5 June 2012, Gail’s trip log

Another great day. Our plan was to go to Oxford and then on to Stratford. Our guide, Charlie, arrived at 830 and off we went. The weather was overcast, but not bad. After a quick stop for loo and Starbucks, we continued on – traffic not bad – it is still a bank holiday here. We arrived in Oxford about 1015 and it was pretty empty. I was surprised to learn that Oxford does not have a campus – it is a collection of colleges, all with their own buildings. And of course they are mostly very old since it is the oldest educational institution in England [founded in 1231]. We parked the car and walked across cobblestone streets through a complex of passageways towards our first objective – the Bodelian Library. Charlie explained that students are taking final exams – some oral – and the confetti and streamers around where we parked are thrown by friends and family when exams are passed. There were some people walking around in gowns, some with red hoods down the back. Anyway, we arrived in time to take a one hour guided tour of the library at 1030. It was a small group of around 10, and it was fantastic. We got to go up and see where the oldest manuscripts are, some chained down, in Duke Humphreys library. Our guide was an Oxford grad and was very knowledgeable and we really enjoyed the whole tour. Charlie then took us through the Dickens exhibit and then on to New College to see the complex of buildings, including a fantastic chapel. Each college has its own chapel. Next we went to a pub for lunch and a loo stop. We watched the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee lunch on the telly as we ate. Before leaving Oxford we stopped at a varsity shop and bought sweatshirts – which I’m sure we’ll need on the next cruise. We decided to skip Stratford in the rain and go instead to nearby Blenheim Palace. It was a good decision. Just as we got to Blenheim the rain started in earnest and fortunately we were inside for the next 1 ½ hours touring the palace. It was very impressive – birthplace of Winston Churchill – it had many stunning items and historical artifacts. It was not horribly crowded, although much more so than Oxford. After Blenheim, Charlie drove us around some of the Cotswolds and we saw a few small villages and much beautiful scenery. It rained off and on, but not too bad. We then headed for London. We made a quick stop about halfway and we picked up some premade sandwiches and chips to bring back to the hotel so we didn’t have to go out to get dinner. The traffic back into London was much better than expected. We watched a recap of the days Jubilee celebrations activities while eat. Tomorrow on our own.

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