Tag Archives: trips

Soaking up Shakespeare

Earlier this year we were invited to attend a formal dinner in Stratford upon Avon and decided to make a long weekend of it. Of course, being Shakespeare’s birthplace, almost everything is geared to a celebration of the Bard of Avon.

We started by taking a leisurely walk around the lovely Warwickshire market town. Beautiful old buildings-many of which would have been familiar to Shakespeare himself since the town dates back more than eight hundred years-exist alongside modern structures which, on the whole, blend in well. As you can see, many of these old buildings have been utilised for present-day needs.Police station

Of course, the most  photographed building in Stratford has to be where Shakespeare was born in 1564.  Some people say the house itself was built in the fifteenth century, while others say it was built around the time of Shakespeare’s actual birth. Regardless of when it was built, it is still a pretty impressive structure. Shakespeare's BirthplaceApparently, the Bard lived here until he was a young man, and even spent the first years of his marriage to Anne Hathaway in this house.

A short walk along the high street is a rather fun bronze statue of The Jester. It was created by Anthony Bird and features a character from As You Like it. Around the stone plinth on which it stands are quotations from other Shakespeare plays, such as ‘Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun. It shines everywhere‘ from Twelfth Night.The Jester

After all that culture, we were ready for afternoon tea. Being in Stratford, we just had to choose a really special tea shoppe. Where else than Hathaways Tea Rooms? Housed in a building dating from around 1610, the property has a chequered past. It has been an eighteenth-century Inn, a booksellers, an apothecary, a boot and shoe store, until in 1931 it became Hathaways Tea Rooms.Hathaways Tea Rooms

Alas, we didn’t have time for a trip to the theatre to see a Shakespearean play, but that was sort of remedied for me when I got home and a friend managed to get tickets for a much sought-after live screening of Benedict Cumberbatch playing Hamlet at London’s Barbican theatre. So, October was Shakespeare month for me, and now I feel so bathed in culture, I’m sure it will keep me going for a good few months to come.

 

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In Search of Dracula

The Joneses have been away on their travels again. In our quest to see as much of the UK as possible we booked a trip to Whitby, a seaside fishing town on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors.20150608_144051This is a very historical town, with the founding of its iconic Abbey dating back to 657AD. It was once one of the busiest ship building ports, and produced ships that sailed the high seas under the command of Captain James Cook. The harbour is now filled with privately owned craft, and a bell sounds on the half hour to signal the opening of the swing bridge to allow boats to pass through.

Whitby also has an association with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Ever since as a teenager I snuck a copy of Dracula beneath the sheets and all but frightened myself silly reading it, I’ve been fascinated by the paranormal. So on hearing that Stoker spent several months in Whitby, where he got many of his ideas for the story, I have wanted to visit the town. It’s taken me…ahem, quite a few years to get up there, but this year I was determined to make it.

So, during one of the most glorious weeks of the year so far, we set off. After a night’s stay in Derbyshire, we travelled onward and eventually made it to the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. We took several stops along the way for coffee and cake, as you do, and eventually glimpsed Whitby. It’s hard to miss, with ruins of its Gothic Abbey sitting atop a cliff and beckoning the visitor ever closer to the quaint and picturesque town.20150610_124241

We stayed in a lovely guest house, and our hosts knew all the places to see both in Whitby and its surroundings, but there was only one thing I really wanted to do and that was go in search of Bram Stoker’s inspiration for his seminal work. Being a writer, I’m always fascinated by the way fellow writers are inspired to write plot, character and use setting. So, following the directions in the little pink book of the same name, we set off on The Dracula Trail.

20150610_110942We started at the memorial bench, then headed up the 199 steps to the Abbey, the steps that Stoker had the ill-fated heroine of his novel ascending in the dead of night beckoned by the dreaded Count. The Abbey ruins are stunning and very atmospheric. Once a Benedictine abbey, it fell into ruins after the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry V111 in 1540. 20150610_111049

We also took a trip down to the old harbour which inspired Stoker to use the bones of a true story for the scene in his novel where the ship Dementer, carrying wooden boxes filled with earth from Dracula’s homeland in which he could rest, was shipwrecked. The old cobbled streets are still very similar to the way Stoker would have seen them and the whole area is incredibly atmospheric.

To end the trail we visited the Dracula Experience, which was a sort of wax museum which told the story from start to finish. No sooner had we entered the darkened building when I knew it wasn’t such a good idea. Now, I love to be scared but this took it to a whole new level. The wax models were far too realistic for my liking and at one stage, deep into the museum when all the lights went out, I actually screamed. Clinging to AJ for dear life, he told me not to look down. Of course I did, only to see hundreds of holographic spiders skittering across the floor. It was my worst nightmare come to life. So, with AJ pulled so tight to me that we could barely shuffle along (and not helped when he thought it would be fun to nibble at my neck) I hurried him through to the much-welcomed exit sign.

Our last day was spent in a more sedate manner and we took the old steam train onto the moor. Since we both love trains, we were in our element. The journey took about an hour and a bit, and we passed through Goathsmead station which became Hogsmead Station in the Harry Potter films. Great fun. Excuse the tilted photo, but I was hanging out the window at the time.20150611_105326

We had such a great time in Whitby, that we’ve put it on our places to revisit at some time in the future. So far the decision to explore the UK and see more of our own country has proved extremely fruitful, and as far as Whitby goes, I’m so glad I got to visit even if it took me more years that I care to admit to make it happen.

Recharging the Batteries

The last couple of weeks have been pretty hectic, what with major changes at the day job and training our new pup, so I’ve been feeling a little jaded around the edges.

Yesterday, a friend took me out for a belated birthday shopping trip. To be honest, with it being school holidays and the city of Bath crowded with tourists, I was tempted to ask her if we could postpone it until I felt a little more energetic. How I’m glad I resisted. We had a ball. Morning coffee, a long lunch, afternoon cream tea, all interspersed with some serious sales shopping – it was exactly what I needed.

We laughed, reminisced, planned a future trip and did general girlie stuff – testing out new lippies at the make up counters, trying on clothes that we wouldn’t normally wear, hats, shoes – so that by the time I got home in the early evening I felt a different type of exhausted.

Today has me feeling refreshed, re-energised and ready to enjoy the public holiday weekend here in the UK. Hubby and I are planning to take Zorro on his first bus ride, his first supermarket trip and hopefully his first look at a railway station.

Without that awayday, I doubt I’d have found the energy to enjoy the next few days out with my boys, but now I’m raring to go.

What recharges your batteries?

Tricia

I’ll be there for you…

Last week Laurie wrote a lovely post about family, so today I thought I’d write about friends.

Later today, I’m taking off for a “girlie weekend” with three pals. We don’t see each other that often, although we’re in constant touch by phone and email, but I can guarantee that within a few seconds of meeting we’ll be chatting away as if we’d seen each other yesterday. We’ll shop (punctuated by numerous coffee breaks), have lunch, dinner, drinks and if it’s anything like the last time we shared a hotel room, be politely asked if we wouldn’t mind toning down the laughter as we were disturbing the guests next door.

My friends mean the world to me and have an integral part in my life. Some live nearby, some overseas, some are cyber friends. I’ve got friends who I know would be there in an instant if I were in trouble—one once turned up in the early hours to be with me when I was going through a bad time. That same friend knows my darkest secrets, as I know hers, and we live in the knowledge that those secrets are as safe as they ever could be.

Some friends are lifelong, others are transitory and pass through our lives leaving a warm glow in our hearts. Friends are treasured, precious gifts that enhance this journey through life – they make us laugh and cry, provide sustenance and support, and generally keep us sane.

I’m reminded of that saying: “A friend will help you move house. A true friend will help you move a body.” While I don’t intend calling on a friend for anything quite so drastic, the sentiment holds true.

Have a great weekend
Tricia