Somehow, I wound up in Great Britain this week. Again, my philosophy of “everybody’s got to be somewhere” came true. Only, this time, it was pretty cool. Where, you ask, was I?
Dear readers, I was in Birmingham, England. (For my fellow Americans, that roughly equates to Detroit. A lovely city, of course, but it’s not your typical tourist’s “go-to spot.”) Why was I there? Work, of course. Work, which I love. I also tacked on an extra day in London…more on that later.
Birmingham is a nice mid-sized city in England, about one-and-a-half hours north west of London. It’s an industrial city with a population of about one million. Everyone I met was quite nice and happy to welcome me.
With that said, I arrived on Sunday morning and was able to meet up with a friend and head to Kenilworth Castle before my Monday meeting. Before I talk about the castle, I must tell you that my friend picked me up in her car. And I have to admit that every time I get into a car in the U.K., I’m disoriented by the driving-on-the-left-side thing. This time, I got into the passenger (U.S. driver’s) side of my friend’s car, and immediately reached for the brake pedal to start it. There was no pedal. As we whipped around corners, I felt my life was in danger at every hedgerow. Not because she was a bad driver, but because I was completely and totally out of my element. Being a little bit uncomfortable is a good thing, they say, about going abroad.
Onto the purpose of my article: Kenilworth dates back to the Norman dynasty. Anything that dates back to the 12th Century is pretty incredible in my book.
The castle itself was surprisingly large. I guess you always think of castles as being “big,” but the size of it never really hit me until I walked up to it. It took an impressive person with big ba…guts to build a castle. No doubt about that. But this one was built over several centuries. And that says something about staying power, doesn’t it? Here in America, we happily tear down a lot of our houses after a handful of decades. Admittedly, none of them look like this. But, still…
The “gardens” (I put quotation marks there to make it clear that I don’t often visit “gardens”) were planted for a visit by Queen Elizabeth the 1st (that’s not the grandmother of Prince Harry). And, although I’m clearly not a “garden” guy, it all looked better than my yard.
I was comforted by how much The Midlands looks like the countryside around my home in North Carolina. As you travel, it’s surprising how much far-away places (and people) wind up reminding you of home . . .if you open your mind to it.
Overall, when I get the chance to travel to Europe, I’m amazed by the history. It’s really mind-boggling.