First thing, on Saturday, I met my friends for coffee and a catch-up, which was a great way to start the weekend. I then met my friend Em who is also a local to Birmingham and who I was sharing my mini staycation with. We were staying at the, award winning, Staying Cool Apartments in the rotunda situated right in the centre of the City. As soon as you step into the building you get the sense of the urban cool vibe that runs through the apartments. The staff at the concierge were friendly and check in was quick and efficient. Our apartment was on the 19th floor which gave amazing views of Birmingham and beyond. Through the whole of our stay we couldn't tear our eyes away from the view. Whether during the day or evening, there was always something new that caught my eye.
The apartments have a really cool 60's vibe about them which we loved. Even though you are in a round building, you don't feel like it due to the floor to ceiling glass walls which let in so much light. The apartments really are a home away from home. In the kitchen area there's all the gadgets you need for an overnight, or short, stay. A spacious living area, with Apple Mac entertainment, leads onto the bedroom which leads onto a spacious bathroom with specially created toiletries. After unpacking and taking in the magnificent views we reluctantly drew ourselves away and headed out into the buzzing city. We had decided to spend the late afternoon exploring the new Birmingham Library and take a wander through the, now, famous German market.
I'd gone past the new library many times, during construction and since it's completion, but had not yet visited. Having heard so many good reviews I was keen to see what it had to offer. By this time it was nearly dusk and the sky above Birmingham was an amazing colour. The landscaping at the front has allowed for an outdoor amphitheatre where year round concerts can be enjoyed.
After a bite to eat in the Library Cafe we headed to the top observation deck. You get to this by traveling on escalators that take you through the core of the building with shelves of books all around. Once up on the roof there were more amazing views of the City. We could see the rotunda, BT Tower, Mail Box as well as the Ferris wheel and ice skating rink by the Symphony Hall. We thought the roof top garden was a great addition and would like to come back during the day time to appreciate it fully, as well as exploring more of the library.
Stepping out of the front of the Library you are straight into the German Market. We made our way through the crowds taking in the atmosphere and indulging in a pretzel & roasted chestnuts. This took us right to the other end of the Market at the Bull Ring and the Staying Cool apartments.
We were off to Hotel La Tour's Aalto restaurant for dinner, which was a late birthday celebration. Actually Em didn't know where we were going until a couple of weeks before. We talked about the places we both liked for food which also served great cocktails. I played a little numbers game with her and got her to re-order the numbers 1 to 5. What she didn't know at the time, was she was actually choosing where we would be dining. Whilst getting ready we enjoyed a lovely glass of champagne before taking the short ten minute walk to Hotel La Tour.
I've dined many times at Hotel La Tour, although it was Em's first time. We arrived slightly early for our reservation, but were seated without hesitation. There were quite a few diners already, in the restaurant, and more joined through the evening. Whilst we perused the menu there was a resident singer singing, we thought this was a nice touch. It didn't take us long to decide on our meals. I had a trio of salmon as a starter and fillet of black bream, cassaulet of chorizo, harricot beans and confit tomatoes for my main course. Em chose beetroot tart, followed by wild mushroom, roasted pumkin, sage and chestnut crumble. We were both delighted with our choices, each dish was packed full of flavour and was presented beautifully. We opted for a cocktail rather than a dessert. I chose a cocktail which I've renamed 'Christmas in a glass' which was gingerbread & almond eggnog, advocaat with gingerbread and almond liquor, which I absolutely loved. Whilst Em went for 'Summer in a glass' with a classic mojito. We had a wonderful evening here and as usual everything was just perfect.
We decided to end the evening at Ginger's Bar, which is a short 15 - 20 minute walk from Hotel La Tour. Again a mojito was Em's cocktail of choice and this time I had a Monkey Nuts cocktail which consisted of Havana especial rum, creme de banane, 10 cane rum, peanut butter, chocolate bitters and cream. I didn't enjoy this as much as the gingerbread one, I thought the peanut flavour would come out more. None the less we enjoyed the time we spent here. Another short walk back to the Staying Cool apartments and we were taking in the magnificent views once more, pointing out where we had just been.
Usually in hotel rooms I'm either too hot or too cold, but the temperature in the apartments was just right and with the addition of the black out blinds it didn't take long to drift off. The beds were extremely comfortable and we both had a great nights sleep.
I was happy to see the coffee, in the apartments, was from Urban Coffee company and I made myself a whole cafetiere, and Em had tea, whilst we soaked up the views once more. I also made us a bucks fizz from fresh orange juice and champagne that was left from the night before. We couldn't think of a better way to start a lazy sunday morning.
We had decided to go for brunch and I recommended the fabulous Boston Tea Party. We got there quite late in the morning and already the place was buzzing. We made our choices whilst in the queue using the handy clipboards. Em opted for field mushrooms, scrambled egg, tomatoes and toast. I decided to on Kedgeree, something I have wanted to try for a while. I was on my second coffee by the time our food arrived. My Kedgeree was very spicy, but I enjoyed it and I'd definitely have it again.
By this time it was early afternoon and time for us to head home. I can honestly say that it felt like I'd been away for much longer than a day and a half. We'd had such a wonderfully relaxing weekend. Of course there is a lot more we could have done, such as visit the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, took in a show at the Birmingham Hippodrome or walked by the canals, to name a few. But we both agreed what we'd done had provided us with the mini staycation we were looking for. We'd definitely consider staying at Staying Cool in the future, the central location and spacious apartment were a real plus.
If you've yet to visit Birmingham, then I would recommend a mini vacation and a stay at Staying Cool. If you're local, like me, then why not try a mini staycation and see if you fall in love, just that little bit more, with this amazing city. Whatever time of year you visit, there is always something going on and things to do, you'll be spoilt for choice.
Our stay at the Staying Cool Apartments, including our champagne, was complimentary, but all views expressed are my own.