I moved into a house share in my hometown, Birmingham a few weeks ago and none of my housemates are from Birmingham. I quickly became their go-to for directions and recommendations of places to visit but I honestly felt a bit stuck for suggestions. I’ve lived in Birmingham all my life so everything here has become the norm, what people from other cities and countries might find exciting here are things that I walk past on a daily basis. I decided to put together a little ‘day in the life’ of what I typically like to get up to in the city (when I venture out of my bed) to rekindle my love for my hometown a little bit. I would like to mention that this post is in collaboration with Hotels.com who very kindly gifted me the spending money for this day out. I decided to drag my boyfriend along and make it a date day; although we live in the city and didn’t need to book out a hotel, there are so many lovely hotels in Birmingham scattered around to choose from if you do fancy paying a visit.
My boyfriend, Jesse and I have visited the National Sea Life Centre previously, back on one of our first ever dates so we decided to pay another visit as it’s one of my favourite places. It’s located very nearby to Brindleyplace which has plenty of bars and restaurants available so it means that you can make a whole day of it if you’d like. I love how everything is so close together as it cuts so much travelling out, plus you can talk a walk around Birmingham’s famous canals – we have more canals than Venice if you didn’t know! The National Sea Life Centre has plenty of family discounts if you’re visiting as a group and just as a little tip, I’d also recommend booking online in advance as you can save a decent bit of cash as opposed to paying on arrival.
When we arrived, we were told that there was some construction work happening within the Centre and so one of the floors would be inaccessible. Although this was a little bit disappointing as it was the floor that had the most adorable otters on last time, they very kindly gave us free tickets to redeem any time in 2019. Plus, I’m holding out hope that this means there’s something very new and exciting coming up in the future. Although we missed out on seeing certain creatures such as Ozzy the Moray Eel (he’s absolutely huge from what I remember from our last visit) there were still lots of other incredible animals to see.
As we walked into the first feature room, it got extremely chilly as this is home to Pabloo the Gentoo penguin and his colony of penguin pals. I definitely turned into a big kid when I saw all of the penguins, I got so over-excited when one walked directly up to me waving his flipper in the air as if to say hello. They are definitely big posers, a group of them were stood on a block of ice near the back waving their flippers around – the way they were stood looked as if they were comparing muscles. They also have a huge body of water to swim in which is just incredible to watch as they dart so fast through the water, being playful with each other. We didn’t quite time it well enough but at half 1 every afternoon, you can watch them feed the penguins as well as learn all about how they’re part of a global breeding programme.
Another favourite creature of mine is Bev the Octopus; I couldn’t get a picture of her as she likes to hide in the corner of her tank (I can relate, Bev) but she is a Giant Pacific Octopus, ‘giant’ being the operative word. Although she is huge with 8 legs, 3 hearts and a doughnut shaped brain, she can actually fit into holes as small as a £1 coin which I think is so fascinating. Again, our timing was bad but Bev has her own special ‘Octopus Playtime’ at 10:30am everyday to keep her engaged. She can change colours to camouflage herself and apparently she can open a jar by herself to get her food out which is something I’d love to catch next time.
The highlight of the Sea Life Centre for me is always Mo, the Giant Green Sea Turtle. Turtles have always been one of my favourite animals and Mo is located in a 360° ocean tunnel, swimming right over your head. He’s absolutely huge, weighing over 20 stone although he’s only 42 years old which is very young for a sea turtle. Mo is definitely the king of the ocean tunnel and for me, he takes the spotlight as I’m always in awe of him every time I visit. It’s definitely something you need to see for yourself!
Without going on for too long about every single creature, there are plenty of other things to see such as sting rays, seahorses, jellyfish, starfish and plenty more. If marine life is something you’re interested in or you’re curious and would like to learn more about how they are cared for, I’d definitely recommend visiting. As I said before, if you visit the Birmingham Centre then you can easily make a day or a even a weekend out of it as there are plenty of places to shop, eat and visit all around the city. There’s also plenty of theatres in Birmingham and the Barclaycard Arena is just over the canal from the Sea Life Centre so you could even go and see a show on the evening. We’re not quite West End London but we definitely have some great options on offer.
Speaking of food, we were super hungry after our walk around the Sea Life Centre so we decided to stop off at our favourite restaurant, Gourmet Burger Kitchen. We always go here if we fancy treating ourselves as the food and service is consistently amazing. They are always bringing out new burger specials and I knew they’d have a festive one so I was looking forward to trying it out as I’m a sucker for anything ‘festive edition’. It was called Holy Smoke; a beef patty smoked with a Douglas Fir, crumbed and fried camembert cheese, truffle mayo, onion jam and baby spinach. Honestly, it had me at camembert as that’s my absolute favourite cheese and it definitely did not disappoint. The burger was cooked exactly how I had asked for it and all of the different flavours worked perfectly together. Jesse went for a beef, cheese and bacon burger but swapped the regular beef for a 30 day dry-aged steak patty. You can definitely tell the difference, even just the patty on its own is so full of flavour.
Jesse went for regular chunky chips and I just had to go for the truffle cheese fries which are honestly everything – if you’re a cheese lover then you absolutely need these in your life. We both had fizzy rhubarb and vanilla to drink which were refillable but I reckon I need it on tap at home because it’s one of my all-time favourite drinks. If you’ve never been to Gourmet Burger Kitchen before, definitely get yourself over to one as their burgers are just incredible. Even if you’re not a meat eater, I’d 110% recommend one of their 4 veggie burgers as in my opinion, they do the best veggie burger of them all.
Have you ever been to Birmingham?