5ive Go To Stratford

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Can it be 10 years since we collaborated in the British Airways training project? Err, no! The anniversary was actually last year, but trying to get all of the core Trainers together in one place, on a specific date, was as challenging as herding cats!

So, after a few exchanges of emails, five of us from the original training group sorted a suitable date and got together for the weekend, in the rather beautiful Stratford-upon-Avon. A weekend of gossip, alcohol, eating, alcohol, guided tours, alcohol and much more!

Premier Inn - Waterways
The celebrations began as we assembled at the Premier Inn, Waterways in Stratford-upon–Avon. Unusually 🙂 I was first to arrive, in spite of being hampered by the incorrect post code given on the Premier Inn website and my slavish over-reliance on my Sat-Nav. For a brief moment, I arrived at a rather nice factory estate on the outside of the town! Luckily, I knew of ‘a’ Premier Inn in Stratford and pulled in to ask for directions – only to discover it was ‘the’ Premier Inn I was looking for! 

The rest of the gang arrived around 12.30 and after checking-in, we were ready to party!

I say ‘party’, but our vintage meant a rather more sedate series of activities beginning with a lunch in the hotel!
Suitably stuffed, we met Ian in the lobby, all set for our rather special guided tour around the town. 
The tour begins...

The Shakespeare Centre 

Looking in the direction of the market square
Times gone by...
celebratory art 
In order to minimise any of us suffering from cultural overload, Ian had thoughtfully scheduled in a pit-stop about two-thirds through the tour. Luckily, in the 10 years that have followed our initial meeting, one of our number had thoughtfully opened a tea-shop (actually a tea-shoppe) Hathaway Tea Rooms, in the middle of town – how’s that for consideration? 🙂
Time for a pit-stop 
Full of tea/coffee and various snacks, we were now ready for the final part of the tour. So, it was down in the direction of the River and a quick look round the inside of the Swan Theatre.
Inside the Swan Theatre 
Exterior view of the Swan Theatre
The view down river (or is it it 'up'?)
Where else would you see lamp posts like this?

With our rather excellent tour concluded, it was then off to the Dirty Duck, (or the Black Swan, depending on which side you approach it from!). Apart the odd naming convention, it’s also famous for the being THE actors’ pub in the town and there were plenty of photos on the walls to prove it. It was pretty busy, but we squeezed into a corner and enjoyed a round. Ian stayed for a drink and then made his apologies due to a prior engagement. We continued to chill-out for a short while and then took the shortish walk back to the hotel.

Then, after a quick refresh, we were out on the town, more specifically our evening meal at the well-known (to the locals) The Opposition restaurant. Rick was able to join us (after his 12 hour day!) and we were soon perusing the rather special menu. Together with the warm and cosy atmosphere, it wasn’t long before we were  reminiscing about the BA project and more especially, the challenges of working with the Thistle Hotel group in London all those years ago! (at the time, for some of us, it was our second home!).  The hours flew by and it had been a great evening. The evening ended with us spotting a man dressed in a full-size outfit wandering along the mostly deserted high street – strange!

We got back to the hotel around 11 – knackered – and agreeing to meet for brekky at 9 on Sunday.

Sunday began with the legendary (and obligatory!) Premier Inn full English Breakfast. Fuelled up for the day ahead, after checking-out, we decided to take an open-top tour of the town to make best use of our final morning together in Stratford. We ventured onto the (open) top deck – and that turned out to be bad decision!! – it was ffffffffreezing!
Brass monkeys this way please!
We stuck with it though all the way to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage where we quickly made our way to the Visitor Centre just to get warm! We’d all been here before but none of us could recall much of the detail, so it was worth going back. The stunning gardens in their autumnal colours looked just perfect as the backdrop to the house itself. Inside was just as impressive. It was very well preserved and a lot to see.
Still beautiful!
More beauty!
The Cottage
Inside Anne Hathaway's cottage 
Inside Anne Hathaway's cottage
And then it was back on the tour-bus and our final destination – William Shakespeare’s birth-place in the town. This was also pretty good with a short AV presentation (that sounded like Judy Dench and Patrick Stewart doing the VOs) to get us in the mood.
Inside Shakespeare's birthplace
Inside Shakespeare's birthplace
Feeling all cultured-out we headed to a little tea-shop close-by in a small courtyard of shops and reflected on the weekend. It had been great and we’ve all agreed to meet-up next year (maybe in Bath) for a similar experience. We walked back to the hotel where we said our goodbyes and headed home.

Bye-bye Stratford-upon-Avon

What a great weekend!!!!

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