Castles, College & Culture

As you have probably realised by the lack of activity on our blog’s website, we have had a busy few months.  Back in January we suddenly realised that we only had 6 months left on our visas and straight away it felt like the days were flying by.   Now we are on the final countdown, less then 3 months to go and we have been trying to fit everything in.  So what have we been doing since January?  Fear not- you wont miss out- we are going to take you right back to where we last left you…

When we last updated you it was the end of January and we were living with the hope and expectation that the sun was just around the corner. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Britain has just had one of its coldest winters on record with temperatures getting colder then parts of Russia. We needed a distraction, and fast! So we decided to spend a Sunday in late February exploring England.

The first destination on our list was Warwick Castle, originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068, these days it is a slightly over commercialised tourist attraction but the history is still there and if you have the energy to climb the 500+ steps to the top of its watch towers the views of Warwickshire and the river Avon are amazing. We spent two hours exploring the castle and its grounds including the dungeons, grand ballroom and gardens before the falling snow encouraged us to hit the road and travel onwards to our next destination.

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Warwick Castle

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The view from the top

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Stratford-upon-Avon; the birthplace of the poet and playwright William Shakespeare. The half-timbered house in Henley St is where it is believed he was born in 1564 and spent his childhood years. It is now a museum which you can walk through. The house, although simple, is rather large for its time and would have been considered a substantial dwelling. Shakespeare’s father, William was a glovemaker and wool dealer so part of the house was allocated to his business. We walked through the entire house, learning about the Shakespeare family, before going for a pleasant walk along the river. Along the way, we decided to warm up in a cafe and indulge with some traditional scones with jam and clotted cream, served with a warm pot of tea (of course). We could have easily spent more time relaxing in this quaint little town but with another stop to go, there wasnt time.

Shakespeare's House

Shakespeare’s House

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Stratford upon Avon

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Shakespeare’s Stairs

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Knocking on his front door

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The last stop of our tour was Oxford and although Hannah had been through the city before for work and Matt had stopped in for lunch once with his Father, it was great to finally have a more in-depth tour of this University City. To get to Oxford we first had to drive through the well known Cotsworlds, famous for its cute cottages with thatched roofs. We received a brief lesson on the process of thatching and the costs involved before continuing onto our final destination for the day.

Our tour started with the famous Oxford University. We stopped at the gates leading to Christ Church College. It was there that we learnt how Lewis Carroll used this environment to create the story of Alice in Wonderland. He initially created the story to entertain the Dean’s daughter, Alice. You can see evidence of this story’s originality when you walk through Christ Church College’s dining hall and look closely at the stained-glass windows.

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The famous dinning hall at Oxford

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Oxford University

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There are many other well recognisable sights at Christ Church College, such as the dining hall and the staircase leading to it – both of which feature in the Harry Potter movies. The Divinity School, Duke Humfrey’s Library and the Bodleian Library are also famous Oxford sites used for the movie series. We also saw the cross in the middle of Broad Street where Protestant Archbishop Cranmer and two Bishops were burned alive during the reign of Queen ‘Bloody’ Mary for their religious beliefs. Our tour finished on the main Street but not before a visit to the Oxford memorabilia shop, to purchase of our very own Oxford University jumpers.

Of course a trip to Oxford would not be complete without an drink at the well known Turf Tavern where Bob Hawke famously downed a yard glass of ale in 11 seconds and set a new Guinness world record. Some other establishments that we briefly passed before heading home include the White Horse pub which appears in several Inspector Morse TV episodes and The Eagle and Child pub which was a famous haunt of J.R.R Tolkein and C.S Lewis.

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Then it was time to go home.  We were worn out and tired from a big day of sightseeing  but satisfied that we were finally starting to see a bit of the country that we have called home for nearly 2 years.

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