edinburgh.
The UK Summer 09 Blogging was a great adventure for me and thanks to everyone who made it such an interesting trip.