“Stratford Upon Avon.” Just saying those words makes me feel positively British. Visiting Stratford, England is a must for lovers of the Bard. The simple town is welcoming and inviting, with plenty of small book shops and coffee houses for playwrights, poets, and authors alike. I visited Stratford with fellow English majors, and we were overjoyed with what it had to offer. But please, don’t feel that you have to be a downright bookworm to enjoy visiting this wonderful town. There is a history here that must be experienced by all.
We began our day by visiting Shakespeare’s Birthplace. This beautiful home has been standing since the early 1600’s. Shakespeare was born and raised in this home, and 60% of the house is still the original material and foundation. Lovers of history and architecture will appreciate it’s simplicity and the practical modifications that Shakespeare made to turn it into an inn. It is located right along a central avenue in Stratford, for John Shakespeare, William’s father, was a glover and leather-tanner. He built a nook of his home to double as a shop and sold his leather out the street-side window. When walking through the house, it is easy to picture how the family lived on a day-to-day basis. John in his shop corner, Mary in the kitchen, and the children playing in the open common room.
Visitors can begin in a little museum that is now built next to the house, take a guided tour of the inside of the house, and end their journey strolling through the large garden that surrounds the house, where every plant or flower mentioned in one of Shakespeare’s poems or plays has been planted. It’s truly quite a site. The outer wall of the museum also hosts a mural of all of Shakespeare’s plays. There is so much to see that celebrates the life of the Bard and the legacy of his plays and poetry.
The Shakespearean experience does not end there. The lane behind Shakespeare’s home is a downtown shopping area with bookstores, coffee shops, and cafes with themed names that tribute the Bard. My friends and I visited an antique book store and had lunch at The Oddfellows Arms, a restaurant/bar with a Macbeth theme.
It’s only fitting to end a day in Stratford by paying your respects to William Shakespeare himself at the Holy Trinity Church. Shakespeare and his family are buried inside the cathedral, and it is free to visit their tombs (though a small donation is appreciated). I did not know what to expect by visiting his grave, but it was a more surreal event than I anticipated. It was kind of strange to stare at his tomb for so long, but I did it anyway. I do not process death very well, and processing the fact that the bones of a man who wrote a bunch of plays 400 years ago were sitting in the ground right in front of me was kind of freaking me out. I am reading this man’s plays, and this man has not been a man for a long, long time. He is a pile of bones, but his writing has lived on. I think everyone hopes to leave a piece of themselves on Earth to live on after they have died, and I know that I have always felt that way. As cliché as it may be, I hope to do something with my life that can live on and be remembered by those who come after me. To think that someone 400 years from now would know my name is an incredible feeling, and I know it could happen if I do something worthwhile. Time and immortality were a common theme in Shakespeare’s poetry, for he truly understood the power and longevity of literature.
Stratford has a plethora of Shakespearean sights to see, and what I’ve listed is only a few of the opportunities available there. Visit http://www.visitstratforduponavon.co.uk/ to plan your trip today!
Welcome to Learn-Grow-Teach-Go! I’m Rachel. Join me as I explore what it means to be a life-long learner and begin to live out a more full, balanced, and simplistic lifestyle. I am currently a high school English teacher, and I enjoy traveling the world and adventuring in my spare time. Whether you’re looking for advice on living minimally and simplistically, teaching ideas and lessons, or travel tips and trips, you’ve found the right place. Glad to have you here!