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England: Quick trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon

England: Quick trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon

Aug 3rd, 2011, 11:00 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2004
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England: Quick trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon

I posted a little while back asking about some of the attractions near Stratford-Upon-Avon because we were visiting friends there. Thanks to all the tips and help we had a wonderful visit with our friends and a fun time in England. I thought I would highlight what we enjoyed.

I don't have any hotel reviews because we stayed with friends but it look like there are a lot of bed and breakfast options in SUA.

What we did:

Royal Shakespeare Theater performance of "The Merchant of Venice"
The director used modern Las Vegas as a setting. It was a terrific performance but a strange play that I didn’t really like. It was really neat to see our friend on the stage of the production even though she did not have a speaking part. Patrick Steward played the merchant.

Shakespeare's Birthplace, Hall Croft, Anne Hathaway's Cottage
These sites were all interesting. We got a good glimpse of what life would have been like in Shakespeare's time. Anne Hathaway's Cottage in Shottery was particularly lovely. The walk over was nice along paved walking paths. The Hathaway cottage is still thatched roof which was really neat and it had the most beautiful garden in the full bloom of summer. We walked through the dark cottage and then in the garden. There were sweet peas all through the garden that smelled heavenly. We continued to enjoy the property with a walk in the woods and the orchard. There was a living willow bower and we went inside and listed to some sonnets on a recording inside it.

As the place was closing we wandered a bit in the sculpture garden. Some of the trees there were labeled and had a Shakespeare quote referring to that type of tree on the sign. We made a game of trying to guess which play the quote came from. It was nearly impossible but fun.

Kenilworth Castle
Absolutely wonderful day here. The castle is in ruins but the property is beautiful, and it wasn’t crowded at all. Our entrance fee included a free audio tour that was quite good. We went to some of the audio tour placards and then decided we were hungry for lunch.

There was a lunch room in the old stable and someone in the entrance shop had recommended the local sausage. The food was good but the quiet atmosphere of the old stable was delightful and we lingered a bit.

We wandered around the grounds. I thought the most interesting part catalogued Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley's (the castle's one-time-owner) love affair and her visit there. There are geometric gardens that are replicas of Elizabethan gardens. They were a bit restrained but smelled very fragrant and pleasant. We walked all over the grounds and our friend remembered being there as a child and having her picture taken in a window in silhouette so we tried to recreate that photo.

We finished the tour by walking in the garden just as they were ringing the bell for closing.

Leamington Spa
Since it was only 5:00 when we left Kenilworth and we had so much daylight here we decided to extend our adventure by driving to Leamington Spa, an old town where the “spa” water was considered a curative. We parked the car and walked through the town park, which was very nice. Outside the garden we found a fountain dispensing spa water. The water is saline and we all tasted it and found it just dreadful. I tasted it first and even after my disgusted exclamations everyone tasted it in the spirit of silly tourism.

Warwick Castle
An almost shocking contrast to Kenilworth because this place is so busy and touristy. Warwick is an intact and very touristy castle. We climbed and walked all around the crowded attraction. We went up to one of the turrets and accidentally ended up going through an exhibit called “The Kingmaker” about what it would have been like to get ready for battle under Richard Neville, who once lived in Warwick Castle. It was actually a pretty good exhibit and it involved a bunch of mannquins that were fun to pose with for pictures.

We went out for the Trebuchet demonstration and had our picnic on the lawn while they set up the demonstration. We all thought that the demo would be lame and that they wouldn’t actually fling anything but they actually did. It was a flaming ball! The demonstration was fun and then we walked back for a guided tour in the castle as it was the last one of the day.

The guided tour was rather terrible. The “guide” was a person in character as a maid who took us from room to room and pointed out rather random things about some of the art or pieces on display. The most interesting parts were about the armor. At one point someone in the tour group volunteered better and more interesting info than the guide and we all wished he were the leader. It was a long tour and the castle doesn’t really display things relevant to the period it was a residence but more an eclectic collection of art, armor, and furniture.

Other fun Stuff
There was a river festival while we were there that had a boat parade and fireworks and just walking along the river Avon during the days and seeing the swans was nice, too.

Our last day was a road trip that included several attractions.
schlegal1 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 11:08 AM
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Road Trip!--Rollright Stones, Uffington, Blowing Stone, and Oxford
Today we had a driving adventure in the Fiat! The men stayed up very late planning it to make the most out of the sites on the drive.

Our first stop was the Rollright Stones. The best part was that our friend downloaded a lecture onto his iPod about the stones and we were able to listen to it as we drove. We found this ancient stone circle and tomb without a problem and were surprised to see many other visitors there as well. We took plenty of photos and enjoyed a really pretty view of a farm field edged with bright red poppies. Across the road at the King Stone there was a a field of beautiful black and white cows, including a really cute calf.

We drove on to a little tea shop for a bathroom break and DH and I also bought ice cream. I had delcious lemon meringue. DH wanted to try Turkish delight since we’ve seen the flavor quite a bit; it was awful, a terribly sweet rosewater flavor. He ate it anyway.

We continued on the drive and saw the cute Cotswold villages in yellow stone. We drove through one place with all manner of scarecrows dressed up doing various activities on display outside people’s homes. We had no idea why they were there.

We drove through Burford, a charming town that had some art galleries. We decided it was lunchtime and found a nice restaurant with a pretty patio and ate there.

The next stop was the Uffington horse, Fort, and Dragon Hill. The horse has survived since it was first made through maintenance by the locals during an annual festival. On the way there we stopped at the little tourist center that contains all the town archives. It was cute though not terribly interesting.

We walked up close to the horse, then down to Dragon Hill. Dragon Hill has a legend associated with it that it is where Arthur slew a dragon and that grass will not grow where the dragon’s blood spilled. So we walked down to the bare chalk area on the hill and then back up to the horse. Finally we walked around the perimeter of Uffington Fort and then headed back to the car to continue our day trip.

We had a little bit of trouble getting on the right track to go to the Blowing Stone. The ancient stone supposedly makes a loud trumpeting sound when someone blows into it. There are various beliefs about what it means when someone can elicit that sound, including that the person will be the next king. It was simply a rock on the side of the road surrounded by a small fence and a brochure box. One friend, a former trumpet player, did a nice job getting a trumpeting sound from it. Although the brochure said no special skill was needed and that simply blowing would make a sound, that did not work when the other friend tried it. DH and I declined an attempt since we knew we couldn’t top the trumpet player.

We skipped a barrow that was in the plans because it was getting quite late and we still wanted to get to Oxford before we ended our day. We found a parking place with ease and walked around. The buildings were closed because it was after 5:00 and a Sunday and we decided our main interest was the Eagle and Child Pub. We had some trouble finding it, even after we bought a map. The map seller tried to help us find it but really just blathered about other sites. There was a docent at one of the Oxford College buildings that put us on the right track and then someone in a book shop finally got us there.

The Eagle and Child is where J.R.R. Tolkier, C.S. Lewis and various other Oxford literary types met for over thirty years. We had a drink there in their room, the rabbit room.

We were all quite tired after the pub and wadered slowly back to the car past some of the famous Oxford buildings.
schlegal1 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 11:10 AM
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Sorry, I should have included our trip dates to give context to garden and weather comments: June 29-July 4.

We also enjoyed visiting the Stratford-Upon-Avon farmer's market on Saturday. They make a real effort at local, organic and homemade items.

We enjoyed tasting milkshakes (no ice cream involved, just whirred up milk and strawberries), and Pimms.

And the Garrick Inn, which is, I think, the oldest pub in Stratford, had
schlegal1 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 11:11 AM
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delicious food.
schlegal1 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 03:04 PM
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thanks for posting, schlegal.

glad you enjoyed the trip!
annhig is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 03:40 PM
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I enjoyed your trip report very much. My own trips to Stratford were with student groups and did not allow much exploring off the beaten path. Thanks.
oduncan4 is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 09:44 PM
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It's a shame you missed Warwick itself.

A proper town, with some outstanding pre-Tudor buildings and (rare as hen's teeth in Britain) medieval ecclesiastical art. The perfect antidote to what Merlin Entertainments (the world's largest theme park operator after Disney) have done with the castle.
flanneruk is offline  
Aug 4th, 2011, 05:32 AM
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Thanks for posting your trip report. Always interesting to hear a visitor's view point on my home town of Stratford. My husband has to visit Warwick Castle about 10-15 times a year, with students from overseas. He would agree that it's touristy and Kenilworth is a more realistic castle visit. Warwick town has some treasures which most visitors miss- the Lord Leycester Hospital (never was a hospital)and the Beauchamp Chapel in St Mary's church,are just two examples.
bellini is offline  
Aug 4th, 2011, 06:34 AM
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We like touristy things just as much as off-the-beaten path--there's usually a reason something is popular. If we could have fit more in it would have been great. I will recommend that our friends check out those Warwick town sites before they return to the States. They have English heritage passes and are madly trying to get their money's worth from them before the return!
schlegal1 is offline  
Aug 4th, 2011, 06:44 AM
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Great report! thanks for sharing. Will you share your pictures on a website as well?
irishface is offline  
Aug 4th, 2011, 06:44 AM
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Great report! thanks for sharing. Will you share your pictures on a website as well?
irishface is offline  
Aug 4th, 2011, 08:46 AM
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shlegal1 - thanks for posting such a well organized report. Will save for future reference...
latedaytraveler is offline  
Aug 4th, 2011, 10:54 AM
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Oh, well, my pics aren't anything special and I do not wish to post any with me or my friends in them for privacy reasons but I made a little share site on Shutterfly:
schlegal1 is offline  
Aug 4th, 2011, 11:23 AM
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Thanks so much for your report and photos. What did you think of the theatre itself? It recently re-opened after a complete update. Thanks!
Cathinjoetown is offline  
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