Thursday, April 3, 2014

Out and About - But I Do Read, Too

This has been, for me, a busy week.  I'll be the first to admit that I no longer like travelling, even short trips.  There are lots of reasons, but I won't bore you.

But on Sunday, we took the short drive to Wilmington, Delaware, to Winterthur, the du Pont home and museum.  It's a huge country house, 145 rooms, most of which are not on the tour.  The house is preserved as it would have been in about 1929  -  roughly the same post-WWI time period as the past season of  Downton Abbey.  Henry du Pont, the collector, was also a horticulturist, and the grounds and gardens reflect his skill.  It was rainy the day we went, so we'll have to go back on a nicer day to enjoy the gardens.

In fact, until next January, there's a wonderful exhibit of the costumes from the TV show Downton Abbey.  Photos except videos were allowed, but I never remember to take them.  You'll have to go here   to get an idea of what it's like and when to go see it.  I highly recommend a visit if you're in the area.  See the exhibit before you tour the house or you may come down with museum fatigue, as we did.  The exhibit compares life in a house like Downton Abbey to life in the country home of a wealthy American family at the same time period.  I'd love to have been a weekend guest at either home.

Tuesday, we went to the National Clock and Watch Museum in Columbia, PA.  Go here to find out the particulars.  This is a fascinating place if you have any interest in clocks or watches.  We both like clocks.  I love mechanical clocks, the kind you see in Europe, with little people popping out and about.  I have a cuckoo clock I bought when we were in Germany in 1988 and I will admit to standing in front of it with a stupid smile on my face  when the little bird comes out to cuckoo.

This museum currently has an exhibit of James Bond watches, which is fun.  The clock you can't miss is the Engle Clock.  A local inventor and watchmaker spent twenty years making this masterpiece, from about 1850-something until 1876.  It's 11' tall, 8' wide, and 3' deep.  At various times, Jesus and the Apostles appear, the three Marys appear, the devil pops out, the three stages of man (don't tell Shakespeare) come rotating out, angles sing, and Molly Pitcher reviews the troops.  I'm sure I've forgotten some of the figures.  It's awesome!

But I prefer reading to travelling.  I've come full circle.  I read voraciously as a child and youth, really all my life.  Then I decided it was time to do or see as many things as I'd been reading about.  I was fortunate enough to be able to travel a lot in the 1980s, so I'm satisfied that I've seen as much of the world as I care to see.  I've returned to reading.

Currently, I'm back in history with The Count of Monte Cristo, I just finished the latest Elly Griffiths Ruth Galloway mystery, I started a Val McDermid mystery, Retribution, but I can't always stomach her books.  I'm also reading a biography of Ngaio Marsh and the letters of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell.  Several people have read, reviewed, and enjoyed the newly republished John Bude mysteries.  I have them on my Kindle and am looking forward to trying them.


  1. Joan, you've introduced me to a new vintage mystery author! I'm excited about getting John Bude mysteries now! I use to love to roam around those grand houses, but anymore they disgust me. Must be old age setting in or something. The clocks museum sounds really interesting!

    1. Hi Peggy, I understand completely. Henry du Pont had 53 sets of dinnerware for regular use, not for collecting. He matched the dinnerware with the flowers that were on the table that evening. Me? I just use white dishes, which go with everything and saves me a bundle!

      It was the costumes from Downton Abbey that was the real draw for us. The historical aspect is interesting, too. It was a lovely exhibit.

  2. I have always wanted to go to Winterthur, now, more than ever. I would love to see the Downton Abbey costumes and, of course, the gardens.

    Have you read One Writer's Garden by Susan Haltom and Jane Roy Brown? It is a lush volume about Eudora Welty's garden, her mother, who tended it, and kept a garden journal. As I see you are into Welty's letters, you might enjoy this book.

    1. I hope you live close enough that you can go to Winterthur. I'm eager to go back and spend more time at the Downton Abbey exhibit and to go on a day when the gardens will be more enjoyable.

      I don't know One Writer's Garden, but my library has a copy and I've just put it on hold. I looked at it on-line and noticed a quote by one of my favorite garden writers, Henry Mitchell. He and Elizabeth Lawrence are my favorites. Welty and Maxwell write to each other about their gardens and, apparently, sent each other plants, especially roses. Thanks for the tip about the book!

  3. That clock looks and sounds like an absolute cracker, all bells and whistles!
    I've never been brave enough to read anything by local gal Val McDermid!
    Although I enjoy visiting stately homes it's mainly for the gardens as it can be quite sickening that some people had such fabulous lifestyles whilst others starved.