Calling the Chamber of Commerce–in Stratford Upon Avon

Okay….I’m the first one to bitch when we do things badly in Indy. But let me tell you–we’re WONDERFUL compared to Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Here is my tale of …woe, or whatever.

We disembarked from our fabulous cruise ship this morning, in Tilbury, outside London, and we were bussed to Victoria Station. (The cruise was wonderful, by the way. No complaints. I hope we can do it again.) We took a taxi to Marleybone Station, and the train from there to Stratford-upon-Avon. (NOT Stratford ON Avon–if you search British rail for that, you come up empty. It’s UPON, thank you very much.) The train was great. Prompt, clean, user-friendly. Impressive bathrooms.

We got to Stratford UPON Avon at 3:30 in the afternoon. Although it is quite a bustling place, there were no taxis at the station. I asked the sole employee of the place how we might get a taxi, and she pointed (disinterestedly) to a bulletin board with taxi numbers–none of which I was able to reach. I asked the ticket agent what I was doing wrong, and she responded “I have no idea” and turned away. I assumed my inability to get through  was my lack of understanding of Iphone calling in another country, but an incredibly nice young man who turned out to be from Cincinnati  told me that he’d actually gotten through, and been told that the distance from the train station to the town center was too short to justify a taxi–“you can just walk.”

So my 80-year-old spouse and I schlepped our three bags–one huge one that we’d hoped to ship home but couldn’t and two smaller ones–into the center of Stratford. And schlepped. And schlepped. Meanwhile, my poor husband was coughing and hacking, having caught a cold earlier in the week. After we’d walked a considerable distance, we saw–oh joy!–a cab stand. I ran toward the cab in front, dragging my gigantic Kirkland suitcase; he opened the door. I told him the name of our hotel. He closed the door.

“It’s a five-minute walk. Just at the bottom of that street, then turn right.”

On we went. Both of us schlepping. Bob coughing. Me sweating. (And no, I was NOT in a good mood at this point.)

We finally found our hotel. We even found the check-in desk (not a simple task.) We were informed that our room was on the first floor (in Europe that is the first floor ABOVE the ground floor). No help with our bags, no elevator. Steep stairs. No apparent concern from the desk clerk.

We had reserved and paid for tickets to “As you like it” at the Shakespeare theater, but Bob’s cough was really bad. We figured we’d do the other patrons a favor and skip the performance, but I was really worried about Bob, and asked the desk clerk where I might find a drugstore/chemist. She gave me (incorrect) directions, and I took off, fairly panicked at his constant hacking. Several wrong turns and four requests for directions later, I found a lovely lady pharmacist in a large drugstore called Boots. That was the store the desk clerk had suggested, but nowhere remotely near where she told me it was located. The nice lady sold me a cough medicine and I (literally) ran back to our hotel. (It has helped already, to my great relief. Wives really do worry…)

There’s no WiFi in our room, so we are currently in the hotel bar, responding to email and (in my case) drinking. And listening to Bob’s (thankfully diminishing) coughing.

The bar television is turned to a cricket match. I’m sure Mayor Ballard would be delighted.

All of this reminded me that, back when I was in City Hall, Mayor Bill would periodically have meetings with cab drivers and hotel personnel in the downtown area. He would remind them how important they were–how important first impressions of a city can be.

No shit.

Let’s just say I’m not a fan of Stratford UPON or ON or UNDER Avon. IF there is a Chamber of Commerce in this place, they are doing a crappy job.


  1. You shudda had lunch with me before the trip as I been to UK 11 times (all but 3 via ship) and would have been glad to offer some help and tips plus loan of my Boots frequent shopper card (which I REALLY do have one of!) and my Vodafone UK mobile which is what they call a cell phone! Anyway, what you describe is hilarious but in many ways sadly typical. I can’t recall last time I hired a cab (usually we rent — or hire as the Brits say — a car and drive all over, last trip 1800 miles) but we find that we end up shlepping suitcases a lot, too from the car park (parking lot) to the room, etc. At least had I known and helped you cudda been prepared and also known the 1st floor is not what we call the first and all the rest. Remember in a pub or chippie (fish & chips shop) ask for Chips not fries if you want fries and if you want what we call potato chips you will need to ask for a packet of crisps. Oh and the reason the phones didn’t work….in the UK you need to dial a 0 before the number so if I were dialling my UK grocer and was IN the UK I would dial (0)1454 228870 whereas outside when I phone from the states I dial 1 + 44 + 1454 228870, adding he long distance 1 and the international code (44) for the UK but dropping that 0. You never thought a tutorial was needed, right 🙂 Anyway, very Happy travels, hugs and get well wishes to the young husband and I wish I was with you!!!!!

  2. Atlanta Airport on a par with Stratford Upon Avon
    No inter Terminal trains operating (long walk from T-F to T-B)
    Part of the moving sidewalk also “Out of Action”. However,
    First Class Immigration Officer, very polite. I’d recommend for
    Employment in Europe, definately “Tip Top” Guy.

  3. Atlanta “Three” (your Federal Tax Dollars at work)

    So. Flying in from Europe, to a first point of contact airport.
    We disembark into a “secured area” for immigration, passing next into a “secured area” to pickup bags before going into customs and excise, same “secured area”. We are now within walking distance (since ground transportation is out of action) of our departure gate for the Indy flight. Bearing in mind, we have not exited the secured area.

    What do we find: TSA security checkpoint. An officer pacing up and down, barking orders as to what we can and cannot do.

  4. Go to Italy next time. Cabs and buses are easy to find. The Italians are SO friendly and helpful, and their pharmacies are everywhere and amazing. All of their sales clerks must have medical degrees. They asked several questions about my cold and cough before bringing me just the right stuff. One even opened up a little door before store hours pursuant to my knocking on the little door as instructed by a neighboring merchant. The pharmacist found a medication to deal with my cough, brought it to the little door, took my money and went for change and brought it back to the little door. Service like that- for a foreigner no less -would NEVER happen in a major city here.
    By the way, their OTC cough medicine did more good than the prescription version here at home.

    One other plus – their English and directions were easier to follow than those of the Brits.

  5. Sheila, if you let me have the name of the hotel I’ll have a word with the manager.
    I’ll also talk to the council re the taxis. I thought a taxi had to accept a fare – even if it is for a short ride.
    I can’t do anything about the town name as its indeed Stratford Upon Avon.

  6. I have emailed the General Manager of the Legacy Falcon with details of the issues raised in your blog.

    Coming back to the taxi driver. Did he just tell you where the hotel was, his directions were correct, down the road and turn right? Or did he actually ‘refuse’ the hire?

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