Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fly Me to London: Blenheim Palace + Charlie & The Chocolate Factory


Camera, Lights, Action at Blenheim Palace and Charlie & The Chocolate Factory at Theatre Royal

There’s certainly plenty to see and visit in London. So it’s really important to plan your visit to London wisely. One can spend a week in London and still cannot fully cover London’s hot spots as well as more local places. We spent five days in London and managed to cover only a few places. Now one can sign up for the Hop on Hop off Bus Tours but that won’t let you really fully experience each place. It is still good enough to catch London if time is limited. For this trip, we didn’t visit all the usual top spots in London. Instead, we visited some places that is less in the limelight but definitely should be on your list of places to visit in London! 

So check out Visit Britain website here and plan your trip with all the information needed...

*picture credit from www.luvfeelin.com

Thanks to Visit Britain, we also had a Visit Britain Blue Badge guide, Henrietta Ferguson to take us on our tour. Blue Badge guides are the official and highest guiding qualified tourist guides of United Kingdom. They are recognized by Visit Britain and local bodies through UK as Britain’s official tourist guides. We sure had lots of fun with Henrietta as she was so knowledgeable and took us on an amazing experience on what London has to offer. During one of our days, she found out that we haven’t had a taste of fish and chips and immediately made arrangement to take us to Borough Market to try one of the best fish and chips in London!

*picture credit from here

While traveling in London and one is in need of transportation, one can also engage chauffeurs services from Chirton Grange Ltd. We travelled in style and comfort from services from Chirton Grange to Blenheim Palace, Chelsea Stadium and a few more places. They offer various vehicles to cater to your needs. Contact details available below. Our chauffeur was Kevin Willis, whom we made friends with at first sight. He was such a friendly and warm guy and yet professional and humorous. We also had Wifi in the vehicle so it was another added bonus in using Chirton Grange. Our first ride with Chirton Grange took us to Blenheim Palace…


BLENHEIM PALACE
  

“As we passed through the entrance archway and the lovely scenery burst upon me, Randolph said with pardonable price ‘This is the finest view in England.’ Looking at the lake, the bridge, the miles of magnificent park studded with old oaks, I found no adequate words to express my admiration and when we reached the huge and stately palace, I confess I felt awed.”

Lady Randolph Churchill’s first impression of Blenheim Palace in 1874



A World Heritage Site as designated by United Nations, Blenheim Palace was the gift of Queen Anne and a grateful nation to the 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill and his wife, Sarah Churchill, for his great victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. It is also the only non-royal non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace was quoted by Wikipedia. Queen Anne appointed architect John Vanbrugh to build Blenheim Palace but the palace was later finished by Nicholas Hawksmoor and cabinet-maker James Moore under supervision from Vanbrugh after some fallout between Queen Anne and Vanbrugh as well as other reasons.

Blenheim Palace architecture was English Baroque as Vanbrugh’s aim while designing the palace was to house a national hero and celebrate England’s new supremacy over the French. He utilized all mass ornamentation, symbolism and drama of the Baroque as well as adhering to contemporary conventions of symmetry and formality.


Britain’s Prime Minister and a national hero, Sir Winston Churchill was born in Blenheim Palace to Lady Randolph Churchill on 30 November 1874. Sir Churchill also had his nuptials to Clementine Hozier at the palace, two of his most important decisions in his life as quoted by himself. When Sir Churchill passed away, he was not buried in the palace but nearby in Oxfordshire which you will see later in this post.




At sight, it was simply breathtaking! Acres of land of green backed by lots of trees in all of Mother Nature’s colors and the skyline, the first impression had me echoing Lady Randolph Churchill. Despite it being windy that day, I couldn’t resist capturing the beauty of Blenheim Palace and its land in the many clicks of my camera.


At the entrance of the East Gate, we saw The Clock Tower Arch with the lions of England and the cockerels of France by master craftsman, Grinling Gibbons.





The courtyard alone was huge and as I walked through it, Blenheim Palace came into sight in full glory. My photos did not do full justice to the palace as one should definitely visit the palace for the full effect of its majestic sight. While we were at Blenheim Palace in early November, there was the US conceptual artist, Lawrence Weiner’s exhibition on displayed at the palace, hence the word ‘Within A Realm of Distance’ on the front facade of the palace entrance. More Lawrence Weiner’s pieces are also displayed inside the palace.


As I enter the entrance into The Great Hall, I was in awe of the 67 foot high ceiling of the hall. The Great Hall is one of Blenheim Palace’s architectural glories and features Sir James Thornhill’s painted ceiling and Gibbons’ elaborate stone carvings. The hall was decorated with the holiday festive display.


As I glance at the ceiling of The Great Hall, Thorton’s impressive piece depicted the story of Marlborough kneeling to Britannia and proffers a plan of the Battle of Blenheim.



We signed up for the Lights, Camera and Action tour and our guide, Charlie Edmonds, was very knowledgeable and informative, providing us more than an in depth details of all the history as well as the many events that took place at the palace. Charlie also told us that many movies were filmed at Blenheim Palace, starting from the latest most recent James Bond film, Spectre starring Daniel Craig as well as Mission Impossible Rouge Nation with Tom Cruise. There were also more movies also filmed at the palace such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Gulliver’s Travels, Entrapment, Cinderella, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and more as advised by Charlie.

We went through the state rooms one-by-one, many impressive and well-maintained. Lots of painted pieces framed in elaborated ornamental gold frames and huge tapestries are displayed in many state rooms of the many Marlboroughs who had lived in the palace for generations.


Consuelo, 9th Duchess of Marlborough by Ambrose McEvoy



The Green Drawing Room – the largest piece featuring George Spencer, 4th Duke of who succeeded to the title in back in 1758. On the left is a portrait of Caroline, 4th Duchess of Marlborough with her baby on her knees.


The Red Drawing Room – featuring the large piece painting of the 9t Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and their two sons by John Singer Sargent.



The Green Writing Room – the famous Blenheim Tapestry depicting Marlborough in his hour of triumph after the Battle of Blenheim.




The Saloon – one of the most gorgeous rooms in Blenheim Palace is the state dining room. Used by the family once a year on Christmas Day, a majestically setup dining table set with lots of gold and silver flanked by plush royal red velvet chairs was simply mesmerizing.



The ceiling of The Saloon was painted by French artist Louis Laguerre.


Silver centerpiece of Marlborough on horseback after his victory at Blenheim.


First State Room – featuring more large pieces of tapestry and paintings.


Second State Room – the largest piece of painting above the chimneypiece is portrait of the Sun King, Louis XIV as well as a huge Bouchain tapestry.

  

Sir Winston Churchill’s Birth Room


The Long Library runs 180 feet and is considered to Nicholas Hawksmoor’s finest room in Blenheim Palace. It has been used as a hospital ward during the First World War, a dormitory for Malvern Boys School in the Second Word War and has been the venue for Sir Churchill Memorial concert every year.


At the library are is the statue of Queen Anne by John Michael Rysbrack.


More Lawrence Weiner’s exhibition were on displayed on the ceilings of the library.


At the end of the library is The Willis Organ, built by Henry Willis & Sons in 1891, installed by the 8th Duke and his American Duchess. Standing tall and beautifully kept, it was even said that one of the organ pipes was mistakenly taken by a young guest only to be returned much later by the young guest’s mother when she found out.


The Chapel – has a huge and dramatic monument of the 1st Duke and Duchess with their two sons. The Duchess chose to portray her husband as a Roman dressed general to depict a victorious hero. The Duke and Duchess’s tombs is behind the monument.

What I didn’t manage to cover was the parks and gardens at Blenheim Palace. To really see Blenheim Palace well, visitors should expect to spend a full day there as it is really huge.


We also had a quick lunch at Oxfordshire Pantry and a visit to the gift shop, The East Courtyard Shop at Blenheim Palace.


For lunch, I had my taste of the British classic Scotch Egg. The lunch café also serves hot and cold sandwiches, salads and soups.


I was also really tempted to buy the many souvenirs and gifts item available at the gift shop.


Blenheim Palace is definitely a must-visit when in London as it is full of history and well as a major location for many films. Its amazing architecture cum interior is equally impressive.



After our visit to Blenheim Palace, we proceeded to visit Sir Churchill’s grave at St Martin’s Church, Bladon which was only a few minutes away from the palace. It was another site to visit as the whole area was serene with lots of greens around. It was Sir Churchill’s request to be buried there in the family plot at this church near Woodstock where he reunited with his wife.





BLENHEIM PALACE
Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1PP,
United Kingdom 



BLUE BADGE GUIDE SERVICE
Henrietta Ferguson
Tel: +44 (0) 2078 355 668



CHIRTON GRANGE
Innovation Centre Medway,
Maidstone Road,
Chatham, Kent ME5 9FD
Tel: 01634 823347 / 07725 467263






CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY


When in London, one simply must catch the many musical productions at the theatre district, West End of London. We had the honors of catching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in the evening after a quick dinner at Masala Zone Indian Restaurant.


We also roamed the streets of London after dinner and took a short walk to the theatre, passing some other famous theater and landmarks along the way…




Theatre Royal is the oldest theater in London that is still in use till today. Originally built in 1663, it has been rebuilt and redesigned many times over the years. The theatre auditorium features over 2,000 people. It has four levels and the only theatre with two Royal Boxes. There are several rules and regulations with children under 5 years old are not allow to be admitted into the theatre.


Before entering the auditorium, one can visit the many gift shops as well as snacks shops at the entrance for food, drinks and souvenirs.


There are bars serving drinks on the various levels of the theatre.



The auditorium is amazingly beautiful and worthy of a visit to catch its latest musical production of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.




Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic. It is directed by Sam Mendes and features choreography by Peter Darling. It is about a boy, Charlie, who wins a golden ticket that will change his life forever. With his golden ticket, he visited the famous Chocolate Factory run by an eccentric chocolate maker Willy Wonka.

* picture credit to www.jommakanlife.com


As camera and filming or photos are not allowed in the theatre, one should just relax and simply enjoy the musical production. It was an unforgettable experience, definitely not to be missed when you’re in London!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tickets are available over the phone, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane Box Office telephone number is 0844 412 2707. One can also purchase the tickets online. The official website is www.reallyusefultheatres.co.uk/theatres/theatre-royal-drury-lane/



THEATRE ROYAL DRURY LANE
Catherine Street, London, WC2B 5JF
Tel: 0844 412 2707



VISIT BRITAIN





This trip was made possible by Malaysia Airlines, UK Visit Britain and Dorsett Shepherds Bush London. All stories and comments in my posts are purely derived from my own experiences through the trip.

*Next up, more sightseeing places to visit in London!

London Stories


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