Thursday, 20 June 2013

Oh Shakespeare, Wherefore Art Thou Tourist Trap?

Today me and my friend Stevan took a bus to Stratford Upon Avon to explore the tiny town where the legendary Shakespeare grew up. Considering the fact that I am a dramatic arts student, it was a right of passage that I went to visit Shakespeare's birthplace at least once in my life, so I figured that it was as good a day as any to go.

The bus ride wasn't too long but the driving...good god! Picture the scene in Harry Potter 3 when Harry is on the double decker bus speeding through the streets and dodging vehicles...yeah well this bus ride wasn't too different...except for the whole being invisible, and changing it's size to squeeze into tight spots, and being magic- okay you get the point. Either way I was clinging on for dear life at times. I think back to when I thought applying for my drivers license in England would be a good idea, and I want to smack myself for being an idiot. Let's just say that there aren't many sunday drivers here...because if they did drive slow, they would die.

So we get to Stratford and HONESTLY it wasn't as good as I thought it would be. In all fairness I did have some pretty high expectations for it to begin with, but COME ON! It's freaking Shakespeare!!

In the end it was really just a massive tourist trap and reminded me of a mix between Stratford back in Ontario (hmm, I wonder why?) and Niagara on the Lake.

We walked along the outside of the lake (should have probably taken a ferry for 50p but it was a nice stroll) and we came to this chapel where there was a graveyard outside.

Even though graveyards creep the living shit out
of me (ha!) I thought it was one of the coolest things that I saw that day. There were tombstones that were corroded so much that you could barely read the text. A lot of them (that you could read) dated back to the 1600s and all the people died fairly young. I think that was during the time where the black plague raised the mortality rate but for all I know they could have very well killed themselves in an act of love, very Romeo and Juliet style...because you know, people actually do that...

Then we went into the church and there was a big sign that said 'Shakespeare's grave inside!' So we went in to see what all the fuss was about and you actually had to pay money to see his grave! Seriously? Well I didn't think that seeing a dead guys grave was worth spending 15 quid, so I just went right on back outside. I don't care if it was William freaking Shakespeare, no dead guy is worth that much money. For all we know, it could have very well been a fake gravesite and they think that having it inside a chapel gives it more credibility! Ha! Well you did not fool me...although tourists would buy into crap like that so it isn't a bad marketing scheme on their part...still there is something incredibly immoral about the whole thing.

The prices for everything were atrocious! All I really wanted to see was Anne Hathaway's house (Shakespeare's wife...not the Academy Award winning actress obviously...) because apparently that is the place to see...but I had to buy a deluxe tour pass in order to see it which was 25 quid! Ironically this pass also gave me access to Shakespeare's there goes my whole plan to boycott the place. I didn't go back there but the pass is good for a whole year, so if I ever did want to come back (not likely) I can go into anything I want...great.

To be fair, Anne Hathaway's house wasn't actually that bad. It was kind of cool to have a tour around the place and see the history that I learned about in high school come to life. The lady who was giving the tour was very informative...well as she should be...and she added a bunch of idiom history into the tour that I appreciated.

For example, there is a table that they used to use during that era called the board table that had a removable board top ( I can't remember what material it was mad of, but if you are really interested in that unnecessary detail just google it). When guests came to stay, they didn't really have an extra room or beds for them since they were really expensive, so they took the top of the table off and put it on the floor for them to sleep on. Thus the expression 'room and board' came about. During meals, the women and older children would sit on the benches on either side of the table, while the younger children stood by the edges scraping food off the ends of the table. The father would get to sit on the only chair at the head of the table and thus the expression being 'chairman of the board' came about. Thought you would enjoy those tidbits of facts...can be useful on dates or even the occasional conversation with your cat...either way it is still neat to find out where all those commonly used terms originated from.

All in all it was an enjoyable day, but definitely NOT worth 25 quid or the frightening bus ride over.

Tomorrow we are heading out to Warwick to visit the famous Warwick Castle, so stay tuned for that!

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