day 2: stratford-upon-avon-in-the-rain.
breakfast! that glorious, all-too-often-abandoned necessity. that blasphemously neglected national holiday. cereal, croissant, eggs and canadian bacon. the first hot breakfast I've had since crossing the pond two months ago. included in the price of the hostel - otherwise it would have been bread and nutella.
walk into town. this time it's not pitch black and there are no wendigos hiding in the bushes, but it's still cold. freeze. arrive in stratford-upon-avon, in the rain, and inspect the river avon. there are pretty bridges, like in stratford, ontario, and lots of swans who will follow you like lost puppies and promise to be your BFF if you give them just one tiny bit of bread. maybe two. with nutella, please. "it's a deal," I say. "but just one picture first." swan poses for picture; I run away cackling maniacally because I lied and I have no bread and no nutella and I outsmarted a swan.
admire statue park. more on that later. make an interpretive beeline for shakespeare's birthplace and agonize for 5 whole minutes over price of admission. suck it up. wander through museum and the house where the all-time greatest english language writer grew up. imagine little will running through the rooms. say "woooow". then say "duuuuude." then freeze.
investigate touristy shops. go back to christmas store three times because (a) it's heated, (b) they're playing christmas music, and (c) it's heated. wind up at jester statue and take photos of his feet. return to christmas store a fourth time as the sky empties its bladder.
wander and wind up at hall's croft - the home of john hall, stratford-upon-avon's first doctor, and suzanna, shakespeare's younger daughter. examine fantastic displays of old surgical tools and journal entries describing torturous treatments. make mental notes.
lunch (bread & nutella, hobnobs) while perched on a wall across the street from hall's croft. freeze, and proceed to old trinity church to pay respects to shakespeare's grave. he's surrounded by the graves of anne hathaway, his wife, suzanna and john hall, and thomas nash. the chapel is very ornate and full of stained glass.
take a morbid stroll through the graveyard, stop at almshouses and shakespeare's old grammar school (still a school today) on the way to nash's house and gardens. see exhibit on the complete works of shakespeare; sit down and reread favourite bits of macbeth ("here I have a sailor's thumb, wrecked as homeward he did come", etc.) step outside just as the sky opens up and pours out approximately 25% of the english channel. take up refuge at the only (free) dry spot in town - the middle of the bandstand by the river. eat hobnobs, freeze, and wait for the rain to stop.
hike down the river as the sun sets and discover a very muddy island and a set of self-catering locks. wander a bit and look at the lights. freeze. spend half an hour or so comparing menus and prices for all the pubs in town, pick one, and spend £6.99 on fish and chips. real food, twice in one day! consider going into shock about spending twice my food budget on one meal, then change mind. the place is heated and I don't want to waste a minute of that. take as long as is humanly possible for someone with an appetite the size of a roman gladiator's to eat, continue wandering, and report to the courtyard theatre at 19h30 to see richard II. freeze, since the british apparently don't heat their theatres either, but enjoy play immensely - especially the jousting and the tossing about of sacks full of bloody, severed heads.
another hour-long hike back to hostel in pitch dark. suffer attacks by 2 wendigos, a cannibalistic clown, and a family of human-hunters. oh, and freeze. arrive at hostel, empty hot water tank, crash before midnight.
day 2: complete.