Continuing this week’s theme of UK travel, my boyfriend and I headed out to Oxfordshire yesterday. Last year a friend of mine had gone to Garsington Opera, an outdoor opera venue at a stately home near Oxford, and, knowing we need little convincing when it comes to adventures, she insisted we go this year.
We rented a car to drive out to the opera. To make a full day of it, we added a trip to Blenheim Palace, the childhood home of Winston Churchill, to our itinerary. After some initial confusion on the part of the rental car company and terrible traffic on Euston Road in London, we finally made it to the palace with just over an hour to explore the grounds.
It wasn’t as much time as we would have liked to spend at Blenheim Palace, but we made the best of it with the help of some Pimm’s. Strolling along the walkway by the South Lawn, we headed to the (not so) Secret Garden, which was full of tiny streams, peaceful ponds, and lots of flowers.
From there we made our way past the neatly-manicured Italian Garden and over to the Temple of Diana and the Rose Garden. Out of Pimm’s and out of time, we reluctantly turned to leave, wishing we could have spent a few more hours exploring.
Thirty minutes later we found ourselves in another garden, this one at Garsington Manor. The place was abloom with huge red poppies, purple foxglove bells, big bushes of lavender, and heavy white roses. Rolling lawns narrowed quickly into mysterious doorways that led to huge reflecting pools, and behind everything was a backdrop of green farmland and curving hills.
We took our seats at a table for cream tea, which we enjoyed in the beautiful afternoon sun (we could not have been luckier with the weather). When it was time for the opera to begin, we made our way to the open-air theater, which had been set up alongside a sort of pleasure garden with tall hedges encasing wild patches of foliage and flowers.
The opera was Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the perfect choice for a garden setting. From the set design to the costumes to the singing, the whole production was thoroughly enjoyable. Between acts there was a long intermission during which we enjoyed a huge picnic dinner on the lawn and were able to walk around the grounds a bit more.
When the opera ended it was just getting dark, and the whole garden was lit by tiny orange lights. The beauty of the place made it difficult to leave.
Sadly, this is Garsington Opera’s final year at Garsington Manor. A new venue has been found in nearby Wormsley Estate, though. I didn’t need an excuse to go back next year, but seeing if the new location is half as beautiful as the current one will suffice.