Thursday, May 22, 2008

April Longwood Gardens Winterthur Trip

We took a mini vacation to the Brandywine Valley driving up Saturday morning April 26 and coming back home Tuesday April 29. We stayed 3 nights at the Staybridge Suites in Glen Mills, PA which could not be a more perfect location for our touring plans. I would have to say that this hotel chain is our favorite in terms of value and room type. It is like a mini apartment. It is a 1 bedroom suite with kitchen with separate bedroom and living area. Perfect for traveling with a family.

Our drive was uneventful but still 4 1/2 hours driving + another hour or so in rest stops. I called Winterthur from the road and they were extremely helpful in suggesting how we should best use our time left on Saturday, and full day Sunday to see both Winterthur and Longwood. I am so glad I called. I knew already that there was a special $20 ticket until the end of the month to see both Longwood & Winterthur, which was part of our reason for picking this weekend. What I didn't know that she helped with is that the ticket was good for 2 day admission. With that knowledge, we were able to see the outside of Winterthur on Saturday afternoon, tour the house on Sunday morning then spend the afternoon at Longwood.

Browse Amazon's collection on:winterthur

After checking into the hotel Saturday & meeting up with Jonathan, we headed down to Winterthur for a tram tour of the gardens and property. We then walked around a bit until closing. We ate dinner at McKenzie’s Brew House on 202 in Chadds Ford, which was between Winterthur and our hotel. The ribeye and the jambalaya were outstanding. We also enjoyed the Wicked Will's Pale Ale and Shane's Gold. Both excellent.

We took the "Elegant Entertaining" house tour on Sunday morning. There are at least 7 different house tours so we will need to keep going back to see the whole house. Henry Francis du Pont created at least 175 period rooms so it is understandable why you cannot see the whole place in one visit.

Needless to say, I was in awe. I was an avid fan of the America's Castles series on A&E years back, take any opportunity to visit grand estates and had toured a few castles in Europe in the early 90's.

We bought a Dawn Redwood Red Dawn (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), tree in a gallon pot.

Drove up to Longwood and met up with Jason and Taryn. Amanda was so thrilled to be with "all 3 of her brothers". They treat her like a princess and she couldn't be happier.
The Nature's Castle's treehouse exhibit was a big hit for the kids, big and small. I particularly enjoyed the columbine garden. I will take this idea home with me and create something similar.

If I had to choose one over the other, personally, I would prefer Winterthur. The less formal gardens, naturalized yet very planned with purpose and color schemes. Incredible. Don't get me wrong, they are both very worth seeing and I couldn't imagine taking a trip up there and not seeing both.

All 8 of us had dinner at the Iron Hill Brewery in West Chester (perfect directions from Sam via telephone). Don't recall which brews we had but we tried 2 and they were good. We then went back to the hotel and said our good-byes. Everyone was tired. There were many tears.

Monday, April 28
The weekend weather was perfect. Today, not so perfect. It was raining. We took a drive to the Delaware's Brandywine Zoo. Super small but perfect for the kids. We all had an umbrella and the kids had their boots. They loved the tiger and otters. The tiger looked like he loved Eddie. We got in free because of the rain and were the only silly ones out.

We drove up to the Natural History Museum next. It is across the street from Winterthur. The kids were tired by now but enjoyed the museum. We drove into Historic Kennett Square without stopping just to see what was there. Not quite sure what the excitement is all about. It seemed like it was 4 blocks of restaurants and stores. West Chester looked more exciting than this. It was raining still and the kids were asleep so we certainly weren't going to check it out any further.
We were going to try John Harvard's Brew House for dinner, which was nearby. I had noted it from some web research I did prior to the trip. I use pubcrawler when planning trips to see where the local craft beer, microbreweries are. Well, we found the building but it was closed up and obviously closed up for good. I gather the chain still exists but their 2 locations in PA closed. So back to McKenzie's we went! Excellent again.

Tuesday we packed up and checked out of the hotel. We stopped at the Herr's Snack Factory in Nottingham, PA to take a free tour but unfortunately, they were full up with school buses and couldn't fit us in. You do need to call ahead for reservations it seems. We watched a film on the history of the company, bought a few bags of Oops chips and were back on the road home.

I noticed a book in their gift shop Watch It Made in the U.S.A.: A Visitor's Guide to the Best Factory Tours and Company Museums. I do want to get this book. Amanda is such a fan of the "How It's Made" series on Discovery and Science channel that I need this book to help me plan some more mini trips. We are also fans of the Mister Rogers show. His show features factory visits and I see that the Mister Rogers Neighborhood section of the PBS kids website has 6 of the video segments. How People Make Sneakers, How People Make Sneakers, How People Make Wagons, How People Make Plates, How People Make Construction Paper, How People Make Crayons, How People Make Fortune Cookies.

My 3 recommended places to buy books or get information on books are: Amazon, Abe books, eBay. Abebooks has incredibly low prices and hard to find titles. Most of the books are used.

There was one book I saw in the Winterthur or Longwood gift shop titled Money, Manure & Maintenance: Ingredients for Successful Gardens of Marian Coffin Pioneer Landscape Architect 1876-1957 of Marian Coffin Pioneer Landscape Architect 1876-1957. That title will always stick with me. As you wonder how those gardens that you tour are so incredibly beautiful, just remember, Money, Manure, Maintenance.

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