As prefaced in my last post, we decided on Friday evening to head to Stratford-upon-Avon the next morning. Saturday morning we gathered some things and hopped on a train.
Typically Derek and I prefer to be very well planned when we go on sightseeing trips (I think vacation trips are an entirely different matter), but as this was semi spur-of-the-moment, there wasn’t time for excessive planning. Although, I’m not sure we would have planned to do much more than we did, particularly since we think we’ll return soon enough. Regardless, we knew we wanted to A) see some of the Shakespeare sites, B) enjoy the weather, and C) have a nice, non-stressful day.
We succeeded in doing all three. Go team! Sometimes it is best to get out and enjoy your day rather than sticking to an agenda.
Our first stop after getting off of the train (aside from a cute little shop we wandered into) was Shakespeare’s Birthplace. We had planned on just purchasing admission to the birthplace (which also gets you into Hall’s Croft, Nash’s House & New Place, and Shakespeare’s Grave) with a handy 2 for 1 coupon we had found in a pamphlet (score!), but when we found out that the admission ticket is good for a year, we bought a pass for all the sites with plans to return.
The Birthplace is a small, but nice glimpse into life in the Elizabethan Era. There were guides in several of the rooms answering questions about things in the room, the home, or the time period. A few things Derek and I learned:
Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway got married when he was 18 (okay, no biggie). Their daughter Susanna was born 6 months later…(oooohhhh). Shakespeare’s father was the mayor of Stratford. There is only one letter still in existence written to Shakespeare. Many of his works would have been lost if not for his friends publishing the First Folio several years after his death. We saw one of the few copies of this still in existence. Some more Shakespeare FAQs.
One of my favorite parts of the birthplace was that there are actors that take requests! We saw THE monologue from Hamlet (#tobeornottobe), bits of Much Ado about Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth, Twelfth Night (my request), Comedy of Errors, and others. It was excellent entertainment while we sat and had some snacks. We left the courtyard where the actors were performing (during a lull) to see the Shakespeare’s Treasures exhibit, and when we returned we saw the end of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet – the actress had even gone up into the birthplace so she was performing from a second floor window. Brilliant! The arts educator in me loved when the some students that are studying Macbeth in school were pulled from the audience to participate in a witches scene (“Fair is foul and foul is fair”).
After seeing the birthplace we wandered down to the river (Avon, of course) saw some street performers, walked past the Royal Shakespeare Company‘s theater, and made our way down to the church with Shakespeare’s grave. It was such a lovely walk, even if L was getting cranky and tired.
From there we saw Hall’s Croft and Nash’s Place (if you’re visiting and are short on time, these two aren’t necessarily must-sees). Nash’s place, the site of Shakespeare’s last home had some fun stuff for kids, including hands-on archeology dig experiments, computer games, dress-ups:
Derek and I can be terrible at finding a decent place to eat when we’re on a trip. We wait until we’re so hungry that we’re cranky and then become terrible at making decisions. Thankfully this time we stopped before we were crazy and made a lovely find. (I had a baguette sandwich with slow-cooked pork & Braeburn applesauce – a British standard. Delish).
We strolled back through town on our way to the train station and stopped to get a 99 flake with Jersey Dairy. Yum.
Next time we’ll go to the other homes, consider stopping by the market that was closed by the time we were leaving (it’s near the train station and we bypassed it in the morning thinking we’d come back), see the RSC’s costume exhibit, and hopefully, depending on a babysitter situation, see the RSC perform. I would also love to read and see some more Shakespeare before going back. My knowledge of his works are woefully limited.
A few helpful links/tips if you’re looking to travel to Stratford:
We bought our train tickets here. (These trains also go to London, but that’s a 2 hour ride).
This is a picture of the pamphlet that had the 2 for 1 coupon for entry into the birthplace. Hopefully you can find one in any hotel’s pamphlet section.
I don’t feel like we walked a ton, but we’re seasoned walkers. Wear comfortable shoes as you would for any other day in a European town. I like this advice for shoes to pack while traveling in general, but I don’t know that you’ll feel the need to look terribly chic in Stratford. 🙂
If you’re going with a baby/toddler:
We took our stroller on the train without a problem (we did fold it for the journey, but probably could have left it open). However, I wore L in a carrier or we carried her most of the time we were inside the homes. This was out of convenience – Elizabethan homes aren’t the easiest place to maneuver a stroller, but there was a place to leave it in every home.
Stratford seemed a pretty family-friendly tourist town – food, bathrooms with changing stations, grassy areas, etc. were all plentiful.
To see more historical figures as they would have looked today, aside from Hipster Shakespeare, go here.