Warwick Castle and Stratford-Upon-Avon
On Saturday, I joined my IFSA- Butler peers on one of our three pre-paid day excursions to Warwick Castle and Stratford-Upon-Avon. I have been to Stratford-Upon-Avon twice before. The first time I went (in 2005), my mum, brother and I explored Shakespeare’s house and the garden and explored a wee bit of the town, and then saw a play. The second time (last May), my parents explored the city while my brother and I went to the beautiful butterfly farm on the edge of the town, and then we had supper and saw As You Like It performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. In anticipation of the trip, I was quite excited to see Warwick Castle, and interested to explore more of the town of Stratford-Upon-Avon.
From Ramsay Hall, where I am living, my friends and I took the tube and then walked a little over to Notting Hill and the IFSA Butler office, where three beautiful coach buses were waiting. One of the coach buses (and I should have taken a picture because it looked great) was a double decker, which for public transportation is normal, but I’ve never seen that for coach. Unfortunately I got on line too early, and I was not assigned to the double decker bus, but I will keep my fingers crossed for the next trip. Anyway, I found my friends on the bus, but I was buddy-less when it came to seating arrangements, so I decided to be a little social and meet someone new. I sat next to Will, a student studying at University of York and was actually looking for a friend on the trip, as he did not know anyone. The arrangement worked out very well, and he joined some of my friends for the rest of the day. Will and I had an intriguing conversation for the almost – two hour ride to Warwick Castle and became rather familiar, while most people slept. It’s good to be social.
The road trip was really lovely though, as we passed by many sheep, beautiful scenery, and had a glimpse of the terrible floods that have been destroying southern England. For a change, the weather was superb, and we really could not have asked for a better day!
When we finally arrived at Warwick Castle, we were pushed into the entryway, and free to explore. Although the playground was very tempting, my friends and I headed towards the main tower and entrance hall first. The castle is beautiful, elegant, and a little extravagant – as castles should be. The castle was originally owned by William the Conqueror, and now belongs to Madame Tussauds and the Tussauds group. Just a little bit of history – William the Conqueror in 1068 had the castle built of wooden motte and bailey, and then throughout the Middle Ages the castle was rebuilt in stone. If not for Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great in 914, the Danish may have owned this land. Now, Warwick Castle has been restored, added to, given the ‘World’s Largest Trebuchet’ and hosted many royals and other visitors.
The trebuchet is a seasonal attraction, and so like the jousting arena was not open. The great hall was magnificently decorated with elaborate armour, swords, bows and other weapons. My favourite first floor room was Queen Anne’s bedroom. Particularly, the tapestries were interesting, and apparently, urine was added to stop the natural colours from running. In fact, men were paid to drink large quantities of beer so that an adequate supply was available. The second floor had a small chapel with a small, but beautiful organ and lovely stained glass windows. I think my friends and I had the most fun taking photos with the wax makeups of people in the different rooms. I’ve never been to Madam Tussauds, and I’m not sure this visit convinced me to go – the wax sculptures are creepy! Overall, we had a great time exploring the state rooms and the great hall!
Next, we headed over to The Mound, where we could actually see Stratford-Upon-Avon. The walk up was refreshing and made for some great photos. The photos only got better as we reached the top with a spectacular view, and really a very clear day. The wind did become very strong, and we were almost blown away. We walked back down, and checked out the smaller towers, one of which used to hold the bears used for baiting. With about fifteen minutes left until we needed to head back for the buses, we tried entering the Princess tower, but apparently we are too old to be princesses (ages 3 – 8). Instead, we explored the Kingmaker, which follows Richard Neville’s preparations for battle. The whole process was very interesting, and we also enjoyed dressing up as knights, taking more photos with wax figures and killing each other with wooden swords!
After the Kingmaker, we headed back to the bus for a thirty minute ride over to Stratford-Upon-Avon. On the bus, I met another new friend, Krithika, also in need of a friend, and so she joined our group for the rest of the afternoon. Once we arrived in the quaint town and birthplace of Shakespeare, we left the buses and searched for lunch. After some exploration and comparison of prices, we settled on The Food of Love. I enjoyed a plate of fish and chips and mushy peas, which I did not eat actually. The best part was hot apple cider, which is definitely one of my favourite drinks! After lunch, we explored a few shops – one with a Peter Rabbit theme, and one that was Harry Potter themed. We also checked out the Shakespeare tourist centre, where my friends wanted to see his house. It costs £15, and I did not feel the need to see it again, and my friends decided it was too expensive, so we kept walking and just explored the town! We saw a street performer dressed up like Shakespeare (see photo below). In the last twenty minutes of our trip, we got caught in some nasty rain and winds, but it was lovely to see the town and walk around otherwise. Most people then slept on the ride home, and the scenery was once again very nice.
Overall, it was a great day with lots of adventures, exploring, meeting new people and seeing some quality sights! I look forward to the next IFSA – Butler trip in two weeks to Stonehenge and Salisbury – and I promise, they did not pay me to say this – it really was fun!