Last Sunday we had a lovely day in Stratford - a town about 80 minutes from us. Stratford has become known as the place where Justin Beiber was raised. We go there in SPITE of that!
Both the city and the river were named when it was first settled in 1832 after Stratford-upon-Avon, England, of Shakespearean fame. The swan has become a symbol of the city, with 24 white swans and two black swans released every year into the Avon River.
The city changed forever in 1953 when the Shakespearean Stratford Festival was formed. The annual festival now brings hundreds of thousands of theatre goers and tourists to the area. Celebrities such as Alec Guinness, Christopher Plummer, and William Shatner have performed at the festival. The festival is world renowned and takes place in four theatres throughout the city; the Festival Theatre, Avon Theatre, Tom Patterson Theatre and the Studio Theatre.
The festival has given this city in the middle of rural southwestern Ontario a cultural uplift. The downtown part of full of galleries, fine restaurants, food shops, shops, and B and Bs. How many places do you know of 30 000 that have three independent chocolate shops? Needless to say we come here often to play.
We headed there last week because mom had given us tickets to see Camelot for our birthdays. Being us we had to build in a visit to the slow food market. Lunch at our favourite restaurant. A walk along the river (where they have an art show on the weekends).
The market is set up behind city hall. The building is a bizarre but lovely octagonal structure just south of the downtown core. We love how the town has managed to preserve so many of its historic buildings.
This area has a vibrant slowfood movement. The market is operated by Slow Food's Perth County Convivium according to the organization's guiding principles of "Good, Clean and Fair" food. The market features the best of local food, live music, and a gorgeous setting.
After we had filled the cooler we had wisely brought with us tasty treats we wandered around a bit before lunch. I love the main street with its beautifully preserved Victorian buildings and the interesting mix of stores, cafes, and restaurants.
We had lunch reservations at Bijou. One of four area restaurants included in 'Where to Eat in Canada' it is our favourite in Stratford. Tucked away off the Erie Street parking lot you MUST search this spot out if you're heading to Stratford. That is if you like elegantly prepared food made with locally sourced ingredients. If you'd rather go for something simple apparently Beiber's favourite restaurant in Stratford was a local Subway. We avoid it like the plague.
After lunch (I had a japanese eggplant salad with summer sausage and local cheese, pan-seared Lake Erie perch, and an Ontario peach Tart tartin with Black Pepper ice cream and caramel - YUM) we parked the car down by the river and wandered about before the excellent play. We were happy to see that the swans were still out enjoying the last rays of summer and the gardens in front of the Festival Theatre were still in bloom.
What a great way to spend a Sunday in early fall . . .