Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 14: Day Trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon

Wednesday began by loading onto a coach bus for the 2+ hour ride to Stratford-Upon-Avon, birthplace and out-of-London home of one Mr. William Shakespeare. It as a long ride, and having not left our flats until around 10:30 a.m. in the first place, we were quite hungry for lunch when we got off the bus in town. A traditional ploughman's lunch at a pub, in case you were wondering, will do just the trick for remedying that empty stomach.

Our entire library group being too large to secure us a formal tour at a library in Stratford, we really were given complete reign of our afternoon there. A few friends and I, however, unable to resist a new library experience, did venture into the local public library. This is a library-focused adventure, after all.

And, lo and behold, after emerging from the library, the overcast and drizzly weather showed marked improvement! We merrily spent our afternoon roaming about the main drags of Stratford. We saw along the way Shakespeare's birthplace; a very old (13th century) guild hall with bits of its very old wall painting still intact; and Trinity Church, the church in which Shakespeare attended religious services when in Stratford and his final resting place. The churchyard at Trinity is really something beautiful--there are indeed gravestones all over the place, but there are just as many tall trees surrounding them, giving shade and making the whole scene one of peace. I could see how a person might want to rest there, finally.

Stratford-Upon-Avon would just be plain old Stratford if not for the Avon River running along the town. The river has a nice little river walk alongside it, where one can leisurely stroll and look into the water at the boats and mute swans. While enjoying a particularly lovely view, I stopped and chatted with an older couple who were waiting to cross the river on the cutest ferry ever. They live across the (not-very-wide) river, and only took the ferry instead of the bridge to cross back home because their dog, Bramble, really likes the ferry. He did get very excited when he saw it coming to get him!

When we reached the main river park in the town centre, we sat for a while and enjoyed the now indisputably beautiful weather:

An ice cream (strawberries and cream!) and a random teenager doing parkour among the park's trees made the sit down even more enjoyable and amusing respectively. Just as it started to look as though stormy weather were rolling in, we headed toward the Courtyard Theatre, where we saw The Winter's Tale performed by none other than the Royal Shakespeare Company. They were every bit as good as I would have expected, if not even better. The set the RSC used for the production was really remarkable--at one point in the play the very tall bookshelves lining Leontes's palace tumble down, books falling akimbo. I hadn't seen this particular play performed before, and I probably never will see it performed so well again. Methinks I'll be adding lots of RSC productions to my Netflix queue when I get home again!

After the play let out, we hopped onto the busses again for the slightly shorter (little traffic!) ride back to London. It was a long day, but definitely a good one!

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