June 9, 2010

bath to oxford

Do you remember Sir John Gielgud from the movie Arthur? Jeeves maybe? Imagine the most proper british gentleman you can, and you will have our guide for the tour of Blenheim Palace we had today. This guy was much shorter than Sir Gielgud but he was a pretty good guide. He told us about fine china and tapestries the architects of the Palace along with many of the priceless artifacts that have been collected by the Spencer Churchill family over the years. As we finished each room of the palace our guide would say very politely, well if there are no questions I think that just covers it.

After our tour with Jeeves, we decided to see the Untold Story of Blenheim. This is part Disney animatronics and part history lesson. All in all it did not work for us. The animated dummies they had playing the parts of members of the royal households were all placed in front of ‘mirrors’ which were really computer screens, so although we looked at the dummy’s back we saw a real person’s face projected on the screen as if it was a reflection. These characters tried to tell us the back story behind how the Palace was constructed. One can only take so much royal sex scandal before it gets old.

Blenheim Palace is the home of the family of the Duke of Marlborough, although once a year they have to send a flag to BUCKingham, yes you must say that with a British accent with all of the emphasis on the BUCK and you will have it just about right. The purpose of the flags is to avoid paying what must be an incredible amount of rent. As long as the flag is delivered on time the family gets another year rent free.

Blenheim was actually our second castle of the day today. We started the morning by visiting Sudeley castle in the Cotswolds. This is one of the castles where Henry VIII and his wives hung out. Much of the castle is in ruins now, but it really is interesting, especially after watching several episodes of The Tudors on HBO. Other highlights of Sudeley were the Gardens and the Peacocks that were running around and in captivity in the Pheasantry. Yes, how many of you have been to a Pheasantry??

Lunch today was at Noel Arms in Chipping Camden. Jane had a Ploughman’s lunch, Josh had ice cream, and Kaia and I tried a burger. It was a nice English pub and we had to try some of the local brews, also quite good.

We stayed in Woodstock at The Bear, It is a hotel in a building that was built in the late 1600’s! The rooms are everywhere with no two alike. While Kaia went for a run I had a real english G&T although I really did not appreciate the use of the slice of cucumber in place of the lime. Dinner was at a small family run italian restaurant (Branca) across the street from the hotel. I had a great bolognese, Jane had Arrabiata, and Josh and Kaia had Pizza. All in all this was a great birthday!

Location:Woodstock, England