Covid has changed the face of travel. This weekend I have experienced the new reality of hotel stays for the first time. We are in Stratford upon Avon, somewhere we stay once or twice a year, and in a hotel, the Mercure Shakespeare, which we have stayed in a couple of times before. It’s in a central location, often has reasonably priced rooms, but also has period charm (and unexpected steps in the room that catch you out every time.)
So what is different? There are hand sanitiser dispensers at the entrance and masks must be worn in the public areas. There is also a one-way system, but that seems to be honoured more in the breach than the observance. If there is no one else about, it’s tempting to go by the shortest route, rather than worry unduly about the arrows on the floor.
We had paid in advance for a three-night stay. Check in was a simple matter of being handed our key and told that the room would not be serviced during our stay, but that additional towels of supplies of tea and coffee etc. could be obtained by calling reception. The folder of welcome information in the room has been taken away and replaced by QR codes to download the content to your phone. Everything else was the same: toiletries in the bathroom; ironing board, iron and hairdryer in the wardrobe, and kettle and hospitality tray.
Knowing that the room would not be serviced was strangely liberating. Yes, we needed to keep it tidy, and make our own bed, but we also didn’t have that worry about disturbing housekeeping if we returned too early.
We were on room-only, so we visited local cafés for breakfast. Several have embraced technology to assist with social distancing. Outside tables have QR codes which you can access the menu, place your order and pay. Once you get the hang of it, it works well, and ensures you get the right order, and don’t have to wait around to pay the bill if you are in a hurry.
Sadly, the Shakespeare performances we had originally booked to see have been cancelled, but an open air performance of favourite scenes by members of the company in the Dell garden by the river, partly made up for it. Especially when a passing dog enthusiastically joined in the chorus of Sigh No More, Ladies.
We visited Stratford upon Avon in August 2020