The other reason? For the Korean Food. This is the closest we've found for a decent Korean food store so Kuk treks down every couple of months to stock up on supplies. I started looking into tourist sites in Birmingham to see if there were any decent options, particularly for the bleak winter months. Well, the Korean cupboard was bare, so we decided to make a day (mostly) out of it.
Birmingham is about an hour away along the A38. Earlier in the week, 17 miles of this major road was closed due to flooding. Everything is fairly saturated and when we get solid, heavy rain for a few days, it's more than the system (and rivers) can bear.
The first (and only tourist) stop was this cozy corner. This is the site of the only surviving "Back to Back" housing establishment from the Victorian age.
National Trust which meant it was free for us (card-carrying members). A booking/reservation was required though since it is only available via guided tour.
The back to backs were Birmingham's answer to the booming population of the 1800s. [The population increased by 22% from 1841 to 1851.] They weren't particularly well built and were almost always built for renters rather than owner-occupied (most of the land was actually owned by very wealthy families evidently). Some were lived in and some were for businesses. Court 15, which was completed in 1831, is all that remains. The houses were condemned in 1965 though some of the street facing ones remained open as businesses.
The Birmingham Conservation Trust and now the National Trust have restored a few of houses and take one through on a guided tour. The tour spans different eras to which the houses have been restored: 1830's, 1870's and 1930's.
Note its all of about 1C (33F) at this time. Pretty cold. We were ready to head inside!
In the 1830s it was light by tallow (animal fat) candles and no running water. In the 1870s, still no running water, but they did have some gas lamps (including some piped gas). In the 1930s, there was electricity and running water but still largely coal heating.
Average life expectancy in the mid 1800s was 24 years though I am sure that was somewhat skewed by the infant mortality rate. People started work at age 8 and worked an average of 60 hours/week.
Nope. We might as well have been in Indianapolis and the Chinese Food Trough. I should have known better. Oh well, we got filled up at least.
To throw salt on our wounds, we passed a nice, simple Korean restaurant on the way back to the car. Rats.
We might venture into some other Birmingham sites later. Glad we did Back to Backs on this trip. It was a real treat.
with a side of "grilled" asparagus (on my new George Foreman indoor electric grill)
fancier yet -- beets, cress and basil salad w/ a honey balsamic glaze
One more note: we had the opportunity to visit a relatively new ex-pat family on Saturday. Thanks to the Kisers for having us over for a great meal and a very enjoyable evening.
Hope everyone has a good week. Thanks for reading.