The mention of the name Shakespeare conjures up memories of old traditional England. Perhaps the England inhabited by Robin Hood, Queen Victoria and dare I mention it, Oliver Twist. None is as well known as William Shakespeare, the man who wrote 38 plays and countless poems and became a national poet. Few, however, know about Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birth place, a town that is over 800 years old.
This is exactly where I spent a June summer weekend a couple of hours train journey away from London.
The 10 minute journey from the Stratford-upon-Avon train station to the Best Western hotel was uneventful. The taxi driver did mention that there was a beer festival in town. His pleas that “it will be drunk out” by early evening did not elicit the response he expected. I guess my interests lay elsewhere.
A few minutes rest and I was back, raring to explore this town on a cool Friday evening. The first thing that struck me was how ingenious and resourceful the town’s people were. William Shakespeare died over 400 years ago and yet his name lives on in the town. He is the reason 5 million tourists troop into this tiny town every year. There seemed to be a “million” Chinese school children all neatly dressed in their school uniforms huddled in small groups in the city centre. French, German and Spanish could be heard all over. Shakespeare was on all their minds. They seemed to glide to and fro, moving from the house he was born in, to Halls croft, the home of his daughter Susanna then to Nash’s House, Shakespeare’s final residence. The house of Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, is also another popular must see. The Holy Trinity church or as it is often known Shakespeare church, is where Shakespeare was baptised. It is the church where he is also buried, alongside his wife Anne and eldest daughter Susanna.
On his epitaph in the church are these words:
GOOD FREND FOR JESUS SAKE FORBEARE TO
DIGG THE DUST ENCLOASED HEARE.
BLEST BE YE MAN YT SPARES THES STONES AND
CURST BE HE YT MOVES MY BONES
Well with those words I doubt if any one will be in a hurry to shift Shakespeare and his bones away from his burial place. Such must have been his affection for Stratford-upon-Avon.
It is worthy of note, however, to state that Straford-upon-Avon is not all about Shakespeare. You will be disappointed if you expect the town and it’s people to look as you would imagine in a period drama. Modernism has long dug it’s long clutches into the town. Perhaps the most potent reminder of this bygone era is the town’s black and white Tudor era (1485–1603) architecture and the clock tower (seen in the photo below).
Away from all things Shakespeare, one would find comfort by the Waterside where there are boats that will take you on a cruise on the River Avon. The Compton Verney art gallery, the handful of walks and the Royal Shakespeare Company are all attractions worth partaking in. The MAD (Mechanical Art and Design) museum is a museum displaying a collection of machines and mechanical art. To say I spent over an hour in here playing with what the museum had to offer is not an exaggeration.
Whether you fancy afternoon tea, a pub lunch or a cuisine in a Brasserie, there are plenty of eating places in Stratford-upon-Avon. Some of these have been catalogued in the Lone bicycle photo project: Stratford-upon-Avon.
Dinner and lunch were mainly typically English. Roast beef and lamb, roast potatoes, vegetables and soup. The lentil and parsnip soup was my favourite. There was no compromise with breakfast. My day for my entire duration in Stratford-upon-Avon started on a full English breakfast.
Perhaps the best part of my trip was on Sunday-my last day in Stratford-upon-Avon. I woke up early, left my travelling party in the hotel and headed to the Stratford-upon-Avon Sunday market. I had missed the Friday farmers market as I explored other parts of the town and was determined the Sunday market will not be missed. It was all that I expected and more. Quintessentially English with unforgettable stalls.