Faced with no passport for a month, Mr Osbiston and I were forced to abandon plans to visit Amsterdam in February and pick something a little closer to home. Something by the sea, within two hours train of London and public transport friendly since we don’t drive. And so we came up with a weekend break to Bournemouth, where neither of us had been before.
We stayed near the town centre and seafront in a small hotel called The Blue Palms, which absolutely lived up to its name in terms of blueness. Everything that could possibly have been blue was blue. Our hosts were super helpful and friendly, to the point of being slightly worrying for London-types but definitely handy if you want some help finding your way around. Our room was huge but oddly the bathroom was minute and unheated. The shower was very small and devoid of any power, making washing your hair into a trial. All the furnishings could probably do with a refurb but it was spotlessly clean, excellently located and very good value for money at £129 for two nights.
On wandering down the very steep hill to the beach (And it’s worth noting that Bournemouth is very hilly. If you don’t like walking up and down hills, you might want to look away now), we came to the realisation that coming to Bournemouth in mid-winter is probably not the best idea ever. It was bitterly cold, the tour bus wasn’t running and it was too windy for the sightseeing balloon to take off. Bum.
However, the beach did have a certain windswept charm and it was the first time I’d ever seen children playing in the sand in coats and mittens.
We decided to spoil ourselves on our first night and headed to The Print Room, a gorgeous fayn dining restaurant in the former premises of the Bournemouth Echo newspaper decorated in pink and black art deco. We were lucky enough to get a booth, which had newspaper snippets from the early 1900’s in it, amusing us to no end until our food arrived.
Everything was delicious, especially my deconstructed prawn cocktail.
After an impressively greasy breakfast, which we skipped on day 3, day 2 was spent exploring. I am absolutely aquarium mad. I will go to any aquarium anywhere so I was insistent on going to the Bournemouth Oceanarium. As aquariums go, it’s pretty small and doesn’t have a huge amount of wow factor, but what it does have is otters, which might be the cutest animals in the world. We were around for the otter feeding and completely fell in love with them. They’re pretty fast moving little rascals so it was hard to take a good snap of them but I think this says it all.
We also had a wander down the pier with requisite amusements. I hit some moles with a hammer. It was great. Avoid the coffee though. It was not great.
After that we headed up yet another hill to check out The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, which is an eclectic collection of art works and other treasures from around the world, assembled by Merton and Annie Russell-Cotes on their travels in the late 1800s to 1900s housed in their former home.
It’s hard to sum up just how amazing both the house and the items in it are. It has to be seen to be believed. Of course the jewel in the crown is Venus Verticordia by Dante Gabriel Rosetti but even if you just went for the view it would be worth it.
Our last dinner was eaten in Lolita’s, initially chosen for its red and white polka dot décor and what a great choice it was. Not only is the décor fab but the food is delicious and very good value for money. It also has a charmingly ramshackle atmosphere that makes you feel like you’ve popped into a friend’s house for dinner. Without question, Lolita herself is likely to make a stop at your table to tell you in detail about the food, give you a cuddle and shout at the cook, who appears to be her husband. There is not a single thing I didn’t like about it. Go there. Go there lots. Eat all the things.
We were slightly at loose ends on our last day and somewhat accidentally ended up in Westbourne where it turns out the hipsters of Bournemouth reside, along with all the cute cafes and little boutiques. I do wish we’d found it sooner since the sea front and town centre offer little in the way of decent coffee shops and pubs and we struggled to find anything edible for lunch on either of the days we were there.
Overall it was a lovely little break but I’m not sure I’d go back… except maybe for Lolita’s and definitely not in winter.