So in Early November 2015, I started having my ‘away days’ as I like to call them, and this was the first.
Planning them at least 3 months ahead to get the best rail fares and hotel deals. This one was slightly different – I set myself a maximum budget of £125.00 which had to include the rail fares AND the hotel!
I went on a Tuesday and came back on the Wednesday. A reasonably early start and I was at the Natural History Museum by about 2:00pm and I spent the afternoon there.
One of the halls at the Natural History Museum
I stayed at a supposed 3* hotel in Earls Court, I would mention the name but I’ve forgotten it. Boy was it bad. The only thing that was any good at all was the shower so at least I didn’t smell!
It was about 30mins to the Museums from the hotel and following breakfast (not in the hotel!) I walked up to the Science Museum. Fascinating place, you can even experience (safely!) an earthquake. I then crossed the road to the V&A Museum and spent a really interesting few hours in there before heading back to the NHM for the rest of the afternoon.
A Blue Whale at the N H Museum
I headed back to the station before it got too busy and had a wander around Paddington and a meal before catching my train home. A very busy couple of days but really enjoyable – I promised myself I would come back one day and visit the British Museum!
After my success with Birmingham, I thought I would try something similar, that’s how I ended up going to Swindon.
It involved a 5:00am start as the train left at 6:15am! The bonus was that I got to Swindon by 9:30am
One of the main reasons for going to Swindon was the amazing railway museum. In it’s heyday, Swindon produced around 3 steam trains each week and the size of the original factory was mind blowing.
These days a lot of the old factory is a large shopping centre, which is next to the HQ of the National Trust. The railway museum is brilliant and covers all the old workshops, machine shop, foundry and loads more. If ever you find yourself in Swindon with a couple of hours to spare I would highly recommend it.
I only stayed in Swindon for one night and I stayed at the Travelodge. Much more basic than the Premier Inn, but in this instance marginally cheaper too.
I ate in the hotel as the town centre looked a bit dodgy and the food was ok. Not up to the standard of the Premier Inn but quite acceptable nonetheless.
City of Truro
Swindon railway station
Underneath a steam train
The following day, I had breakfast in a café and then wandered out to the big shopping centre out of town. Lots of big factory shops selling expensive branded stuff basically, and after lunch, I wandered back to the station to find that the train I was booked on had been cancelled. A quick rearrange and I got on a train to Bristol and changed at Temple Meads for a train home. Another nice weekend!
I do love the centre of Birmingham! Great food, great shopping and great views in a smallish area.
So I was playing around on t’internet and I thought I would see if I could get a decent deal on a train trip, and I found that if you booked three months ahead and weren’t too fussy about timings then yes you could! So I priced up a return to Birmingham New Street (about 30 quid return!!!) and set about finding a hotel. Now I have to admit, my favourite hotels are Premier Inn – the rooms are always comfortable and there is none of the pretentiousness of the fancy hotel chains. You can usually get a half decent meal too.
So I ended up staying at a Premier Inn in Waterloo Street Birmingham (about 20 minutes stroll from New Street station) for two nights.
Other than the Bullring there are a number of shopping centres in the centre of Birmingham, some are really nice, others, not so, but with a couple of hours before the shops shut, I had a wander around some of the lesser known ones – The Square, Martineau Place and the Piccadilly Arcade. I didn’t go to Birmingham to shop, but I like the buildings and the atmosphere. I did seem to spend most of my time in shopping areas though. The next day I went to the museum and Chinatown. I was disappointed with the museum (I prefer the RAMM at Exeter if I’m honest), I think I expected it to be like the big museums in London, but sadly it wasn’t.
Lunch in Chinatown was amazing. I noticed a number of Chinese going into one place so I thought I would join them. I had roast duck, roast pork and roast chicken with vegetables on a bed of fried rice, all for £7.00. I can honestly say, it was one of the biggest meals I’ve ever eaten! I had to go back to the hotel and sleep it off!
That meant I didn’t want to eat anything in the evening, so I walked to the nearest Wetherspoons – The Briar Rose (about 50yds away) for a couple of pints of Guinness and very nice it was too! Wetherspoons are great for people watching.
I had 1 day left (my train was leaving at 6:45pm), so I chose to go to the Bullring and the markets.
I had lunch at Izza Pizza in Selfridges, it was probably the best pizza I’ve ever eaten and I watched it being made – gorgeous! I went to explore the markets after lunch, there are three markets open to the public, the rag market, the bullring open market and St Martins market. I saw things I’ve never seen before – the rag market is brilliant, mainly clothing but loads of material. As I wandered back into the Bullring, I went in a different direction and found myself in yet another shopping centre, this one built above New Street Station! It had a massive John Lewis store and loads of others. Thankfully there was somewhere to relax and enjoy a glass or two of wine before I went downstairs to catch my train. In all, a really lovely couple of days.