Stratford-upon-Avon & Lichfield, England
Stratford-upon-Avon is known for one reason only: being the hometown of Shakespeare. Cruising around, we noticed that every street was lined with very Shakespearean black and white Tudor-style buildings. It felt as though we had travelled back to 16th century Britain, and we wouldn't have been surprised to see Shakespeare himself walking by. We stopped in at the iconic Royal Shakespeare Theatre to see if they happened to have any tickets left for tonight’s show. Luck was on our side, and we secured two tickets to see ‘Measure for Measure’, a play neither of us had heard of.
Before the show we returned to the van for dinner, where Danny cooked up some partridge that he bought at the market in Cardiff. Neither Danny nor I had tried partridge before, but Danny did a great job of roasting it in our oven and serving it as a starter. It had an overwhelmingly strong, meaty flavour that didn't appeal to me. Danny didn't mind it. We then scoffed down a huge bowl of vegetable soup before heading back to the theatre.
The play was held in a small auditorium, so no matter where we sat we had a decent view. As we hadn't been exposed to much Shakespeare before, it was hard to get our heads around the Elizabethan English - I’m sure we didn’t understand half of what was said. Eventually, though, we got the gist of the story and in the end we absolutely loved it. It was a comedy and we found ourselves laughing out loud frequently, which probably said more about the acting than the script. There was a live orchestra as well, adding to the comical atmosphere. As we were leaving, we overheard another patron saying it was one of the best plays she had seen here. I guess we chose the perfect time to visit Stratford.
The temperature overnight was possibly the coldest we have ever experienced. We awoke several times during the night, shivering under our blankets, and when we rose in the morning we found a layer of ice on the inside of our windscreen. Outside, leaves were frozen, puddles were frozen, and an icy sheet had formed across the surface of the lake. Not the best time to be living in a campervan.
Despite the arctic conditions, we braved a stroll around Stratford. One of the major sites, the house Shakespeare was born in, looked just as old and unremarkable as all the other houses in town. There was a Shakespeare Pass we could buy to venture inside, but it included sites such as the house where Shakespeare’s wife was raised and the house where his mother was born, which did not interest us in the slightest. We took the obligatory photo of the front facade and walked on.
Leaving Shakespeare-town behind, we drove to Lichfield, a city slightly north of Birmingham, to visit Danny’s aunt Gill and her family. The whole afternoon was spent sitting inside a warm, cosy house, catching up with relatives and drinking wine. Once the wine was finished we moved on to homemade damson gin (damsons are small plums, we learned), which was excellent. After consuming all the alcohol in the house, they fed us a fantastic paella for dinner and followed this up with pavlova for dessert. Homestyle cooking and creature comforts - we felt like we had hit the jackpot! Then we did something we hadn't done in months: watched TV. There really wasn't anything that great showing, but we were glued to reality show after reality show anyway.
Do you know what's better than a home cooked meal and bad TV? A warm bed, inside a warm house, where we can't hear the wind or see ice on our windows. We don't ever want to leave.
Straight after breakfast the next morning it was out to the van to start the cleaning process, in preparation for selling it in a couple of weeks. Hours and hours were spent scrubbing every inch of the interior and repairing various fittings that had come apart over the year, but still we were nowhere near finished. I don’t understand how there is so much to do in one small van – I’m sure it didn’t take us this long to clean our apartment when we left Melbourne. We were exhausted by the end.
More wine, more great food, more TV. Being a Sunday, we were treated to the Sunday pork roast accompanied by a thousand or so side dishes (I've discovered I'm a big fan of Yorkshire puddings). With our bellies full we flopped on the couch for more screen time – in the last two days I have watched more reality TV than I have ever watched in Australia. We also met Danny’s cousin’s bearded dragon, which was very cute. The lizard only visited briefly though, as apparently it doesn't play nicely with the cat. It didn't like me much either, leaving scratch marks all over my hand. It's a small price to pay for the land of luxury we are living in right now.