Sunday, 19 February 2012

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

I went down to Stratford on Avon about three weeks ago with friends Chris and Dave and have only just got round to blogging it properly. I originally did one whilst working a night shift but I had a collective attack of the grumps and writers block so decided to can it and start it again as it wasn't a true reflection of my day.

 I'd dropped Sal off in Sheffield to visit her parents and then continued to Loughborough. We'd arranged for me to pick here up again on my way back. I had paid a visit to Stratford when I was a child but all I could really remember was having a picnic by the river and the Shakespeare Theatre. Being so close seemed to be too good an opportunity to miss plus Sal had also recently stayed there and her enthusiasm and love for the town and it's history had rubbed off on me a bit.

One thing which surprised me about the drive down was the quality of the roads. From Loughborough all the way down to the outskirts of  Stratford was dual-carriageway or motorway so we arrived there in no time at all and Dave's built-in radar found us a car park in the centre of town right next to a pub!

We were only a stones throw away from the River Avon so we headed there and took a leisurely walk along it's banks with the theatre opposite. It was quite busy at the start but the farther we walked, the quieter it became and it soon turned in to a very pleasant stroll. Lots of stops were taken for Chris and to a lesser extent myself to take photos (once Chris has that camera in her hand there's no stopping her!).

We crossed over a little footbridge where I lost yet another lens cap! It slipped from my grasp as I tried to put it back on so I had to painfully watch it roll over the side of the bridge and float away down the River Avon. It was more of a concern to Chris than to myself as it is quite a a common occurrence with me. I just stood there laughing. Another couple of lens caps have arrived from eBay this morning, one for the lens I had on that day and another for the cap I lost in the River Derwent whilst in the Lakes sometime at the back end of last year.

Next on the agenda was a visit to the Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare is buried. His gravestone bears an epitaph which Shakespeare himself supposedly wrote. It warns:

"Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones"

For those not in the know, it is the beautiful Church which you can see in most of the picture postcard shots of the River and Theatre.

At this point Dave's radar kicked in again so we ended up in a lovely olde worlde pub called the Dirty Duck which was just over the way from the Theatre. Consequently the walls were full of photos of actors and actresses who had presumably performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company, some of which I recognised but I showed my ignorance by not having a clue who most were. Unbeknown to me, this was the pub which Sal had recommended we should visit, the one which for the life of me I couldn't recall the name of. Her choice of pubs proved to be faultless and spot on yet again. I should point out that two of our party had cappuccinos but I won't embarrass said person by naming him here Dave ;o)

It was then over the road and into the Theatre itself. Unfortunately we only really had a quick look in the gift shop before heading into the town centre. I think Stratford is a place where you need to stay a couple of days to appreciate it fully. We only had four hours which resulted in us rushing and clock watching all the time which meant that we couldn't give the time that most of the places of interest deserved.

Also, we had a meal booked in Leisester for four o'clock so that didn't help either. We didn't really have enough time to visit any on the museums or famous houses so just settled for a walk around the shops, a lot of which had beautiful, elegant Georgian frontages. A mammoth sweet shop, Christmas decorations shop and the decadent cake shop are certainly worthy of a mention and I think Chris may well be making a return visit to these nearer Christmas!

A lovely day was finished off with a meal at the Real China Restaurant in Leicester where I think we all may have had just a little bit too much to eat!! No pub for any of us that night, just a sociable drink in and a nap for the man who sneaked the extra pint in. He had driven all day though bless him.

River Avon

Canal Basin, Stratford upon Avon

Giant sundial

River Avon

River Avon and the RSC Theatre

RSC Theatre

River Avon

River Avon and Holy Trinity Church

River Avon crossing

River Avon

Stratford upon Avon

The Falstaff Experience

'The Garrick', Stratford's oldest pub

Hathaway tea rooms

Old Guys Role

Sweet Shop

William Shakespear's Birthplace

A journey of two halves.

It was one of those all too frequent occasions when the weather forecast had a big wad of thick cloud and rain hanging over Cumbria whilst ...