Minay’s Trip Diary – Thursday, May 13, 2010

Today belonged to Will, William Shakespeare that is. We got up, had our breakfast and a bit of a chat with the owner of the B&B about the play she’d seen the night before, then headed off to town. Because we were so close, we decided it was best to do everything on foot. Besides, this way I didn’t have to navigate and there would probably be less stress. Also, we might argue less. I love Michael dearly, but nine days in constant company of someone, even someone you love, can grate a bit on the nerves (and we still had fourteen days to go). Anyway, on foot we could both see things and relax. And get our exercise. Lots and lots of exercise.

We crossed the footbridge into town, enjoying the pretty weather. There was a crisp wind, but lots of sunshine so it was very nice to be out and about, watching the geese, ducks and swans on the River Avon. On the way you pass through a garden dedicated to Will (we showed you some pictures on yesterday’s blog) which included flowers mentioned in his plays.

A sign in a park, showing herbs and flowers mentioned in Shakespeare's plays, Stratford-Upon-Avon

A sign in a park, showing herbs and flowers mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays, Stratford-Upon-Avon

We decided to begin our Will day at the beginning – with his birthplace which is right in the center of the old section of town, much of which is dedicated to foot traffic.

Pedestrian Mall on Henley Street, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Pedestrian Mall on Henley Street, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Just to the right of the picture above is Shakespeare’s Birthplace (see below).

Minay outside Shakespeare's Birthplace, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Minay outside Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-Upon-Avon

As Michael said, you enter through the Shakespeare Centre (a bit disconcertingly modern) which has a nice introductory film to get the mood established and provide basic facts. We then crossed the garden into the house where Will was born. Honestly, I got goose bumps and went a little teary-eyed to walk on the very floors, see the windows he looked out of, and the walls that sheltered him as he grew up and began the journey to become the great writer that he was. The house was larger than I expected, I don’t know why. Also unexpectedly, there were painted cloths on the walls which provided both decoration and insulation, covering cracks that drafts might work their way through. Cloth would have been far cheaper than wallpaper which was only for the very, very wealthy. In one room there was a costumed interpreter to answer questions and provide a bit of historical flavor. He quoted a chapter from a book that had rhyming condensed versions of Shakespeare’s plays. This chapter was about Hamlet, and was very funny. I wouldn’t mind reading that book in its entirety.

We then walked through the gardens at The Birthplace. The sunny weather made for a lovely change of pace. Notice, I actually have my coat unbuttoned!

Minay at the gardens at Shakespeare's Birthplace, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Minay at the gardens at Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-Upon-Avon

From there we went to the next of the Five Houses, which was Nash’s house, the home belonging to Shakespeare’s granddaughter and her husband. The house itself wasn’t too exciting to view, but the formal knot garden was very lovely – what was left of it. Much had been dug up for the archeological dig going on next door at what used to be The New Place, the last home Shakespeare lived in. Drat that greedy, small-minded doctor who razed it rather than pay the extra taxes on it.

The Knot Garden at Nash's House, Stratford-Upon-Avon

The Knot Garden at Nash’s House, Stratford-Upon-Avon

By now it was time for lunch. With places like The Old Thatch Tavern, the As You Like it Café, and Marlowe’s Restaurant to choose from.

Marlowe's Restaurant and Hathaway's Tea Room, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Marlowe’s Restaurant and Hathaway’s Tea Rooms, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Somehow we settled on Barnaby’s Fish House instead. It was a rather typical fast food place with crowds and indifferent food. It did, as Michael said, have the advantage of having fast service, and since the day was growing short that seemed the best deal. One funny moment, after we got our order I went back to the service line and, in my very American accent, said I had just ordered fish and chips and did they have any vinegar? They were rather shocked that the Yank hadn’t asked for tartar sauce or catsup.

After eating it was back to walking about to catch more sights. Here’s a picture of the darkening sky and some of the shops in town.

A darkening Sky in Stratford-Upon-Avon

A darkening Sky in Stratford-Upon-Avon

Can’t resist adding this picture of some darling schoolchildren on an outing. Don’t you love the hats?

Schoolchildren on an outing, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Schoolchildren on an outing, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Our next stop was to see Hall’s Croft, the home belonging to Will’s daughter, Susannah. There was a wonderful wisteria bush growing up the outside that perfumed the whole area. I just have to include a picture of it.

Wisteria at Hall's Croft, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Wisteria at Hall’s Croft, Stratford-Upon-Avon

In the gardens we saw a whole row of trees which had been pollarded. I don’t understand why trees get pruned in this manner [Note added later: for a variety of reasons, but primarily to produce heavier leaf growth], but you see them everywhere. It doesn’t look like it would be particularly healthy for the trees, but they must know what they are doing. I will say it makes for some amazing shapes against the sky.

Pollarded trees, Hall's Croft garden, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Pollarded trees, Hall’s Croft garden, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Here are a couple more pictures of the garden. First, flowers of all kinds crowded into beds under trees.

Flowers in Hall's Croft's gardens, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Flowers in Hall’s Croft’s gardens, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Next shot, ferns get their turn, looking like creatures poking their heads up for a better view.

Ferns in Hall's Croft's garden, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Ferns in Hall’s Croft’s garden, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Finally, with our feet and legs giving out, we headed back to the bed and breakfast for a bit of a rest before going out to get dinner. On the way we passed this wonderful sculpture dedicated to the swans that occupy the River Avon.

Swan Sculpture by the River Avon, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Swan Sculpture by the River Avon, Stratford-Upon-Avon

After our rest we walked a short distance back into town to eat at a Thai restaurant we had noticed. We would have done better to go back to the market for more bread and cheese. The food was indifferent, the service slow, and the wait staff snotty. Not our usual experience in the UK.

I’ll leave you with one last picture. I mentioned the lilacs yesterday. Well, this picture is so vivid you can almost smell them for yourselves.

Lilacs, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Lilacs, Stratford-Upon-Avon

Back at the room we got our dirty laundry ready to drop off to be washed for us tomorrow. I decided it would be a good idea to make a complete list of what we were leaving behind; you know, 10 pairs of white socks, two pairs of men’s jeans, etc. That way we would know if anything turned up missing, or if we got someone else’s clothes by mistake. We planned our route for tomorrow then turned in. It was a long day filled with walking, but I wouldn’t take anything for the sights and scents that filled my senses today. I’ll treasure them always.

Minay

What sort of things stay with you the most? History? Nature? Architecture? Or the people you meet? I’d love to hear your answers.

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