Sunday, August 16, 2009

August hols one

A few words about our little break in the midlands.

Day One: Home - Coventry - Warwick

Unexpectedly leaving home within a few minutes of our intended departure time, we hit the A14 and had a breeze of a drive to Coventry. The weather was overcast enough to make driving easy in terms of not having to battle with bright lights, rain or anything else untowards. Traffic was sparse and we were on the Park & Ride bus into the city centre by 1130 or thereabouts. Not the most impressive of P&R sites but the bus got us into town and the car was still where we left it and
undamaged when we came back so that's all you really need to worry about.

I'd been to Coventry twice before back in 1990/91. Both just fleeting visits from Derby - once to try and get tickets to see the Quireboys (failed) and once to escort a friend who didn't fancy making the trip alone to visit another friend who was at the universtiy there. I had some vague recollections of the cathedral from those but nothing else stuck in my mind. MrsB had never been before so it was basically a fresh experience for both of us.

While suffering from the same problems of closing shops and too many smilarities with everywhere else, it has to be said the City Centre is really quite nice. They have obviously spent a fait bit of money over the last few years cleaning up and re-paving and so forth, and if we had been there to shop I think we could have quite easily spent our money. Of course that wasn't what we were there for so we went off to gawp at the sights instead.

The cathedral was just as fantastic as I remembered. The contrast between the bombed ruins of the old and the mid-century modernity of the new makes for an unsettling and yet calming experience. If that makes any kind of sense. I'm not a religious person, but I do appreciate the varying styles of ecclesiastical architecture on offer in this country, and in this case found them both to be equally as appropriate as each other. Climbing the tower of the old cathedral (remarkably undamaged when compared with the rest of the structure) gives a great perspective on the sheer scale of the building which you don't always get from other such vantage points. I think the lack of roof makes it clear how big the place was, and experience of other churches helps interpret how the space would have been enclosed in times gone by. The newer building is just as magnificent in its own way, especially the stained glass curtain window (as pictured above - click through to Flickr for more views) and the way it spreads flashes of colour across what could otherwise be quite a dull interior. Some of the smaller spaces inside manage to capture the intimacy and feel of similar nooks and crannies in older churches and yet still reflect the hope of the new. I think in some ways I was most impressed that it was built at all, especially on such a grand scale. It is nice to know that we can still build "old fashioned" church stuff - such as the new tower put on Bury St Edmunds Cathedral for the millennium - but the fact that a city and the church was willing to go forward with something so radical is just great. I know there was opposition and controversy at the time, but I think know it fits in as a link between the different eras of construction.

After a spot of lunch the sun came out and we had a wander through a bit more of the town centre, ending up at Spon Street which wasn't quite the medieaval theme street implied by the signange but still nice to look at in parts. Most of the old buildings appear to now be bars and weren't open so we headed on to the Transport Museum instead.

Not having grown up in a town with a focus on manufacturing it is hard for me to comprehend just how dominated Coventry and surrounding towns were by the motor trade in its heyday, but the museum certainly gives a flavour of those times. Wandering past exhibit after exhibit built
within a 10-20 mile radius of the site did kind of bring it home a bit how much the town must have depended on the factories and how it must have suffered since their decline. Plus of course I'm a sucker for a nice bit of polished bodywork and a good old British marque. It was also good to see them give space to a number of concept cars - even if they are just plaster and mdf models some of the ideas that get touted at motor shows as "design studies" and so forth do give me interesting thoughts about what we could or should be driving by now.

The museum is also home to Land Speed Record breaking Thrust 2 and Thrust SSC, both of which I remember following eagerly as they screeched their way across the desert. A somewhat pointless exercise really, but fun to watch and both cars are impressive in the flesh.

Having used up the afternoon we then wound our way to Warwick and our B&B for the next three nights. The Seven Stars was lovely, the room was comfy, breakfasts tasty, Landlady Audrey and her helper Sue nice (we never did meet Audrey's husband John) and overall well worth the price. It would perhaps have been nice to have had the option of eating in at night rather than heading back into town but you can't have everything. What we saw of Warwick that night was also very attractive (more tomorrow) and we had a nice Italian dinner which went
down very well!

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