For a change and because I need the practice of reviewing things, this is how I spent my Easter weekend:
Bourton on the Water
Bourton on the Water is one of the small villages that makes up the picturesque Cotswolds villages on the edge of Gloucestershire. The centre of the village is just a little bit bigger than one street with each side separated by a small Ford – a small river approximately shin deep. We saw people splashing about in wellington boots chasing the poor put upon ducks in the water. Possibly in sunnier climes this would be a fun way to kill time and to take the edge off a hot day but in the middle of the coldest Easter in since British records began, even in Welly boots there’s no way I’m off for a splash!
One downside to the tiny tourist trap was finding somewhere to eat. There were actually no shortage of tea rooms, however there was a definite shortage of seats! We spent a good half an hour walking up and down the street trying to find somewhere where there were seats but pretty much every available café was full. Peering through the café windows every establishment had tables crammed together to seat as many people as possible. The one we eventually found was the same as this and we felt like the proverbial sardines packed in tight. For someone like me who suffers panic attacks (for various reasons including busy enclosed spaces) I found the whole episode very stressful and it did put me off wanting to come back for a longer visit. We did think about sitting outside but it was just far too cold.
In total, we spent about 90 minutes there as part of a whirlwind tour through national Holidays. Being a tiny place there really wasn’t much to see – we did spot a model car museum (the home of children’s TV character Brum!) and a model village. The one thing I was really looking forward to seeing was a perfumery but on a Saturday during a busy tourist season – it was closed…
All in all I can’t deny it was a beautiful looking place. For the artistically inclined there was lots of spots that would look great as a painting. My favourite place of the whole visit was a wool and craft shop fronted by a very charming man skilled in the art of flattery (sadly being told I look younger than I am and being called an angel does encourage me to buy!). I now have a new craft to try – scarf making through a peg loom. I have GOT to have a go 🙂 I’m hoping by the end of the year to have my own online craft shop up and running and I think they would make an excellent addition.
Moreton in Marsh.
Whilst Moreton seemed bigger it turned out to be a case of being spaced out than Bourton. I love pottering around charming villages but found this one really boring. Whilst Bourton has crammed in several attractions into its small space Moreton didn’t seem to have anything. We did see a sign leading to one or two attractions but they were nearly 2 miles away from the town centre, no good when you are time limited in your visit. It may be these attractions, if we had been given the time to see them, could’ve turned my opinion around
We had 60 minutes to wander round the high street but it only took about 15 minutes to see everything not being a committed shopper, so it was time for another high priced tea room (seriously £2.25 for a can of coke!). One thing I have noticed lately…there’s a rant coming on here!… is the amount of tea shops that hardly sell any tea!! Take the Victoria that we were recently in. They had just the one blend of tea and seemed really confused at the idea of decaf but boasted a huge array of coffee’s and were very proud of their coffee maker. How does that make them a tea shop??? I have no problems with coffee shops if that’s what they sell but please stop trying to capture the quaint cosy tea room image when you are actually an Americanized glossy coffee shop. Drives me around the bend!
As part of the trips package we had bed, breakfast and evening meal at the Holiday Inn just off the M6 in Coventry. The hotel was as you’d expect – very clean, spacious and comfortable but let down by the food. As it was booked as part of a trip and catering for around 100 travellers on this experience all paying a budget price we ended up with budget food and a set menu rather than being able to pick from the regular guest menu.
Trying to find something on there for my autistic son was hard enough but eventually we settled for hake for me and pork for him. I was happy enough with the hake until I found a half inch thick bones in the middle. Looking around at other people who had ordered the same they had clear plates so it doesn’t seem to have been part of the fish. The pork turned out to be mainly 3 slices of fat and gristle with a bit of meat in the middle and mostly hidden under gravy. The menu had listed everything the meal would consist of except for sauces and it was smothered in gravy. We would’ve liked the opportunity to have the choice not putting gravy on. It wouldn’t have made it a more difficult meal to cook. For the veg that came with it, the roast potato was only partially cooked and hard in the middle. The starters and puddings were standard fare and tasted ok, nothing to get excited or disgusted by. It may be though that if we had ordered from the main menu the food would be of a better standard but it’s a not to myself then to be warned should I book this type of course again.
To end on a positive note though I had one of the best hotel showers ever! Easy to use and adjust and just the right kind of power. I could’ve stayed there for hours! 🙂
So good I didn’t want to come home and I didn’t even get to see all of it! Again because of the way National Holidays work this was more a whirlwind visit than a leisurely trip. We’d arranged a guided tour around the key areas followed by free time in the town to try and maximise what we could see. The coach driver had booked one of the towns tour guides and he was very knowledgeable and a great person to have as we drove around although he seemed very fixated on toilets and peeing! Stratford is the home of William Shakespeare who I adore having studied him at school and hopefully studying his works further as one of my Open Uni modules next year. There are 5 houses linked to him & preserved for tourists to visit. The first one was Anne Hathaway’s House, the wife of Shakespeare, and from the outside at least was truly gorgeous. Sadly due to the time limitations of the tour we only managed to see the outside and the gift shop before setting off again. The next stop was Mary Arden’s farm. We didn’t even get off the coach for this one! Apparently Arden was Shakespeare’s grandmother and they have restored this to the medieval working farm it originally was with all employees actually working the farm in traditional costume of the time and growing all the food they eat including herbs. Another one I really wished I’d had time to look around. The remainder of the tour was a chance to see where the other houses were along with his resting place.
After the tour we used our free time to have a slower walk round the inner town houses and see the Holy Trinity church where Shakespeare is buried including his gravestone and that of his family members. We had been told by the guide that in that era rich people would pay the church huge sums of money to be buried as close to the alter as possible as they believed it meant they had a better chance of being first in the queue to the pearly gates!
So we were expecting to find the grave stones at the side of the church. They were actually inside! Practically on the alter itself.
By this point we were running out of time and had yet to find the street we had been told his birth place was on. We had a quick wander through the RSC theatre and then with only 15 minutes before we were due back on the coach we found the street of his birth only because I needed to find some chocolate! We practically ran down the street, took a photo of the house and ran back to the coach station! As much as I love the cheapness of the holiday company and its ability to give you an overview of places in a short space of time, Stratford is one place I really would have loved to have been able to spend more time in so I think when it’s sunnier I will go back maybe by train and spend a few days there pottering around and taking in the sites at a more leisurely pace. But it’s definitely a must for anyone wanting to soak up some ye Olde English atmosphere.