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May 2021 - Day 7 - Blenheim Palace

As I laid in bed this morning I wondered why we had booked 2 nights in Oxford. The plan was to spend today at Blenheim Palace and then go home first thing in the morning. It would have made more sense though to have a full day at Blenheim and then make the drive home as there was nothing we wanted or needed to do in Oxford tonight. However I was a bit nervous mentioning it to Karen in case she thought I was just itching to get home. Instead though she said she had had the same thought overnight and agreed we should see if we could cancel tonights stay.

We wandered down to breakfast and asked at Reception and they confirmed we could do so and that they would refund one nights cost. We were both pleased with that.

Breakfast was done quite well. Instead of having the help yourself to the hot buffet food, they had replaced this with fresh hot bacon rolls in paper bags. They also a rule that only 6 people could be in the food area at anyone time which everyone stuck to.

After this we went back to the room to clean our teeth and pack up. My packing took me nearly 3 minutes and we were soon off heading on the short drive to Blenheim.

Using our newly purchased English Heritage discount and our student cards we had saved £11 off the admission price but it was still a hefty £24 for the both of us, excluding visiting inside the Palace itself. We relied again upon the VW sat nav to get us there and again it let us down. It took us to some back entrance which was about 3 miles from the visitor entrance. Despite being 15 minutes earlier than our allocated time we were let in.

As we made our way down the drive to the house there were one or two drops of rain but not enough to make me resort to put my rain jacket on. It soon passed and then we had perfect weather for the rest of our visit. As we intended to do a lot of walking as we made our way through the courtyard we decided to start the day with a hot drink. I volunteered to get them whilst Karen grabbed a table.

I didn’t mean to commit a crime by taking the drinks without paying but that is exactly what I did. It wasn’t for the want of trying. I ordered the drinks and was then handed them. The girl who did so then turned round to make the next order. I carried the drinks towards the exit and assumed I had to pay there. It was round a corner but there was nothing and no-one there. I stopped and looked around but couldn’t see what I was supposed to do. Other people walked past me with their drinks so I assume the cashier must be even further on. I turned another corner and found myself outside in the seating area. I stopped again unsure what I should do before walking over to Karen. I sat down and told her I couldn’t find anyone to pay and that technically I had stolen the drinks. She started to laugh so much as I told her the story that she had tears running down her face. I felt guilty for a while but thought I would feel even more stupid trying to go back in through the one way system and finding someone to pay.

Afterwards I was just disappointed that I didn’t get some food as well. The drinks tasted all the better for being accidentally free.

It was then time to explore. Blenheim is a large palace, bigger in fact that Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. It is quite impressive from whichever side you look at it. The water terrace at the back were very nice and suitably over the top. There was a free talk about Winston Churchill taking place this morning in his memorial garden so we wandered there via the Rose Garden to listen to that. It was short but informative and the lady giving it also gave a whizz bang verbal tour of the rest of the grounds which was interesting. By now the drinks had worked their way through both of us so we walked with the guide who was heading back to the Palace who showed us the way to nearest toilets which were actually in the Palace via an exit door.

When we came back out again there was a Winston Churchill lookalike posing for photos. He did bear more than a passing resemblance but Karen refused to pose with him for a photo.

We then set out on a decent long walk to the Cascades which is man made waterfall which helps to control the pools dug into the River to make them look like Lakes. It was unexpectedly quite spectacular. We walked back to the Palace alongside one of the pools/lakes. At this point we thought we would grab a snack and drink and see if we could actually pay this time. I sent Karen in who had no such problem. She concluded that I had walked past a cashier point but that it had’t been manned at the time.

Anyhow we felt better for paying but not at the price. The prices were at least 50% more than National Trust prices and we could hear people at tables around us also all moaning at the cost of everything. Now I know that the cost of running such a Palace must be high but there are limits.

As we sat there I read up about Winston being born here and all about the present jailbird Duke and his past drug habits. It was all very interesting about how the well to do families all criss cross each other with the Astors, Spencers, and even Sam Cameron all seemingly inter- bred and having a connection with Blenheim. I understand that people want to pass things onto their children (as do we), what I do not condone though is why they are able to pass on the right for the children to sit in the House of Lords and vote upon laws that govern us all. That is so out of date and wrong. We need an elected second chamber of a far smaller number who can check and balance what the House of Commons are up to. I would prefer that to be on a non party political basis but that is probably a step too far. The challenge is that no party are brave or strong enough to push through that level of constitutional change. In fact all parties seem to be happy to perpetuate the current system by nominating more cronies to the Lords. Why do people like Ian Botham or Andrew Lloyd Webber get to have a vote on say our foreign policy? I will just have to stand for office myself to effect change. Vote for me, and then I will do exactly what I want and ignore your opinions!

Anyhow this break after this Karen wanted to find the ’Secret Garden’. It wasn’t much a secret as there were plenty of signs directing us to it. It was another decent walk. On the way there we passed an exhibit only opened 2 days ago called ‘Guilded Cage’ by Ai Weiwei. He had previously exhibited a gold toilet here at Blenheim that you may recall was stolen. This time he had gone big with what I thought looked like a large empty bird cage. It was supposed to represent refugees and migration. I thought it represented a complete waste of time and money as well as being a blot on the landscape. The secret garden however was set out very nicely but didn’t take long to walk around.

By now we had walked over 5 miles and were knackered as it was still very warm. We decided to make our way slowly back to the car to start the journey home.

I was actually very impressed with Blenheim Palace. We had been there for almost 5 hours and still hadn’t covered all the grounds. I know Karen would have liked to gone inside the Palace but that would have meant we would have missed more of the gardens and grounds. It would have also annoyed me and was pricey to have upgraded our tickets. The only bit inside I would have liked to have seen was the Churchill exhibition but as we had in the last couple of years done the War Rooms in London it would have probably gone over the same areas.

The journey home took us very cross country until we eventually hit Milton Keynes with its endless number of roundabouts. The weather also turned and there was a lot of rain which make driving more difficult. We were making reasonable time until we hit the A14. Then we were stuck in a queue due to roadworks 6 miles ahead of us. It added another hour to our journey home. We past the time singing to the radio which managed to keep my annoyance down to acceptable levels.

And so our first post covid trip came to an end. It had been ’such fun’. It was more expensive to holiday in the UK than I remembered. We also decided that Hotels in the UK are OK for a night or two for us but not any longer. Holidaying under restrictions didn’t help as putting a mask on to leave your room is a real pain. We prefer places where we can sit out with a private balcony or such and just chill. Hotel rooms we don’t find conducive for that and two of our rooms had only had one chair in them. The number of times we talked about wanting to sit by our own pool in Florida was telling. Still a change is as good as a rest and we had visited some places we had wanted to go to for some time. Only 4 weeks until our next weekend away and only 7 weeks until our next full week away.

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