October 28, 2015

A Weekend in Birmingham with Travelodge

As I mentioned in my recent weekend travel post on Southampton and London, I love any excuse to get away for the weekend, whether it is in the UK or abroad. I have only visited Birmingham once, many years ago, so when I was offered the chance to head there for a weekend to Travelodge with my parents, I couldn't wait to explore. We spent two nights and two days in Birmingham, so I wanted to put together a mini guide on what I'd recommend for a city break weekend - it's a pretty big post full of information, so grab a cuppa and have a read:

Where To Stay
I was invited to stay in Birmingham by Travelodge, but as a family, we always stay in a Travelodge anyway. I stayed in a Travelodge in Southampton and my parents always used to stay in one of the York Travelodges whilst visiting me at university. For me, Travelodge is the perfect budget-friendly option; you know exactly what to expect - a clean, practical room with good facilities and a convenient location. My parents and I were booked into a 'family room;' a king sized bed and two pull-out beds. The pull-out beds were really impressive - my parents actually chose to sleep on these beds, leaving me with the king sized bed (which I wasn't complaining about at all!) The room was really spacious and clean and the shower was hot and powerful, which for me is always a deal-breaker. Our room was impressively quiet and we definitely appreciated the small TV on the wall, which meant we could catch up with the rugby! I always recommend Travelodge when booking a UK break away, especially as they can easily be forgotten as they don't show up on sites like Hotels.com. The Birmingham Central Newhall St Travelodge was one of the more modern offerings and the location was an easy 20 minute walk to the city centre; close enough for ease of exploring but far enough away for some peace and quiet.
 
What To Eat and Drink
On the Friday evening, we arrived fairly late in the evening at our Travelodge and settled into our room. We wanted to eat somewhere close to our room so we chose the Handmade Burger Co, a short walk from the Central Newhall St Travelodge along the canals. The walk was such a lovely experience and so peaceful, contrary to my expectation of a city as big as Birmingham. Handmade Burger Co unfortunately hasn't made its way to Cambridge yet so although it was a chain, we didn’t feel like we were eating somewhere we could go to at home and it was a great start to the weekend.
 
The following day, I was determined to try some local Birmingham restaurants. For lunch, I would definitely recommend Purecraft Bar and Kitchen. Their Scotch Eggs are known as being some of the best in Birmingham and they didn’t disappoint; the picture alone makes me hungry. Purecraft had an impressive array of beers and ciders, as well as their tasty tapas-style pub dishes. I was really impressed with both the presentation and quality of the food we chose, and we had a very enjoyable lunch.
 
Birmingham is famous for its Balti curry so we knew we wanted to spend the Saturday evening in one of their curry houses. I'd researched the Balti Triangle , so we jumped in a taxi to Ladypool Road, the main street in the area. I'd read some great reviews online about Al Frash so we decided to give it a try. The reviews were right; the curry was brilliant. We had a selection of starters, including some tasty chicken pakoora and I opted for the simple chicken Balti as my main. It was fantastic; served in a red hot pot and bursting full of heat and flavour. My only negative was the location as it was far less touristy than we were expecting and we felt a little bit lost – and if you want to drink alcohol, don’t forget to bring your own as most curry houses are unlicensed.
 
Of course, I managed to find some time for gin and I was excited to discover The Jeykll and Hyde bar, complete with a Victorian Gin Palace. This was one of my favourite bars I have visited in a long time, from the formal portraits of dogs in uniform, to the sign about gin and happiness. There was an extensive and fascinating cocktail menu, including sharers served in a gentleman’s bowler hat and cocktails in teacups. The sweet-flavoured cocktails were my favourite, and were extremely popular with everyone else in the bar too. You could choose from lemon bon bons, strawberry laces, chocolate éclair, pear drops and parma violets, all served in cute jam jars. I would definitely recommend taking the short walk from the centre of town for a few drinks in this curious and creative bar.
What To Do
Birmingham is well-known for its shopping, so a trip to the Bull Ring Shopping Centre was a must. I even braved Primark on a Saturday afternoon and bagged an amazing faux fur coat to add to my growing furry wardrobe. If you enjoy shopping, Birmingham is a great place to go for the weekend to treat yourself to some retail therapy.
Personally, I like to explore as well as shop when I head away for a city break. Whenever I head away for the weekend, I like to check for local festivals and events and we were lucky to discover the Emergency Poet at the Arts All Over The Place festival. My Mum had heard about the Emergency Poet on the radio earlier in the week, so when we found out that she was to be in Birmingham the same weekend as us, it felt like fate. We headed to The Bond Co to visit her and it was a really unique experience; I sat in an ambulance and answered the Emergency Poet’s questions, before she ‘prescribed’ me a poem to read. I really love the idea of taking the time to sit and simply read a poem in moments of self-reflection and enjoyed the fascinating, if wacky, experience. Birmingham seems like a great city for the arts, so if you are visiting, it’s a good idea to check out The Custard Factory to see what’s on.
We also tried to visit the Back to Backs Museum but didn’t realise that it was vital to book a slot for this National Trust museum – if you are heading to Birmingham, I’d recommend booking a space on this tour to learn more about the history of Birmingham. However, we had already planned to spend our Sunday at the Black Country Living Museum, so we still got our history fix. The Black Country Living Museum is a huge site, full of historical houses, a school and shops. For me, the most interesting aspect was the opportunity to walk through part of a mine. My great-grandfather was a miner and it is a part of our family history which is very important to us, so it was both fascinating and emotional to glimpse a small insight into his experience. I really enjoyed exploring the Living Museum because I love the interactivity of these kinds of museums. I ate the best fish and chips I have ever had at the on-site fish and chip shop – I would recommend a visit on my lunch alone!