Here is Stella with the Earl of Grantham at the Downtown Abbey exhibition at Winterthur, the Henry Francis du Pont home, of 175 rooms, which he turned into a museum to showcase his extraordinary collection of American antiques and furniture. The Downtown Abbey exhibition was a special exhibition. We really enjoyed seeing the beautiful costumes, reading about the inspiration for and the making of the costumes. The comparison of English and American country houses, the traditions and the difference in the treatment of their staff was so interesting, the American houses being (as the exhibition stated) a show of status and wealth, a showplace for innovations such as elevators, electricity and modern appliances and where staff were not known as servants but the help and had better conditions and wages than their English counterparts.
Earlier in the day we had gone to the Brandywine Museum of Art which has a wonderful display of Delaware artists, in particular three generations of the Wyeth family. By chance we were in the foyer of the museum when the Association of YMCA Retirees were heading off to the Andrew Wyeth studio and they had two spare tickets which they “gifted” to us. They were delighted to have the company of two “youngsters”! The studio was fascinating, amazing to see the small studios in which so many iconic American illustrations and paintings were produced and where the Wyeth family lived for many years.
We also visited the beautiful Somerville Manning gallery situated right on the Brandywine Creek in the historic Breck’s Mill, where Stella’s contact, Vicky, was busy hanging the upcoming exhibition featuring 3 generations of the Wyeth family as well as a Renoir and a Picasso! Vicky suggested the Half Moon as our dinner venue – most suitable, we decided being a bar and saloon! What she hadn’t told us was that it is a wild meat venue! We had the wild meat tasting plate and were very surprised to find that lamb is considered a wild meat, along with boar and buffalo! Quite bemusing! The exotic mushrooms were delicious – we had to have them since we were in the mushroom capital of the world, Kennetts Square. Pennsylvania produces the most mushrooms per head of population anywhere in the world!
Since the previous day had been so very wet, an inch of rain, we saved the gardens for which the Brandywine Creek Valley is justly famous for yesterday. We started at Longwood gardens, the inspiration of Pierre S du Pont. There are over 4 acres of plants and flowers in the conservatory – it was stunning! Outside, however, the plants and flowers were not at their best, having been confounded by unseasonably hot followed by unseasonably cold weather. Unfortunately the gardens at Winterthur were the same, apart from the magnificent magnolias, the daffodils having been flattened by the wind and rain.
And just before I go, I have to mention the great breakfasts provided by Chip and Cheryl, at the Pennsbury Inn, pancakes with homemade caramel sauce one day and egg tacos the nest – scrambled eggs with cream cheese, caramelised onions and peppers in a taco – yum! We had interesting conversations over breakfast with our fellow guests – hello Bob and Elizabeth!
And now my bed is calling, not as sumptuous as a feather bed, as at the Pennsbury Inn, nor is my bedroom as beautifully appointed as at the Virginia Hotel. Still, after the 4.10am alarm for my early flight it is appealing nonetheless!
And a big thank you Stella for organising such a great trip – so much to see and do in New Jersey and Delaware and so little time but I don’t think we could have packed much more into our time!