London is the the midst of a heat wave and drought. After; yesterday’s close encounter in theTube, it was time to get out of the city crowds. Today we had an organized tour with the Trafalgar group to Stratford-upon-Avon, and we were hoping for fewer crowds and cooler temps. At least the crowds part wasn’t so bad.:
Our tour guide was very chipper, and I was afraid she was going to talk the entire trip. As we took the motorway out of the city and down toward Oxford, I couold see chapels and villages I’d love to explore on our own. I think we might rent a cr our next trip.
The first stop was at the small village of Woodstock, near Blenheim Palace. We wandered a bit, had some coffee, and took pictures of the palace gates. The stop was all too brief, but the AC on the bus was welcome.
The drive into Stratford was maddening. Our guide kept saying things like, "and on your left…." and at the speed we were going, there would be no way to see what we were supposed to have seen on our left. Apparently we had a schedule to keep. I was hoping the entire trip wouldn’t be like this.
Our first stop was Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. We kept the tour of the actual cottage brief because it was just too dang hot. More enjoyable were the beautiful gardens just outside. Our guide apparently is in love with the place, because she kept saying things like, "Isn’t this just the most historic place you’ve ever been?" Well, no. Westminster Abby is a bit more historic, I would imagine.
We did come back to Stratford proper, and headed to the birthplace of William Shakespeare. The house was a bit more elaborate than the Hathaway cottage, but it was still a hot old home, despite its literary and historical significance. Again, the gardens were the most appealing part of the tour.
We had a good bit of time to get lunch and wander about the town. We stopped at the Garrick Inn for a bite, and to cool down. It turned out that this was the oldest pub in town, in constant operation since the 14th century. There was the typical British paucity of ice, but the food was wonderful. We started with riustic bread, olives, and balsamic vinegar, wiht fish-n-chips for the main course. Mark Knopfler’s "Romeo and Juliet" was playing in the background, along with other British lite rock. I thought that was only appropriate, given the location.
I enjoyed Stratford on my last visit, and this was no different. I recognized some of the same places I’d taken photos twenty years ago, and I may have to dig those out when I get home.. I even found where I’d had lunch that trip long ago.
Even with the tourist crowds, this has a much more relaxed feel than London. The quaint half-timbered houses with thatched roofs made for some great photos. We wandered by the River Avon and admired the canal house boats, then continued along the banks for a bit. Our path took us back into the town, dipping into shops that had AC so we could cool off. A bit of ice cream helped further, then it was back to the bus and back to London.