Thursday kicked off our overnight excursion to Stratford-upon-Avon, the hometown of William Shakespeare, and Warwick Castle. The kids enjoyed the train ride through the country side on our way there. Once we arrived, we dropped our stuff off at the hotel and went out to see the sights!
Our first stop was the home of Shakespeare's birth. Here, we learned that his father was a glovemaker, he had a few siblings, people in his time slept sitting up, and we got to the room he is believed to be born in! There is no record of his birth, but we can assume from his baptismal record, April 26th, 1564, that he was born on April 23rd, 1564. It was customary in his time to be baptised three days after being born. After we toured the house, we also got to see actors performing monologues, scenes, and reciting sonnets in the backyard. What an amazing moment it was to see Shakespeare performed in the place Shakespeare was born and raised!
After we finished up at his birthhouse, we stopped at New Place. This is the site of Shakespeare's family home. It was once the largest and most expensive home in Stratford-upon-Avon! However, due to a few different events, the original home was torn down, replaced by something more modern (for the time, at least), and then torn down again. Now, it is a garden filled will beautiful, interactive, sculptures. Here, we learned that Shakespeare had three children with his wife Anne Hathaway (no, not the actress). Susannah is the eldest, followed by twins, Hamnet and Judith. Hamnet met an untimely death at age 11, but Judith and Susannah went on to marry. We also learned that Shakespeare's bloodline ends with Judith's children. Susannah never had any children of her own, and Judith's children did not create their own families.
Our third stop of the day was at Shakespeare's grave. Shakespeare was very concerned about someone digging up his grave, so he took a few measures to protect himself. First, he is buried with his wife, daughter Susannah, son-in-law John Hall, and grandson-in-law Thomas Nash inside of the church. He also had a curse engraved on his tombstone to prevent people from digging up his body. It reads:
Good friend for Jesus' sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed by the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.
At his grave, we also learned that Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616. Does something seem familiar about that date? If you remember from above, he was (probably) born on April 23, 1564. He died on his birthday!
Once we finished with all of our Shakespeare sites, it was time for dinner and free time! We figured out very quickly that Stratford-upon-Avon is a very small town and all of the shops close very early, but we were still able to look at the beautiful sites along the River Avon, see some swans, and enjoy relaxing with our friends. Then, we went back to the hotel to get a good, air-conditioned night's sleep.
On Friday, we jumped on our coach and headed for the castle. We had plenty of time to see all of the sights the castle had to offer. The kids had free time to see the exhibits or performances they wanted, and after lunch we all met up to see the Falconer's Quest. This performance featured barn owls, falcons, eagles, condors, and hawks. It was amazing to watch these birds fly, sometimes very close to our heads, and around the crowd. The kids really enjoyed this performance.
Shortly after the Falconer's Quest, we made our way back to London for dinner and free time. It is really starting to hit our kids that we are headed into our last week here. They are excited for what's to come, but already a little sad about having to leave soon.