Friday, 6 November 2009

Yanks a Million!

I’ve been missing from BlogWorld for a while as I’ve been working pretty much continuously this week with an American group throughout the Midlands.

It’s been a very busy week, characterised by a series of very early starts to get to their base at Catton Hall on the Derbyshire Staffordshire border. However, hard work though it was, things were made considerably more pleasant by two other factors.

Firstly, they were a very pleasant group, largely the “accompanying persons” of a group taking part in a sort of Edwardian Shooting holiday.

Secondly (and most unusually) they had asked me to more or less concoct an itinerary for them myself. Unusual this might have been but it did mean that there were none of those ridiculously crowded days with impossible-to-achieve deadlines and skipping past places to say that you’ve “been there” rather than “seen it”.

A review of the group’s week gives an “interesting” insight into the world that is tourism in the Heart of England…….

On Monday went to explore Old Shropshire, with visits to Shrewsbury and Ludlow. These are two places I think are amongst the loveliest towns in the Midlands and deserve to be explored just as much as the Strafords and the Warwicks. If the group went anywhere because I put it in, then this was the day!

It was up into Derbyshire and the Peak District National Park on Tuesday for a visit to Chatsworth, the “Palace of the Peak”. This was somewhere the group themselves chose to go, although I did add an Ian flourish by calling in at Buxton on the way up. Chatsworth is, of course, superb, although it was fully decorated for Christmas and I find it very difficult to be festive in, er, November.

Wednesday saw an unashamed assault on Tourist Central, going on a tour of Stratford-upon-Avon in the morning and a ride around the Cotswolds in the afternoon. Bizarrely, though, both were curiously deserved, even for November. I don’t think the group knew it but they were seeing it as quiet as it’s ever going to be!

I a little bemused that – despite free time in Stratford – no-one went into the Birthplace! Still, they found places to eat drink and shop and what keeps them happy keeps me happy!

It was back to Shropshire on Thursday for a look at the Iron Bridge and then the rest of the day at the recently-extended Blist’s Hill Victorian Town. The latter was awash with school groups and some of the staff seemed a little surprised to see a non-school group there.

I think it's fair to say they were less "blown away" by Blist's Hill than other groups I've taken there but it did give our transatlantic visitors the chance to learn about our pre-decimal money, though, which is as big a challenge for them to understand as Cricket!

And that brought us to today, another unashamedly “Ian” day, as I took them on a ride around Birmingham and a visit to the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. On the way back we called into Lichfield to have a look at the Cathedral, the Lichfield Gospels and the newly-discovered Lichfield Angel.

And do you know, that was the only time all week that they found themselves outside in any rain? Everywhere else, it rained when on the coach and stopped as we left.

Whatever magical meteorological power it is that these people have, I want some of it. Could do with a few more like these, I tell you!

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