Day Twelve (Into Shakespeare Country)


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July 24th 2006
Published: July 24th 2006
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Anne Hathaway's HouseAnne Hathaway's HouseAnne Hathaway's House

This is the restored/reconstructed home that Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway, grew up in.

Day Twelve (Into Shakespeare Country)

 Europe » United Kingdom » England » Warwickshire » Stratford upon Avon By Zigeuner
July 24th 2006
Doug Lund
No complaints about York from this traveler. I enjoyed a rather quiet and comfortable night of sleep in my huge single room. The TV actually picked up more than one station too. Nice big bathroom and a refreshing shower. Breakfast was pretty darn nice too: scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, roasted tomato and baked beans served from a buffet line. We also had a nice choice of juices. Too bad we could only stay one night.

It was going to be a rather lengthy ride to our main stop of the day, Stratford-upon-Avon, the home of William Shakespeare. James put British comedy DVD on the bus entertainment system. It was mildly funny in a very English way, but it was no Benny Hill or Monty Python.

We arrived in Stratford just after noon. First stop on the day's agenda would be the home of Anne Hathaway. This would be my fourth visit. Amazingly enough, each time I've been through the house I've learned something new.

Tonight's hotel would be the Swallow Hotel (now called the "Nightingale") in Swindon.


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View of the Hathaway Cottage from the gardenView of the Hathaway Cottage from the garden
View of the Hathaway Cottage from the garden

Nearly as interesting as the home itself are the gardens around Anne Hathaway's house. We were given half an hour to explore them while awaiting our turn to go into the tiny rooms of the cottage.
A "new" old chimneyA "new" old chimney
A "new" old chimney

The Hathaway home is restored to its 17th Century state as it was imagined to be during Anne Hathaway's youth. Parts of the home actually date as far back as the 14th Century. Various families have owned and dwelled in the home over the years. Most of the later additions and improvements were removed when the cottage became an historic site. This chimney however was added about 100 years after Anne's lifetime. Also note how the wire mesh covers the thatch. Re-thatching a building of this size could cost close to $30,000 so the trust that maintains the home makes darn sure birds and mice as well as the weather can't destroy that expensive investment.
Elizabethan windvaneElizabethan windvane
Elizabethan windvane

This wacky looking device functions both as a spinning windvane and bird deterrent. When the wind catches these feathers and causes this device to spin it resembles a much bigger bird to the little devils trying to raid the Hathaway garden.
Shakespeare's homeShakespeare's home
Shakespeare's home

After our tour of the interior of Anne Hathaway's joint we reboarded Mark's bus. Now it was getting really, really hot. Temperatures were in the mid 90's. After mark dropped us off in downtown Stratford, James led us to Shakespeare's birthplace. Like Anne Hathaway's house I've been here numerous times. It isn't nearly as interesting or charming as Shakespeare's wife's place so we ran through it pretty quickly.
Disneyworld EnglandDisneyworld England
Disneyworld England

Not really, but Stratford-upon-Avon is about as touristy as you can get in the U.K. There are souvenir shops everywhere and all manner of "attractions" specifically aimed at raiding the tourists' pockets. One good thing about the Brits trying to please their American cousins - they actually have a/c in some of the restaurants and serve ice cubes in the sodas.
Along the Avon RiverAlong the Avon River
Along the Avon River

Gail, her mother and I were pretty much sick of shopping at this point. We decided to go into the Marks and Spencer's foodstore where we bought packaged salads, sandwiches and sodas. Then we walked down to the River Avon to enjoy a picnic. When we reached the park alonside the river bank it looked like the entire population of Stratford had the same idea. The place was packed. We had to walk around a bit in order to find a spot in the shade.
These two have the right ideaThese two have the right idea
These two have the right idea

While we were eating we ran into our guide, James. He sat down with us and we talked about our travels for over an hour. We were really in no hurry to walk back into the shopping district. I was feeling almost totally drained by the heat. When I saw these two women chomping on these ice cream cones I finally felt motivated to get up and look for more to eat. I got a big mint chip cone which cooled me off for about 5 minutes then made me feel nauseous for the next hour or so. While we tried to kill some time before reboarding the bus, Gail rediscovered her shopping groove. Try as she might, even she couldn't find anything she HAD to have.
Everything for the touristEverything for the tourist
Everything for the tourist

Obviously we were a little jaded by our frequent visits to Stratford, but the rest of the people in our group seemed to be having a good time. The three of us were more than ready to leave but it was taking awhile for the rest of our group members to reassemble. As I stood around waiting I spotted this sign which pretty much says it all regarding Stratford. It's rather telling that the flag that's displayed is that of the folks that keep this place in business.
Heading out of townHeading out of town
Heading out of town

It was nice to get back on our air conditioned bus. We passed back over the River Avon as we travelled on to our next destination. I really love these old canal boats. If we ever win the lottery I really want to spend a couple weeks travelling the English canal system.
Stow-on-the-WoldStow-on-the-Wold
Stow-on-the-Wold

No, that's not what we had for lunch. That's the name of this tiny little hamlet in the Cotswolds. Our ride out of Stratford led us Southward through the picturesque Cotswolds. We passed through Hampton Lucy, Stretton-on-Fosse, Moreton-in-Marsh, Upper and Lower Swell. (Love those names!) When we pulled into Stow-on-the-Wold we were given an hour to explore this charming little place.
At least these Brits realize what country they're living inAt least these Brits realize what country they're living in
At least these Brits realize what country they're living in

Other than at the Royal Palaces and castles we visited, the tiny town square in Stow-on-the-Wold was the only place we saw the English flag displayed. Gail and I spent most of our time in this tiny village doing some power-shopping. I found a nice cast iron bell in a little fireplace store on the far side of town. In another little shop we got into a nice chat with a Brit who had spent a couple years outside Philadelphia. We really enjoyed the tiny town and added this to our growing list of spots we need to revisit.
SwindonSwindon
Swindon

We got no relief from the heat even as the day grew later. Fortunately our bus a/c was working pretty well so we were at least comfortable as we drove on to our hotel in Swindon. I was expecting a decent-sized town since I would have sworn I had heard of the place somewhere. But Swindon turned out to be a two street town out in the middle of nowhere. Our hotel was pretty much the only point of interest in the hamlet. It was an inclusive resort/hotel with a huge oak bar, nice restaurant and indoor pool. The locals used the pool and athletic facilities as a health club. Dinner was a mini-buffet that included ratatouille and lasagna. Not very English but it was delicious. Dessert was ice cream which was exactly what we wanted on this stinking hot day. After dinner Gail, her mother and I decided to take a walk to the "town". Soon after leaving our hotel grounds we came upon this virtually deserted old church. There was no one around the church as we explored the grounds. Just the sound of a big flock of birds roosting up on the roof. The church and church graveyard seemed like something from an English movie set.
9 o'clock and all is well9 o'clock and all is well
9 o'clock and all is well

Just in case you thought I was exaggerating about how late it got dark in England, take a look at the church tower clock. We also took a walk through the old graveyard which featured an amazing amount of Polish names on the gravestones.
Taking a walk toward the townTaking a walk toward the town
Taking a walk toward the town

There wasn't much more to see in the churchyard so we walked toward the tiny pub we had spotted from the bus as we arrived in town. Nothing seemed to be happening there so we continued walking...and walking. We headed past a number of rather comfortable looking middle class homes, but there were no stores, businesses or points of interest as we headed to the end of the town. We turned around when we ran out of paved sidewalk. We continued our walk through the store-less town of Swindon for another hour headed in the opposite direction. It still wasn't totally dark when we returned to the hotel at 10:30.


8th September 2009

Fixed Link
The website for the hotel we stayed in seems to change every few months.

Tot: 1.018s; Tpl: 0.057s; cc: 19; qc: 106; dbt: 0.0561s; 1; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.5mb