Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August hols three and four

OK, lets get this holiday wrapped up so I can talk about something else next time.

Thursday: You're Bard.

So we went on down to Stratford Upon Avon to do the Shalespeare thing. Well, three fifths of the houses and no play at any rate. Another Park & Ride visit (well, got to keep my hand in) and a journey into town through an unexpected industrial area.

Of the houses we visited, I think I enjoyed the Birthplace the most in terms of content, but if pushed to live in one of them would choose Hall's Croft, purely for the interior layout with the "consulting room" on a sort of mezzanine overlooking the front door. All three town houses have beautiful gardens - in fact the knot gardens on display put the Garden Museum to shame, frankly. Nash's house/New Place large garden also has a wonderful set of sculptures relating to the plays and as it is free to enter is well worth stopping for a few minutes in should you happen to be in town. Now all i need to do is read Bill Bryson's biography of the man, which is sat awaiting me on a shelf downstairs, and maybe have another go at seeing the plays. I haven't really given him any attention since O-level Romeo & Juliet in 1987.

The rest of Stratford is also a nice place to wander around. Lots of interesting buildings, many of which play up their Shakespeare connections (we had lunch in Crabtree and Evelyn of all places, and that building turned out to have housed one of his daughters for a time) but I do wonder how much of what we see now is original. All three of the Shakespeare houses in town have been "restored" to the conditions he would have known them in, having had various facades slapped on them over the years. I guess architectural history is something else I will have to delve into one of these days. We also managed to continue a holiday tradition by purchasing a Christmas decoration in the height of summer - there is a Christmas shop opposite the birthplace. Previously we have bought decorations up a mountain in Switzerland, by Niagara Falls and even in Yorkshire. Not that we will be in the country this year, but that's for another time.

Friday: Ruined splendour.

We finished the holiday with a morning at Kenilworth Castle. This one is operated by English Heritage and very much the ancient monument rather than a medieaval theme park. If forced to choose between the two I would pick this over Warwick, but then I prefer ruins to re-enactment. This is one of the sites deliberately destroyed by Cromwell after the Civil War and so much of the former splendour resides in the imagination. Mind you, mine can be pretty vivid so I have no problem mentally rebuilding the walls and populating the place with knights and queens (Elizabeth 1 visited four times). They also have a very good audio tour which fills in many of the gaps. Highly recommended.

Then it was home along the A14 and back to reality. All told a good relaxing break and just what we needed. Roll on the next one.

Ohm and for anyone counting, 10,000 steps acheived on three out of four days (somehow I managed it on the way there but not the way home, despite about equal time split between driving and mooching about).


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