As some of you may know, I am studying abroad in London this semester (September to December) at King’s College London. I arrived two full weeks before classes began so I had some time to explore all that London and the rest of the UK has to offer. So in the hopes of seeing everything that I can, I went to Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace last Wednesday.
We got a train out of London Marylebone at 5:40 am. Yes, you read that right, 5:40 am. It’s significantly cheaper to travel during ‘off-peak times’ and as a group of students cheap is our main prerogative. I don’t remember much of the train ride since I was asleep for all of it. Well, I say asleep, but I really mean a sort of vague rest where my head jerked up every time the train conductor voice said the next station.
We arrived at just before 9am and stopped to get a coffee and a bit of a snack. I had a breakfast tea and scone. But I couldn’t really drink the tea because normal laws of thermodynamics didn’t seem to apply; it didn’t cool down at all. Ever. The scone was pretty good, although it was more of what I (an American) would call a biscuit. Not what I was expecting but not bad.
Our first stop of the day was Shakespeare’s Birthplace. We were the first ones there, which really worked in our favor. There areguides scattered throughout the house and just brimming with knowledge and little known facts, so it’s nice when you’re the only people there and they can only to talk to you. Because it wasn’t busy, the man showed us the original front door that was covered by a panel in the wall. He also showed us through the first three rooms of the house, narrating along the way.
Fun Fact: it’s called room and board because tables used to be two separate parts, the legs and the board. The board could be moved to use in different areas of the house or flipped over with BOARD games carved into the other side. The more you know…
There were actors in the garden ready to perform any Shakespeare on demand. They did the stages of man speech for us and the “Friends, countrymen..” speech. I wanted to ask for something from King John, one of the lesser known and even lesser performed plays to see if I could stump them, but I decided against it because they could have said anything and I would have believed them.
We then strolled down the street, stopping in this lovely candy shop, to New Place/ Hall’s Croft. The new place garden was really interesting to me because of the sculptures with all the quotes on them.
I really liked the first sculpture because it was the epilogue from The Tempest which is said to be Shakespeare’s last play. It’s spoken by Prospero who represents Shakespeare himself. Prospero gives up his sources of magic and power and Shakespeare does the same by giving up his pen.
We stopped briefly at Nash’s Croft, which had a lot of medical tools, and Trinity Church where Shakespeare and family were buried.
Then we took a twenty minute stroll to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, which is exactly what you think of when you think of a classic English Cottage.
We ran into a bit of a problem trying to get from the Cottage to Mary Arden’s Farm as all the Taxis were doing a school run. (?). Apparently taxis pick people up from school here, never would have thought. We eventually found one though and it was all good.
Mary Arden’s Farm is a real working Tudor farm which means: ANIMALS.
We watched the falconry show which actually didn’t involve a falcon but a Eagle Owl, which is an impressive bird. The man had us all stand in a row facing away from the bird and let her fly over us to demonstrate silent flight. And you can’t hear her until you see her ahead of you and at that point you’re already dead (if you are a mouse).
Our last stop was the oldest pub in Stratford-upon-Avon, The Garrick Inn. I had a nice platter of fish and chips and a glass of cider. We hung out there for three hours until our off-peak, 9:40 pm train ride back to London.
What are some of your favorite day trips? Where are the best fish and chips in London? Have you been to Stratford-upon-Avon?