Sunday, June 10, 2012

Home of the Bard

For reference for the rest of this entry:

So I left off about at Anne Hathaway's house, right?  Well, after that, we went to the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford where a famous author is buried.  Bet you can't guess who that is.

And from the outside:

And our professor's daughter inside with the dress-up clothes being put on her.  She was kind of a favorite.  Can't guess many girls and one small child...

Next, we walked down the road a little ways more and ended up in Stratford.  We went to the place where his house used to be when he was writing his plays.  He's so creative--he called it New Place.  It was a big house, beautiful gardens, practically a mansion by Stratford standards, and now looks approximately like a hole in the ground.  Why?  Because when he died, some other people inherited it, and because Shakespeare was famous, they got tourists.  And they didn't like tourists.  So they decided it would be a brilliant idea to destroy the house.  And cut down the tree given to Shakespeare by King James.  Because they're smart like that.  So they're digging out the area to see the foundations, might even be restoring it at some point, which would be cool.  They did have several displays there about the various plays and a bit on Shakespeare's life in the house next door.  I'd say if you're ever there, worth a visit.  The gardens are pretty incredible.  There were hedges everywhere, little almost-maze-like flower beds, and an arbor that had apples growing over it.  I still want some sort of arbor that I can walk through and pick fruit as it hangs over my head.  Brilliant gardening.
The house hole and gardens
Okay, very small portion thereof.

After that, we went along to find his birthplace.  Now that was interesting.  I believe it is the actual house.  You come up to it on one side down a street lined with shops--one of them is only kind of a knock-off of the Leaky Cauldron, called Magic Alley which was definitely not referencing Diagon Alley nor was the sign out front a rip-off of anything Potter-esque.  And across the street was a restaurant called the Food of Love.  Can't guess where that name possibly came from. we found the birthplace in a large visitor's center.  Big.  Can't miss it.  Walked in, told them our group, and we were ushered into an intro thing.  And by ushered in, I mean she pointed, a door opened, and we were on our own on a guided tour through an automated path with videos of "So, this dude called Shakespeare...heard of him?"  When one video ended, a door would open on the opposite side and we'd walk into another room where another video awaited us.  Finally we walked down a hall of fame banner walk of all the famous people who had ever been in a Shakespeare play (including David Tennant because who doesn't like him? Especially in the UK?) and finally we went to the house.

The house was very nice.  It looked like this from the side we came out on:
You'll notice it's getting towards evening.  (Although technically this was after we came out.) Long and busy day and it wasn't over yet.  The tour started in the front room where they had an enormous bed to show off how awesome they were that they could afford such expensive furniture...but of course they didn't sleep on it; far too expensive.  We also saw his father's glove-making shop (there were some cool soft rabbit skin gloves with a slit for riding or doing a Vulcan salute).  As it happens, his father did rather well for himself as he was a glove maker, the mayor, and either black market salesman or smuggler.  One way or another, illicit dealings on the side.

We went through the rest of the house and I had a long talk with one guide in the children's bedroom (toys everywhere) about tourism and writing and books and literature.  Very important things.  I wish I could remember more detail of the conversation, but that's what I get for waiting 7 months to write about it.

We were coming to the close of the day and a few of us wandered around the town for a while looking at the shops before going to a good ol' English pub for dinner--heavy wooden tables, sign out front, and everything.  We got our food and the guy asked what we wanted to drink--"Water, please."  And he gave us this look that I was rather getting used to of "'re in a pub and you want what?"

We then went to the Shakespeare statue.  I'd give you pictures but my camera doesn't work well in the dark.  He was surrounded by Hamlet, Lady Macbeth, and so on.  This was for a short time.  We trotted on down the road to the Swan Theatre to watch Measure for Measure by the RSC.  The duke was a very good actor, as was Isabella, and they did have fun putting on their play but...well... Certain parts of it were rather disturbing and our professor was kind of upset that he'd brought his teenage boys to see it.  Little too much black leather and such.  I also found a shirt I like....

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