While in Oxford we made a couple of expeditions into the neighborhood. First was to Blenheim Palace, long home to a succession of Dukes of Marlborough and birthplace of Winston Churchill.  It is huge and magnificent, but even we were beginning to tire of these grand country estates which dot the English countryside and stand as stately reminders of the power of the landed gentry before it came to an end in the last century–see “Downton Abbey” for example.

But here is a quick look at its grandeur.  First, the entrance from outside, which unfortunately does not capture the enormity of the structure or its grounds (it took us twenty minutes to walk around it).

England, Blenheim Palace

The rooms inside go on endlessly but here are a few. The first is called The Green Room and is a quiet intimate place with pictures of the current Duke’s family on the table.

England, Blenheim Palace_2

This is The Red Drawing Room, which has been both a billiard room and library over its history. Just to give you a hint of the splendor of the furnishings, three of the paintings around the fireplace are by Van Dyke.

England, Blenheim Palace_3

Finally there is The Saloon, pictured at the top of this post. It was originally the central reception room of the palace but is now The State Dining Room, used only on Christmas Day by the Duke and family. The table will seat forty people when fully extended. Just visible in the background against the wall is a table holding a large silver piece. It is all sterling and weighs 110 pounds.

Our other trip out of Oxford was to Bletchley Park, home to the World War II code breakers and scene of the recent award winning film, “The Imitation Game.” In addition to everything else, it is a beautiful place and has a certain serenity about it that seems in sharp contrast to the frenetic problem solving and mathematics that happened in the outlying barracks-like buildings. Here is a look at the pond that dominates what might be called the campus, with the headquarters building in the background.

Bletchley Park_4

Here is a closer look at the headquarters (the prewar main house) where the director of the project had his office. The rest of the building housed administrative personnel and a bar for the relaxation of the staff when off duty.

BP Headquarters

By way of contrast, here is Alan Turing’s office in Building 8–dark, windowless, barren of anything at all personal.

Turing's Office

We enjoyed an absolutely fascinating day at Bletchley Park, as what took place there was the great untold story of World War II and had enormous impact on its outcome.

A number of cipher machines are scattered around the exhibits, and here is one of the original German Enigmas.

Enigma Machine

 

Below is the successor to the Enigma, considered almost unbreakable and only finally decoded at the end of the war.

Cypher Machine

And here is one of the real ‘Imitation Machines’ called Colossus at the time and still working in a demonstration today. They were not hand built by Turing and his team as the film showed, but a number were manufactured by a company in Manchester.

Imitation Machine

 

We wish we could show you the full size of these devices because they are huge, but we were too close to capture their real dimensions.

After Bletchley Park we moved rather quickly to Canterbury and then Dover to return to the continent and meet family members for a huge reunion in Tuscany. At least it was clear enough to see the white cliffs of Dover when we headed out across the channel.

Dover to Calais Ferry