I took 101 photos today! If that’s not a clear sign of a quality day, I’m not sure what is. Our 11-hour guided tour left central London early this morning at 8:00am en route to Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare. This medieval market town in England’s West Midlands is still a thriving community with over 800 years of history. Home to the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), the town boasts 4 theaters and the RSC produces 20 productions each year. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to see a show, but we did see Shakespeare’s birth home, The Guild Chapel, Hall’s Croft (Shakespeare’s daughter, Susanna’s home), and Holy Trinity Church (Shakespeare’s resting place). It was a charismatic little town with over 1000 Shakespearean actors employed by the RSC to keep his work alive. My favorite Shakespeare work is A Midsummer Night’s Dream! What’s yours?
These next photos in the slideshow are of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. This is Shakespeare’s church. He is buried inside this church, although his grave has been cursed so it cannot be exhumed to prove his identity. X-rays were completed and there is indeed a body in the tomb, but without a head. It is believed that his head was stolen from his grave and sold to researchers. During that time, it was popular to steal the heads of famous people who had died to study their brains to determine what made them so exceptional.
There was a lot of activity along the River Avon with boats, swans, ducks and geese. It was a beautiful day for a walk along the river.
For lunch we grabbed made-to-order pressed baguette sandwiches at Fresh Baguette Bar on High Street. Syd had her UK usual, bacon and Brie, and I enjoyed the tastiest goat cheese, pesto, and red onion pressed baguette sandwich that is worthy of replication when I return. I’m adding a panini maker to my Christmas list just for this purpose. Take note!
Between Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford, we had a gorgeous, picturesque drive through the Cotswolds, a stretch of south central England that covers six counties with rolling hills and charming homes made of yellow limestone and thatched roofs. We learned from our guide that there are strict laws regarding the maintenance and upkeep of thatched roofs in this region. Though not very practical, they are quite beautiful and require replacement approximately every 15 years. Depending on the size of your home, they run about 15-20 thousand pounds, which is $20-27K.
We stopped at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Blockley, Gloucestershire for a brief photo opportunity.
On to Oxford…Historic Oxford is considered among England’s most alluring cities and rightly so! The city revolves around the prestigious Oxford University and is bustling with young people. We really enjoyed our time here and were guided through the city, stopping at several points of interest including; Radcliffe Camera (Oxford’s Medical Science Library), St. Mary’s Church, Bodleian Library, Divinity Hall, and several of the colleges that make up Oxford University. Many of these buildings were filming sites for the Harry Potter films which was an added bonus.
While walking along Broad Street, Sydney picked up a “heads up” pence and it just so happened to be her lucky day. Bodleian was hosting a J.R.R. Tolkien exhibit that was free to the public. We were able to get tickets and it was one of the most exquisite exhibits I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. On display were Tolkien’s original writings and drawings, along with additional art work from the time he wrote the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This man was a genius. I’m sad we couldn’t take photos, however I know they wouldn’t have done his work justice. Tolkien was an Oxford grad where he went on to teach Old English. This truly was a special treat for Sydney as she’s been captivated by his work. I cherish the moments when the Universe gives you a gift like this; it’s like a warm hug of acknowledgement for who you are and what you love.
Before meeting our tour guide back at the coach, we stopped to see Trinity College, one of the six colleges that make up Oxford University. It’s in the heart of Oxford with a chapel and beautiful gardens. Interestingly enough, Trinity College is home to studies of chemistry and physics which are the areas of study Syd will be exploring in the fall at Colorado State University.
It was a full day! I’ll leave you with a few more photos. A glimpse of tomorrow’s itinerary can be seen through the London Eye.