Welcome to Stratford-upon-Avon!
Today we took a road trip to Stratford, which as many of you know, is the birth and death place of the one and only William Shakespeare (Or Billy Shakes as I like to call him). Now, I’m not the biggest Shakespeare fan by ANY means, so needless to say, I was slightly apprehensive about this trip. However, I’m pleased to say that I had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed this quaint, charming town!
After arrival and some general walking around, my first stop was the local Carnegie public library. A Carnegie library is of course a library that was built due to the generosity of philanthropist and businessman Andrew Carnegie. He almost always followed a method called The Carnegie Formula to determine if a community had need and if they were willing to support the library. The formula is as follows; Carnegie insisted each community:
1. Demonstrate the need for a public library
2. Provide the building site
3. Annually provide ten percent of the cost of the library’s construction to support its operation
4. Provide free service to all.
Typically, Carnegie always built his libraries as a new structure, and rarely used existing buildings. In the case of Stratford-upon-Avon however, the townspeople insisted that an old building in the town be used for the project, for conservation reasons. And so, the Stratford library is one of the few Carnegie libraries where Carnegie made an exception and utilized an existing structure.
As you can see, this is indeed an old timbered building, and it blends in nicely with the surrounding houses, shops, and restaurants, one of which was the site of Shakespeare’s birth in 1564. With high-tech self-checkout machines, an adorable Children’s Library, and a Feature Films rental section (available for 2.75 pounds/week – I’m relieved we do not have to pay to borrow films in the US!), it was nice to have some exposure to our first UK public library, even if we were not on an official class visit.
At the recommendation of Dr. Welsh, we then decided to take a boat ride up and down the Avon river. It cost 5 pounds, 50 p and lasted 40 minutes, so it was a nice break on a hot day (and gave Jessica a chance to rest her ankle). We passed the Holy Trinity Church (Shakespeare’s burial site), and many lovely homes with beautiful backyards – I found myself wondering “How much do these houses cost? And what do the people who live in them do?” I ask myself that a lot around London as well and have gotten an answer, price-wise, several times – many of the flats I admire cost upward of 20 million pounds! Mind-boggling.
After our boat ride, we actually walked to the Holy Trinity Church and paid the 50 pence to see Shakespeare’s grave. The church itself was a treat to see – it had gorgeous windows and architecture, and was worth the walk itself. Later we grabbed dinner at a place called The Food of Love; Jessica finally got to try her Full English Breakfast (toast, beans, back bacon, eggs, fried mushrooms), while I stuck with a Mediterranean chicken panini. Yum!
At 7, our entire class gathered to see the Royal Shakespeare Company‘s production of Henry IV, Part I. Like I said before, I was not too excited for this (and Henry IV has traditionally been one of my least liked Shakespeare plays), but the play was wonderful! The actors really devoted themselves to their characters, and their mannerisms/bits of subtle (and not so subtle) humor brought Henry IV to life for me. I was thoroughly impressed with the RSC, and the theatre itself was gorgeous. On every level they had costumes displayed from various other Shakespeare productions:
Here is a YouTube video of Alex Hassell, who plays Prince Hal in the production:
I have to say that after today, I’m now more of a Shakespeare fan than I was before (who thought that would ever be possible?), so it was definitely a successful trip to Stratford!
Tomorrow we’re headed out into the English countryside for a trip to Stowe School. It’ll be our third day trip in a row (whew!), but we’re told that the grounds and the library are amazing.
Will keep you posted,