The nice sunny weather we brought over with us decided to go away today But a chilly drizzle cannot keep us from our travels! After a hearty full English breakfast (thanks, Peter), we packed our rain gear and headed out of town to Mary Arden’s farm – the childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother. We even have a sort of rain “coat” for the big camera.

The farm is a full-working example of what a Medieval farm would have been run like. The “Tudors,” as they are called, are all there dressed in period clothes, performing their duties on the farm – wood chopping, cooking, sheep-shearing, tending to animals, maintaining several gardens, building necessities (such as the recently re-built privy). We got there early, and Mistress Sarah and Rose the maid welcomed us into Master Palmer’s house, where I was given the task of lighting the daily fire in the giant fireplace. Only it was not in the fireplace…it was basically in the palm of my hand. I struck a flint to make a spark, which landed on a piece of old cloth. I grabbed a handful of straw, put the spark cloth in and blew, and up went the flames. So, I promptly handed it back to Mistress Sarah! No need having a bonfire in my hand today.

Courtney was assigned the task of preparing the daily potage, and chopping a bunch of root veggies with a blunt Medieval knife (without her glasses on). Good news: she kept all her fingers, and the onions did not make her cry at all! It was because of the smoke from the fireplace….so there is a handy kitchen tip for everyone. Light a giant bonfire in your kitchen to ward off onion fumes!

Even though we know that it is an act, the Tudors really stay in character at all times while there – it is their job, but it is also evident that they love what they do. Sort of like getting to play”Medieval Life” everyday. Master Charles gave us the “behind-the-scenes” tour of the Mary Arden house… the second floor that is being renovated, and actually, a family lived there as recently as 1979!! We saw a bird of prey demonstration with a ghost owl named Izzy. The falconer put the big leather glove on my arm, and that owl came right on down. So out of my comfort zone…

We returned cold and soggy to Stratford, then headed out to have another look at the Holy Trinity Church, and to find a cash point (ATM). My bank has an agreement with Barclay’s where I do not have to pay the fee. Most banks do. BUT.. since this weekend was a bank holiday weekend, and the town was packed, the cash point was EMPTY! Lesson: if it’s a bank holiday weekend…get your money early before they run out!!!

We had invited Peter and Ruth to join us at Essence, a fantastic, modern English restaurant just off the main shopping street in the Red Lion Square courtyard. What a treat! Peter never steers us wrong! We both enjoyed one of the best meals of our lives, and had superior service, thanks to Luis (Luish?). The highlight was the Sticky Toffee Pudding. Best we’ve ever had! It was also “Mrs. Sticky Toffee Pudding’s” first time having one with Peter, who gave me the title years back. But… this year I was stripped of the title since I could not finish mine! Courtney now has the honorary title. We did find out from Chris, the chef and owner (and a very nice fellow with some serious cooking skills) that there is a “Pudding Club” just outside town…several kinds of puddings. BTW: pudding in the UK is not what we have in the US. It is a moist, spongy cake, not a custardy dish. We had the best visit with Peter and Ruth. Truly like family.

Summary of the rest of the night: technical work, posting pictures, filming an “outro” (opposite of “intro!”) and packing. So sad to be leaving behind this lovely town, especially Peter, Ruth, Jindra, John, Helen, Fiona, Sandie, Chris, and all the others who helped make this my best trip to Stratford.

But, of course, we do look ahead to see what the road unfolds for us tomorrow……new places, new people. In fact, a new country….

Enjoying the journey (even in the rain) –

Heather and Courtney