A Travellerspoint blog

Dickens, Darcy, and Dangerous Drives

sunny 73 °F

Thankful to hear the alarm chime early this morning, Trisha and I jumped out of bed, excited to depart from the “City of Troubles,” also known as Portsmouth, England. Trisha drove us to our much cleaner, safer, and friendlier Hilton Hotel in Rochester, England. After checking-in, we headed to Eastgate to see the Charles Dickens Centre. We enjoyed walking around the city, viewing the historical landmarks, and taking many pictures of the Charles Dickens Chalet house, which once stood at Gad’s Hill place. This historical landmark was where Dickens wrote his last words.
After leaving Eastgate, we travelled to Groombridge Place Gardens where the movie Pride and Prejudice was filmed. Personally, I was ecstatic as Pride and Prejudice is my favorite movie. Walking around this beautiful garden and house, I felt as if I was stepping into a Jane Austin novel. Unfortunately, entering the house was not permitted.
The trip to Groombridge proved to be eventful. This morning at 6:00 a.m., I called Justin to ask for the address to the famous home (sorry Justin, I thought it was 8:00). Unfortunately, due to his lack of consciousness, he forgot to include the word “gardens” in the texted address, therefore leading us down a tree-lined-two-way-teeny road. We soon discovered the error and corrected our path.
Though the trip there may have been interesting, the return drive was a nail-biter. Our directions led us home a different way, as we were returning to the hotel and not the Dickens Centre. The street was lined with rocks jutting out as if trying to slash our tires, and to the right large trucks zoomed down the tiny road. Trisha repeatedly made gasping noises as she drove, which she later confessed was her was of “sucking-in” the car so as to make it skinnier. I in turn, held my breath and clenched the cuff of my capris. Finally, making it out of the gauntlet we were able to breathe a sigh of relief. Thankfully we made it back to the hotel unscathed.
We ended the night with a great meal at “The White Rabbit,” relaxing at the hotel, and writing our blog and appeal. Hopefully tonight we will get some much needed rest.
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Posted by TeamEngland 14:58 Comments (0)

A sweaty mad dash, yahoos, and a birthday boot!

sunny 75 °F

Yesterday morning we sadly departed Stratford-upon-Avon and headed south toward Portsmouth. I was very excited to see what the day would hold for my 25th birthday in England. It was Tammy’s turn to drive and she successfully navigated us to The Great Hall and Round Table in Winchester. I was wearing my giant “Birthday Girl” button that Tammy had purchased for me from Poundland, and I received many happy birthday wishes as we walked through the streets. At the Great Hall we found many King Arthur and Medieval supplies and our day seemed to be going great, but boy were we wrong!
At about 2 p.m., we checked into the Ibis Portsmouth, got on the lift with our luggage, walked down the hall to our assigned room, opened the door, and immediately knew that this was no “home-sweet-home.” The room was all of about 50 square feet, including the bathroom which was maybe 10 on its own. Oh and the beds were as hard as a rock, no exaggeration! We tried to turn on the A/C but discovered there was none, so we opened the window as wide as we could and ventured out to find the Dickens’ Birthplace Museum.
On foot, hotel city map in hand, at about 2:25 p.m., we began traveling the direction toward the museum, or so we thought…
15 minutes into the trek, we soon realized that the hotel map was complete bullocks! We found ourselves literally RUNNING in circles in an effort to make the 3:00 reading of Charles Dickens’ literature. Arriving at 3:01, panting and sweating, we asked if we had missed the start of the reading. They said, “You’re just in time,” so we paid the admission fee and were quickly ushered up 3 flights of stairs. We walked into the reading room and unfortunately the only seats left available were on a bench next to the window, so we rushed in, sat down, and the reading began.
Exhausted, dripping in sweat, and roasting in the sun light coming in from the window, we did our best to stay alert as our host read a passage from Great Expectations. About 45 minutes later, the reading ended and we proceeded to tour the museum. The most intriguing part was the couch where Dickens’ died.
At about 4:30, we slowly ambled back to our crummy hotel and began to get ready for my birthday dinner celebration. Tammy and I got all dressed up and decided to walk to the Gunwharf Quays since it was only about a mile away. As we began walking, we soon realized that the neighborhood resembled the quality of our hotel, and although we had mace with us, I had left my Taser in Texas. So, the creepy yahoos roaming the streets forced us to return to the hotel for the rental car. I put the address into the GPS and Tammy drove us to the wharf. We pulled into what looked like a public parking lot and went to dinner.
When we returned to the car a couple of hours later, Tammy went to the driver’s side to get in and…
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FREAKED and UPSET, we walked to a local restaurant to use their phone to call to have the boot removed. When the man arrived, he explained that we had to pay 200 pounds for the ticket and boot removal fee. :( We could tell that he felt really bad after hearing our situation and seeing that it was my birthday, but there was nothing that he could do about it. He told us to write an appeal to get our money back, which would take up to 28 days. So, we are still waiting and hoping that our appeal is accepted, and that England takes pity on our ignorance of how England displays their no parking signs. Needless to say, I will never forget my 25th birthday in England.

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Posted by TeamEngland 14:56 Comments (1)

"We milk Shakespeare for all he's worth"

Words spoken by Josiah Grubb, guide of the Stratford Town Ghost Walk.

sunny 71 °F

Today's breakfast was much more of a success in comparison to the previous days. We managed to put on "normal clothes" before walking down to the hotel's restaurant. To our surprise, everyone was dressed in casual clothing. I guess the "business people" go home for the weekend and the tourists take over.
Our first adventure of the day brought us to Warwick Castle. This medieval castle was full of history, artifacts, and STAIRS! We had the privilege of climbing 530 spiraling steps to reach different towers along the castle's perimeter. Though the view from the top was definitely worth every step, our legs were relieved when we finished the climb.
Upon returning to Stratford, we visited the Shakespearian shops and Pound Land, England's version of Dollar Tree, one last time. After purchasing teaching materials, five pairs of sunglasses- one for me and four for Trisha, and old school CDs for our drive tomorrow, we returned to the hotel to brainstorm the first weeks of school and the incorporation of our new resources.
At 7:30 we were able to join Josiah Grubb as he led us around Stratford on the Stratford Town Ghost Walk. Trisha and I were awed by his ability to completely take on the persona of a 16th century gentlemen and never break character. His story telling abilities were some of the best I have ever seen. Needless to say, we were inspired to use this same strategy in our classrooms when sharing stories and novels.
We finished out the night with a boat show on the River Avon and fireworks. It made us feel as if we were celebrating July 4th in Kemah...well maybe on a smaller scale.
We now ready ourselves for a trip to Portsmouth tomorrow and Trisha's birthday.
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Posted by TeamEngland 15:08 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (1)

Don't wash your plate, lick it clean.

Instructions on how to stay free from disease in the Elizabethan Era.

sunny 67 °F

"Erh, erh, erh," and the feeling of dread was what we experienced when we awoke this morning. We longed for just a few more hours of sleep...well, until we realized where we were and what awaited us this day. Our morning began with a wonderful, better yet-interesting continental breakfast where Trisha and I, clad in pajamas and bedhead, ambled downstairs only to be greeted by black and white suited businessmen and women. Needless to say, our accents aren't what made us stand out. Q Hotels served up an interesting breakfast complete with baked beans, tomatoes, sausage, mushrooms, pastrami, and unidentifiable fried eggs. Trisha and I decided to play it safe and enjoyed muffins and cereal.
Finally we were ready to embark on our Shakespeare-packed-day, and we headed to the first of the five houses on the Shakespeare tour, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. As we explored the historic site, we came across a wonderful guide who imparted her knowledge of Shakespeare and his wife's history at the cottage in a most humorous fashion. She not only shared basic facts about their lives there, but also the origins of many commonly used phrases today. Such as: "left on the shelf," which at one time referred to the sleeping arrangements required to keep women safe from interested farmers who might be sharing the same room for the night. Single women would place their mattresses upon a ceiling-height-shelf out-of-reach from any mischievous/daring men. If past the normal marrying age of 28, a woman was considered to be "left on the shelf." I must say, she was the most intriguing part of our day.
We then travelled to Mary Arden's Garden where we pet horses and goats, oinked like pigs, wrote our names using the Tudor alphabet, and squatted to fit under three-and-a-half foot doorways. Our next visit brought us to Shakespeare's birthplace. The house lay amongst the busy shops of downtown Stratford. Though the bones of the home remained original, we discovered that the house was restored to what it was thought to look like in Shakespeare's time by the one and only Charles Dickens. Unfortunately, Charles got it wrong. The house was made to reflect more of the Victorian than the Elizabethan era.
The final two places we visited where Nash's and Newplace and Hall's Croft. These two houses held many interesting facts from Shakespeare’s life. In fact, at Nash's and Newplace, they are still performing archeological digs and finding more artifacts from Shakespeare's time.
Though not part of the tour, Trisha and I walked to Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare was baptized, married, and buried. The church was breathtaking.
We ended the day with a meal at the oldest hotel in Stratford-Upon-Avon, The Swan Inn, a trip to two Tescos, and the discovery of Coventry Cathedral-Thank you Grams!

All-in-all...A Great Day!
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Posted by TeamEngland 14:08 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (2)

"For none of women born shall harm Macbeth!"

sunny 58 °F

Narrow lanes, left lane driving, and crazy bus drivers was how our day began...at approximately 10:45 this morning we picked up our European rental car. They gave us a Ford Focus lol! We loaded up our luggage, hooked up the GPS, and I, Trisha Barstow, got behind the wheel to drive us to Stratford-upon-Avon. About a mile after leaving the rental car site, I came across my first roundabout and couldn't understand my GPS in time to take the correct exit. The GPS recalculated my route; however, while I was trying to get back to the roundabout I glanced to my left and realized that there was a huge double-decker London bus just millimeters away from my car! The bus driver soon revealed that he was purposefully inching the bus towards us by laughing hysterically at our frazzled expressions. After a few minutes of scarring the crap out of us, he finally waved us on to pass him. Two hours, twenty-four tic tacks, and three curb bumps later, we arrived at our beautiful hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon. :) Once we checked in and deposited our luggage into our room, we ventured down the adorable historic streets of Stratford where we saw various Shakespearean landmarks. We finished the night off by seeing an outstanding performance of Macbeth by the Royal Shakespeare Company and eating American pizza at The Sloppy Tomato!
RSC Macbeth

RSC Macbeth

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Posted by TeamEngland 16:07 Comments (1)

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