Monday, July 11, 2011

Stratford-upon-Avon and The Merchant of Venice

I have been kicking myself ever since I got home for not taking more pictures in Stratford! It was an absolutely beautiful town! There were houseboats lined up on the river and swans all over the place and cute little shops and this amazing open market. It was so incredible. But, I did get a few pictures. Even though we spent four nights in Stratford, we didn't really get a chance to enjoy it until our last full day there and the night before after we got home from Kenilworth. That night Kaity, Emily, Becca, Juan, and I took a nice little walk around town. No agendas or plans to see anything, just a nice leisurely walk. Later some other girls, Brooke and Haley, joined us, and it was a ton of fun. After our walk we went back to the Hollies and watched some British television. :) It's pretty crazy. Very different from American TV. Anyway, the next day is when we really got to explore Stratford. The first thing we did that morning was walk about a mile to Anne Hathaway's (the wife of Shakespeare) childhood home.

It was really cool! The inside of the house was crazy old. But the best part, as usual, was the gardens. Sooo beautiful. There was a cool willow hut and flowers everywhere and wisteria (of course). But the best part of these gardens was the Woodland Walk. It is what it says it is- a walk through the woods- and it was absolutely amazing. It was whimsical and amazing.

 Something I really liked about it was all these cool art projects from a local grade school.

Especially these wire fairies. :) There were dozens of them around. I thought they were really cute.

After we finished up at Anne Hathaway's Cottage, we walked back into town and went to the open market. I bought a sweet pestle and mortar made out of olive wood- it's really pretty and supposedly way better than marble or stone. We also went to Thornton's, a popular British gourmet chocolate company where I got the most delicious chocolates of my life. Sooooooooo yummy. We spent the rest of the day seeing the other Shakespeare properties around Stratford. We saw the house where he was born and the house of his son-in-law and daughter's medical practice. We also got to go to the church where Shakespeare is buried. It's really pretty.

I'm kind of obsessed with stained glass. The stuff in this church was particularly amazing. But just wait until I get to Paris...

The crowded room where Shakespeare is buried.

That's him! I almost didn't get to see Shakespeare's grave. They were charging a "donation" of £2 to see it, which Kaity and I were not willing to pay. It was the principle of the thing. :) We almost left but Kaity decided to ask if it was a donation or an entrance fee. They said it was a donation, so we got in for free... sneaky sneaky. I felt kind of bad, but why would I pay the equivalent of $4 to see the grave of a person I have never been a huge fan of?

That night we added the perfect frosting to our Shakespeare cake by seeing the Merchant of Venice at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Normally, I would not be excited to see this play. It is definitely not one of few Shakespeare plays I love. But, I was willing to overlook my own opinions and become excited when I found out (that morning) who was playing Antonio and Shylock:

That's right! Scott Handy and PATRICK STEWART, respecitively (see IMDB for Scott Handy. He's big in the British world- you've probably seen him in movies like A Knight's Tale). I was seriously SO excited for Patrick Stewart. I grew up watching him as Jean Luke Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, thanks to my Pappa Stu, and love him in the X-Men movies! I have always loved him. And let me tell you, he did NOT disappoint. He was the best part of the entire play. He played the bad guy, but at the end I caught myself rooting for him... oops. In fact I was pretty mad at the end of that play because of how everything turned out for his character.
It took the whole show for me to get used to him with hair.

Besides the amazingness of Patrick Stewart being in the show, the play was pretty enjoyable. They actually turned it into "The Merchant of Vegas" and set it in, well, Vegas in modern times. The whole time they made fun of American pop culture and accents, which was pretty hilarious at first, but it got a little old :). They also completely butchered the ending, in my opinion. They pretty much made all of the main characters go crazy and hate each other in the last scene, which is not how it's supposed to go. But it was still cool. How many people can say they've seen not one, but TWO plays by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, Shakespeare's home town! I feel pretty special. :)


Taralyn said...

Yeah Patrick Stewart looks weird with hair. Don't feel bad...I often root for bad guys. :D Those wire fairies are adorable! And if you ever want some real entertainment, you should watch Chinese TV.

Tiffany said...

I love those cottage-feel homes! They look like hobbit holes! I am a little jealous you got to see Patrick Stewart! He looks good with hair. Yay!

The Clarks said...

i think that is cool that you saw shakespeare's grave! i love all the pictures. wax museums are awesome - and creepy. =) and castles are sweet! such pretty places!