Monday, September 21, 2015

Blenheim Palace

We slept in a little the morning after the play. Our hostess, Patricia at The Pound, seemed relieved to see us when we came down for breakfast. She had been worried about us having such a late night at the play and driving back to Stow in the dark. She didn't realize that we had arrived in Ireland three days earlier and was worried that we would still be suffering from jet lag.

She took our orders (freshly squeezed orange juice, eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes and mushrooms and brown and white toast with butter and some delicious lime marmalade for me) and we admired her cozy, 500-year-old home and planned our day while we ate.

Morris Dancers in the town square of Stow-on-the-Wold

We decided to go to Blenheim Palace and possibly visit some of the other Cotswold villages in the afternoon. On our way out of Stow we heard some music and shouting in the town square and decided to see what was going on. We were excited to see that there were several troupes of Morris Dancers traveling from village to village and we just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I think there were five or six groups (including a group visiting from Massachusetts) that were each taking a turn performing. Some of them had bells on their legs, some had handkerchiefs, some had sticks that they clacked together and some had even bigger sticks. Most of them wore white with brightly colored ribbons but one group was definitely edgier than the others with pheasant feathers in their hats and black and white face paint reminiscent of an 80s metal band.

Border Morris dancers.
Border Morris musicians.
We loved watching the dancers (and visiting with one of them) and were able to see each group perform at least once before we left for Blenheim Palace in the town of Woodstock.

Main entrance of the palace.
Foyer inside the front doors of the palace.
 Blenheim is the current home of the 12th Duke of Marlborough and his family. It is also the birthplace of Winston Churchill whose father was the third son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough so there is a great exhibit in the palace called "Churchill's Destiny." That was probably my favorite part of visiting the palace. I didn't know much about Churchill before, but he was a remarkable man. It's no wonder he is so beloved by the English people.

Winston Churchill was born in this room,which was being used as a cloak room at the time.
His curls, which were cut off when he was five, are in the box attached to the headboard of the bed.
Some of Winston Churchill's paintings. The man had talent.
Sir Winston was a Renaissance man. He was a military leader, an artist, a historian, a Nobel Prize winning author and even a clothing designer. He loved his wife, his family and his country. After learning about what a remarkable man he was, my sister texted my dad and said that she was falling in love with Churchill.

I recently learned that among his many awards and honors, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Rochester--the same school where my husband earned his doctorate. You are in good company, Dr. Dunn!

After the Churchill exhibit we toured the rest of the palace. We started on a guided tour but it was so crowded and hard to hear the tour guide that we ended up kind of just going from room to room and doing our own thing.
Opulent ceilings in every room
What's a palace without tapestries? 
Some of the First Duke of Marlborough's battle flags.
Ceiling in the dining room.
The current Duke of Marlborough's family eats in here once a year on Christmas day.
That's a lot of utensils.
Another awesome ceiling.
Books. Swoon.

Everyone needs a pipe organ "In Memory of Happy Days
and as a Tribute to [their] Glorious Home..." Am I right?
The ostentatious tomb of the First Duke of Marlborough in the Chapel at Blenheim.
They had an itty-bitty statue of Jesus somewhere in the church too.
Detail of the creepy dragon with weird teat-like scales on it's
 underbelly from the monument pictured above.
Checking out the exceedingly lavish home that was built upon the backs of English peasants made us hungry, so we got some delicious sandwiches: egg and cress and salt beef and gherkin, crisps, cucumber spears and a thick slice of spice cake with brown butter icing at the Oxfordshire Pantry located in the courtyard of the palace. I don't know why people always dis English food. They make amazing sandwiches and cakes (and toast! No, seriously. More on that later). We enjoyed pretty much everything we ate (and drank) on our whole trip--minus the black pudding we had the first couple of  days in Ireland.

After our refreshments we decided to wander the gardens for a little while before heading back to Stow.
The grounds had lots of fountains and Greek statuary--some with fig leaves
 in strategic locations, some without. #appreciatethefigleaf

We thought this sphinx looked sad so we tried to cheer her up by taking a selfie with her.

Perfect spot for a picnic.
I was thrilled that we got to see a Cricket match in progress.

Boat house.
The whole estate is enormous. There was lots that we didn't see but we were all getting worn out so we decided to check out the gift shop (more souvenirs!) and then drive back to Stow and see if we could fit in some shopping or sight-seeing before everything closed for the evening.

I'm so glad we headed back when we did or we might have missed seeing the site that made my geeky, literature-loving heart flutter.

To Be Continued. . .

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