There is something special about the swans at Stratford. The way they float so majestically down the Avon River, gliding along like white sailboats, is positively enchanting. Against the backdrop of this quaint historic town, they add a romantic touch that gives Stratford a movie-set feel and makes any visit more memorable.
My family makes an annual trip to Stratford in early summer and we always begin our day with a picnic by the river. Sometimes we pack our own picnic but you can also order a picnic pick-up through The Festival Theatre Café. This year we chose the lazy route and did a pick up at a nearby Tim’s window. It clearly made no difference to the swans, who visited our picnic table nonetheless.
Stratford is less than an hour and a half drive from Burlington so it makes for an easy day trip or weekend getaway. After our picnic lunch, we always head downtown to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory on Downie Street for a delicious gelato ice cream cone.
This year we went to see Alice in the Looking Glass at the Avon Theatre, and it was visually stunning with spectacular sets and costumes. One minute cast members were flying by on roller skates and the next confetti was raining down on the audience. With actress Cynthia Dale playing the role of the Red Queen, it was hard to go wrong.
After the play, we strolled through the adjoining gift shop, which is filled with “Alice” paraphernalia, from T-shirts to playing cards, as well as swan teapots and beautiful jewelry. We then wandered across the street to the Harry Ten Shilling teahouse for a delightful après-show picker-upper of tea and scones.
If you’re a tea lover, as I am, Distinctly Tea is another shop you must visit. It’s located a few blocks from the theatre on York Street and is filled with every type of tea imaginable, from green teas to oolong, herbal and more. Tea connoisseurs will love it as they have the most extensive and freshest selection in North America.
If you want to include a delicious meal on your visit, it’s hard to beat The Church Restaurant on Brunswick Street. Housed inside an old church with stained glass windows, they serve delicious French cuisine, including such delights as flax crusted salmon, grilled shrimp and scallop brochette. Their desserts are to die for, like lemon cream flan and hazelnut cappuccino torte.
If you’re making an early morning visit or staying the night, Let Them Eat Cake on Albert Street is a pleasing spot for a hearty breakfast with Mennonite back bacon and fluffy scrambled eggs.
For younger visitors, since Stratford is the home of Justin Bieber, who began his career singing on the steps of the Avon Theatre, the tourism office came up with a “Bieber-iffic” map that shows where the superstar went to school, where he had his first date and where he played soccer. The map can be downloaded through the website or you can pick up a map at the Stratford Tourism office.
Stratford is an easy town to navigate but if you get lost or want to know where to find something, the tourism office is right down the street from the Avon Theatre. It’s also where you can find out about the many tours, such as heritage bicycle tours, as well as the long list of bed and breakfasts.
Whatever your visit includes, don’t forget to visit the swans.
By: Denise Davy
Let Them Eat Cake Restaurant & Dessert Cafe