All the Hotel Is A Stage: The Townhouse, Stratford-upon-Avon

churchstreet__OH_003 [TIF 18942190804]In an archived statement from Shakespeare and Company, the scribe states: ‘Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.’ And so we’re greeted as angels at The Townhouse in Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon.

It ticks all the right notes from the off: it’s accessible by both train and car (with easy and discounted parking); the lighting is not electrifyingly bright; and the receptionist is friendly.

Located in the town centre, it’s a two minutes’ walk from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, five minutes’ walk to Shakespeare’s birthplace on Henley Street and five minutes in the other direction to the Holy Trinity Church. Shakespeare’s school, which is still open to young students today, rests beneath the hotel’s typically white façade.

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My partner and I recently stay over in one of twelve bedrooms, each offering super king sized beds, en-suite bathrooms, Nespresso machines, and complementary WiFi.

We’re not newbies to Stratford-upon-Avon – we’ve both visited as children with our schools. We know where to go and head to Shakespeare’s birthplace on nearby Henley Street maintained by the Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust (shakespeare.org.uk).

Here, on a beautiful spring afternoon we watch short outtakes from Hamlet played out by local actors (a man and a woman) in Shakespeare’s verdant garden. It’s camp. And fun, and witty too.

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That evening we take dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. We’re told that all food is freshly prepared in the kitchen and the chefs work closely with local suppliers to source the best produce where possible.

Lunch is also available 12pm – 3pm in the restaurant, and dinner starts early for the pre-theatre crowd. There’s a pre-theatre set menu every day 12pm – 3pm & 5pm – 7pm with 2 courses for £12.50 and 3 courses for £14.50, too.

We take dinner at 8pm. I go with the Cotswold Mozzarella with Honey, Balsamic Figs & Prosciutto (£7) and the Cotswold Lamb Rump, Cream & Garlic Cannellini Beans, Red Wine & Anchovy Crumb (£17.50). The Cannellini beans are a highlight. My partner’s Todenham 10oz steak (£28) is very succulent, too.

There’s a great terrace out the back for a cigarette afterwards and a thin slice of coutyard with enough room for several tables and chairs.

Bed beckons, and we both sleep well.

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The following morning I am smoking in the terrace and see the fresh produce waiting outside for the kitchen.

After we have breakfast at 8am – my partner has homemade bread with butter and I take a full-English.

From arrival to departure, The Townhouse is delightful in that it brings to life some of the wit, charm and romance of Shakespeare. The view from the third floor where we stayed overlooks other Tudor cottages in their white with black striped get-ups. It’s hard not to feel some of the magic of a great writer of times gone by here.

The Townhouse is located at 16 Church Street, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 6HB. For more information or to book visit www.stratfordtownhouse.co.uk

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A Culinary Tale in a Cute C17th Blewbury Inn

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Unlike the Thomas Hardy novel, Wessex Tales, The Red Lion Bar & Kitchen located in the novel’s title is far from a tale of unrequited love. The home-made bread served at breakfast is in direct opposite to Hardy’s style – instead it’s full-filling, nurturing and satisfying.

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Dating from 1612, The Red Lion Pub & Kitchen is a characterful and charming 17th century Inn with 3 rooms, hidden away in a quiet corner of the ancient village of Blewbury which lies at the foot of the Berkshire Downs in south Oxfordshire, also known as Wessex.

Chef and proprietor Phil Wild and wife, Arden, took over this dining pub a little over a year ago and re-opened in March 2016.

The menu for me is the clincher for a visit and this, without a doubt is a well-hidden food destination – a deserved hit among locals, yet to be discovered by tourists.

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“We didn’t want it to be over the top, but we have items on the menu that are quirky,” says Phil.

Take the Frog’s Legs as a case in point. A first for me, and astoundingly good. The starter is awash with a succulent and tasty garlic sauce and caper-combo served with the most delicate of green salad leaves.

My partner and guest for this trip went with the waiter’s recommendation of octopus and wasn’t disappointed either. Perhaps it’s something to do with the freshness as fish deliveries come to the Inn at 1am the previous morning, I’m told.

Service, like the food is impeccable.

The two staff (in smart uniforms) have been here for over a year and live on site. They’re professional and attentive without the over the top-ness that’s also avoided in the menus.

With original features, The Red Lion Pub & Kitchen has been decorated using vintage, country antiques and quirky finds with just 3 beds completing the Inn for an intimate touch.

It’s understated here, warm and cosy.

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But you really should come here for the food and service, with the rooms being a comfortable place to rest your head (my partner and I slept very well here) and sundry to the dining experience.

Phil’s locally sourced, seasonally-changing menu is modern and unique. It features British dishes with French influences. There’s also a cosy, oak-beamed bar with additional dining space, a working Inglenook fireplace and flagstone floors. Outside, an orchard garden for summer dining and drink with views over neighbouring fields to complete your eating experience.

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The village of Blewbury is also well-known for its literary and artistic connections. Kenneth Grahame who penned Wind In The Willows was a regular at The Red Lion Pub & Kitchen. Barbara Euphan Todd writer of Worzel Gummidge, and the ex-jockey and thriller writer, Dick Francis also lived here, while Agatha Christie lived in the nearby village of Cholsey.

The bookishness is reflected in the snug while we take a night cap for the evening by the ample fire – there’s a full book shelve to peruse.

We take a spring stroll around the village before leaving. Daffodils jostle against a backdrop of thatched cottages and a church keeps compass for our freestyle trek as it’s centred in the village.

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With top-notch food and cosy rooms in a little known literary spot like Blewbury, The Red Lion Bar & Kitchen is well-worth a visit and with room prices starting at £95 it provides value for money too.

Accommodation was provided by The Red Lion Bar & Kitchen, Chapel Lane, Blewbury, Didcot. For more information visit theredlionpubandkitchen.co.uk or to book call 01235 850403 or email eat@theredlionpubandkitchen.co.uk

14 of the best mindfulness retreats published in Metro

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You don’t have to travel to India if you want a spiritual epiphany anymore.

There are mindfulness retreats all around the UK (as well as the more typical far flung destinations), so whether you’re looking for a day of mindfulness or a whole holiday of it, there’s something for you.

So bend into your best yogic position and get ready for a piece of peace with a handful of the best mindful retreats.

1. Kagyu Samye Dzong, London

 

Provides inner harmony and tranquility with meditation, Buddhism, and holistic therapies through classes, workshops and retreats.

2. Karuna Bhavan, Lesmahgow

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Karuna Bhavan is an eco-farm run by the Hare Krishna community in Scotland.

As well as bhakti yoga, it’s a holistic spiritual centre to help re-establish the sacredness of life via Hindu meditation, singing and dancing.

3. Gaia House Buddhist Meditation, Newton Abbott

A silent Buddhist Meditation Retreat Centre that offers retreats all year.

Come here for a sanctuary of contemplative calm set in the remote and quiet woodlands of South Devon.

4. Una, St Ives

 

Visit Una for one of the made for life by Spiezia Organics rituals, named Mindful Moments. These include a guided meditation to give you the ultimate in relaxation.

5. Shreyas Silent Retreat, India

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Take a break from the stresses of modern day living and embrace the art of mindfulness at Shreyas Silent Retreat in India.

Experience a range of meditation and yoga classes, from Pranayama to trataka (candle meditation) and private yoga nidra sessions.

6. Longevity Mindfulness, Portugal

Spirit yourself away to a secluded beach in Portugal at Longevity Medical Spa with mindfulness sessions from resident teacher, Shantidevi.

7. Champneys, Hertfordshire 

 

‘Unplug Meditation’ is a guided meditation/ mindfulness studio that offers 30 and 45 minute drop-in classes.

The face behind Unplug is former Vogue editor Suze Yalof Schwartz, whose ambition was to create a SoulCycle for meditation.

8. Will Williams Retreats, Sussex

 

This 4 day retreat focuses on a rounding experience, constituting three main parts – asana (yoga), pranayama (breathing) and meditation.

9. VIVAMAYR Altaussee, Austria

Set amid the Austrian Alps and nestled by Lake Altaussee, VIVAMAYR Altaussee combines one of the most advanced medical centres in the world with a modern and luxurious spa to provide a retreat for those looking for rest, relaxation and health through mindfulness.

10. Sol Beach House Hotel, Ibiza

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The hotel is a far cry from the usual party scene – going so far as to actually offer wellbeing and yoga retreats.

And if the relaxation gets a little boring, there’s always the in-house 60s ‘flower power’ island bus to whisk you to the nearest bar!

11. Platinum Healing retreats, Sussex & Lincolnshire

Visit for one of several signature Juice Detox Retreats.

You will also enjoy many types of mindfulness including private meditation, Pranayama (Yogic Breathing) and use of the Jacuzzi for good measure.

12. Plum Village, near Bordeaux in France

The largest international practice centre in the Plum Village tradition, and the first monastic community founded by fabled Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) in the West.

13. Mind Space, Cannock Chase

 

The Hermitage in Cannock Chase provides you with a peaceful space where you can explore the mind.

All retreats are suitable for beginners and are run by experienced meditator Adam Dacey.

14. Sally Stubbs, The Lake District

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This therapist’s mindful technique is called Authentic & Permanent RAPHA Therapy Cure which is as relaxing as the countryside she works from.

If you can’t afford a full retreat, why not visit her website for a DVD or audio retreat in your own home?

14 reasons you need to visit the Lake District… now!

 

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The floating clouds and canary yellow daffodils of the Lake District inspired William Wordsworth and any number of poets in the day.

Cumbria continues to please and attract, bringing in scores of tourists from as far as Japan.

Inhale the fresh air, walk beneath the emerald hairpin hills, or take it all in from a high by flying in a plane.

There are so many reasons to visit the Lake District, here are just fourteen…

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  1. Wordsworth’s old haunt, Grasmere

Visit Dove Cottage, home to William Wordsworth during the most productive period of his life. It’s the only place in the world where you’ll glimpse his original belongings! https://wordsworth.org.uk/visit/dove-cottage.html

  1. Theatre on the Lake, Keswick

 

Visit one of two intimate stages and watch the drama of the Lakes unfold.

 

  1. Kendal Mint Cake

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These saccharine sweets pack a punch – except freshness like that of a wind machine and breathe fresher that the country air!

 

  1. Grasmere Gingerbread Shop 

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If the mint cake doesn’t give you the sugar kick you need try Sarah Nelson’s ginger bread made in Grasmere! It’s spicy and sweet with biscuit meets cake texture, and is said to be some of the best gingerbread in the world. https://www.grasmeregingerbread.co.uk/

  1. Windermere Lake Cruises

Cruise between 45 minutes to 3 hours on the largest lake in the UK, in one of Cumbria’s most popular attractions.

  1. Ulverston Lantern Festival

Trains, ships, flights of aeroplanes, dragons, puppets, flowers, faeries and hobgoblins can all be seen lighting up the Lakes this September 17th. See 600 candle-lit lanterns made from willow and paper from 7.30pm.

 

  1. Sir John Barrow Monument, Ulverston

Be in awe of the 100 feet tall replica Eddystone lighthouse built in memory of Sir John Barrow one of the Lakes District’s most famous sons. Climb to the tower to learn his story and for stunning views of Morecambe Bay.

  1. Castle Green Hotel

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Easy to access and the perfect spot for exploring, stay at this comfortable expanded Victoria mansion and Cumbria Tourism’s ‘Large Hotel of the Year’.

  1. The Lakes Distillery

Both England’s newest and largest whisky distillery has welcomed over 90K visitors since it opened to the public 2014 and is conveniently located 150m from the eye-wateringly beautiful Bassenthwaite Lake.

  1. Beatrix Potter’s House
In the garden of Beatrix Potter's Hill Top cottage, a familiar sight...
In the garden of Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top cottage, a familiar sight…

Enjoy a tale or two or a tall story? Beatrix Potter’s 17th Century farmhouse in Hill Top is for you. It’s filled with all her favourite things, with each room containing a reference to a picture.

  1. The Daffodil Hotel & Spa, Grasmere

 

Stay here for special reopening rates of £99 per room including breakfast throughout August.

 

  1. The Punch Bowl Inn & Restaurant at Crosthwaite

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Tucked away in a picturesque village between Kendal and Windermere, this 5-star 2AA rosette pub was voted Cumbria’s Best Dining Pub for the last two consecutive years by the Good Pub Guide. In a former life, the inn was an old Blacksmiths shop, too.

 

  1. The Ullswater Way

A 20-mile route circular route around Ullswater Way opened this spring. It’s a scenic walk that can be completed in a day or broken up over a few days.

 

  1. Lake District Gyroplanes

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If you haven’t found enough uplifting reasons to visit the Lake District, here’s a final pitch – fly in a plane from £125 and take it all in from a bird’s eye view.

Where to Holiday like the Fit and Famous

With the celebrity cult well and truly on the wellness wagon, scenic social media snaps of hikes in Ibiza and treetop yoga in St Lucia are evoking worldwide workout wanderlust. Letting you in on the celebrity secret, Health and Fitness Travel, the leading specialists in wellness holidays worldwide, share where to holiday like the fit and famous. From a Thailand wellness retreat frequented by the Beckhams, to a health sanctuary in Spain graced by the likes of Kylie Minogue and Demi Moore, add a touch of star quality to your healthy escape.

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Spain: SHA Wellness Clinic

Spa like the stars at Spain’s pioneering SHA Wellness Clinic, a celebrity wellness hotspot boasting scenic ocean views and sweeping mountain vistas. Frequented by Hollywood stars and music moguls, SHA prides itself on offering distinctively tailored wellness programmes, with healthy breaks to help combat insomnia, stress, weight loss, smoking and more. The world’s first macrobiotic wellness resort, combine a tailor-made macrobiotic nutritional plan with rejuvenating spa therapies and complimentary classes, from yoga to Tai Chi.

Famous Fans: Demi Moore, Kylie Minogue, Simon Cowell, Naomi Campbell, Madonna and Yoko Ono.

Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at SHA from £2,330pp or £2,775 for single occupancy. Price includes full board, a choice of programmes, return flights and transfers.

hibiscus-1393855St Lucia: The BodyHoliday

Nestled in a peaceful cove on the stunning Caribbean island of St. Lucia, The BodyHoliday, has offered a wellness sanctuary to many celebs in search of a haven to refocus their minds and re-energize their bodies. Inviting guests to be as active or relaxed as they need, a dynamic offering of spa treatments, sports, fitness and wellness activities ensure you’ll soon glow like the stars. Explore your tropical surroundings on a scenic bike ride or ocean kayaking adventure, before making the most of a wide array of group classes, including yoga and spinning in the treetop studio.

Famous Fans: Morgan Freeman, Charlotte Church and Emma Bunton.

Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at The BodyHoliday from £2,140pp for single or double occupancy. Price is all-inclusive, with a choice of programmes, return flights and transfers.

 India: Ananda in the Himalayas

Rejuvenate your senses at this celebrity hotspot, a secluded wellness retreat set at the foot of India’s serene Himalayas. With a holistic wellness approach designed to unite mind, body and soul, revive your well-being with Ananda’s array of experiences, from ancient Indian Ayurvedic spa therapies, to meditation and healthy cooking demonstrations. Mere miles away from Rishikesh, the birthplace of yoga, yogi enthusiasts can enhance their practice before immersing themselves in the Himalayan foothills during guided mountains treks, a must-do for everyone, celebrity and civilian alike.

Famous Fans: Uma Thurman, Heidi Klum and Ricky Martin.

Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at Ananda in the Himalayas from £3,440pp or £4,340 for single occupancy. Price includes full board, a choice of wellness programmes, return flights and transfers.

Ibiza: The Body Camp

A newcomer, already a growing favourite of the fit and famous; experience a full mind, body and soul transformation on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza with The Body Camp. The go-to celebrity hotspot for London’s heiress stars; satisfy your workout wanderlust as you shape up in the great outdoors with a variety of fun fitness activities, from beach circuit training to sea swimming and yoga. Take part in educational cookery classes and mindful coaching workshops, before unwinding after an active day with a revitalising dip in the mineral-rich salt water pool.

Famous Fans: Millie Mackintosh, Caggie Dunlop and Madeleine Shaw.

Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at The Body Camp from £1,890pp or £3,030 for single occupancy. Price includes full board, a wellness programme, return flights and transfers.

Thailand: Chiva Som

Get the VIP treatment when you escape to the Hua Hin coast of Thailand at world-renowned health and fitness retreat, Chiva Som. Dedicated to a holistic approach to wellness promoting overall well-being, celebs from football stars, to supermodels and Hollywood royalty have sought sanctuary at this award-winning retreat. With tailor-made wellness programmes, from stress relief and yoga to detox and fitness, expert health and fitness advisers utilise the best in specialist exercises, spa therapies and nutrition to help you achieve overall well-being.

Famous Fans: David and Victoria Beckham, Elizabeth Hurley, Hugh Grant, Elle Macpherson and Kate Moss.

Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at Chiva Som from £3,395pp or £4,535 for single occupancy. Price includes full board, a choice of programmes, return flights and transfers.

Turks & Caicos: Parrot Cay Yoga & Pilates

Holiday like one of the A-list and discover paradise on the private island of Parrot Cay, where many stars have chosen to build their own holiday homes. Guaranteed to leave you feeling like a million bucks, feel the soft sand between your toes as you practice daily yoga and Pilates looking out onto the Atlantic Ocean. Further improve your yoga knowledge as you open your mind and calm your senses through Vedic yogic philosophy group discussions, before raising the pace with mountain biking and windsurfing or unwinding in luxury at the world-renowned COMO spa.

Famous Fans: Donna Karan, Bruce Willis, and Keith Richards.

Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at Parrot Cay from £2,485pp or £3,885 for single occupancy. Price includes breakfast, a yoga & Pilates programme, return flights and transfers.

 Thailand: Kamalaya

Set overlooking the stunning southern coast of Thailand’s Koh Samui island, Buddhist monks once used the cave at the centre of Kamalaya as a place of meditation and spiritual retreat. Now a wellness sanctuary for civilians and celebrities alike seeking long-term health transformations, tailor-made wellness programmes include; sleep enhancement, ideal weight, yoga, optimal fitness and learning how to embrace change. With a holistic approach to wellness, unwind with stress relieving spa therapies inspired by ancient healing traditions and classes, from yoga to Tai Chi. 

 Famous Fans: Sarah Ferguson, Annie Lennox and Oliver Stone.

Health and Fitness Travel (0203 397 8891 healthandfitnesstravel.com) offers 7 nights at Kamalaya from £2,502pp or £2,915 for single occupancy. Price includes full board, with a choice of programmes, return flights and transfers.

 For advice, guidance and booking visit www.healthandfitnesstravel.com or call 0203 397 8891

Art’otel Amsterdam – blending culture, food and comfort

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Part of a small chain of boutique-style hotels, art’otel Amsterdam has 107 guest rooms and an innovative mix of design, art and upscale hospitality.

The iconic and historic art’otel seamlessly fuses art and life in the very heart of cosmopolitan Amsterdam. Within the hotel, guests are exposed to a myriad of artistic experiences.

The work of Atelier Van Lieshout permeates every corner, a spectacular 12-metre art curtain displays emotive footage and the 300-square-metre 5&33 art gallery hosts a varied programme of exhibitions from emerging and established artists.

Add to that a comprehensive library featuring lectures and publications and a dynamic cultural agenda of events and workshops, and the atmosphere is one of creativity and inspiration.

A dedicated art curator is on hand to stimulate, advise and engage guests in their artistic adventure. Offering tours of the most impressive displays, the art concierge also shares Amsterdam’s cultural agenda, recommends galleries and exhibitions and, above all, conveys an infectious enthusiasm for all things cultural.

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Each of the 107 guest rooms feature an unique piece of art by signature artist by Atelier Van Lieshout, ultra-comfortable beds with a choice of pillows, mood lighting and a generous selection of Elemis guest amenities offering a sleek, modern escape during your stay in the city centre..

art room – art rooms offer at least 25 square-metres of luxury, with a work desk, lounge chair, a plug and play device, an in-room entertainment system and a 42-inch flatscreen TV

art room – iconic view – the art room – iconic view option is slightly larger, with all the facilities of an art room. The art room – iconic view provides uninterrupted views of Amsterdam’s iconic Central Station, the city attraction first encountered by most visitors.

art room xl – the art room xl option includes 43 square metres of space and offers all the facilities of an art room with an additional seating area.

art room xl – iconic view – the art room xl – iconic view option features at least 37 square-metres of luxury with all the facilities of an art room, plus uninterrupted views of Amsterdam Central Station.

masterpiece suite – Measuring at least 69 square metres, our four masterpiece suites offer the ultimate in contemporary luxury with a separate living room, extra sofa and two 42-inch flatscreen TVs.
All rooms have rain showers, bathrobes and slippers, while an illy espresso machine, a stocked mini bar, a bottle of water and the breakfast on us add to the welcome, as well as:

 5&33 – 5&33 is an exciting restaurant within art’otel amsterdam combining an all-day and late-night kitchen, bar, library, lounge and multi-functional public gallery. The innovative concept 5&33 fuses food, people, art and design to present a uniquely creative environment across two floors for art lovers and foodies alike.

For further information, please visit http://www.artotelamsterdam.com/

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