Blenheim Palace

18 05 2012

The final day of traveling Dad and I did before returning to London was to Blenheim Palace. Located about 8 miles out of Oxford, this is the enormous home of the Duke of Marlborough, but is perhaps more famous for being the birth place of Sir Winston Churchill.

While the palace itself is well worth seeing, it certainly is not the main attraction when visiting. The gardens, landscaped by Capability Brown, are simply spectacular. The whole design is based to look natural but is actually set up to provide stunning views of the palace and the other areas around the 2100 acres. Fortunately the weather held up enough that Dad and I were able to walk around the majority of the property and get a few decent pictures of the gardens and the palace (attached below).

Unfortunately I was not allowed to take pictures inside the palace but it was certainly worth the visit, if only to see the room dedicated to Churchill. As is well chronicled, Churchill was quite an eccentric fellow and the palace certainly shows this. One of my favourite examples was a copy of a letter Winston wrote to his father about losing a watch he had been given as a gift. Churchill was requesting money from his father, but it was not to replace the watch, but rather to pay workmen to reroute the river that he had dropped the watch in!

Blenheim Palace was well worth the day trip and I’m glad we decided to see it! It was not on our original plan but with the unreliable weather we felt it was the best option for the grey, overcast day.

Overall the 10 days Dad was here were outstanding. It was great to catch up and see family, but also to have new experiences and to get out of the busy city of London for a few days. I look forward to the next time I get to see Dad, in Prague later this summer!


The Oxford Adventure

18 05 2012

The second part of Dad’s trip was a bit nostalgic for both of us as we went to Oxford for a few days. As some of you may remember we lived there from August of 1998 to July of 1999 so the visit was filled with memories for both of us. The purpose of this trip was purely pleasure as we arranged a walking holiday around the city and the county of Oxfordshire.

Notwithstanding the weather being typically British (ignore what I said a couple months ago about great weather!) we made the most of our time together and set out on a 16 mile walk on day 1. We began in the small town of Abingdon and walked back towards Oxford along the River Thames, a beautiful walk in the picturesque English countryside, only briefly interrupted by dirt bikers, other walkers, and the occasional British pub. A perfect day, and a great opportunity to catch up with Dad, although he did not let me forget the fact that I quickly fell asleep when we returned home and he was able to stay awake despite being almost 40 years my senior and jet lagged!

Day 2 in Oxford was centered around the big Oxford v. Cambridge boat race that takes place every year. It just so happened we were in Oxford for the event so we thought it was a good excuse to go to the pub at 230! We spent the morning walking around the outskirts of the city, stopping by the two places where we lived some 14 years ago, and then ended up watching what turned out to me one of the more eventful boat races of all time (if you didn`t see it click here to watch the highlights). Although it was not the best race I have ever seen it will certainly be one I will never forget.

After spending some time in Oxford it really began to feel familiar again on day 3 as we walked through the town so we could catch the bus to Chipping Norton and walk in the Cotswolds. While the other two walks we did were beautiful in their own right, the Cotswolds were stunning. The views of the countryside seemingly went on forever and the scenery felt like something out of a classic English novel or poem. This walk ended up being close to 20 miles and was perfect until the last mile when I managed to step in deep puddle of mud! With my shoes covered in mud we managed to trek to the pub for a much deserved pint before heading back into Oxford.

We spent one more day in Oxford, and I will discuss that in detail in my next entry. It was wonderful to get back to a city that was a significant part of my childhood and to spend more time appreciating the countryside, something I neglected to do as a 14 year old!

Attached are a few pictures from the Oxford Adventure,

Cambridge Conference

18 05 2012

Over the two week Easter vacation I was lucky enough to be visited by my father. It was great to see him and to catch up on all the goings on back home, as well as showing him my new life in London.  It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows my dadthat we spent the majority of our time in the academic havens of Cambridge and Oxford. The next few entries (I promise they won`t be 2 months apart) will focus on Dad`s trip and what we managed to do during that time.

As is very typical with Dad this was not a true vacation but rather a bit of a working holiday. This was hugely beneficial for me as it allowed me to join him at the British Association of Canadian Studies (BACS) conference at Cambridge University. I had been with Dad to conferences before but had never actually attended the lectures and been a full participant so was very eager to have this experience.

This conference in particular had a bit of a peculiar dynamic as it focussed around Canadian studies and I found myself learning a lot about Vancouver while sitting in a classroom at Cambridge University. I think this was a fortunate break however as I was a bit more familiar with the topic than the atmosphere and environment that surrounds an academic conference.  It was certainly a bit of an adjustment listening to highly regarded professors presenting a paper after spending  7 months teaching lessons to kids in Hackney and Brixton!

Despite the initial `culture shock` of the first day in Cambridge I thoroughly enjoyed the conference. The keynote speaker on the second night was none other than Gordon Campbell, former Premier of BC and current Canadian High Commissioner to the UK. He gave an interesting, albeit rather politically motivated, talk and then was bombarded with questions about the current state of British Columbia. I was fortunate enough to discuss a few issues with him personally as he stayed for a dinner put on by the High Commission.

Following the Conference Dad and I made a quick visit to Emmanuel College where Dad introduced me to a professor he knows there Dr. Alan Baker. It was a very surreal experience sharing a bottle of wine with a Cambridge professor in his office, overlooking the gorgeous gardens of the University. An opportunity not many supply teachers in London get to have! It was then onto the bus, back to London and on to the next part of our journey.

Attached below are some pictures I took while in Cambridge,

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