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Royal Leamington Spa and Stratford Upon Avon

So I’ve spent my first week visiting U. Warwick and I’m getting to know Leamington Spa a bit better. (Note: Locals pronounce it lemmington spa.) The place had a pulse from about 1820 until 1860, but many of the corpses are well-preserved and bits are again being gentrified. As befits something from that era, Victoriana is everywhere, including her statue in front of the Guild Hall on the high street. There’s also some nice formal gardens and green space lining the river through town.

The public gardens along the river Leam.

The public gardens along the river Leam.

They also dress up the high street nicely for Christmas.

The main shopping street in Leamington, dressed up for Chistmas

The main shopping street in Leamington, dressed up for Chistmas

I’ve been pretty busy during the week, but spent today going to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see a play at the Royal Shakespeare Company (“The White Devil” by Webster, another Jacobean playwrite.) The acting and the production were great….as good as anything I’ve seen. Before the show, Shaun Vahey showed me a bit of the town, which is also where he lives. Of course, the place falls over itself venerating its favourite son, William Shagspere (seems his family name is spelled many different ways in documents from that era — that’s the spelling on his marriage bond to Ann Hathaway.) That’s awkward, since he lived most of his life in London, and when he moved back to S-U-A, he built a new house which was torn down centuries ago…..so they venerate his parents house, where he lived as a child.

The house where William Shakespeare was born -- A National Monument

The house where William Shakespeare was born — A National Monument

The Gift Shop Adjoining the House Where William Shakespeare was born. (Please exit through the gift shop.)

The Gift Shop Adjoining the House Where William Shakespeare was born. (Please exit through the gift shop.)

A preserved window pane from the House Where William Shakespeare was Born.

A preserved window pane from the House Where William Shakespeare was Born.

Get the idea? They really, really venerate him. The window pane (now lovingly preserved in a glass case) is a case in point. 19th century tourists would scratch their names into the glass in the upstairs bedrooms. This graffiti is now part of the historical exhibit. (They say you can see Henry Irving’s name in one of these panes.)

The Oldest Pub, being now named after one of Wiliam Shikspiers' favourite actors.

The Oldest Pub, being now named after one of Wiliam Shikspiers’ favourite actors.

But enough of the cynicism. Okay, they’re going overboard celebrating their connection to The Bard. (Did I mention that the Mercure Hotel opposite the above pub is called the Shakespeare Hostelerie and boasts a full reproduction-Tudor-beamed front?) But somehow despite this, there’s lots of quite nicely preserved 200, 300, 400 and even 500-yr old buildings, narrow streets and no tall buildings or multi-story carparks or highways or tourbuses. The place is green and walkable and has a human scale. I found myself liking it.

The house next to the spot where they torn down Shakespear's new house a very long time ago.

The house next to the spot where they torn down Shakespear’s new house a very long time ago.

And then I came out of the play, which I very much enjoyed, and dusk was falling, fog was rising in the fields across the river and the ducks were flying home for the night.

Dusk in Stratford-Upon-Avon

Dusk in Stratford-Upon-Avon

Yes, that’s the view from the stage door of the Royal Shakespeare Company.