Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stratford-upon-Avon (Thursday-Friday)

Yikes. I haven't blogged in a week. I'm falling behind. I blame three papers and a four day weekend trip. That's fair, right?

Okay. So. Last Thursday (a week ago from today), we left for Stratford-upon-Avon! A coach (charter bus) picked us up right outside Madison House (no lugging our bags all the way to a tube to a train or anything!) and we left just after 2 pm.

For some reason, I thought we were going to Bath first, and when we arrived a few hours later and walked into the B&B, I saw a map of Stratford on the wall and finally realized where we were...I don't know what I was thinking. Our B&B was really quirky and cute, and Amanda and I had a room on the ground floor and it was very pink! Everyone was saying it was like their grandma's houses...but my grandparents have way more modern looking houses and decorations than this place did! It was cute though. We basically took over the whole place (like we usually do on these weekend trips).

We had thought we weren't going to have a lot of time before we had to go to a play, so I was already dressed and a group of us left pretty much right away to go to dinner at a pub that was recommended to us because it's the favorite place of the Royal Shakespeare Company Actors.

We walked through Stratford (pretty much across the whole tiny town) to The Dirty Duck (formally known as The Black Swan) for dinner. The whole group ended up going there, and we all sat at different tables because there are so many of us. I got the best bruschetta I've ever had in my entire life, and a side salad, and onion rings. Life of a vegetarian eating pub food...lots of appetizers=a meal!

The Dirty Duck/The Black Swan
We still had time to kill before our play (we really weren't rushed for time at all...) so we wandered half in search of ice cream, half just to see the town, and took lots of pictures to kill time! Stratford-upon-Avon is SO based on Shakespeare and was an adorable little town, but it definitely felt touristy, and like the Shakespeare theatres are the only real thing there. I'm not sure if anyone really lives there! It was cool to visit though.

FINALLY it was time to see Julius Caesar! What we didn't realize until we were in the theatre was that this version was set in modern-day Africa. It instantly made everything WAY more exciting! I've read a lot of Shakespeare and seen lots of movies and plays, and it all sort of runs together when it's set in the same time period and everything, so I was really intrigued! There was no intermission, so we were in it for about 2.5 hours straight!

Royal Shakespeare Company!

The play was INCREDIBLE. Having modern costumes and everything made it so much more relatable. The accents were East African and the cast was all black, which just made it so much more unique and interesting! I absolutely loved it. It felt so much more real thinking about Julius Caesar in the context of an African country today, as it's all about overthrowing dictators and the conflicts of power that come as a result that lead to war and death. It just brought Shakespeare to life in a whole new way, and it was so awesome.

After the play, we rushed back to the B&B because the actor who played Marc Antony was coming back to speak to the theatre class and whoever else wanted to join! When he got there, we all just sat around the living room area and he talked for almost two hours about his life, career, thoughts on the play, his character, Shakespeare as a whole, etc. It was really awesome to hear his perspective and to learn about everything that goes on behind the scenes to make the characters what we see them as during the performance, and I loved it. Some people said he had a bit of an ego, but the guy has played almost all of the major male Shakespeare roles...I think he's allowed to be a little cocky! I found it really awesome.

After he left, I crashed!

Friday morning, breakfast was at 8 am like usual and I had scrambled eggs on toast and cereal. I had a migraine (typical...) and wasn't feeling too awesome.

We had a bus tour on our same coach with a tour guide, and we started off at Anne Hathaway's cottage. There was a bit of confusion as to who Anne Hathaway was on the way to her cottage...definitely thought at first that it was the Princess Diaries actress. Typical American culture showing through right there...embarrassing.

We toured the inside but weren't allowed to take any pictures. Basically, picture a really old English cottage with lumpy mattresses on ropes pulled tight, not a lot of furniture, cool old dishes, and that's what it was!

The best part of the tour was learning a bunch of terms that have meanings based on Shakespeare and things that were said back when he and Anne Hathaway were alive!

Some examples:
-curfew comes from the Latin words that mean "covered fire"- the fires had to be covered by 8 pm so the houses with straw roofs and thatch didn't burn down. A bell would ring to signify it was "Curfew" time aka time to cover your fire, which would mean bedtime essentially- like what it means today!
-sleep tight- comes from having to pull the ropes tight on the beds that the mattress would rest on
-pot luck- the pot of porridge would be on the fire for many days in a row, so when one ate it, they were taking a risk, aka a pot luck
-tables were made of two parts- the base, and the board that rested on top. this gave a lot of versatility- such as pushing it up against the wall and resting cups and dishes on it (cupboard), playing games on it (board games), eating a variety of food from it (smorgasbord), when you stayed somewhere with a board, it was called room and board, etc.
-threshold comes from a blocking that was placed in the door frames to keep the thresh (straw on the ground in winter to keep in warmth) from blowing outside- it held the thresh in

We went to the church where Shakespeare is buried, saw his grave and the graves of his family members...

It was drizzling off and on all day and was really gray and cloudy out, but the weather held up okay for the most part. We then went to Shakespeare's birthplace and took a tour (self-guided) through the museum leading up to the house, and then through the house. Pretty uneventful over all...but I guess pretty cool that we were where Shakespeare was born.

Shakespeare's birthplace!

Seeing all these places is really getting weird- like I know they have incredible significance and meaning, but at the same time, it's hard to get super stoked about it all, because it's so materialistic and so insignificant in the scheme of things. I'm trying to just appreciate them and respect it all, but not make huge deals out of things.

After the birthplace, everyone went off in search of lunch, and Amanda and I ended up at The Tea Cafe and got pots of tea and I got a sandwich. It was exactly what I needed to relax and just take a break from everything for a little bit. Plus, it was so yummy!

After lunch, we wandered down the street and found an ADORABLE little shop with all sorts of cute jewelry and house things and such, and the two of us spent quite a while browsing around. We found a charity shop (thrift store) and Amanda found a really cool dress too, and then we met back up with our group and were back on the coach to head to Bath!

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