Special Six: Overnight in Puncak

My friend, who was meeting up with me in Jakarta for the weekend, wanted to head out of the city on an overnight trip. I was not keen to travel far so suggested Puncak or Bandung. We settled on Puncak, after seeing the paragliding activities on offer.

These are our special six experiences in Puncak:

(1) Insane traffic from Jakarta to Puncak and back

Even though we read about complaints regarding the terrible traffic on the road to Puncak, during weekends, we decided to head there thinking that an hour added couldn’t matter much. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

Jakarta to Puncak 3.JPGAfter an hour or so, on our drive from Jakarta to Puncak, our car stopped due to traffic just after we passed a toll booth. Stretching ahead was this long queue of vehicles that seemed to go all the way to Puncak.  Since the traffic did not seem to be moving, the driver checked with the traffic police who  said that the road to Puncak was closed for 5 hours, as the highway had been made one way in the opposite direction. We decided then to turn around, as we were fortunate that we were just near an exit point, and decided to go to Bogor, which was close by and explore the place before continuing our journey on to Puncak in the afternoon. Once we reached Bogor, the driver said he could drive us straight to Puncak but through interior routes that would take a longer time. We were fine with it as anything would beat waiting in traffic for 5 hours.

I am not sure that I see the logic in making a highway one way for that many hours, especially on a weekend, when the traffic is heavy in the direction of Puncak from Jakarta. Anyway, our drive through Bogor and the interior roads took us through little settlements and villages, which was a much better view than the highway route. I was intrigued by the impromptu traffic policing by local residents, through the areas we passed through. There would be community members at key junctions, turn off points, pointing out the direction to turn and in some areas, there were even road blocks set up and which would be lifted only when the driver gave a few coins to one of the people by the block. In one way, it was a bit of a community service since people would otherwise get lost in the maze of the settlements and it would take time to keep inquiring about the direction each time. This was a streamlined approach, which generated a little income (around 1000 – 2000 IDR, roughly USD 0.07 – 0.15 per vehicle that passed through) for the people doing this voluntarily.

We reached our hotel in Puncak around noon, well before the time that the traffic block would have been lifted.

(2) Staying at Puncak Pass Resort

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After checking in and walking around the resort a little to check out the place and its views, we decided to have some lunch at the restaurant.

The rooms were comfortable, with great views of the valley.

(3) Yellow and pink mini vans – the local public transport

After finding out that the local public transport was the yellow and pink mini vans, we decided to use that, whenever we needed to get anywhere in Puncak. In the beginning, it was difficult to flag down a van and there were no prescribed stops. I told Aiying that we needed to confidently stop the vehicle, like some of the locals I had seen. Which meant, basically stepping on to the road bravely and holding out your hand firmly instead of hesitantly. It became a running joke between us whether we were being confident enough to stop a van.

Once, the hotel staff helped us flag down a white van, which they said was also public transport. It was more packed than the yellow mini vans. And, I had to sit with two other passengers in the front seat and wondering if the door might open during one of the turns along the hill road.

(4) Walking around Gunung Mas Tea Plantation 

We reached Gunung Mas, without any event, and walked down the road to the ticket booth and paid the entrance ticket of IDR 15,500 per person. There was a tea center just after the ticket booth, but there was hardly anyone there. There were some people seated outside, asking us if we wanted to take a motorbike to tour the plantation or a horse ride. We rejected both and walked along the road towards the tea factory and office. We passed little cottages, that one could probably book if they wanted to stay at the plantations.

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At the office, when we asked about any recommended walking paths, they gave us a map for a 4 km and a 9km walk. They also said that it would be better if we came in the morning, as the walking guides would be there. We decided to go ahead and go along the path, till we got tired. It was a bit of a warm afternoon and we were quite thirsty so decided to have some iced tea at the little café, infront of the office, before continuing our walk. I tried out the lychee iced tea, which was a bit too sweet for me.

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After the tea, we continued along the route marked in the map and passed through a tiny street of colourfully painted houses. We stopped to chat with one of the women, who was painting her house. We were only able to gather from the brief conversation that she was painting a batik motif on her house walls.

GM20.JPGI wanted to know whether they worked in the tea plantations, plucking tea, or whether they were more senior staff at the plantation. Since I only remembered a few words of Bahasa Indonesia, a language I was fluent in when I was a child, and the people we spoke to didn’t understand English, I wasn’t able to learn more about this.

GM17.JPGAfter walking down to the end of the street, and not seeing a path to continue, we realized we might have taken the wrong turn along the walk, and turned back.

(5) Offroad adventure at Gunung Mas:

We saw a four wheel drive with an adventure board pass us, and we stopped it to ask the driver about the offroad adventure. He took us to the starting point of the tour, so that we could discuss with the people in charge. They quoted an inflated amount of around 300,000 rupiah per person. We tried to bargain it down to 300,000 rupiah for two persons, instead of one. They refused and we walked back to the office to check out any tours they organized. They had a banner at the front, advertising offroad tours, camping and paragliding activities, and when we asked about the cost of the offroad tour, the senior person at the office replied 100,000 rupiah per person. We asked to take the tour and they said they would drop us off at the starting point of the tour. We found ourselves being brought back to the people, who had quoted 300,000 rupiah per person. They tried to fudge it off, saying that it was the ATV tour that was 100,000 and not the offroad tour. However, the senior officer from the office was put on the phone and after his conversation, they agreed to take us on the offroad tour at 300,000 rupiah for two persons.  GM14.JPGGM12.JPGGM8.JPGGM4.JPG

The offroad tour was the best part of the visit to the tea plantation. And, it was a lovely way of seeing the tea plantation, especially when standing at the top.

(6) View point at the paragliding site (and paragliding, if you are lucky)

The next morning, I woke up to see darkening skies outside and I realized that we might not be able to go paragliding on this visit.

View from hotel 2.JPGWe decided to go for breakfast and then see whether or not the weather would improve, by the time we finished.

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Taking the yellow van, we went to the site. Once we climbed up the hill, we saw that there were others there taking in the view and photos.

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The view of Puncak, from the top of the hill, was worth the climb up. We were however disappointed when told that there would be no paragliding activity that day and there had been none for the past three days, since the wind was too strong. Aiying was upset because the activity operator had not mentioned this, as we probably would not have even visited Puncak if we had been told that there had been no paragliding activity for some days and the likelihood that the situation would be the same during that weekend.

Anyway, overall, I had a lovely time in Puncak, experiencing these special six with a friend.

 

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Special Six: Taste of Indonesia

During my brief weekend visit to Jakarta and Puncak in November, I tried out a lot of delicious Indonesian food. Here are some of the six special treats I enjoyed, which I would recommend to anyone visiting the city.

(1) Martabak Manis

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There was a Martabak Boss outlet, just across the hotel I stayed at in Jakarta, and my first evening, I went there for a snack. From the variety of martabak manis available, I chose the Original Martak boss, with chocolate, peanuts and cheese. As I mentioned eating in and not take out, I expected to be served a slice of the steamed cake. However, this huge platter was what I was served. The slice I tried out at the outlet was delicious and warm. The rest of the cake, I had it packed and my friend and I tried to finish some of it, during the rest of our trip.

(2) Bubur Ayam

A quintessential breakfast porridge in Indonesia, this is a rice porridge cooked in chicken broth and served with strips of chicken, peanuts and other delicious topping. I enjoyed both times I had this for breakfast during my visit.

(3) Mie Rebus

I tried this noodle dish in Puncak and it touched the spot on a cool afternoon. The noodles is served in a gravy like broth, and topped with greens and crispy shallot.

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(4) Bakmi Special

Having lived in Jakarta during my childhood years, soup noodles was a key part of our food habits. I tried to find a noodle soup that came close to the taste I used to love in my childhood and came across a close fit at Bakmi GM, with their Bakmi chicken special and hot chilli sauce.

Bakmi(5) Nasi Goreng

This was another childhood favourite food of mine. However, I didn’t quite come across the taste I used to enjoy back then, though I tried at a few places. Though it was good, it always seemed to lack something… sometimes, it was because it was less spicy and sometime, it was because something seemed to be missing in the combination.

Nasi Goreng 2.JPG(6) A Padang feast

When my Indonesian friend, Dewi, invited me out for dinner and said she would take me out to try some delicious Indonesian cuisine, I didn’t expect to be overwhelmed with a feast. At the restaurant which served Padang cuisine, as soon as we sat down, the staff brought out an array of around 20 dishes and a bowl of rice. Dewi explained that while we were served the entire array of dishes cooked that evening, we could pick and choose the dishes we wanted to eat. I decided to follow her choice and ended up trying out pop chicken, petai beans (stinky beans) with chilli, cassava leaves and tender jackfruit curry.

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And, of course, I had cups of great Indonesian coffee throughout my stay.

What’s your favourite Indonesian food?

Jakarta – revisiting my childhood places

Indonesia was the first country I visited, outside of Sri Lanka, and it was at the age of four. So, with all the new sights and tastes that my four year old self absorbed with delight, and continued to absorb for the next four years that we were there, I have such nostalgic memories of Jakarta.

It was where I started kindergarten.

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It was where I moved on proudly to Grade I, delighted that I was joining my siblings at the school proper.

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It was also the time that I discovered that I loved to dance and enjoyed music. While I didn’t pursue either beyond my childhood, it meant a lot to me then.10I remember this particular dance that I participated in, not only because I have a photo to remind me of the instance, but because it was something that I pleaded so much to be a part of, and I don’t think I have ever pleaded for anything that much ever since. It was some international children’s cultural event, hosted by Indonesian authorities, and the embassies had been invited to participate with a cultural performance from their countries. I remember that the embassy had requested a Kandyan dance troupe, visiting Indonesia at that time, to train a group of Sri Lankan children (ages 10 – 15 years) for a traditional dance performance. Unfortunately, I wasn’t within the selected age group but I wanted to be so much a part of it, that I kept making my requests so much so that my mother and the other mothers, who were organizing the dance and costumes gave in (probably because I was being too much of a pain) and created a special and independent role for me in the group dance, that would allow me to dance while not disturbing the group dance dynamics of the older children.

2This photo was at the opening ceremony of the event, where all the children from all the countries were on stage and then we had to give the flowers to the people seated in the front rows. As much as I loved being a part of the dance group, this basically was my first and last major public dance performance.

When I finally left Jakarta after completing Grade III, I promised myself that I would one day return to the country of my childhood.

9However, decades passed and I was not able to make the trip back. Until last weekend. It was an impromptu visit, prompted by three factors – a friend who had been inviting me to go on a trip with her, the direct flights introduced by Sri Lankan Airlines to Jakarta and the convenience of free entry visa on arrival.

While my main interest was in revisiting places of my childhood to see if there still remained some semblance to the past, I also wanted to spend some time with my friends. So, I chose to do the visits to childhood haunts on my own.

Hiring the reliable Blue Bird taxi on two separate occasions, I had a lovely drive and fortunately, on both these occasions, I escaped the traffic that Jakarta is now so famous for.

Jalan Cik Ditiro, the road where we lived, still existed though it seemed more tree lined than it was before. Also, the houses all seemed to have put up high walls and security systems, as opposed to the low walls of the 80s. I did locate the number of our house and did ring the bell, hoping that it was the same owners. Lia, the daughter of our former landlady, was a friend of mine and I remember my first pet was actually Lia’s pet – Derry, a cute puppy, which she was generous enough to share with me. No-one answered the bell and I decided to go on to my next place.

Cik Ditiro 1I next went to my first school, Gandhi Memorial International School. I learnt that the main school had shifted to a new location but that the primary school was still at its old location at Pasar Baru. After asking for permission, I was allowed to visit the auditorium and different floors, but not the classrooms as there was an examination going on.

The auditorium looked the same, except that the writings on the wall had been removed as had the fans. It was also nice to see my Grade III classroom.

Corridor Grade 3.jpgOne of my memories of my primary school are the special days that the school celebrated: Gandhi Jayanthi (October 2), Children’s Day (November 14) and Teacher’s Day. Especially teacher’s day used to be interesting with the senior students taking over teacher’s roles and coming to our classes to take lessons.

After the visit to GMIS, I went over to the Sri Lankan embassy. There too, despite the embassy being at the same premises, the immediate change observed was the high walls and the huge security gates.

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The interior looked similar, with the little grass lawn with the flag, where the independence day ceremonies used to be held. The main hall, where the gatherings used to be held, had been decorated differently but the same oil lamp still took center stage in the hall.

In the evening, I went for a drive around the city, and especially asked to drive by Monas, the national monument which had a park, where we used to go in the evenings during weekends.

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As it was raining, I decided not to go into the park area without an umbrella. Since several people, including the taxi driver, suggested I should visit the old part of the city – Kota Tua, and I did not remember ever having visited it in my childhood, I decided to go there as well. On the evening I visited, there had been some concert or public gathering that had just finished in the old square, so there was still quite a crowd. I didn’t linger there but I could imagine it being a lovely square to explore in the morning, without the crowds.

Kota Tua 2.JPGBesides these few places that made up a large part of my childhood memories, Jakarta in 2017 has changed a lot from the 80s. Now, a bustling city with highways packed with private vehicles, high rise buildings and shopping malls crowding out the city, it is no more the city that I remember and recognize but it was still lovely to revisit and see the changes that have been wrought there. And, remembering my childhood and the child I was back then.

 

 

 

Thanksgiving on the Big Island

With it being very hectic at my work-place, I haven’t had the time to travel at leisure nor write about past travels, for quite some time. This weekend though, I had the rare day when time and my writing mood were in sync, so decided to reminisce about a lovely trip I took during my time in Honolulu, back in 2012.

Over Thanksgiving break, some of my friends and I had decided to take a trip over to the Big Island and found a lovely bed and breakfast place by the beach.

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These were my special six experiences on that island trip.

(1) Relaxing at Hale Maukele:

Hale Maukele was a lovely, laidback bed and breakfast place, right on the black beach in Pahoa, and close to the volcanoes national park. We enjoyed long morning and evening walks on the beach, long cosy chats over delicious home-made breakfasts on the patio, overlooking the garden and the beach. The host, and her friend, was very welcoming and even treated us to beautiful Hawai’ian songs in the eveningDSCN2849.JPG

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(2) Exploring the Thurston lava tubes:

Walking through the lava tube, formed centuries ago, as red lava flowed through was a unique experience.

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DSCN3064.JPG(3) Chain of Craters trail drive:

The chain of craters trail drive, recommended by the volcanoes national park visitor center, had lots of interesting scenic lookout points all the way down to the sea. The Lua Manu crater, Mauna Ulu and the Hōlei sea arch were special points along this drive.DSCN3093.JPG

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DSC08455.JPG(4) Thanksgiving dinner at the Crater Rim Café and a night view of Halema’uma’u

It was a memorable thanksgiving dinner, at the Kilauea military camp dining facility, followed by a visit to the overlook at Jaggar museum, to see the Halema’uma’u crater, at one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

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(5) A drive through forest roads and a dip in a thermal spring

As one of my friends had an international driving license and I was a pretty good navigator, we had fun exploring new roads that took us into forest paths. I remember we decided to turn off into a farm road that said there was a waterfall, if we took a path through that road. However, our car got stuck in the muddy trail and some of us had to walk all the way back to the farm to get help.

DSC08492.JPGAfter the muddy adventure, we took the coastal road back and came across some thermal pools and decided to take a dip.

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(6) Memories at Mauna Kea:

Mauna Kea is renowned for its observatory and I had been keen to visit the place, during our stay at the Big Island. Mark, a friend of our host, offered to drive us to Mauna Kea as it was quite some distance from where we stayed and the little car we had rented out would not do for the mountain roads, besides our not being familiar with the route. It was one of the best and most memorable excursion of the trip, even though we didn’t get to go to the summit as the authorities had decided to close off access, due to bad weather conditions and low visibility. We did go up to the visitor center, watched some of the information videos there and walked around the center a bit, before driving back down.

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It was still a beautiful, scenic drive into the heart of the Big Island. Our special moment occurred when we drove back down the mountain and reached the highway. There was a vehicle parking area and we decided to take a break there, before the long drive back to our bed and breakfast. The skies seemed to have cleared and there was a full moon shining down on us. There were no other vehicles in the parking spot, though there was the occasional vehicle zipping past on the highway. One of my extrovert friends, decided that it was the right place and time to dance under the moon. She turned up the truck radio and coaxed us all into dancing. It was a wild, impromptu and fun moment, especially for an introvert like me.

The trip to Big Island was one of my favourite adventures during my time in Hawai’i. I felt a connection with the rugged and scenic landscape, more so than other islands I had visited in Hawai’i, and I do hope to revisit the beautiful island some day soon.

[Linking this to Faraway Files #51Faraway Files #51]

Suitcases and Sandcastles

 

Special Six: Highlights of Oahu

Hawai’i, for me, is a place of natural beauty, blue skies and seas and a people with a beautiful culture.

In this post, I’d like to highlight six special places on Oahu island, that I enjoyed very much during my stay there and would highly recommend to anyone travelling to Hawai’i.

  1. Kahana valley

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During orientation week at East West Centre, we were taken to Kahana valley on the North shore. We first went to the beach area adjacent to the valley and did some beach cleaning and then drove to the state park area.

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While it is a state park and nature reserve, some land has been allocated to native Hawaiians for indigenous plant cultivation.

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The staff member, who had organized the trip, also organized a traditional Hawaiian potluck lunch for us, which his family and relatives cooked.

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As I was new to the East West Centre culture of bringing your own lunch box for potlucks and parties, so as not to use disposable plastic ware,  I had to make do with leaves to eat my lunch out of. I was quite fascinated by the dishes I tried out that day – a porridge like stuff called ‘poi’, which looked like the north Sri Lankan ‘kool’ except that there was no flavour added to poi, not even salt or sugar. I learnt that poi is considered the quintessential Hawaiian meal made out of taro plant (called ‘kalo’ in Hawai’ian). The native Hawaiian folklore considers the Hawaiian people are descendants of the taro plant so it is a very much revered plant. After lunch, we were taken to the taro patch of the staff member and he showed us the plants from which he had extracted some taro for our lunch.

2. Waikiki beach

Waikiki is a place that any traveller to Honolulu is bound to visit. It is famous for its beach. It was a place that my friends and I often visited.

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However, there are lots of lovely places around the beach area that is lovely to visit as well. Kapiolani park, with a view of the Diamond head crater, is a venue for festivals and picnics and I enjoyed a few, including the Okinawan festival.

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Another place at Waikiki that I enjoyed visiting was the Aquarium. Opened in 1904, it is the second oldest public aquarium in the United States. I saw the national fish of Hawai’i there – the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, which is not the fish below, by the way.

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3. Coconut Island

Since I became very much interested in marine life conservation from the environment week discussions at the East West Centre, I decided to organize a visit to Coconut island for our cohort. The island is a marine research facility of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology of the University of Hawai’i.

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Groups, who would like to visit the island, need to book a prior appointment as visits can only be scheduled and there needs to be staff to guide you around the island.

4. Hanauma Bay

Hanauma bay is a lovely nature preserve and a marine life conservation area, which some of my friends and I decided to visit during our last weeks in Honolulu.

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5. Byodo-In

One of my cohort members was a resident of Hawai’i and one weekend, she invited another friend and I to go with her to a couple of places she treasured in Honolulu. One of the places we visited with her was the Byodo-In, a replica of the 900 year old temple in Japan, and opened in 1968 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to the island.

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We wrapped up our visits with brunch at my friend’s favourite pancake house.

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6. My favourite cafes 

Since I enjoy trying out independent cafes, I did try out some during my stay in Honolulu. Two cafes stand out in memory and I would recommend them both to someone, who really enjoys their coffee.

Morning Glass was a place I was introduced to when two leading Hawai’ian social entrepreneurs/ social business leaders I had wanted to interview suggested the Morning Glass as their favourite coffee place to meet up. It is a lovely coffee shop near East West Centre, with great coffee, and a great place to do some work or meet up friends or work acquaintances.

The second cafe, that I very much enjoyed, was Peace cafe, which is a vegan food cafe. A vegan friend and former colleague from my Stockholm teaching year had wanted me to meet her parents visiting Honolulu and this was the cafe, they introduced me to as their favourite cafe.

Have you visited any of the special places that I have mentioned above? Which would you like to visit?

[Linking this post to The Weekly Postcard and Faraway Files #42]

Travel Notes & Beyond
Untold Morsels

Weekend in Maui

I had the opportunity to spend five delightful months in Hawai’i, as an Asia Pacific Leadership Program fellow at the East West Centre back in 2012. During my time in Honolulu, a close friend from my undergrad years, who lived in mainland US, made plans to visit me in Hawai’i with her family. She suggested Maui and selected a hotel on the beach.

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The highlight was catching up with her and getting to know her twin toddlers better, who were more excited about tent canvases and lamp shades, than the sunset or beach.

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We did enjoy short excursions outside the hotel we were staying. Her husband, who was also a batch-mate from undergrad years, had rented a car and we decided to drive along the famous road to Hana. Our stopping points were more dictated by the needs of the toddlers, anticipating whether they needed to run around a bit or get a snack break etc. And, we didn’t go beyond the Garden of Eden, as the kids were quite tired after our walk around the garden.

One of the points we stopped at was the Ho’okipa lookout, where we watched surfers in action.

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The Garden of Eden stop was great, because while it was a beautiful garden to explore, it also turned out to be fascinating for the little ones and allowed them to run around as they wished.

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Keopuka rock overlook

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As we drove back to the hotel, we saw dark clouds on the horizon and anticipated a heavy rain.

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However, fortunately for us, back at the hotel, there was hardly any sign of rain clouds and we experienced a beautiful sunset as we had dinner at the restaurant on the beach.

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Have you visited this beautiful island? What was your favourite part of your visit or what would you like to explore, if you visit it for the first time?

[Linking this post to The Weekly Postcard and Faraway Files #30]

Two Traveling Texans
Suitcases and Sandcastles

Special Six: a weekend at Blenheim Palace

Ever since I saw a full feature magazine spread on Blenheim palace in my pre-teen years, that is the image I envisioned whenever I thought of a perfect palace. However, it was only during my most recent visit to the UK that I finally managed to visit the place. While my friend and I discussed, where to take her daughter for a special 13th birthday celebration during my visit, Blenheim palace popped up in my mind.

We spent friday night in Oxford and took the bus to Woodstock on saturday, after walking around Oxford university in the morning. After checking in at the lovely Pollen B&B in the village, we walked the few minutes to the side entrance of Blenheim palace. There was a notice on the outer wall, requesting fishermen to be quiet when they arrived within the palace premises.

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We decided to explore the palace that day and some of the parkland the next morning. These were the special six highlights of our weekend at Blenheim.

  1. The landscaped garden, especially the lake area

The lake immediately catches your eye, as you enter through the side gate, or when you near the palace, if you enter through any other gate. The lake in question, with the partially submerged bridge, is man-made and is one of Capability Brown’s(considered England’s greatest gardeners) legacy to Blenheim.

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The palace was built by the first Duke of Marlborough, in early 18th century.

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During our visit, the palace was decorated for Christmas and we learnt that though there were many different tours on offer, only the exhibition and the state rooms tour was open to visitors that weekend.

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2. The Winston Churchill Exhibition

The  exhibition focused on Sir Winston Churchill’s life. It was during a dinner at the palace, that his mother started experiencing labour pains and was ushered to a nearby room. The room, where Winston Churchill was born, is the start of the exhibition. Another section of the exhibition that caught my attention was about his marriage, and how he met his wife and that he proposed to her at Blenheim palace.

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Room where Winston Churchill was born

3. The stateroom tours

The staterooms tour started in front of two key portraits. The first was a family portrait of the first Duke of Marlborough and his family, including his eldest daughter who became his heir through Queen Anne’s command in the 18th century. The other portrait that the tour guide pointed out was the portrait of the woman whose marriage to the 9th duke of Marlborough in 1895, helped recover the palace and its estate from heavy debt. She was Consuelo Vanderbilt, an American heiress, who was unhappily married to the Duke before they divorced and she remarried a French pilot. Her autobiography, Glitter and Gold, is available at the palace gift shop.

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Consuelo Vanderbilt

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The Red Drawing Room, is one of the first rooms that one visits and the huge picture at one end is the family portrait of the 9th Duke of Marlborough and his family.

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Red Drawing Room

Each of the state rooms was packed with portraits and tapestries, from across the centuries. The Green writing room had the Blenheim tapestry, one of the tapestries in the Victory series and commissioned by the first duke, which depicts his victory at the Battle of Blenheim.

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The Green Writing Room

The third state room, was the state bed chamber, and therefore glowed in gold. There were temporary art installations, in each of the state room, as part of an art exhibition. We didn’t get most of those art installations – like the one, which was a heaped bundle of rags in the middle of a state room.

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Third state room

My favourite of the state rooms was the long library. I thought it did not seem quite like how a library would have been envisioned and I learnt that it was originally designed as a portrait gallery but later housed the 9th duke of Marlborough’s collection of over 10,000 books.

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Long Library

On the day we visited, it was being organized and decorated for an evening function at the palace.

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4. Afternoon tea at the Orangery

As part of the birthday celebration of Nikki’s birthday, we decided to have afternoon tea at the Orangery, which looked onto the private Italian gardens of the palace and which is not accessible by the public.

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Nikki and her afternoon tea

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Private Italian gardens at the palace

5. The pleasure gardens

On sunday morning, after a lovely breakfast at the B&B, we decided to walk across the grounds and visit the pleasure gardens. I think Nikki loved this part of the palace the most. There was a miniature model of the village at the entrance.

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Peter Pan fountain

We tried out the Marlborough maze, which Nikki soon figured out and was zipping in and out to the centre of the maze. It was funny that my friend and I kept taking the wrong turns, until we finally decided to retrace our steps back to the entrance.

There was an interesting Blenheim Bygones exhibition at the pleasure gardens, which exhibited various gardening tools that had been used at the palace over the years.

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The building also housed two tiny rooms, one of which was the gardener’s office and the other was the night room, where the junior gardeners took turns to spend the night, attending to the boilers and glass houses.

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Gardener’s office

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Night room for junior gardener

6. The majestic oaks at Blenheim

An impressive part of the palace park was the magnificent oak trees. The largest collection of ancient oaks in Europe can be found within the Blenheim palace park.

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We were not able to visit a lot of the outdoor areas that we had wanted to, since it was too large a place, but we enjoyed our first visit to the palace and its parkland. The entrance ticket to the palace is valid for a year, so for those living in England and especially relatively closer to Oxford can visit the place in smaller doses.

My friend also loved the B&B we had chosen for this weekend getaway. Pollen B&B, in the heart of Woodstock village and within minutes to the palace was such a charming place with a friendly manager. Our space was the entire top floor, which had a sitting room, a lovely writing space, two cosy sleeping spaces with three beds and a lovely bathroom. It was filled with stuff that the owners had collected from their travels.

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Which of the special six features intrigues you the most about Blenheim palace?

[Linking this post to Wanderful Wednesday]
Wanderful Wednesday