I woke up early to make the most of our last full day in the U.K. Our group had breakfast at the hotel and after everyone finished eating, we took the 20 minute walk to Anne Hathaway’s cottage (the home of Shakespeare’s wife, not the actress). We passed tiny homes on quiet streets and saw people walking their dogs through a park enjoying the fresh air.
Along the way we passed a horse and a pony in a fenced off yard, both wearing adorable little coats to keep them warm. I decided to name the horse Joey and the pony baby Topthorn (after the horses in War Horse). I was so excited to see the animals up close and desperately wanted to pet them. I went up to the fence and stuck out my hand (which in retrospect probably seems a little careless), but Joey came right up to me and let me pet him! I was so happy that I could have stayed there forever, but half of our group had already gone on without us. Reluctantly, I said goodbye to Joey and Topthorn and we continued on our way.
We passed a pasture filled with sheep and crossed a peaceful little creek before we finally made it to the cottage grounds. The Hathaway gardens were beautiful! Before we even went into the cottage, we spent some time exploring the gardens, just basking in the sunlight. Outside we met a black and white cat who absolutely loved Nicole and didn’t want her to stop petting him. I felt very connected with nature here and didn’t want to go inside, but we had walked all this way to see the cottage. Finally, we decided that it was time to pay the cottage a visit and it was just darling!
We learned that 13 generations of Hathaways lived in the cottage and that many of the furniture from Shakespeare’s day remains in the home. Even the stone floors in the dining room are the very floors that Shakespeare himself walked on when he came over to the cottage to court Anne. The floors were uneven and creaky and when we were standing on the second floor we could see through the floorboards to the room below, but that just added to the cottage’s charm.
One of the guides spent a great deal of time with us and told us about the origins of some commonly used phrases. After our tour of the cottage, we went into the gift shop where we lost even more of our group and by the the time we decided to walk back, it was just Allie, Kallie, and I enjoying the leisurely stroll. Along the way, we happened upon a cat who, according to her collar, was named Bubbles. Bubbles followed us a majority of the way back to town before we stopped at Joey’s stable to pay him another visit.
After petting Joey and Bubbles a bit more, we bid them farewell and we walked to Trinity Church to visit Shakespeare’s grave.
We learned that a church had been standing on the same site since the 700s, but the current church was rebuilt in 1200. I have trouble wrapping my brain around the dates and grasping just how old things are in this country. The church was beautiful. We paid our 50 pence to walk to the very front of the church and visit Shakespeare’s grave.
He is buried beside his wife Anne Hathaway, and his daughter and son-in-law are on his other side. On the wall is a bust of Shakespeare that apparently shows his best likeness since it was made while his wife was still alive. After we paid our respects we made our way to the back of the church where there was a gift shop. I’ve grown accustomed to seeing gift shops at historical sites, but I wasn’t expecting to see one inside a church. I suppose there’s a first time for everything.
After we left the church, Allie, Kallie, and I got a warm lunch at a nearby cafe. I drank my soup and hot chocolate as we made our way back to the hotel where we met with the rest of our group for our very last class. We went around the room and shared our ideas for our final projects (mine is this blog). It’s amazing how 15 students who spent 15 days together can each come up with a completely different final project. Students are doing everything from papers to paintings, poetry to Prezis. It wasn’t until this moment that I realized how smart and talented my classmates are and I felt humbled to be a part of the group.
After class everyone walked to a nearby restaurant to share our last dinner in Stratford. At the end of our three course dinner, we presented our professors with thank you cards, and then we went back to our rooms to pack before we drifted off to sleep.