Figured where I went then? If not, you need to go back to school….pronto.
For those of you who did, give yourself a huge pat on the back and try and quote me back more pieces from the great Bard himself…William Shakespeare.
Yes, I found myself in Stratford Upon Avon last weekend. I wish I could say I decided one morning to go there spontanteously but it was for a better reason..my cousin’s wedding.
Waking up bright and early in the local Youth Hostel Association, I felt completely refreshed seeing as I had a whole dorm to myself and settled down in the kitchen for my all inclusive breakfast. Then had about trillions of schoolkids swarm the place. Where did they come from? I could have sworn I heard no one with a squealing voice all evening the night before? Before they attempted to spoil my mood, I quickly wolfed down my breakfast..time to get the bus! Yes, there’s a bus service that goes past the YHA. Handy! But unfortunately, it was a Saturday and the bus do not come through for another hour and a half. This was pretty devastating as I wanted to spend much time in Stratford that morning seeing as I had a wedding to go to that afternoon. The YHA is 3 miles out of Stratford and I had 3 and a half hours to sightsee. After a quick chat with the hostel owner, he said it would be at least half an hour walk into town. OK, that’s a challenge, I will beat try to beat that!
With the sun just rising, I donned my thermals, carried my rucksack and off I went stomping off, determined to beat the time and positively believing it until just a minute later when I found myself on my back, legs dangling in the air and a stinging bottom. I should have told you it was arctic conditions outside and the whole place was covered in ice. Even more so on the path. After finding myself in a similar position a couple more times, I managed to find my footing and glided into Stratford…like Bambi. I did fall over again but only when there was the only car I saw dthroughout my walk drove past. Oh no, they didn’t stop. They just laughed.
Enough about my cold aching bum, I managed to get into Stratford ok and by god, the view that greeted me as I went round the corner was immense! This was a good old fashioned canal that still had ice and on the banks and pier were the canal boats shugging away heating up the occupants inside. I wanted to knock on one door and ask to be invited in but I was afraid that living dolls ala Rosie and Jim would attack me and make me their slave.
So I carried on walking past the pier and stumbled upon a monument honouring the bard himself. It was great that this was a surprise as I didn’t exactly plan where I would go this morning. I just wanted to go with the flow and learn more about Shakespeare’s origins. This was a really interesting monument as in the middle, there was the great bard and surrounding him were characters from his plays. Each character represented a symbol: Hamlet – Philosophy (why? He killed himself?), Lady MacBeth – Tragedy (tell me you didn’t singing that Steps song?), Falstaff – Comedy (don’t know who he is..I must read his play), and finally Prince Hal – History. I think these 4 words pretty much sum up Shakespeare’s works. At 8.30 in the morning, it was nice to make a learned discovery! After taking a few snaps, I bid my farewells to each and with a longing look back at Shakespeare, I forgot to be bambi and thus found myself heels over head yet again!
What was that in the distance? It was a massive building, prominent from the city centre..why it was the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre itself! It was certainly grand and I did a circuit of it in full amazement of it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get inside as it didn’t open til 10am and I wanted to go to another place instead…maybe I’ll go next time I find myself in Stratford.
I hightailed it to the place I already wanted to go since seeing it on the well advertised signs dotted around the place…Shakespeare’s Birthplace!
I arrived there and again! It doesn’t open til 10am! What to do? I quickly made a tour of the city centre and saw a couple of sights from the outside. Will reveal in my next few posts. And also found the perfect present for my dad for Christmas! I won’t reveal just yet in case he reads this. It’s a hoot!
Feeling peckish, my eyes longed for the scrumpticious tea cakes that dotted about on every unique cafe. Suddenly feeling British, I decided a pot of tea was in order and that would just go very well with my tea-cake. After all, I have half an hour to wait. Hobson’s Cafe is absolutely amazing. It’s got a very retro front room with crackling fires and in the back is the kitchen where there’s porkpies that are big as my eyes looking at them! But no, I was drawn to the Giant Tea Scone that’s apparantly the feature of Hobsons’. Quickly ordered a pot of Earl Grey with it and settled down in one of the oversized armchairs in the living room and truly truly truly scoffed the lot. It was good. Everyone who entered the cafe would see me perched to the side with a big dollop of cream still left on my nose. Yum!
Seeing it was already 10am, I dashed to the Birthplace down the road and entered the Shakespeare Centre. I paid £11 to get in rather than the £12 standard thanks to me playing my disability card and got bundled into this tour group which described in one word…awkward.. I smiled at them assuring them that I wouldn’t be the token weirdo but it seems they already have classed me as such. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn my funky hat. I quickly took it off as soon the TV Screen flickered on in the first room and then a voiceover boomed out. Problem? I am deaf and I could only make out a few words being said. This repeated format happened in the next few rooms and already I was annoyed. I wanted to learn about the Great Bard himself. Luckily, I imagined this was the generic bit which I have already learnt in school and then the doors opened outside to reveal Shakespeare’s garden. I was utterley enthralled but the plants and vegetation. I’m a gardener at heart and I peered at the names attached to different plants. Turns out that all of the plants and flowers mentioned in all of Shakespeare’s plays can be found in this garden! Interesting! I saw a small tree hugging the side of Shakespeare’s Birthplace and I imagined I was Romeo thrusting his arms out to Juliet coming from the high window. If you are noticing, the tour group I was with has already entered the Birthplace so no they didn’t see me….or did they?
Realising I was was actually being left behind by my tour group I skipped to the side door of the Birthplace and let myself in only to find a tour guide dressed as a maid and my tour group looking at me funny. Why? The little boy in my group helped me out by pointing past my shoulder to the corner of the room to find a security CCTV screen for the tour guide to be ready to give a talk after seeing a group coming. What was bang in the middle of the screen? Exactly the place I was demostrating my love to Juliet. Weirdo status firmly established.
The maid cleared her throat and started her speech about William Shakespeare’s family and how this house survived throughout the different times. I won’t go into detail here in case you would like to go yourself. But as an added feature she explained how the Shakespeare would celebrate christmas. Pig’s Head on the table instead of Turkey. Mistletoe instead of xmas tree…’as christmas trees didn’t come into Britain until much later on?’ I quickly answered ‘Victorian times’ and was about to tell her how exactly but a glance from her made me shut up. The tour group quickly pushed on into the house. I stayed behind in the entrance room to look at the information on the walls, I mean if I paid that much money, I’m totally going to get my money’s worth. The maid started talking to me and enquired to where I was from and why I was in Stratford. Was she chatting me up? Who knows?
I moved on swiftly enough and peered in all the rooms. Having a double bed in the living room, especially if you had people visiting, was considered to be well off. We also saw how John Shakespeare, Will’s dad, worked as a living, a glove maker. Pretty interesting.
I climbed the stairs and found myself in the front of the house with a timeline of the house and scratched windows of visitor signatures. Many future famous writers like Tennyson came here to pay their respects for the man who ultimately established the English language as it is today. Entering the next room, there was another tour guide, this time a male court jester and my tour group has abandoned me to him alone in what seems to be a bedroom. Awkward! But the court jester was an absolute hoot, he told many bad jokes (a tick in my book!) such as many of the bed mattresses were made of rope so you could imagine they felt ‘ropey’ in the mornings! It was totally worth the entrance fee!
After that, came to the last room, I must tell you as a 6ft+ man, it was very hard to go from room to room…see the photo why. Were they hobbits in the olden days?
Pretty soon it was 11am and I had to catch the bus back to the hostel to get ready for the wedding of the winter! My time in Stratford was short but heck, I had a great morning! Bottoms Up!
Have you been to Stratford Upon Avon? What was your experience?