April 14th, 2006

little review

Poem for Friday

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We got up early Thursday to drive to Delaware, where we went first to the Museum of Natural History, which had an exhibit of dinosaur eggs -- some the same as we saw in Harrisburg at the Whitaker Center a couple of years ago, but expanded with new fossils and video presentations about what's been discovered in the meantime, including complete fetuses in shells. We planned to spend very little time there because our main destinations were the two Du Pont estates, Winterthur and Longwood Gardens, which straddle the Delaware-Pennsylvania border. Winterthur is the mansion built by Jacques Antoine Bidermann and Evelina Gabrielle Du Pont, where the house's fifth owner, Henry Francis Du Pont, collected American furnishings and arts and crafts that he long intended to turn into a museum.

After picnicking on the grounds, we walked through the extensive gardens and took the house tour, which covers less than a fourth of the actual rooms. The original family fortune was made selling improved gunpowder during the Civil War, and the collection amassed with the inheritance is astonishing: a Gilbert Stuart painting of George Washington, a set of dishes owned by the Washingtons, a set of tankards made by Paul Revere, the Monroe china from the White House (one of 50+ sets of china), a closet filled entirely with candlesticks, a room of Empire furniture, lots of early American cut glass and musical instruments. There was an Easter tour in progress and the rooms were filled with flowers, though flowers and historic furniture don't usually go together; these had been stored in CO2 to kill any insects. The grounds have an Enchanted Woods section with a stone circle, labyrinth, faerie cottage and lots of other neat things for kids as well as spectacular flowering trees, not so much a formal garden as I was expecting.

From Winterthur we went to Longwood Gardens across the Pennsylvania border, where Pierre Du Pont's house is now a museum of horticulture and where there is a massive conservatory, water gardens, topiary garden, azaleas not quite in season and a tower with waterfall. We didn't have time to tour it all and different areas will be in bloom in a couple of weeks as spring turns to summer in the Brandywine Valley. Once again we had charmed weather, 70ish and bright sunshine; I had some allergy annoyances around the lilies in the greenhouses but overall we couldn't have had a nicer day. We got home late due to some traffic around Baltimore and watched Commander in Chief in its new time slot -- not an inspiring episode, and the ending even more a fantasy-fest than The West Wing, but I love Geena Davis anyway.


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I took well over a hundred pictures of the Winterthur grounds, Longwood Gardens and dinosaur eggs, so more photos to come. Not sure what we're up to Friday besides having dinner with my parents; apaulled's office is closed because the stock market is closed, and I am going to try to track down nigita! Have a good Good Friday, those who celebrate!