After residing in Eastern Europe for two years, where crumbling castles litter the landscape like... well, litter, such structures don't hold the same curb appeal for me as they once did. My one and only castle (OK, palace) experience in the UK was so disappointing I never again repeated the experience. Until now.
With the rain and cold scuppering our more ambitious travel plans, we decided on a day trip to Blenheim Palace, just outside of Oxford. The accidental birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, it looked impressive enough from the outside to warrant a visit. So we piled into the car and a mere 50 minutes later (thanks to The Man's Cairo-style driving), we drove through the gates and up to a toll-booth. Turns out that despite being a UNESCO World Heritage site -- an entry fee of a mere £17.50 must be paid. Sulkily, I handed over the wad of bills.
But despite my sulkiness, I have to admit it was worth the price. The architecture of the palace is stunning, and the interiors do not disappoint. Filled with paintings and tapestries and with a grandiose library and dining room, it's a veritable feast for the eyes. The gardens are groomed to within an inch of their lives, and even the man-made lake looks idyllic.
The Italian Gardens.
After taking in the grounds, running through the second-largest hedge maze in the world and scaring the butterflies, we headed back to London -- £17.50 poorer but richer in culture and heritage.
In the centre of the hedge maze.