A “British” trip in the eastern United States

A “British” trip in the eastern United States

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:

Winterthur

Winterthur

Winterthur

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.

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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.

Fairmount Park

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.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art

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.

Dandelion pub
Dandelion pub

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.

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The Lush Spa’s adorable English kitchen

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!

 

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14 Responses to A “British” trip in the eastern United States

  1. Wonderful post, Sophie!! Those gorgeous places look like they could have been in any of the National Trust houses over here, “British” trip in the eastern US indeed!
    Enjoy your trip to London and Derbyshire & have a great time. How long are you here for?

  2. Oooh!! Such a great post!!! Since we (hubby and I) moved from CA to KY we have gradually expanded our travels to East Coast and mid-eastern State spots of interest. Philadelphia is on the short list, so this post is super duper helpful. And stirs interest for sure!! Thanks Sophie! Have fun in the UK, and be safe. Cheers! Sharon

  3. I’ve been to Philadelphia, but never for this type of visit. I’ve only done the American history stops with my boys, for their educational edification.
    Sophie, I think I’m going to have to beg you to be my tour guide. I am out in Herndon, so I will take Metro in to meet you. Just say where and when!

    • Looks like we DO have the makings of a JAFF meetup happening here! 🙂 I the American history stops my first time there — it’s only been recently that I’ve been discovering all of these other wonderful places.

  4. Wow Sophie, what a great post! I love the pictures and always appreciate the efforts taken to share these with readers! You really include such fabulous details and the historical information is just great. I must take a trip here one day. You’ve certainly inspired me.

  5. Sophie, I live an hour north of Philadelphia (Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton = the Lehigh Valley) and grew up an hour to the west (Chester Co.) so have visited Winterthur many times as well as Longwood Gardens, the Philadelphia Art Museum and other historic sites or museums. I was a Girl Scout leader and took my troops to visit many sites as well. I don’t drink ale or beer so the pubs would only interest me if they had exceptional food. My daughter and her husband lived in Philadelphia for several years while he continues to work there. So if you are ever making a visit alone and want company, I would love to meet you in that city. I visited the Downton Abbey exhibit of costumes in Winterthur several years ago so I even get down that way, too. Have a fantastic trip. I am not on FB so will have to check out how to follow you on Twitter. I have an account but have never “followed” someone on that social media. Thanks for sharing. The art museum many times has traveling exhibits of famous artists and I try to visit those when I can get someone to go with me.

    • Ooh, I didn’t realize you were that close to Philadelphia — I will keep that in mind. Maybe we can have a little JAFF meetup there! The Dandelion does have very good pub food. They do a Sunday roast, which I have yet to try, but i think I’m going to have to someday.

      I went to the Downton Abbey exhibit but down in Richmond. That’s another place with some great English connections. There are two old estate houses right next to each other that were dismantled piece by piece, shipped over from England, and reassembled.

      • My mother is from Mississippi (She was a Covington) and we visited many Civil War sites growing up. One of my favorites is the Atlanta Cyclorama. When my mother was young there was a Civil War veteran there who could talk about his experiences. Our history may not be as old as that of Europe but we do have some interesting and historic sights to be seen as well as fantastic scenery.

  6. I am not able to make these trips; however, your pictures and post have made me feel like I have been there. Thank you for telling us of these wonderful sites right here in the US. Wow!!! I wish for you a safe and wonderful trip. Take lots of pictures and let us know of your adventures. Blessings and safe journey. JWG

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