Tag Archives: Stratford-on-Avon

Q and A Part 2

So here are some more questions about me and my work as a guide…

What do you do when you’re not guiding?

Alongside my guiding, I work as a freelance German-English translator.  I am fluent in German – which I am also fully qualified to guide in – and the combination works well as I can do as many tours as possible and take translation work for other times.  When I’m not working I love to read, either novels or books on history and travel.  I also spend a lot of time listening to music – varied styles but rock music is my favourite – and attempting to play the guitar.  I am a keen sports fan, especially ice hockey, which I have been watching since the age of 7, cricket and football.  I try to keep fit by running, swimming and walking.  As you might expect, travel is a big passion and I am always finding new places to explore, in this country and others.

What is your favourite castle?

To be honest, I think that most castles are fantastic places to visit, as they have links to some of the great people and events in history.  Many are also very impressive buildings in scenic locations too. If I had to pick one, however, it would be Kenilworth Castle.  Mainly in ruins, it has enough of its buildings left to retain some of the atmosphere of its glorious past, while its countryside setting and sandstone construction make it extremely picturesque, especially when the sun shines on its walls and makes them glow.  I prefer exploring ruined castles with my imagination and a good guide to visiting better preserved or reconstructed ones with costumed staff and the like, as I think this helps to bring the place to life much more effectively.

And what about stately homes or country houses?

Again, they are fascinating places, as each has its own stories.  While I am keen on what I would call “big history” – kings and queens, great events and so on – my real love is social history, and I am intrigued to discover as much as I can about the people who lived and worked in places, what they might have been like and how they lived.  The best houses manage to convey this effectively through their choice of how they present themselves.  Generally, I tend to prefer smaller ones to the huge palaces, but I have to make one exception here as my absolute favourite is Burghley House near Stamford in Lincolnshire.  Everything about it is impressive, from the architecture to the gardens to the absolutely stunning paintings and wall decorations to the presentation of the house and the family who created it.  Every time I go there, I am amazed all over again and I highly recommend a visit if you haven’t had the chance yet.

Where do you most like to unwind with a well-earned drink after a tour?

My drink of choice is real ale, and I’m fortunate that I get to sample the delights of local pubs and brews throughout England.  It is hard to mention just one favourite but if I had to choose it would be the Red Lion, in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.  It is a small local pub with a long tradition, and serves superb food and a great choice of regional ales.  Our Birmingham Graveyard Ghost Walks finish there too, so I do literally get to unwind and refresh my vocal chords after tours there on quite a regular basis!

The Food of Love

As a tourist guide, it is always important to have a selection of good places to eat and drink that I can recommend to groups when they have free meal times in a town or city.  Stratford actually has a mind-boggling selection of options, but if I am asked this is one that I always recommend, and where I often eat too if I have a lunchtime in the town myself.

Yes, it is a tourist restaurant.  So the menu is not especially imaginative and they are geared up to cater for large numbers of visitors pretty quickly.  But like any other kind of establishments, there are good and not so good tourist restaurants, and Food of Love is definitely one of the good ones.  The menu has a wide selection of choices – sandwiches, baked potatoes, omelettes, salads, pasta dishes, cakes and desserts – and prices are reasonable considering the location.  Quality of food and drinks is consistently very good, OK so they will not be gaining any Michelin stars but that is not their business, and they manage to serve large numbers of guests quickly without compromising on portions or taste.  They have seating inside and tables outside on the pedestrianised Henley Street and although they are generally busy, especially in summer, you can normally find a space.  Having said they are busy, they do not try and rush you like many tourist restaurants do and I actually find it quite a relaxing lunch venue.  The staff are excellent – helpful, friendly and efficient – despite working flat out most of the time.

And let’s just talk about the name for a moment. In Stratford, there are obviously hundreds of places with Shakespeare-inspired names.  Many make be cringe, this one doesn’t.  And it is certainly fitting to be named after a Shakespeare line, bearing in mind the location right opposite Shakespeare’s Birthplace.

All in all, a great choice in Stratford if you are looking for somewhere serving good quality, simple lunches and snacks in a convenient location and in a time frame that will leave you lots of time for sightseeing and shopping during your visit to the town.

If you and friends or colleagues want to discover Stratford in the company of an expert Blue Badge guide, why not book a private tour.  Coach transport can be arranged on request, or travel by train from Birmingham.

Box Brownie

As anyone who knows me will already be aware, I love coffee and I also love to support independent businesses wherever I can.  So an independent coffee shop pushes all the right buttons.  While we have a thriving independent scene in Birmingham, it’s not always so easy when I’m working elsewhere.  As the most important tourist destination in our region, Stratford is somewhere I inevitably spend quite a bit of time.  In the past, I had to settle for either a chain coffee shop or a tea room to satisfy my pre and post-tour caffeine urges.  But that has changed now, with my discovery of Box Brownie on Henley Street, a great independent.  Box Brownie ticks all the boxes.  Excellent coffee with no gimmicks, delicious (and generously portioned) cakes, muffins and biscuits, as well as a tasty range of savoury snacks, sourced from named local suppliers wherever possible.  Service is always friendly and efficient, and there is plenty of seating inside, along with several tables outside for those (all too rare) sunny days.  Add in the wonderful location – on the main pedestrianised street, just a few steps from Shakespeare’s Birthplace – and Box Brownie makes the perfect place for a guide like me to grab a proper coffee before meeting a group, or to chill and watch the world go by when I get some free time in the town.  So next time you’re in Stratford, keep walking past the chains and support a quality independent business.

If you and friends or colleagues want to discover Stratford in the company of an expert Blue Badge guide, why not book a private tour?  Coach transport can be arranged on request, or travel by train from Birmingham.  Visit  our website for more details.

Related posts: Birmingham’s Independent Coffee Shops

The Corner Shop

When we started up this blog, I never imagined I would write a blog post about a shop! However, The Corner Shop, on the corner of Sheep Street and Waterside, in Stratford-on-Avon definitely warrants one. The staff are friendly and welcoming, and go out of their way to be helpful.

It sells a variety of cold drinks and confectionary as well as a small selection of souvenirs. It is also the only place we have found in Stratford that sells foreign language newspapers.