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London 2018: Stratford-Upon-Avon

Day 12, Thursday, July 5, 2018

After Bibury and Bourton on the Water, we were nowhere near finished with our tour of the Cotswolds.  Shottery was our next destination – the village where Anne Hathaway grew up.  In case you were wondering, I’m not talking about the contemporary actress Anne Hathaway, but rather William Shakespeare’s wife.  The cottage where she grew up was a cute little Tudor style cottage, built beginning in 1463 by Anne’s grandfather, John Hathaway.  Anne was born in the house in 1556.

The Hathaway Cottage

The home was occupied by the Hathaway family for thirteen generations; the home was purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1892, and the trust arranged for the family members to continue to take care of the cottage and tell family stories.  The last member of the family, William Baker, was there until 1911.  One admission fee included all the the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust properties, including the Hathaway Cottage, the Shakespeare Birthplace Home, the New Place (where Shakespeare lived after he married), and a couple other places we didn’t have time to see.  Taryn and I opted in for the tours; the guys decided they would rather just wander the towns and hit the pubs.

It was fun to see the home, including some of the original Hathaway belongings.  The garden was amazing!  The Hathaways were tenant sheep farmers who eventually acquired enough wealth to purchase their property, before later experiencing a decline in fortune and having to sell the property and become tenant farmers once again.  What goes around comes around.  Enjoy it while it lasts, I guess – it is all fleeting.

We went to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see the Shakespeare sights next.  Shakespeare was born there in 1564, and also returned there in approximately 1613, after making a name for himself in London.  Shakespeare died in Stratford-Upon-Avon in 1616, and is buried there.  The bus dropped us off and set us loose upon the town.

Taryn and I stopped first at the school Shakespeare attended, The King’s New School, which was available for free for all boys in the district.  Shakespeare would have attended there from the age of seven, after grammar school ended, until the age of 14, when he likely would have entered an apprenticeship program for another seven years.  There is no record that Shakespeare ever attended university.

Shakespeare’s School

The school tour was interesting because they had an interpretative talk where the guide explained what the boys would have learned, the expected behavior and how long they would be in school each day.  As it turns out they went to school from 6 am to 5 pm, 6 days a week!  That’s a lot of learning!  The school has the original historic headmaster’s table and several original desks, where they carved their names in to memorialize their time in school.  After the interpretive talk, in the next room they had a place where you could try to write your name with a feather quill pen.  It is tougher than it looks!

The Headmaster at Shakespeare’s school

 

Original desks at Shakespeare’s school

We had a bit of extra time so we went over to the Shakespeare New Place.  It is an exhibit on the site where Shakespeare lived with Anne Hathaway after they married and came into some money.  The house is gone, but the home next door was built around the same time period – 1530, and the exhibit went through there so we could see the style of home where he lived.  They had manuscripts of Shakespeare’s work and other interesting artifacts.

We had to meet back up with the bus tour guide so he didn’t think we had gone AWOL, but he was ok with us not staying with the group (the pace of the group was annoyingly slow).  We told him that we were off to find the next museum; Shakespeare’s birthplace home.  The original home is still standing; it was built in the 1500s.  William Shakespeare’s father Jon was a glove maker and wool dealer; the home was built with his business occupying part of it.  In 1568 John became the Mayor of Stratford.  He originally rented the home, but records show he purchased it in the 1550s.  It looks modest now, but it would have been a fine home for the time!

Me at Shakespeare’s Birthplace

William Shakespeare was the third of eight children to be born here, on April 23, 1564.  When his father John died in 1601, William inherited the house (he was the oldest son), and lived there for the first five years of his marriage.  Later he leased the house, and it became an inn, and it was an inn until 1847!  According to the Trust, when Shakespeare died he left this house to his eldest daughter, who left it to her daughter, and then it was inherited by the descendants of one of Shakespeare’s sisters.  It remained in the family until it was purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1847.  Other sources dispute that and say the home passed out of the hands of Shakespeare’s family in the early 1800s.  It is so incredible to know that England was thinking about historic preservation over 170 years ago!

We toured the home and saw where there were historic names etched in the glass from people who visited the home over 100 years ago – it has been a tourist attraction for a long time!  We also got to stand in the room where the bard was likely born!

After our tour, we had a little bit of time to wander around Stratford Upon Avon, so Taryn and I got some ice cream to cool down on another hot day.  We also poked around in a few of the shops in town.  It was such a fun visit, but soon it was time for pile back on the bus.

Stratford Upon Avon

 

Me and Taryn in Stratford Upon Avon

The bus dropped us off about 7:30 and we went to the Admiralty Pub near Trafalgar Square once more.  I had a mini-pie – the sweet potato and Stilton one (so good!) and some peel and eat Atlantic Prawns.  We got back to the hotel about 9 pm for some cider and British game shows.  They are fascinating, and so very different from American game shows.  It was another great day!

Mini Pie!

Tube Stations:  The bus dropped us off on Gloucester Road.  Gloucester Raod to Charing Cross (The Admiralty), to Earl’s Court (hotel).
Costs: Bus tour to the Cotwolds and Stratford Upon Avon – 59 pounds, Shakespeare admissions – 22.50 pounds, snacks for lunch, dinner at the Admiralty Pub
Fitbit Steps: 9,700 steps

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London 2018: The Cotswolds

Day 12, Thursday, July 5, 2018

During our trip, we also booked a tour to visit the Cotswolds and Stratford-Upon-Avon.  It was a bit of a last minute decision; after we so briefly visited the Cotswolds on our Stonehenge tour, Taryn and I decided we wanted to see more, so we booked online that night with the same tour company, Golden Tours.

The Cotswolds is a country area outside of London, known for its rolling hills and natural scenic beauty.  It is a general term for a collection of small villages in the scenic valley; the common interpretation of the word Cotwolds is “sheep enclosures in rolling hills.”  If you have seen the historic stone villages and cottages in movies or photo spreads, you have likely seen the Cotswolds.  Stratford-Upon-Avon a small town located on one end of the Cotswolds area – it is famous for its famous historical resident, William Shakespeare.

On our tour, we stopped first in Bibury, a historic village in the Cotswolds.  Many of the cottages there were built during the 1400s; they were so cute!  We only had about 25 minutes to wander around there though; it felt a bit rushed.

There were cute swans on a quiet stream running through the town, and a fantastic looking inn with beautiful gardens.  What a relaxing place to spend an afternoon!

Next up was Bourton on the Water, another adorable town nicknamed “The Venice of England” for its low stone bridges over the river.  We had about 45 minutes there; it was certainly someplace I would like to spend a couple of days.  There is a museum there that we didn’t have time to check out.  We wandered around, took some photos and poked around in a couple of shops. I bought a polished serpentine stone at a rock shop there too.  What a great place!

Note: When the tour guide says to be back at the bus at a certain time, be sure to be there.  One lady arrived back late – the rest of us were stuck waiting for about 15 minutes.  She got dressed down by the tour guide!  It was nice that he said something, but I do think he went overboard with the public chastising.  I’m glad it wasn’t me!

After your time in Bourton on the Water we piled back on the bus – we still had much more to see.  Next we were on our way to see the Shakespeare sites!

Tube Stations:  None – We walked to where the bus picked us up.

 

London 2018: Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret

Day 11, Wednesday, July 4, 2018

After Kensington, we ended up back at the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret (remember it was closed on Monday?).  This ended up being one of my absolute favorite visits in London.  The museum is located in the garret of St. Thomas’ Church, which was originally St. Thomas’ Hospital.  The herb garret was there first, and had a long history of use drying and storing herbs for use in the hospital.  When they rediscovered the space, there were opium poppies still hanging to dry in the rafters.

The Stairs up to the Museum

About 1822, the surgical theatre was opened in part of the garret and operations on women in the adjoining women’s ward were conducted (previously the surgeries had been done on the ward).  Imagine surgery during that period.  No anesthesia, no antibiotics, surgeons didn’t wash their hands prior to operating, and germs lived in the lining of the instrument box.  There were up to 150 men watching the surgery (it was a teaching hospital).  Almost all the patients were in poverty, because if you could afford it, you were treated and had your surgery at home.  Most people died after surgery.  Makes you want to sign up right?

When St. Thomas’ Hospital moved to a new location in 1862, the operating theatre and herb garret were sealed off, with items still inside.  It was rediscovered in 1957, and opened to the public in 1962 – a space that had been untouched for 100 years!

When we visited, there was a school group there for a presentation, so we got to sit in, as long as he promised to not try to answer the questions the presenter asked the students.  It was fascinating – I really enjoyed listening and seeing the demonstration of the instruments.  It was hilarious to see the student’s faces when she passed around the tool used for removing bladder stones!  The one drawback was the heat in that space.  Imagine being in an attic with no open windows and no air conditioning on a day in the 80s.  It was roasting hot!  Several people left during the presentation because it was so hot, but I wanted to stick it out because it was so interesting.  The presenter had a couple of fans, which she kept pointed at herself!

After the presentation, we had a chance to poke around the herb garret and see what medicinal herbs they used back in the 1800s.  We also looked around the operating theatre after all the students left and saw the original operating table, surgical instruments from the time, and looked out into the gallery when men watched and learned surgical techniques.  It was really cool to see!

After our visit, we went over to the Thameside Inn for disappointing nachos, but the cider hit the spot and cooled me off!

For dinner we went to the Rock & Sole Plaice in Covent Garden for fish and chips, on the recommendation of our Stonehenge tour guide.  I really wanted the rock fish, but they were out, so I ordered the calamari appetizer.  Taryn loved her meal, but Brandon thought it was just ok.  I am sure I would have loved the rock fish more!

Then we headed back to the room for an early evening.  We had done a lot that day!

Tube Stations:  Notting Hill Gate to London Bridge (Old Operating Theatre), London Bridge to Covent Garden (Rock & Sole Plaice), Covent Garden to Earl’s Court (hotel)
Costs: Old Operating Theatre – 6.50 pounds (free with London Pass), nachos and cider, dinner at Rock & Sole Plaice
Fitbit Steps: 17,000 steps

London 2018: Kensington Palace

Day 11, Wednesday, July 4, 2018

After the Changing of the Guard we were off to find some lunch.  We stopped in at the Bag O’ Nails pub, another in the Greene King chain, but the menu was different than we had seen before.  I had the tomato and mozzarella salad topped with a balsamic drizzle.  It was good, and did some good at satisfying my craving for salad…

Then we went to Kensington Palace.  Kensington Palace was built in 1605 and expanded in 1689, after it was purchased by the royal family.  A number of royals have lived at Kensington, including Queen Victoria and Albert, Princess Diana and currently Prince William and Kate.  The state rooms are open to the public to tour, and there are several exhibits inside.

Taryn and I toured the rooms and exhibits.  The rooms were plainer than the other royal residences that we visited.  You could sit on some of the furniture in some of the rooms and take photos here (no flash), and I thought the exhibits were more interesting than the rooms themselves.  One exhibit details the life and love story of Queen Victoria and Albert; it was perhaps the best love story I have heard in awhile.  I’m a sucker for a good love story.

Another exhibit shows many of the suits and dresses that Princess Diana wore during her royal life.  There was so much 80s and 90s in that room!

 

I thought the gardens were the most impressive part of Kensington Palace.  The formal garden is beautiful, and Taryn and I spent some time wandering and checking it out.

Tube Stations:  Hyde Park Corner (Buckingham Palace) to Notting Hill Gate (Kensington Palace)
Costs: Kensington Palace – 19.50 pounds (free with London Pass)

London 2018: Changing of the Guard

Day 11, Wednesday, July 4, 2018

We started our Independence Day with a visit to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.  We got out of the hotel room at 9:15 so we could get there by 10 am to get a good spot.  The show starts at 10:45 and our 10 am arrival did get us a spot right at the fence.

The Changing of the Guard, which is officially called the Guard Mounting, originated in the late 17th century as a way to drill military troops and increase unit cohesion.  In case you were wondering, the guards are fully operational soldiers.

The show…  Wow!  What can I say?  This was something that Taryn really wanted to see and that I wasn’t too sure about, but it’s kind of a thing you have to do when you are in London, right?!

 

There is a lot of pomp and circumstance at the Guard Mounting.  The guards and the bands march in from down the street; the day we were there it was the British Beefeaters (the Queen’s Guard) and the Canadians (the gray uniforms).  It surprised me that it wasn’t all red-uniformed, Queen’s Guard soldiers.  I took a few videos; please forgive my lack of any sort of good video skill!

 

 

Then once they are inside the gates, they do a battle of the bands type of thing, which I was not expecting at all.  I was surprised by the music that they played.  They played the Incredibles theme song, and Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer, in addition to some more traditional music.  How’s that for making a tradition contemporary?!  It was fascinating to watch and the bands are very talented.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the battle of the bands, they formally do the changing of the Guard, where the British Beefeaters took over the guard from the Canadians.  There is a lot of fancy marching around, adjusting their rifles and swinging their arms all fancy, military like.  There are flags and salutes and turns on the heel.  It was interesting, and something I would probably never be talented enough to pull off.

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Changing of the Guard and Taryn was in heaven!  I wasn’t sure at first, but it was certainly a must-see in London.  It would be interesting to see it from a different vantage point too!

The show ends about noon, but we still had a lot to see that day!

Tube Stations:  Earl’s Court to St. James’ Park
Costs: Free – enjoy the show!

 

London 2018: Stonehenge

Day 10, Tuesday, July 3, 2018

After we left Bath, we went to an early dinner at the Stonehenge Inn.  It was an all-you-can-eat carvery dinner (all-you-can-eat is generally wasted on me since I can’t eat that much but I tried!) with four kinds of meat; ham, pork, beef and turkey, along with veggies and Yorkshire pudding, and ice cream for dessert.  I love the big Thanksgiving style meals in England, but I was also craving a salad!

 

 

After dinner, it was finally time to see Stonehenge!

 

Stonehenge was built beginning in 3,100 BC; it was initially a raised circular embankment.  It is theorized that the earthen embankment was originally a burial ground, as bones have been found during the excavation.  About 300 years later the blue stones were added.  Blue stones is a generic term; some of them are igneous dolerite stones.  They are believed by most to have been transported by the builders from Preseli Hills, about 150 miles away in Wales.  Approximately 600 years after that the sarsen stones were placed.  These are the 30 large standing stones, with another 30 stones capping the ring.

More blue stones were added later on, and stones were moved around over the years, although it is unknown why.  They stopped using Stonehenge during the Iron Age.  I guess it depends on where in the world it is, but the Iron Age in Britain seems to be approximately 550 BC to 800 AD.  That’s quite a bit of squish in the knowledge about Stonehenge.  Researchers can only speculate on Stonehenge’s purpose; they do believe that it was a place of spiritual significance because the monument lines up with the sun at the winter and summer solstice.  Excavations have revealed animal bones that lead researchers to believe that people gathered there in winter.

When we got there, we walked up to the site as a group before getting our pre-viewing briefing, which basically consisted of “Don’t be the jerk who touches the stones.”  “If you touch the stones, you will get kicked out and have to go wait on the bus.”  “If you touch the stones, everybody else will jeer at you and mock you and throw tomatoes.”  “Got it?”  It wasn’t quite like that, but that was basically the gist.  We were split into two groups and let loose among the stones for 30 minutes for each group.  The only drawback of the sunset tour is that when you arrive, the Visitor’s Center is already closed for the day.  I would have liked to see that.

 

 

While the other group was in the inner circle, we got to wander around the outside.

 

 

Standing inside Stonehenge and seeing it up close was incredible.  It was a very spiritual experience to see this monument built thousands of years ago, and to wonder what the makers intended it for.  The lowering light of the sun was amazing to see on the stones and between them.  While it would be cool to see Stonehenge on the solstice, it was nice to be here with so few people (there were about 40 of us on the tour).  It was really a bucket list experience, and I’m afraid words can’t really do it justice.  The photos will have to do.

 

Tube Stations:  None.  We disembarked from the bus on Gloucester Road, which was less than a mile from our hotel, so we walked home from there (you also have the choice to disembark back at the bus station where we left from in the morning).
Costs: Golden Tours day trip to Bath and Stonehenge, with an inner circle sunset viewing – $175 (note: this price is in U.S. dollars), carvery dinner – $15 pounds
Fitbit Steps: 14,022