Stratford-upon-Avon

Stratford-upon-Avon has been on my must visit list for some time. So when we found out that the Premier Inn is only £29 a night on certain nights of the week and there are two in Stratford, we saw it as a great opportunity to visit. We only went for the one night, but as we are only a 90 minute drive away we still had two full-ish days to enjoy the town.

We parked in a small car park near the Holiday Inn, which was only a five minute walk to the Premier Inn, which cost £8 for 48 hours. We arrived before midday, so had a bit of time before we could check in at 2pm.

One of the first sights of the town that we were greeted with was the picture you see above. The water glistened in the winter sun and the area had a lovely feel to it. We kept seeing interesting sight after sight. The Shakespeare memorial, a tree that had a knitted patchwork covering over it’s trunk with baubles hanging from its branches and a wonderful little market by the marina. We do like to walk around a good market, but usually there’s not a whole lot there to draw my attention. However, this one was a little bit different. There was a fudge stall, which greatly interested my wife along with other stalls selling food, gifts, Christmassy items and one had several real owls on show for people to look at and stroke to make money for an animal charity. It was a good way to start off our time in Stratford.

We did struggle a bit with lunch. There are plenty of places to eat, whether you’re after lunch, full meals, snacks or cake. However, we were after a nice panini at a reasonable price and this appeared to be impossible. We did find reasonably priced paninis a couple of times, but as a vegetarian my options were awful. For some reason many places that offer lunch seem to think that every vegetarian likes goat’s cheese or feta and this is not just in Stratford. So right here I want to end that myth…I am a vegetarian and I hate goat’s cheese and feta. Also just because I’m a veggie it doesn’t mean I always need a really healthy or pretentious meal! One cafe had two paninis that were suitable for veggies, but both had goat’s cheese on them! If you make two none meat options you do not make them so similar, it’s just common sense. We ended up at a cute cafe called Hobson’s Patisserie, which had a window full of tasty looking cakes. The real eye catcher was the scone with cream in the middle that made it stand about six inches high! I settled for a veggie tikka wrap and my wife had a baguette, both which were very well presented on a long rectangular plate with crisps and a side salad.

Our meal that evening was a lot less of a stress, as we had already planned to go to Bella Italia with Tesco clubcard vouchers. The meal was nice, although the rigatoni was a bit overcooked. I had a tea with a very tiny and very cute slice of lemon tart with a quarter strawberry on it for dessert.

We stayed at the Central Premier Inn. The reception was on the first floor, which was most unusual and quite confusing at first, as the entrance didn’t feel like an entrance. Especially as we had to walk up several flights of stairs to get to the reception next to the dining area. Usually when commenting on accommodation we have stayed in, we delve into all the problems we had. Here is the list of the problems with this Premier Inn – our view wasn’t the best…that is all.

It has been said that Premier Inn hotel rooms are soulless. But it had everything we needed such as a comfortable bed, spare pillows, tea making facilities, a great bathroom, bedside tables, lamps, floor space and a relatively quiet room. The room was nicely styled and well thought out. All this for £29 a night is great! So it may be seen as “soulless” by some, but to us it was perfect for a place to rest and recuperate.

Breakfast was separate and costed £8.75 per person. So the following morning we opted for a cheaper breakfast at the Wetherspoons in the town. Wetherspoons is cheap and they do really tasty cooked breakfasts and it cost the same as one Premier Inn breakfast for the both of us!

The sightseeing we did on the first day consisted of exploring the town and enjoying the atmosphere. There were plenty of unique and interesting shops to have a look around and so many beautiful buildings that looked very 16th century. We had tea and cake at the Hathaway Tearooms, as they had a stall at the market we visited and they gave us a pamphlet with an offer of a free pot of tea. The cafe was in a lovely Tudor styled building, but we would not have gone there without the offer, as the bill still came to over £8 for another pot of tea, a little tart and a painfully small slice of apple strudel.

On the second day I went round Harvard House, which was a part of the Shakespeare Houses and Gardens Five House pass, which I borrowed off my mum who paid £23.90 for this 12 month pass. This is a good deal if you visit everywhere available with the pass and/or you’re a big fan of Shakespeare. But the annoying thing is that you cannot buy separate tickets for the houses. So if I just wanted to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace for example, I would have to pay at least £15.90 for the Birthplace pass, which is the cheapest option. I feel that they must be losing out on a lot of money and visitors here. Not everyone who comes to Stratford wants to visit everything or has the money or time to be able to. These passes should be an option, but it should also be possible to buy single tickets to each museum.

Harvard House was a lovely simple museum opposite Hathaway’s Tearoom, which had friendly staff on the reception. I went down the road to Shakespeare’s birthplace afterwards. This felt like the main attraction available with the pass. Stratford prides itself on being the hometown of William Shakespeare and you will spot him everywhere, from Shakespearean gifts in the shops or paintings and writings on the walls of cafes and pubs. His birthplace was fascinating and there was a lot of interesting information in the museum joint to the house he was born in. The people dressed up in 16th century attire in the house were very helpful and insightful and now I can say I’ve walked in the footsteps of William Shakespeare.

I visited the two museums by myself because I had my mum’s pass. I met back up with my wife and we enjoyed a lovely walk along the river before arriving at the Holy Trinity Church which is where Shakespeare is buried. I was able to have a look with a flash of my pass, before we walked back into the centre, cutting through the old town, past so many pretty and old buildings.

Before leaving we went back to Hobson’s Patisserie because I couldn’t leave without trying one of their giant cream scones. Luckily I managed to get the last one! I did love it, but there was so much cream I couldn’t finish it! But I’m glad I had it and my wife loved her cherry crumble pie.

Stratford-upon-Avon is a lovely town and one of the best places I’ve visited in England. It has history, architecture, shops, cafes, restaurants, a great atmosphere and William Shakespeare. With an easily affordable and brilliantly located Premier Inn in the centre we know we will be visiting again.

http://www.visitstratforduponavon.co.uk

http://www.shakespeare.org.uk

http://www.premierinn.com

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