We blasted Shakespeare to death and now know all his old haunts/ birthplace/ mother's home/ wife's old cottage/ baptismal/ father's house/ burial place/ friend's house intimately. We also exhausted our National Trust membership which now needs a few weeks off to rest and recuperate. On the plus side, it has paid for itself for the year already.
I was subjected to a great many Shakespeare-Themed Dad Jokes which all came my way courtesy of the children not being present to absorb them for me. I'll give you a selection:
"Oh my goodness! Look! Vikings Approaching! Quick! William- Shake Spear!"
"We're completely lost, does anyone know where we're going? Fear not! Anne Hath A Way."
In the end I imposed a daily limit of four, to preserve my sanity.
Being parents, we are experts at squeezing as much as possible into whatever small time we've managed to carve out for ourselves while the kids are elsewhere, but even so we were impressed at how much we saw/ did/ got through. This probably explains why we were both asleep by 9.30 last night. You'll be relieved to know that I am not going to subject you to thousands of holiday pictures in minute detail, but instead have considerately whittled them down to a representative few for ease of digesting....
First stop, William Shakespeare's birthplace, in the rain, with hundreds of other people...
|I know how he feels|
Then a short stroll down the road past some fine Elizabethan houses....
...to Hall's Croft, home of Shakespeare's daughter Susan and her husband Dr Hall. I LOVED this house, it had a lovely atmosphere and was full of oak paneling and wobbly floors with heavy beams and low doorways, a house full of nooks and crannies. There was also an ancient Mulberry tree in the garden which was all gnarled and twisty but bore copious quantities of fruit, which we snaffled. I love the taste of mulberries, the sweetness mixed in with the sharp tang. There was also a craft shop attached show-casing work from local artists and I managed to sneak a purchase of a hand-painted mug (I am often told we have too many mugs, so I have developed strategies for the collection of new ones. This time I managed to get the shop lady in on it, which worked marvellously until M noticed what we were up to. I had to promise to relegate some older mugs before I was allowed to bring the new one home. Worth it though- last night's hot water was lovely :o) ).
After that we had a break from Shakespeare and stopped at a cafe in an antiques market for hot chocolate and scones. Yum.
Back to the hotel for a swim (M) and a read of Dr Watson (me) before dinner....which got returned as more than half of M's pork belly was fat :o(
The following morning, after stuffing ourselves with a full English breakfast and plenty of hot water to flush it down (I invariably cause consternation and confusion among waiting staff because I don't drink tea or coffee, just boiling water. They always want to stick a tea bag in it, or mix it with cold water, or are desperate to add a lemon at the very least. I wonder sometimes whether one of them will one day have a seizure over it, they get so flustered), we set off for further Shakespeare Delights, this time in the form of Anne Hathqway's Cottage.
I have spent the entire three days saying Stratford Upon Avon and Anne Hathaway's Cottage in an American accent, because ever since I heard Martin Jarvis reading that episode in Just William I have been unable to say it any other way.
The Cottage is lovely as long as you get there before the coach loads arrive. There were four other people there when we arrived, and a hundred by the time we left (having got F's GCSE results in the middle- a mixture of A's, A *s and B's. Good Boy)....
Hathways lived at the cottage until the early part of the 20th c and because they were poor, it hasn't changed much. The flagstone floor is the original one Anne's grandfather laid which William would have walked on, it is believed that the bed inside was Anne and William's and a Courting Chair on display is also thought to be one William gave Anne... All Rather Lovely.
We diverged onto other Historical Houses after that, having more or less bled Shakespeare dry, and set off for Packwood House and Baddesley Clinton, both of which I knew I recognised but couldn't think where from, until I realised they both feature on Ragged Robins lovely blog.
Packwood was very striking, stuffed full of oak paneling and period features but to be honest I found it dark and draining inside. It settled a headache on me too so we didn't spend long there.
We drove the short distance to Baddesley Clinton, which I can honestly say is one of my most favourite places to be (I'd never been there before, but fell in love with it as soon as I saw it). It was beautiful and interesting and had a wonderful quirky energy which lifted my headache away completely.
I'm a sucker for a moat. I would love to live in a house with a moat one day. I have told M. I have said I would go swimming in it every single day. He said, what, even if there were eels? To which I replied stoutly, yes, of course. He snorted and said he thought that unlikely, given that I squeal at the feel of seaweed around my ankles on the (very) rare occasions I go swimming in the sea. I, (choosing to ignore the part about the squealing), explained that Fear Of Seaweed Round The Ankles is a Perfectly Sensible Thing, given that everyone knows sharks, octopi and crocodown-dillies hide in seaweed and that a moat would not have sharks, octopi or crocodown-dillies, so I wouldn't need to worry about any ankle-brushing and could therefore swim safely in it for hours, Quite Happily Thank You. He just laughed.
There were little doors within doors there as well. I am a sucker for doors within doors....
And, despite the happy atmosphere, more strange goings on than you could shake a stick at- exactly what you want in an ancient moated manor. There were priest holes and murders a-plenty (imagine being chocked under a chimney. Oh My.....)....
In more recent times, this quirky energy manifested itself in four people living here who shut themselves away from the outside world in order to paint. The gentlemen of the house dressed as Cavaliers the entire time, despite it being the 1800s. Love it :o)
And then there was an even more recent family, whose son, coming back from the Navy on leave in the 1940s and unable to wake his parents, set off two waterproof thunder flashes he just happened to have in his bag. His father's response was to come to the window bearing a loaded shot gun...
The same Navy Man was almost crushed to death when the head of his ancient bed fell down on him. He managed to wriggle out, shouting about how Philip of Spain had very nearly achieved what Hitler couldn't. His father's response to that was to dash upstairs to make sure the bed was alright. Now, that's my kind of family :o)
There was a lovely ramshackle collection of old books and maps in the stables. I particularly liked this sign....
After that we headed over to Coughton Court, home of the rebellious Throckmortons (previously known as Frogmorton. No wonder they changed the name) and centre of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament in the 17th C. The family still live in a wing of the house but the rest is National Trust managed....
After fighting off a particularly zealous guide (who threatened to have me thrown off the top of the tower in a toothless-grinny sort of a way that left me wondering whether he was entirely joking), we made it to the roof....
I've got a thing for foxes at the moment....
Only to be pounced on as we came back down the spiral staircase and dragged off into the Blue Room where (in quite some detail) we were told all about the long, long, long, long, long wait the conspirators had to get news of the Gunpowder Plot (which failed). We were then showed the double priest hole cut away into the bowels of the building (which I briefly considered jumping in to) but then luckily for me he swapped his attention to the rather lovely Dole Gate that had been brought back from the Convent of Denny after the Reformation. A Throckmorton was Abbess (or Mother Superior I suppose) there.
People knocked on one of the little doors and food was doled out through the other. Rather Lovely and worth the ear-bending to learn about it (he was a poppet really) :o)
After that we went back to Stratford for a late lunch at a gorgeous tea shop I'd spotted the day before. The Fourteas is a 1940s themed tea room on Sheep Street. Brilliant idea! Food was delicious too.
|Sand bags outside the tea room door|
|This is the menu|
On the way back to Stratford we zipped over to a fourteenth-century dovecot M spotted on the map. It stands all by itself in the middle of a field now, the moated manor of which it was once part long since gone. Luckily, whiskery and nuzzly help was on hand to help locate it....
And look Mel! it has a Blue Door!!!! (imagine me hundreds of miles away standing in a field thinking of you and grinning when I saw it :o) )
Our final destination before supper at the Giggling Squid (utterly fab Thai food), was Shakepeare's grave. Sounds macabre but it did complete the Shakespeare Circle rather nicely and I do like a nice church for Good Measure (or Measure For Measure? Sorry (slinks away with tail between legs, but grinning....))....
Our final morning (after another full English and hot water and (because you have to do these things when you're on hols don't you?) a very daring apricot Danish (gasp) was spent looking at Kenilworth Castle.
This pad was given to Robert of Leicester (also known as Robert Dudley) by Queen Elizabeth I, because she adored him but was unable to marry him due to (among other things) the rather too timely demise of his wife Amy who (ahem) accidentally fell down some stairs and broke her neck at about the time Bob and Liz were looking to the rest of the world very much like lovers.
(Talking of which, there was a very noisy woman on the floor below us on our last night- not literally the floor below us, because that would have been too weird, I mean the next floor down of course- and I have to tell you That Sort Of Thing is very off putting indeed when one is trying to watch Endeavour while sipping one's bed time hot water. At such times one requires all one's mental faculties to be in one undistracted place if one is to have any hope at all of beating Endeavour to working out who did the murder and why).
The story of Liz's visits and the work Robert put into the castle to house and entertain her was brilliantly told in the Leicester's Tower exhibit. He eventually gave up all hope of marrying the Queen whom he had known since she was 8 and later spent time with in the Tower, and married Lettice Knoylls (whose mother was rumoured to be Henry VIIIs illegitimate daughter and whose Aunt was Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I's mother- they didn't do things by halves, those Tudours, eh?) which got him into hot water with Liz. They remained close though and in his last letter to the Queen he wrote of kissing her feet. She in her turn inscribed 'his last letter' on the parchment.
I came away feeling rather sad for both of them....
|Robert Dudley- handsome chap, no?|
|Elizabethan Garden built for the Queen by Robert. Now painstakingly restored and Somewhat Famous as a result :o)|
|A Nice Window|
Our final visit of the trip was to the site of Edgehill, the first battle in the Civil War, but it's on MOD land so the closest we got was this memorial stone...
So that's it- our time in Stratford in a succinct nutshell. It was lovely and I feel all rested and content (all the more so as I came home to find a very rare Large Black Longhorn beetle buzzing about the wildflower patch :o) ).
As a quick follow up to my previous post, I thought you'd like to know that Challenger 2 came in safely and in a reasonable position, I have since learnt that the Key Objective of the race was to at least beat the crew of Girl Guides that were on one of the other Challenger Ships, and that was done. But I have to say Go Girls! to the Guides. Brilliant effort and achievement. Well done to everyone involved :o)
Hope all are well?