The long weekend started with another telephone call from a carer about Dad managing to fall out of bed despite having a bar fitted by Phillip last night (who I envy being so good at practical things). I went to Milton Tesco after seeing Mum's grave on the anniversary of her death four years ago, and got some supplies for Dad and us on our holiday. A little bit of a rush to get Tabitha and Amelia to the Cattery so Phyllis can look after them til Monday (we forgot the tablets for Tabitha!) and then off on our weekend break. And right into a traffic tailback from a fire on the A14 . . .
We stopped at Cambridge Services (which is still being built) for a visit to KFC (I ordered more than I needed) and then rejoined the A14 traffic jam - when that eventually melted away we had an easy drive to Stratford with the Satnav reliably leading to the Macdonald Hotels Stratford Swan's Nest Hotel there. Which happily had parking (I like to worry about things). The hotel was very well situated, we could walk everywhere we needed to go! It was good enough but I wouldn't give it four stars. The hotel had wifi - to make this work one had to register / login each time.
We ate at the French bistro restaurant in the hotel, I had French onion soup then chicken which were richly cooked perhaps too richly cooked for me. The chef was rather too fond of salt.
We kicked off Saturday with breakfast in the hotel - cereals and croissants not worth the price of the buffet at £9.50 really. We walked into Stratford and did some shopping at Marks and Spencers then visited the Stratford Butterfly Farm. Plenty of butterflies! Hot and humid making my glasses and camera lens steam up. Mayan decor, not too badly done. There were insects and snakes and also a colony of leaf cutter ants commuting over ropes - the previous colony died out after chewing their way through power cables and the queen getting electrocuted. Well patronised by those ignoring the signs about touching the butterflies.
When we emerged it was raining, but only light rain and we were within a stones throw of the hotel. We had sandwiches at the charming Fourteas - a forties themed tea room where the waitresses were suitable accoutred, the tea came with egg timers, and the menus were 1940s ration books. Another hit was the Stratford MAD museum, an unmissable collection of kinetic sculptures - vibrant and eye catching. Made me miss the ball bearing clock I had once - and remember a visit to see work by the artist Jean Tinguely.
Hotel laid on a fire alarm for us, then we went for an evening cruise on the Countess of Evesham down and up the River Avon. They steered the long boat with skill through the three locks, where we were lowered or raised at the speed of bath water emptying. Saw a swan carrying two chicks on its back, on the return the insects in the boat lights swirled like krill in the ocean, wan ghosts of plastic bags were caught in the trees. A four course meal, reasonable charm. Back late though after 11pm and Virginia's lens dropped out again!
The return journey was rather stressful. After going to the service at Stratford Baptist Church we found one of the tyres on Virginia's car had been deflated. So pumped it up, and followed the Satnav up to Coventry to find the route we should take closed off. We retreated to a Starbucks back the way we came, and then hesitantly tried the A429 then A445 north to skirt the Circean city of Coventry. Washed out when we got home, not only by the rain which fell.