On Monday, July 6th, we dropped Margaret off at the airport, as she had to return to the states that day. After hugs goodbye, we made our way to Blenheim Palace, nicknamed “the Versailles of Great Britain”. Two summers ago while studying at Leeds University, I took a class entirely devoted to country houses, so needless to say, I was very excited. Blenheim is exquisite: its glorious exterior elicits wonder which is only transferred upon arrival into the grand foyer and state rooms. We even got to learn more about the man of the hour, Winston Churchill, as he was cousins to the Duke of Marlborough — Blenheim’s resident — and even proposed to his beloved wife, Clementine, on the property. Despite extraordinarily high expectations, Blenheim’s beauty left me in awe, plus we learned quite a bit about the house’s role in British history. Along with its namesake Battle of Blenheim during the War of the Spanish Succession, Hitler ordered a no strike policy on the house because he hoped to live there once conquering Britain (of course, that meant that MI5 set up shop here during WWII). It was a lovely day at a beautiful spot in the world, and I’m grateful I got to behold the ultimate country house.
Our education continued the next day in Oxford, where we toured the magnificent university and ancient town. Despite some car trouble (because things can never be easy in life, you know), we made it just in time for our scheduled walking tour of “campus”. The university is spread out throughout the city center, with beautiful gothic buildings sprinkled on every corner. Our guide was wonderful, as he knew everything about Oxford and provided many great facts and stories. One fun fact that I especially appreciated was the constant awareness of Oxford’s rival with Cambridge: our guide referred to it as “the other place”, which could only make me think of the Aggies and our opponents in Austin. Whoop for friendly competition! I really enjoyed exploring the city while we walked to the Thames because it brought back so many memories of Leeds. Oxford truly reminded me of Leeds because it is filled with so many young, eager people attending university while still maintaining its historically rich culture. We even took a pilgramege to the Eagle and Child pub, where CS Lewis would often converse with JRR Tolkein. The invigorating atmosphere of such intelligence mixed with the extraordinary architecture and town center made our day in Oxford one to remember.
On Wednesday, July 8th, we partook in what many would describe as the geekiest thing one could possibly do: The Doctor Who Experience. Now, I will admit that I am not a big Doctor Who fan (not that I dislike it, just haven’t watched it enough to get hooked). After this adventure, though, I think I’ve had a change of heart. Located in Cardiff, we (or rather Dad), drove two hours to Wales in order to visit this Mecca of geekdom. On a sidenote, my Dad deserves the MVP award because he has endured many, many miles of driving on the left side on roads barely wide enough for one car. It has been exhausting, frustrating and downright terrifying at times, which is why he deserves a round of applause for being such a trooper (and for not getting us in a wreck). After driving us safely to Cardiff, Dad, along with Mom and Claire and I, entered into a world of Time Lords and Daleks, stepping right into the action. The Doctor Who Experience is more than just a museum; the first part of your tour begins with a Disney-esque (yes, I’m using this as a comparison again) walk through Doctor Who’s world. Aimed at smaller children but still fun for everyone, your tour group is assigned a special task by the Doctor himself, which requires us to find crystals in order to fight off bad aliens….something along those lines….Anyway, I’m always one to appreciate theatrics, so I quite enjoyed our journey into the Tardis, fighting classic villains and ultimately saving the day. Claire and Mom geeked out at the museum (they’re the big Doctor Who fans of the family), and we went on to enjoy much of Cardiff and the historic buildings of St. Fagans National History Museum. On our drive home, we stopped at the Tinturn Abbey ruins, which are so hauntingly stunning it’s ridiculous, and had arguably the best meal of the trip at The Anchor Inn pub next door. We even drove through the Forest of Dean, for its beauty and simply because it’s where Hermione apparates the gang in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was a wonderful day and totally worth the trek (even if the driving was scary).