Friday, March 6, 2009

Ages old practices

After the last couple of days wandering through the small places in the Cotswolds, we had decided to take a look at something large and pretentious - Blenheim Palace. This Palace is the family home of the Earl of Marlborough and his family which includes the Spencers and the Churchills. Famous english names in the quasi-royal set. We first wandered some around the outside looking at the man-made lakes and the Column of Victory set in a field in the direct view of the house. And like 'The Dish' in Australia, the column is set in the middle of a sheep field, today complete with heaps of contentedly grazing sheep.

But I had a surprise for Michael en-route. Not far off the A44 lies a Neolithic monument - The Kings Men Stone Circle at Rollright. This ancient circle has been a place of worship for thousands of years and the posy of fresh flowers left Whispering Knights Burial Grave indicates that some still believe the power of this place.

While a national monument, this Circle has not been 'touristified' like many others. It sits adjacent to a back road with a simple push gate and frail fence the oly seperation. The circle itself is not fenced and indeed there are not even signposts from the main roads at either end. But we are not the only ones who are looking and in the hour we spent wandering through the stones reflecting on practices old there were three other couples also visiting. But despite the presence of others, this place radiates a peace and harmony with the surrounding land.

Then it was off again heading toward Oxford and Blenheim Palace. The Palace sits on the edge of the town of Woodstock - a small market town just a few miles from Oxford. The town has narrow streets and even today when there are few people at the Palace, traffic is chaotic. I have no doubt that during the height of summer that it must be a terrible place for the locals trying to go about their daily lives. The Palace is not cheap to visit, costing £29 ($AUD 63.50) for the entry for the two of us. And of course, no photos in the Palace!

You walk through gates more 'royal' than those that hang outside Buckingham Palace that set the tone for the whole building. The history of the development of the estate and the building of the Palace is fascinating (I'll leave you to Google that) and the main entry hall holds some of the world's great treasures of statues and tapestries. But on the whole, the collection of memorabilia shouts of pretention and the arrogance of lesser people made good through luck and the hard work of their forefathers.

So I was and wasn't surprised when after going through the Winston Churchill exhibition and most of the State Rooms (what on earth is that supposed to mean?!) that Michael said "Come on lets get out of here, I've had enough." So we quickly walked through the remainder and then went out through the Water Garden that even at the ed of winter is still an amazing and beautiful construction with its ponds and fountains and then finished our visit with a late lunch in the Café.

The sausages and mash and Beef and Vegetable Pie both served with mashed potato, smashed carrots and swedes, and greens was delicious but to add insult to injury the questionnaire for improvement on the table hadne question relating to value for money that asked on a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is best value for money had boxes for 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5 and below. See what we mean about arrogance!

Michael had made the comment walking through, of how one photo of the young Winston Churchill looked remarkably like our friend Ken. And we wonderd what Ken, a history teacher and (if we may say so) a right Brit (even though he is all Australian) would make of Blenheim.

We then set off for Gloucester Cathedral but realised part way along the drive that or arrival would coincide with the closing time so we slowed our pace and headed off the main road towards the Roman Villa at Yanworth near Cheltenham. We had driven past the sign to the Villa a number of times on the back roads over the last couple of days. As luck would have it, being the off season it has shortened visiting hours and we have missed this too today. And unluckily for us, we won't have time to re-visit it now. So we amble through the back roads into Cheltenham.
Neither of us is hungry for dinner with such a late lunch. Tonight Anne and Mick make contact on Skype - yooho! and we gather more info about the area we will be visiting tomorrow which is very close to where they once lived in Upton-Upon-Severn until the late 1980s. Then Amanda calls in to tell us that there is a major cyclone headed down the Qld coast so a quick call to Gen to give her some advice and make sure she is OK. Will those of you local to her keep an eye on her please.
So after a day in the area tomorrow we are off to Wales and the Caerwys Cottage at the Caerwys View Holiday Park. More later guys - stay safe.

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