The whole point of the week is the weekend – Angela Montenegro.
I have slight post-weekend blues as I write this, but am I glad that I am off today so that I can relax and reflect on the couple of days spent wining, dining, shopping, laughing and every aspect of life’s good bits in-between. Warren and I planned this trip to Birmingham a couple of weeks ago, just after we waved goodbye to each other for the eighth (I think eighth) time this year. We thought what’s middle ground for the two of us? The answer is Birmingham. The only time I’d visited Birmingham before this weekend was when an entire gang of us spent the night partying on Broad Street and nursing hangovers the next morning. This time we certainly drank, but not so much that a pounding headache blurred the minutes into hours the next day. It was just the two of us and when you’re in a long distance relationship, it can be very hard to spend quality time together. A perfect weekend all round.
8.11pm. I arrived at Birmingham New Street after a full day at work, a brisk walk to the train station and a one hour and forty-five minute train journey. It had already been a long day, but I was buzzing. And hungry… on the verge of hangry. My travel companions were a chocolate Wispa and Inthefrow’s The New Fashion Rules. I finished the both of them whilst waiting for Warren to arrive.
8.45pm. Warren arrived, bringing me chocolate because he is the best.
10.10pm. After getting to the Ibis Hotel in Bordesley Circus (which was marginally cheaper than its sister hotel in the city centre and just a twenty minute walk/ten minute taxi ride away from the Bullring), we jumped in a taxi back to the city centre for food. Yep, for our tea. I was starving by this point. We both were. We tried Brown’s, but they had closed their kitchen. If it wasn’t for a kind waiter pointing us in the right direction, we wouldn’t have known that Bill’s were still open for business of the food variety. We headed there and it was the best Friday night dining experience we could have had. The lighting was dimmed; overhead it looked like an edgy mismatch of boiler rooms and archaic vents; the waiter was incredibly helpful; the raspberry mojito I could have drank again and again. As for the food, the sirloin steak and chips were cooked to perfection. My mouth is salivating as I remember how good it was. I love our date nights over a good drink and even better food; we always have so much to say, and the fact we both got a little dressed up made the romantic in me giddy.
11.30pm. What’s a Friday night (with zero work the next day) without a trip to a fancy cocktail bar? We stumbled upon Nocturnal Animals on Bennetts Hill shorty after we left Bill’s. It was the fancy pink luminous writing that caught my attention of this petite bar front. Then it was the fact that we got seated. I love that touch in a bar. It makes me feel as though I’ve gone back a few decades to the time when masterful cocktail bars with a live singer were all the rage. Do you know the ones I mean? I love a bit of nostalgia and feeling like a part of something historical. The décor was florescent and the bar was incredible. It did take too long to make two non-cocktail drinks though and it is pretty expensive… £15 for two drinks. However, it is definitely a place I would love to return to, just to soak up that atmosphere and listen to all the eighties music.
1.30pm. Once we had wrapped up warm and walked to the city centre, bypassing a community of arts and culture, cafes and pizza places, we tried our very best to decide on the quickest, but most scrumptious, food venue. It didn’t help that we were both starving and indecisive. A light bulb moment had us both up Bennetts Hill again where there are eclectic restaurants to reflect its bars. There, we decided on Spanish cuisine and stepped into Amantia, Birmingham’s taste of Spain. It was the thought of beef and chorizo hamburguesas to be very honest. Let me tell you, they were so good. I was a little sceptical about the middle of the burger because chorizo is red and pink; I admit that I did leave a little bit because I convinced myself I’d end up spending the rest of the weekend in the bathroom if I ate it. Warren ate all of his and neither of us were ill. The tortilla – oh my goodness, how I’ve missed tortilla – was to die for. A little OTT, but basically it was extremely delicious.
3pm. Full from our food, we wandered alongside the Birmingham Christmas Markets, dodging people old and young as everybody wanted to spot the festive food and gorgeous gifts each stall had to offer. It was extremely busy and if I had to visit all over again, I wouldn’t do it on a Saturday. Weaving through the bustle of people is not high on my favourite things to do. However, you can’t deny the atmospheric buzz in the air as friends and family talk and laugh amongst themselves, wrapped up in winter warmers. Everyone was so friendly; a man even offering to take our photo without being asked. When we needed a break from the bustle of the markets, we headed to the bustle of the Bullring and a gothic underground market. Eventually, we got tired of the shopping and returned to the hotel for a bit of R&R.
9pm. At this point, it was time for food again. This blog post is centred around all of the eating and drinking we did because the best kind of city break is one with food. This time we went to Las Iguanas. Warren and I decided over a week ago that we wanted to have Mexican on our Saturday night and end the meal with tequila shots because we are still as young and up for a party as ever… it was the party highlight of the evening and we didn’t last much longer after it. On the cosy table, there was a jug of water, two cocktails, two tapas and chicken fajitas to share. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it certainly filled me to the brim. Again, my mouth is watering. I want to eat all the Mexican food again. The great thing about Las Iguanas is that it’s not only Mexican but Argentinian, Peruvian, Cuban and more.
11pm. Bypassing all of the people dressed up to the nines and ready to party the night away, we wandered closer to New Street Station in search of our current favourite bar: Brewdog. I remember when Brewdog first opened in Liverpool; it was the place to go for ales and alternative space. It still is with its industrial décor and array of beers on tap. Brewdog in Birmingham is marginally smaller, not as amazing as its Liverpool sister, but still as atmospheric with people filling each cavity and spot, chatting endlessly over their glasses and preparing for the small hours, or their beds.
12pm. It was time to check out of the Ibis Hotel. Late check outs are always favoured by me – favoured by anybody – especially on a Sunday. This time we had our suitcases to drag along behind us. This part of travel I don’t love: carrying everything around as we try and make the most of every second of the day. We wandered to the city centre again, heading to Greggs after spending a bit too much money on Saturday, and going in and out of some shops, namely Waterstones.
2pm. I swear I get hungrier quicker these days. Or thirstier. Or more tired. We went to EAT. for a sit down and to stop the aches in our arms. Okay, my arms. Warren was completely fine; I was not. There we spent the majority of the afternoon away, playing games, drinking and praying the time would move slowly.
4.30pm. One last hit around the shops in an attempt to buy some more Christmas goodies. When I’m in the mood to shop, I’m really in the mood to shop. Despite not having a lot of money to my name, I bought a couple more gifts from Selfridges before we had to make our way to the train station.
6pm. I won’t go into detail here. It was sad and we were both tired after the amazing weekend we spent together. City breaks in the festive season are absolutely the best because there is a magic in the air that is reminiscent of all the Christmas films we watch year in, year out. In the final run up to Christmas, I doubt I’ll have time to spend a weekend in another part of the UK, but by some Christmas miracle, I hope I do.
What have your weekends looked like in the run up to Christmas so far? Are you celebrating the festive season yet, or is it too early?
Love, Faye xo