To Tea or Not To Tea

After bidding farewell to our beloved Charlecote Park, Friday, July 10th was spent touring Shakespeare’s hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon. From a young age, I’ve always loved Shakespeare: as a child, I loved seeing the plays that my parents took me to, in middle and high school, we read and even performed his works and in college, I minored in English, having taken multiple Shakespeare courses that were some of my favorite classes. Shakespeare posses unique talent of being both dynamic and entertaining. Society conitunes to go back to Shakespeare because there is something new to discover each time. I have read Hamlet probably ten times and studied it in four classes, yet every time I open its pages, I am swept away by new discoveries and insights. There is so much to learn from Shakespeare; he has influenced our modern world greatly and developed us intellectually and emotionally for hundreds of years.

 

Our day began at Shakespeare’s birthplace, which housed many interesting artifacts from Shakespeare’s life, as well as mementos from famous fans (think Thomas Hardy and Theodore Roosevelt). We then explored the city a bit, unseuccesffully attempting to visit his grave (the church was having a service) and walking along the beautiful river, filled with swans and boaters enjoying the warm weather. The highlight of the day, however, came from a place not even related to Shakespeare. While eating lunch at a pub, we noticed a tea room next door called The Fourteas, presumably inspired by life in England during the 1940s. Because the Fishers love all things WWII — and have had sooooooooo many excursions on our trip about this era — we were eager to go for afternoon tea. This small little establishment tucked away in Avon was hands-down our favorite eating experience and most pleasent surprise. Everything from the ration book menus to the waitress’ flower sack dresses to the tape on the windows was authentic and representative of this time period. It could’ve very easily been silly or tacky, but the quaint, wholesome atmosphere mixed with the delicious, high-quality food makes The Fourteas undeniabley supreme. This afternoon snack transported us back in time to a more wholeseome and perserverant world, and it was the perfect cherry-on-top for our WWII-focused trip. We then headed to Anne Hatheway’s  cottage, which had the loveliest gardens I’ve ever seen — it was like something out of a storybook. 


 
 
The next day, our family took the train into London in order to scour the marketplace of Portabello Road. This is one of the Fisher’s favorite excursions due to the stupendous treasures one can find around each corner. Silver tea sets, vintage jewlrey and ancient prints are for sale as far as the eye can see, and while its certainly overwhelming, there’s nothing quite like Portabello Road. We walked away with new {old} trinkets and returned to a delicous pizza place near Victoria Station for lunch. Making our way to Leicester Square to snag theater tickets for that night, we popped into the National Gallery and admired the vast, beautiful paintings from the 17th-20th centuries. One of my favorite museums is the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, and London’s National Gallery was a pleasant reminder due to its countless rooms, inviting atmosphere and admiration for paintings. After a light dinner, we checked an item off our ultimate London to-do list and watch Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, the world’s longest running show and a personal favorite of the Fishers. Having seen it performed at Houston’s The Alley Theater (which was a fantastic performance), we were so excited to watch arguabley our family’s favorite author’s masterpiece. Known for its spine-chilling, edge-of-your-seat suspense, Mousetrap had each of us held with baited breath; despite knowing the ending, I couldn’t help but stare in anxiety during this exhilariting mystery. If you’ve never seen or read any of Agatha Christie’s work, you’re missing out on one of the most entertaining and itelligent genuises of our time.
 
 
 
On Sunday, July 12th, we spent the morning at our flat in Beaconsfield before venturing out into the rain, as we all had lots of packing to do! Using Airbnb, we found this flat in a town just half an hour by train northwest of London, and we couldn’t have been more pleased. I cannot emphasize how wonderful a service Airbnb is: this is the fourth time I’ve used it, and each residence has been exactly what we signed up for, sometimes even exceeding our expectations. Beaconsfield is a nice town of old and new (there’s an actual “Old” and “New” Becaonsfield), and we loved wandering around its neighboring towns. A majority of this exploration was taking advantage of our National Trust membership: Dad signed us up because its mission is to preserve the historic British residences that we enjoy so much. One such property is West Wycomb Park, a country house nestled on a hill that has been the filming location for many of my favorite movies, such as The Importance of Being Earnest, Austenland and the timeless classic, What A Girl Wants. West Wycomb is beautiful, with gorgeous details and sweeping grounds, and I was very excited to visit the scene of some of my favorite movies.
 


 
On our drive home, we quickly popped into Hughenden, Queen Victoria’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli’s home in order to squeeze in one final tour. We wished we could’ve spent more time there, as it was a top-secret map making base for the British during WWII (because us Fishers can’t get enough). Since the house closed at 5:00 PM, we decided to stop at the nearby service station on our way back to the flat for some take away food. As a Texan who loves Buc-ees more than anything, I was floored throughout this entire trip by Britain’s glorious rest stops. Clean bathrooms are a privelege, people! Plus, these rest stops have supermarkets that stay open past 5:00 PM, an annoying fact-of-life we dealt with often (this night included). Watching James Bond movies and microwaving popcorn, it was a great night at home before our big day tomorrow at Highclere Castle!

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