A Travellerspoint blog

Shakespeare's Home Town

and a little drama of our own!

sunny 29 °C
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Tuesday 29 July 2014

We awoke to a beautiful day in Stratford and decided to head off into town and jump on the hop on hop off bus to tour Shakespeare’s family homes. As luck would have it we misinterpreted what Helpful Helen was telling us and ended up down a lane with a Park and Ride facility. This is where you park your car and then catch a bus into the town centre at minimal cost. The bus dropped us virtually right at the Hop on Hop Off starting point.


The ticket seller advised us that the three better homes to visit were Anne Hathaway’s house (Shakespeare’s wife), Mary Arden’s Farm (Shakespeare’s mother) and Shakespeare’s birth place in Stratford itself. Tickets purchased, we were ready for off.

The first stop on the tour was Holy Trinity Church which we decided to get off at and have a look. The church and surrounding graveyard was very impressive. Inside the church we saw the place where Shakespeare is buried. Shakespeare is noted as saying the he did not want to be buried in a graveyard as when the yards were full, bodies that had been there for 20 years or more were dug up and burnt on a bonfire. As Shakespeare was a Lay Preacher he was able to be buried in the church in front of the alter.

He felt so strongly about his final resting place that there is an inscription bearing a curse above his grave.

"Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,
To dig the dust enclosed heare.
Blese be thy man thy shares thes stones,
And curst be he thy moves my bones."

Very unusual to have a curse written and displayed within a church. Pete also thinks he was a great story teller but a poor speller. Shakespeare is also the reason Pete failed UE English apparently!









Back on the bus, next stop - Anne Hathaway’s house and gardens. What a lovely picturesque homestead, thatched roof and all. Beautiful gardens. The history in this home is amazing and spans over 13 generations of Hathaway’s. Anne lived here with her parents whilst courting William Shakespeare, she being 6 years his senior. They were married when he was 18 and she was 26. As he was still a minor, permission had to be sought to allow the marriage to proceed. Six months later their first daughter, Susanna was born. A point of interest with the Hathaway property is that they owned 90 acres of land and at the time they would have been considered to have been well off. Over the years however, the family fell on hard times due to the decline in the sheep industry (sound familiar?). The house remained in Hathaway ownership and was purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1892.







Next stop, Mary Arden’s Farm. Mary Arden was the Shakespeare’s mother and the farm was her family home. The farm and surrounding buildings were very interesting. There were blacksmith displays, cooking demonstrations, falconry shows, and archery practice. All were very good however, Madison found the falconry part a bit sad as the birds are tethered to a stand between shows.









The bus tour was well worth it – just driving around the country side in an open double deck bus seeing all the farms and surrounding area was fantastic.

The commentary was very informative.

• Did you know that the in Shakespearean times, “doctors” dangled a frog down patient's throats to cure sore throats. Today it is known that some frogs excrete fluid that contains antibiotic properties – hence the saying “a frog in your throat”.

• Beds in this era had a wooden frame with rope used as a base for the mattress to sit on. The more the bed was used, the slacker the ropes became. To make the bed more comfortable the ropes were tightened. Hence the saying “sleep tight”.

• In the households of this era the second best bed was for the parents (the best being kept for visitors), the sons slept on the floor with the daughters of the house sleeping on a shelf built across the main room. The daughters slept here until they left the home and married. Those that didn’t marry were considered to “be left on the shelf”.

We boarded the bus to return to town to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace and then cruise down the Avon. Upon arriving back at town Peter said...”Who has the camera?”

“Not me”

“I haven’t”

“Me neither”

“Well it’s not on the bus” said Peter “and it’s not in the back pack”.

Panic ensued. We tried to think of where we had left it last and decided it would have been on the stone wall outside Mary Arden’s farm while we were waiting on the bus. The information centre staff were really helpful and phoned the Arden farm for us....no luck unfortunately, nothing had been handed in.

We decided the best thing to do would be to go back and get our car, head back to our apartment, pick up Madison’s camera and go back to Mary Arden Farm to look for the camera. After that we would see Shakespeare’s birthplace and do the cruise. Finally we thought that we could check in again at the information centre to see if the camera had been handed in.

No luck checking Mary Arden farm ourselves so off to the Avon River cruise. Lovely, just relaxing as the boat ambled along the river and through the lock. Following that we set off for the birthplace of Shakespeare. This too was interesting and informative. We even managed to see the room Shakespeare was born in. Buskers dressed in period costume entertained us outside.













Ready for home we made one last stop at the information centre – what joy...the camera had been found on the tour bus! We were so pleased that we headed to the pub next door for a celebratory drink.



Home for tea and ready for bed. Just before we headed off for bed, Madison's ipad beeped - it was 7NA from Invercargill calling. Madison was thrilled to see and hear from them all - even made her feel a bit homesick. Thanks for calling girls.


Another great day - show casing England and her amazing history.

Posted by Touringteamf 14:17 Archived in England Comments (1)

Monday was a day from hell....

.... but it had a great ending.

sunny 26 °C
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This would easily be our worst day on tour so far! Some of it our doing, some due to others, and some just because that’s the way it is.

First up we had to pick up our rental car at Kings Cross. The girls wanted to come so they could see Platform 9 ¾. So off we went on our last tube ride. Found Platform 9 ¾ then read our car rental booking. Not sure why I thought we had to pick up our car at King’s Cross. We needed to be in Bayswater.

So into a taxi, with the grumpiest taxi driver in the world. The conversation went like this:

“Where do you want to go?” (short and with attitude)

“It’s here on this piece of paper.”

“Well I can’t read that.” (short and with attitude)

“Elm Mews”

“Where?” (short and with attitude)

“Elm Mews” (short and with attitude)

“Never heard of it, now I’ll have to look it up.” (short and with attitude)

“It’s off Bayswater” I said. (short and with attitude)

“Well why you didn’t say so in the first place.” (short and with attitude)

I thought to myself terrible thoughts with attitude!!

So off we went, right past Baker St Station where we started from. Anyway got to the car rental place just after 9.00 am, at the appointed time for picking up the car. They seemed quite surprised to see us. Several looks at the paper I presented, looks at the computer etc. So then the questions started and finally he started filling out the documentation. Signed the contract, then he said, we will go and get a car ready for you!!

An hour later we get presented with our car. By this time I’m getting a tad annoyed. However the car was basically brand new, so no worries there, apart from the fact I couldn’t even start the car!! Having given them a bit of a blast for their lack of service I had to eat humble pie and asked how to start the car!! Hold the clutch in!

Friends have leant us their Tomtom they used on their trip last year. They nicknamed her Helpful B.... but they suggested that’s hardly a family orientated name so we have called her Helpful Helen. So we needed to set Helen to take us to our apartment. She proved to be a bit challenging. We just couldn’t get on the same wavelength. Typical woman. Why don’t they think like blokes? So had to resort to reading the instruction manual...... oh the shame.

So off we set. Pull out of the car park, put the indicator on and next thing the windscreen wipers are going, and then I stalled the car halfway across the lane on a busy London street. The girls heard me use as a couple of words they hadn’t heard me use before.

Anyway Helen and I still weren’t getting on, with me unable to follow directions. Missed a couple of instructions and ended up in Oxford Circus, and down a very congested Bond Street. This was not helping!!

Anyway we got back to our Apartment, loaded up and headed for 2 Horsenden Lane South, my old flat of 26 years ago. It has been modernised. A patch of green fake grass has been added, and I think a third story. I only remember it only being 2 stories, but it looks like it now has a third. Although it still doesn’t have “secondilly glazing” like our Indian neighbour. The girls poo-pooed the old flat. As much as they want to live in London, it won’t be Greenford. Marylebone is much more to their tastes!!


Then up the road to the Ballot Box, a pub we used to frequent.. Chris Heaslip used to drive use there in his unsalable ex ambulance. The Ballot box has changed inside, but the barman still remembered my “usual”.... well no not really, but don’t let the truth get in the way!!


Then off to Harry Potter World. This is where Helpful Helen and I came unstuck again. She’s set not use to motorways, and all we wanted to do was get there. Well we did, but it was a round-about route.


Harry Potter was great. The original sets, props and costumes. Complete with a Hogwarts’ model, broom rides and butter beer. The detail they go into is amazing. The girls loved it, but all I was thinking about was my next date with Helpful Helen.


So back into the car and I went on the front foot with Helpful Helen and took control. Changed her settings to use motorways and off we went to Stratford Upon Avon. We went via Oxford. It looks a lovely old town too.


We didn’t stop.... we can’t do everything.

Heading out of Oxford, our trip from hell re-visited. Road works, and a closed round about, diverted us, along with everyone else. It took an hour to go about 3 kms. All the time Helen barking out instructions. Shut up Helen!!

Finally cleared the road block and headed off down the motorway. Finally got to Stratford and, Helen, feeling slightly sorry for herself took us straight to our apartment. Good girl Helen!!

The apartment is beautiful. Found it on the internet, and it couldn’t be better. Quick trip over the road to Tesco, got supplies, cooked tea, and crashed about 10 pm. A long and frustrating day, but a great place to rest our weary bones.

Posted by Touringteamf 13:27 Archived in England Comments (6)

It was Sunday, so we went to Hampton Court

and went Grazing with a Goat

sunny 27 °C
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We had a leisurely start to our day, and it was good not having to rush. We headed out to Hampton Court for the day. The Palace is very impressive and is a mix of the Tudor era and the relatively more modern Georgian era.

King Henry’s part of the Palace (1500s) is big and imposing, however the recent addition (1700s) of Mary and William’s palace is opulent. The gardens are equally as impressive.


The kitchens were a bit of an eye opener. Henry VIII liked to entertain, so everything in the kitchen was huge. They ate to impress, and the best way to impress was to eat meat, and lots of it. Their diet consisted of 75% meat. The photo below is the meat spit.


One of the more impressive rooms was the chapel. Just stunning. Unfortunately, as it is a place of worship, no photos were allowed. Upon arrival they give you an audio headset, and it guides you round the Palace.

Being the first weekend of the summer school holidays, they had a family day, so the gardens had a picnic feel to it, with heaps of people picnicking on their blankets etc. Also roving entertainment with period dressed courtiers and even dress ups. It was too hot for me to don a dress, but the girls dressed up.

We wandered the gardens and did the maze. It was the first Maze in the world apparently. Marg and I beat the girls. They got out first, but didn’t get to the centre, and left through the quick exit. So we beat them on a technicality. (Not that we’re competitive)


We then headed for home, but not before stopping off at The Kings Arms.


Back in London, and out for dinner. We thought we would try a restaurant near our apartment. We thought a cheap Asian or Mediterranean style meal.

As we head off down the street, we saw a group of restaurants down a side street. So we checked those out. One caught our eye. Looked nice and was busy. With a name of “The Grazing Goat”, how could you not go in. In hind sight we should have taken more note of the style and quality of the cars parked outside and the standard of housing in the area.


So it was a bit more expensive than we had bargained on. But what a meal. It was outstanding, and as good as anything we have had a restaurant anywhere. Good service, good food and beautifully cooked. Was expensive (100 pound) but no more so than similar quality restaurants in New Zealand, and much better value for money than anything we had in Singapore.

We really loved London. The girls are quite taken with it. She has been at her best though. Five days of glorious weather, stunning buildings and history and people actually very friendly and helpful. Plus of course the vast array of shows etc.

Our apartment was great. Well located just 5 minutes walk from Baker St tube station, a Tesco Express right next door and with enough room to spread ourselves out. One thing worthy of mention has been our breakfasts. Strawberries and Blueberries are in full season and cheap as chips. Mixed with bananas and muesli makes for a great breakfast. So all in all London gets a big tick.

Posted by Touringteamf 00:21 Archived in England Comments (2)

The day we saw the Crown Jewels....

and went to the Phantom

sunny 28 °C
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Saturday was once again a brilliant London day.

We were up early to meet up with our walking guide tour of the Tower of London and St Paul's Cathedral.

The guide was a ball of knowledge and and more importantly meant no queueing at the Tower. The most stunning thing on display was the Crown Jewels. No photography allowed unfortunately. But fair to say, Margaret's engagement ring makes me look like a cheap skate. The diamond in the Sceptre is 530 carats. The biggest cut diamond in the world. Like everything else, the history is phenomenal. Other than the Crown Jewels, they had a great display of armoury and weaponry. Ravens hold a special place at the Tower. Superstition and tradition place the Ravens in very high regard. They even had a tomb stone for sadly departed Ravens!! Then of course all the beheading's of anyone perceived to be out of favour with the King.


Then a pleasant walk up the Thames to St Paul's Cathedral. No photo's allowed in doors. What a church! Standing at a height of 365 ft, and designed by Christopher Wren. We saw the crypts of Christopher Wren, Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson.


Then.....let the shopping begin.... and end as soon as possible.

First stop, was Oxford St. Wall to wall people. First though we got a sandwich from our favourite sandwich vendor... Treats. One thing to buy a sandwich, but it is another to find somewhere to eat it. Nothing for it, but to follow the lead of the locals. Find side street, sit down on the pavement and tuck in. This summer don't be surprised to see the girls having lunch on the Kelvin St pavement leaning up against H&J's......... yeah right.


One thing I must say is how busy the Tube is. I don't remember it being this busy. The other day we got on at at Leicester Square. We could only just squeeze in. Next stop was Piccadilly Circus. No one got off, and not 1 person from Piccadilly could get on. I don't remember that ever happening 30 years ago.


But anyway back to the story of Oxford St. Took Aunty Erin's advice and had a look at Primark. Well at least the girls did. I looked, but didn't go in. I'm quite taken to sitting out on the footpath outside shops. (Was taken aback when a passerby flicked me 50p) Primark is wall to wall people, several floors and head banging music apparently (according to Marg). Got out of there and then hopped on a bus (getting brave now) and headed to Portobello market in Nottinghill. The pictures tell the story


And of course (apparently) no visit to Nottinghill is complete without seeing the blue door.


Back to our apartment for a quick freshen up and then off to the Phantom.



After 26 odd years in the Westend, they still had the Full House sign out. Great show, and pleased to have finally seen it. As compared to the Lion King, the music was more to my taste, but you can't beat the Lion King for sheer theatrical brilliance.

This is going to end up being an expensive trip. All 3 girls have said they would love to live in London. The ol' grind stone beckons..... Mind you we are seeing London at her best.

Posted by Touringteamf 13:41 Archived in England Comments (3)

A Day at the Natural History Museum

Harrods and the Lion King

sunny 25 °C
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Friday was another hot day in London with a busy day of events planned. Madison being a fan of David Attenborough was keen to see the Natural History Museum. We spent four hours looking at the museum and hardly did it justice. There is sooo much to see and take in. The building itself was amazing, beautifully carved animals, stairwells and ornamental work. Unlike some of the buildings in London which have been used for a myriade of purposes this building was originally built for the purpose of being a museum.


The dinosaur, bird, mammal, fossils and human biology displays took most of our time with the dinosaur display being the most popular with the crowd.







At present the museum has a display from Chicago of the Mammoths. This was also extremely popular and well worth a look. One highlight of this display is the complete body of a baby mammoth called Lyuba which was found some years ago fully embalmed by the silt and ice. The data that the scientists have discovered from the find is incredible and helping us understand more about these magnificent creatures. Unfortunately, to help preserved the display we weren't able to take any photos.

Also on display from that era were life size models of Sabre Tooth Tigers, a Short Faced Bear from North America and Columbian Mammoth - just amazing specimens.




The David Attenborough studio offers daily workshops on differing topics with a resident scientist. We attended one on the Mystery of Sand. This might sound a little ho hum but in fact it was very informative. You'd be amazed at what makes up sand. We had an interactive session with the scientist followed by time looking at slides under the microscopes.


After the museum visit we headed for Harrods - again, we just couldn't do it justice. There is just so much to see, it's mind boggling. We purchased a few souvenirs and caught a bus home. Catching the bus instead of the tube was great as we walked back to our apartment from a different end and discovered new things - namely a lovely bakery. Two small purchases later and we were back home having afternoon tea!





Around 5pm we headed off on the tube to Covent Garden for a meal and the Lion King. There was a real vibrant almost party atmosphere at Covent Garden with street performers, a market and music buskers. Left us wishing we had more time to soak up the atmosphere. Prior to the meal we decided to head down to Trafalgar Square for photos. Down came the rain....almost like Invercargill ! A quick photo and back to the Strand Carvery for our meal - lovely complete with crisp white table cloths.






On to the Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre. Again, amazing! The costumes, music and set were outstanding. The way the animals were portrayed was very clever.





Another great day!

Posted by Touringteamf 13:20 Archived in England Comments (3)

Fern says London's a scary place

but the shopping's good

sunny 28 °C
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Hi 7NA

I was out and about the other day. We went to the Natural History Museum. I was minding my own business when suddenly......


I was set upon by a 1 million year old sabre tooth cat. Well I thought, this is the end of the trip for me.

Then just in time I was saved by a big hairy mammoth, and I don't mean Madison's dad.


After that close escape, we headed to Harrods. Harrods is possibly the world's best known shop. Sort of like London's version of H&J Smiths. I must say, I felt right at home in Harrods.


That's all for now.



Posted by Touringteamf 01:39 Archived in England Comments (1)

Fern's been out and about

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Hello 7NA

After a slow start I have been out and about in London. I missed the first day, because I was a bit jet lagged. It was a shame I missed Madame Tussauds because there would have been some great photo opportunities.

I went to Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards and M&M World. Here are some photos.





Hope you aren't missing me too much.



Posted by Touringteamf 08:36 Archived in England Comments (1)

The day Prince Andrew came out to play

Day 2

sunny 30 °C

Woke to a glorious day in London. First stop was Piccadilly Circus, where we met our guided group for the Changing of the Guards. We’re please we did a guided tour.


There is a lot more to the ceremony than meets the eye.

We walked to Buckingham Palace, stopping off at various land marks along the way. As we walked down The Mall, the Horse guard came towards us, all on Irish Black horses. Rather than going straight to the Palace, we stopped off at St James Palace. The guards guard both Palaces. The old guard at St James march out into the court yard, for their inspection, and then march to Buckingham Palace to meet the rest of their regiment, and wait for the new guards to march to meet them to replace them.

The vast majority of tourists (and there are thousands) wait patiently jostling for position at the front gate of Buckingham Palace. Whereas we watched from the start and ran down The Mall in front of the marching guards.


Then half the new regiment marches back to Clarence House. Then we watched the change of the Beefeater guards outside Clarence House. We were right up close, where as back at the Palace you wouldn’t have seen much. The thing I find amazing is the guards are combat soldiers from the top British regiments.

There are different regiments of guards. Scots (no plume), Coldstream (red plume), Welsh (green and white plume), Irish (blue plume), Grenadier (white plume). Their hats are made from Canadian Black Bear Skin, and heavy woollen jackets.

That was the end of our guided tour, and we then went to the Queen’s Gallery to look at an exhibition of “The First Georgians”. Was good, but not quite our taste. Then we went to the Royal Mews, where the carriages, cars and horses are kept. We each had audio sets. The carriages were stunning and well worth seeing. Thanks Lloyd for that tip.


Then we headed off back past Buckingham Palace for a closer view, when there was a bit of activity. The gates opened and a motorcycle motorcade was assembled and the police started looking serious, then out came Prince Andrew.

Then off to the London Eye, a River Cruise and M&M world. Both very enjoyable.


The photo below shows the 4 M&Ms with the 4 Flannery M's. Madison, Mackenzie, Me and Margaret.


By that stage it was 6.30, and we headed out to Putney where my nephew Sean O’Malley lives. He took us to the Spencer Arms for dinner. It sits beside Putney Common, where we got a table. A great evening in the setting sun. Obviously a pet friendly pub. Inside everyone had their lap dog with them. Some of the dogs snoozing on the couches. And, believe it or not, someone had a rabbit!

Back on the tube, we made a friend with a slightly intoxicated Scottish lady, Aretha, who owns an art gallery. She gave us plenty of advise for Paris. She gave Marg a big hug before we got off.

It was a great day. Beautiful weather, and great to see Sean again.


Posted by Touringteamf 08:28 Archived in England Comments (3)

Mackenzie's trip so far.

sunny 29 °C
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Hi all,
Mackenzie here!
Since everyone else has already done a blog post,
I thought I would tell you my highlights so far!


I loved Madame Tussauds! The figures were incredible! They looked real!
Here are a few of my fav pics:



Even if you aren't a big fan of roller coasters, Universal Studios was amazing. The buildings were amazing, you could take photos with characters, really good food and shows! There was one ride that I went on (The Revenge Of The Mummy) that got me so scared that I couldn't open my eyes. I mean, there was fire, bugs and really, really, really loud voices! Here are a few pics:



When we were staying in Singapore, there was a pool just outside the lobby in our hotel! Singapore was sooooo hot and the pool was a perfect way to cool down! The side of the pool was glass, which led to some very cool photo opportunities:



The old buildings in London are incredible! Big Ben (Westminster Palace) , Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and even The Globe Theatre! Here are few buildings:


That's all for now. We don't have much time for blogging while we are in London. So much to see and do, not much time to it in.

Posted by Touringteamf 00:32 Archived in England Comments (1)

So we aren't the only ones who came to London on holiday!!

The day we out smarted ourselves with our efficiency, but failed to read the fine print.

sunny 29 °C

Hi all,

After a 13 hour flight we arrived in London at 6.00am!

Once we cleared customs and immigration we waited and waited at luggage claim.

Then we took the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station.

We got off the express and took a taxi to 102 George Street, our apartment.

The apartment was closed so we had to wait for an hour until it opened.

We got to Madame Tussauds and were blown away at how life like they were.


After a brilliant hour and a half we walked to the Baker Street Station.

I loved the tube but it was very warm.

As soon as I walked out at the river Thames I saw Big Ben and Westminster Palace.




We had a beautiful egg and ham sammy sitting on the steps at Westminster Pier over looking the Thames river and went on our tour.

I had to take in a lot of information, and my mind was over flowing.

We learnt about the Lords and Commoners. We saw the Treasury Buildings and Winston Churchill’s war rooms in the basement.

We casually wandered to a taxi stand and went to A&E (Dad’s elbow).

All of us were tired with only 4 hours sleep and we got our groceries and strolled home.

Dad had to go back to the store and when he came back there was 3 sleeping beauties lying on the bed!

We are going to Buckingham Palace right now!

Madison :)

Thanks Madison.

We had a great flight from Singapore. We all got some sleep. We breezed through immigration and customs. The only anxious moment was waiting for the bags. In the end though we were that efficient that we had to wait until the apartment office opened.

Where we let ourselves down was not reading the fine print on the terms and conditions of pre booked tickets. We queued at Madam Tussauds to get our online tickets. "Yes we have have your booking, can you show me some ID please." ....umm no we can't, our ID is back at the hotel. No ID no entry. Ran back to get ID, and with a hastily scribbled note from the front desk ticket collector, I felt justified in jumping the queue with ID in hand.

What struck us first up was the people on the street around the tourist icons. It needs seeing to believe. Welcome to London!!

The buildings, their architecture and history is also hard to take in. In comparison good old NZ is so young. Some buildings date back a 1,000 years. It feels likes More has been built, destroyed and rebuilt over 2,000 years than stands today in New Zealand.

Posted by Touringteamf 14:49 Archived in England Comments (4)

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