London Getaway: Stratford Upon Avon

21:53 Alyson Tart 0 Comments

As I've been (not so patiently) waiting for summertime in London to arrive, I've found myself starting to ponder what trips we can take within the UK as the weather warms up and the sunshine (hopefully) appears.

While our first summer here we seemed to be everywhere except the UK, last summer we stuck around and tried out lots of our London to-do list while also exploring nearby places.

One of the things I would have had on my bucket list (if I had it written down) was seeing a Shakespeare play. A few times, I'd seen something come on at the Globe, but never quite got around to booking tickets.

Then, I realised I could see the plays elsewhere, more specifically the famed Stratford Upon Avon where Shakespeare was born.  Every summer, the Royal Shakespeare Company puts on several shows in their namesakes birthplace and tickets are a hot commodity as it's a short trip for Londoners to come down for the day (with train services even extended longer for those coming/going).

By the time I looked, tickets were sold out for the season so I resigned myself to missing out on it for 2014. Then, by chance, my obsessive compulsive self was checking later in the week and stumbled upon two tickets on a Saturday performance of The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Who cares that I'd never heard of it? It was described as a comedy and it was Shakespeare so I just went ahead and snatched up what I could find!

With the tickets out of the way, I went about finding accomodation which ended up being slightly harder, especially since we wanted to bring the dog. We decided to make one night of it and drive ourselves there to enjoy the scenery and be able to get around the town.

On our arrival, we first stopped at a pub, then wandered the streets with Belle. There were obviously lots of visitors there for the shows and enjoying the sunny weather. We were happy to just stroll and take in the atmosphere.

The town was full of the old white Tudor buildings, but each with different, unique features outside differentiating them. We walked past Shakespeare's birthplace, but both the queue and the dog meant we stayed out on the pavement versus venturing inside.  That didn't deter Belle from a photo opportunity, where she made many admirers (and you can probably find this photo somewhere else on the internet from the number of people snapping away).

That evening, we went to the theatre a little early for a drink and dessert before the play. We sat outside watching the swans laze by and trying to figure out which plays all the boats were named after. I wasn't sure what I would think of the play, but once it started, I loved it. It was quite funny and of course the acting was wonderful, plus a bit more interactive than you'd typically find in a West End production. They had put it in a more modern setting (a bit like all the Romeo & Juliet adoptions) which made it easier for us to understand since we weren't familiar with the play at all.

On our last day in Stratford-upon-Avon, we decided to walk the river this time before heading back. The weather was sunny and the dog was just begging for a chance to run around and perhaps chase a swan into the water.

After walking back towards the city, we stumbled upon a park where there were live productions of Shakespeare going on. It was free, the weather was beautiful, so we decided, hey, why not!

The play on at the time we arrived was Troilus and Cressida - a bit more gloomy than The Two Gentlemen of Verona as it tells about a sad love story during the Trojan War. While we were all for soaking up culture this weekend, when it was over, I wished I had the two hours of my time back.  The play itself apparently vexes many as it seems to be one of his most widely criticised. Add into that the poor costumes, people reading lines from scripts and children running rampant around the stage, I just couldn't figure out what was going on.  I felt a bit bad as you can't exactly compare a local troupe to the Royal Shakespeare Company, but it's bound to happen when you're performing right down stream from them.

With that last taste of Shakespeare, we decided we'd had just about as much Shakespeare as we could handle in 2 days and wound our way back to London. While we may not visit Shakespeare's birthplace again this summer, I know we'll have some great theatre experiences in store!

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