Just over a year ago, my little brother scored his dream job of managing a professional rugby team. The unfortunate catch was that this meant emigrating. Luckily though he only moved across the water to England and so I jump at any opportunity to visit. From time to time, I have to travel for my day job, and with a stroke of luck this weekend, I attended a conference 20 minutes away from where my brother now lives in Leamington Spa. Needless to say I was delighted to spend some quality time with my bro and explore his new hometown.
Leamington, also known as "Royal Leamington Spa" is the definition of a leafy suburb. It is famous for its spas or baths, which became popular for their medicinal qualities in the late 1700's. The town gained popularity for tourism in the 19th century on the back of its spring waters and it remains a popular location today.
When I visit my brother the one thing we love to do together is to eat! So i was a little worried that I would begin to undo some of my hard work. I have recently reached a personal fitness goal and I was determined to maintain it! Unfortunately for me "Leam" is packed full of trendy restaurants and quirky bars, so I had my work cut out for me and my will power.
We started our Sunday morning with a bite of brunch in Bill's Restaurant. This was definitely my kind of place, with an old-meets-new decor boasting vintage details with modern exposed pillars and beams. There was also a great selection of healthy options, so I went for avocado on toast. it was served with lime, chili and mixed seeds and a poached egg on the side. Yum! I was so impressed that I even asked for the recipe.
Realising that we couldn't just eat all day, and blessed with sunshine, we decided to ramble to Jephson Park. Jephson is a public park with amenities such as a sensory garden for kids (Including Big kids), a modern greenhouse with a cafe attached and a large lake where the public can hire canoes and kayaks for water sport. I'm sure that the sunshine helped, but the colourful tulips and pansies in pinks and purples, reds, yellow and orange were a treat to walk along.
After the park, we headed for the local attraction, The Royal Pump Rooms. This was the most famous of the baths and is the only surviving spa facility from that time. Sadly, it is no longer a functioning spa, but instead houses an art gallery and museum along with a tourist office and a cafe. The current exhibition is a display of commercial activities in Leamington from the 18th centuty, including toys and clothes from the era. The museum then tells of the history of the baths and some of the ailmen ts they were believed to cure. Entry to the museum is free and it was a very interesting insight into the history of the town.
Being Irish, you cannot bond with your ex-pat brother without having a pint. We ventured into the Duke, a hipsters paradise, complete with craft beers, mismatched furniture and an array of random paintings with chunky frames adorning the walls. I wanted to try a beer called WIT, but only a half glass. The barman was less than impressed when I ordered a "Half-wit", I however, thought I was hilarious. We found a comfy leather couch, had a couple of beers and had a proper bro/sis bonding session.
It was time to eat again and my brother knew exactly where to bring me. Turtle Bay is a Caribbean style restaurant chain, specialising in Rum, Reggae and Jerk. I loved the place immediately when I walked in to see a Bob Marley mural on one wall and a collage of old TVs and sterio systems on the other. I ordered a mango and goats cheese salad in a bid to cancel out the calories from the beers, but added a side of sweet potato fries to soak up said beer! I felt like I was somewhere far more exotic, sipping on a "Marley Mojito" and swaying along with the reggae music.
I would have liked to order a second cocktail, but the restraints of my diet and an impending flight home stopped me. Alas it was time to leave until next time I see my little bro.