Being a child of the 60s, the name Woodstock always evokes that grand open-air concert I regret missing.
I disliked Blenheim almost immediately: the conspicuous-consumption grandeur of the houses and out-buildings, the formal Italianate gardens with their tortured boxwood mazes, the classical statuary, the huge number of ropes and “keep-out” signs, the paucity of posies. We did an obligatory stroll around the grounds and felt glad it was lunch time so we had the excuse to leave the aristocratic excesses behind.
It happens that Blenheim is literally around the corner from a village called Woodstock. You exit the grand, foreboding gate and find yourself in a charming town built on a human scale.
The first place we encountered seemed the perfect connection to the Woodstock of nostalgic memory: a bakeshop filled with wholegrain sourdough breads. Oh joy. Of course we bought some and have been enjoying it since.
We continued wandering and happened upon a tiny street that made this lapsed medievalist’s heart go pitter-pat. It turns out that Chaucer’s brother lived in this town. (Who knew that Chaucer had a brother? Might he have been the town butcher, crier, or candle-stick maker? Whatever he did, he most likely envied his brother’s great success. He certainly chose a charming town to live in…but was it charming in the 14th century?)
Like every English town in the summer, this one was ablaze with colorful pink pansies, scarlet fuchsia, and blue lobelia in hanging baskets and window boxes, but Woodstock has a remarkable number of 5-foot tall, elegant hollyhocks growing along in various colors along narrow lanes.
In fact, there are flowers just about everywhere you cast your eye. It’s a special place, so I’ve gotten to go to Woodstock after all.
Better late than never…