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  • Devin Gackle

Journals from Across the Pond: An Afternoon in Stratford-upon-Avon

The first word that comes to mind when I think of Stratford-upon-Avon is charming—it’s such an apt word for the cozy little town with a slight Renaissance vibe. The reason for this vibe is certainly the centuries-old buildings—including the birthplace of Shakespeare himself, smack dab in the middle of town.

It was mid-morning when we arrived, the perfect time for a cup of coffee and some lunch. Our guide lead us to Henley Street, walking us by the Jester Statue, Shakespeare’s house, and down to the River Avon, where a Sunday street market filled the street with colorful tents and stands. There she gave us a few directions, and set us free to explore.

A few of my friends and I went in search of coffee/sustenance, enjoying the sunny day, then wandered back to the market. We discovered a stall run by a somewhat elderly woman, who was selling delectable treats—including homemade scones for only a pound. As she actually had a catering certificate on display, it’s no surprise her scones—made up of two perfectly crumbly biscuits with flavorful clotted cream and homemade raspberry jam slathered in the middle—were absolutely delightful. I wish I’d had two…

From there we went down by the river, taking in the view and watching the swans crowding by the docks (there were a lot of them.) Starting from outside the Royal Shakespeare Company, we walked along the scenic riverwalk in the direction of Trinity Church with the swans as company—they weren’t at all afraid to walk right next to people—and it was a very relaxing walk.

We walked past idyllic willow trees and a sunny park, and eventually we came upon the church.

We couldn’t go in because of Sunday services, so we didn’t get to see where Shakespeare is buried, but we did walk around the churchyard cemetery. This cemetery was a peaceful one, with the filtered light coming through the trees and old, moss-covered grave markers providing a mystical air.

We walked back to Henley Street after that, popping in and out of shops. I got a vanilla ice-cream cone from a street cart to ward off the heat; to me nothing’s more refreshing on a hot day than a vanilla ice-cream cone (except a gin and lavender ice-cream cone.) Though I didn’t buy any souvenirs, I did enjoy poking into a Beatrice Potter store filled with knick-knacks and merchandise from her stories. I still wonder if I should have gotten some Peter Rabbit tea…

One of our friends wanted to tour Shakespeare’s house, but we didn’t want to spend the money, so we walked around while we waited for her, and found the clock tower. It’s not super tall, but it’s intricate and, like the town, charming. It looks like a tiny Gothic castle (it even has a tiny door shorter than me!), and has something different carved on each side, including a couple quotes from Shakespeare plays, and a praise of Shakespeare by Washington Irving, and American Writer. (This is fitting because the memorial is supposed to partly represent England’s peaceful relationship with the U.S.)

We meandered back the way we'd come, but before we knew it, it was time to board our bus, and continue on to Liverpool.

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