Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Brandywine Valley, Thursday

The skies in Chadds Ford were quiet Wednesday night. No rain, no tornadoes, no wind, no hailstones. Nothing like the action going on at home in Massachusetts. As soon as we got out of bed and opened the curtains in our room, we could immediately tell that Thursday was a whole different day. And duh, I don't mean it wasn't Wednesday anymore. But in a way, it wasn't Wednesday anymore . . . the sky was clear, clear blue, no haze hanging over the land, a pretty stiff wind was blowing. The world looked like it was a whole new clean and sparkling place.

And it was. As soon as we walked out the front door of the hotel, it was like we were in a whole different environment. It was delightful! And we were heading out to Valley Forge and maybe to the Brandywine Valley Battlefield if we had enough time later in the afternoon.

In school, especially high school and college, I was not a good history student. History didn't interest me, I found it boring, and I did what I had to do to get a decent grade in class. But anything I learned, I forgot as soon as I had taken a test on it. That all changed as I got older. Now I find I'm fascinated with learning about what happened where, when and why. I had been to Valley Forge once before, back when Stef was in 5th or 6th grade, but I didn't remember much at all of what we saw or learned on that visit. So it was like seeing the place with fresh eyes for the first time.

We had called ahead to make reservations on the shuttle tour that goes around the park with a NPS ranger who explains what you're seeing and what happened where, when and why. But when we called the park, we found out the shuttle tours didn't start until June 12th. However, as an alternative, we could purchase a CD in the Visitors Center and listen to the tour in our own car as we drove around. That sounded pretty good to us. We even liked the idea that we could set our own pace and even replay sections of the CD if we needed reinforcement (a little Valley Forge lingo there) in the learning department.

First we visited the Visitors Center and much to our delight, they had one of those penny-squeezing machines that flattens out a penny and imprints an image of the site you're visiting. Stef is a big squeezed penny collector, and I was able to get her four new different Valley Forge pennies. I also purchased two new books to read this summer - one I'm particularly anxious to start - a book about the gardens that many of the different presidents had over the years. When we visited Monticello several years ago, I was quite intrigued by the careful planning and gardening that Thomas Jefferson had done on his farm in Virginia. And being from Massachusetts and living not all that far from Quincy, I had also read about John and Abigail Adams' farm and gardens. So for me, this presidential gardening book is going to be good summer reading.

Now back on track. First Bev and I roamed the gift store paying particular attention to the book selection which was quite good. And then, just as we were paying for our purchases (including the tour CD), they announced the beginning of the movie that's shown in the auditorium up the hill and gives visitors an overview of Valley Forge and what happened during the winter of 1777-1778 while the Continental Army was encamped there.

The movie was excellent. The hardships that the soldiers endured that winter were almost unfathomable by today's standards of living. Bev and I walked out of the auditorium with a whole new appreciation for these men . . . and women, who stood such trials and tribulations all in the name of gaining independence for our country.

Then it was time to hop into our car, pop in the CD guide to Valley Forge, and start out on the Encampment Tour. What we shortly discovered was that, if we carefully followed the guide's reminders to keep our speed at 15 mph, we always ended up right where he said we would be. So we would drive and listen to a general description of what was happening as the Revolutionary War transpired, then the guide would tell us something specific about a site we were coming to on the Encampment Tour, then we'd stop the tape and get out of the car and explore the specific site we'd been directed to. If you ever visit Valley Forge National Park, this is a great way to see the park and learn more detailed history of what happened at this very inspiring place. I highly recommend it.

I will leave it up to Bev to pick a representative sampling from all of the photos we took of the beauty of Valley Forge. It was a perfect day for taking photographs. The air was crystal clear, the sky was blue with just a few puffy white clouds floating overhead, there was a strong enough breeze that all the flags were flying nearly straight out (always looks very patriotic), and the fields, the woods, the meadows, were still a nice bright green shade of spring. The photos will give you an idea of what Valley Forge looks like - but visiting will give you a true sense of the beauty of the area and the importance of the history of what happened there. It's an exciting place to visit, but also a place that whispers reverence and respect and gratitude.

As it turned out, we spent most of the day at Valley Forge, and by the time we left the park and had traveled back to Chadds Ford, the Brandywine Battlefield park was closed for the day. So we never did get to visit on this trip. Another reason to return and explore that which was left unexplored this time around.

Then it was back to Hank's restaurant for another chance to pick something from that wonderful menu of homemade cooking. Our waitress from the previous night had put a little bug in our ears about how wonderful the Greek food was at Hank's. Seems one of the chef/owners is Greek and cooks food just like she would cook it in the "old country". We had noticed that both nights moussaka was listed on the blackboards on the walls as being a special for dinner. So when we went back for our second visit, we kind of had Greek food on our mind.

As it turned out, neither one of us ordered the moussaka. But I ordered a Gyro sandwich ("slices of beef & lamb blended with Mediterranean seasoning, served on lightly grilled Pita bread with freshly diced tomatoes, onion, parsley, and our special homemade Tzatsiki sauce - a refreshing cucumber/sour cream/garlic/dill dressing) and Bev ordered the Greek salad. Both were very good. We also had strawberry pie for dessert on our minds. The menu lists it as "Hank's Fancy Strawberry Pie" (in season) and the first night, although we weren't eating dessert there (we had already decided to head back to Kiwi Yogurt that night for one last cnance to create the yogurt dish of our dreams), we had asked our waitress if their strawberry pie was in season. It indeed was.

So this night, our very nice and considerate waitress actually came over to our table halfway through dinner to inform us that there were only 3 pieces of strawberry pie left. And since we had shown such interest in the pie the night before (we had the same waitress both nights), did we want her to save two pieces for us. Of course we did!

So now, for the pleasure of our foodie followers, I quote from Hank's menu a description of his Special Strawberry Pie. "Beginning with our delicate crust, this delightful dessert has a layer of sweetened cream cheese then a layer of sliced bananas, follower by a layer of whole fresh strawberries, topped with strawberry glaze & walnuts. A Hank's speciality $4.50" Oh, and if you live in the area you can buy a whole strawberry pie to go. Needless to say, neither one of us left any strawberry pie on our plates.

And then it was back to the hotel to get a good night's sleep before the drive home the next day. It had been a wonderful week. The morning we left Chadds Ford for home, and even now nearly a week later, I don't think much about or remember how oppressive the heat was. I remember all the wonderful things we saw and did. The nice people we met along the way. And even though Jamie Wyeth's "Maine Coon Cats" is sitting on my dining room floor propped up against the china cabinet waiting for the perfect wall to be hung on and I'm very excited about that, the thing that most stands out in my mind, the time I treasure most, is the time we spent at Valley Forge.

It was hard to stand looking at the United States National Memorial Arch with the American flag blowing in the breeze against the blue of the sky in the background and not be overcome emotionally with feelings of gratitude and respect for ALL the members of the military who over so many years have served this country with such dedication. You all know who you are. Thank you so very much from the bottom of both Bev's heart and mine.

The rest is history as they say. Safe trip home. Made good time. Husbands and kitties anxiously awaiting our return. And now we have next spring's photo road trip to look forward to and dream about. I wonder where the winds will take us in 2012? Something new to dream about . . .

Monday, June 6, 2011

Brandywine Valley, Wednesday

Ah, the heat. The humidity. This was predicted to be the hottest day of the week. The weathermen were promising that a cool, dry front would move through by the end of the day. AND, the county where Chadds Ford is located had tornado warnings posted until 8 pm, heavy hailstorm warnings posted until 8 pm, heavy wind warnings, etc., etc. We didn't know whether to be happy about the possibility of some incoming cooler, drier weather or anxious and concerned about all the scary warnings for severe weather. So we decided, as we headed out for the morning, we'd keep an eye to the sky, and if it started to look scary dark, we'd turn the radio on to listen to a weather report. And off we went. Two intrepid photographers out to explore the area.

Our first stop of the day was the Brandywine River Museum where Americana art is exhibited in a 19th-century grist mill located on the Brandywine River. The museum is known for the unparalleled work of 3 generations of the Wyeth family - N.C., Andrew, and Jamie. And for those of you who regularly follow our blogs, you already know that Bevie and I love the Wyeth's work. Not that anyone should have a favorite, but the order in which we love the Wyeths, first it's Andrew, than Jamie, then N.C. So this was an exciting day in our trip that we had been eagerly anticipating.

First, once we had parked the car in the museum's dirt lot next to the Brandywine River, we had to make a trek down to the riverbank. We wanted to check to see what the water looked like because we were tentatively planning on returning later in the afternoon to take a dip in the river. On Memorial Day, as we passed over the bridge on the main road, we'd seen lots of people sitting out in the river in water up to their chests and people floating down the river on tubes. We had visions of spending some late afternoon hours cooling off in the river ourselves.

But alas, we were disappointed. It was not like the Saco River in Maine - a favorite paddling spot of ours where the water is crystal clear and there are beautiful sandbars along the river where you can pull up in your kayak or canoe and then hop into the water and swim and float and goof around and get cooled off.

The Brandywine is very muddy looking to the eye. It carries a tremendous amount of suspended silt and even at the very edge of the river where the water is not that deep, you cannot see the river bottom. And we could see fallen down trees and trunks and branches sticking up out of the water = tree trunks and branches also under the water. And since we weren't familiar with the river, the depth, the current (which appeared to be quite strong in the middle), and weren't too enticed by the very muddy appearance of the water, we decided we would pass. I would love to go back sometime though and go tubing on the river.

So into the museum. Admission desk is to the left immediately after you enter the front doors. Time to get my wallet out to pay for my ticket. But, for some unknown reason, perhaps because it was an art museum of mostly Wyeth paintings, it dawned on me that this was the perfect time to ask someone in the know how I could go about finding a limited edition of Jamie Wyeth's painting of Maine Coon cats. I figured a woman working in a Wyeth museum might have some good ideas.

I explained to her that ever since the first time Bob and I visited the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine and had walked into The Wyeth Center there only to be greeted at the front of the gallery by the original copy of Jamie's "Maine Coon Cat", I had been in love with that painting. I could never expect to buy the original. Hundreds of thousands of dollars. And it's probably not even for sale - it's likely in the Wyeth family's private collection. But I might be able to buy one of the limited edition prints that were made.

I had looked and looked and looked. I had checked Jamie Wyeth's online gallery with no luck, other galleries that carry Wyeth prints, no luck, even eBay hoping that a private owner might be selling his/her print. Everywhere was sold out. Even worse, I came across different galleries that were also looking to buy the print because they had buyers who were interested in purchasing the print too. I had basically given up hope. But it never hurts to ask.

WELL! Imagine to my surprise - the woman at the counter pointed over her shoulder to the rear wall of the gift shop behind her, and there on the wall was hanging a matted and framed copy of "Maine Coon Cat". AND IT WAS FOR SALE! The top of my head nearly blew a gasket. I couldn't believe it. But it was real. It was the last print the museum had to sell. It was #15 of the limited edition of 25 prints that were made to sell to the public. And it was signed by Jamie Wyeth himself. Now I won't be so gauche as to tell you what it cost, but I did have to think about it - but only for the amount of time it took for me to walk around the front counter and ponder in my head what the purchase would do to my financial status and credit card balance. By the time I'd made one revolution around, I was telling the woman behind the counter I'd take it.

While Bev and I toured the galleries, the museum staff wrapped my "baby" up ever so carefully so it would travel well and not get damaged. And when we later walked out of the museum to our car, I had that baby tucked ever so carefully under my arm. Bev then made a nice safe place for it in the trunk using some things to cushion it from road bumps. Now it sits on the floor in my dining room waiting for Bob's return from the bike trip he's on this week with Bev's husband Bob. And when they get home, hubby and I will decide where to hang it. Oh me, oh my, I am one lucky, lucky lady.

It was interesting to wander the Brandywine River Museum and see how the Wyeth paintings there compare to their paintings at the Farnsworth in Maine. Both museums primarily display the paintings that were done in their home region. If you love the Wyeth's paintings of the sea, beaches, sailboats, blueberries, all things Maine, you'll enjoy visiting the Farnsworth. If you love the Brandywine Valley, the influence of the Pennsylvania Dutch on the architecture of houses and farms, the rolling hills and rivers and streams of the valley, you'll enjoy visiting the Brandywine River Museum. It was interesting and fun for Bev and I who have now visited both museums, to see and feel the differences.

Now on to mushrooms. I owe the pleasure of this visit to my husband's cousin Ming who lives in Virginia and who, when I was telling her about our trip to the Brandywine Valley area, said we must visit the mushroom place in Kennett Square. Well, little did we know that Kennett Square claims to be the mushroom capital of the United States. There are more than a few mushroom places in town. But I had done some research on the web before we left, and the mushroom place that most intrigued me was Phillips Mushroom Farms - the largest grower of specialty mushrooms in the United States (for more info check out: http://www.phillipsmushroomfarms.com/). We were most interested in visiting The Woodland Store where you can buy fresh mushrooms, dehydrated mushrooms, marinated mushrooms of all kinds, mushrooms salads, etc, etc. And yes, we did indeed walk out of the store having done some damage to our credit cards. The nice people in the store were kind enough to give us a bowl of their marinated mushrooms to try while we looked around. Those babies were too good to be polite and just try one or two. Between Bevie and me, I think we must have eaten 10 mushrooms each. They are addictive.

And then we were off to chase down the mushrooms with some wine from the Chaddsford Winery. I like sweet wines and purchased a bottle of Sunset Blush and a bottle of Sangria. Bev and Bob and my Bob like dry wines, so I had Bevie pick out a bottle for my husband, and she picked a Sauvignon Blanc. And I also purchased two new wine glasses with Chaddsford Winery's name and logo on them - as did Bev. Over the years as we've visited lots and lots of wineries (too many to count and remember now), I've always purchased two wine glasses. Then when we have company and we serve wine, I have this wonderful collection of glasses from wineries in Massachusetts, the Finger Lakes, the North and South Forks of Long Island, Rhode Island, and many other wineries spread across the country.

So now that we'd had some pre-dinner appetizers, it was time to think about where to dine for dinner. I suggested Hank's Place located not far from Chaddsford Winery - a small restaurant advertising home-cooked food and adorned with the most beautiful hanging flower pots and flower gardens all around the outside of the restaurant and the parking lot. From the street it looked almost like a miniature Longwood Gardens. And the sign said the restaurant was Zagat rated. How could we go wrong?

So for our foodie followers, if you remember anything from this blog, remember Hank's Place located at the intersection of Routes 1 and 100 in Chadds Ford (http://www.hanks-place.net/). They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. And we were very impressed with the food. We never did get to try their breakfasts, although the menu says if you ask, the chef will cook you breakfast anytime of the day. And the breakfast menu was one of the most extensive breakfast menus I've ever seen. So remember that name . . . Hank's Place, Homestyle Cooking, and you will thank us from the bottom of your hungry little hearts.

We decided to pass on dessert at Hank's. Not that dessert didn't look good. But we were stuffed, and Kiwi Yogurt over in West Chester was calling our names. Again like those Sirens calling the Argonauts. We decided we hadn't seen much of the rest of Chadds Ford, so why not take all back roads over to West Chester and check out the countryside. So beautiful. Rolling hills, farms, Pennsylvania style stucco houses, streams running through heavily forested, shady, cool glens. And also some very expensive homes. The kind of homes that you can just barely see from the street as you pass by, long driveways with gates out at the edge of street, and keypad guarded entrances to keep the rif-raf and nosy tourists out.

This time we had Kiwi Yogurt down good. Don't bother trying to find a parallel parking spot on the street (West Chester is a buzzing little place even in the evening - it's a college town with West Chester University just on the outskirts and college kids are everywhere). Instead, you just drive into the public parking garage right next door to Kiwi Yogurt and pay 75 cents for an hour and a half of parking - the same price as the meters on the street (and they say Polish people have a hard time figuring things out). And this time we also figured out that the yogurt is actually heavier than the add-ins, so we went a bit lighter on the yogurt (I had mango again - couldn't resist) and also went a bit lighter on the add-ins. Each of our "creations" came in this time between $8 and $10. Don't know how that worked out. But what the heck, we were on vacation and that yogurt was the cat's meow.

Now we're tired, the sky is starting to get dark and ominous looking, and we're figuring it's time to go back to the hotel and check-in by phone with our hubbies. Little did we know that when we called home, we'd find out that although the tornadoes never did come to Chadds Ford - they came to Massachusetts instead! And we never even had a drop of rain where we were.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Brandywine Valley, Tuesday

Nothing like a good night's sleep to refresh the body and soul. And a wonderful breakfast provided by the hotel was an added bonus. Kudos again to Hampton Inn & Suites - they have hot breakfast items available every morning, as well as make your own waffles, and plenty of healthy choices to get you started off right.

So now, in the cool of the early morning, we were ready to set off for Winterthur. Except, as soon as we walked out the front door of the hotel to get in the car, we were again hit by a blast of hot and humid air. Not as bad as late afternoon of the day before . . . but the air held a promise of oppressive things to come. Best to get moving and enjoy what "cool" of the day there was before we needed to seek the comfort of air-conditioning.

We arrived at Winterthur and started at the Visitors' Center. The nice ladies at the desk suggested we take the garden tram on a trip around the entire estate so that we could get a feel for what the layout of the grounds looked like and make decisions about what gardens we were most interested in visiting. And so that's what we did. We had a wonderful tour guide who shared with us the historical background of the DuPont family, the mansion, and the gardens. Then when we returned to the Visitor's Center, we hopped the next tram and headed out for our first garden stop.

Of course, being children at heart, we knew our first stop was going to be the Enchanted Woods, the garden Henry Francis DuPont designed for his grandchildren to play in. Everything is child size - tables and chairs, benches, water fountains, a playhouse with a thatched roof, a tree house, and many other amazing things to enchant children (and adults who can easily become children again). One of the first things we encountered in the garden was a ring of toadstools - just the right height for young children to sit on - except, except, there was a sign that stated one must "Never ever step inside a fairy ring." Bev has photos to show you just what does happen when a bad "child" disobeys the rules and does step inside. And some photos of mine will show how size and scale of things can be very skewed when one visits an enchanted garden.

Along with the Enchanted Woods, we explored March Bank, the Quarry Garden, and The Glade & Reflecting Pool. And as we were exploring, the cooler morning air was giving way again to the oppressive heat and humidity and we were ready to head inside the mansion to go on a tour. Inside the mansion it was indeed cool and dry and a welcome relief from the outside. We took time to watch a short movie about the DuPonts and the development of Winterthur and then went on a tour of the 5th and 6th floors which the DuPonts used for entertaining.

We decided Mr. DuPont had to have been a bit eccentric. The man never worked a day in his life and lived entirely off his inheritance. After a trip to Shelburne, VT to visit with Electra Havenmeyer Webb (the founder of Shelburne Museum), Mr. DuPont fell in love with Americana art and started collecting whatever he could get his hands on. And as his collection grew, he ran out of space in his house to display everything, so he would just add more rooms to his house to make room for his new acquisitions. He ended up with a 9-floor mansion with 175 rooms - most of which were just to display his collection of Americana art and furniture - and as such were rooms to look at, not rooms that they ever lived in and used.

Weekend guests to the mansion were treated extremely well. A guest would write out a menu the night before for the next morning's breakfast and it was served to the guest in bed by the servants. Your clothes would have been cleaned, pressed, missing buttons replaced, ripped seams restitched, and your shoelaces would even be ironed - all while you had been sleeping at night. During your stay as a guest at Winterthur, although flower arrangements throughout the house were changed daily, you would never see the same flower used twice in any of the bouquets. And of course, the color of the flowers in the bouquets always matched the color of the china used at each meal. After all, Mr. DuPont had 58 different sets of china providing a wide variety of china colors to match the flowers. I told the tour guide he was Martha Stewart before the real Martha was even born.

We want to go back to Winterthur. Perhaps during a different growing season so that we can see different flowers in bloom in the gardens. And also, we'd like to take some of the specialized tours limited to 5 people to see some of the other floors in the house which are not open to general admission ticket holders. So I see another trip to the Brandywine Valley in our future.

We spent most of the day at Winterthur. So when we left the estate, we were ready for very late lunch/early supper and decided to head over to the little city (or big town) of West Chester to see what we could see. We ended up eating at Saladworks where Bev had a buffalo bleu salad and I had a Cobb salad. You pick your basic style salad and can then order from over 50 add-ins and over 20 different kinds of salad dressings. A huge salad, more than enough for a meal, and very, very healthy (especially depending upon what add-ins you pick).

Then it was a walk around the corner to Kiwi Yogurt. Please, please, please. Won't someone please open a Kiwi Yogurt store in Raynham for me and one in Plymouth for Bevie??? Soft, non-fat yogurt in over a dozen different flavors. But all I need in my Raynham Kiwi Yogurt is mango flavor. And fresh pieces of kiwi fruit to sprinkle on top. You pick the cup size you want, fill it with whatever flavor(s) and how much yogurt you want, then put on whatever add-ins your little heart desires. Then they weigh your final creation. It's 49 cents/oz. And the first night we went, both of our dishes weighed in between $8 and $10 dollars each. But remember, we had just had healthy salads for lunch/dinner. And the yogurt is non-fat. Sum total of our calories for the day: zero.

Tomorrow, which is suppose to be the hottest day of the week, we are planning on visiting the Brandywine River Museum (inside and air-conditioned), Phillips Mushroom Farm in Kennett Square (inside and air-conditioned), and the Chadds Ford Winery (inside and air-conditioned). Do you detect a pattern here?

Brandywine Valley, Monday - Memorial Day

I know this is a bit out of the ordinary. Posting our blogs after we've already returned home from our trip. But the beginning of June weather for this year's trip was also a bit out of the ordinary. Back when Bev requested her vacation time and we were making reservations for a hotel, we never anticipated that it would be so hot and so, so humid. Terribly oppressive best describes it - like trying to swim a breast stroke through thick air. But we weren't to be deterred.

As we always say about situations like this, it is what is. And so, with a bit of false bravado (at least on my part), we decided we would just make the best of the situation and adapt as necessary. However, and this is a big HOWEVER, by the time we got back to our hotel room each night, we were much too tired - truly tuckered out and so hot and so sweaty, that writing the blog was simply too much to think about. So we cut ourselves some slack and decided we'd just write it when we got home. There's always exceptions to the rules and it's why you're reading our blog now instead of last week in real time.

Now on to the actual trip. This year we decided we would head south to the Brandywine Valley. We talked about a number of other possible destinations, but when I suggested the Brandywine Valley and a visit to the Brandywine River Museum which houses a large collection of works by all three Wyeths - N.C., Andrew, and Jamie, as well as tours of their family home, N.C.'s studio, and Kuerner Farm which was a favorite spot for Andrew Wyeth to paint, Bev was right on board. And as a bonus, we could visit Henry Francis DuPont's mansion and gardens at Winterthur, make a second visit to the spectacular Longwood Gardens, and also visit Valley Forge National Park and Brandywine Valley Battlefield. Oh, and not to forget Chadds Ford Winery, one of the best wineries located on the east coast. Actually, if you know us at all well, you're already thinking you bet that Chadds Ford Winery was at the top of our list of places to visit. You're right, it was pretty darn close to the top!
The trip from Massachusetts was pretty uneventful. We left Raynham by 7:30 am on Monday, Memorial Day, because we wanted to arrive at Longwood Gardens no later than 3 pm. Lilytopia! It was the last day of the magnificient Lilytopia exhibit held once a year and Longwood closed at 6 pm. We wanted at least 3-hours to see and photograph the exhibit and figured we could always go back another day to walk around the rest of the gardens. We made great time and arrived at Longwood before 2 pm.

Now remember, we were traveling in comfort in an air-conditioned car, so we weren't even thinking about the changing weather conditions outside. Once we parked the car at Longwood and got out to enter the gardens, we were quite shocked to discover that the air there was not at all like the cool, dry air we'd left behind at home. It was hot. To be exact, 92 degrees. It was humid. To be exact, a dewpoint of 72. It was oppressive. To be exact, a shock to our bodies. But the lilies were calling, and we were like the Argonauts on Jason's ship and we followed the lilies' siren call of beauty. To drive all this way and not see those lilies. Never!

Lilytopia was displayed primarily in the Conservatory. It is hard to do it justice with words. I will leave it to Bev to pick some photos which show what it looked like. Suffice it to say, lily blossoms as large as my face are almost surreal. Most of the lilies displayed are brand new species that horticulturists have created and are not yet for sale on the market. So we were seeing lilies that most people have never seen and are not yet growing in peoples' home flower gardens. The displays were unbelievably creative - especially if you have an unlimited number of species and colors of lilies to create with. I hope you enjoy our photos. And a visit to Longwood Gardens, anytime of the year, if it's not already, should be on your bucket list.

It certainly was hot there that afternoon though. By the time we left the Conservatory and the lilies and walked back outside, there were very few people walking around the gardens out in the sun. There were people outside for sure - but they were sitting on the many benches that are placed around the gardens in the shade of trees or on shady terraces or verandas. Other people were sitting or lying on the grass under the shade of big trees. And Longwood, being very service-oriented and concerned about people becoming overheated, had sent staff out on golf carts with huge coolers packed with ice and bottles of water. The water was free and you could have as much of it as you liked. The very nice golf cart driver who gave us water, suggested we first place the bottle of cold water on the back of our neck right under our hair so as to first cool down our blood as it circulated through our body. Great advice! It really does cool you down ever so nicely.

Even though we still had some time left to wander the outside gardens before the 6 pm closing, it was much too hot to be out walking in the sun. We decided we'd wait until later in the week to see if the temps cooled down a bit and we had the time to come back to see more of the gardens.
So from Longwood, we headed back to Glen Falls and the Hampton Inn where we'd made reservations. On our way in the car, we decided we'd stop for lunch/dinner before we checked in and got settled in our room and relaxed and started thinking about sleep and what we wanted to do the next day. That's how we ended up at P.F. Chang's. It was just a stone's throw from our hotel.

Neither of us had been to a P.F's before. And we were hot, tired and starved. A dangerous combination when entering a restaurant with good food and strong Mai Tais. We ordered way too much food (how were we suppose to know that their servings are very large? after all, we'd never been to a P.F. Chang's before), the Mai Tais were very strong, but oh so tasty (again, we plead ignorance on knowing that as well), and the waiter so cute. So we flirted a bit with Vince. It's allowed. And it was fun. He flirted back. See, even in your 60s, that stuff is good!

We left the restaurant full to the gills, tipsy (I won't say just how tipsy we were), and headed to our hotel. We loaded up one of luggage "buggies" (as Bevie calls them), and the desk clerk offered to come with us with a second buggie carrying a small frig for our room so we could store all our leftover P.F. Chang food and any cold drinks we might buy for the rest of the week (***** stars for Hampton Inn & Suites - their service was impeccable). Bevie and I drove the buggy with our luggage and "stuff". If the buggy trip from the lobby to our room was a test to get our drivers' licenses, we never would have passed. We started to giggle at our lack of driving skills and the foolishness of it all, the giggling turned into full-blown hilarious giggling, and someone peed her pants before we could even get to our room. As to which one of us it was, our lips are sealed.

We settled in, relaxed, checked out the weather forecast on TV. No, that's not the right order. Then we settled in, relaxed and checked out the weather. It appeared that for outside touring, the next day would be the coolest of the week (only in the low 90s) and we decided we'd head for Winterthur to arrive as soon as it opened in the cool of the morning. We'd wander the gardens before it got too hot and then we'd tour the mansion itself which we optimistically hoped would be air-conditioned what with the art and furniture collections that would need to be kept at a constant temp and humidity. It was a plan. We were cool and comfortable, our stomachs were full, we had visions of lilies floating in our heads, and we were tired. Time for bed and sleep.