Issue 303
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If Vitamin D were a religion, we'd be cult-like in our worship. But for some, woolly hats, snowflakes and log fires are the whole deal. Whichever way your internal thermometer swings, we've got a winter jolly to suit. From le ski to le sol, all of these spots are reachable from BHX and have climates which are a whole lot more reliable than dear old Blighty.
BUDAPEST, 2 hrs 45 mins
Chance of snow: ❄️❄️❄️
Ready to make up with the great European institution that is the Christmas market? Budapest's crafty, foodie, light show of an offering appears in front of St Stephen's Basilica, near to the city's proper good parliament building. Chomp on flódni (that's Hungarian chimney cake to non-native speakers). Or if snow is your big motivator, maybe wait until January, the month with the most white, fluffy stuff.
Direct with Wizz Air or
GENEVA, 1 hr 50 mins
Chance of snow: ❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️
Geneva — which is still in Switzerland the last time we checked — is where you're heading to access some serious French ski slope action. But worry not about two customs crossings, Geneva is one of only a handful of airports to be shared between two countries, with distinct territorial exits: French and Swiss. From Geneva, it's an hour to Chamonix, two hours to Meribel, or a further 30 minutes to Courcheval. Snow dependent and all that.
Direct with easyJet, Flybe or
EDINBURGH, 1 hr 15 mins
Chance of snow: ❄️
In our not so humble opinion, New Year can be e'er so overrated, but if you've never done Hogmanay in the Scottish capital, you kinda-sorta-really should. It lasts for three days and includes beatific bits like this torchlit procession down the Royal Mile, a NYE ceilidh under Edinburgh Castle and Mark Ronson, musicaling you into 2020. But the best bits can also be in the back streets of a city that just does pubs like they were meant to be done.
Direct with Flybe
MALAGA, 3 hrs
Chance of sunshine: ☀️ ☀️
December is the cheapest month to fly to Malaga, which already consistently comes out as one of the most affordable, sunny hops from BHX. We know, because we made the trip last year and were entirely charmed by the old town, the castle, the blue skies aaaand the gin. Do a (free) walking tour, get to know the views from the city's rooftop bars and wander over to the beaches near Pedregalejo, stopping at an open-air fish restaurant on the way, to do Sunday like a local.
Direct with Ryanair, or TUI
DUBAI, 7 hrs
Chance of sunshine: ☀️☀️☀️☀️☀️
Your closest guarantee of sunshine hours, Dubai's about as far away from a conventional British winter as it gets. Boating, beaching and brunching dominate the "to do" list. And we're not talking a quick Eggs Benny but a three hour, all-you-can-drink affair, with sushi, roasts, an indoor boat housing different types of oysters and a room dedicated to desserts. Take one of Emirates' daily direct night flights (departing BHX at 8.50pm) to maximise that holiday allowance you're clinging to.
SYDNEY, 23 hours, 40 mins
Chance of sunshine: ☀️☀️☀️☀️
It might be a day away (okay, it is a day away) but Sydney's one of those got-it-all sort of spots that also happens to be humble about it. Get cultured with something modern and dancey at Sydney Opera House, take on the harbour bridge for a more active approach, or tick-off the beach and food with Bondi Farmers Market which is set a few minutes back from the sandy beach of the same name. The ferry to Manly is another absolute must-do. One change with Qatar Airways, Air India or Emirates


“Who are ya?” This question was once an undefeatable teenage put-down, but is now more of an existential inquiry that’s asked on the daily. And with ideas of subcultures, communities and our sense of identity lingering in the air, the JQ Townscape Heritage project sets out to give us some answers. Still: Stories from the Jewellery Quarter rounds up photographic portraiture aplenty and includes oral histories of those men and women whose work laid the foundations for the iconic J-Quizzle. Snap happy documentarians Janine Wiedel, Andy Pilsbury and Inès Elsa Dalal (kind of a big deal) have evoked the essence of an area that’s experiencing intense change, bringing a sense of nostalgia but also familiarity. Centring on the original six streets of the JQ and including mates-of-the-monarchy such as Turner and Simpson silvermakers (pictured), the free exhibition opens Saturday and runs through to November 10 (except Sundays). Find it at Iron House Gallery. More
Venue: Crazy Gate, Unit 3, Bromsgrove Street, B5 6AB; website
Choice: Chuan Chuan Xiang (from about £20 for two) Chooser: Waitress

We've finally found a pick and mix to get excited about, and it consists entirely of skewered, savoury food. Ox throat, anyone? Or how's about a healthy dose of frog leg with your conch meat? On the road behind The Arcadian, Crazy Gate specialises in Chuan Chuan Xiang, a modern take on the traditional Chengdu hot pot, where you select each item to cook in a big, bubbly broth rather than ordering plates of the same thing. Start off by picking a stock base to share with your table, and be very sure to pull the plentiful chillies out soon after it arrives if your spice tolerance is limited. Next up, choose from trays of what felt like at least 40 different meat, fish and veggie options, all prepared on bamboo skewers ready for you to cook back at your table in that broth you ordered. It's 50p a skewer and Crazy Gate will calculate your bill, based on how many skewers are left on your table at the end of proceedings. There's a
how to sheet and everything. Be sure to try the king prawn, beef tender (small but delightful) and something you've never tasted before (bean milk skins all-round, yeah?). And go big on the dipping station. It's £2 for a pot bigger than two of us could get through and you create your own condiment combo from options like mashed garlic, coriander, sesame oil and spring onions. Probably have yourself some boiled rice to deal with all that spice and a whole wodge of napkins — refined eating, this is not.


A local cookbook, for local people, volume three of Relish Midlands has landed and delivers up original recipes from 21 of the region's chefs and restaurants, like Harborne Kitchen and Simpsons. Create the beetroot, iced goat's cheese and wasabi dish from the latter (pictured), or maybe put your pots and your pans on to The Boat Inn's venison, cauli and mushroom main. Make every recipe like some samurai chef, or maybe just leaf through the lovely imagery — on top of all that food, there's info about the teams behind the plates. It's £20 here.


If we were to paint the revisited haunts of our youth, we'd be left with little more than a series of smudged scribbles of nudey mags and half-forgotten nights from Snobs, Walkabout and/or Flares. Luckily, artist David Warren uses oil pastels to evoke emotions which are rather more wholesome, and much more aesthetically pleasing. Just like his image of the former Presbyterian Church on Broad Street, which actually went on to become, yep, Flares. And latterly? Popworld. His exhibition, Home/Town, is at Maison Mayci's Moseley Galerie until January 9.
Pop-up Dosa is doing what it does on Sunday (Oct 27) at Black Lab in Kings Heath. From 12.30pm, it's £8 for a masala dosa. More
Former British Vogue editor, Alexandra Shulman, is in town on Saturday. Join her (£10) from 12.30pm as part of the Styled by Mailbox weekender.
Moseley Cricket Club's got an outdoor screening of Hocus Pocus to get you all prepped and ready for life on the bad end of trick or treating, happening tomorrow night. There's a 5pm and 8pm showing. Tickets are £14.
Fire throwers, hula-hooping, roller-skating, cabaret and contortionists will all be chucking shapes at the Hippodrome from 1pm on Saturday. The 120th open day circusy celebration is fam-friendly and free.
Batting cages, Pit Pat table golf and UV-infused curling are coming to a Digbeth near you. Bookings are now being accepted from November 1 at The Floodgate. Expect big tunes, some serious graff work and plenty of neon.

"He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter."

John Burroughs

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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Robb Sheppard
PICTURES: Malaga — Flickr Commons
, Crazy Gate — Flickr Commons (Elliott Brown)

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