We arrived in Stratford-Upon-Avon at 11:45am, after a 15-minute ride from Warwick. Our tour guide Alan led us from a nearby parking lot toward the entrance to the main attraction of this part of our tour.
Stratford-Upon-Avon was placed on the map by one man: William Shakespeare. Three million tourists visit the 800-year old town each year to see the place where the great bard, poet and playwright was born.
I’m sure half of them were writers.
I know, because, I was shivering with excitement at finally getting to see the house where one of my writing heroes was born and raised.
Since the cottage could only accommodate so many visitors, Alan had asked us to pick whether we wanted to see the cottage first, or see the shop first. I made sure that we were part of the first group to see Shakespeare’s birthplace.
Maiko knew I was super excited and made sure that she took tons of pictures of me in front of Shakespeare’s cottage.
I stepped inside the cottage, my camera at the ready. An attendant was present nearby. He said we could take pictures in the entrance hall, but that we weren’t allowed to take pictures within the rooms of Shakespeare’s cottage, due to preservation issues.
So I snapped a photo of this fireplace in the entrance hall, and resolved to commit everything I saw to memory.
Shakespeare’s house was a two-storey cottage. William Shakespeare’s father was a glover, and on the ground floor we got to see John Shakespeare’s shop. I’m not sure if they preserved it or recreated it to look as it was back in the day, but the shop looked like an authentic glover’s shop. You could almost imagine John Shakespeare using the various tools on the table to craft beautiful gloves.
We climbed up the stairs and saw the many sleeping rooms that made up the next floor. To the left of the stairs was a hall. Pictures and words depicting the history of the house lined the walls of room. An attendant dressed as a typical medieval maiden was assigned to the room. She talked about the various rooms of the house and how the boys and girls’ rooms could be found on a higher level of this floor.
We also saw a part of the original window that was taken down and preserved as it contained many notable signatures. Apparently, even in the olden days, many famous writers such as Charles Dickens, Walter Scott and Thomas Carlyle made a pilgrimage to the great bard’s birthplace. They autographed the walls and windows. Many of the signatures still remain on the windowpanes around the house, though the signed walls have been long painted over.
Maiko and I glimpsed the other rooms, and waited for our turn to see the room where the great bard was born. Another attendant within the room pointed out various objects within such as the bed where Mary Arden gave birth to William Shakespeare, and the crib where Shakespeare lay when he was a baby.
The attendant also told the story of how William Shakespeare had bequeathed the second best bed to his wife Anne Hathaway, in his will. The attendant explained that despite the many speculations as to why he might have done this, in the Elizabethan custom, the best bed in the house was reserved for guests. So, the bed William bequeathed to Anne would have been their marital bed, and thus would have had romantic significance.
I wanted to stay longer in the room and savor the moment, but we had to give way to the other groups coming in—plus we didn’t have a whole lot of time to explore Stratford upon avon.
We made our way down the stairs and saw the kitchen where Mary Arden made the meals, and dining hall where the family gathered to eat.
Outside, a group of schoolchildren where gathered in the garden, listening to a lady dressed in Elizabethan garb, as she sang them songs from that era.
I took a quick snapshot of Shakespeare’s backyard garden, imagining how it might have looked long ago.
Maiko and I exited the house and made our way to the shop, where we bought various souvenirs for ourselves, and family members.
We didn’t have much time to look around the town since we had to leave for lunch at 1pm, so Maiko and I just walked down the street and took pictures of entertainers and shops we found interesting.
Street musician playing his violin
A living statue of Shakespeare
We found a magic shop near Shakespeare’s house and went inside. There was a magic museum on the shop’s top floor, which you could see for 5gbp. We didn’t go up due to lack of time.
The Creaky Cauldron was a quaint little coffee shop which offered butterbeer and various teas and coffees.
We didn’t sit down for a drink, but we did take pictures inside. I found a garden gnome in the corner and I asked Maiko to take a picture. Gnomes figure greatly in my own book and I saw it as an auspicious sign.
There were bookshops all over the street. Maiko and I went in one of the bigger ones. I found Usborne’s Stories from Shakespeare, which was a compilation of stories Shakespeare wrote, written in the kind of language children could understand and enjoy. After much deliberation, I bought the book.
An ice cream shop caught Maiko’s attention. The weather was warm and perfect for ice cream and we had been wanting to get ourselves a cone since we got there. But it was only our first tour and we were conscious of our budget, so we decided not to get any.
After looking at various shops, we “fooled around” in front of the Fool’s statue in the middle of the town, and then headed for the parking lot.
We could have stayed a whole day in Stratford-Upon-Avon, but I’m kind of glad we didn’t. I would have bought way too many books and souvenirs.
Lunch was at the White Hart Tavern somewhere in the Cotswolds.
The White Hart
The food was okay, though Maiko thought 11gbp was a bit too much for lunch. I agreed with her and said that we should pack sandwiches for our next tours
We chatted with two other girls on the tour. One was from the Philippines, grew up in Australia, but was currently living in London, and the other was a Malaysian girl. They were each traveling on their own.
After lunch, we all piled into the bus. We got to see a bit of the Cotswolds–a quaint region filled with rolling hills, verdant fields, old houses, and churches–
As we headed for our final stop:
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