As the No Kidding Shakespeare Camp trip to London was, in many ways, primarily a walking tour of some of the city’s best Shakespeare-related destinations, I thought it might be worthwhile to chart all of our itineraries through Google Maps. Cartography has always interested me, and somehow seeing each day’s journey plotted out on the map helps me to realize just how much ground we covered. Give or take a block or so, here’s where we went during our week abroad (click on any map to expand it to its full size):
Most of our number came in on mini-cabs, likely following this route:
Some of us, however, took the Underground (which, when you’re on your way in from Heathrow, begins above-ground, letting you see some of London’s suburbs). The Piccadilly Line’s Russell Square station is just a couple of blocks from Byng Place, where we were staying.
Saturday evening, after we got settled into our apartments and had the chance for a quick catnap, we had our first tour of the neighborhood, culminating in dinner at Busaba, a Thai restaurant. Starting at Byng Place, we saw Russell Square and Bedford Square, passing by the Montague St entrance to the British Museum. We passed through Bloomsbury into the theatre district, getting a glimpse of the Theatre Royal at Drury Lane on our way down to Covent Garden. From there, we wandered down to Trafalgar, past the National Gallery. We would have walked the full circuit back up to Busaba then, but the weather turned decidedly English by the time we hit Trafalgar, and then a closure on the Northern Line forced us to cab it rather than take the Tube.
Walking Distance: 2.3 miles, plus some extra yardage as we circumnavigated Covent Garden Market a bit.
Sunday was our day of Museums. We started off in the morning by heading down towards Cheapside. Our stroll to the Tube took us through Russell Square Garden again, and then through a charming lane called Sicilian Avenue. Once off at the St. Paul’s station, we got a glimpse of the great cathedral and of St. Mary-le-Bow, then visited Postman’s Park before hitting the London Museum. After that, we took the Underground back up towards home base and walked to the British Museum.
After lunch, we hopped back on the Underground and took the Piccadilly all the way down to South Kensington, just a short walk from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Dr. Ralph gave an excellent presentation as part of ShaLT, a series on Shakespeare’s London Theatres. Afterwards, we dashed across the river to the Globe for an evening performance of Macbeth.
Walking Distance: 4.4 miles (not counting perambulations inside Museums or any side excursions taken during lunch or after the show).
Monday began with a walking tour of Shoreditch, led by archaeologist and author Julian Bowsher. We hit the major sites of the early years of London’s theatrical culture: the excavation sites of the Theatre and the Curtain, as well as touring some of the other intersections and city gates that would have been familiar to Shakespeare as he began his career in that neighborhood. After a meal in Bishopsgate, we walked through Smithfield Market, site of Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Faire, and then to St. Bartholomew the Great (Dr. Ralph’s favorite church in the city). After that, it was back to St. Paul’s (to go inside this time), and from thence to the National Portrait Gallery for a guided tour through Elizabethan and Jacobean history with Mary Baldwin College’s Mary Hill Cole. That evening, our group split up to explore London, with many taking advantage of the city’s wonderful culinary and theatrical opportunities.
Walking distance: 5.5 miles (whew!)
On Tuesday, we were up early to catch a train from Paddington Station out to Oxford. After a tour of Christ Church College and Cathedral, we had lunch in the vicinity of the Covered Market before heading to University College for a tour and a chat with Dr. Tiffany Stern. By late afternoon, the weather had turned from the morning’s dreary downpour to cool, breezy sunshine — perfect for punting, so we headed down towards the Isis for some aquatic recreation. To celebrate our triumph afterwards, we hit the Turf Tavern, reputed to be the oldest tavern in Oxford, dating to the reign of Richard II. Some chose to head back to London after the pub, while others stayed to explore until it was time to catch the last train.
And now, an example of why I love Google Maps so much: Having difficulty finding an address for our punting location to add to the map, I decided to zoom in, switch to satellite view, and scroll along the river — and lo and behold, I found the very punts we used to conquer the river!
Walking distance: 3.9 miles (plus unknown distance punted)
Wednesday morning began with a tour of the Blackfriars District, passing by Lincoln’s Inn Fields and the Inns of Court, where the playing companies sometimes staged shows, and which would have been the origin for many of the gallants attending shows at the Blackfriars Theatre. We visited Playhouse Yard, the former location of the Blackfriars priory and, eventually, the predecessor to our Playhouse, then crossed the river again for a tour of the Globe with Director of Education Patrick Spottiswoode and the matinee of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. After the show, our campers had the evening free. Many met at the Anchor for a drink and some post-show discussion, before breaking up for further exploration. Ralph, Sarah, and I walked back by way of the National Theatre and Waterloo Bridge before finding dinner in the vicinity of Leicester Square.
Walking distance: 3.5 miles (plus whatever routes, walking, Underground, or cabbing, that our participants took during our evening off — for Ralph, Sarah, and I, for example, that meant another 2+ miles on our feet before catching the Tube at Leicester Square)
We took a bit of a slower start on Thursday, both to allow folk to rest up from previous days’ journeys, but also to allow the intrepid to go out in search of more theatre tickets, many of which are available at discount rates early in the morning. After convening mid-morning, we headed to Middle Temple Hall, one of Tom McLaughlin’s primary inspirations for the interior of the Blackfriars Playhouse. After a tour, we enjoyed an excellent lunch in the hall, then headed across the Thames, back to the Globe, where Peter McCurdy treated us to a lecture about the building of the Globe and the Wanamaker, and where director and actor Nick Hutchison led us in a great workshop on cue scripts and clues for performance in Shakespeare’s texts.
Walking distance: a mere 2 miles! (plus whatever folk did on their own at night)
On our final full day in London, we explored Southwark, the district south of the river which became a center of theatrical culture. We began with a tour of the ruins of the Rose Theatre, preserved underneath a modern building, then we walked through the district to Southwark Cathedral and the ruins of Winchester Palace. For lunch, we hit the George, an old tavern with a yard which may have seen performances of early modern plays.
Then our group had the afternoon free to revisit favorite locations or to discover new delights. For me, this meant heading to Sir John Soane’s Museum, a truly charming collection of art and antiquities, then heading back to the British Museum to hit some of the rooms I missed the first time around (and to do a little souvenir shopping) — another 1.6 miles.
In the evening, we had cocktails at Ralph’s apartment on Bedford Place before heading to the Haymarket Theatre for One Man, Two Guv’nors, a new play based on The Servant of Two Masters. After dinner, it was just around the corner to Mint Leaf for a final banquet.
Walking distance: 2.1 miles in the morning, variant paths in the afternoon, then another 1.1 in the evening
Saturday, many of us headed back to Heathrow, while the rest took themselves to King’s Cross Station and points north.
Total Walking Distance: 24.7 miles for the week — and that only counts our official trips, not any of the independent evening journeys. What’s fascinating about this for me is to remember that, until fairly recently in history, walking was the primary method of transportation for most people. Few could afford horses and carriages, and even if you had them, they weren’t always practical inside the City of London, with its narrow streets crowded by stalls and pedestrians. If you didn’t want to brave London Bridge, you could hire a ferry to get across the Thames, but through most of the districts we toured, people four hundred years ago would have walked nearly the same paths. Though many of the sights have changed, thanks to the 1666 Great Fire and to a few centuries’ worth of building, rebuilding, and reconstruction, many of them remain remarkably similar. If you’re interested in seeing pictures to accompany those 50,000 footsteps, check out the NKSC13 album on Facebook.