Stratford Upon Avon, England: Tips for a Perfect Day Out

Stratford upon Avon is Britain’s number-one travel destination outside London. Even without an interest in native son Will Shakespeare, there’s plenty here to see and do. In a single day you can catch a morning train direct from London’s Marylebone Station and be in Stratford in just two hours, ready to take in the sights.

From the red-brick Victorian railway station, where drivers can park for the day, construction of the new station means it’s a slightly dusty five-minute stroll south into the town centre. Once you’re there, everything improves. Depending on your preference, have a pint at the half-timbered White Swan Hotel, Stratford’s oldest, or bear left along Meer Street to Mistress Quigley’s for a late breakfast, light lunch or welcome cup of tea.

Fortified, you may want to continue along Henley Street to The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and spend an hour or so in this engaging, relaxed museum where actors appear in Shakespearean costume to show how people lived and worked in Tudor England. If you’ve had your fill of Will, and fancy a bit of shopping instead, head south once again. You’ll find everything from books to haute couture in the fascinating muddle of period buildings that occupies the zigzagging lanes between the pedestrian zone and the River Avon. (Architecture fans, please note.)

Now – for the river. If it’s a nice day, you can hire a boat for an hour or two. Pick up the ingredients for an extravagant picnic from Carluccio’s on Waterside, then have a lazy paddle between the bridges and islands, dodging the ducks and the swans. If it’s not so nice, head over the bridge, turn right, and look for the signs to the Stratford Butterfly Farm.

For arts-buffs, no visit to Stratford would be complete without heading to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, recently rebuilt – and its company revitalised – under artistic director Michael Boyd. (To avoid disappointment, be sure to pre-book your theatre tickets online; but if you haven’t remembered, it’s worth asking at the box office. There are returns sometimes.)

For the less-arty, there are loads of good restaurants and bars. If you like first-rate modern English cuisine, you can try a meal at Edward Moon’s, Lamb’s or my local, The One Elm, all in town – or take a ten-minute taxi ride across the river to The Baraset Barn. If your budget is more limited, there’s a selection of good Indian, Thai, and Chinese restaurants – or if you can’t make your mind up, try Jimmy Spices’s for a moderately-priced buffet offering fresh-cooked fare that will please the most diverse group of travellers. Those who prefer pub food and a drink in the sun by the river should head for Cox’s Yard – and there’s a great choice of open-air snacks to be tried in the canal basin next to the theatre.

Whatever you choose, after your day in Stratford, you’ll head back home or to “the Smoke” having enjoyed a good day out, a welcome change of pace, and a tantalising taste of another England. Hope to see you here – soon.

© 2011 Alexandra Brunel, all rights reserved.

Alex Brunel is one of Ezine’s elite Diamond Authors, which means that her work has shown exceptional quality and consistency. An American writer/researcher based in Stratford upon Avon, England, she has a background as an international research analyst, and has worked for many of the world’s top companies and organisations. She’s an expert in perception and the psychology of the Web.

More information about her therapy work can be seen at:

[http://www.riveralex.com]

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Top Tips on Avoiding Tourist Traps in London

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of posters and flyers announcing “the world’s best museum”, “the world’s best restaurant” and other supposedly amazing destinations in London. Be wary of these exaggerated claims and empty promises. It’s best to avoid the “loudest” and most noticeable places and look a little further to discover some of the city’s real treasures that focus their trade on locals instead of gullible tourists. You’ll find a lack of advertising is often the sign of quality as many of the best spots rely on word of mouth not a huge advertising budget to attract their clientele.

Visitor Attractions

Bizarrely, many of London’s most recognisable visitor attractions have little to do with the city’s past and local heritage. Places like Madame Tussaud’s and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! may be fun for kids, but won’t leave a lasting impression of London and are more likely to be remembered by how long you had to queue for outside. To get a real feel for the city, visit less known museums and galleries that showcase historical artefacts, local arts and crafts, and photography. You’ll also be saving precious pennies as destinations off the beaten track often charge less for entrance. Discover the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret for a fascinating look at the history of medicine. The Cartoon Museum is a fun attraction for all ages as kids will love the pictures and parents will appreciate their deeper connotations. To get a sneak peek at what life’s like in a house boat, head over to the London Canal Museum that tells tales of how the canals have influenced locals’ livelihoods throughout the ages. These and many more are informative learning spaces for both children and adults.

Dining

Neighbourhood food joints are a much better bet than the city centre’s many chain restaurants and overpriced eateries. Hop on the underground or a bus and head to Hammersmith for a bite to eat at Crabtree or Malina, to Bayswater for some pricier eateries like Hereford Road and Assaggi, or to Ladbroke Grove for Electric Brasserie. These areas are home to many quality restaurants that won’t break the bank. Dalston and Angel are other neighbourhoods worth heading to.

Nightlife

Avoid areas like Soho Square for drinks and dancing as many clubs employ street teams to tempt you with deals and offers that sound too good to be true and often prove to be as you end up in dingy, overpriced clubs. Instead, consult locals you come across like your receptionist, waiter or barman to find out about where people in the area seek entertainment. Music and vintage shops are also great places to talk to sales staff and pick up zines, flyers and the Time Out guide for information on more quirky, underground venues offering live music and club nights. A lot of London’s trendiest nightlife is centred around the Shoreditch and Old Street area. Try local favourites like Book Club and Callooh Callay for drinks, and East Village or XOYO for dancing.

If you’re planning to spend a lot of time exploring London

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