Sunday, July 31, 2005


I got to go sightseeing today courtesy of my friend and coworker, Ian. A few weeks ago, while he was in Colorado, I made the offer of being chauffeur on a tour of my area of the country. This trip, Ian returned the favor. It has been a full day and quite the adventure.

We met at the hotel this morning for the Full English Breakfast and then set-out toward the northwest. Our first stop was Thame in Oxfordshire. Thame is a lovely little picture-postcard town that has some quaint architecture. The town hall was quite nice as was the art gallery. The art gallery was, in fact, a re-purposed church.

We parked the car in a short term lot and walked around a bit. It was quite nice even if the skies threatened rain the entire morning.

Our second stop was Blenheim Palace. Blenheim Palace is the estate home of the line of the Duke of Marlborough. The Duke was awarded his title and the estate for meritorious combat against the French. Notable events to take place on the estate include the birth of Sir Winston Churchill and the proposal of Sir Winston to his (then future) wife. The thing that struck me most about the place was the amount of conspicuous consumption the place embodies. There are tapestries in one room alone that (in terms of today's money) could have purchased my whole home a dozen times over. The sum total of that one room's contents could have bought the entire development I live in! I guess it is like they say: "If you've got it, flaunt it!"

Our next stop was in Oxford. Here we parked, walked around in the town a bit and had Cornish Pasties for lunch. Walking around Oxford was pretty interesting. We went around through a couple of the college campuses and wanted to go through the public market square, but it was closed and locked on Sundays so we didn't get the opportunity. I may have to try to spend some more time in Oxford the next time that I am in the United Kingdom. It seems the kind of place that one could spend days exploring. The picture of me to the left was taken at Christ Church College. I could not understand why there were so many small children touring the grounds of the college and was musing on it with Ian; saying how the kids must be bored to tears being brought here by their parents on holiday. Turns-out some of the buildings on this campus were used as locations in the Harry Potter films. Now the presence of children makes perfect sense.

The next place we stopped was Didcot. This was a late addition to today's list of ports of call. Ian mentioned that we would be passing by a rail museum and that is run by a bunch of rail enthusiasts and is dedicated to the heyday of the Great Western Railway. We got the idea to visit the Didcot Railway Centre while visiting Blenheim Palace. There was a miniature railway that ran from the house to the remote gardens and while looking at the train, we saw a cute little towheaded kid pulling his father along. The kid was in a state of extreme excitement at the thought of seeing a choo-choo.

As the pair bounded past us, I said to the father that you just never grow out of it. The man looked at me and agreed. It was clear that it was only British decorum that was keeping him from showing every bit as much excitement as his son was displaying. When I heard that there was a train museum right on the path we were taking, the decision was made.

Our final stop of the day was Windsor. Of all of our stops today, this was the most tourist-laden venue. The streets were packed with tourists and the shops were tackier and pricier than any we had seen elsewhere.

Ironically, the best view of the castle is actually afforded from the motorway approaching the town of Windsor. The castle is so big and imposing that it can truly only be seen from a distance. Once in the town, the massive walls of the castle are all you can see. You really can only take in its scale from afar. Thus I was surprised at the number of tourists taking pictures up the massive walls of the castle. I asked Ian about this and he told me to wait. It was a strange juxtaposition! The castle is right on the flight path for Heathrow. The pictures that they were taking was of planes barely (or at least appearing to be barely) clearing the tops of the towers.

Having seen so much and been so many places, I am sore and ready for sleep. I think I will post this, get one quick beer, take a long hot bath, and get to bed early.

I hope your day was as full of marvelous experiences!

Don Bergquist - 31-July-2005 - Hampton Court, United Kingdom

No comments: