Things weren't quite finished on Cathedral Square when I arrived just after 11am on the opening day of its Christmas market. Vendors zipped here and there putting together the finishing touches, tucking boxes away out of view, adjusting gifts on pretty displays and chalking up prices on blackboards. It felt like Christmas Eve.
My visit to the German market in the days before had felt a little bit stressy in parts, with my trying to find a space to duck out of the way of people who were rushing down the road to the train station, the Bullring or work. Given Pigeon Park is easily avoidable for any of those busy people, it felt much more laid-back.
There are loads of vendors, around 40 if you count the famous helter skelter, and they're strategically placed to line the spidering walkways that stretch from St Philip's to the surrounding streets. It makes the place seem bigger, the clever lay-out giving you room to wander and enjoy.
After a cursory glance around (and strategically planning snacks, of course), I headed to the Pigeon in the Park pub for half a pint of Blue Moon (£4, or £6 a pint). A pop-up boozer in the centre of the park, it's so well done, with wooden detailing like a traditional watering hole and positioned so drinkers get to hear live music from the stage and smell the wood fire that burns in the park.
Just like a pub in any other part of town, there was a gentleman propping up the bar, nattering away and grumbling about the bus timetable. Staff were laughing and joking and I almost forgot where I was.
The vibe was similar over at Bab's Tap, the pop-up pub that opened last year. Robert behind the bar was smashing to chat to and really put the 'bab' into the pub's name.
I sipped a little taster of his cherry mulled wine, hot and boozy and warming, and he tried to cajole me into winding up a sparky friend of his. It felt like everyone knew everyone and they were extending their hospitality to me, a total stranger. I felt really lovely and warm inside, but that could have been the wine.
Because it was a dry day, I didn't duck into the covered seating areas near the helter skelter or round the back of the Pigeon, but it was nice to see them there. Instead, I sat on a picnic bench next to the cathedral and had a balti before exploring the craft stalls a little bit more.
Steve Woodhams was there, selling his cool abstract art near the slide and I enjoyed seeing what the Birmingham Balti Bowl guys had for sale too, pretty cooking receptacles and unique kitchen bits. It was ace to see Burning Barn Rum too, who are selling bottles of their local rum, smoked, spice or honey as well as that delicious-sounding limited batch they made with Quarter Horse Coffee.
Jewellers, a florist selling wreaths and candles, glass work, cards and art prints, there's just loads to choose from. And it all looks really special, rather than mass-produced stuff.
I was so, so impressed by how they'd managed to transform the park into this wicked little Brummie hang-out space. The people, the products, the camaraderie, all in such an iconic location, made me feel so festive and at home. I can't wait to go back next week to see what else is new!