We drove out of Milton Keynes towards Buckingham and eventually to the M40. Our journey was fairly stress-free. Fortunately the fog began to lift as we approached Stratford. We got to the park and ride carpark and it was here we discovered that it didn't seem possible to use the ticket machines. You should have been able to use your bank debit card to either pay with chip and pin or contactless but the machine wasn't working. We ended up finding we had to use the bus without paying and the driver allowed us to pay on our return journey. I have a free bus pass and it was at this point that I discovered that it had expired, meaning I couldn't use it for a free journey. I will have to go to the Council offices in Milton Keynes to get it updated. I would have thought I would have had a letter from them informing me that it was about to expire. It not only means a trip into the centre of Milton Keynes, but that I will need to get passport photographs done to go on the card.
On arrival in the centre of Stratford-Upon-Avon we decided that we required some sort of refreshment so we went to a Caffe Nero branch in Henley Street. Carol ordered hot chocolate and I had caramel latte with a good topping of whipped cream and caramel sauce and we also had chocolate brownie and pecan pastries. For once there wasn't loud music playing, which is one thing which we both find annoying in many restaurants and cafes we visit, which means you can barely hear anyone speaking and restricts conversation. A very clean and tidy branch and the staff were friendly and helpful.
Further along the street we discovered a shop which sold teddy bears. Carol has a love of these toys and has a wide collection at home. Several years ago I bought her a Steiff bear, which was sold as an offer in the Guardian newspaper. Outside this shop was a very large, more or less life size bear dressed in Tudor clothes, no doubt to look like William Shakespeare. Within this shop there were all manner of bears, in all manner of clothes, large and small, some at reasonable prices but others very expensive. We have never been in such a well-stocked shop selling teddy bears!
Having left the teddy bear shop we walked towards the river. We found where the bus would leave to return us to the park and ride carpark, just outside McDonald's. We walked on and got to the Waterside, which is where the R.S.C. (Royal Shakespeare Company) has it's theatre. We visited Stratford a few years ago and it was at the time the theatre was being redeveloped and was under scaffolding. It is now open (it has been for the past few years.) and now has a tower as part of it's structure. There is also a recently-opened permanent exhibition inside which is about Shakespeare and called 'The Play's The Thing' which we ought to visit when we next come to Stratford. All part of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 1616.
Along the Waterside were barges and boats and one which took passengers on a cruise along the River Avon and part-way along the canals. We thought it would make a pleasant and relaxing afternoon's experience, having spent several hours walking. We then saw a barge further along which sold food and bought ourselves baguettes which we took on board the boat, after we'd bought our tickets. So we spent around 45-50 cruising on the boat and went through the lock and into the main part of the river. It was from the boat that we got a view of the theatre you don't normally see and then, further along, the church where William Shakespeare was buried.
We then wandered back into the town centre and visited Marks and Spencer, buying lasagne and salad for our evening meal. We returned to the bus stop outside MacDonalds and waited for the bus which would take us back to the carpark and our car and drive home back to Milton Keynes.