Christmas Markets in Olde England
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This year for a change we decided to visit the Christmas Markets in England, as the weather can affect plans when travelling abroad. We found out that travel in England is not without problems! Our first stop on the way was Worcester. However, the initial problem was finding a spot to park the car. There was flooding everywhere, not least of all the racecourse, which was completely submerged. So "Plan B" came into operation. We went to the historic spa town of Great Malvern, where composer Sir Edward Elgar and opera singer Jenny Lind used to live. We had lunch in the Foley Arms Hotel, a Georgian coaching inn, which was restored and re-opened in 2010 by J D Wetherspoon. From there we had a magnificent view over the Worcestershire countryside. After a walk around the town we carried on our journey. Having found out that our planned route via Upton upon Severn was likely to be impassible, we took a more circuitous route to Tewkesbury, Gloucester where we were staying. Tewkesbury is situated where the River Avon meets the River Severn,and where a number of other tributaries converge. As a result the area around is frequently affected by flooding and the town the town is surrounded by floodplain giving the appearance of a mediaeval island. However, the Bell Hotel, although close to the flood plain, was warm and dry. Now run by the Old English Inns Company, the date of 1696 appears above the door, which marks a time when the building underwent conversion from a much earlier private house to a hotel. So no wonder the floors creaked in this gem of an ancient half-timbered building! We were given a warm welcome from the manager and also from the roaring log fire in the comfortable lounge bar. There are disabled parking spaces and the downstairs areas are access friendly. Being such an old building however, there is no lift to the upper floor. The en suite bedrooms all have free Wi-Fi, TV, iron, hairdryer plus tea and coffee making. The price per room includes breakfast, which had a varied menu – my favourite being smoked salmon and scrambled egg. We also had a couple of evening meals in the hotel, which were good value and a varied choice. The first evening there was live music from a jazz duo and the next evening a keyboard singer (both at a reasonable volume!) The Bell Hotel sits in the heart of historic Tewkesbury opposite the Abbey and a great location for exploring the mediaeval streets. Tewkesbury Abbey was built in 1121 and is one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Britain. It was a fine and bright day and tours were taking place up the massive crossing tower. Within the nave was a colourful Christmas craft fair. Outside is the sculpture called "Touching Souls" by Mico Kaufman – an exact replica of one in Tewksbury Massachusetts. It is cast in bronze and shows 4 children (native-Americain, European, African and Asian) sitting on the ground with the soles of their feet touching. That evening we once again visited a Wetherspoon's establishment, this time the Royal Hop Pole that has a former mediaeval banqueting hall within the structure. The building was mentioned in Charles Dickens "The Pickwick Papers". There was an excellent array of winter ales on offer for us real ale enthusiasts. The next day we travelled to the beautiful old city of Bath by train from Ashchurch station just down the road. This journey was meant to be a straight run lasting about an hour. Unfortunately, due to earlier severe weather, there had been a landslide en route. This meant we had to change trains twice and even travelled via South Wales! It was not pleasant standing for so long in the corridor outside the loo, but there was nothing else that could be done. The train staff were as helpful as possible under the circumstances. The World Heritage city of Bath was real;y festive with carol singers, shop windows dressed to perfection and delightful traditional market stalls amongst the splendid Georgian architecture. However we were, if truth be told, glad to take the weight off our feet by picking our a pleasant tearoom to rest in. We chose Bea's Vintage Tea Room in Saville Row. It was a real step back in time with dainty china teas sets , embroidered tablecloths and afternoon tea served on a tiered cake stand. Our journey back was less stressful and an added bonus was seeing the steam loco Tornado at Bath Spa station. (Britain's newest steam locomotive has been painted in blue livery, which will remain until 2014 when it will return to it's usual green colour) The next day we went by car to Gloucester, parking by the historic docks. Here one can visit the Waterways Museum (which is fully accessible), the Gloucester micro brewery, the soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum, the working dry docks and see all the narrow boats, motor cruisers , yachts and tall ships. We went around an antique centre, and then visited the Cafe Corretto – it took great willpower to resist the homemade cakes! Then we did some Christmas shopping at Gloucester Quays Outlet – a"brand" new mixed-use regeneration development. Shopped out – it was time for another pit stop at the Cafe Rene. This is a unique French-style establishment accessed through an archway in Marylone off Southgate Street opposite the Tourist Information. It is in the "Good Beer Guide" for the choice of well-kept beers and ciders, but there is also a huge range of wines and a varied food menu. My friend ordered chicken gougons, which turned out to be four coated whole chicken breasts! It sounds like we spent all our time eating and drinking, but on the way back to Tewkesbury we stopped for a meal at the Wheatstone Inn in Barnwood. The others had roast dinners, but I had grilled sea bass fillets and winter fruit crumble for pudding. Delicious! We left Gloucestershire the following day and spent the day in Shrewsbury in Shropshire. The town centre is pretty with timber-framed black & white buildings, steep narrow streets and alleyways. We took our friends on a tour around the historic centre with its amazing range of independent shops, and then took a leisurely stroll along the riverside and through the Quarry Park. We stopped on the way home for afternoon tea at the Boathouse Restaurant in an idyllic setting overlooking the Mere at Ellesmere. Located in the same building is a Visitor centre and a gift shop, All in all an interesting and successful few days in "Olde" england.
140 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.