Saturday 1 August – Shakespeare
Today we set off slightly back north to Shakespeare Land – known to the locals as Straford-Upon-Avon, a lovely town. Of course the surprise of the day was the wetness but more of that later.
We drove across from Oxford via the M40 and then a more minor road which lead through a couple of villages. One in particular was the MOST cute village we have seen – all thatched cottages and english postcardy. Nowhere convenient to be able to stop and take a pic though.
On to Stratford-Upon-Avon. Found a car park no probs and walked through a very nice park by the river to get into town (a whole, let’s see, maybe going slowly, 5 minutes walk on a bad day) with boats on the river and lots of swans and geese. Very ungeeselike geese, no bad manners, no chasing of people and hissing and generally being confrontational. This fellow just stood and posed for the camera, in fact he stood there like he Expected his photo to be taken, so I obliged…
After due investigations at the Tourist Information Office we purchased a ticket that gave us entry into any three of the five Shakespeare related houses/museums and took a brochure to join a walking tour early in the afternoon. We decided to do the three houses in town as two are further out. Path of least resistance the three in town. The actual town isn’t that large and walking from one to the other is again, maybe 5 minutes on a bad day.
The plan was to do one property, then the 1 1/2 to 2 hour guided walk, then the other two houses. So we set off up the street to find Shakespeare’s birthplace as the first property. On the way we encountered Shakespeare’s ghost…
At one point when the actor was having a rest he decided to sneak up on a group of scouts. Well, the girl that he targeted got the biggest fright – she ran like a startled rabbit. He must have been a bit bored from the morning of standing there because he then started stalking passerbys (well, the kids anyway) enjoying himself immensely. It was very funny to watch.
We found the house and bear just had to pose…
The entrance is through a new modern building to the side and once inside you first of all go through a multi-media exhibition watching a screen and listening to a commentary of Shakespeare’s life which highlights objects in the exhibition – including the first folio that his actor etc friends put together, without which his works would have been lost in the mists of time – and the contribution his works have made to life in general such as language. Once again it takes you on a journey through various rooms leading from one to the next until it leads to the outside and then you go into the actual house and after a guide gives an introductory talk, wander through the rooms having a look at how the Shakespeares lived, the room in which he was born, his father’s workshop (glove maker) and then into the garden. It was very informative and well done.
Then after a quick bite of lunch it was time to go back to the fountain in the park and join the walking tour which started at 2.00. At 2.15 it started to rain. And once it started…torrential downpour would be an apt description. The group plowed on though. The tour company states that it will run the tour regardless of the weather and true to their word they did. The lovely tour guide, Barbara, had a number of large photos which she showed as props to her stories and one of them was Stratford-Upon-Avon flooded in the late 1990’s. She said she used to tell people it was a fluke until it happened again a few years ago. I think today it was trying to have another go! Boy did it rain. At one point we all sheltered in a public park for about 10-15 minutes before moving on to the church where Shakespeare and his family are buried – inside.
Dad & I left the tour group on the way to the finishing post as we wanted to do the other two houses and the day was running out with the rain delay (we’d paid the money and it’s not like we could have another go tomorrow) so when we as a group arrived at Hall’s Croft we left the group to it and went on inside. Hall’s Croft was the home of Shakespeare’s eldest daughter, Susanna, and her husband, Dr John Hall. It was interesting as it was not only furnished in pieces from the time but included exhibitions relating to medical practice at that time.
The to the third house, Nash’s House and New Place. New Place was Shakespeare’s final home in Stratford-Upon-Avon and where he died on his 52nd birthday in 1616. The actual house is gone, destroyed by a subsequent owner in a fit of pique and to spite the local Council. There is a lovely garden there now. In fact, it was the back garden, which is open to the public without payment, that we sheltered in when it became too hard to continue in the rain.
Taking photos in the houses isn’t allowed and with the rain the camera went away to stay dry and pretty much stayed there. It finally stopped raining about 5.00, when it was time to shut up shop.
Tomorrow we set off for London, our final stop in Britain before heading to Dubai and home. Dad has arranged to visit someone he knows on the outskirts of London on the way in and then we have to drop the car to Hertz by 4:00pm. We thought we had three days in London but have now realised that we only have two and fly out at some ridiculously early time on Wednesday morning so there will be no sightseeing on Wednesday except for the inside of Heathrow Airport before the sparrows are chirping. Very disappointing but what can you do, it is what it is.
Until next time…