Saturday, June 06, 2009

London: Blenheim Palace and Hamleys Toys

The day after our visit to Windsor we took the train to Oxford, an hour outside London, and then boarded a bus for the 20-minute ride to Blenheim Palace, home of the Dukes of Marlborough and the birthplace of Winston Churchill.

The bus deposits visitors at the gates of the estate, and then there is a long walk down the drive... the Palace:

Click any photo to enlarge and examine the details.

The blue pennants appeared to be temporary "set dressing" for filming of GULLIVER'S TRAVELS taking place at Blenheim that week:

Blenheim is frequently used as a movie location, as mentioned in my review of THE YOUNG VICTORIA (2009); Blenheim's beautiful Long Library appears in THE YOUNG VICTORIA, along with the grounds.

The grounds are beautiful:

Unfortunately the hour or two we would have spent walking the grounds was the only spot of really bad weather we had on the entire trip -- it started raining and was windy enough to turn umbrellas inside out! We thus didn't venture very far afield.

The palace was built by Queen Anne for John, 1st Duke of Marlborough, in thanks for his victory at the Battle of Blenheim.

The Column of Victory:

The grounds:

Blenheim has an extensive display on the life of Winston Churchill. The magnificent building includes paintings of past Dukes and Duchesses by John Singer Sargent.

In the museum gift shop I chose a very interesting softcover dual biography, CONSUELO AND ALVA VANDERBILT: THE STORY OF A DAUGHTER AND A MOTHER IN THE GILDED AGE by Amanda Mackenzie Stuart:

Consuelo was the 9th Duchess of Marlborough. There are striking portraits of her on display. Unfortunately, she does not appear to have had a very happy life, having been forced to wed the Duke.

For more photos of Blenheim there is a very nice slideshow on YouTube which is dated a few weeks before our visit.

When we returned to London we made a quick shopping stop at Hamleys Toys:

Hamleys is 249 years old:

The store features prominently in Elswyth Thane's EVER AFTER, the third book of Thane's seven Williamsburg Novels, which are my all-time favorite books.

With its multiple floors of toys -- not to mention a candy corner -- Hamleys is quite a sight and is packed with throngs of tourists, as this escalator photo hints:

After inspecting the DR. WHO selection and leaving with a Sonic Screwdriver, we made our way through the crowds of shoppers in Regent Street...

...and eventually ended up at a branch of Bella Italia, a very nice Italian chain which has restaurants scattered all over London. (In fact, there are two branches a block away from each other at Leicester Square. Both were packed.) It's a nicer version of Olive Garden, with outstanding service. We ate at two different locations during our visit and were impressed each time.

Previously: Day One (London museums); Hampton Court Palace; Kensington Palace and the Albert Memorial; The Tate Modern Collection and St. Paul's Cathedral; Windsor Castle and the Windsor Castle Royal Tattoo.

Coming soon: The Tate Britain; The Imperial War Museum; and more on Disneyland Paris.


Blogger CLM said...

Loved the pictures of Hamleys! Hope the whole trip was fun.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Constance! We had a wonderful time. I always think of my fellow Thane fans when I see a location from the books like Hamleys. :)

Best wishes,

9:23 PM  

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