So what do you do when you have a few rare, child-free days… you book a short break of course!!
We didn’t want to go too far as we only had a couple of days, so we decided on the lovely, historic town of Stratford-upon-Avon. We found a good deal (including breakfast) at the Crowne Plaza which has plenty of parking, a swimming pool and is very convenient for the town centre attractions. It turned out to be a brilliant choice – the rooms were comfortable, the pool was great and there was a lovely bar/restaurant overlooking the river.
We decided to do the ‘Shakespeare thing’ on the first day, so we bought a combined ticket to Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Hall’s Croft and New Place (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust £18.50 for 3 houses). But before we turned into culture vultures we decided a quick visit to Hobson’s for a cream tea was in order… it was absolutely delicious and set us up for the afternoon!
Our first stop was Shakespeare’s Birthplace (obvious really!), which was interesting and informative. I had been before a long time ago and had not been particularly inspired back then – this time the place seemed somehow more alive… We particularly enjoyed the mini-performances in the garden and were particularly impressed by how much Shakespeare the actors knew by heart!
From there, we headed to Hall’s Croft, a beautiful Jacobean house which had belonged to Shakespeare’s daughter and his son-in-law, an eminent surgeon. The ‘Method in the Madness’ exhibition is enlightening and the sight of the tools used in medicine back then make you glad to be alive now!! We finished our visit with a walk through the beautiful, fragrant garden then we went to the café for some lunch. There were plenty of options and our food was tasty and fresh.
But our favourite of all the three locations was without doubt New Place… which is strange given that there is not even a building there any more – it is just a space where Shakespeare’s house once stood! What made it interesting though was the fantastic guide who brought the place to life through a lively overview of its history. It is now a beautiful Shakespeare themed garden with gorgeous plants and statues bearing some of the Bard’s most famous quotes dotted about.
Aside from the Shakespeare connection, Stratford-upon-Avon is a lovely town with beautiful timber-framed houses, stylish restaurants and some great independent shops and cafes.
After a day of all things Shakespeare, we went for a drink in the hotel bar before heading to The Townhouse, a stylish restaurant offering a variety of dishes, including vegetarian options. The food was excellent and the service was friendly and unhurried. If you want to eat here at the weekend, book in advance as there are not many tables and it is very popular. I can highly recommend it if you are ever in the area!
After our meal, we hit the Rooftop Restaurant at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre for a cocktail (why not?). We sat on the balcony and watched the sunset over Stratford-upon-Avon whilst sipping Mojitos. What a great way to end a lovely day…
The next day was warm and sunny so we strolled around the town, stopping to look at whatever caught our eye… which included some stunning buildings and the Nutcracker Christmas Shop! I am definitely one of those people who can do Christmas at any time of year – I just love it!
After having had a substantial cooked breakfast at the hotel (you know what it’s like when it’s a buffet – before you know it you have consumed a full five courses!!), we still were not ready for much to eat. So we headed down to the river and bought ice creams from one of the barges moored close to the town centre which sell food/drinks before joining the many tourists and locals enjoying the sunshine whilst watching the boats on the river.
Sadly, it was now time to leave, so we left for home after an interesting but relaxing few days in beautiful Stratford-upon-Avon…