Day 5: Stratford-upon-Avon

Welcome to Stratford-upon-Avon, home of William Shakespeare!

Welcome to Stratford-upon-Avon, home of William Shakespeare!

Unlike many of the other trips the class took Stratford-upon-Avon was unique in that the day was unplanned. After arriving in the town the class was released with the instruction to meet back at the Royal Shakespeare Company in the evening for a showing of Henry IV: Part I. This was the only planned part of the day, the rest was left up to each student to decide what interested them the most and what they wanted to do and see. Suggestions from professors were to see the public library, the church where Shakespeare is buried, take the Hop-On-Hop-Off tour bus, take a boat ride down the Avon, and see the various houses of Shakespeare, his parents, and his wife.

Hangin with Hamlet

Hangin with Hamlet

Lady Macbeth

Lady Macbeth

Prince Hal... see you later!

Prince Hal… see you later!

            I chose, along with a group of friends, to start the day off with the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour to get a grasp of exactly what else there is to see around the town. The tour took about 2 hours but was wonderful. The Hop-On-Hop-Off buses are large double decker red buses, the top level is open air and each seat has headphone jack outlets. These are for the passengers because along with being a bus tour it uses a recorded audio tour to inform the passengers of the different stops and points of interest that they pass along the bus route. Not only that but the audio tour provides information on Shakespeare, the time period he lived in, and different sayings from him or the time period. Sayings such as ‘up on the shelf’, ‘a frog in the throat’, ‘sleep tight’, ‘fancy boy’, and ‘toy boy’. ‘Up on the shelf’ refers the shelf or higher loft in the house where the daughters would sleep until they were married and went to live with their husbands, so a woman who was still unmarried was considered to be still ‘up on the shelf’. ‘A frog in the throat’ refers to when doctors would dangle a certain type of frog down a person’s throat when they had a sore throat, as it turns out the frogs slime or sweat contained a type of antibiotic that was treating the throat. ‘Sleep tight’ is when a person pulls the ropes under the mattress tight before they go to bed so that the mattress doesn’t sag and the ropes stay tight giving the person a good night’s sleep. ‘Fancy boy’ and ‘toy boy’, well. Those are fairly self-explanatory, they just made me laugh. Especially when Shakespeare was referred to as Anne Hathaway’s toy boy because she was so much older than him.

Dinner at the Dirty Duck. YUM.

Dinner at the Dirty Duck. YUM.

After the bus tour we took a relaxing boat ride down the river, and then made our way to the church to see Shakespeare’s grave inside. His grave is the only one in the church to be cursed. It is said that Shakespeare had a curse put on his grave to keep anyone from moving his bones. We only just made it inside before the church closed for the evening. In fact, even though we made it inside and were not there for long, we almost got locked in! Soon after we entered the main doors were shut, locked, and chained. There was a side exit that we had to locate to exit, but for a little while we thought we might have to spend the night. For dinner the group of use went to the Dirty Duck/Black Swan pub that has been there since Shakespeare’s time and was frequented by actors. Looking back it was still one of the best meals of the entire trip. Everyone was happy with what they had, the food was great, and the Pimm’s Cups were simple and refreshing.

Waiting for Henry IV to start!

Waiting for Henry IV to start!

Then came the cherry on top. Henry IV: Part I. I had never seen Shakespeare live before and it was an amazing experience. I was filled with excitement and awe. I loved every minute and I wish we had been able to see Part II as well! The entire day was full of fun and information but the biggest thing I learned and that stood out the most was how much seeing the play live reinforced the idea that Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be seen not read. They come alive so much more than you can even believe when talented actors are invested in the outcome.

Royal Shakespeare Company

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Day 4: Oxford and The

The entrance room at the Bodleian Library before we began our tour.

The entrance room at the Bodleian Library before we began our tour.

Our first class day was spent traveling out to Oxford to see the Bodleian Library and Christ’s Church. The Bodleian is a beautiful old library that started several trends within libraries, such as being the first library to have floor to ceiling shelving as well as shelving against the outside walls. Usually shelving would be within the room and not along the outside walls because of the changes in temperature as well as humidity levels that could potentially damage the books. The Bodleian solved these dilemmas within the construction of the building as well as keeping all books on upper levels rather than ground level. This was also to discourage and make it more difficult for thieves to steal the books. Another deterrent was that the books used to be chained to the shelves. Unlike in the Harry Potter movies when the books in the Restricted Section are chained to the shelves with the chains going through the spines of the books, real libraries would chain the books through part of the covers. In order for the books to be stored on shelves the spines were put in towards the back of the shelves, making it difficult to identify books. This required special numbering systems for the books. Each unit of shelves would have a desk and benches or chairs along the front so that the books could be removed from their shelves but not from their chains. The worst part of this practice for the libraries was the sounds the chains would make and cost for chaining each new book. The Bodleian also contains vast troves of underground storage for their collections and throughout the history of the library the young men who have worked in the stores retrieving books and taking them from one place to another through the underground systems were called the Bodley Boys. The Bodleian also contains classroom space that has different levels of benches running around the perimeter of the room and an ornate seat at the front of the room. These rooms were the inspiration for some government chambers, they provide the right polarizing seating in which each person must choose a side to sit on and a position in whatever discussion is going on.

The classroom space within the Bodleian.

The classroom space within the Bodleian.

What stood out the most from our class trip to the Bodleian was not only how beautiful and well maintained that library still is but that it is still a functioning library, as well as the many library practices that have occurred throughout the centuries that the Bodleian can display and show their guests. Practices such as the chained books, books stored horizontally rather than vertically, the book retrieval system for books residing in storage rather than on the shelves accessible to the patrons of the library. The Bodleian was a great visit to start the trip off with.

The Bodleian

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Tomorrow!!!

I’m getting so excited!!! I leave tomorrow night. In just over 24 hours I will be on a plane to London. I can’t believe it’s finally happening.

Also, I have nothing actually packed. It’s all sitting out organized on the table but there’s nothing in the suitcase or carry on. Oh and I can’t decide if I should bring laptop or tablet or both. Oh the problems.

Let the super hectic last full day at home continue. Because tomorrow we leave for NYC and then I leave for London!

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