Wair ya bin? Bir-nin-em
So it was that Birmingham called, or rather I called in on Birmingham (in that peculiar English turn of phrase), for if you are going to harp on about the country's first city you at least need to familiarise yourself with it's second. And with the recent shambolic implementation of airport security measures, who fancies a weekend city break abroad when you will spend 10 hours of 48 being frisked by Easy Jet staff in polyester orange zoot suits? No, think global, stay local.
And after a brief over nighter, I discovered Birmingham to be a gritty but 'on the up' post-industrial city with a tongue-in-cheek attitude and a quirky charm all its own. Birmingham's motto is 'Forward' - and that says it all. No other British city is so in thrall to progress. After a pummelling in WWII, Birmingham transformed itself, and has continued to evolve since. Although the most famous landmark does remain Spaghetti Junction.
You can take in the sights via Brum's answer to the London Eye, in the form of a miniature size observation wheel on Centenary Square. And Brum is not alone, these copycat wheels can be found in Newcastle, Manchester, and even York. But whilst the civic planners behind it may think it's a world city, Brummies are a comically cynical lot and take it all with a pinch of salt. The real city is on the ground, both attitudinally and architecturally.
So, c'mon, shake off the Monday malaise because you get a reprieve next week. No plans? Head up to Brum for a day trip or night stop over. It may not be beautiful, but if you enjoy Britain's two national pastimes - shopping and drinking - you'll find plenty to entertain.
Lasan: Because Brum is famous for its baltis. Try the best. Tel: 0121 212 3664
Medicine Bar: The Birds Custard Factory was given a fashionable makeover to become a haven for Birmingham's alternative dance crowd. Tel: 0121 693 6333
Super-stylish Mailbox, a converted 1960s Royal Mail sorting office, is home base for trendiness and a calm way to unwind after scaling the Bullring.
NiteNite , budget capsule hotels with luxurious but miniature rooms, or the uber stylish Malmaison.
Canals. With 36 miles of canal to Venice's 24, Birmingham has something to boast. Check out the restored section between The Mailbox and Brindleyplace.
Getting there: By 'troin', 1.5 hrs from Euston Station to New Street Station. Virgin Trains. From £10.00/each way in advance. Or £36.00/return.
P.S.: If you do end up a weary retail warrior or just swept off your feet by gondola man, one tip for the morning after: a Malmaison bloody mary. Beats out a cup of 'tie', a 'cannabea' or a 'point' and will leave you feeling 'ooroyt' in no time.