On our first full day in London we went on a day trip to several places that were an hour or two outside of the city. We rented a car and Amber had her first experience driving on the left side of the road. (There was a lot more driving to come and she handled it all like a champ!)
First stop: Blenheim Palace
Blenheim (think "blen-im") is an incredibly impressive place. It's not a royal residence; instead it was and still is the home of the Duke of Marlborough.
While most of us Americans aren't familiar with the Dukes of Marlborough, Blenheim is connected to a famous man most of us do know--Winston Churchill. His father was a younger son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough, so Churchill didn't inherit the estate, but he was part of the family. Blenheim was still a really important place in Churchill's life--it's where he was born and where he proposed to his wife.
The room where Winston Churchill was born.
The entrance hall ceiling is quite impressive!
Tapestries in the palace commemorate the first duke's military victories (he got Blenheim as a reward for his service as a general).
Blenheim is not far from the Cotswolds. We had read about how picturesque the Cotswolds are, but we didn't have time to truly do them justice. We spent the afternoon driving through cute little towns and rolling countryside full of sheep.
We stopped at a church in the little town of Stow-on-the-Wold. It has a unique side-door that is considered a possible inspiration for Tolkien's door to Moria. Nothing definite, but it certainly does seem reminiscent. :-)
Another town we stopped in was Bibury. I discovered it while googling for Cotswolds pictures (I know that's so original isn't it?). It's tiny and adorable! This row of little houses is classic.
Amber shows how little this window is. :-)
Cygnets in the little river that flows through Bibury. They were so cute!
Last stop of the day: Oxford.
We didn't really have time to see the city, but Christina and I very much wanted to stop at the Eagle and Child, the pub where C. S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and the other Inklings used to meet. It's still primarily a pub, not a tourist attraction--there aren't long lines or crowds of tourists. However, they have a nice collection of memorabilia and quotes around. We got to have dinner in the Rabbit Room where the Inklings met!
At the end of the Rabbit Room above the fireplace, are photos of Lewis and Tolkien, as well as a note the Inklings wrote to the landlord, stating that, "The undersigned, having just partaken of your ham, have drunk your health."
They had these fun little chalk signs around.
Two happy Lewis and Tolkien fans!