Visiting Shakespeare's Hometown
Family holidays are not really the norm for your average Fijian family, I mean when you live on an island with access to white sandy beaches or rain-forest waterfalls within less than an hour's drive, you don't really need to go far do you? As a young adult, the usual once a year trip was sufficient and even then it wasn't a priority. It took working in a job that opened up opportunities to visit over 129 destinations all over the world to make me fully appreciative of visiting new places and the whole idea of wanderlust that is synonymous with travelling. Living in the UK as a Fijian expat family has its perks, you don't necessarily have to travel abroad to visit new places. There's so much history in every town and city that the UK has to offer that it makes it a little easier to feed the wanderlust of travelling, especially with children in tow.
One such destination is Stratford Upon Avon in Warwickshire, which was our home away from home "staycation" locale for the better part of 10 days. Apart from the fact that it is the birthplace of William Shakespeare (which for me personally was the deciding factor on where we were to go for our "staycation") there are also loads of other things that you can do as a family there. Here's a few things you could enjoy with your family or on your own that I'd like to share with you:
1. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
This tour includes Shakespeare's Birthplace, a restored 16th-century half-timbered house situated in the city centre on Henley Street, in Stratford Upon Avon where it is believed that William Shakespeare was born in 1564 and spent his childhood years. You can also visit Anne Hathaway's cottage, a twelve-roomed farmhouse where Anne Hathaway, the wife of William Shakespeare, lived as a child in the village of Shottery, about 1 mile west of Stratford Upon Avon. To end your Shakespearean tour you can also include a visit to Mary Arden's House, which is a Tudor era farmhouse that was the home of William Shakespeare's mother. The tours can be booked online separately if you'd rather just visit one of the sites or you can do a collective tour and pay for a package tour ticket which allows you entry into all three houses, there are concessions for family; student; senior citizen tickets also. The Shakespeare House is in the city so you don't really need to travel far, the other two is a short drive out of the city or you can get the City Sightseeing Hop On/Hop Off bus which will take you to the sites plus various other places you can visit in the area.
2. Spot On Wake, Wotton Wawen Park
This was and is one of our favourites, a local wakeboarding park that's about an 18 minute drive from Stratford Upon Avon. The owners excavated the lake from scratch to design a custom made bespoke body of water with cable wakeboarding in mind. The two main pools are narrow long bodies of water offering a sheltered and safe place to wakeboard. There are two main lines which include the Base Line - designed for beginners and intermediates to progress their skills. The second is the Gap Line which has a double pool gap and obstacles designed for advanced riders. All sessions are run by qualified cable operators and include one to one instruction. The minimum age they teach is 8 years old. You can book single sessions or pay for a 10 lesson package.
3. Stratford Upon Avon Butterfly Farm
This was really convenient for us as it is in the city centre on the canal side of the city. It is the UK's largest tropical butterfly paradise. It consists of three main areas, the Caterpillar Room which houses caterpillars, pupaes, eggs and specialist plants for butterfly breeding, it is also home to one of the largest species of moths in the world. Second is the Insect City which houses the more exotic insects, such as beetles; praying mantis; stick insects and giant millipedes. The insects are all behind glass and secure. Above your head in the room are hanging ropes that enable leaf cutter ants to move around the room. The third area but is a section in insect city is called 'Mini-Beast' and has snails and crabs. It also includes Arachnoland which is home to over 15 species of spiders from black widows to tarantulas. The farm also has the world's largest spider species, which is the Goliath birdeater. Arachnoland also includes a collection of scorpions including Imperial Scorpions that glow in the dark. All these mini-beasts are also behind glass and secure. All bookings can be made either online or on site, they also offer concessions for family; student; senior citizens tickets and under 3s are free of charge.
We were fortunate to have booked our accommodation through AirBnB which got us a quaint Victorian style cottage within a minutes walk to the city centre. I was reluctant to use AirBnB as I've read and heard of horror stories about expectation falling very, very short of reality but we were pleasantly surprised with ours and I would definitely use it again.
On the rare afternoon that we had free (as we also had made plans with other family friends in the area) we would walk down to the canal so the kids could have ice-cream from the ice-cream boats docked alongside the pier or we would wander around the city centre exploring the streets or getting a quick bite to eat, there are endless options for food and affordable also. There are canal boat cruises you can also do that are run regularly, however because our last posting was more or less home to canal riverboats, it wasn't something we were keen on doing, in saying that if you have never been canal boating then you should definitely try it out here.
Our staycation turned out to be just the break we needed and Stratford Upon Avon is now one of our bucketlist of places to visit here in the UK.