Our trip is turning into a tour of the great houses of the U.K. - and I'm super ok with that. Today we'd hoped to see both Oxford and Blenheim Palace. But when our bus from Newbury was late and it took us over 3 hours to travel the 35 miles to Oxford (from the time we walked out of our apartment), I knew Plan A was doomed.
Hubby and I both agreed that Plan B was Blenheim Palace. We took the local bus from Oxford, then hiked the 1/2 mile or so up the long drive to the house.
The palace grounds are huge! One of the guides told us that during tours, the current Duke stays in a farmhouse 5 miles away - and it is still on the estate.
I really wish we'd had time to walk the grounds. Capability Brown, the same man that did the landscape work at Highclere Castle, designed the grounds here. We caught glimpses of the formal Italian gardens during one of the tours; needless to say they are gorgeous.
Lunch in the Orangery was our first stop. So beautiful!
Our first tour was the private apartments used by the family. Our excellent guide was accompanied by the under-butler (not kidding) who talked about the table settings in the family dining room - Faberge salt grinders, anyone?? - and the etiquette of meal service. He also had the key that allowed us into the family drawing room - complete with carpet worth 2-3 million pounds; Faberge decorations; and priceless paintings. Gorgeously overwhelming.
We had time before our second tour to check out the Winston Churchill exhibit. Churchill was born at Blenheim and proposed to his wife here. The exhibit was a nice blend of Churchill the man and Churchill the Prime Minister.
I wish I could put pictures of the state apartments in here. There were three opulent State Rooms (lords and ladies went to the left; royalty to the right); tapestries commissioned in the 1700's to depict battles won by the first Duke of Marlborough; 10,000 books in the library; and a magnificent floor-to-towering-ceiling Willis organ.
I really (really, really) wish we could have spent more time here. I'd have taken all the tours, then turned around and done them again. I loved seeing Highclere yesterday, but I love Blenheim even more.