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.
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