Recent Visit to the British Library

The British Library (BL) is one of my favourite places to hang out in London. I may sound eccentric to some people but hey, I make no apologies for having penchant for libraries and bookshops. 🙂 Since I moved to London, I’ve made numerous visit to the BL, mostly on my own, or sometimes with some visiting family and friends. I haven’t been there in a long time and last week I got to visit again. The highlight of the visit was meeting Patricia Lovett, a renowned English calligrapher and author (she was awarded the MBE ‘Member of the British Empire’ for services to heritage crafts and calligraphy). I have a copy of her recent book ‘The Art and History of Calligraphy’ and learned a lot from it. She happened to be conducting a workshop at the BL on Saturday, and she was very accommodating and sweet in showing me the work she was doing there. I am very much interested in attending one of her workshops soon, hopefully before the summer months. Continue reading “Recent Visit to the British Library”

SHAKESPEARE COUNTRY

Stratford-upon-Avon is one of my favourite places in England. Jared took me there the first time when I first arrived in London and then we took another trip with a group of people from our church back in 2003. Then about three weeks ago Jared and I once again visited this medieval town and revelled in its history, charm and beauty.

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Stratford-upon-Avon is synonymous with William Shakespeare. The famous English writer was born and grew up in this ancient market town in the mid-1500s. For someone from a far-flung country like myself  who did read ‘Romeo and Juliet’ growing up, it is fascinating to walk around the little street where Shakespeare was born and wandered as a young boy. Seeing the house where he was born and all the wooden buildings that are still standing today during his time is such an amazing experience.

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Above photo is a huge house now called “Shakespeare’s Centre” — the part on the left side was the family home where Shakespeare was born in an upper room in 1564 (apparently there’s no record of his exact birth date). The building has the original floor which William walked around on.  The part on the right side was the workshop and shop where William’s father, John Shakespeare, made and sold his gloves.

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Shakespeare’s face, name, etc., is everywhere as you walk around town.

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On our visit last month we visited Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (above photo) for the first time. It is the childhood home of Shakespeare’s wife. Our tour guide shared with us a story how William would walk just about everyday for an hour from his house to get to Anne’s home when he was courting her (today it’s about ten minutes drive to get from Shakespeare House Museum to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage).

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Just like the Shakespeare House Museum, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage has a beautiful garden and if you visit in the summer months, it is absolutely beautiful with all types of flowers in full bloom.

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Another historic house to visit in this ancient market town is the ‘Harvard House’ — home of a Christian minister, John Harvard (1607–1638), one of the founding fathers of the famous Harvard University. Interestingly, John Harvard’s maternal grandfather Thomas Rogers (1540–1611), was a contemporary and associate of Shakespeare’s father. Both men served on the Borough Council.

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I am totally captivated by this 500+ year-old house — the wood carvings, the door with iron work details, its original owners, and just about everything about this building is  fascinating.  

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 The black and white building on the left was the school where Shakespeare studied as a little boy; it is now a hotel but the facade is the exact same structure during his time. Notice the street was also that wide in the 15th century.

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Anywhere you go around town the famous writer’s name is visible.

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I absolutely love all of these black and white Elizabethan houses.

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There’s charming little tea houses and coffee shops dotted around the town centre.

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As we were leaving I noticed this cute little shop with Christmas tree and other ornaments and I was reminded of home. Back in the Philippines, as soon as September hits you’ll see Christmas decors in the malls.

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I always recommend to our family and friends to include Stratford-upon-Avon in their itinerary. Visiting this old town will give visitors the taste of old England and real ‘Englishness’ — if such a thing even exist today. This country has lost its identity and people have no more sense of history and appreciation of its own heritage, but it’s a topic for another day. 

Note: Here’s my previous post about our visit to other towns and villages in the Cotswolds.

CHARMING VILLAGES IN THE COTSWOLDS

Note:My previous post about our Cotswolds exploration was the visit to a historic town referred to as the ‘Gateway to the Cotswolds.’

The Cotswolds were declared an area of outstanding natural beauty in 1966. It is a rural landscape just over an hour drive from Britain’s capital city; it contains medieval stone-built villages, towns, stately homes and gardens, and it is indeed one of England’s most picturesque places. There are loads of quaint villages that dot the hillside with some fairy tale like settings. Jared and I have visited Blenheim Palace together for the first time last summer and we continued on this Cotswolds journey visiting a new place every chance we get.

The villages are typically the sort of romantic English scene with stunning views looking out to the countryside in the distance. The houses are made of old timber and local stone with medieval churches and rivers running through them. Visiting these places remind me of Enid Mary Blyton and her books. The beautiful scenery looks like the images that jumped out of the pages of her children’s books I so loved and enjoyed reading as a little girl. Bibury, Castle Combe and Bourton-on-the-Water (the Venice of the Cotswolds) are just some of the prettiest villages I’ve visited in the Cotswolds.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn by Morris & Grueninger

I have been fascinated by the story of Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s second wife, who was tragically beheaded at the Tower of London on 19 May 1536.  The Tudor period is on top of my list of the most intriguing eras of English history.  When reading a book about this period, I am always enthralled by Henry VIII’s evil scheme to get rid of his wife to achieve his goal to produce an heir; the conspiracy among his circle of trusted courtiers; and all the other fascinating events usually inspire me to read up more about the Tudors. Continue reading “In the Footsteps of Anne Boleyn by Morris & Grueninger”