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March 23, 2005
From journal Three Weeks in London
New York, New York
June 25, 2001
The town of Stratford is situated in the county of Warwickshire and hugs the Avon River. The whole town seems as though a replica of a once-flourishing Elizabethan town. The thatched roofs on many of the old homes and buildings, the beautiful gardens and the quaint streets, seemingly made wide enough only for the passage of horse-drawn carriages, make you feel as though you've traveled back in time. The unfortunate reminders of contemporary and commericial civilization manifest themselves in the form of the occasional McDonalds and CitiBank.
Once there, you can chose to walk the parameters of the very small surface area of the town, or catch a tour on one of the "hop-on, hop-off" busses. The most important places for amateur Shakespeare historians to visit are his birthplace, his grave, and the three theaters where his works are still performed.
The Hansel and Gretle-esque home in which Shakespeare was born is located on Henley Street. From the outside, you can peer through the gates to look at the gardens in the backyard and also read the brief passage on the plaque mounted near the entrance. For a small fee, you can enter into the grounds of the house for a more elaborate tour. In addition to his birthplace, you can also visit the houses of the poet's mother, daughter, granddaughter and wife.
Next, make your way to the famous Holy Trinity Church grounds. The church is surrounded by maticulously cared-for gardens, so check those out before you head inside. Inside the church, you'll find a small gift shop where you can purchase post cards and the like. As you walk toward the altar area, you will be asked to make a small one pound donation before you view the grave of Shakespeare and his wife. In addition to the actual graves, displayed are the town's records of births and deaths. Highlighted is Shakespeare's name for the respective years of his birth and death. You can spend a lot of time at the grave site reading the various wall and plaque inscriptions relating to the artist.
Finally, you should try to catch a performance by the touted Royal Shakespeare Company who occupy all three of the town's theaters. There are three theaters: The Royal Shakespeare Co. Main Theater, The Swan Theater, and the Other Place (a new venue in which contemporary plays are performed). Also available are tours of the theaters where history and backstories are told in detail.
Visiting Stratford is an invaluable excursion for anyone interested in the life and history behind Shakespeare's creations.
From journal Studying in & Absorbing Back"woods" London
by Cherri Megasko
March 15, 2001
Our next stop was Stratford -- Shakespeare's birthplace. We toured the actual home of Shakespeare's birth, and spent some time browsing in all the local shops.
Our last stop was Warwick Castle. Its history dates back to the 900's, and it was my favorite stop on the tour. Check out the dungeon -- really creepy!
To me, the best part of this tour was driving through the English countryside. We stopped along the way and had lunch at a little pub. Our group sampled jacket potatoes and a ploughman's lunch, which are very authentic old-English meals. I'd recommend trying them both.