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I've made Birmingham my home for the past 16 years. My husband and I love getting to know the city over the years. Birmingham has grown up as much as we have over these years. And there is nothing better than spending a day together doing what takes our fancy. Sometimes we have a lazy day where we spend time pottering between food stops, which is fun.

Visit Birmingham asked me to share my thoughts on how to make the most of a day out in the area. So my husband and I recreated a date that we've done many times - including on our anniversary several years ago.

We love eating out in Birmingham and brunch at York's Cafe is a great way to start. I introduced my husband to coconut milk lattes here at York's Cafe and he's a convert. I love supporting the independent restaurants and cafes in Birmingham and will often recommend them for meetings. It's nice to show off what Birmingham can offer when people are visitors to the city.

We started our day with brunch because there is nothing more satisfying than avoiding the domesticity of cooking and cleaning. My husband loves the York's House Breakfast (£12) for a hearty start to the day. I enjoy the avocado and feta smash without the feta to make it vegan-friendly (£7.50).

On our date, my husband and I took a trip to one of our favourite day haunts - Stratford-upon-Avon. We boarded a West Midlands Railway train from Birmingham Moor Street, which arrives directly in Stratford-upon-Avon in 45 minutes. It's an easy way to get out of Birmingham without the stress of driving. Plus we have a Two Together Railcard so we save a third on train tickets when we travel together. This is useful when visiting our families in Essex and Somerset but also saves money on local train travel too.

The great thing about heading out to Stratford-upon-Avon is that there is a wealth of stuff to do. We have visited in the summer and hired a boat to enjoy the river. I've also giggled at the Butterfly Farm as my husband slowly becomes adorned with pretty fluttery insects that take a liking to him. We've also enjoyed Stratford-upon-Avon for its arts festivals and followed strangers here on ghost walks. But we can do as much or as little as we please with our time here, knowing that it's within easy reach for another visit.

When we visit Stratford-upon-Avon, we head to a different Shakespeare attraction before exploring more of the town. If you like this sort of thing, then I recommend booking a Full Story Ticket because it works out to be much better value as you can have unlimited visits to all five attractions for a 12-month period. We usually buy Full Story Tickets because it means that we can potter around the attractions at our own pace whenever we are in the area. I don't like the pressure of trying to get good value of admissions tickets whilst potentially missing out on other fun things happening in the town.

As Stratford-upon-Avon is seen as Shakespeare country, it’s only right to visit one of the Shakespeare attractions. If you’re short on time then I suggest heading to Shakespeare’s Birthplace or Shakespeare’s New Place for history focused on the man himself. Both these spots are centrally located within Stratford-upon-Avon so they’re easy to find. Alternatively, it is worth the short trip to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (the home of Shakespeare’s mother) as the beautifully kept gardens are so pretty.

During our visit, we enjoyed the crisp autumnal weather by wandering along the river to the RSC. We wanted to grab a light bite in their Riverside Cafe on the ground floor. We found a quiet table for two to share a sandwich and cake with a pot of peppermint tea. After our brunch in Birmingham, we just needed a little something to perk us up for more exploring. By the way, we thoroughly recommend the delicious lemon, cranberry and poppy seed muffin.

Even with all the touristy things that we can occupy ourselves with, Stratford-upon-Avon is such a pretty town. So it's nice to wonder the streets and pop into the independent shops that might catch my eye. And there are little pubs to pop into for a mulled cider for some respite from the British weather if needed.

But if you're lucky like we were, then it stays dry enough to accommodate a visit to the markets for a little shopping and tasting. We discovered stalls selling local booze and cheese that my husband was trying to justify as gifts for ourselves! Anyone else end up self-gifting whilst shopping for loved ones?

After a lovely afternoon, we headed back to the station to return to Birmingham. It's not too long a walk to the station from the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon and it's one we've done on many occasions. At this time of year, it's nice to see the streets accessorised with festive sparkle so we walked at a leisurely pace to take it all in.

As we arrived back in Birmingham a little early for our dinner reservation, we decided to stop at the Pint Shop for a mulled sloe gin. This is a new spot in Birmingham that is fast earning a good reputation for itself. And the bar menu certainly caught the attention of my husband so I think we will be back soon.

Before long it was time for us to walk over to Bodega Cantina for dinner. After our enjoyable discovery of the Sutton Coldfield venue this summer, we were looking forward to visiting the Birmingham branch.

Bodega Cantina is a bit of a Birmingham icon on the independent restaurant scene; famed for their nachos and cocktails, it is worth a visit. The couple on the next table to us had even booked the day off to travel to Birmingham for dinner at Bodega Cantina for the first time. That made me feel rather proud as we chatted about what else they were planning to do on their trip.

I started off with an Elderflower Fizz mocktail.  This is my favourite non-alcoholic option at Bodega Cantina as it's light, refreshing and not sickly. After hurting my back last year and being unable to drink on strong medication, I appreciate having a good choice in soft drinks.

I can't imagine a meal at Bodega Cantina without having the vegan nachos. Crisp deep-fried tortilla chips topped with guacamole, tomato salsa, refried beans and Jalapeños. We shared a small portion but could have devoured a large one between us easily.

My husband and I also shared the baked tofu tacos (available from the Bodega Cantina Christmas menu). I have never had tofu that tasted as good as this. Plus the textures in this taco were fantastic with crisp onion and cabbage to perk up the rich, creamy and firm tofu. These tacos were the highlight of the meal for me and I wish that they weren't just a festive special.

For his main, my husband tried the Ximxim for the first time in all his visits to Bodega Cantina. And he loved it.

For my main, I had another Christmas menu item - the Vegan Mexican Lasagne. The lightly spiced tomato sauce around the lasagne is particularly delicious. And the layers of vegetables and tortilla was a nice combination of textures. I wish that there had been a hit of chopped Jalapeño throughout the lasagne instead of a fresh chilli garnish. This is my personal preference as I have a soft spot for Jalapeños.

I hadn't tried an espresso martini with tequila before so I ordered the XO Espresso Martini. This won't replace classic bittersweet espresso martinis as my drink of choice. However, this XO version works well with the food at Bodega Cantina.

After our lovely semi-tourist date within the Birmingham area, it was time to head home. Birmingham gets busy with the Christmas markets but we completely avoided them for a thoroughly enjoyable date. There are so many great places in Birmingham to explore that it’s good to make time to revisit some old favourites as well as discover new ones.


Bodega Bar & Cantina

Bodega is a contemporary cantina bringing fresh, homemade South American inspired cuisine to Birmingham city centre.

Shakespeare's Birthplace
Historic House / Palace
Shakespeare's Birthplace

Shakespeare's New Place - Shakespeare's grand family home.

Shakespeare's New Place
Historic House / Palace
Shakespeare's New Place

Shakespeare's New Place - Shakespeare's grand family home.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage
Historic House / Palace
Anne Hathaway's Cottage
Royal Shakespeare Company

We create theatre at its best, made in Stratford-upon-Avon and shared around the world. We perform Shakespeare’s plays, as well as works by Shakespeare’s contemporaries and plays by today’s writers.

Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market
Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market

The largest authentic German market outside Germany and Austria and the centrepiece of the city’s festive event calendar returns to Birmingham each year in mid November.



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