Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Day Seventeen: Stratford-Upon-Avon

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Stratford-Upon-Avon
Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-Upon-Avon
Hall’s Croft, Stratford-Upon-Avon
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-Upon-Avon

This entire day will be devoted to attractions in Stratford-Upon-Avon associated with William Shakespeare.

My brother and I have already seen literally everything worth seeing in Stratford-Upon-Avon—twice, in 2002 and 2004—and if we were traveling by ourselves we would not return to Stratford for many, many years.

However, Josh and Josh’s sister have never been to Stratford, and my parents have not been to Stratford since the 1970’s, and my brother and I thought it made no sense NOT to return to Stratford since we would all be in the immediate vicinity.

Returning to Stratford DOES give everyone an opportunity to attend a performance of The Royal Shakespeare Company in its home theater, and Josh and Josh’s sister will be able to visit the Shakespeare historic attractions for the first time.

This will be a very easy-going and mellow day, because there truly is not all that much to see in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

We do not plan to get out and until 9:30 a.m.

Our first stop will be Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, situated in a residential area one mile from the center of Stratford.

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is the most picturesque of the Shakespeare properties, lying in an idyllic setting surrounded by parkland and other handsome houses.

The Cottage is not a cottage at all—it is a twelve-room Elizabethan farmhouse, with an elaborate thatched roof, that fully reflected the prosperity of the Hathaway family.

The entire house may be visited, and it is filled with 16th-Century fixtures and furniture, some of which was actually owned by the Hathaway family. A beautiful English garden is attached, alongside which is the Hathaway orchard.

Of the three Shakespeare properties we will visit, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is the one that is most typical of what we today think of as “Elizabethan”. It is a charming place to visit.

From Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, we will go back downtown and visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace, probably the most-visited literary landmark in the world. Shakespeare is believed to have been born and spent his formative years in this house.

Shakespeare’s father was a successful businessman, and the scale and luxuriousness of the property are indicative of his moneyed status.

One approaches Shakespeare’s Birthplace through a large Visitors’ Centre, which holds a comprehensive exhibition about Shakespeare’s life. The exhibition is excellent and informative. From the Visitors’ Centre, visitors proceed through a tree, flower and herbal garden to reach the Shakespeare home. The house is full of period fixtures and furnishings, and is quite interesting.

We will tour the entire property, and have lunch afterward.

After lunch, we will walk to nearby Hall’s Croft, home of Shakespeare’s daughter. The house’s name comes from John Hall, the wealthy physician Shakespeare’s daughter, Susanna, married.

Hall’s Croft is an imposing residence, and one of Britain’s finest Elizabethan homes still intact. It is filled with period paintings and luxury items, as well as tools and instruments associated with the typical medical practice of the time. There is a dramatic walled garden on the property, probably used in Shakespeare’s time to grow herbs useful to a physician.

From Hall’s Croft, we will walk to nearby Holy Trinity Church, the church in which Shakespeare was baptized and worshipped, and the church in which he is buried.

Holy Trinity Church is the oldest building in Stratford, dating from 1210. The church is approached along an avenue of lime trees, said to represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve Apostles. It is situated on the site of an ancient Saxon monastery on the banks of The River Avon, a lovely spot in a park-like setting with many trees and plants. It is the most-visited parish church in Great Britain.

Shakespeare is buried in the church’s chancel. His wife and Susanna are buried alongside him.

We will explore the church, and explore the church gardens, after which we will have the remainder of the day free.

We will probably spend a couple of hours strolling the banks and bridges of The River Avon, and then return to Holy Trinity Church for the 6:00 p.m. Sunday Evensong Service.

After Service, we will find a suitable restaurant for dinner.

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