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Stratford-upon-Avon!    
(24th - 25th August 2017)

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  London | Salisbury | Whitstable | Oxford | Hereford 
  Stratford-upon-Avon | Winchester | Hastings | Broadstairs | Deal / Sandwich | The Wedding 

I had been looking forward to visiting Stratford-upon-Avon for years, another place I just never seemed to get to see.  Finally, my time had come, and I found myself ambling down from the station into town on my sixth leg of my rail pass.  This trip brought me from Hereford to Stratford-upon-Avon via Birmingham, and I managed to get an earlier and more direct train from Birmingham due to the flexility of my BritRail Pass.  (The seventh day or segment was the next day train en route to London.)  From the station I walked down Alcester Road which became Greenhill Street where I walked down Meer Street and ended up on Henley Street, right in front of Shakespeare's birthplace which I would visit the next day.  I continued down Henley Street and down Bridge Street to the Information Centre where I picked up some brochures and a map.  Unfortunately I had to double back up Bridge and Wood Streets till I got to Chapel Street where my hotel was, but that was okay.  Stratford-upon-Avon is a small place and you can get around pretty quickly on foot, all the while surrounded by gorgeous old Tudor buildings.  The narrow streets are adorable, and if you close your eyes you can imagine horses and carts of yesteryear. 
     

My hotel for the night was the Mercure Stratford-upon-Avon Shakespeare Hotel which is a beautiful old hotel dating back to 1480, and it even has the first Five Gables still part of the hotel.  I checked into my delightful Hamlet room and headed out to see as much as I could.  I only had about 24 hours in which to see the most important (to me) sights.  Almost next door to the hotel is Shakespeare's New Place; the site of his family home from 1597 to 1616.  I went in and had my breath taken away by the beauty of the gardens, flowers, sculptures and general quietness of this place.  Although buzzing with tourists, it was very quiet and quite magical in a way.  There is an entry fee but you can buy a pass to see all of the Shakespeare Birth Trust places which are: Shakespeare's Birthplace, Shakespeare's New Place, Hall's Croft, Anne Hathaway's Cottage, and Mary Arden's Farm, for £26.25 ($35.60) which is valid for 12 months with unlimited return entry.  (If you book online you get a 10% discount, so visit www.shakespeare.org.uk for prices.)
   
       

Afterwards I walked down Church Street and stopped in the beautiful Guild Chapel which dates back to 1269 and has some of the most important medieval wall paintings, some of which you can still see.  Next door to the chapel is the Shakespeare's Schoolroom which I was told that Shakespeare would recognize were he to come back to town today!  I had hoped I would have had time to visit these classrooms but alas, time wasn't on my side.
     
 

Farther down the road I came to Old Town, turned left and found Hall's Croft, home of Shakespeare's daughter Susanna and her husband Dr. John Hall.  What a beautiful old house, and I mean, old.  Built around 1613, this home is clearly one that belonged to wealthy people.  Inside you'll see examples of their lifestyle and the working life of a doctor at that time.  The beautiful garden is worth wandering around in as well.  How these buildings are still standing is beyond me, but I'm thankful they are, and that they've been so well preserved for us to see and enjoy.
   

Continuing down Old Town I came to Holy Trinity Church which is just exquisite!  From the beautiful cemetery to the ornate exterior of the church, I was captivated.  The inside was even more impressive and I couldn't believe my luck!  I saw the Shakespeare family graves, a beautiful nave and so many interesting sculptures and stained glass.  My camera worked over-time here!  There was no entrance fee for the church but a £3 (£2 for seniors) fee to see the grave ($4 or $2.70) which was worth it.  The church dates back to 1210 with bits and pieces added over the centuries.  I had a tough time choosing which photos to use in this story, and realizing I couldn't use them all, I felt a little sad.  It is such a lovely church and I highly recommend you see it if you can.
   
     

A quick walk across a bridge over the Avon River and I found myself walking along the banks of the river with trimmed weeping willow trees and lush green grass, and of course, many beautiful white swans.  There weren't too many people about so the walk was pleasant and quiet.  I did see a barge coming up the river and watched it go through the manually-operated lock.  I also caught sight of the Holy Trinity Church which was equally impressive from this angle.  I walked along the river and saw the Royal Shakepseare Theatre on the other side, which I'd later see close-up, but didn't have time to visit.  A little way up was the Butterfly Farm but it was almost 6pm and they were about to close.  I crossed the ancient Tramway Bridge (built 1823 of red brick) to Cox's Yard and saw so many lovely barges and little boats for rent, all named after a Shakespeare character.  Now I could see the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in all its glory.  The Gower Memorial is a series of sculptures of Shakespearean icons and worth looking at.  Then it was back to the hotel to rest my feet.
     
 
   
   

Breakfast at the hotel was fantastic!  The choice was wide and varied and included a Full English Breakfast, fresh and dried fruit, cheeses, cereals, pastries, breads, juices and tea and coffee.  I think this hotel is just perfect as it is right in the heart of town and everything is within easy walking distance.  I found the staff very friendly and very helpful and I loved the "oldness" about it, right down to the wonky dark beams.  My room faced the back of the hotel and was subsequently very quiet.  I had a really good sleep.  Fortunately for me, there was a little fridge with still and sparkling water, a beautiful coffee machine (which I couldn't work), a little kettle, lots of coffee and tea, a flatscreen TV, and lovely toiletries in the huge and spotlessly clean bathroom.  I highly recommend staying at this upmarket-but-not-expensive hotel.
Rates start at around £79 ($103).
   
   

After breakfast I checked out and left my luggage and went to visit Shakespeare's Birthplace and little museum at the Shakespeare Centre, which is just lovely, on Henley Street.  You visit the little museum before seeing the house, and you can read all about this incredibly accomplished literary figure.  The mind boggles at all this work!  Behind his house there were a few actors who sprouted lines from any Shakespeare work you wished.  The garden behind the house is also worth looking at.  I later waited for the #19 bus to go and visit Anne Hathaway's Cottage but after an hour's wait I decided to walk around the market instead.  The American Fountain is worth taking a look at too.  I noticed it when I got into town the day before.
   
     

Unfortunately I wasn't able to squeeze in a visit to the Butterfly Farm or to the Shakespeare's Schoolroom.  You could take the Hop On Hop Off bus out to the Cottage and Mary Arden's House but that was too pricey for me.  However, just because I missed a few things doesn't mean my visit was incomplete!  Now I have reasons to return.  I was more than happy with what I did get to see in such a short time that I left feeling very satisfied, and I enjoyed the train trip back to London, the seventh segment.


Accommodation


Mercure Shakespeare Hotel - Chapel Street, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 6ER
Tel: (+44) 2477 092802
E-mail: H6630@accor.com
Web: Website
Facebook: Facebook
Twitter: Twitter
Instagram: IG
Rates from £79 ($103) but contact for up-to-date rates.
My Trip Advisor review.
I highly recommend this lovely old hotel.  Staff are friendly and the atmosphere is wonderful, as is their breakfast!  Situated right in the heart of the city, everything is within easy walking distance, except the Cottage and the Farm!


Contacts

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust - (for Shakespeare's Birthplace, Shakespeare's New Place, Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Mary Arden's Farm and Hall's Croft)
The Shakespeare Centre - Henley St, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire CV37 6QW
Web: www.shakespeare.org.uk/visit/shakespeares-birthplace/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ShakespeareBT
Twitter: twitter.com/shakespearebt
Instagram: www.instagram.com/shakespearebtrust/

Shakespeare's New Place - 22 Chapel Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire CV37 6EP
Hall's Croft - Old Town, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire CV37 6BG



Holy Trinity Church Stratford - Holy Trinity Church Parish office, Old Town, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 6BG
Tel: 01789 266316
Web: www.stratford-upon-avon.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Shakespeares-Church/131522083528678
Twitter: twitter.com/holytrinitysona


E-mail:  travel2@live.com
or pettprojects@yahoo.com

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