Visiting Stratford: Anne Hathaway's Cottage

It was Sunday, September 6th, 2015 - the day after my mom and I got back from our whirlwind trip to Dublin and the day before my mom was scheduled to head back to the States. Sad face. Our time with her was coming to an end and the reality was beginning to set in. Good news for me - we still had one beautiful day left to explore Stratford-upon-Avon - the home of William Shakespeare. What a glorious day it was!

The train we were supposed to take from the Moor Street station in Birmingham had some technical difficulties and was running late, so they sent a tourist steam train to pick us up and take us to Stratford - and it just so happened to be The Shakespeare Express! How fitting! The inside of the carriage was vintage and touristy and adorable. Why can't all trains be like that?

We arrived in Stratford and made our way to the map of the town at the station. Let it be known that England isn't so great at drawing accurate maps to scale; they're more like guidelines. We've just learned to roll with it.

Our first stop was Anne Hathaway's Cottage. This is often our chosen route when we go to Stratford as this particular stop amidst the Shakespeare houses is off on its own. It is a pleasant walk via public walking paths and city streets, though, and the cottage is my absolute favorite part of town.

About halfway there, our path took us to a park and forked in two directions. As we were discussing amongst ourselves as to which path to take, a local gentlemen walking his dog overheard us discussing the thatched houses toward one path:
"That's not it," he said.
"Oh, it isn't?" (embarrassed chucking on our part commenced)
"Nah. Those thatched houses are everywhere here. They're like mushrooms that pop up in the night."
Call me silly, but he absolutely tickled me pink! The said gentleman showed us which way to go and gave us a heads-up about taking a little scenic side-route that went right along the designated sidewalk. We take that little trip every time now - forget the sidewalk!

After ooh-ing and ah-ing over all the adorable details and the gorgeous scenery, we arrived at Anne Hathaway's Cottage! Boy, is she a beauty!

Now, for those of you who don't know (none of which should be my previous students - ahem), Anne Hathaway was William Shakespeare's wife. Her family were tenants of the cottage and adjacent farm until they became owners. Originally, it consisted of two rooms (both of which still exist); additional rooms and the second floor were added over time but mostly during her lifetime. It belonged to the family until fairly recently when it was sold to the Shakespeare Trust Foundation (or whatever fancy-pants name they have that I can't recall and am too lazy to look up). Most of the furniture pieces were owned by the family, so some of them were around during Shakespeare's lifetime.

[enter excited schoolgirl squeals]

The front of the cottage is surrounded by flower and vegetable gardens which are remarkable. The cottage has an adjacent apple orchard and woodlands. As the sun was shining and the birds were chirping, this immediately became my happy place. In the summer, there is a lavender maze that is in full bloom - dozens of bees included. It smelled absolutely divine.

One of the two original rooms of the cottage. Look at how smooth those stones are!

An upstairs bedroom.

An upstairs bedroom.

An upstairs bedroom containing the Hathaway bed.

The second of the two original rooms. Those stones are worn so smooth!

This is called a hag stone - they believed that spirits could enter the house via openings (doorways, chimneys, etc) so they put herbs and a hag stone (a stone with a natural hole in it) by the said entry points to ward off spirits. Hag is another term for witch... so nerdy and cool. I love little factoids like that!

After the cottage, we ventured into town centre to behold the rest of the Shakespeare sights. All in all, it was a wonderful day and the perfect way to spend my mom's last day with us. Patrick and I ended up going back the following week as a way to cheer me up and get us the heck out of Birmingham (I was not adjusting very well while living in a hotel room without a foreseeable place to live).

I took this and its partner-image for my poppa, the chief gardener. Apparently potatoes scare the birds away!

Potatoes and feathers to scare away the birds. Who knew!

Isn't it beautiful? Of course there are many more things in Stratford aside from Anne Hathaway's Cottage, but it's still my favorite spot no matter how many times we go.