Warwick and Oxford and Stratford, Oh My!

Trip Start May 01, 2010
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4
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Trip End May 24, 2010


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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Tuesday, May 4, 2010

So today was my day trip to Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford. It was a fairly early morning, considering my excellent sleep-in the day before! I had to go to the Royal National hotel to be picked up, so I just waited around in the lobby there for awhile (because I showed up early, it's what I always do, it seems!). Then a guy came and found me, and I hopped on a gigantic bus that had only me on it. I was slightly confused, to say the least. But the bus stopped at a few more hotels to pick up more people, before dropping all of us off at Victoria Coach Station where we'd be divided up into the separate tours.
My tour was mostly... older people than I. I just sat by myself and watched out the windows for most of the bus trip to Warwick Castle. The tour guide I had was really good, I can't for the life of me remember his name though. My one issue with him was that he talked about the British election and who he's voting for and all that a little too much for my liking. I realize it was a big deal, the election was in 2 days, but no one on this bus had any say in the matter anyways, so he might as well have been talking to a wall.
The first stop was Warwick Castle. I honestly didn't know anything about this place before this tour, I just thought 'Hey, a castle, why not?' because I wanted to see Stratford and Oxford. The tour guide told us all about the history of the castle, but at this point, I couldn't tell you much about it though; three weeks in the UK was an information overload for my brain, and all of the castles and histories all blend together now!
We got there and there was basically no one else around, which was awesome. I just wandered around the courtyard for awhile, not really sure what to look at, but then I came across this stair walk thing, with 500 and something stairs. These were the stairs that Jaime from Montreal had told me about the day before! It had a big warning before you walked in; this is one way only, once you start there's no going back... I don't know what I was thinking, starting this walk. I hate little spirally staircases and I'm afraid of heights.
This walk was insane! The views from the top were INCREDIBLE, but oh my god, walking up and down those little enclosed spiral staircases was going to be the death of me. My legs were shaking for half an hour after I finished it all! But after that I just spent the rest of my time there walking around and exploring the grounds. It was a beautiful day, so it was nice to be outside!
After Warwick Castle we headed to Stratford-upon-Avon, to Shakespeare's birthplace. It's nerdy, but I do really love Shakespeare (thanks to a fantastic high school English teacher!), so I was really excited for this. To be perfectly honest though, it didn't live up to my expectations. It felt sort of rushed, and just... not super authentic, which I totally understand, because he did live there hundreds of years ago, but I dunno... I think I just expected more. I thoroughly enjoyed the gift shop, however, and would definitely have bought more stuff if I wasn't already strapped for space before my tour even started!
After some more random wandering around the little pedestrian street that the Birthplace is located on, it was back to the bus to head to Oxford. This might have been my favourite part of the day. The first stop was at Christchurch, which is what was originally used as the Great Hall of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies. It wasn't used for long, as it wasn't big enough, but the set they use in the movie is based off of this hall at Oxford. I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan, so this was a definite highlight for me. Even walking through some of the courtyards it felt like there should be brooms flying around. It was too cool. We got a bit of a tour of the rest of the grounds, but not as much as I'd have liked to have seen (which, it seemed, was a common consensus among us on the tour...) but we had about half an hour down a main shopping street where I went to buy my obligatory Oxford sweatshirt (which proved to be an excellent purchase, it kept me warm the rest of my trip!).
After Oxford we headed back to London. We were told that the bus wouldn't be dropping us off at individual hotels, rather just around a tube station for us to navigate our own ways back. This TERRIFIED me. I'm not much of a public transportation fan, it makes me nervous enough with buses at home, so the thought of finding my way back in London was scary. Luckily, the station we stopped near was on the Piccadilly Line, just like my hotel, so I did manage to get back successfully.
Tonight was an early night to bed after a long day of exploring....
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