Tag Archives: vacation

Day 3 and we cross into New York.

 

The third day of the Berkshire vacation dawned dreary and wet, so we slept in and got a late start.

 

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We’d decided to drive over to New York State to tour Olana, a castle of the Hudson River Valley. The ride was wet and uneventful, full of the classic  “blurry, taken through the window, my husband was driving 85 mph”  photographs.

 

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Those are cows, in case you were wondering.

As we neared the destination I figured I would look it up on my phone and get a little background….. which I should have done before we left because apparently you have to book a tour in advance and they were full for the entire week we’d be in the area.

Damn.

I love me a good castle.

 

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It was a little drier in New York… and here’s a photo of a fence.

 

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Which would have been a photo of a glorious farm if the husband wasn’t Mario Andretti. I have scores of  that was supposed to be  “insert fabulous subject matter here”   photos.

You can always tell where I’ve been by the great photos I’ve missed.

 

 

 

 

So we drove aimlessly through gorgeous farm country and scenic mountain valleys. Shame you won’t see any of it here.

And before the food police hit their sirens….

 

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We stopped at a main street diner in some podunk town I don’t remember the name of and had lunch.

 

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Grilled chicken salad melt for me, hot turkey sandwich for the husband. Okay?

 

 

The town next to the podunk diner town happened to be Kinderhook,  (children’s corner in Dutch)  the home of the 8th President of the United States, Martin Van Buren… so we said why not? And took another tour.

We’re nothing if not boring.

 

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We got our tickets and it started to rain, naturally.

 

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So we sprinted soggily down the lane towards the house, Lindenwald.

 

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There’s the husband huddled on the porch waiting for the Park Ranger. Doesn’t he look thrilled?

 

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We were the first ones there and had to wait 20 minutes for the rest of the group to show up. How fun!

 

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Upon entry? Dark.

As a friggin’ tomb. They keep the shades drawn to block the sunlight that will fade the furniture and wall paper and won’t let you use a flash to take pictures. Yay!

 

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After much cajoling and since there was absolutely no sun, I managed a few brighter shots.

 

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The presence of the portable fan kind of killed the aesthetic, but at least I could see it.

 

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I can’t say I knew much about good ole Martin, or that I ever really wanted to…. but there was a lot of interesting American government history related by the ranger. Enough to know these good and simple men of yesteryear would be spinning in their graves at what’s going in Washington today.

 

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Even during his years in the White House, Van Buren listed his occupation as “farmer” on his taxes. That speaks volumes.

 

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The home wasn’t grand, and housed multiple generations of his children and grandchildren. This tower of stairs as seen from the second floor, lead to nowhere… but you know the grands probably loved racing up and down them daily.

 

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Since the house wasn’t large enough to accommodate a banquet hall, Martin ordered and stuck his long dining table right in the front hall for state suppers with dignitaries.

 

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An entry in his journal from later years spoke of a meal he had with Abraham Lincoln. Apparently he laughed so hard at the young Lincoln’s jokes, his ribs hurt the next day.

Nice to know Abe wasn’t always so somber.

 

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And then there was food…

 

And drink.

I never realized how interested my readers are in what I eat and drink on vacation until I blogged a few posts without sustenance photos.

 

 

Calm down people!

We were busy… all in good time.

 

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Day 2  (Yes, we’re only on day 2. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.) ended with us finding a quirky little place called the Olde Forge.

 

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I had to question the logic of having a pumpkin carriage driver, but took my chances and went in.

 

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The decor was more early bar room than old forge…. but after perusing their drink menu I was sold.

 

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Come to Mama Fall Festive-Tini!

And they did.

Three of them, which were so delicious  (not to mention potent)  I didn’t have the time  (or the brain cells)  to photograph them.

 

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Had I wanted beer, this was the place. Their list was 6 pages long, front and back. I could have easily done flights until I asked the pumpkin for a ride home…

But the husband’s favorite thing in the world is French Onion Soup and the menu was raving about theirs, so we both tried it.

 

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Holy Hell, there must have been a pound of cheese! And I ate every gooey, fattening mouthful. The broth was dark and rich, filled with onions and wine.

Life was good!

My entree? Wild Mushroom Ravioli with a sun dried tomato and basil cream sauce.

 

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Need I say more?

The husband opted for Maple Teriyaki Glazed Salmon with roasted acorn squash.

 

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He liked it, but complained it was too sweet.

 

 

Maple? Plus Teriyaki? Not exactly lemon pucker power there….

At times I think the husband suffers from ordering anxiety. It went something like this :

The waitress appeared, I order rapidly (Because I’m a woman, I know what I want) and he sat there with a blank look on his face. The waitress tapped her foot, I made suggestions, he gave me “The Look”,  (If you’re married you know what The Look is, and how utterly ineffective it can be on snarky spouses.) She asked if he neededmore time, he said no (but really meant yes) and then ordered the first thing that caught his eye. Oh, btw? He hates food covered in sweet glazes and sauces. I told him that… and got another Look.

We waited for the food, I drank. The food came, I drank. He wasn’t happy, I drank. Do you see the pattern here? The more he complained, the more I laughed (and screamed I Told You So in my head). Whatever. He ate it all… and if push came to shove would probably order it again.

He’s been doing that for 34 years, what can I say?

Don’t even get me started on Pesto.

 

 

 

The Mount… grounds.

 

As lovely as the house was, I almost enjoyed strolling the grounds more.

That being said, we really don’t stroll enough these days. There’s a distinct lack of strolling going on and it probably explains a lot. One should never underestimate the benefits of a good stroll…

Alligator optional.

 

 

You exit the dining room onto a huge stone porch which was turned into a little cafe.

 

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Sorry food picture people, they had stopped serving lunch by the time we arrived. But the view was pretty sweet even with a growling stomach.

 

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Talk about a nice spot for your morning coffee…

 

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Ole Edith knew her stuff when it came to landscaping as well.

 

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I can’t imagine how long it takes to keep those shrubs trimmed.

 

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And this was just the porch area.

 

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We strolled, and I still hadn’t gotten far enough away to get a nice shot of the house.

 

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But the trees?

 

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Oh, good Lord…

The trees!

 

 

They were beautiful!

 

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I couldn’t stop photographing those.

 

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Absolutely magnificent from every angle.

 

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I love me some trees.

 

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Again, the house photo alluded me.

 

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But the grounds were lovely.

 

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And finally…

 

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The strolling paid off.

 

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And I got the money shot.

 

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The Mount.

 

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In all her glory.

 

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There were more gardens…

 

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And grounds…

 

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And wooded paths…

 

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And shots of the house…

 

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Some in better focus than others.

 

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(Note – do not shoot selfies straight into the sun.)

But it was near closing time and we had to say goodbye to the trees.

*Sob*

 

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On the walk back to the car we did see one more piece of modern art for the husband to puzzle over…

 

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$18,000 if you’re interested.

 

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Then it was the stables…

 

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Heck, they were beautiful.

I’d live there.

 

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And we were done.

 

qwe

 

Until the vacation next post…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mount…. house.

 

No, not a house where you mount.

 

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The house is named the Mount.

Why? According to Edith Wharton –

“On a slope over-looking the dark waters and densely wooded shore of Laurel Lake we built a spacious and dignified house, to which we gave the name of my great-grandfather’s place, the Mount…There for ten years I lived and gardened and wrote contentedly…”

It’s very hard to get a picture from the front, because it looks more like the back and there’s a large wall surrounding the courtyard.

 

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We entered and poked around for a bit while waiting for the guided tour.

 

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Basically, if you don’t take the tour all you’ll see is the kitchen.

 

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Which was quite small considering the size of the house. Not that ole Edith ever did any cooking. It was said she only stepped foot in there 2 or 3 times.

 

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The tour began upstairs, which was considered the first floor even though it’s the second.

 

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Rich people, what do they know?

 

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(Note- trying to get pictures with no one in them is a challenge on old house tours. Upstairs photo number 1? Fail.)

At the top of the stairs you entered a long grand hallway with imported Italian marble floors, which is where you stayed until the butler decided you were important enough to enter. (The chairs were for us to sit in while the docent gave a lecture. Edith would have made you stand.)

 

 

Edith designed the house herself with the help an architect friend, which was quite unusual in those days.

 

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Sadly none of the furniture is original. Edith moved to Europe later in life and took everything with her. The pieces you see have been deemed proper to the period and donated by antique dealers or on loan from historical societies.

 

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It was a large, but livable home.

 

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With a small, informal circular dining table. Edith hated long halls that seated 40 people. She wanted to talk to her guests.

 

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Please note the elaborate plaster work. It was amazing, and totally restored after the house was bought by the state.

 

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From 1942 to 1976 the house was turned into a private school for girls.

 

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Can you imagine bunking here as teenagers?

 

 

So ends the interior portion of the tour.

 

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Up next?

 

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The grounds and gardens.

 

 

You’re welcome.

 

 

The Mount.

 

Bet that title has you wondering where I’m going with this…

 

 

No worries, it’s just Edith Wharton’s summer home in Lenox, Massachusetts.

 

 

You remember Edith? Forward thinking, independent, free spirited author of The Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome, among others. She was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1921, and quite an interesting ole broad by the look of her photos.

 

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Not just any woman can pull off a matching set of canine earrings you know.

Entering the estate from the road, you can’t see much.

 

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And as we walked down the path I thought I spotted the house.

 

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It was large, but rather plain.

Which makes sense, considering it was the stables.

Moving on down the lane to the actual house, we started passing large installations of modern art.

 

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I thought they were wonderful.

 

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My husband was just wondering what they hell they were.

It got to be a running joke as we walked.

 

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Modern art…

 

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WTF look.

 

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Modern art…

 

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WTF look.

You get the idea. It was priceless… and I was enjoying myself immensely at his expense. (We’ve been married for 34 years, it’s what you do.)

And it got even better after we ran into another couple who had picked up the brochure and told us the pieces were for sale. Well, then I really had a good time imagining where in our yard we could place the treasures.

 

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I thought these dudes would look great clustered around the apple trees. The husband was not amused.

But even he got in on the fun when he saw this one…

 

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Yeah.

 

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A definite WTF considering they wanted $12,000 for it.

 

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I tried to tell him it would be great when his family visited….

 

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But even after trying it out, he couldn’t be persuaded.

 

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And considering the crazy prices of these things, I had to squawk when he walked through the next one and almost crushed it under foot.

 

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What?

You don’t see it…?

Look again.

 

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Because doesn’t everyone need a porcelain mushroom on a stick?

A bargain at $2,500.

 

 

As we neared the Mount there was only one left, and I totally wanted it.

 

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I mean, I really did.

 

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A giant Trojan Cowbird on wheels!

Who wouldn’t want him?

I was in love!

 

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And as I was figuring how much I could get for my car, I noticed the sold sign.

 

 

A day late, and $18,000 short.

That’s me.

 

 

Chesterwood, Part 2

 

 

 

Yes, part 2.

Suck it up Buttercup and read on.

 

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Chesterwood house, Daniel French’s summer home in the Berkshires.

It’s said that his wife found this piece of property, fell in love with the mountain view and told him… you must build me a house here.

 

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So he did.

 

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And added various porches to take full advantage.

 

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Of course the porches had sculptures.

 

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Which were pretty wonderful.

 

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The interior of the house was comfortable…

 

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And not overly grand.

 

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With hand painted wall paper imported from France….

 

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Giving the illusion of being surrounded by nature while indoors.

I might have just potted a fern, but whatever.

 

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Most of the beds were tall…

 

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Which could be a difficult climb after a few too many at dinner.

 

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But you could always spend the night on one of the porches.

 

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There were certainly enough of them.

 

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Some more heavily decorated than others.

 

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I think I could do morning tea here quite nicely …

 

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Yes, I could.

 

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Evening cocktails?

Cheers.

 

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Chesterwood.

 

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Chesterwood….

 

Our first full day in the Berkshires dawned a little foggy.

 

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And we saw the ever present windmills towering above the resort.

 

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Along the main road, they almost seemed to rise from the clouds.

 

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A huge blueberry Belgian waffle started my morning off right and we were soon on our way to Chesterwood.

Note – if you’re not interested in history, Abraham Lincoln, sculpture, period homes and gardens… feel free to leave now. I’m about to get my geek on.

 

 

 

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Daniel Chester French was the man who designed the Lincoln Memorial, and this was his summer home and studio in the Berkshires.

 

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You enter the estate through the converted 1800’s barn….

 

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Which serves as a visitor center and gallery for French’s work.

 

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You might recognize the Minuteman.

 

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It was rather fascinating seeing the progression of Lincoln’s immortal image come to life.

 

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And rather haunting as well.

 

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Lincoln dominates your thoughts and sight…

 

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But French was a prolific sculpture before and after his most famous work.

 

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Still awake?

 

 

Just checking.

We opted to take the guided studio and house tour even though our docent was a bit of a dolt.

 

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The studio was Italianate in design.

 

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As were the gardens…

 

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Although past their prime this time of year.

 

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The studio was full..

 

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But I won’t drone on about all that.

 

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The railroad track at the back door that was used to move the enormous pieces of art was interesting though.

 

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Hey..

If you’re still with me, bravo!

 

 

And thanks for the blogging loyalty. I’m a bit of a history nerd and find all of this quite wonderful, but I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

 

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After the studio we strolled around the gardens….

 

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And wandered a serene path through the woods.

 

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French drew inspiration from the natural world and walked the estate daily.

 

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Benches are scattered here and there…

 

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As are sculptured memorials.

Next up… the house.

Try to contain your enthusiasm.