England: Oxford, Burford and Stratford-upon-Avon

Shakespeare’s birth house on Henley Street

Shakespeare’s birth house on Henley Street

Cotswolds is a region in south west of England and North West of London, which has enjoyed the reputation as “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” and “Quintessentially English”. We visited Oxford, Burford and Stratford-upon-Avon on our day-trip with Golden Tour Company. I loved the area for its quaint, delightful towns of calmly rippling rivers, verdurous rolling hills, old stone houses and streets, dainty and colorful gardening and friendly people…

Oxford

Located in Oxford City of Oxfordshire County, about 50 miles North West of London, is Oxford University, one of the most prestigious and 3rd oldest university on earth, (Oxford University was founded in 1167, Italy’s University of Bologna in 1088 and France’s University of Paris in 1150), and it was our first stop of the day.
Our bus parked on Broad Street and one guide, a gentle London lady, led the group through Turl Street, Brasenose Lane and stopped at Radcliffe Square. I had been to Harvard and Cornel in the states and I loved both campuses; so much older and grander, Oxford is incomparably ravishing.
After the walking tour we browsed through and shopped on Cornmarket St and Broad St during our short free time. I was a bit lost in one shop on Broad St, picking up souvenirs including an Oxford blue teapot for my mother in law who collects teapots, till tracked down by our other guide who gave us a mild reprove. The last back to the bus, I scanned the faces of my tour mates, gingerly, and found them relaxed and even slightly amused; “We are probably not too late” I hoped. While I was apologizing, I couldn’t help remembering another group trip to North East of Canada with my son, sister and niece. That had been years back when the kids had just become diaper-free and we had had to take potty break on every stop to prevent accident. But one long line had caused us to be the last getting back to the bus and our playful young guide, Ms. Getting Married, had goaded the group to give us a consequence of singing for everyone. Luckily my sister and I had been saved when my spunky niece had volunteered immediately and had been joined by my son.
Our bus left town as I was recollecting that episode. As home to one of the world’s most celebrated University, city of Oxford now benefits by association but the town has its own historic importance; see more info at the following site: http://www.localhistories.org/oxford.html. Oxford’s official website is: http://www.ox.ac.uk/.

Balliol College on Broad Street

Balliol College on Broad Street

Turl Street- Lincoln House is on the right, Lincoln College on the left and in the middle, tower of All Saint’s Church (on High St and Turl St)

Turl Street- Lincoln House is on the right, Lincoln College on the left and in the middle, tower of All Saint’s Church (on High St and Turl St)

University Church of St Mary the Virgin

University Church of St Mary the Virgin


The church sits between Radcliffe Square and High St. Its south front is on High St and north front is on the south end of Radcliffe Square.
Radcliffe Camera

Radcliffe Camera


Radcliffe Camera in the center of Radcliffe Square is part of a library and is connected to the main library building (on the north of the square) via underground tunnel which provides vast capacity for book storage.
Refectory at Brasenose College

Refectory at Brasenose College

College quadrangle of Brasenose College

College quadrangle of Brasenose College


Brasenose College, on the west side of Radcliffe Square, is one of the older colleges at Oxford.
Brasenose College’s Chapel

Brasenose College’s Chapel

Cornmarket Street

Cornmarket Street


Carfax Tower is where Pedestrianised Cornmarket Street, Queen St, High St and St Aldate’s converge and marks the center of the city. Cornmarket St and Queen St have most of the stores of the four.

Burford

Twenty miles west of Oxford, we reached Burford, a picturesque little town where we stopped for lunch. Burford was once an important center for wool trade. See more at this website: http://www.frommers.com/destinations/burford/0478010029.html

High Street

High Street


High Street is the main drag in Burdford. Sitting on a slope, the street is lined with restaurants and shops in old houses, some from as early as 16th century and most built with local stone. Some of these houses used to be coaching inns, probably because Burford crossed path with important trading routes. Leaving town, we headed down the hill and crossed Burford’s medieval bridge, Packhorse Bridge, over River Windrush in Windrush Valley at the bottom of the hill.
Cotswolds Arms -A pub off High Street where we had lunch (Roast pork and beef with boiled veggies)

Cotswolds Arms -A pub off High Street where we had lunch (Roast pork and beef with boiled veggies)

At Cotswolds Arms

At Cotswolds Arms

Houses on a side street off High Street, where our bus parked

Houses on a side street off High Street, where our bus parked

Stratford upon Avon

Another charming town in the Cotswolds area, Stratford upon Avon lies on River Avon among the Warwickshire hills in Warwickshire County. Historically a market town and civil parish, the town now has about 20,000 residents and is a main tourist attraction as the birth place of William Shakespeare. We visited Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Shakespeare Birth House. See more about the town at this website: http://www.stratford-upon-avon.co.uk/.

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

Anne Hathaway (1556 –1623) was the wife of William Shakespeare. Her father was a yeoman farmer and she was the eldest of the Hathaway children. She married William Shakespeare in 1582 at age 26. She stayed in Stratford with their three daughters while Shakespeare lived in London the majority of their married life. Shakespeare later retired from the theater in 1613 and moved back to Stratford. Anne was 7 years older and was widowed to Shakespeare on his death in 1616. This website has interesting info about Anne and Shakespeare: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Hathaway_(Shakespeare).
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in Shottery, a village west of Stratford, was the Hathaway family house where Anne was born and grew up. Today the cottage is a major tourist attraction in the area. The house with a thatched roof is very well persevered and is a living museum revealing living conditions of people in that economic stratum of 16th century England. The garden surrounding the cottage is beautiful and evidently meticulously maintained.

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A guide at the cottage gave tour and introduction of the house. She attached an anecdote to the thatched roof. In the early stage of thatch roof, people often found bugs fallen on them from the thatched roof till ceilings was put up underneath the roof.
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Shakespeare’s birth place

Shakespeare (1564-1616) is an international household name as a preeminent poet and playwright, whose plays have been staged continuously for almost four and half centuries in almost every language and kids in English speaking country learn about him in elementary school. What made him the genius that he was? That was an intriguing quest. I didn’t find the one-size-fits-all answer but it was certainly a thrill to visit this great man’s home town where he was born and grew up till he went to London to pursue acting and theater.
Shakespeare was born to John Shakespeare, a successful glover and alderman, and Mary Arden, the daughter of a wealthy yeoman. He attended a grammar school in Stratford that provided intensive education in Latin grammar and the classics.
John Shakespeare’s house or William Shakespeare’s birth place was built in 15th or 16th century on Henley Street of Stratford. The half-timbered house was both the family dwelling and where John Shakespeare ran his business. In comparison, it is more substantial than Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, larger, better furnished and decorated.

Shakespeare’s birth house on Henley Street

Shakespeare’s birth house on Henley Street

Back of the house

Back of the house

Garden

Garden

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Afternoon tea

Afternoon tea


Included in the trip was English Afternoon Tea, which mean we had hot tea with scones piled with cream cheese. So far, I find the Europeans make better dairy product, rich but not laden with too much sugar.
The following is a website about the Cotswolds area: http://www.cotswolds.info/ .
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