Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Brit Girls do Downton Abbey

On Saturday I met up with 3 British friends, Carolyn, Mala and Mary for a girls' weekend away in Delaware, to visit the Downton Abbey costume collection that was on display at Winterthur Museum. It was a beautiful sunny day, albeit a little chilly in the shade, but we cared not. It was such fun to be together and we were all excited about our weekend adventure.
We decided to stop on the way at Chaddsford Winery, where some food trucks were having a competition, a chance to sample some good food along with some great wine.
 Carolyn spotted this fabulous plant container, an excellent way to reuse wine bottles.
 Mary found a photo opportunity by a message someone had left on a notice board. We walked around the winery, not really impressed with the stainless steel vats, not a wooden barrel in sight anywhere. Outside there were just 5 food trucks, selling meatballs, German sausages, BBQ, Asian food or cakes, so we turned to the wine table, excited to see a line up of 10 bottles. And we'd only paid $7 each, a bargain! We lined up for the first one, and yum! A lovely dry white woody wine. We gulped it down and quickly walked back up to the table for our next taster. Not quite so nice, and then after that it went down hill. The wines got sweeter and sweeter, and cheaper. We quaffed down each sample, wincing, and went onto the next, noticing that while everyone else was sitting down and chatting, taking time to sip their samples, we were looking rather uncouth, chucking back our glasses as though downing medicine. The samples were horrendous, not nice at all, but we were determined to put on our British stiff upper lips and gallantly soldier on with our tastings. The first time ever that wine tasting has been an ordeal! We laughed over the experience but as Carolyn noted, they were likely to gain more popularity by putting their better wines on the list and charging more, and then having a cheaper tasting with the sweet wines as an alternative option.
We didn't hang about once done, and jumped back in the car, driving to Winterthur. We had a couple of hours before our 3pm tickets and so after grabbing a quick and tasty lunch in the cafeteria we wandered through the gardens.
 I was ecstatic to find bluebells still blooming under the trees, looking just like an English woodland. The fierce storm and heavy rains from a few days before had pummeled the poor plants but they still stood proud and pretty, and were still emitting the most beautiful perfume on earth. I have been so lucky lately coming across my favorite flower twice in a month, and now I know they are here, I will return next spring to see them in their full glory.

 Japanese primroses growing along a rocky creek.
  The poor azaleas and magnolias had also taken a battering, many bruised petals still hanging on to the branches. The plus side of the rain was that everything looked so luscious and vibrant and fresh.
 The Enchanted Garden had the cutest tiny buildings, obviously created for little people, but so well designed that they were as enticing to the adults as well as the children. But we couldn't stay long here, we had to return back to the house for our tour. It was amazing that it wasn't packed, we really had chosen a great day to visit this place. We wondered if the previous storm had put people off walking around a house and gardens attraction, but whatever the reason we were grateful. And soon we were among the fabulous Downton costumes.
 I had to stand here for a bit and wait for the video of Matthew and Mary come to the kiss scene before I took a photo of the outfits they wore in that scene.
 Of course we weren't allowed to touch any of the outfits but there were no restrictions in leaning over with a camera to get closeups of the incredibly intricate detail in these clothes. The white coat on the left above had been worn by Cora and had actually been made out of a tablecloth! The beading and embroidery were exquisite and as I recognized many of them I felt like I was greeting an old friend. Mary had commented that she found it rather strange that the mannequins were headless yet that hadn't even caught my attention, and I was rather glad that I had no faces thar drew my gaze away from the fabrics, especially since they would not have looked like the characters supposed to be wearing them. Although it would have been rather wonderful if Madam Tusaauds had brought the cast to life.
 The antique lace used on the bodice of this harem outfit worn by Sybil was split and had to be repaired, obvious when inspected here, but it looked perfect through the TV camera lens.
Lavender, lilac and mauve were popular colors for the ladies atweddings, christenings and funerals in
the 1890's so it was dubbed the Mauve Decade.
 The link for the exhibition is here.
 On the way out, we got someone to take our photo outside the Abbey, turned out rather well! I loved this exhibit, definitely worth the trip, and so wonderful to see up close those amazing creations that had held my rapt attention for so many Sunday evenings. There were accessories, photos of the cast and many quotations on the walls, as well as video clips. It was almost painful to think it would still be many months before we could see our favorite program on TV again.
And thanks to Mary's quick and cunning craftiness, of which we were all really impressed, we managed to also grab our places on the last house tour of the day. There are a few tours of the house since there are so many rooms, 175 on 8 floors, but luckily we were on the only tour that allowed photographs to be taken. I was still spluttering a bit with a tickley cough, but an offer from our docent for me to leave the group and get water resulted in me sneakily stuffing a handful of forbidden cough sweets into my mouth, sucking very hard until my eyes watered, while looking away from her, and thus averting the disaster of missing the tour.
Henry Francis du Pont opened his house nearly 60 years ago, showcasing over 90,000 objects from 1640 to 1860. It was a little overwhelming. There were so many beautiful things to look at, and I have to admit, I felt a little ashamed at making a fuss of dusting my house, when just one of the larger rooms here held more stuff than my whole home, and they gleamed with polished tender loving care.
 The attention to detail was faultless and fastidious; everything had been thought of, and the rooms looked so inviting that you just wanted to climb over the roping and sink down on one of those gorgeous sofas or chairs. tables were set for meals and flower arrangements were everywhere, the real ones only distinguishable because they stood on wooden shallow dishes. The silk flowers are referred to as 'permanent botanicals', which amused me immensely.
 The walls were covered with detailed murals or wallpapers; the one above is wallpaper from France.
A Tiffany tea set.
 There is more information on the house and tours here.
The house was amazing, well the few rooms that we saw were, and our docent was very knowledgeable. There were only 8 in our group and it felt very intimate, we could hear everything she said.She was insistent that we all stay close together, and we swept through the tour as though on a well oiled roller platform. Before we knew it the tour was over and we walked out into the grounds that had emptied quickly while we inside the house.
 Mala posing next to a Rolls Royce we found parked outside.
 We were ready for dinner but back at the hotel had a problem trying to choose a restaurant. We Yelped through a list of possibilities but unable to pick one, we decided to walk locally. Our hotel was in the business district and the streets were empty, deathly quiet. We came across an Italian place that we had read about but after noticing that patrons were very few inside we carried on walking. Just one street along we spotted a hole in the wall restaurant that was crammed full of people inside. We had found Pochi, a Chilean wine bar, whose menu we hadn't been too sure about when reading earlier. But with so many folks inside, it had to be good so we strolled in and waited for a table. Our meal was absolutely superb, we couldn't have asked for better, and with great beer and wine, we were very happy campers. A stellar experience which wrapped our perfect day up nicely and had us looking forward to the next.

No comments: