Oops. We have no idea where it went! We both think we blogged the second day in Stratford – that was the day we met so many wonderful folks! But for some reason, it is nowhere to be found! Not sure if our technology or our brains have failed us…so here we go again…

We had an early morning visit to Anne Hathaway’s house, in the hamlet of Shottery about 4 miles outside of town. It was so quiet and peaceful there – the house and gardens are like something from a fairy tale. Thatched roof, beamed walls, flowers blooming everywhere. Allison was our guide, and she gave us a tour of the house and told of us of the history of the home where Shakespeare’s wife grew up. This is where he came courting Anne. We did learn the “juicier” details that you are usually not taught in school – Anne was 26 and William was 18 when they married, expecting their first child!  Both of the ladies at the house were eager to share their knowledge with us – you can tell how proud they are of the heritage of this charming cottage.  Soon, 2 tour buses rolled in, and the tranquility we had the good fortune to enjoy for a while was interrupted. I would encourage being there as early as possioble to have such an experience of calm.

The Stratford Town Walk was next on the agenda, hosted by a lovely couple John and Helen. Since this was a bank holiday weekend, there were craft tents set up all along the river where we met our guides at the end of Sheep Street. Live music and the smells of international foods cooking added to the experience.  During the two-hour tour, John filled us in on many of the secrets of the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, and called our attention to details of various buildings, and told fascinating stories of the people and places that make this town so interesting. A highlight of the tour was when John told a story using all of the titles of Shakespeare’s works! It was worth going on the tour just for this. I learned more on this two-hour tour than I have on all 4 of my trips to Stratford combined – I would highly recommend that anyone visiting book a tour with them. I would do it again.

Helen was kind enough to call a boat tour company to book us a reservation for the afternoon. But we needed to refuel! Peter had recommended an Italian cafe called Vesuvio. we have learned to always listen to Peter’s suggestions, and once again, he did not steer us wrong! Vesuvio Caffe is located off of the main shoping street on a side street called Union Street, and is run by a precious fellow named Jindra. The ambiance is perfect, and he goes the extra mile to make his guests feel welcome and attended to. I had an Italian board of cold cuts, cheeses, olives, and bruschetta. Wonderful. Courtney ordered an eggplant parmesan. Toward the end of our meal, in came Peter, whom we invited to join us for the rest of our lunch. I love an extended lunch, enjoying good food and good conversation! After lunch, Peter encouraged me to order a cappuccino, the signature drink of Vesuvio. In the foamed milk, they make a flower design with some chocolate –  the attention to detail that makes this a very special place to visit. If you are in Stratford, skip the chain coffee places!!! Seek out Vesuvio for a memorable, personal experience.

We walked across the Avon River to the Bancroft River Cruises to take a look at the town from the waterway. These longboats are a real treat – a leisurely ride down the river including a commentary catered to the desires of the passengers. Our young guide gave us the “lesser-known” stories of Stratford, and he was very informative and also quite entertaining. I think he had as much fun telling the stories as we all had listening!  We had a cream tea aboard, so we sipped our Earl Gray while floating past the Holy Trinity Church and Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Perfect!

After the lunch and the cream tea, we did not want to think about eating for a while. We strolled about the town slowly, making our way back to the Ambleside, where we had some time to just chill out for a bit before dinner. Peter had booked us in at the Old Thatch Tavern, the oldest pub in town, and the only remaining building in town with a thatched roof! We ate our favorite meal of the trip there last year, so we knew we had to go back. The ceiling beams inside are so low that you almost have to duck to get from room to room, but it makes for such a cozy, intimate feel. We each had the chicken and fresh corn pies, with chips and vegetables. Some say that British food is bad, but we have yet to have that experience. The British food we have had is delicious, especially at Old Thatch. No mushy vegetable here!   After dinner, Sandie, the proprietor, came out to chat with us for a while about how she came to acquire the tavern, rescuing it, really. Her goal was to create a pub where everyone felt comfortable coming in for a pint or a meal, and she has done just that! The food, ambiance, and hospitality  here set the bar very high for any other pub. We walked back to the guest house and snuggled into our cozy beds. This was a full, but excellent day, filled with wonderful people and beautiful places.

Enjoying the Journey with full tummies and full hearts…

Heather and Courtney