Stratford Upon Avon

Another day, another (ultimate count of) 13,000 steps and another early alarm.  These days may present as a strange “vacation” that seems to consist primarily of up-early, walk for miles, see lots of stuff and collapse into bed later.  Yet time marches on, youth departs and there remains so much more to see.  Resting on a beach seems counter-productive to a reduction in the bucket list.

The local grocery store provided a petite breakfast (especially compared to ship-fare) that was picked up the night before to save a little time in the morning.  That consumed, it was out the door, off to the tube and whisked away to the meeting spot.  On to a small bus and the 2 hour journey begins.

Passing through the very little town Banbury we come to our first Cotswold Village.  The Cotswolds are a collection of villages that span about 90 miles from north to south.  Limestone has been used extensively as the building material of choice given its local availability.  From north to south it changes in overall color from amber to a more yellow-sand type color.

Cotswold is an old English word meaning Sheep’s Enclosure On The Rolling Hillside.  Certainly easier to say than Cotswold. 🙂  The drive itself is quite enjoyable, and shared by only 11 of us.  Our guide, once again, is more than a little knowledgeable and very well spoken.

Our getaway today takes us through many of these little villages, split up by the ever-present pastures.  For a country with so little land (as compared to Canada or the USA), there appear to be a plethora of farms.  Most, however, are livestock rather than grains.  Potatoes, on the other hand, are a notable exception.

Thatched roofs are rare nowadays for a variety of reasons.  Durability (it’s subject to rot so repairs are often) is a problem, and there’s also not a lot of thatched roofs around anymore.  With that comes the lack of professional Thatchers.  This means they can charge whatever they want, making a thatched roof very expensive to create and/or repair.  Flammability is another major issue which, needless to say, increases your house insurance.  But, it still looks quite unique and ‘old school’.

Stratford Upon Avon is most famous because of one person’s birth – William Shakespeare.  Born in 1564, he died on his birthday, April 23, 1606.  At 52, that was quite old for the time.  Although he is remembered with a plaque in Westminster Abby in London, his burial is in Stratford Upon Avon.

His 5 poems, 154 sonnets and 36 plays showcase over 1,000 characters.  They have been translated into pretty much every language on earth, as well as a certain extra-terrestrial language – Klingon.  Seriously.

His works have provided us with many well-known words and phrases including:  lacklustre, elbow, ‘the world is your oyster’.  A rather well known quote of his is ‘I would challenge you to a battle of wits sir, but I see you have come unarmed.’  Hmmm…I could use that one…  Another often misquoted phrase, ‘Alas poor Yorick.  I knew him well’ really is ‘Alas poor Yorick.  I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest.’

The Bard

A light drizzle today makes walking about dreary and annoying yet the town shows itself well.  It’s rather small, to a certain degree, but very alive.  Too bad the weather is not quite so co-operative today.  Having said that, it does not deter our constitutional down main street coupled with a light lunch.

A very old bridge crosses over the Avon which brings to mind another tidbit.  Avon is old English for river.  So…it’s the River river.

Now back to our small bus and off we go to a land of higher learning…Oxford.

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