Day trip to Blenheim Palace and Woodstock town via Oxford
Woodstock Travel Blog› entry 2 of 14 › view all entries
It really is such a nuisance when things don't go the way you planned. In this case, not even my fault. But Evans Evans suddenly pulled the plug on me. I really wanted to see the Wolds, but going through my Frommer's book, it looked like a hassle getting their on your own using the public transport. Plus, the good villages (Bibury, etc) are not the easiest to get to by public transport, whilst the commercial market towns are pretty easy (but those aren't the prettiest). Besides, with the exorbitant prices of National Rail, I really didn't want to lose too much money and go to a place that I'll regret later. So I decided, well might as well carry on to Oxford, and onwards to Blenheim Palace, at least keep up with half of what I was planning on seeing anyways.
I couldn't sleep very well the previous night - I kept waking up (I was also dead hungry), munching on some protein bars I'd brought with me from the US, and finally at 5am, I walked up to a newsagent by the end of the road and bought the essentials - eggs, bread, butter, milk and Onken Yoghurt.
Not related to my trip report I know - but I reckon this Onken Biopot deserves a shout out. Amazing! I loved the little mango pieces they throw in, not to mention it's texture... it's not as thick as American flavoured yoghurt is, it's a bit liquidy, it's just really really good. Onken is definitely my new Thorntons!
Anyway, got done with breakie, and headed to Paddington station by 730am. Bought my ticket to Oxford, the return train ticket was 48 GBP (Wow!), and the onwards journey took forever.
I arrived Oxford around 10 am, the station was your typical English railway station, and I made my way to catch the bus that offers service to Blenheim Palace. I met 3 Americans -2 had flown in from Portland and another, a Professor was living in Bristol for the last 3 years. It was good talking to them, esp the Bristol Professor. She's toured the UK quite a bit and gave me great advice regarding Cornwall area.
The double decker bus service to Blenheim was fairly picturesque, classic travelbook England that I don't really need to talk about much. The bus reached Blenheim Palace by about 1115 am and I was on my way through the long long gardens and fields towards the castle. At the outset, the palace appeared very Hampton Court / Culzhean Castle-ish - same greenery, same ambience, same rich family feel.... This palace has been touted as Britain's answer to Versailles Palace. It's from the Baroque era, and is the home of the 11th Duke of Marlborough, who is related to the first duke John Churchill. Queen Anne gifted Churchill this palace when he defeated Louis XIV's troops in a village named Blenheim, by the banks of the river Danube.
I loved the look of the palace I must say. The architecture presents lots of photo opportunities, the inner courtyard has really been sculpted very well as the photos show. But for me, the undoubted highlight was the "Blenheim Palace: the stories untold..." experience. It's really a very nice idea, and very well done. One of the maids, Grace Ridley is the virtual maid who takes us through different rooms and unveils different stories about the palace and its residents. I really liked the concept, very well executed. This "tour" takes about 40 minutes or so. From here, it was well past noon and I was hungry. So had a vegetable hotpot at the palace cafteria, very well done. And WOW at the setting - the rsnt looks into the Roman gardens, it's amazing. The care and detail that's gone into the design of the garden is JUST spectacular.
However, I felt the palace also had a few pitfalls - for starters, 13 GBP entry fee is way more than what it has to offer. As one walks through every room or corridor of the building, it's all a bit deja-vu. This p(a)lace reminds one of Hampton Court Palace, Leeds Castle and Culzhean Castle. Having said that, I thought it lacks a certain grandeur, both internally and externally when compared to the aforementioned places. Second, it's a BAD idea to block off the most beautiful part of the gardens to visitors. I don't know if it's a permanent thing or just for the day that I visited, but eitherways, bad!
I wandered around the various gardens, got all kinds of strangers to take my pictures, walked to the lower level to the fountains, pretty much hung around for about 1 hour here before I started walking out to the corridor, towards the maze.
Woodstock is a nice little town. I felt the roads were narrower than most British roads. It looks really lively though, and the city centre is very well contained. it was about 3 pm by now, so I started making my way back to the bus stop. I caught the bus to Oxford, I ran into the same 3 Americans I met on my way to the palace. I got down a couple of stops before the train station and Oxford and walked around the city. Boy, it's crowded! And I don't know if it was crowded in a nice way (like say, Leicester Square or oxford Street in London).
I caught the train back to London and reached Paddington at about 5pm. More on that in my next entry...