Friday, February 24, 2017

Europe 2016 Day 4: Of Shakespeare, Oxford & Cotswolds Countryside

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Europe 2016 Day 4: Of Shakespeare, Oxford & Cotswolds Countryside
7th September 2016 - London
Our 4th day in England took us on an interesting and diversified tour to Stratford-upon-Avon, the Cotswolds countryside and Oxford.

This is page 4 of a 14-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
 Go to Day 3 London       |         Go to Other Days         |       Go to Day 5 London >

But before I go rambling further, here are some London Travelling Tips:
1. We stayed connected using a pocket wifi which we got from Travel Recommends.
2. Accommodations
In the city, accommodations can be expensive (especially for those from countries with poor exchange rate against the Pound Sterling). We stayed at the Travelodge King's Cross Royal Scot at about MYR360/= per night. It is quite centrally located being walking distance to the King's Cross Station which we would use frequently to travel around London. Please note that there is a charge for using the hotel wifi.
3. We travelled frequently with the Oyster Card but avoided the peak periods (Monday to Friday (except public holidays) from 06:30 to 09:30 and 16:00 to 19:00) as fares then would almost be doubled. Also we did use the HopOn/HopOff buses (HoHo bus) to get around since we had already purchased a 48-hour pass.
4. Places of Interest for the day:
- Stratford-upon-Avon including the following places:
   - Shakespeare's Birthplace (GPS: 52.19296, -1.70682).
   - Shakespeare's New Place (GPS: 52.19072, -1.70766).
   - Shakespeare's grave at Trinity Church (GPS: 52.19173, -1.70829).
   - The Royal Shakespeare Company (GPS: 52.19049, -1.70388).
   - River Avon Park (GPS: 52.1883, -1.70672).
- The English countryside & meadows at Cotswolds (GPS: 51.99966, -1.69955), including the following places;
- Stow-on-the-Wold (GPS: 51.93136, -1.72644).
- Bibury and River Coln (GPS: 51.75863, -1.83329).
- Arlington Row countryside cottages (GPS: 51.75865, -1.83381).
- Oxford (GPS: 51.75663, -1.2547) and it's many university buildings/structures including the Martyrs' Memorial GPS: 51.75505, -1.25897) and University Church of St Mary the Virgin.(GPS: 51.75283, -1.25377).
5. Food
- Brunch was cucumber sandwiches & cakes at Hobsons Patisseries (GPS: 52.19296, -1.70661) at Stratford-upon-Avon.
- Early dinner was at Thai food at AT Thai Restaurant (GPS: 51.75205, -1.25636) in Oxford.
- Supper was take-away scones with clotted cream which we got from a shop at Stow-on-the-Wold (GPS: 51.93136, -1.72644).

We have been in London for three days and have been loving it, but for today we took a break from the city and headed on a guided tour out to see the English countryside in Cotswolds, visit the Bard and also get some education at Oxford.
Our tour was via the English Bus small group tour of Straford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds & Oxford at £74/- per pax.


From the London Eye, our guide Andrew, drove us in his large van to the William Shakespeare's birthplace: Stratford-upon-Avon. We were parked behind the MAD Museum and took a short walk to Hemley Street. This was where most of the action was; many tourists were visiting; walking along the street lined with red bricked and tiled roof cottages, and every once a while popped into a museum, shop or eatery.

The place to see is this building which stand distinctly from the rest as it's the largest house along the street and of a brownish colour, this was where William Shakespeare was born. With so many tourists around, friends asked how I managed to capture this photo without anyone around. Well, it was with some patience and a lot of luck. Perhaps, the Bard was smiling down on me.
Shakespeare and his wife, Anne Hathaway stayed here for five years after their marriage before moving to his new house at Chapel Street. The n ewhouse is called Shakespeare's New Place, although it's not that new as it was his family home there from 1597 until his death 1616. It was demolished in 1759, and in place of the house there is now a registered garden; I guess that's why it's called a place and not a house! The entry ticket for both place, and including Hall's Croft, is £74/- per adult. For other ticket prices, click here.

Other than the place where the Bard entered the world with a dramatic cry; there other other places to visit here too. One is the Shakespeare Centre, entry for an hour is included in the town pass.

The Bard is not the only writer honoured here, there's a shop called Timeless Tales that is a "Peter Rabbit Specialist". Peter the Rabbit is one of the characters created by Beatrice Potter who through her writing income bought huge tracks of countryside land which are now preserved under the National Trust. And all this started from a humble rabbit.

Not up to visiting the museums, just potter around (oops.... no offense Miss Potter, it's just the right word to use) and have some fun like me at an ice-cream tricycle.

We gradually and literally sunk ourselves into the place and plopped ourselves onto comfortable chairs for some brunch at Hobsons Patisseries. The do serve some lovely cucumber sandwiches here!

Well time to pull ourselves up from the comfy chairs (sigh...) and venture forth to see more of the town. We headed down Chapel Street and saw this castle which was not a castle but was the Guild Chapel ...

... the corners of the entrance archway were not decorated with gargoyles but with figurines of guild people, like this one (probably a jester) with a fingers-pulling-mouth "Bleah" look! So who says the Medieval folks were sober straight-faced people; they do have a sense of humor!

We walked by the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre, it's tall red wall mimicking the buildings on Hemley Street. Alas! Father Time is on our heels, we had to let a Divine Comedy and any Midsummer's Night Dreaming slip by. But we did get to enjoy the sceneries at River Avon - boats moored at it's edges, some ducks paddling along. At a nearby park a family was having a picking playing with their toddler who was cooing away in rhythm with the pigeons. 

Our hurried pace was to the Holy Trinity Church, saying some quite prayers as we walked by some graves at the church's compound; not wanting our mid-summer night's dream to turn into a nightmare, do we?
Inside, a statue of the Bard sat high above the altar, looking down at the baptismal font in which he was baptised ...

... and also at his grave laid down near the altar.... Hmmmm.... Birth and Death Together... that could be a title for a play!

Okay. Enough of the poetic ramblings; time to get down to earth, time to change from a theatrical scenery to one that's rustic - time to head for Cotswolds, the name itself meaning "sheep enclosure in rolling hillsides" embodies the countrysde setting and the way of life here.
Instead of just going on the main roads, Andrew took us on a round about way, through rustic roads, some of which were so narrow that we had to slow down for traffic from the opposite to pass. But it was great, at the slow pace we saw the meadow, the rural housing and even through brushland. And then we reached Stow-on-the-Wold, a small town with rows of houses built with the renown Cotswolds bricks giving them that browning colour with a slight tinge of green.

Within the town itself were shops selling goods for the locals and some catering for tourists. There are pubs too, one called the Queen's Head's Inn has a sign with Queen Elizabeth I staring down on us ... and then just a few doors away was an inn called Old Stocks ...

... and appropriately down the road was a little park with remnants of an old wooden stock, can imagine back in the Queen's days, one fella having one too many, causing a commotion and being locked up in this with the Queen's face glaring down at him from the signboard, and passerbys throwing rotten fruits and vegetables at him!

A few streets away were lovely tea-houses like this one called Lucy's, brightly dressed up with flowers over an alcove. With it's serene and very green atmosphere, Cotswolds is definitely a place to have tea, too bad we were short on time.

And larger building in Medieval grey stones. This stately looking one has been converted into the Stow Lodge Hotel.

We did manage to get a take-away box of scorns which came with Rodda's Clotted Cream and some strawberry jam.

We continued on, passing by meadow with grazing horses and cow. The animals were oblivious to us, and one friendly pony did come by the coral fence to be patted by us.

Our next stop: Bibury, a really quite place with the River Coln calmly streaming through. Ducks and swans paddled there, all trying to get the attention of feeding visitors.

Here's the entrance to the nearby Arlington Row. The houses with the lush surrounding but I was wondering what the hoo-ha of this houses over others in the Wold was about until Andrew explained that these were a notable architectural consvaration, and a photo of them embraces the inside cover of United Kingdom passports.

Other houses here were equally attractive, some with beautifully planted gardens.
We stayed a while and utilised the public toilet nearby, which by the way is a pee-with-a-view place.

Well, it's time to pull ourselves away from here, reluctantly we said our goodbyes to Mr. Swan.

Our journey now looped back towards London, but on last destination before we head home - Oxford!
We stopped at one of the main street and walked in. The very first place we visited here was the Martyrs' Memorial, dedicated to several renown people who sacrificed their lifes in the name of education.

Walking down main street (High Street) was like walking down any medieval town; shops lined the roads, most catering for the students and visitors like us.

Some of the sights we saw:
Large stone busts sitting atop columns of a fence.

Hetford Bridgge, Oxford's equivalent of the Venice's Bridge of Sighs.

A peep through an archway at the towers of education.

St. Mary's Church.

Statues of fauns holding up a door archway.

Andrew and his "English Bus".
We finished off with a early dinner at the AT Thai Restaurant along main street, met up with the rest and headed back to London. The tour had taken up almost the whole day.
Many thanks to Andrew and the English Bus for a wonderful and educating tour.

(For more photos of the day Click Here)

This is page 4 of a 14-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
 Go to Day 3 London       |         Go to Other Days         |       Go to Day 5 London >

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