This morning we visited the church and graveside of Sir Winston Churchill. Churchill is buried in the family plot along with the other Spencer-Churchill members.
Our next stop was the baroque masterpiece Blenheim Palace, ancestral home of Winston Churchill.. With its 2,000 acres and 187 rooms, Blenheim Palace eclipses even the British monarchy’s homes. Our tour included the palace state rooms filled with stunning portraits, elaborate furniture, and the famous Blenheim Tapestries.
Our scenic drive back to Oxford took us through the beautiful Cotswold villages riddled with old stone mansions, thatched cottages, and atmospheric churches. We enjoyed lunch in the charming village of Stow on the Wold. The scenery is stunning. Upon our return to Oxford the ladies took a couple of hours to explore the shops and stroll along the pedestrian mall.
Dinner this evening was at the Eagle and Child pub. A delicious meal; crab pot with fresh homemade bread, chicken and chorizo pie, delectable desserts. Definitely not low fat!
Overnight: Galaxie Hotel, Oxford
Today we visited the village of Downton – the real life village of Bampton, about 20 miles west of Oxford. This charming town stands in for Downton and the exteriors of the church, the pub, the library, and various houses were used for scenes outside of the Downton Cottage Hospital, the Post Office, and Isobel Crawley’s house. Springtime is lovely here with the many types of shrubs and vines brimming with colourful flowers. We took a stroll through the village, into the church and chatted with the locals about life in Bampton during the filming of Downton. One lady was thrilled to share her experience of being an extra on the set of the Lady Mary’s wedding.
This afternoon we wandered beneath the ‘dreaming spires’ of Oxford, one of the world’s most famous university cities. The group divided into three so we could find places to accommodate us for a quick lunch. Our group ate at Chequers Pub. I had a delicious Mac and Cheese with an Oxford Ale. We toured the elegant Christchurch college buildings and grand quads which date back to the 1100’s. The great hall was the inspiration behind Hogwarts great hall in Harry Potter. It’s one of the nicest cafeteria style dining |’ve ever seen. The church is spectacular. This great hall also inspired Lewis Carrol as he wrote Alice in Wonderland. He created characters from those he found in the stained glass windows and a small doorway became related to the rabbit hole. the buildings and grounds of the college are absolutely stunning!
Dinner was at The Eagle and Child pub. Great food! Delicious split pea and watercress soup and a choice of either fish and chips or tasty chicken and chips.
Overnight: Galaxie Hotel, Oxford
This morning we left London and traveled to Salisbury via Stonehenge, Britain’s most iconic archaeological site dating back to 2500 BC, the stone age. Many people have examined the stones and the surrounding area. There are ancient burial mounds, evidence of central living area and the stones which are like a big calendar. The small blue stones are in the centre and the larger carved stones come from a distance away. They assume they used logs to roll them to the area where they now stand. The compelling ring of monolithic stones is a mystical place and a reminder of Britain’s ancient history.
The scenery of the countryside is stunning, Rolling hills of bright yellow canola, green winter wheat and farms with sheep, cattle and pigs. The sky is bright blue today with light fluffy white clouds. The weather certainly has been on our side.
Salisbury, a walking tour to the Cathedral showcases the architectural timeline from medieval walls to half-timbered Tudor townhouses to Georgian mansions. We visited the stunning Cathedral, one of the finest in Britain. There’s an ancient clock that works on a pulley system, there’s no face or hands. It simply rings the church bells when it’s time for prayer. The Cathedral dates back to the early 1200’s. Salisbury is a charming town with fabulous architecture and beautiful gardens that are blooming with tulips, flowers, scented bushes.
We visited the beautiful 18th century Queen Anne style Mompesson House, the location for the 1995 film Sense and Sensibility. There is a large collection of 18th century furniture that has been donated to the gallery. Unfortunately we weren’t permitted to take photos inside. We ended the day with a nice stroll about town then a pint of beer at the local pub.
This evening we enjoyed dinner at The New Inn, a short stroll from our hotel. The dining room was at the back of the restaurant overlooking the gardens. The service was great and the food excellent.
Overnight: White Hart Mercure Hotel, Salisbury