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May 07, 2007

The Lovely Longwood Gardens

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I have returned!  My trusty Oldsmobile did its job and got me to Img_0489Longwood Gardens and back without collapsing into a heap of tired, rusting metal.  I never had to meet up with Clem and for that I'm grateful.  So, why didn't I post on Saturday as I promised? Well you see, I play tennis.  On Saturday morning during my weekly tennis lesson, I did a "stretch/twist/reach" contortion with my body while I was scrambling for a ball. Between that and the seven hours I spent driving on Friday, my back had had enough and decided to make me pay.  Needless to say I spent the entire weekend icing, stretching, resting, and of course popping pills.  Luckily I didn't seize up.

So now, here's my Longwood story along with a photo album of snaps.Img_0602

First of all, I have to increase my vocabulary because I keep using words like gorgeous, glorious, incredible, beautiful and dazzling to describe Longwood and none of those ever do it justice.  It's in Kennett Square, PA, on the border of Delaware, and is a former Pierre du Pont estate that is home to some of the most wonderful displays of plant and floral life I've ever seen.

To quote their website:

"Purchased by industrialist Pierre S. du Pont in 1906, Longwood offers 1,050 acres of gardens, woodlands, and meadows; 20 outdoor gardens; 20 indoor gardens within 4 acres of heated greenhouses; 11,000 different types of plants; spectacular fountains...and 800 horticultural and performing arts events each year--from flower shows, gardening demonstrations, courses, and children's programs to concerts, organ and carillon recitals, musical theatre, and fireworks displays."

Another thing I love about Longwood is that it's a place you can feel comfortable going to by yourself.  Especially if you're like me and a photo/video hound.  I warnImg_0623 you right now, I'm about to do a lot of literary gushing in this post, so if you can't handle it, maybe you should just look at the pretty pictures and move on to my "American Idol" recaps where I'm a bit more snarky.  Remember you've been warned.

On a day like Friday when the only people around are the wheelchair brigades of seniors, you can almost pretend Longwood is your own estate. I've seen old pictures of parties held there years ago, when Pierre was still around, and I like to imagine what it would be like to attend one of those lavish soirees.  Because I'm black, I was more likely to have been a servant than a guest, but for one evening only, it might have been a kick.

Img_0488The directions from New York to Kennett Square are easy and once I hit the road I was on auto pilot.  Three hours of driving with no stops, the radio cranked up (I must have heard Billy Joel's "Only The Good Die Young" at least four times) and the smell of cut grass wafting through the windows, it was nice with a capitol "N."

I arrived a little after two o'clock and since I hadn't eaten since my Cheerios breakfast, I headed over to the Terrace Restaurant where I had a luscious chicken club sandwich with two glasses of Riesling while I relaxed on their outdoor patio.Img_0526  One of the quaint traditions I love at the restaurant? Your roll is freshly baked in a little brown flower pot that they serve to you at the table.  The butter tastes like it was just churned that morning and really, what more could you ask for?

While I ate, I took deep breaths and enjoyed the outdoor perfume: a mixture of eucalyptus, cut grass and heather.  After lunch, I went first to the conservatory.  Most of the displays at the conservatory are changed according to season, but my favorite display is always there:  the orchids.  I've never seen anything like them.  They are the most delicate, unreal looking blooms.  There are a huge number of varieties, not to mention colors and patterns.  Magnificent.

Img_0508Once outside again, the fountains were spouting prettily, though I spent so much time in the conservatory I missed the final fountain show of the day.  I decided to take the long way around to the flower garden walk and as I strolled, I immediately relaxed.

All that stuff that seems trite because everybody always says it, about back to nature, no electronics (video camera, digital camera and cellphone excepted), no computers, no internet, blah, blah, blah...people say it because it's true.  Despite our trappings of stuff, this is what we are a part of.  The natural world.  Whether we like it or not.  One reason I live in the suburbs instead of the city is because I need to live in a place that reminds me of that.  A place like Longwood reminds you with a welcome slap in the face.

Still strolling, I passed through open land of lush trees and shrubs, a Chinese white wisteria tree that I'd never seen before, fields of white and fluffy, foam flowers.  Cousins to the ones in my front yard.

Then came the stunning flower garden walk.  This was where the thousands, and I do Img_0590mean thousands of tulips, daffodils, foxglove, snapdragons, pansies and every other spring flower you could want to see were showing off.  I had to smile just looking at it because it's so impressive. There were yellow tulips, purple tulips, red tulips, pink and lavender tulips.  It was glorious.

I walked, I took pictures, I shot video, I sat.  I pictured sleeping overnight under a tree and waking up with the birds singing to me.  And when I started to wonder if they'd physically evict me from my bench if I didn't leave voluntarily, I reluctantly decided it was time to go.

Ahhhh...nature!  A stupendous, glorious, wonderful day.  Mush over.

As I was leaving, near the front entrance I was shocked to find a lifeguard chair with a lifeguard dummy sitting in it.  As I walked out toward the parking lot, the foyer had tables set up with little beach-themed name tags nestled in real sand, bins of multi-colored beach balls, and servers with trays of champagne.  Guests in black tie and evening gowns were pulling up in very expensive cars.  Turns out they were having a dinner for some hot shot health care company.  And I wasn't invited?  What up with that?

That's okay, they might have asked me to serve.

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