Recently me and Josh have been planning dates in unfamiliar places which are only a train ride away from either of our homes. This gives us chance to explore and see what we can find with no expectations. Find out more in my previous post – 10 Ideas for Student Dating – Netflix Not Included. After our previous date last month where we went strawberry picking in the countryside town of Hungerford, I decided to go for the other extreme and visit one of England’s busiest cities.
Despite living just under an hour outside of Birmingham, I’ve never really explored the city. Instead I’ve visited for concerts, performances or just passed through the train station. I thought this would be a good idea for a date, with the added bonus of getting an £8 anytime day return train ticket and a 30 minute direct train to Birmingham New Street Station (Once again see my post on saving money on train travel to find out more!). We caught the 9:30 train with no hassle or delays, giving us more time to explore!
Breakfast at Leon’s
Getting off the train at New Street and not having to rush for a connection was an odd feeling! I also pointed out to Josh that it was a very nice feeling to be at a train station where neither of us were crying our eyes out at the fact we have to go back to our respective lives again (obviously I mean him by this! 😉 ). As we exited the platform I spotted a cafe that I’d been anxious to try called Leon’s. It was advertised as ‘Naturally Fast Food’ and they served breakfast which was music to our grumbling stomachs!
I had Porridge with Blueberries, Honey and Toasted seeds with almond
milk which was delicious warm and filling. Next time I’m delayed at New Street I’m definitely going to have a pot again! However, I also opted to have a clean green smoothie as my drink as I didn’t fancy the other option of a carrot smoothie. Made with spinach, avocado, apples, ginger, lemon juice and coconut water, I thought I’d quite enjoy it. In reality I should have had an orange juice as I wasn’t the biggest fan of this particular smoothie ( or in Josh’s words: ‘It looks like someone’s put Kermit in a blender’).
Josh went for a simple sausage muffin (we both have the same strong feelings about eggs) and a cappuccino. This led to much annoyance from him when I took a bite of the muffin and he had to give me some of the coffee to rid myself of the taste of ‘Kermit’. Apparently having a girlfriend removes you of food, money and most of your sanity. We sat outside the cafe and finished our breakfast before heading off into Birmingham City Centre.
Shopping at New Street and The Bullring
Grand Central Station (Or Birmingham New Street) has undergone a massive revamp over the last few years. In the centre of the station you have an open plaza filled with large screens displaying train destinations and departure times. Surrounding this on the ground floor are several cafes and food shops near to seats, as you would expect at a train station. However, there is also an escalator which takes you up to a ring of shops and a food court, possibly the size of a small town’s shopping centre! All of this is just a five minute walk away from the Bullring Shopping Centre, one of England’s largest resorts. I was in heaven. Josh’s face said otherwise.
One of the more annoying factors about shopping with me is that I’ll spend a long time in a store and then leave with absolutely nothing. I’m pretty sure I was trying Josh’s patience after a few hours, especially after I dragged him around Boux Avenue and then walked away empty handed! I hoped to do a mini haul section here, but as I didn’t buy anything it’ll have to be a wishlist instead. Here are a few shops we visited and what I would have bought if I had the money 😦
The photos used in this section are owned by the respective stores and I claim no credit for them. I wouldn’t usually feature photos that aren’t my own property due to copyright infringements, however I can’t buy all of these products ( 😥 ) so have featured them as a wishlist with full credit to the owner and links to where the image and product originated.
My fashion taste is indescribable. I can’t call it weird or eccentric, the best way to describe it would probably be simple. There are only a few stores that I can visit that I’m guaranteed to find something that I’ll like. One of these stores is Oasis, which I’d say straddles the line between high street and designer clothing and I have a number of wardrobe staples from here.
The first item that drew my eye in the store was a delicate knitted jumper with floral patterning around the shoulders and arms. These items were part of Oasis’s ‘Pretty in Puritan’ campaign which suits my style down to a T! The fabric was light enough to wear in these last few weeks of summer but still thick enough to keep you warm when the temperatures begin to drop: a perfect jumper for the transition from summer to autumn. The biggest decision however was that it came in two colours: Embroidered Frill Knit in Black and Embroidered Frill Knit in White. Both jumpers were priced at £40 which was a little out of my usual clothes budget. I may have to wait until they’re reduced slightly as I think I might be in love! ❤
The other pieces that I spotted in the shop included the Embroidered Shift Dress in Black for £55 which I loved on sight but after persuasion from both my mum and Josh, I decided I didn’t need it, it was too much and wouldn’t suit my body type. Hmmmph. :'(. The last item was the Embellished Rib Collared Knit in Black which at £45 seemed slightly steep for a simple black jumper with a bejewelled collar. However it’d go perfectly with my large collection of skater skirts that I opt for most days. I don’t usually get like this over clothes – I’ll certainly be looking out for these products becoming reduced this AW16!
My make up taste is similar to that of my fashion: natural and simplistic. This is one of the reasons that my blog does not heavily feature make up reviews or fashion hauls; they don’t particularly interest me. I’m very much quality over quantity and am very minimalist when it comes to fashion, make up and jewellery. I usually opt for eye shadow and mascara on a daily basis and leave it at that!
I will use different brands for different make up pieces, and re use the brand which I find the best quality and that works best for me. However, despite trying my hardest, I have never been able to find that perfect lipstick provider!
After intensive research (there are hundreds of shades to choose from!) I’ve settle on four different shades that I believe would serve me for any occasion. These are Ruby Woo: the traditional Hollywood siren red which is a bestseller for MAC and is a must have for every woman, regardless of skin tone; Velvet Teddy: a deep tone beige or nude colour for everyday wear; Diva: a deep plum á la Kylie Jenner (I have incredibly pale skin but I love the berry lip look for autumn and this shade gives this effect without washing me out) and Please Me: a light baby pink to finish off my look on days where I wear girly pastels or floral dresses. These lipsticks are £15.50 each, so I may start building up my collection at some stage after payday!
We also visited a number of other stores in both these centres such as Pandora (briefly before Josh and his wallet pulled me away sharply), Foyles, Victoria’s Secret (ooh aye), Topman and the enormous department store Selfridges, just to see what the fuss was all about. I was amazed at the size of the store, even more so at the prices! We found ourselves wandering around the designer clothes section and quickly walked in the other direction after I picked up a four figure Victoria Beckham dress :O Though on the bottom floor of the store Josh did buy me a bag of jellybeans; apparently I have to tell everyone that he bought me something from Selfridges now!
There was some benefit for Josh throughout this excruciating experience. As we wandered around town we kept coming across activities such as a chessboard in Waterstones and an outdoor Nerf challenge which he assured me he would have won if he’d had the patience to queue. We also found an outdoor table football game which caused a good ten minutes of fierce competition. No need to ask who won though!
For lunch we decided to head back to Grand Central as we’d seen a food court earlier filled with open individual restaurants all from a variety of different cuisines. I’m the first to admit that I’m not the most adventurous when it comes to food. Before this year I had a few staple meals that I would reuse and always order the same thing at restaurants
After having the menu explained to me by both Josh and the waitress I finally understood that the idea was to buy several individual dishes to share between you. There was just so much choice though! I suggested one of the set sharing menus provided to save deciphering through what we thought each dish was and we settled one called Clásico.
This consisted of five dishes which were: Pan con alioli (bread with garlic mayo), Croquetas de jamón (deep
fried Ibérico ham and béchamel croquettes), Torti
lla de patatas (classic Spanish omelette with potato and onion), Chorizo a la sidra (spiced Asturian sausage roasted with cider) and Paella Valenciana (Spain’s famous saffron rice dish cooked with chicken). Despite being initially sceptical, this has to be one of my favourite meals that
I’ve had recently! Even now whilst I’m typing this I’m craving it again. Josh polished off the majority of the paella and the Chorizo whereas I loved the croquetas and the Spanish omelette though we made sure we each tried a bit of everything.
The only thing I slightly regret was the fact that I didn’t take up the offer of desserts as the restaurant was selling take away Churros, which are a popular Spanish dessert of a deep fried strip of dough dusted in sugar or cinnamon. Maybe we’ll have to go back 😉 It’s certainly inspired me to try even more types of cuisine in future!
Cannon Hill Park
I’d been searching everywhere the week before our date for things to do in Birmingham. This seems like a strange thing to say as this is one of England’s biggest cities and it is brimming with culture, activities and attractions. Yet this was part of the problem, there was too much choice!!! After scouring numerous travel sites one evening I suddenly had a brainwave – pedalos. There had to be a park in Birmingham somewhere with boats or pedalos. This was an activity that we’d been after for a while and as Tuesday was set to be one of the hotter days of the year, I set about more research.
Pretty soon I found a public park called Cannon Hill Park which was advertised with lots of outdoor activities such as crazy golf, tennis courts, a fairground and a large boating lake with pedalos. It was ideal! We hailed a taxi from New Street Station and headed for the park. After a short drive we walked over a bridge and found what we were looking for, a lake dotted with pedalos in the shape of swans. We managed to secure a two seater and (pedalled/sailed/drove?) around the lake for half an hour. It was exhausting! Added to that, Josh decided to be in charge of steering so we ended up going straight through a fountain drenching me but mysteriously keeping him dry!
This was yet another fun filled date for the two of us and suited our adventurous and ‘can’t sit still’ personalities down to the ground. We’ve decided to do more dates like this in future; I live just a train ride away from other big cities such as Nottingham and Sheffield and of course Loughborough is a few miles outside of Leicester. Exploring an unknown area gives you so many more memories to share together, the things you find and the stories that you create along the way!
Have you visited Birmingham recently? Maybe another large city and found a surprising activity that’s led to a memorable story? I’d also love to hear if you enjoyed this post and what you’d like to read more of in future. I’ve experimented with a mini wish list in this post, would you like more of this? As always thank you for reading, I love creating and writing these posts and have quite a few more ideas for the next few posts!