United Kingdom

Stratford upon Avon

Stratford upon Avon’s claim to fame is the birthplace of William Shakespeare. And that is not the reason I spent the weekend there. With just two days available to loiter around, I was looking for a quiet town where I could just unwind and not do much. And this town proved to be the perfect setting.

Having landed in Heathrow airport on a cold Friday morning, took the train to Stratford upon Avon with a quick change at Solihull – it meant that I could arrive earlier than a direct train which left much later. Checked into a pretty looking B&B, a couple of kilometers from the town centre but with a warm welcoming couple and more importantly, a wonderful breakfast that included hash browns, fried eggs & mushrooms and butter on toast. Calories, whats that?

While I didn’t enter the house of Anne Hathaway (was pretty enough just from outside), I succumbed to tourist pressure and paid some precious pounds to visit the house of Shakespeare. Considering that it is the essence of what Stratford upon Avon signifies, the visit was important, but something that I, personal opinion if you may, could have done without.

Overall a quiet, contemplative weekend. In images below.

Stratford upon Avon Railway Station

Stratford upon Avon Railway Station

Story-book houses with abundant use of timber frames.

Story-book houses with abundant use of timber frames

The weekend market is a great way to pass time and the hospice shop lets you buy books as low as 50p!

The weekend market is a great way to pass time and the hospice shop lets you buy books as low as 50p!

Stratford upon avon food

Bed, Breakfast & Bulmers!

Presenting William Shakespeare

Presenting William Shakespeare…

...and his grave.

…and his (open) grave.

Also read:

Afternoon tea

The Roaring Girl

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The Roaring Girl

I watched a play – The Roaring Girl – at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford upon Avon and boy, what an incredible experience!

Stratford upon avon RSC

Despite the touristy summer season, I was fortunate enough to avail an online ticket just a week before I left. Got a ‘Gallery One’ seat, which was a second-floor so viewing was ‘long sight’ but clear nevertheless.

The play – no, not a Shakespearean one – was classified as a ‘rebellious comedy’, lasted 3 hours with a mini-break and was entertaining, to say the least. Photography (recording, rather) wasn’t allowed but the indian in me managed to sneak in a couple photos for future records. Hey hey, harmless.

Stratford avon royal shakespeare

Stratford avon roaring girl

The theatre has a small and buzzing cafe and apparently a lovely roof-top restaurant. However there was a beautiful park right outside the theatre and a cranberry-brie sandwich & Pimm’s was just about enough to sit contently in a corner, soak in the wonderfully cold air & a wee bit of sun and people-watch!

Stratford upon avon pimms 

 Also read: Afternoon tea

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Wey aye Geordie!

Remember an earlier post where I hoped that my employer would send me to the UK on work? One year later and it happened!

I went to London for a week-long training and was fortunate enough to spend a day with 4 other colleagues in the Geordie land of Newcastle upon Tyne (Geordie being a regional nickname for those from parts of the Northeast as well as the regional dialect). I was asked to keep my ears open to the style of English spoken and to watch out for locals who are known to dress up in as little as possible despite the chilly english weather!

Geordie newcastleThe city was cold and deserted when we walked out from the Newcastle station on a rainy Tuesday evening. Not wanting to waste the night in our hotel rooms, we headed out to the city centre, with a guide-cum-cabbie who made a few detours and took us through some landmarks. No accent as yet.

Went to a newly opened bar-and-grill and had a wonderful time getting to know recently-met colleagues. 4 waiters served us and none of them was a Geordie. Sigh. Finally on our way back, the cabbie spoke in true local style and despite not understanding much, I learnt a few local phrases. And discovered that Mark Knopfler was a Newcastle boy!

Newcastle geordie

Spent the next morning in a meeting inside a beautiful Victorian building and soon after, rushed to take the train back to London. A super-short but fun trip to Geordie land.

If you visit the city, here is a link to some typical phrases that you may want to use!

Also read:

Pop in for a wee drink

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Afternoon tea

My first afternoon tea date. With myself.

Having set foot upon the picturesque town of Stratford upon Avon, better known as the birthplace of Shakespeare, camouflaged my jet lag and walked a couple of kilometres to undergo the quintessential British experience. Foursquare recommended Hathaway tea rooms and so, there I went.

hathaway tea rooms scones

Frankly, scones and clotted butter are not really my cup of tea but that said, they were fresh out of the oven and moreover, the pot of peppermint tea was refreshing and a welcome change from the ‘English breakfasts’ and ‘Earl Grey’s!

hathaway tea rooms scones
Also got chatting with a welsh lady who’d come to meet her aged mother staying at a nearby village; she was so appalled by a couple who ordered a 3-tiered tea meal (looking very pretty with scones, sandwiches and cakes!) and left wasting almost everything, that we ended up having a conversation ranging from poverty and diversity to of course, the unpredictable British weather. While she was annoyed that a ‘beautiful’ sunny day had given way to rains (yet again), I couldn’t have been happier!

I won’t go back for those scones but this was indeed a wonderful afternoon tea, as British as could be, in a quiet shakespearean hamlet.

What next, a midsummer night’s dream, perhaps? 😉

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Pop in for a wee drink!

GlenfiddichAllow me to introduce you to Glen.

Glen is an ageless man who was born in Dufftown, an unassuming but picturesque part of Scotland and continues to live there. Having started small more than a century ago and worked his way through difficult times, Glen is now known world over with a loyal fan base, some of who come to pay homage whenever they visit Scotland. Glen has a distillery (aha, now we are talkin’) with the River Fiddich running close-by which incidentally, is home to several scotch distilleries.

GlenfiddichThe 10 of us (yes, babies included!) paid a visit to Glen to see the magic behind this great name. Lost our way a couple of times and almost gave up but the forces pulled us towards him and eventually we got there.

Our free distillery tour pre-started with a visit to the cafeteria where we had the first home-grown taste of the liquid followed by a delicious fruit & nut cake infused with – well, what else?! Lighter heads, off we trudged to a simulatory tour on the life story of Glen with visuals and the works. Informative. Next part was visiting the factory to see the dGlenfiddichifferent stages of whisky-making. Hot rooms with weird smells of warm rye or barley. A lanky Scot decked in traditional attire took us through the whole process patiently answering random queries. Finally, we finished the tour just the way such tours must end – getting us visitors to sit around li’l round tables and concluding with a tasting session of the 12, 15 & 18 year old malt. Ah. Definitely not for the faint hearted.

Go for:

– the free tour and the whisky, if you please!

– the grandly done-up women’s restroom (really, bizarre as it may sound!)

– the scenic drive, getting lost and making full use of Google Maps


Related post: Keep calm and visit London

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Keep calm and visit London

One of the iconic booths!

One of the iconic booths!

The UK trip commenced in parallel with my new job. We had booked the tickets and a couple of weeks after, I was selected by my new employer (some publicity there!). However we spent less than 3 days in London. What were we thinking?

The idea of a London Scotland holiday came up when one of our MBA friends from a decade ago was in Dubai over a weekend, and suggested that we do a sort-of-reunion. While we nodded vigorously to the idea, we ditched it the next instant thinking that not only would the pound reduce our savings considerably but also that it’d be impossible to get a bunch of people together.

We proved ourselves wrong! On the latter, of course.

Tubing our way around

Tubing our way around

With Couple 1 (C1) based in London to help us ‘navigate’ through the country, we had C2 flying in from India, C3 from a corner of Africa and of course, C4 from Dubai.  Along with 2 babies as recent additions! The interesting bit was that all 4 couples had made it together from good ol’ b-school days. The unanimous choice was to be in Scotland for most part, all duly influenced by J.K.Rowling, Game of thrones or Scotch.

After landing into Heathrow on an early morning, the 2 of us spent most of Day 1 of London in Brixton – a quiet yet colourful district about 30 minutes from Central London. (This distance also helped us experience the London ‘Tube’ – well connected and an amusing space to watch people of all races and sorts come together). So Brixton was where we checked into a place found through Airbnb – our first experience through the website that turned out to be awesome! It was a quaint English house tucked inside a quiet street off the main road and owned by a Anglo-Russian couple. We stayed in

Our animated dutch guide!

Our animated guide!

what should have been the attic had it not been converted into a cozy little room awash with sunlight and just right for us and as a bonus, came down to a lovely breakfast spread on both mornings!

Our journey through English beverages commenced on Night 1 after loitering around the famed Leicester Square and pit-stopping somewhere near the Royal Opera House. This was at a crowded li’l pub spilling with locals waiting to beer-start their Friday night. Attempts to reunite with C3 proved futile so after downing some ales followed by a delicious Mexican dinner we retired for the night.

Big Ben in all its glory

Big Ben in all its glory

Day 2 commenced with a free tour walk courtesy Sandeman with a spunky dutch guide who took us through touristy parts of London giving snapshots of its history. We passed by Buckingham Palace (surprisingly unglamorous, in my opinion) and as luck would have it, were party to Changing the Guards. We briefly paused to see the backside (yeah, how exciting) of 10 Downing Street and trudged along saying hello to Big Ben, posing at the cathedral where Wills-Kat were married and terminating in front of the grand Westmister Abbey where our guide ended the walk on a dramatic note. We had the much sought-after sunny weather backing us and made most of the rest of the day in and around Trafalgar square and later in the evening at a bistro that gave a nice view of the Tower bridge.

The sentries march past

The sentries march past

The next morning the group chugged across to Scotland and after driving around the scenic country for the next few days, returned on the eve of our journey back home with just enough time to hop across to another part of the town and try a couple of exotic liquids as wisely suggested by C1, our locals.

My 2 cents:

I have nothing wise to say here. This was a glimpse of London in as little time with a lot more waiting to be explored in future. However considering the recent bond and visa restrictions imposed on Indians,  I’ll need to live on the hope that I will revisit London on a work assignment. Dear employer, are you listening? 😉

Keep calm and visit London

Categories: Travelogue, United Kingdom | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

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