So after the big reveal that Lintenair is actually Trainline (it’s an anagram! check out the video here), Mr E and I decided to pick one of our bucket list destinations and head out for a little day trip. We wanted somewhere a bit different, with loads of shopping and eating, and some arty bits to see too. Luckily, my lovely friend Tara lives in the West Midlands and suggested a day in Birmingham. We booked on the Trainline App, and with our mobile tickets ready on our phones, and live journey updates we knew we had time for a coffee and a delicious bacon sandwich at the pretty station café at Wendover Station.
Our trip took us first to Marylebone, and as we weren’t queuing for tickets thanks to the Trainline app, we got to have a wander and a browse around the little shops at the station before taking our comfy seats (the BusyBot feature on the app shows where the train is least busy, although because it was a Saturday there was quite a lot of space).
Birmingham’s Grand Central is so much more than just a train station. The incredible mirrored steel exterior, built around the original station in a huge project that finished in 2015, now features a busy shopping centre with bars and restaurants. The huge ‘eye’ set into the shimmering façade is actually an enormous screen, and the building boasts an enormous glass atrium, making the interior light and bright and a pleasure to visit.
We arrived at about 11am and headed straight for The Bullring Shopping Centre. Tara had mentioned the iconic Selfridges building and it really is jaw-dropping. The futuristic steel and concrete building cost £60 million to build back in 2003, and really is an architectural wonder to behold.
Our next stop was about a fifteen minute walk from The Bullring: Tara recommended a visit to the Custard Factory, a buzzy, creative space packed full of independent shops, nice cafés and colourful street art, not to mention the giant Green Man sculpture. After working up an appetite walking around the Custard Factory, we decided to wander back to the Bullring, but ended up getting waylaid walking around the outdoor market.
We had planned to visit one of the restaurants that Tara had recommended for lunch: Adam’s for posh (voted 3rd best restaurant in the UK); Purecraft Bar & Kitchen for excellent craft beer and great modern pub grub; Buffalo & Rye for dirty burgers and alcoholic milkshakes, or Nosh & Quaff for lobster, gourmet burgers and ribs, but by the time we’d finished exploring Grand Central (and shopping in John Lewis), the rain was really tipping down, so we decided to stay under cover and visit Pho Café, the Vietnamese restaurant on the first floor, recommended by the lovely ladies in hush. We weren’t disappointed, and my shredded chicken salad with Asian herbs, peppers and a chilli ginger dressing was absolutely divine: fresh, zingy and tasty. Mr E ploughed through a huge bowl of hot and spicy Pho with beef brisket.
Full up and very happy, we set out to do even more shopping, and laden with bags, we enjoyed a final bit of luxury with a glass of delicious Prosecco, served on tap at the elegant Fizz! Bar, before heading downstairs to catch our train home.
What a wonderful day. I’d thoroughly recommend Birmingham for a lovely day trip. Massive thanks to the lovely Trainline (for more information, see my post here), for fuss-free travel, fab technology and a comfy seat all the way home.