Sunday, 11 November 2012

Didn’t we have a luver-ly time the day we visited...Stratford-upon-Avon


Last Friday I waved good-bye to a very disgruntled pooch and set off, with Mr V, to the birth place of William Shakespeare.  Appropriately, our hotel was called The Mercure Stratford-upon-Avon Shakespeare.  I had Googled the place beforehand and was in awe of this historical building with its Tudor facade, stone floors and open fires.  Which is why, when we pulled up outside a small yellow building, I knew without a shred of doubt that Mr V had driven to the wrong place.  ‘But I thought it was called The Shakespeare Hotel,’ he said.  Clearly there are a few hotels in Stratford-upon-Avon that adopt the Bard’s name somewhere within theirs.  So after a bit of sat-nav tweaking and a drive through countryside with thatched cottages straight off the lid of a posh chocolate box, we arrived at our proper destination.

Now the thing about old places – and let’s face it, this was ancient – is that the minute you walked inside there was a shift in ‘atmosphere.’  Beamed ceilings dared you to bang your head.  Walls were lined with everybody who was anybody back in the sixteenth century.  Pious faces sporting pointed goatees or heavily coiled braids stared down at you.  Most of the faces looked aggrieved.  There were lots of ruffles and tight corsets.  No wonder the occupants of the heavy frames looked so utterly pained.

Our room was up two flights of creaking stairs, the second of which was narrow and winding.  Mr V stooped upon entering our room. He flung the suitcases down and immediately reached for the contraption where sixteenth century collides with twentieth-first.  The television.  More particularly, football.

Later, Mr V went to meet our friends in the bar.  ‘I’ll have a quick shower,’ I said, ‘and will join you very soon.’  The moment I was on my own – television now silent – I became aware of the building’s sounds.  Creaks, groans and tapping abounded.  I ignored it all and went to the bathroom.  Twiddling the shower taps, I stepped into the shower.  No water.  I twiddled the taps the other way.  Still no water.  In the end I pressed down the pop-up plug and tried the bath taps.  Hurrah – water.  I’d barely lowered myself into the foaming depths when the room’s smoke alarm went off.  Wrapping a towel around me I fled, dripping, onto the landing.  The smoke alarm stopped.  I ventured back into the room.  I’d got as far as lathering myself up when the smoke alarm went off again.  Exit one towelled female who this time gave an elderly couple a bit of a turn.  I was barely submerged in the water for a third time, when the smoke alarm went off yet again.  I ignored it.  It was only when my ears were literally ringing that the ruddy thing stopped.

Five minutes later, I was just pulling on a sweater when there was the sound of gushing water from the bathroom. Wisps of steam curled from under the door and into the bedroom.  I yanked the bathroom door open.  The shower was in full flow.  Reaching in I turned off the taps.  I’d barely exited the bathroom when the water started again.  And this time there was a little outbreak of goosebumps on the back of my neck.  Where was Derek Acorah when you needed him eh?  For the second time I switched off the taps.  ‘Okay,’ I quavered to thin air, ‘I’m going downstairs now.’

That night, I slept badly.  Whether this was because of strange noises that prevailed, or a little matter of the room’s sloping floor impacting on the bed, I’m not sure.  All I know is that I went to sleep with one hand hugging my pillow and the other grimly hanging on to the wooden side lest I shot out the bottom in the night.

Haunted hotels aside, it was a blissful weekend and I thoroughly recommend a visit to this historical town.  Mr V and I enjoyed an open topped bus ride which departed from the Pen and Parchment Inn and rumbled past Shakespeare’s birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s cottage, Mary Arden’s house, New Place, Nash’s House and Hall’s Croft, The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the Holy Trinity Church and the old 15th Century Grammar School where Shakespeare was educated.

And did you know it was actually William Shakespeare who invented the knock-knock joke? Yes, really.  Which reminds me.

Knock-knock.               
Who’s there?
Iago
Iago who?
Iago to the store.  Do you needa anything?

1 comment:

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