Lili's Travel Diary #22: Stratford-Upon-Avon

A little over a month ago, on April 18th, I set out for a day trip that I planned on taking since I first decided to study abroad in the UK: Stratford-Upon-Avon. In case you don't know what this is, it is Shakespeare's birthplace. After taking a Shakespeare class last term that was my favorite class ever and taking a second Shakespeare class this term, making my love for him grow, I knew I needed to do this. When my friend Julia's sister visited from the states for a week and said she wanted to take a daytrip, I asked if I could join. I was beyond excited to head there.

Shakespeare's birthplace.
We bought a three house ticket to get into the family homes. This included entry to all Shakespeare attractions except for his wife, Anne's, cottage and his mother's cottage as well as an exhibit on the history of Shakespeare which we found to be super interesting. 10/10, highly recommend it. We didn't have the time to be able to get to Anne or his mother's cottage, nor did we have the funds. They're a bit farther out of the city center and we didn't arrive until around noon. If we arrived closer to 9 or 10 in the morning we may have had a chance, but that would require a 6AM wake up from London and we were not about that.

First up, we went to Shakespeare's childhood home. He eventually sold it to become a hotel, but he was still born and raised in this house. It was a really cool thing to see.
The original window in the room where he was birthed in was removed and put on display because so many wealthy guests of the past had carved their names into it in commemoration. You can see this depicted in the picture to the right.

Throughout his house there are also actors that perform parts of his plays and volunteers to keep you well informed. Because it was a bit cold on the day we went there weren't many actors around, which was a total bummer because I really wanted to witness Romeo and Juliet's balcony scene occur in the backyard!

The next stop on our ticket was Harvard House. It was the home of some of his family's childhood friends. It was not that grand, and there's not much to say about it. We were not in it long, but since it's part of the ticket we figured why not. It sure was beautiful to look at though! See picture to the left.

The last item included in our ticket was Hall's Croft, which was Shakespeare's first daughter's home. This was the most magnificent of them all, and there was quite a bit of history in there on top of a beautiful garden that we spent some time relaxing it. We spent most of our time in this home, and would say it is an absolute must visit next to Shakespeare's actual home. While Harvard House is not as important, this one cannot be skipped if you ever find yourself in Stratford.

One thing that the three of us really got a kick out of was all of the displays in the home. They have some donated furniture pieces and other pieces that were recreated to look like they did in the time period, but nearly everything had really fun and entertaining signs on them. The sign to the left reads "I am old and tired, please sit on something younger." haha

Shakespeare's grave
After we finished our tour of the homes, which only took a few hours, we decided to visit Shakespeare's grave. He is buried inside a church alongside his wife and several other important people in his life. What I found most fascinating about his grave is that his plaque refers to him as a poet and not a playwright. It just reminds you that even though he was a successful playwright in his time, he didn't grow to be the literary mega-man we know him as today until way after his death.

At this point in time, we were getting a bit bored. Stratford-Upon-Avon--smartly named because it is one of many towns named Stratford but this one is located directly on the River Avon--is truly a small town that is meant to be done inn a day trip. I couldn't imagine spending a night there. I do not think there's enough to do! The
best way to cure boredom is to eat, so we found a cute pub and I indulged in one of my favorite British pub fares: three bean chili with a side of well cooked chips. I am going to miss this stuff.

By the time we finished eating, we decided to take a long walk along the River Avon to kill time before the main attraction: A Royal Shakespeare Company performance of Hamlet. This was an item on my bucket list after analyzing so many Royal Shakespeare Company performances in my past classes, and I am so happy to have had the ability to cross it off my bucket list! We bought really cheap tickets for opening week because no critic reviews have come out yet, and let me tell you, this is one of the best performances I have ever seen of this play! They took Hamlet and still set it in Denmark, but they completed brought it up to date in terms of costuming (Hamlet was a bit of a hipster and I adored every minute of it) and even introduced some African themes for the background music and anything relating to death (burials,
ghosts, etc). You know the drill if you've read the play. It was so well done, and I am so thankful we did this.

However, because Hamlet is nearly three hours long, we didn't get back to London until around 2AM because trains just don't run as often late at night. I was 100% exhausted the next day, but I stand by the fact that that person was so, so worth it.

If you ever find yourself in England, a day trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon is so worth it. You must see a Royal Shakespeare Company production because they are often quite grand and well done, and it makes it all the more cooler being in his hometown. With all of that in mind, it is a small town. The girls and I kept asking ourselves how people could live there without going crazy, so I wouldn't stay there for anything longer than two days at the most. It's nice and it has turned into quote the tourist attraction, but it is, in the end, still a very small town. Even if David Tennant lives there when performing in Royal Shakespeare Company productions.


Have you ever been to Stratford-Upon-Avon? Do you think you'd like to go? Have you ever seen a Royal Shakespeare Company performance? Comment below with your thoughts!

1 comment:

  1. IT IS MY DREAM TO VISIT STRATFORD-UPON-AVON!! I must, as a Shakespeare admirer, go there :D So cool you got to visit!