Guest Blog on behalf of 'Alternative Tours'!

It's good to hear visitors sing unsolicited praises of our great city and last Saturday was one such occasion.

As Alternative Tours, we often get requests to organise things for visitors and following a successful 'balti event' with a large out of town company called Oracle, one of their senior managers decided he wanted to return to the City with his wife and friends. He got back in touch and asked us to host a visit to the Jewellery Quarter organising the itinerary and, of course,... another balti!

They were staying at (and very impressed with) the Radisson and had spent the Friday night with some canal side 'chillin' at one or two watering holes. The next day, they kicked off with a visit to the Library of Birmingham and described both the building and the views as fantastic.

We met them in St Paul's Square and we started with a visit to the RBSA where a number of paintings by the talented friends of the RBSA captured their eye. Next up was St Paul's Gallery, around the corner, with their displays of limited edition signed and framed album covers. 'What a brilliant idea!' our visitors commented enviously. It obviously brought back some musically inspired memories..mind you their cheque books didn't quite run to the £10,000 needed to bag the last copy of a Paul Weller signed album print!

We then took a walking tour of the pavement trails and heritage buildings, regaling them with some 'Tales of the JQ' that only an insider would know.

Next stop was the Pen Museum where, as usual the volunteers couldn't do enough for our party and it culminated with a quill pen writing competition and a prize we awarded for the controversial winner, amongst great hilarity. Interestingly, one of the women in the party admitted the Pen Museum visit hadn't been top of her agenda but she had actually found it exceptionally enjoyable.

Onward, we went to one of the Quarter's top jeweller's 'Vault 88' who we have known and admired over the years. We were shown how a piece was commissioned and made and given a peek behind the scenes of their workshop. Some impressive jewellery and stones were displayed and it seems a certainty that Pete, the shop owner, has found himself some new customers.

As we guided them back to the Radisson, we stopped off at the ghostly catacombs in Warstone Lane Cemetery which was anything but a 'dead loss' in terms of interest. Then it was down Newhall St and some more famous names and places before reaching the Radisson.

Predictably, this was all rounded off with a top balti at Al Frash on the Ladypool Road. Only one of the party had tasted a proper balti before and they all declared it as absolutely delicious as they buffed their bowls clean with garlic and coriander naans. It's hard to pick highlights but the Aubergine Pakora and the Balti Afrodisiac were polished off in record time.

So what did these visitors, from outside the Midlands think? ''We never realised what a fantastic city this was"

Brilliant praise indeed! 


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