4-5 Nov: Stratford-upon-Avon

Stratford-upon-Avon is best known as the hometown of William Shakespeare, and you can see references to him all over. We also made it to Warwick Castle, which has its origins in the Anglo-Saxon era. More photos are on the Stratford-upon-Avon page.

4-Nov

During breakfast at our Moreton-in-Marsh B&B, we talked more with the Costa Rican guest, who was looking for travel ideas for when his girlfriend would be visiting. The owner also mentioned that just past the train station is where everyone in the country gets certified for setting off fireworks (for Guy Fawkes Day on the 5th) so there would be a good display that night. We went to catch our bus to Stratford-upon-Avon, and at that B&B we found the proprietor a bit harried. Apparently water was dripping into their kitchen, but workers were there fixing the problem. Even with all that going on, he was very gregarious and filled with good information for enjoying ourselves in the town.

We wanted to go on the guided walking tour but had some extra time beforehand, so we first went to visit one of the Shakespeare houses, his birthplace. I had actually been there before as part of a high school trip, but only remember walking through small rooms. The rooms are still small, but new to me is the museum you enter before going into the actual house. As with Blenheim Palace, there this was a series of rooms set with scenery and utilizing theatrical elements. When we entered the house, we were met by a guide in period costume who explained that the room we were in was actually a small, separate house, also owned by William's father, John. We then wandered through John Shakespeare's home, meeting other guides in John's glovemaking shop and in the room where Mary Arden gave birth to the bard.

After lunch we went down to the River Avon to catch the guided tour. The woman was very knowledgeable and knowing that we were from the States, was quick to point out many items of interest including a lamp post donated by the U.S., and even a pane of stained glass dedicated to JFK.

Near the start of the tour we went by the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, which has been undergoing reconstruction over the past several years; it'll re-open later this month. In fact, the RSC program doesn't start as a whole until about a week after we leave for home, so that's very unfortuante timing for us.

We decided to try another pub for dinner, and ran across one with a dinner special, 2 dinners for £10. Considering it's normally not easy to get below £7 or £8 per person, we thought we did pretty well (and the food was good, to boot).

5-Nov

We arose in time to arrive to be the first people down for breakfast. The owner showed up and was just as chatty and entertaining as the night before, and brought us our meals. While we were eating, a family came down, and it ends up they are from Germany. To tell the truth, we did know there was a family in the B&B since we heard the kids in the room above us early the previous evening. After breakfast, we hurried off to the train station to ride a few stops to Warwick Castle.

It's a good thing our travels were outside of the high tourist season, because Warwick Castle is very popular. It was the home of the Earls of Warwick from the late 11th century until being sold in the late 1970s, when it became a visitor attraction. It's now run by Merlin Entertainments Group, and you can see amusement park influences all around, including things being split into separate sights which are arranged as one-way paths, all to handle large crowds.

We did go up the tall towers (including to the top of the tallest, at about 130ft) and got great sights both within and outside the walls. When we were going into our last attraction of the day the rain started up. Amazingly enough, that's the first time we've really needed to use our rain coats, and that's almost half way through the trip.

Since we had some time to kill before our train back to Stratford-upon-Avon, we sauntered through the city of Warwick and grabbed some lunch. By the time we left the restaurant, the rain had stopped. We knew that the tourist sites would be closed after we rode the train back (meaning we ended up not having time to go to Anne Hathaway's cottage), so we went to a large grocery store near the train station (kind of like a large Safeway) to grab snacks and things for dinner. Back to the room we went where Tynor immediately saw when I got online, so I had a great chat with him (and Juliana, when he needed to head off). Outside the room, we did see some sets of fireworks for Guy Fawkes Day, but apparently the main Stratford-upon-Avon fireworks show was going to happen the next night.

We called it an early night, since going to Conwy, Wales meant an early morning train.