I leave for England in less than a week, this time for a much longer trip, so I will admit to having travel on the brain. Since in my last post I wrote about my long layover there, and I’m sure I’ll have found inspiration there for my next post, I thought this time I would write about something a little easier to get to for our USA readers. This trip could be done in a long weekend, either by car or public transportation (I’ll give details on that at the end), or perhaps in a few days before or after this year’s JASNA!
I live in Washington DC and frequently take the train up to Philadelphia, and in that area, you can string together about as “British” a trip as you can have without crossing the pond. To start, there’s Winterthur, in Wilmington, Delaware. It was Henry Francis du Pont’s home, and du Pont was an avid collector of American furniture and art. This is translated fairly loosely, however, to anything that Americans might have in their homes from 1630 to 1860, so it includes a heavy dose of English imports. The rooms are each decorated with furniture from around a particular time, so you get a wonderfully heavy dose of Georgian- and Regency-era rooms:
In addition to the house tours, Winterthur also has a museum, special exhibits, and some very lovely gardens, which are of course necessary if you wish to further the illusion that you have been walking through an English estate! Do not expect so much from it architecturally from the outside, however, for it looks like a VERY overgrown Georgian townhouse, which makes sense, since the original house was vastly expanded to make room for du Pont’s collections.
Next, it’s time to head into Philadelphia. While there are many American history sites here, and they are all worth a visit, I’m going to stay focused on our British theme (realizing, of course, that in Philadelphia these two histories significantly overlap). A little outside of the main city area is Fairmount Park, a large park where Philadelphia’s well-to-do built houses in which they escaped from the city. If you time this visit during Christmas, many of the houses are decorated and open to visitors (a trolley usually connects them on one weekend). You could take a whole day and try to fit in as many as you want, or pick one or two to see before our next stop.
None of the Fairmount Park houses are particularly large – they are likely nearer Longbourn than Pemberley, if that – but don’t worry, I’ve saved the grandest for last: the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Inside the European art galleries, they have a series of interiors preserved from a number of historic houses (and an inn), many of them on the British Isles.
If you looked at those last two and thought, “hmm, that looks like a Robert Adam room,” well, you would be correct. THEY HAVE A ROBERT ADAM ROOM! Ahem, sorry, I geeked out there for a moment. In addition to the furniture within the rooms, there’s also silver, porcelain, and a number of excellent paintings, including a young woman who is pretty clearly Mrs. Darcy. I am not going to include her picture here, though – you will have to find her in the museum, or my Twitter feed.
All of this in itself would make for a heavily British couple of days, but that’s not the only reason why I’ve singled out Philadelphia. It has several CAMRA Cask Marque pubs, a real rarity in the USA (CAMRA being the CAMpaign for Real Ale). I do love a proper pint of cask ale, and in drinking it you do get a much better sense of what ale used to taste like, and thankfully still does in many pubs, thanks to CAMRA. By far the most British of these pubs is the Dandelion, and it’s the perfect place to check off having a pub meal from your British-ish itinerary. I have not quite been able to fit in an afternoon tea in any of my visits there, but the Dandelion does one, as do several other places, so this is certainly possible.
For those interested in a little pampering, I will add one more item to the itinerary. Did you know that the British cosmetics company Lush has spas? They do, and you guessed it, one of their delightfully English-themed spas is in Philadelphia. This is your chance for a spa treatment set to English orchestra and birdsong or – believe it or not – sea shanties.
How to get there by train/transit
If you are going from this year’s JASNA in Washington DC, Amtrak trains leave from Washington’s Union Station. The same applies if you live anywhere on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. Winterthur is at the Wilmington, Delaware stop. It’s much too far to walk and there’s no easy public transit there, but I took Ubers there and back, and that worked out nicely.
You can either continue on Amtrak, or use the regional SEPTA rail to get into Philadelphia; SEPTA is less expensive, but has more stops and takes longer. The art museum is a long walk from Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station; Fairmount Park is only walkable if you’re Elizabeth Bennet and feeling particularly motivated. Philadelphia city buses go to both, however, or you can Uber (you can walk to the art museum from the southern part of Fairmount Park pretty easily).
Follow my England trip!
I’ll be back in September with whatever moves me from my trip to London and Derbyshire, as I look to research and get inspiration for the next book in the Constant Love series, A Season Lost. Follow me on Facebook or Twitter for photo updates as I go!