Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Stalking Shakespeare

 So after our lightning quick visit to London, I dragged Andrew off to Stratford-Upon-Avon...
Shakespeare country! Actually, Shakespeare had nothing to do with it, it had more to do with accommodation... So after a relatively short bus ride (only 3 hours!) we arrived in Stratford, where the 'bus station' is just a piddly little bus stop behind the leisure centre and there were no cabs in sight. Knowing that it was 2 miles (over 3km) to the youth hostel, we had no intention of walking there, packs and all, but we thought we'd just walk a little way in search of a taxi... Well, there were none to be found, at least, none that weren't already occupied, so we ended up walking the whole way, lugging close to 50kg between us. It took over an hour, with regular stops and we were exhausted by the time we actually made it. So we checked in (why do they always make you fill out forms etc with your packs still on?) and headed upstairs to our room to dump our packs and relax. Our room this time was a twin room, fairly spacious thanks to bunk beds(!), with a desk and our own handbasin and mirror. We finally summoned up the energy to go downstairs to the restaurant for dinner.
   I'm quite a fan of Stratford YHA, despite the location. It's a gorgeous Georgian mansion, on a fair bit of land. It's got both a lounge and a TV room, a restaurant and a kitchen and a full cooked breakfast is included in the price. I noticed this time quite a few families travelling with kids, and it seems to me it would be a great way to show kids the world - it's cheaper than hotels, especially since you can cook your own meals, and they can meet all sorts of interesting people.
   So we started our first full day in Stratford with said breakfast and headed into town - on foot, believe it or not. Stratford trades on being Shakespeare's hometown, but it's quite a pretty little town in it's own right. We set about exploring the town, semi-seriously looking for an Internet cafe. On our travels, we stumbled across a sign for Shakespeare's grave, so we followed that down to the church he was buried in - right up in front of the altar. Andrew actually went willingly into the church, and I think was quite pleased that he did. William Shakespeare decided at some point in his life that he wanted to be buried in front of the altar of the church in his hometown, so he set about achieving that... He became a lay preacher, despite not being particularly devout, and he made a large donation to the church, which achieved his aim. Then, to make sure he stayed there, in an era in which people were dug up every 30 years or so to make room for more, he had his friends engrave the following on his gravestone:
Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare
To digg the dust encloased heare
Blessed be the man that spares these stones
And curst be he that moves my bones.
I gave Andrew a hard time about 'not letting me' see the Shakespeare Houses, but the truth is I wasn't interested. I saw them, or at least the three in town, last time I was in Stratford, and they're really not all that interesting. Besides which, Shakespeare himself only ever lived in one of the houses, with the other two town houses being occupied by his daughter and granddaughter after they married, and the out of town houses being where his wife lived before she married him, and where his mother might have lived before she married his father.
     Our search for an Internet cafe was in vain. We didn't find one, at least not until we asked at the tourist info centre, and then it was so expensive that we didn't use it anyway. The weather in Stratford was gorgeous, making the town seem that much nicer, and there was even a market on that weekend. Actually the town had a bit of a holiday feel the whole time we were there, which may have been to do with the weather or with the end of Summer holidays. 
    Midway through our visit we took a bus to Warwick Castle. It was a heck of a trip, but the castle was fantastic. Huge castle and grounds with stacks of displays and things to do. We watched the trebuchet (kind of like a catapult) being fired (if you stay for the evening one, they throw a fireball) and Andrew had a go at archery. We went into the haunted tower, climbed the parapets, watch a display on weaponry, and had waffles with ice cream for lunch (not healthy, I know, but oh so tasty)
    Our last day, we ordered a taxi to the bus station - it was ridiculously expensive, but sure beat walking again and potentially missing our coach. And finally we boarded a coach to Bath.

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