We all need a break from our routines once in a while. In my opinion, none more so than my sister, whose world was turned upside down by the death of her husband earlier this year.
I invited her away for a short break, so that we could spend time together. This was not necessarily for deep discussion, but more to provide a distraction, light relief and to remind us that there is a world out there to be explored.
A couple of interesting offers landed in my inbox, as these things often do when you most need them – and they were both in the same region – Warwickshire, Shakespeare’s England.
Warwickshire is full of stately homes, picturesque villages and historic castles. For me, the perfect day trip includes a little culture or history, good food, a pampering session and a spot of shopping.
I discussed a few ideas with Emma and created a full itinerary, which was not only distracting, but also fun, interesting, fulfilling and indulgent.
Here are a few of my favourite things, all rolled into one busy, but fabulous day in Shakespeare’s England.
Right in the heart of Stratford upon Avon, next to the pretty canal, is the world famous Royal Shakespeare Company.
First stop was the theatre cafe for a much needed dose of caffeine after our long drive from London. Want a biscuit in the shape of Shakespeare’s face? No problem, they’ve got it covered.
Jam packed with incredible costumes, props from 100 years of theatre and historical facts about Shakespeare, The Play’s The Thing is a permanent exhibition, whic had our attention for over an hour. Not bad for one room.
Alongside stunning stained glass windows and the book of plays that Shakespeare’s friends published seven years after his death, are interactive games and virtual reality experiences.
Join a virtual thespian in the Hamlet booth and try your hand at acting; or try on a variety of theatrical costumes on the interactive screen. There are props, hats and glasses to don, but sadly someone had nicked the moustaches.
We had the whole room to ourselves as the guide was kind enough to let us know when the exhibition was empty of school children. Who knew Shakespeare could be such a giggle.
Tickets are £8.50 adult, £4.25 child.
Enjoy a hearty lunch
There are loads of independent restaurants and tea rooms in Stratford upon Avon. You won’t struggle to find pizza, pasta or any other wheat-based foods. But we wanted somewhere we could eat a big, hearty salad, rather than energy-depleting stodge. Wildwood was a restaurant we just stumbled upon. It is part of a chain, but without any gimmicks. Just lovely, fresh food.
For £45 you can enjoy a half day at the Wroxall Abbey Hotel spa, inside a grand country mansion. We had a swim in the pool and spent a good half hour going all wrinkly in the Jacuzzi. The half day deal includes one treatment from a small selection. We both opted for a back massage with essential oils in the spa’s serene treatment room. So relaxing.
OK, so this is a slight detour from Warwickshire, but it still features on Shakespeare’s England’s website, plus it was on our way home to London. And no mini-break is complete without a bit of retail therapy.
I’m a proud shopaholic, but usually hopeless at finding a bargain. I’m too impatient to trawl through the sales. In Bicester Village, everything is on sale. Admittedly much of the stock is end of season or in dodgy, unwanted colours, but there is a bargain to be had in every outlet. All the major designers are there as well as the higher-end high street shops. The parking is free and plentiful. But you will need sharp elbows to get through the crowds.
Emma and I talked without a break. There were a few tears and lots of laughter. For 24 hours Emma didn’t define herself as a widow. We were just two sisters, enjoying each other’s company and experiencing a beautiful, historic corner of England.
Much love, Vx
[Disclosure: My thanks to the RSC for two tickets to the exhibition, and to Wroxall Abbey Hotel Spa for our complimentary treatments.]