Before I cover our fantastic Croatia and Belgium holidays I will cover our weekend before Christmas including day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon and Christmas itself.
Carol Seppanen Book Update - I finished my third Raymond Chandler book - The Long Good-Bye, 448 pages. This book was as captivating as the first one I read, another fast read that I had trouble putting down. The story unfolded nicely and he also had more of his catchily worded phrases. A couple I liked were 'Mostly I just kill time,' he said, 'and it dies hard.' and 'He hated me with his eyes as I went by him ...'. Hard to believe this guy was in his 40's before he started writing. He also fed me a couple of Auntie "B" Words of the Week - mulishness and deckle edged. I found the word deckle edged interesting as I have seen many examples of deckle edged books as we tour but didn't know there was a name for that part of the book. Now I do. Thanks Raymond Chandler.
On the Saturday before Christmas we did the required Shakespeare stop. The town is set up to welcome tourists which was kind of a turn off for me but I figured we should stop by since we are only an hour plus away. Plus this will (I hope) also help the kids understand a little bit of Shakespeare when they are exposed to him later on in school. Personally I never understood Shakespeare but he is a little famous and has stood the test of time so maybe I just need to try a little harder to understand his stories. Either way we were off to Stratford. A quick English town naming lesson for the Yanks in my audience. The town name is Stratford but it is on the banks of the River Avon hence the name Stratford-upon-Avon. Similar to the Coors brewery we visited last year that was in Burton-on-Trent; the town Burton sits on the banks of the River Trent. From the town tourist website the town is named from the Olde English words Straet for Street and Ford that meant it forded the river into town.
First stop was the Gower Memorial, a memorial to Shakespeare given to Stratford. From an internet website: This memorial to Shakespeare is situated in Bancroft Gardens in Stratford. This statue, showing Shakespeare seated, is flanked by life-size statues of Lady Macbeth, Prince Hal, Hamlet, Henry V, and Falstaff, representing Philosophy, Tragedy, History, & Comedy. The memorial was sponsored by Lord Ronald Sutherland -Gower, who presented it to the town of Stratford in 1888.
The fam next to Falstaff. The day started out a little colder than we anticipated so the girls whined for a while. Not sure if they quit whining or if I just tuned them out. KJ manned up and was fine.
We only planned on a day trip so instead of visiting all five Shakespeare related properties (his birthplace, his retirement house, his daughter's house, his wife's cottage prior to their marriage and his mother's farm prior to her marriage) we focused on the three properties in the town. His wife's cottage and mother's farm are both outside of town and weren't high on our interest meter so we skipped them. First up was Nash's House which was Shakespeare's retirement home. Per the website and docents the house was purchased by him in 1597 and he lived there when not in London until his death in 1616. The house was remodeled to reflect what it would have looked like during that time which was quaint but since we have seen so many 1600's house already it didn't really impress us. Neat to tour and interesting reading about the time period but nothing new to us.
Cribbage trivia for the cribbage players in the audience.
Lady Macbeth. Also in the house was artwork related to his work.
A 1600's feast fit for a bard.
The Knot Garden in back probably would be beautiful in the summer with all of the colourful flowers in bloom.
Also in the garden was this sculpture trail which combined images and verses from some of his works. Probably an interesting walk for the Shakespeare aficionados but just okay for a Shakespeare know nothing like myself.
The fireplace is the only original part of the house. Above the fireplace is a 16th Century Brussels banner if I remember correctly.
The Guild Chapel, we will check out the inside later. It was originally built in 1269 but the existing structure is from the 15th Century.
A row of wavy Tudor style buildings. From our English history wall poster: The Tudor Period was from 1485 to 1603 and included events such as The Reformation (formation of Church of England when England broke from the Holy Roman Church led by Henry the VIII), execution of Mary Queen of Scots, Francis Drake sails around the world, and reign of terror for Henry the VIII's wives.
Next up was Hall's Croft, the Jacobean home of Shakespeare's daughter. From my wall poster again and the little bit of English history I have picked up Jacobean is from the Stuart Period that followed the Tudor Period and specifically refers to the reign of James I from 1603 to 1625. James and Jacob are the same name in different languages much like Ivan and John or Karl and Charles for example.
The Parlour with the typical rough hewn timbers, white painted walls, black painted trim and wooden furniture from the time.
View of the house from the garden. The Tudor and Stuart Period houses are neat looking, kind of reminds me of a period movie/TV show.
Jim Seppanen Pic - From the house info the L shaped Mulberry tree is 150 years old and collapsed 60 years ago.
Jay Seppanen Pic - I guess it is time for me to get my own picture since I am officially obsessed with St. George and the Dragon. Like its my fault they are rockin' awesome.
One of the bedrooms. Obviously Shakes the Clown had my camera for awhile, sorry for the pic quality on some of these.
Eagle eyed Lori spotted the incorrect spacial relationship between North and South America on this period globe.
Another bedroom, this one includes an Elizabethan baby crib. The bedroom is newer than the previous one as you can see from the green bed canopy and curtains.
Kevin Coleman Pic - Yup, the Hooky Bitter lives up to its name.
After lunch was Holy Trinity Church (link) where Shakespeare resides. The church itself is unremarkable. According to the leaflet the existing building dates to 1210 and the site has hosted a church since at least 713 when a Saxon monastery was there.
The outside of the church.
Requisite stained glass window.
View down the nave.
I though this was the tomb of Shakespeare but it was for Joyce Clopton (d 1635) and her husband George Carew Earl of Totnes (d 1629). George was the master of Ordnance to James I of England (same James I as above) per the leaflet.
I thought this may have been his tomb but it was for William Clopton (d 1592) and his wife Anne per the leaflet.
And this is the grave of Shakespeare and his wife Anne.
Shakespeare's Monument. Per a placard this is thought to be "faithful likeness" of him as it was made while his wife and daughters were living.
The River Avon outside the church. Kalle asked why the benches are in the middle of the river. They aren't usually in the river, it's called flooding honey. Yes we have had this much rain over here.
Back to the plain Guild Chapel.
Altar and stained glass.
Stained glass close up. The town's namesake Robert Stratford is in the middle and Shakespeare's father John is on the far right. John was a successful merchant, glove maker and one time mayor of the town.
From the altar looking towards the entrance. The fam is patiently waiting for me as usual as I read another memorial, look at another stained glass window, check out more of the stone/woodwork, take one more picture...
The White Swan Hotel dates to 1450.
The American Fountain on Rother Street. From the town tourist website, the fountain was donated by George W. Childs (1829 -1894), of Philadelphia, an American publisher in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.
Our final Shakespeare stop of the day was his birthplace. For the day we opted for a three site ticket that covered the houses in the town. It would have been a little expensive except for one of the random ticket dispersing people near the Gower Memorial was passing out 2 FOR 1 entrance ticket so we ended up getting the tickets for a reasonable price. The other two houses were enter at your own risk and self wander at your own pace. The birthplace had a multi-room video to watch before exiting the exhibition building into the garden. Once you entered the birthplace house it was a crowded mob of humanity washing us through each room. Of course it didn't help that we were entering the same time as a bus sized tour group so we purposely stayed one room in front of them when possible.
The garden (lawn for the Yanks) behind his house.
The fireplace was next to the guest bed (not shown). The docent explained that homes in that time would put their spare/guest beds on the ground floor in front of a window as a show of wealth to all of the people walking by. Shakespeare's family had wealth and prominently displayed their spare bed by the window. Per the docent the floor is from Tudor time. The painted fireplace walls are post Tudor as they didn't paint fireplaces until afterwards. The docents were very knowledgeable in this house.
His father was a master glove maker and this is his storefront where he sold his gloves to passers by.
A glove makers paring knife model. Per the docent Shakespeare wove glove making references into his works, one reference the docent quoted (I forget the exact quote, my fault) was a man's beard as perfectly round as a glove makers paring knife. Now I see what he meant.
The upstairs. The loft is where apprentices would sleep. The house was a good museum but just a little too crowded for us to take our time and enjoy the exhibits.
Trundle bed. Sleeping on a mattress of rope, how comfortable.
Wall construction methods for the curious.
After the last museum for the day we bobbed and weaved our way through the street vendor stalls where Kalle found a clutch she liked. Not sure if it is a girl thing or England thing but a hand purse is called a clutch, I thought it was just called a hand purse. While in the stall maze we found a bird of prey rescue shelter that had a few adorable birds available to stroke so I gave a donation and we all stroked the birds.
This tiny owl was cute.
This big owl turned its head to watch me after I stroked its chest. Not sure if I did something wrong or if he thought I shouldn't have been done yet.
Dana Johnson Pic - my hot cocoa and lemon drizzle cake. This was at The Box Brownie House which was supposed to have the best coffee in the Midlands. Being a typically dreary English winter day and being a fan of coffee I figured we would stop to try a cup of the best coffee in the Midlands. That was until I read a sign boasting of their hazelnut espresso. So we confirmed that it was in all of the coffees and I switched my coffee to cocoa. Stupid Europeans and their stupid hazelnut. (Editor's correction: Lori reminded me it almond not hazelnut espresso. Tree nuts are still stupid.)
The Gower Memorial on our way to the car. Nope, the weather hasn't improved yet.
Merry Christmas! We were home for Christmas this year so we stayed home and enjoyed the rainy Christmas Day weather. For Christmas Eve church service we went to a Christingle service. What is Christingle you ask? Read about it here. The service itself was similar to a candlelight service at home.
Kalle's school made centrepiece in the background, my Christingle in the foreground.
Opening presents Christmas Eve night. Here the kids are ready to pull apart the Christmas Crackers. You pull them apart and they make a small pop sound plus there is a small toy inside it. An English Christmas tradition.
Kalle in front of our tree modelling a bracelet a friend gave her. We all received very nice gifts and Santa was good to the kids so we had a nice Christmas even though we weren't with family.
Christmas dinner by candlelight. We had cousin Shelley's taco salad since Lori had brought Western salad dressing back with her. We had a more traditional ham the next day.
Thanks for listening,