Friday, July 16, 2010

Exam, Fish & Chips and Churchill's Birthplace

Thursday morning started with an exam over the material up to this point in the course. After everyone finished, the group walked to the bus station to ride a city bus to Blenheim Palace. It was a double decker (of course!) and the ride took about 30 minutes. When we arrived, we walked into the town of Woodstock and went to a fish and chips place that was recommended to us by the Shakespearean scholars who visited earlier in the week. It turned out to be a great recommendation. The people who worked there were extremely friendly to the surprise group of 27 people who showed up at their restaurant. Fortunately they had enough seats for us as it started to pour rain as soon as we arrived. Most people had the fish and chips, but there were other great options too.
On my wait to the restroom, I discovered the secret to these delicious chips - heaps of bags of real potatoes. This place did it the old fashioned way and cut, soaked and fried the potatoes themselves with nothing frozen! I couldn't resist including the picture of the potato bags below and of course in true English style there was a pair of Wellington boots right in the bottom left of the picture.

We then walked to Blenheim Palace which has a long history, but is most well known now as the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. The rain continued as we walked to the palace, but our group has been here long enough they knew to come prepared!
We had a tremendous guide who offered all sorts of wonderful information and even tailored the tour for our students. She wove in great information on how the palace functions as a business and talked about the financial, marketing and logistical operations of the site. Unfortunately pictures weren't allowed inside the palace, but it was truly amazing. It still functions as a residence and currently, Sir John George Vanderbilt Spencer-Churchill, the 11th Duke of Marlborough lives in the palace. Yes, the names are all those you're familiar with. Vanderbilt as in the American Vanderbilts who are connected to the lineage by marriage, Spencer as in those related to the late Princess Diana and of course Churchill. We were told the Duke, referred to as His Grace, was in the day we visited. The two signs were the flag flying over the palace and his black Range Rover parked out front. His is the only vehicle allowed inside the palace grounds. Because it still functions in part as a residence, the palace all felt very alive. The rooms were all still fully furnished and artwork and artifacts were abundant. After the tour, the rain cleared and the group enjoyed the grounds on their own before heading back to Oxford.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a good day. It's great that the guide talked about the business operations of the palace!