My Shakespearean Experience in London & Stratford-upon-Avon

One of the highlights of the trip is the privilege to see a live performance of Shakespeare’s work. When the group and I found out that the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in Stratford-upon-Avon were performing a rare adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry VI, part III (teased as the Wars of the Roses), I was shocked. I had to raise my expectations as I felt that there is a reason why this performance is rare.

I am typically not someone who would buy tickets to live theater (or as they spell it everywhere not named the US, theatre). I feel that this trip had the ability to change that, and it certainly lived up to the hype.

(Warning: mentions of gory scenes ahead)

After watching Wars of the Roses, my expectations seemed like a low bar. The RSC blew threw my expectations. The play featured some gory scenes as there is a lot of death involved. They did an impressive job making everything look realistic while using a lot of props and fake blood. What made the experience more interactive was that characters would enter the stage from the stands! As a bonus, my seat was right next to the stage! The show, actors, and plot were so good that I would watch this again (or any other play performed by RSC) in a heartbeat.

A few days later, in the Bankside area of London, Shakespeare’s Globe (a recreation of Shakespeare’s original Globe Theatre) performed the comedy Much Ado About Nothing. It has been thought that standing tickets right in front the stage offered the best experience, but I have to disagree. I found it extremely difficult to pay attention to what was going on because it was too crowded for my liking in the area. If I had the opportunity to upgrade to a box seat (which I am certainly willing to when I return), my experience would be different.

I found it strange that the Globe crew decided to have a Shakespearean play set in the 1940s. I think they thought this was best so that it would make it easier for the audience to understand the jokes. By the way, the cast also interacted with the audience quite a bit here as well, pointing at random spectators in front of the stage. The show made everyone laugh at some point.

I must say that based on watching a history play and a comedy play by Shakespeare, I think the history play was much better. Even though the background was difficult to interpret at first, there seemed to be a myriad of action between fights, death, and arguing. I’m still a fan of comedy- but my experience watching a comedy play was unfortunately hampered by my experience at the venue. The history plays also seemed to have themes relevant to modern politics, which should be important to everyone, regardless of major.

Overall, after the two weeks in England, I must say that Shakespeare is a god. He is everywhere and people do not realize it. Everything on TV, the news, even real life, relate back to Shakespeare in some way. A lot of the more famous quotes and saying go back to Shakespeare. I’ll leave this post with a well-known quote from Hamlet: “To be or not to be, that is the question”

Reflection: What I could have done to better prepare myself for this trip

Going on vacations/trips away from home can be intimidating, if you look at the smaller things, such as what to pack or how to prepare. Every trip I take, I feel like I do something wrong in one of those areas, with this trip being no exception. Here are a couple of things I feel that I should have done better:

1. Pack more patience
Coming from the Boston area, it seems like a lot of people (myself included) have some lack of patience. This seems to be particularly evident while driving in the area- you will get honked at for not going on a green light a mere second after it turns green.

The first thing that made me think about this was when I ordered food from a sit-down restaurant. I was thinking to myself, “It’s just something simple, fish and chips, why is it taking so long? They get many orders for this throughout the day, why is it mine in particular that has a long wait time?”

It turns out that this seems to be one of the main differences between North America and Europe. It had been four years since I traveled to this region, but that was when I was younger and didn’t really care for my time as much as I do now. I should have known better about this- even the washing machine and oven take much longer to do their job here than back home. Clothes dryers are rare here, so I would have to hang everything up on a rack for clothes to dry. This will obviously take some time.

2. Take only what you need- not your entire wardrobe
This seems like common sense- but I regret packing a weeks’ worth of clothes (which is about 2/3 of my entire wardrobe) on this 2-week long trip (I am going on to Ireland for another week after the London trip is over). Like I said about the laundry previously, it will take a while to “turn around” a pile of dirty clothes by washing and drying them.

I got lucky when I measured my bag at the airport- it was under the 50 pound (23 kg) limit by quite a bit. The bag seemed too full inside with all of my clothes- but there might be room to spare with gifts to take home. (I don’t usually buy gifts when going on vacation- I find it to be a waste of money)

I ended up (so far) using only about 4 days’ worth of clothes at a time and washing them as soon as I get a chance to do so- keeping everything fresh. I feel like this is very dependent on the clothes you typically wear- for me, it’s quite simple, a long-sleeve shirt and a pair of jeans. However, you might want to bring something nice to wear for theater (which there is no shortage of in London).

Overall, I hope these tips will come in handy for anyone who reads them, even if it’s me several years down the line.

My first impressions with The Tube, coming from the Boston area

One of the first things I noticed when I visited London was the extensive railroad system – one of the most well-known in the entire world. Nicknamed The Tube, the London Underground system was created in the 19th century. Most stations from this era, and even modern ones, have plaques briefly describing the station’s history.

My first run-in with The Tube was when I first got to London to head from Heathrow Airport into the city on the Piccadilly line. This line uses older trains from 1973, although they look refreshed inside.

The interior of a 1973 Tube Stock train

Coming from Boston, it seemed weird to be able to get on a train bound for the city directly from the airport. I was also surprised at how much time it took to wait for the next train after I missed the first one. The second train came in only 3 minutes after the first one left.

The system is most notable for its small “tube”-shaped tunnels, hence the nickname The Tube. It is evidenced by the curved roof of the trains so that it can fit into the tunnels.

A Northern line 1995 Stock train leaving Kennington station, bound for the haunted Kennington loop. Notice how the train fits exactly into the tunnel.

Station architecture also kept up with the times, with more modern-looking stations, such as at Canary Wharf (opened 1998) and Battersea Power Station (opened 2021).

A Jubilee line train formed of 1996 Stock cars arriving at Baker Street. This platform looks ordinary- but go upstairs for a 19th century era station.
Baker Street station, opened 1863. You can see the black spots on the roof, left from older trains from the 1860s.
Canary Wharf station, opened 1998. This station features platform doors to sway people against jumping onto the tracks.

The Tube has also taken steps to improve its technology. In 1968, the Victoria line opened, and debuted a new technology that allowed trains to drive themselves. It eliminated most of the driver’s functions; however, they were still present to start the train by pushing two buttons, operate doors, and to look out for obstacles on the tracks. This eventually enabled newer trains to operate with 90 second intervals (

A Victoria line 2009 stock train arriving at Vauxhall. You can tell this has more modern amenities, such as bright LED headlights.

Overall, I found The Tube to be an interesting system. It has historical charm while keeping up with the times. I highly recommend it as a way to get across London in a breeze.

A plaque at Baker Street station
A plaque at St John’s Wood station. Get off at this stop if you want to see the site where the famous album cover to The Beatles’ Abbey Road was taken.
Another plaque at Angel station