Me, My Selfie & I

Of course no blog on selfies is complete without one or two illustrative examples and so all selfies used in this blog are courtesy of our globetrotting selfie-fanatic National Sales Manager 

Selfies at work and at play!
Selfies at work and at play!

It all started innocently enough. A few of them taken were here and there, then it began to spread and then it became a craze that took over the world. Now it is no longer a “trend” or a “fad”, it is simply a behavioural norm that we are so accustomed to we longer notice. Any guesses as to what I am referring to? The odds are you will shamelessly have taken one (or maybe an abundance) yourself and they will most likely be in your possession right now. They are the latest entry in the pop culture archive and they are commonly referred to by a mere sole word that is always rising in the ranks of power: “selfie”.

Yes, despite starting off as an innocuous niche twitter hash tag even as potentially far back as 2004, “selfies” have since risen to global dominance and are both a standard part of our vocabulary and behaviour. Nothing quite exemplifies the now new-found normality and acceptance of “selfies” quite like the fact that since 2013, “selfie” has cemented itself a position in the online Oxford Dictionary. Therefore, for those who are selfie ignorant,  a “selfie” can be defined as A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media”.

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Although I am not a personal avid fan of selfies (going through my phone’s gallery can play testament to this), I am particularly intrigued to see their impact on the travel industry and how they influence the way in which people travel. Indeed, it is undeniable the correlation between “selfies” and vacations because ultimately, social media has totally revolutionised how travel photos are taken. I am sure most of us still remember the days when the digital camera was the latest sought after technological development when it came to photography, however long gone are those days. Now, it is all the aforementioned selfies and Instagram filters so we can post and boast to the world right there and then the adventures we are engaging in. Nothing quite epitomises the social media revolution quite like the fact that apparently holidays are no longer the personal experience taken just for us, in helping us to explore and escape, but are in fact made for sharing. This trend has led to a whole new brand of travellers, now recognized by the Future Foundation report as “social-capital seekers”, who travel with the over-riding ambition of documenting their adventure and therefore designing it to be Facebook, Twitter, etc. post friendly. Even already the bond between holiday snaps and social media can be reflected in that a survey for Hotels.com revealed that twenty-five per cent of British travellers share a photo within an hour of arriving at their holiday haven, although the average time people wait is almost three hours.

Going on holiday and the taking of photos are synonymous activities because photos are that way of documenting the happy memories and preserving them so you can look back at them and reminisce. However, the development of selfies is beginning to question whether this remains the true primary motive. More often than not, it is likely that on your social media you will spot someone posing with *insert iconic landmark”. From the Empire State Building to the Colosseum to the Eiffel Travel; they have all played the scenic backdrop for someone’s mobile phone selfie portrait. If anything, the development of the selfie stick has exacerbated this trend as it is now even easier to get the perfect angle and pose for that ultimate selfie which will trigger a plethora of likes and retweets. Therefore, narcissism and selfies are beginning to become quite inter-linked with people believing that all these self-portraits taken in cultural and heritage rich locations are more a means of boasting about the locations we have been. It can be debated how truly interested someone is in the attraction itself and the meaning and values it holds. Potentially, we are no longer living in the moment and taking in the time to truly bask in the beauty of attractions because we are all just superficially about taking the “ultimate selfie” to show the world that we were there.

Craig with the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah
With the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

Linking on to this notion of cultural admiration, and just general health & safety, is that further debate is igniting in the travel industry when it comes to selfies, or at least selfie sticks, with increasing numbers of attractions banning the admittance of selfie sticks. For instance, Disney World has been the latest attraction to post physical signs forbidding the use of selfie sticks and therefore joins the ever growing list of anti-selfie stick locations which also includes the prestigious likes of the Colosseum, the Guggenheim Museum, The National Gallery in London as well as a variety of stadiums.

Craig with the Hollywood Hills
With the Hollywood Hills

Ultimately, selfies will remain a divisive topic. Potentially they are the epitome of the shallowness and narcissism of our generation in terms of how we feel our self-worth and popularity is all linked to the followers we have and the number of retweets. If it cannot be documented to the world on social media to be admired, then what is the point? Alternatively, selfies are just a fun way of us leaving our mark on the world and showing that we were here on this Earth at one point and as a reminder of the magnificent sights and wonders we have witnessed.  As I have been told, anyone can go on Google and get a photo of Big Ben or the Grand Canyon, but you will never be able to find one that was clearly yours if you are not starring in it also. Likewise, they also are just fundamentally practical, particularly for solo travellers, because they prevent you from having to awkwardly walk up to someone red-faced and embarrassed asking them to take your photo for you (and then again, if you invariably do not like it). Personally, I think there is nothing wrong with a good selfie or two but the most critical thing is that if we are taking them with, or in, cultural attractions like museums or historical landmarks, yes it is good to take a moment to document our time there, but also to take a minute to fully understand the true value of the attraction and what it stands for and represents.

P.S. The Spires is not on the anti-Selfie Stick list and so we fully embrace and enjoy seeing selfies or just old-school photos of our guests in our apartments. Post to our Instagram using #TheSpiresApts or simply tweet us @TheSpiresSuites so we can see how you are enjoying your stay 🙂

Sources

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24992393

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/10465199/Forget-the-selfie-holidaymakers-go-for-braggie-photos.html

http://skift.com/2015/04/24/selfies-are-changing-the-fundamental-reasons-why-we-travel/

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The City Spotlight is on Birmingham

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Maybe it was due to a lack of regional knowledge, but Birmingham was never really a place that was on my travelling radar. I am ashamed to say that whenever I considered a visit to England, invariably my favourite ‘go to’ places were Manchester and of course, that distinctly well-known city of London. However, coming to The Spires and doing a daily press check to see what is going on in the world, a city that keeps coming up on my newsfeed is you guessed it; Birmingham. Not only is Birmingham a consistent news item but it is one for all the right, positive reasons such as being named best city to *insert activity such as live/visit/invest*. Birmingham is on such a role that it is really starting to give London a run for its money, hence it commonly being referred to as“Britain’s Second City”. Consequently, Birmingham is now firmly headlining my ‘to go’ list and I hope to persuade anyone who is thinking of engaging in a ‘staycation’ this year or even in a mini city-break to do the same. All the way back in 2012 we highlighted the awesomeness of Birmingham (read here) but here are some facts and reasons as to why Birmingham (and The Spires!) should be on your 2015 UK bucketlist and to fit with the 2015 theme, I will give you 15 reasons:

1. What links Rome and Birmingham? Well, Birmingham’s quality of life is on par with Rome’s with both cities placing at number 52 out of 440 cities featured on Mercer’s Quality of Life 2015 report. Factors that were taken into account to generate the rankings were aspects such as political, cultural and social environments. However, Birmingham edges it in terms of miles of canals when it is considered how its 18th century canal systems designed for trading, outstrips Venice’s at 56km of waterways. Read more here for full rankings.
2. There will be a greater sense of jubilation in the city with many anniversaries being celebrated in Birmingham including Birmingham Cathedral’s 300th Birthday and the renowned Rotunda’s 50th. Get those party poppers out!
3. In 2015, the party is at Resort World Birmingham which will be the UK’s first ever integrated destination leisure complex complete with an 11-screen cinema; an outlet shopping centre; an array of international cuisine options and a casino.
4. In 2014, the Birmingham Hippodrome was the highest attended single theatre in the UK and features all kinds of shows from musicals to drama to opera to comedians. Things to look forward to in 2015 include the likes of Shrek, Dirty Dancing and The Bodyguard. However, if concerts are more your thing, the Genting Arena and 02 Academy should be sure to hit the spot with musical acts this year including Take That and Fleetwood Mac. Birmingham’s music scene has clearly proven itself to be one to watch as previous bands which have made their breakout in Birmingham include UB40, Duran Duran and Black Sabbath.
5. Have a liking for the sparkly things in life? Well, Birmingham’s trendy Jewellery Quarter is still inhabited by over 500 jewellery firms and is full of heritage with it being a designated conservation area. Come here to check out some positive community spirit, historic architecture, some unique restaurants and a bit of bling!
Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham (Source: http://www.maguirejackson.com)
6. Out of all UK locations, Birmingham was the only one to make it in Rough Guide’s Top 10 Destinations of 2015 where it was in the warm company of destinations such as Wellington and New Orleans. Factors that attributed to the awarding of this accolade were in relation to Birmingham’s impressive shopping, music and diverse cultural scenes.
7. According to Site Selection’s (read here) “The Best to Invest List”, Birmingham was determined as the best UK city to invest in and the second best in Western Europe. This was determined by its success at attracting investment projects and considering all the developments that are happening, it is no surprise why these investments are sparking further ones such as the ambitious HS2 high-speed rail project.
8. If you are a chocoholic as well as a foodie then Birmingham is your new paradise. As well as the production of the nation’s favourite chocolate bar happening here, within Birmingham you can also find Bournville which was a community built by the Cadbury family for their chocolate factory workers. For all you extreme chocoholics, make sure to check out the Cadbury World Museum where all the chocolate fun and sugar comas are at.
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Cadbury World (Source: http://www.coolplaces.co.uk)
9. The iconic Bullring is more than just iconic, it is also historic as it has been a market trading area since the Middle Ages. With the wide array of brands, restaurants and retailers it now boasts, it is an attraction that acts as a retail magnet for tourists the world over with its status as one of the UK’s largest shopping centres.
10. Exiting times lie ahead for you in Birmingham in 2015 if you are a sports fan with two Rugby World Cup matches being held in Birmingham as well as The Ashes.
11. Are you a foodie? Well, after London, Birmingham has the greatest number of Michelin starred restaurants, such as Glynn Purnell, and its dining scene has been praised by many a national and international publication. Do not have a Michelin friendly wallet? Well, Birmingham also has an abundance of street foods covering a global range of cuisine.
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Adams Restaurant (Source: http://www.edgemagazine.org)
12. Nature is in abundance because there are plenty of places to take a leisurely stroll with Birmingham having more parks than any other European destination and in Victoria Square, you can even find one of the largest water fountains in Europe.
13. Exciting developments are all around in 2015. For instance, in September, the New Street Station development will be complete with improved facilities; a new concourse and a shopping mall; the Grand Central Shopping Centre. The centre will feature 60 retailers and restaurants as well as the inclusion of a flagship John Lewis store. It has been claimed that the new centre will be a “world class transport, shopping and community hub”. Definitely one to watch!
14. Those who like to engage in a little bit of retail therapy will also be pleased by the developments going on at The Mailbox Refurbishment and Selfridges Birmingham. Selfridges’ £20 million investment will bring in 70 new brands as well as an “Oxford Street” edge while there is a an even greater upgrade being made to The Mailbox, including the flagship Harvey Nichols, where £50 million has been spent to take luxury shopping to its max. You can already feel bank accounts cowering away in fear…
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Birmingham 2015 Developments (Source: http://business.grandcentralbirmingham.com/the-location.aspx)
15. The Library of Birmingham was the only UK Visitor Attraction to be featured in the UK Top 10 Most Visited Visitor Attractions (as determined by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions) that was not in London. Just look at this building for the reason why!.
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Birmingham Library (Source: Wikipedia)
Therefore, I hope right now you are all plotting a getaway to Birmingham because with even bigger, future developments on the horizon, it is clear that Birmingham’s already impressive music, cultural, dining, shopping and transport scene are set to become even more attractive. If I have failed to convince you of this, watch this space and let Birmingham’s growth do the talking!

Information: http://visitbirmingham.com/ ;http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/business/birminghams-15-15-big-projects-7149572http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/

Head Image: http://finedininglovers.com

Bollywood Meets Edinburgh

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Here at The Spires we are extremely excited for the opening of our new property in Edinburgh because as Scotland’s capital, it tends to be the Scottish destination that everyone tends to think of first. Aided by all the history, beauty and entertainment that it has to offer, it is no surprise that Edinburgh is frequently seen as a top European Destination and as it holds the world’s largest arts festival in August, it is also no surprise that Edinburgh holds a rather prominent position on the cultural arts stage. Therefore, it is only to be expected that of all the places in Scotland, Edinburgh would most certainly aim to be an extra in many a Bollywood film. Consequently, Edinburgh should be a major stop on your Bollywood journey because not only has it been showcased in many a Bollywood film, but it was the first location where the VisitScotland Bollywood map was even unveiled in Scotland!

Edinburgh did not just help to put the VisitScotland Bollywood map on the well, map, but it also was a critical location in Bollywood’s breakout into Scotland itself. One of the films that really began the Bollywood movement to Scotland was Main Solah Baras Ki (Sweet Sixteen) where Edinburgh really managed to score itself a role.

In Main Solah Baras Ki (1998), an Indian director is looking for a female actress to play the leading role in his new role. After failing to find anyone in India, he comes to the UK which ultimately results in a love story between a young actress and the director. Many an iconic Edinburgh location was showcased in Main Solah Baras Ki from Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street, Calton Hill, The Mound, The Royal Mile, Holyrood Park, Princes Mall, Waverley Station, Scott Monument and Princes Garden. The film in itself was pretty much a walking tour of Edinburgh, thus reflecting how it is a good movie to generate some Scottish travelling inspiration! Some particular movie moments to reflect on and live out is when Sabrina played the tambourine and Scotland’s favourite instrument, the bagpipe, on the Royal Mile and at St. Giles’ Cathedral as well as when Sabrina bought some flowers on the roof-top plaza of Princes Mall. Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi (2001), afforded the featuring of many similar sites but a particular special moment was where famous Bollywood actor, Kajol, performed a salsa by the Scott Monument!

Aarzoo (1999), directed by Lawrence D’Souza, was a Bollywood movie prominently filmed in the UK and was a film that revolved around a doctor’s daughter becoming entangled romantically with a man whom he does not like and how he conspires to get her together with a childhood friend of hers. As is the norm, it is a film heavily about love! Many a site that was featured in Main Solah Baras Ki is also featured in Aarzoo from the infamous Edinburgh castle to Princes Street. However, some new sites such as Edinburgh Zoo, Gladstone Memorial and the Scottish National Gallery also make their Bollywood debut.

Bollywood movie moments involving Edinburgh could also be found in Yeh Hai Jalwa; a 2002 Bollywood comedy translating as ‘This is Magic’ which focused on a young man, played by the renowned Salman Khan, seeking out his long-lost father in the UK. Yeh Hai Jalwa included a romantic scene on Princes Street; a saxophone being played outside the Scottish National Gallery and a rooftop dance near The Balmoral Hotel. Just a normal day in Edinburgh!

Even in recent years Edinburgh has still managed to be a critical setting for Bollywood movies as can be seen in Mausam (2011), a romantic drama where an air pilot falls in love with a younger woman. It was made by iconic Bollywood star Pankaj Kapoor showing how Edinburgh can still draw in the big names. Special moments included a night-time carriage ride in the Anchor Close area and many a unique Edinburgh location, from the Grassmarket to Usher Hall where the lead character and his friends went to see a Mozart recital, were showcased amongst all the standard (but always beautiful) shots of Scott Monument and The Mound. Melville Street and Newhaven Main Street even were used as exteriors for where the lead character lived. If you are a really eager fan and want to stop by and eat where the characters did, the Beehive Inn is the place to go! The formidable Forth Rail Bridge also made a sneaky appearance as it did in Yeh Dil Aashiqanaa (2002) and Main Solah Baras Ki.

The connection between the VisitScotland Bollywood campaign and Edinburgh is particularly strong because it is being sponsored by Quatar Airlines, the airline that from May 1st, are running daily flights from Edinburgh to Doha making a Bollywood adventure out to Scotland even more accessible. In particular, make sure to come to Edinburgh about August-September time when the Edinburgh Mela Festival and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo are holding a massive Bollywood Dance Extravaganza which will see 60 dancers from India and Scotland come together in celebration-it is not to be missed!

Consequently, it is clear that there is no shortage of Bollywood movie nostalgia to be lived out in Edinburgh and that no Bollywood adventure would be complete without a stop-off in Edinburgh. Coupled with Edinburgh’s Airport and the transport links to Aberdeen and Glasgow, it may even be the perfect place to begin a summer of Bollywood.

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(Information and Image: VisitScotland, http://www.visitscotland.com/bollywood)

(Image: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-30878983)