The end of last summer saw the beginning of what I hope to be a tradition for many years to come – an annual girl’s trip! I’ve gone on trips with various friends before, and will do again. But there’s just something special about finding that one group of girls you get on so well with that you all decide to make going away together a regular occurrence, isn’t there?
We were all first brought together on a weekend in May 2018, by yours truly, for my hen do in Birmingham. We were a ragtag bunch. Of the 6 of us, I was the only one who knew everyone attending. But a secret (to me) planning group chat, a Friday evening of Prosecco, and a Saturday morning nursing a collective Prosecco hangover while watching the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made fast friends of us all.
There were of course other more usual hen do activities. Bottomless brunch? Check! Dinner out? Check! And at an incredible curry house no less – we were in Birmingham after all. Pub crawl into the city that ended at a club? Check!
But I like to think it was the morning spent in a cuddle puddle on the sleeper sofa in our Airbnb’s living room, commenting on all the celebrity outfits and moaning dramatically about our sore heads every so often, that really sealed the deal.
Fast forward to Spring 2019
The group chat that had been relatively quiet since the hen do perked back up with reminiscing about what a fun, food- and drink-filled weekend we’d had. It struck us all how easily we’d fallen into what felt like a well-established group of friends. What can I say, I know how to pick ’em! It was in that chat we decided a reunion weekend was a must. A Hen Do: Part Deux, if you will.
The schedules of 5 20-something women being what they are, we didn’t manage to find a weekend where everyone was free until the end of August. But that ended up working out to our benefit – schools went back in session the following Monday so travel and Airbnb prices were a little bit less than they would’ve been a few weeks earlier.
We did talk about going further afield than Birmingham again. But having left planning a wee bit late most of us didn’t have the holiday left to take a longer trip than Friday evening-Sunday afternoon. With all of us scattered around the south and east, Birmingham just made the most sense for a quick trip!
Beginning of the Annual Girl’s Trip
After a few group chat messages syncing schedules and several cocktail tinnies on the train, we descended upon Birmingham. Our Airbnb was a short walk from New Street Station so we made our way there, dropped our stuff off, and headed to the nearest grocery store to stock up on provisions for the weekend. We decided to cook Friday’s dinner and Saturday’s breakfast ourselves to save a bit of money in anticipation of Saturday’s festivities. A full kitchen is definitely one of the perks to staying in an Airbnb over a hotel.
One of the disadvantages, though, is when an issue comes up (say you’d booked a flat claiming to sleep 6 and there was hardly sleeping area for 5…) there’s no concierge at a front desk to help you sort it out. Luckily for us, our hosts were quick to respond. After a short back and forth, they refunded us a bit of the rental fee. We also managed to cobble together a 5th sleeping space out of couch cushions and spare sheets.
Friday evening was spent catching up over a quick and easy conchiglie bolognese, plenty of snacks, and copious G&T’s.
We stayed up into the wee hours of the morning catching up, but still managed to be up with enough time on Saturday to sort a lovely brunch of sausage sandwiches and cinnamon rolls. A 1pm start to the festival meant we could also take our time getting dolled up for the day ahead.
Such a carby brunch was 1)Delicious, simple, and filling and 2)Good preparation for a day of drinking at Saturday’s main event: The Gin to My Tonic gin festival! I would be lying if I said we didn’t partially pick this weekend in August after we found the festival through a quick search of upcoming events in Birmingham…
If you’re looking for a fun and different event, I can’t recommend this one enough. It of course featured loads of incredible gins from near and far. But they also had plenty of other alcohols + thoughtful mixers available for those who aren’t too (gasp! horror!) gone on gin. Tickets were ~£15 through the event, but I found them for ~£9 on Groupon. It pays to search for a deal! With the ticket you got 4 hours entrance, a gorgeous gin goblet, a stainless steel straw, a guide to all the drinks on offer at the event, a pen, and a cute little bag to hold everything.
Once inside the venue (the Custard Factory in Digbeth, which was an absolutely perfect space for the event), we picked up tokens for our drinks. We each got 4 tokens for £20 up front. That made each drink, which included a 35ml pour + a Fever Tree mixer, only £5! Considering the cost of the drinks, the various free tasters, and everything we got with the entrance fee, the event was good value for money. And it even helped turn a few of the girls into gin drinkers!
Our big breakfast came in handy, as the food vendors in attendance weren’t particularly dietary-restrictions-friendly. I’m dairy free and 2 of the other girls are vegan, so a grilled cheese cart didn’t do the majority of our group any good. We also weren’t sure we’d be happy with only 4 hours, but it was the optimal amount of time. And choosing the 1-5pm slot gave us plenty of time to walk back to the flat and get ready for the evening before dinner.
If you couldn’t tell, a lot of our time together centers around eating and enjoying good food, as all good friendships should! So it should come as no surprise that plenty of research went into finding a local restaurant that would work for everyone’s dietary requirements without sacrificing options or flavor.
Chung Ying, a Cantonese and dim sum restaurant, ticked all those boxes and then some! Between the 5 of us, we ordered an absurd amount of food but it was all so delicious not a speck of it went uneaten. Chung Ying has an extensive vegan menu, garnering rave reviews from our resident vegans. And we all enjoyed the traditional family-style atmosphere. It meant we got to try as much of everything on the table as we wanted! I particularly enjoyed the dumplings we ordered, but I’m partial to any dumpling. Everything we had was delicious and I can’t think of a single dish that disappointed.
After dinner we meandered our way back to Digbeth for a decades night at The Night Owl. We stopped at several pubs and indulged in a few espresso martinis along the way. The music at The Night Owl was a fun change of pace on the usual Top 40 you get at clubs, the space was really cool, and the crowd was…eclectic to say the least. It was the premiere weekend for the latest season of Peaky Blinders, so there were even a few Blinders in the mix!
The End of the Trip, the Start of a Tradition
After such a full-on Saturday, Sunday morning got off to a slower, and a bit more painful, start. But it was nothing a full fry at Cherry Red’s Cafe and a nap on the train home couldn’t fix! Cherry Red’s is the perfect place for a “last meal in Birmingham”. It’s right near the train station and has plenty of options for any diet.
All in all, an A+ (or is it A*?) weekend with some A+ gals. Birmingham, as with every visit before, has stolen a little piece of my heart.
Next up on the annual girl’s trip agenda (once we can safely travel again): Manchester!