UPDATE. As this posting was being prepared we heard that our friends, Wayne and Pat Young, had lost their home to the wildfire in Bastrop, TX. Such a tragedy. They were away, traveling in their motor home, at the time, but are now back in Bastrop, helping others who lost their homes. Our prayers and thoughts go out to them.
Some background. The Youngs lived in Ventana del Sol in Cedar Crest and were responsible for recruiting us to move out there. They knew a neighborhood house would be just right for us and they knew it would soon be available.
Just SE of the Cotswolds region is the Blenheim Palace, a world heritage site, among many accolades, and also the birthplace of Winston Churchill. And it was outstanding! Wretched excess done very well, and I mean that as a compliment. (By contrast, I've seen the Biltmore Estate in NC a couple of times and think just the opposite. It's interesting: a Vanderbilt, Consuelo, became the Duchess of Marlboro, and thus the mistress of Blenheim, but I don't know if the Biltmore is patterned in any way after the Blenheim Palace. Blenheim is about 300 years old; Biltmore about 100 years old)
Here are some internet pictures:
More pictures here.
No photography is allowed inside, so here are a couple of our outside shots:
Susie's comment about these statues was, At Caesar's Palace, the statues talk.
You can tour the living quarters of the current Duke of Marlborough and we did. He and his wife and staff live in one wing of the Palace. The "State Apartments," examples shown above, are in the center portion and other wing of the Palace. However, back in Churchill's youth, it was used as a residence. Young Winston liked to sleep in a room adjacent to the library.
We also took an animated tour led by the ghost of a maid. She escorted us through some of the dramatic events in the Palace's history.
After our Blenheim visit we drove a few miles further to Oxford and checked into a Travelodge. Cost us more than a B and B with a lot less charm and service, but we went for convenience - the GPS found it for us and we were pretty sure it would have a room. However, we had a heck of a time dealing with the double roundabouts to find and enter the parking lot.
One-lane roundabouts are great. Multi-lane roundabouts are more of a challenge if you don't know what lane you should be in. Some times there are road numbers on the lanes, but you have to be quick to recognize where you need to be and then get there. Otherwise, it's go with the flow and find a place to turn around and try again. I got adept at creative turn-arounds. These complex roundabouts (as they're known mathematically) are the only places I got beeped at. English drivers must keep one hand on the horn, because they're very quick to beep - in a helpful manner, not as criticism.
We had tentatively planned to head from Oxford to southern England for most of the week, mostly in and around Bath, then finish our English days in London the following weekend. But, as we thought about it, we decided we'd rather go on to London from Oxford, spend four nights there, then fly home. Actually, we're going first to NYC to visit Mandi, Paul, and Kaci. And 9/11 played a role in our thinking - thought we'd rather be in NYC for the 10th anniversary than in London. And, if there was some terror attack or incident on that date, we'd rather be back in the USA and not possibly stranded here. Etcetera, etcetera. Had had about enough of roundabouts and cute villages, too.
On the way out of Oxford, we looked up a couple of C. S. Lewis locales, found one of them (more darned roundabout confusion) - his home, The Kilns. It's a private residence, but here are front and back pictures, what you can see over the hedges. The outside staircase leads to Lewis's living quarters.
Our friends, Shirley Smith and Shirley Miller, are C. S. Lewis scholars and groupies and have visited England often. They recommended the Montana Hotel in London, so we made reservations there. Good price and good location. We drove to Heathrow, found the Hertz return site easily, and turned the car in (whew!). Then we took the tube to the Gloucester Road Tube Station, near the hotel, lugging our luggage through a light rain to the hotel. London, We're here!
Next: Susie and Rob do London.
Susie and Rob