Tours, Tastes, and Tradition: Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon

It’s chilly this early in London. You wake up early for your Stratford-upon-Avon excursion. You walk to the train station, feeling your bag bounce with each step. Inside tumbles The Riverside Shakespeare, a hefty book containing Shakespeare’s plays; his impact upon London, literature, and love.

The train ride takes 3 hours to Stratford. There’s time to kill. A “Free Wi-Fi” sign stares at you. Now would be the perfect time to watch Anonymous, the thriller questioning Shakespeare’s existence (scholars are still debating, and you have yet to be convinced of either side). However, you’ve left your computer. You bury your head in the Riverside, oblivious to the time passing. You’ve arrived!

Stepping off the train, you meet up with your coordinator before heading toward the River Avon. Ironically, ‘afon,’ the Welsh word from which ‘Avon’ takes its name, translates as “river,” literally titling it, “River River.” Here, walk along the river, stopping to take in the incredible architecture and quaint riverbanks behind them. You’ll be literally following the footsteps of Shakespeare, admiring the magnificent Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Swan Theatre, both featuring an incredible selection of performances.

Learn with your coordinator how Shakespeare began to hone his imagery, with phrases forming in your head as you continue strolling down the street:

Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And Summer’s lease hath all too short a date

– Sonnet 18, William Shakespeare

Next, your Panrimo coordinator brings you to the aptly named Othello’s. Quaint and authentic but touched by modern flair, you aren’t eating like a tourist, you’re eating like your long deceased pal Bill, with slight updates (clean plates and fresh water). After a lunch consisting of the famous herb encrusted cod (a local favorite), you’re ready to tour a few of the local theatres. Your next stop? The Courtyard Theatre!

Built as a “temporary structure” to house performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company while their theatre was being repaired, The Courtyard currently offers performances as part of the World Shakespeare Festival. The theater features modern chambers that explore the emotional dynamics of setting and set design. Viewing the peculiar rooms, the idea dawns on you that Shakespeare is alive and well in Theatre, being embraced, and reinterpreted, as time progresses.

Next, hit the main attraction: The Royal Shakespeare Theatre. This testament to the power of Shakespeare reopened in 2010 after significant renovation. You’ll explore the newly designed Thrust Stage theatre, which brings the actors closer to the audience. Created as a “one-room” theatre, the space allows the actors and the audience to share the same room, just as patrons did in Shakespeare’s time.

Whether you’re looking for playhouse tours, hidden pubs, or the scenes that inspired Shakespeare, your visit to Stratford-upon-Avon won’t go unrewarded. You will have just tread upon the same ground as William Shakespeare. Now it’s time to make your own footprints.