Stratford and Warwick

Well as David says, we’ve been slack updating this recently and we have yet to tell you all about our exciting trip on the Sun Kosi which I promise we’ll do soon! But we’ve not given up on the travelling just because we’ve got back to England. One of the things that we wanted to do on our return was explore our nearer surroundings, and we had the perfect excuse this weekend since we were celebrating five years of being together.

David organised a surprise weekend away and took me to a lovely hotel attached to a 16th century country hall, located between Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick. We decided to head to Mary Arden’s farm the next day which used to belong to Shakespeare’s mother and was ‘lived in’ by Tudor styled actors, which made it a really interesting place to look around. We saw a flying pig when a rare, huge British lop-eared mummy pig got fed up of her baby crawling on her snout and flung him off. It was a pretty good deal to buy a ticket for all 5 Shakespeare houses in the area, and so we continued on our tour to Anne Hathaway’s cottage, which publicises itself as the most famous thatched cottage in England. Here we learnt lots about various idioms and their origins, tried to find our way in the maze which was unfortunately closed due to renovations and admired the many colourful flowers in the garden. After lunch, we headed into Stratford itself and visited the birthplace of Shakespeare, Hall’s Croft and Nash’s Place. These last two houses belonged to Shakespeare’s daughters, though Nash’s Place is next to the site of the last house Shakespeare llived in which was knocked down in the 18th century because of disagreements over tax. It was fantastic to see all these Tudor buildings and they were all set out in such a way as to really invite you to imagine how life must have been.

St George’s Day (23rd April) is the day that Shakespeare was born, and died, and there are birthday celebrations held around this date within Stratford. So as we wandered around the pretty streets with its many black and white buildings, we were saw several people dressed up in costumes from the 16th century. The town is very pleasant and I enjoyed looking around, especially as I hadn’t been here before.

Dinner was eaten at a lovely little pub by the river and I disappointed myself by being too full to order the chocolate cheesecake that I had eyed up on the menu. David did his best to upset a massive bee thing by hitting it with his hand but luckily didn’t suffer any revenge!

Back at our hotel, we took a walk around the beautiful gardens before heading to the conservatory bar to share a bottle of wine. It was slightly disheartening to realise that there was more floor space in the conservatory than there had been in the flat we had in Reading. As for the height of the ceiling, well we reckon it was two and a half times taller than our little flat…

Making the most of the hotel facilities, we stuffed ourselves at breakfast and went for a dip in the swimming pool, before we had to bid farewell to the beautiful hotel and headed to Warwick. David was disappointed that he didn’t see the castle straight away but as we walked through the entrance his qualms were quelled. It is a truly majestic castle though in the eight years or so since I last visited, the theme park atmosphere has deinitely increased with many more food stalls, shops and a ghost walk attraction. I think the highlight for David was possibly the Trebuchet (a huge catapult type thing) which I rather enjoyed the tiny ducklings walking by the river.

It is a great castle to explore especially since it was lived in till very recently (1970s) and the wax models do help when imagining what life was like through the ages. However I felt the dungeons didn’t need much imagination when thining how horrific they were and the despair that the prisoners must have felt. We did have a bit of a surprise when we saw a bald eagle while walking around the ramparts, but realised he was part of the falconry show and that flying laps aournd the castle was something he was meant to be doing. The ghost walk attraction was somewhat disappointing and yet the queues for this only cleared when the skies opened and the rain poured! We had volunteered to help power the trabuchet for one of it shows but the wheels in which we were supposed to be walking contained water and so the historic method of cheating was used, and the fireball was launched by the assistance of a tractor. Incidentally this was driven by a kayaker – see they get everywhere!

Knowing that we’d be spending most of our time in this country this year, we decided to make the most of it and treat ourselves to Merlin Group annual passes which covers Alton Towers, London Eye, Legoland, Madame Tussauds, Sealife Centres and quite a bit more! So now we’re on a mission to make the most of our investment.

It was a fantastic weekend, where we were generally lucky with the weather and got to see a beautiful part of England – I hope there’s many more weekends like this.

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