Loafing in Stratford-Upon-Avon
Stratford-Upon-Avon is a small town in Warwickshire made famous by its play-writing son: William Shakespeare. As you can imagine the qualities that make the town perfect for writing also make it perfect for loafing. In fact, here to experience this learned atmosphere, it is only the tourists who give the place any of its zing! Otherwise it is a peaceful town, with the swan bejewelled River Avon flowing gently through the town’s central parks.
The pubs, restaurants, hotels, take-aways, barbers, in fact most shops in the town, have a literary connection in their name (so much so that I am surprised that Marks and Spencer didn’t change the name of their branch to Antony and Cleopatra!) adding to the rather bookish air.
The centre of the town is fairly compact, with the further afield Shakespeare properties served by a bus that meanders around the town and outlying villages at a pace that is commensurate with the town itself, so walking is the best form of transport: you can’t properly loaf whilst worrying where to park the car and when to dash back and top up the meter anyway!
It is useful that railway station is relatively central too – only 800 yards (I think journeys in yards sound more relaxing than journey’s in meters) from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on the banks of the river.
The parks surrounding the theatre and along the banks of the river are the best places to relax in the town, although the spa at the Shakespeare Hotel has to come a very close second.
Swans and rivers and weeping willows always make for a very soothing panorama but the enterprising citizens of Stratford-upon-Avon have added ice cream selling barges, cafes and bars to the Ilyria-like scene.
Theatre-going can be a singularly relaxing experience in Stratford-Upon-Avon which is fortunate as this what most of the town’s visitors are here for. The theatre’s own terrace restaurant, overlooking the aforementioned swans and willows, offers the pre-theatre diner a relaxing atmosphere, a fine menu and, most importantly, a short walk to their seats in the newly designed auditorium.
The interval can be spent wandering the surrounding parkland but if that sounds a little too energetic the theatres bars take interval orders and even provide plastic glasses so that you can enjoy your chosen beverage in your seat. This will keep the gears of your mind well greased for the second, third, fourth and fifth acts (oh yes Shakespeare does that to you) although most modern productions will not let you out of your seats between some of the more minor acts, much to the chagrin of the beer selling concession holders in the foyer.
Go for a seat at the end of the row if you like to be out first (ladies you might prefer to be the smug one coming out of the facilities rather than the desperate ones queuing to go in!) or a mid row seat if you don’t want to keep hopping up and down as latecomers try to get to their more central seats.
Back out into the town itself I can also recommend a river cruise as a delightful way to spend a couple of hours. Take a copy of the complete works and read a couple of sonnets as you go.
Of course the natural habitat for the loafer is the bar or beer terrace/garden and Stratford is happily well endowed. Check out The Garrick, The Old Thatch, The Hole in The Wall, The Dirty Duck and The Lamplighters.
The town has a good number of mid-range hotels, bed and breakfasts and even a Youth Hostel just out of town that I can recommend for a proper cheap trip, although the stagger back after a night out is not completely without its risks along the country roads!