Weekend Break With Visit Birmingham & London Northwestern Railway
Planning Your Weekend Trip In The UK - Sponsored by – Visit Birmingham and London Northwestern Railway
Luckily the UK has many different locations that are worthy of travelling to. My personal aim of this year was to stretch as far as I could, and see parts of the UK I'd never thought of exploring.
I was fortunate enough to be sponsored by Visit Birmingham & London Northwestern Railway, to try out a journey that took me down to Birmingham and the West Midlands. Which is pretty much the centre of the UK, so you can guarantee that if you need to head somewhere, Birmingham train station has the right train to send you up north or down to London. It's so easily accessible from the north or south, so it's the prime place to travel from. It's like Amsterdam airport, you can guarantee it'll have a way of getting you to where you need to be. Today I'll be chatting through my own personal experiences on a beautiful weekend break with Paddy, with an itinerary built by my Brummy Buddy @The_ting_thing as we ventured from Birmingham to Coventry via West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern Railway back from Birmingham to Liverpool.
So the recent travels started off with boarding the London Northwestern Railway train to Birmingham via Liverpool Lime Street. Immediately we got settled in first class, popped out our phones and headed straight for the free onboard wi-fi and Loop entertainment on their train app, to pick out a movie. I opted for Love Actually on the journey down, purely because it's one of the best movies ever, and slowly coming up to Christmas - any excuse to pop on a festive movie. When my phone eventually died, we decided to play Connect 4 on Paddy's phone, because we're children and I like to take the time to have quality moments with Paddy and not get sucked up into social media when I'm around him.
Personally I love travelling by train, it's much more spacious, relaxed and less bumpy (perfect for anyone who gets travel sick like me!) There's also the plus that London Northwestern Railway has onboard free wifi making it easy to get work finished off - or simply if you fancy a scroll through cat meme's like I do when I get a free moment of time. The thing that surprised me was how quick the train was, from Liverpool Lime Street down to Birmingham New Street, it was a remarkable 1 hour and 44 minutes. Just enough time for a movie, whilst having some lunch - perfect! I think this journey would be so ideal with friends, as you can get great value off peak and group fares, so perfect for day tripping to Birmingham, as you can get so much done in one day and head back.
After stepping off the train in Birmingham, we opted for lunch in Yorks Cafe on Stephenson Street - so highly recommended for their brunch and lunch menus, and luckily a stones throw around the corner from the station. Which would also make it an ideal spot to kill time if you get to the station a smidge too early!
Despite only having breakfast a short while beforehand, there's always room for more! So I opted for their falafel burger, whilst Paddy chose the Korean Sloppy Joe (it looked beyond perfect!). Washed down with a Pepsi and elderflower presse, it energised us for the day ahead full of activities. I love rustic artisan cafe's like Yorks as you can indulge in some brunch, watch the world go by whilst you're waiting for your train around the corner.
Yorks Cafe, Stephenson Street
Only a few minutes strolling through Birmingham just by Mailbox (one of Birmingham's most stylish shopping, lifestyle and restaurant destinations!) is Malmaison Hotel. I've previously stayed in the Malmaison in Liverpool and vouch for them when it comes to their decor and SERIOUSLY comfortable beds. I stay in hotels very frequently, so you can guarantee from an expert traveller that I was seriously impressed with my stay. All the more so, because Harvey Nichols is attached to the same building - shopping galore! Me and Paddy had the chance at nighttime from our walk back from Lane 7 to take a mooch around, and just to the other side of the hotel is a string of gorgeous places to sit outside, party, eat and play right next to the canal.
Now it may sound like all we've done on this trip is eat very frequently - which is fractionally true. After getting settled into the Malmaison, getting topped up for the evening, having a quick tipple and snazzed up, we finally ventured off. A 25 minute walk through the Chinese quarter, past the coach station and to an area I find remarkably like the Baltic Triangle in Liverpool, is Birmingham's creative quarter, DIgbeth where we found Digbeth Dining Club on Lower Trinity Street. Under one roof is a host street food eateries, from Indian, classic street food steak houses, bars and finally places that fill you up with deserts.
The first stop was Cafe Colette which was a huge delight with their inexpensive cocktails, as well as murals, decor and lovely vibes. Cafe Colette epitomises the roaring 1920's - think The Great Gatsby with it's Art Deco aesthetic, vivid retro colour scheme and cocktail menu that fits into the theme of the bar.
Cafe Colette, Digbeth Dining Club
Digbeth Dining Club
After a quick tipple of a pink peppercorn in Cafe Colette, we headed inside to explore the beauty of Digbeth Dining Club. I'd read that it won various awards for its street food - and I am a huge fan of independent street food. The selection is beyond overwhelming, if only one little tummy would be able to try one of everything. The first thing that caught our eye was the cheesecake, we fully well knew that our night would finish on grabbing a slice or two. However, our savoury journey went in two totally separate directions. I vouched for Moroccan spiced chickpea and spinach curry nachos. The nachos are homemade and hands down the best nachos I'll ever have, topped with chickpea spinach curry, fried halloumi, harissa creme fraiche, pomegranate, chilli, coriander and salsa. Whilst Paddy had 'Burger A' from Flying Cows, who serve it up with candied bacon. We've grown to find out - afterwards that it was voted one of the best burgers in Britain.
Finally after a couple of glasses of wine, chatting, watching football - we thought it'd be time to grab some cheesecake and rock'n'roll off to another cute venue for date night!
Merely a short stroll past the hotel in the midst of a shopping centre is Lane 7, the cutest bowling alley I'd ever seen. An adults playground full of arcade machines, shuffle boarding, dance mats, adorable booths to cuddle up in and of course it's finely laid out bowling alley.
We hopped straight onto shuffleboards, I slowly discovered that it's definitely not my game - despite having the delicate touch and gentle approach, as it's a game of patience I still sorely lost against Paddy (even though I am the most patient person EVER!) But I knew bowling would be a better strength for me, I still lost at bowling....just. I had an enormous amount of fun during our game and fell in love with the layout, as there's two separate sides so it can feel more private and accommodation for tons of guests - so super ideal for a Friday night with all your friends! It's not a trip to the bowling alley without giving the arcade games a whirl, we tried out super Mario, Pacman, a driving game and ended the night in the Photo Booth getting some adorable photos to mark our adorable date night. Before you knew it, it was almost 11pm and with a full day of fun to come, we decided to hit the hay back in the hotel with some snacks.
FarGo Village, Coventry
Finally we end our beautiful journey on a quick train ride from Birmingham New Street to Coventry, where we were given the task of heading to FarGo Village. Described as an artistically repurposed industrial space in Coventry City Centre, designed exclusively for creative, independent businesses. Which is definitely my kind of hangout! Although the weather wasn't all that delightful we certainly had a fantastic time, and jumped on the train with a tummy full of hearty food, some fab conversations with all the retailers and a ton of Christmas presents. We started our journey getting a stamp into the clothes sale, you pay a pound to get in and have a huge warehouse full of goodies to help yourself to, after you price up your bag. I unfortunately didn't find any goodies, however I noticed everyone else had picked up pieces I definitely would have gone for. As the saying goes "the early bird catches the worm!" Couldn't be more apt, we got there an hour after opening, so it was clearly incredibly popular as the place was swamped with vintage bargain hunters.
Next moving onto what I call rainbow row; a series of colourful units, where you can buy furniture, vinyl, games, artwork, bath bombs. You name it, it's probably there somewhere.
I'm highly drawn in with smells, and one shop smelt like Lush, after a swift turn of the corner - there were bath bombs waiting for me. I picked up a few for Christmas presents from Olivia Thomas handmade. All bath bombs creatively crafted in unique shapes, colours and could easily rival Lush with it's unique subjects. As it's nearly Christmas we found Christmas trees, reindeers, snowmen - it was so adorable! I even got to pick one up for my little sister in the shape of a playstation controller in her favourite colour - result. I also loved their perfume inspired scents, so I also picked up a bath both to replicate Alien, as well as Jimmy Choo.
Its such a sensational place to visit, a total must see for anyone who loves visiting independent shops, and wishing to find something unique to take home. It was merely a beautifully picturesque 20 minute walk from Coventry train station. Making it super handy and quick getting the train from Birmingham. I'm definitely going to be venturing down for another visit very soon!
Moving on was Cards for good causes, a unit purely dedicated to gifts, trinkets and cards for various charities, the good thing was that there was a label to tell you where your funds will be donated to. We picked up a pottery painting kit for my mum, as well as microwaveable mug cakes in toffee. Brilliant place to visit, knowing your money is helping others.
Next up was vinyl buying time in Fantayzia Designs. Run by one woman who creates intricate designs out of old consoles to create bespoke clocks, framed artwork using vinyl as well as other variants of surreal obscurism to communicate the meaning of one object into another. Immediately Paddy picked up a U2 album in pristine condition - of course.
We had a quick pit stop at Choc N Roll, which apparently has been featured on The Undateables in a chocolate masterclass. Although we weren't in the mood for something sweet, after spotting Gourmet Food Kitchen we knew we were opting for Beef Bourguignon by chef Tony Davies who makes all the pastry in front of you, as well as hand cures, and hand smokes all of his meats and fish. I've never tried such a brilliant dish from such a small eatery, also on offer was freshly made sausage rolls, pies, breakfast dishes. Hearty and warming food on a relatively freezing day.
We headed inside for a mooch into the other containers, one of my favourites was Container No 8, where Not Just Jams is hosted. Cheese, wine, liquors, condiments galore by a lady who works on textiles by day, and jam by night. Sounds like the world's greatest superhero. No 8 began as a collaboration of two local artisan businesses, Not Just Jams and Sarah Jayne Creations and has grown into a totally unique gift shop specialising in handmade and craft produce. It is also the home of Albie and his doggy boutique. As Christmas presents we picked up two of Sarah Jayne's light up creations for an extremely affordable price at £30 per piece of art. Total bargain. From Not Just Jams, a cheese making kit was purchased, as well as a honey drizzler.
A massive thank you to Visit Birmingham & London Northwestern Railway for taking us on a superb journey, and letting us explore some of the great things to see and do within and around Birmingham. We discovered some fantastic places to head back to on our journey, and the wonderful part is knowing that it's not too far away on the train. It'd make an excellent weekend break for a couple or family, so I highly recommend going to have an explore via the train from Liverpool to Birmingham, and finally to Coventry!