Exploring the Cotswolds
The Cotswolds are beautiful: honey colored stone houses with slate roofs, roses in full bloom, flower boxes bursting with wildflowers, and the endless sound of doves cooing. Even though the weather was not on our side this morning, we set out to explore this picturesque part of England.
Less than 30 minutes away from where we are staying in Chipping Camden is Blenheim Palace. It is England's largest palace and the home of the Duke of Marlborough who actually lives there today. It is situated in a 2,000 acre park like setting with forests, lakes, gardens, fountains, and even a miniature railway for children. There was a very nice exhibition about the life of Winston Churchill who was born in the palace, caught his first fish there, and even created tents with umbrellas on the vast grassy areas when he was seven. "Protector of Europe's freedom" it proudly proclaimed over the door. On display we saw uniforms and letters he wrote to his mother and his wife. "He was Prime Minister and a great man," I heard a mother tell her young daughter who was studying a family photo.
The main part of the palace made of honey colored stone is stunning with a huge gravel courtyard. We headed up the stone steps to the entrance where umbrellas were lying on benches and pressed up against walls. "How thoughtful of the museum to provide loaners," said a woman. "I'll take this pink one with the elephants." Just as I was about to say I didn't think they were loaners, she dashed down the steps with a child's umbrella.
We took a guided tour of the palace. We saw room after room with tapestries, elegant clocks, massive portraits, Meissen China, and carpets and furniture from France. At first I thought our guide was a bit of a stuffed shirt, but he interjected his stories with humor and even admitted he is an extra in the latest Tom Cruise film Mission Impossible 3 that just came out and was filmed there one night. It was a formal and extensive tour. Right as the guide was saying,"This fine tapestry of the Duke was hand sewn in Belgium," a cell phone rang with a hip hop ring tone. A couple in front of me shook their heads in dismay and glared at me compelling me to tell them it wasn't mine. I think the man was a little embarrassed when he pulled his own phone out of his pocket to check it and it was indeed his phone. Flustered, he quickly stuck it back in his pocket without turning it off and it actually rang again.
Behind the palace is a private Italian garden, a hedge maze, a rose garden, fountains, and gravel paths to the water's edge of a large man made lake that wraps around part of the property. "Imagine the ability the first Duke must have had to envision the palace and the lake. This was all created by hand," said an English couple visiting with their two young grandsons. Looking back at the sweeping view of the palace, we couldn't agree more.
Dinner tonight was at a Mediterranean restaurant. It was in a beautiful intimate setting right here in town and all the tables had tiny candles. This is such a friendly and pretty place. I think I could live here!