In the footsteps of Shakespeare

Words are not coming naturally to me today. What am I trying to say? What is there to say?

I look at other bloggers and am fascinated with their ability to cram so many words together, relentlessly cross-referencing to Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and whatever other platforms exists. They talk earnestly about ‘content’ and invite brands to contact them for ‘co-labs’. (A term which conjures up images of laboratory experiments but is more likely shorthand for ‘collaborations’).

It’s a bit exhausting when you (me) are locked in an internal struggle to pour prose onto the page.

It is with some irony my predicament follows a solo trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon where the author of some of the most quoted lines ever written, William Shakespeare, was born and died.

I love travelling alone: coming and going as I please, setting my own itinerary, the quietness of my own company, the thrill of little achievements (successful map-reading, natch) and striking up conversation with people.

Last year I shortlisted some places to visit with Stratford high on the list. Close enough to drive to but far enough away to feel like an adventure.

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YHA’s Stratford-upon-Avon hostel.

There is no shortage of places to stay. I chose the YHA’s excellent Stratford-Upon-Avon hostel, a 200-year-old mansion about two miles from the town centre with en-suite rooms, dorms and offers a cooked breakfast.

I kicked off my adventure with a two-hour guided town tour with Stratford Town Walk led by a wonderfully warm and knowledgable guide called Barbara and included a visit to Holy Trinity Church, the final resting place of the Bard.

As you would imagine Shakespeare’s legacy is everywhere. It covers the entire spectrum from touristy (fridge magnets) to the powerful (copies of the First Folio of his complete works).

The full story is thoughtfully told through the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust which cares for the historic buildings associated with him, his wife Anne Hathaway and their families.

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The house where Shakespeare was born.

It would not, I felt, be complete without taking in a play (As You Like It) by the world-renowned Royal Shakespeare Company at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Here, giants of the acting world including Lawrence Olivier, Judi Dench and Mark Rylance have trod the boards. For me, the evening was pure joy: an immersive emotional experience partly down to the

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Anne Hathaway’s cottage.

thrust stage auditorium but mostly because of the supremely talented company.

I talked elsewhere about my unabated love for eating. Happily, places are plentiful. Here are my top three tips:

Lambs – Housed in one of the oldest buildings in Sheep Street, Lambs fuses modern with classic wrapped in quality and simplicity. There’s a set menu for pre-theatre dining which is an absolute bargain (try the lemon curd and passion fruit Eton Mess if you’ve got room).

The Fourteas – Feeling a little fatigued on the Shakespearean front? Go here. This 1940s-inspired tearoom serves quintessential afternoon tea, sandwiches, hot food, homemade cakes and has a selection of loose-leaf teas, all served by staff in period costume.

The Vintner – Apparently the name dates from 1600 when a chap called John Smith traded here as a wine merchant. Despite the fact I am teetotal, I was attracted by the interesting menu (Tandoori salmon with Bombay potatoes – yum!) Like its Lambs stablemate, Vintner’s offers a set menu.

Stratford is lovely to visit; compact, easy to explore and with an abundance of Tudor buildings to gawp at. Being a local must mean constantly dodging tourists like me (sorry) who stop dead in their tracks to take yet another photo of a door, a gable end or a crooked window.

Oh! Would you look at that. I’ve somehow found the words to write (no ‘colabs’ required!)

”These are but wild and whirling words.” – Hamlet

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The River Avon.

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