Today we went to Oxford to meet our friends Dr. Francis & Penelope Warner. Dr. Warner is a retired Oxford don, poet, playwright, musician, composer (and other things I'm sure I've forgotten) and was the last student of C.S. Lewis at Oxford. He also taught Ian McKellen, who I have now seen naked (OK, OK, it was as King Lear). Most Americans know Sir McKellen as Gandalf or from X-Men. Francis and Penelope run a program for international students, including those from Hendrix, in Oxford. Penelope is a near-saint, who handles the administrative end of the program and keeps cookies on hand at all times for homesick students. In addition to all the other things Dr. Warner does, he is also very good at entertaining five-year-olds with magic tricks.
We went with the Warners to Blenheim Palace, the only non-royal palace in England. It was decorated for Christmas and was spectacular. We toured the State Rooms and also did the new "Untold Stories" exhibit, which gave a more human touch. While the State Rooms tour was very interesting (even for Abby), I will admit I got a little confused with which Duke of Marlborough was which. I also got a little lost in the history behind the palace, for which the tour guide seemed to assume that all the visitors had a working knowledge of the Wars of the Spanish Succession, in which the first Duke of Marlborough commanded the Allied Forces in an important victory over the French in 1704. Queen Ann gave him Blenheim as a little thank you. The "Untold Stories" exhibit did help to sort it out.
These pictures, by the way, were taken at about 5 p.m., which gives you a pretty good idea of the length of days in England in December! It was cold, windy, and intermittently rainy today, so we only did a brief tours of the gardens. I'd love to come back in the summertime!