I caved. I finally went to a palace.
And it was worth every quid. I mainly chose to go because Blenheim Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site; was built in 1705; home to a billion film and media shooting locations (i.e. Downton Abbey, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Spectre); and looked simply stunning in photographs.
Plus, it had extensive trails in its surrounding parks and gardens – which ended up being my favourite part of it. It was only 14km from Oxford (in Woodstock, Oxfordshire)- so why not? I had already covered all of Oxford’s city centre in a mere four hours yesterday on foot anyway, so it gave me something quite exciting to explore.
I went back to the Thames Path trail in the morning (it looks way cooler at night) and then braved the rain to explore the palace. Luckily, it never really pours buckets here – but it’s an occasional mist that goes sideways and stops after about 5 minutes (usually), so it never works in favour of my Asian tourist camera around my neck.
The ground floor of the palace is home to several state rooms (Red Room, Green Room, Long Library, etc.) that each reflected its own design. I haven’t been in anything quite like this before, especially since America and Australia sure don’t have grand palaces lying around. The grandeur of each room was astonishing. I don’t know what on earth I’m going to do with all the photos I took (let alone even remember what’s what), but I did go camera crazy.
The Long Library was lovely, mainly because it used to house 10,000 books that Winston Churchill had in his collection. The Blenheim organ at the end of the room was also a marvel. I quite liked how there were two names (out of four) signed recently in a glass-encased guestbook that said they were from Studio City and Orange, CA – of all the places in the world! The guide didn’t really know what the names indicated (gee, what a helpful guide- kidding), but they were probably some famous people who donated a lot of money or something. Or they played the organ during the month indicated on the page, who knows.
The Formal Gardens and water terrace, with a stunning landscape view of a maze and fountain, was everything I could dream of for my backyard someday. It looked like The Great Gatsby brought to life. Have I ever seen anything so beautiful in my life?! None of the gardens in Australia or New Zealand could even compare. I can’t imagine how beautiful the views must be in the spring/summer.
I did the 4.6-mile loop around the Great Lake and the surrounding Palace estate bits because I love trails – and I always go for the longest scenic routes. Getting my shoes and trousers caked in mud was totally worth it. The Great Cascades were amazing – it was like Rivendell.
I also successfully navigated the Marlborough Hedge Maze in Pleasure Gardens (a family-friendly park). Because of the rain (and perhaps the season?), it was EMPTY – only about 10 people total were really throughout the palace grounds. I managed to finish the maze in 15 min, but after a few frantic dead-ends, I started to feel like Harry Potter in the last task of the Triwizard Tournament. Thank God I didn’t have to attempt to jump over any hedges if I wasn’t able to escape in a timely manner (it’s not like there was anyone around to rescue me either).
The walk reminded me of my wanderings in Thailand, except everything was much better this time because of the brisk air and the cozy feel of walking through the woods. I absolutely loved every minute of this. Quite a few ducks, squirrels, and deer were running around (and even a huge herd of sheep ran in front of me for some reason) as well. English countryside is heavenly – I want to live here already.
The only bit that I found boring was the upstairs corny “Untold Stories” exhibit, although the holograms and animatronics were pretty neat. It basically detailed Winston Churchill’s life and had a few exhibits on display about the Dukes of Marlborough. I don’t think I comprehended (or even listened) to any of the fictional characters’ dialogue because I was so exhausted from my long walk by that point.
With a few last parting shots of the Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera at night (everything looks so much more mysterious and gorgeous in the evening), I bid Oxford goodbye… here’s to an early train ride back to London tomorrow morning so I can experience Windsor Castle. Cheers! xx