Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Blenheim Palace OR Why You Sometimes Have to Travel at the Buttcrack of Dawn

Sometimes, the only way to complete this type of an undertaking is to bite the bullet and travel early. Really f*@%ing early. I can't even remember how early it was but it was, as Matt and I heard it aptly described by a large man we passed while walking along the Thames, it was "the crack of a larks fart". Or something like that. I believe that it set the stage for our day. I recently read a post from The Everywhereist  (who I LOVE even though I don't know her) where she talked about how not every trip goes well. There will be fights even when you're with the one you love.

Our day at Blenheim was one such day. It was mostly my fault. As it always is. I don't always cope well with traveling far and early. It's something I'll have to learn to grow up about really. But, as always, Matt was brilliant and put up with me without getting too mad himself. It turned out to be an okay day in the end. Also, what made it bad had nothing to do with the location. So, bearing in mind that I was super grumps that day, I will try to tell you as much as I can without being bitter (please note - I will be bitter). This will be interesting. 

See how this picture is crooked?
Angry Taylor forgets she sucks at taking pictures and refuses to relinquish the camera.

In the entry about Buckingham Palace I mentioned that I tend to do things the wrong way round. This case is no different. For about a year I had several very good friends living and studying in Oxford. I never once visited because I am an idiot. So our visit to Blenheim Palace was the first time I've ever seen Oxford.

This is kind of like Bath, I don't remember the specifics (but I will in an edit at the end!) We took the tube, with a different combination of changes to get to Paddington again. From there we took a train into Oxford. At Oxford station you'll find a bus that takes you to Blenheim. You'll have to check the times before you purchase train tickets to make sure you'll make it because it doesn't run often. 

This is the view of the station from the top of the bus :)
Something I didn't realize about the bus: It's a real bus. Meaning it stops in several different locations before it drops you at Blenheim. Now, I don't want to discourage anyone from taking this trip (in the end it's all worth it you'll see!) but, the stop and start did make me feel kind of motion sick. That could be because I insisted on sitting on the top level in front of the window and the sun was on me and I got WAY overheated. I'm just saying, with the information you now have, choose your seat wisely.

But finally we arrived at the palace. We forgot to get cash before we left oxford so we had to walk a little into the down next to blenheim for cash. We didn't find an ATM but, if you end up in the same silly situation, there is a lovely little grocery store where you can get cash back. We ended up with some chocolate and the cash we needed to get on the bus again.

Freakin' finally.
Blenheim itself is ridiculously, ridiculous to get to. It is, in every sense of the word, a stately home. First you must travel down the lovely spacious driveway. Please note all of the land that surrounds it. You are already on the grounds. THEY OWN ALL OF THIS. 

Matt is a pioneer. A beautiful fresh-faced pioneer.
I am a grumpy butt who refused to be pictured. 
When you finally reach something that is a building and you think you are there, you are wrong. This is just the first gate.
This is misleading.
IMPORTANT NOTE: We had no idea where to buy tickets. See that little black box in front of the massively imposing wall??? That's the ticket booth. Now you know and you won't have to double back  like we did. After buying a ticket you'll go through the gift shop (go figure) which has AMAZING bathrooms. Then you'll find yourself in a new courtyard. You may think you're there. You are not.

This is also misleading.
Once you go through that little tunnel there, however, you're finally there.

The first sight of this actually took my grumps away for a bit.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Blenheim Palace. 

Blenheim was given to John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, as recognition for his victory in 1704 against French and Bavarian troops (this is depicted in several tapestries within the home). It's represents an old princely dwelling. It's architectural importance is the main reason for it's inscription as a World Heritage Site. 

The last picture that I took before they yelled at me to put the camera away was of the ceiling above the main doors...

You can't take pictures because it's still a working home. Yes the Duke and Duchess and the family still use the home. Which I can't really even imagine. Most of the rooms that are open are used as a museum for Winston Churchill. He was born in a room here. They still have the same bed he was born in. Also some of his hair -which is a bit strange to me. They also have letters he sent home and stories of his childhood and early adulthood. Anyone who ever payed attention in history class knows how amazing Churchill was during World War II and it's very interesting to see how his family and his early life at Blenheim shaped that man he was. 

The house itself has some amazing artifacts. Matt finally called me out on not paying attention and pulled me out of my slump with a head that was actually of Alexander the Great from - where else - Ancient Alexandria. No lie. But the amazing library and overly decorated guest bedrooms aren't what Blenheim is best for. It's best for it's gardens and grounds. 

It's totally ordinary really. 
The back yard is a water garden the likes of which I have never seen before. It's won awards, basically. We stopped to have tea in the water garden. The back of the house has a cafe and a CHAMPAGNE BAR because, you know, why the hell not. I have a champagne bar in my basement too. 

There are so many gardens I can't really go into all of them in detail, but I'll try to give you an idea of things.

They are nice enough to give you a map and the Secret Garden seemed like a great place to visit. On the way we found the Italian Garden. 

This is a private garden so you can only peak over the hedges. Matt decided he wants something like this when we grow up. I have to agree with him but only if we don't use gold. Gold is never tasteful without being gaudy in my opinion. Although it is gorgeous here...

Then we found the Secret Garden. It wasn't through a locked door in a wall hidden by ivy but it was still nice. It did have this nice marker telling you about it:

And two lovely statues watching over the entrance...

This was my favorite garden. It's filled with ponds and quiet walkways. The sound of running water had an immediate calming effect. Really.

I love taking pictures he doesn't know about. He was contemplating swimming it was so warm.
A little Oasis.
At this point I gave Matt the camera because I was tired of taking pictures. He took this to mean take a picture of me and it didn't. So I took the camera back.

I don't like it when he does it to me.
After the Secret Garden it was really time for lunch. We brought pack lunch this time around and decided to recreate our first date. We ate lunch under a tree and it was really lovely. This was our view.

Just sitting there was a nice break and, honestly, you could pick just about anywhere on the grounds for your lunch and have the same effect. It's just beautiful. Even with all the people that were there at the same time, it felt like we had the place to ourselves. 

He caught me and decided to pose. This is his pensive face apparently.
This is our tree :D
From lunch we decided that, while we weren't going to make it to the children's garden and maze because of the bus schedule, we should at least try to see all the gardens on the main grounds that we could. We saw the Rose Garden. It was in full bloom because of the summer sun and just gorgeous.

Then Matt made me continue on to the Cascade. I didn't really want to see it but I went for him. 

There's a large lake on the grounds of Blenheim and it comes complete with a man-made waterfall and everything. It's a totally new eco-system nestled in the grounds really. 

I had given the camera to Matt and he got some great shots before he decided to try and catch me...

Almost sweetie, almost.
It's amazing that this whole thing is man-made. It's pretty huge and also it fits so well with the land, you would never know.

I couldn't fit them here but those little dots are ducks and we have a million close ups of them.
They were little dudes. 
Matt, of course, always wants a picture :)
Then we climbed the hill to the lake and the top of the Cascade. Matt took this awesome picture of an old couple standing where we had just been standing. It was kind of appropriate. And really cute.

Then Matt lied to me. I was hot and wanted to go back. He knows that I don't like looking at the map so he told me that to continue on was the quickest way back. It is not. Ladies do not listen to your map loving man. It is not the best way back. However, it's scenic and super pretty so you should go. 

I am keeping this for the lake... and purely out of protest. 
The lake is filled with my favorite flowers, water lilies.

And I really mean full. Absolutely chocking the edges of the lake, full. 

It's also filled with dragonflies. If you know me personally you'll know that dragonflies have a very special meaning to me. I was stunned into a good mood really. Matt was able to lift my spritis by lying to me basically- but that doesn't mean you can do it again babe :P.

Then using his handy dandy map, he found us away through the woods and back home.

All his usual, painfully happy self. I mean look at that smile.

It's the map he truly loves 
It all leads back to the same place see!!!

Come around this magical corner...

And you're back in the lower water garden! With the most perfect white roses I've ever, ever seen. 

It takes a long time to see the house,  half the grounds and stop for tea and lunch. So we were running low on time. We took our pictures...

I'm really trying to not look annoyed for no reason.
Mostly because he always looks so at ease.
Then we hit the gift shop for a pin before we left. While we were there the Duke actually stopped by with another one of his Duke friends for a visit. So I've been shopping in the close proximity of a Duke. How do you like them apples. 

Then it was off for another round of insane travel. This time though we were a little more hopeful. One more off the list!
Cause I love him you know.
Also we had time for some alcohol before we got on the train but, I'm sorry, I can't even remember where. Even with the insane travel, the gardens at Blenheim are more than worth spending a day. Although, I would suggest that if you can rent a car for the day, please do that instead. It's just easier.

x T

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