Stratford upon Avon

The British Rail system is unbelievable. We got to the station late after sleeping in and dawdling. But after waiting for 20 minutes and having a tomato and cheese baguette (the cheddar here is out of this world!), we got on a train that took us to Banbury. 3 minutes after getting off our connecting train arrived and took us to Stratford upon Avon. We rode through rolling hills – some green and freshly mowed, some brown and awaiting new seeds. We saw lots of black-faced sheep, all kinds of cows, some gorgeous race horses, 3 humongous pigs, and silky brown bunny rabbits grazing in the pastures. We saw lots of churches, villages, and one windmill. In Heyford we saw a huge fleet of “narrow boats” in the canal – all painted different glossy colors with curtains on the windows. Though on the return trip, I wrote in my journal and Kurt slept.

It only took 5 minutes to walk from the train station to the city center. A brass band was playing outside the public library (I shot a quicktime video and felt like my grandpa was with me at the time!). Just beside the band was a statue of Shakespeare…I thought. Then all at once people started making noise and ignoring the band and I realized it was a guy dressed up like a statue and kids were posing for pictures. He had a pedestal and a “statue” dog as well. I don’t know how he kept that grey, grainy stuff on his face!

creepy living statue

We went to Shakespeare’s birthplace. The visitor center was interesting because they had his family tree somewhat mapped out and outlined his patronage by royalty as well as his “road to stardom”. There was a creepy exhibit with a wax statue of him sitting at a writing desk – very realistic. I don’t think we’ll go to Madame Tussaud’s after my reaction to just that one!

The house was neat. Amazing that you can keep any building in shape for 500 years, much less a timber & plaster one. We hung out in the garden, browsed in the shop, and then walked on. We heard screaming down the street – it was Shakespeare again freaking out a 3 year old and some teenage girls.

We found some earplugs in the Chemist Shop so Kurt could finally fall asleep. We saw an American flag flying from a building across the street (huh??). We ended our stay by visiting the ice cream truck and sitting outside the market stalls. Oh yeah, and on the way back we took the traditional stupid american picture standing next to a red phone box. (Better on an empty Stratford street than in the middle of London!)

We ate dinner in Oxford with some ex-Oracle employees which was fun. On the way to the restaurant I saw the British sign to end all signs and it took Simon awhile to realize why I couldn’t stop laughing: “humped zebra crossing” (i.e. speed bump).


Day 2 and Still Alive

If I make typos,forgive me. There is a # key where enter is supposed to be and a \ where shift is supposed to be.

I’m writing from an internet cafe (my first ever) on the High Street in Oxford. Everything has gone splendidly! Our ‘hotel’ is perfect, but not in an american sense. There are 5 rooms attached to a pub and we have the bay window room, street level, on the end with our own private entrence (with those cool high-up door knobs). I get to look up at brown stone buildings surrounding the car park and hear gravel crunch every time we take a jaunt.

Turf's brick in the wall

Our dinner place was suggested by a regular to the pub, who though ‘born and bred’ here, has been to the states and told us that the pub/restaurant looked far on the map. But compared to the distances on ‘bloody **** american maps’ it would really only take 5 minutes. He gave excellent directions, including walking down the ‘dodgy alleyway just before the arch’ with the name of the pub written with black marker on one small brick in the alley wall. Excellent Steak & Ale pie! We were definitely the only americans in the place, though we did hear some scandinavians. This regular also invited us to a once a year festival to
raise funds for the local boatyard on Sunday – wouldn’t miss it for the world!

Ate a full English breakfast – my first beans on toast – along with egg, sausage, and the most incredible ham. Plus REAL english tea in an english teapot at a table in ENGLAND!

So for the record, I have already accomplished all my goals for this vacation. I have listened to more accents than I dreamed possible, I have had a delicious pint at the pub (where I learned by watching that half pints are available – very key information for the remainder of the trip), and I’ve had my cup of tea in the morning overlooking a cobblestone street and container garden.