Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Stratford upon Avon - not bard at all

On our way to Stratford Upon Avon we visited the Hidcote Manor Gardens which was a pleasant interlude.These gardens are extensive and contain thousands of different species of plant all laid out in "rooms" - that is, sectioned off in squares and quadrangles with a unifying theme.

When we got to SUA we stayed at a very nice B&B - certainly the most luxurious accommodation of this trip. On the first night in Stratford we went to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and saw the Royal Shakespeare Company production of "All's Well That Ends Well". We were not familiar with the play but enjoyed the experience tremendously. While it is one of Shakespeare's "problem" plays (scholars are not sure whether to classify it as a comedy or something else) it was a strong production and very impressive in a great theatre space.

Stratford upon Avon has built its modern economy upon the Shakespearean legend and legacy - not surprising really. So now we know a little more about his beginnings but not his genius. But we could have bought an Anne Hathaway pencil and eraser.

The next day we drove to Oxford and visited Blenheim Palace on the way. Its exterior is grand and not particularly attractive, but its treasures are all inside. Winston Churchill's forebears owned this palace and he spent his early years there. Oversized Joshua Reynolds, Gainsborough and Van Eyck family portraits fill the walls and the tapestries and furniture are equally as expensive and rare. It's another entry in the my palace/castle/cathedral is bigger than yours event, and this certainly was a contender.

When we got to Oxford we stayed at one of the colleges. Its truncated name is Jesus College - I don't have enough time to type in its full title which is dripping with centuries of history and terribly grand. However, they still appreciate the additional income from tourists staying there over the summer vacation.

We went on a guided tour the next day which teased out the centuries of history behind the university town. It has to be said that the architecture is suitably impressive and inspiring. Most colleges have their own chapel, most of which make many Australian churches look like afterthoughts. Judith particularly wanted to be taken on a punt on the river Thames so we did that. A young man who had just finished his O levels and was saving for his gap year was the punter (not sure of the terminology here - I don't think he was a gambler though). Have to admit it was quite a pleasant experience.

Next morning we took the down train to London, getting to our next hotel accomodation late morning. I will save our last day and a half in London to the next entry.


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