A previous version of this story mistakenly recommended using the Blackfriars Tube stop, which is closed for renovations. This version has been corrected.
Going Our Way: Searching for Shakespeare in London
Thursday, September 2, 2010; 10:57 AM
Who: Terry and Wayne Nicolosi and their 14-year-old daughter, Bianca, of Washington
Where: Shakespeare's London
Why: Spring break
When: Spring 2011 for a week
"We're interested in theater, Shakespeare-related sites and art museums."
To be or not to be obsessed with the world's greatest playwright? For the Nicolosi family of Washington, there is no question. Wayne Nicolosi is an avid Shakespeare performer and scholar, and 14-year-old Bianca is equally besotted. So when mom Terry asked us for help in planning the family's trip to London next spring, there was no question what the threesome would focus on.
They're smart to base themselves in London. Many people think that Stratford-upon-Avon, the town in the English Midlands where the Bard was born and died, is the ultimate Shakespearean destination, but London is where he spent his most productive years as a playwright and actor. It's home to a spectacular re-creation of one of the theaters he co-owned, the Globe, and you can spend days exploring his old stomping grounds in the neighborhood, on the South Bank of the Thames. You can also seek out several lesser-known sites where Shakespeare lived, wrote, acted and drank.
That's right. You can hoist a glass to the Bard in a galleried pub that overlooks a courtyard where he most likely acted and watched his own plays being performed.
But start with Shakespeare's Globe, both for the historical exhibitions and the first-rate productions. The replica is just a couple of hundred yards away from the theater's original site, and the open-air structure is faithful in every way to the 1599 original - thatched roof, timbered walls, three walls of galleried seating surrounding the stage, and an open pit where the masses stand. Tours are available year-round, and productions run from April to October. Next spring's schedule will be announced in November at www.shakespeares-globe.com. Full info and schedules are available in January, and you can book tickets starting in February.
You can sit with the nobs in the balcony, but I strongly recommend the pit for both cost (less than $8) and authenticity. When I visited, the heavens opened up during a lively production of "The Tempest," with thunderclaps punctuating Prospero's lines. By play's end, we groundlings were thoroughly drenched. It was one of the best theatrical experiences I've ever had.
Getting there and where to stay: What airline prices will be next spring is anybody's guess. An Internet search shows round-trip fares from Washington at about $850 for late April, but watch for sales. To save money, consider booking an air-hotel package. At Gate 1 Travel (www.gate1travel.com), for example, you can build your own trip using flights and hotels recommended by the site. For a week in late April, round-trip air and six nights at the centrally located Cumberland Hotel, including breakfast, come to $1,404 per person, or $4,211 for three people, including taxes. The Cumberland, in Marble Arch, has a 63 percent positive approval rating on TripAdvisor.