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Hillwood Estate – Museum & Gardens…Faberge Eggs…French Art…Exquisite Garden Rooms…Magnificent Orchids

June 24, 2017
Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

The Northeast – Washington, DC – Hillwood Estate

Washington, DC – 38.9437° N, 77.0526° W

From Breakfast Cereal to Faberge Eggs

The Discovery

72hrJetsetterGirl was scrolling the internet for things to do in Washington, DC as her Aussie girlfriend was coming across the Pacific for a visit.  Yes, The National Mall and the Smithsonian Museums are awesome, however an afternoon admiring fine arts and strolling around exquisitely manicured gardens was more what 72hrJetsetterGirl had in mind to entertain her mate. 

Hillwood Estate - Mansion and Gardens

Hillwood Estate – Mansion and Gardens

After some research 72hrJetsetterGirl was delighted to discover Hillwood, a Mansion and Gardens located in leafy northwest Washington DC.  Hillwood is the life time collection of Russian Imperial Art and French Decorative Art of Marjorie Merriweather Post situated on twenty five acres of speculator gardens.

Who is Marjorie Merriweather Post?

As 72hrJetsetterGirl navigated her way into the District, she opted for the scenic route to DC, courtesy of the “recalculating of her Garmin” – somehow I66W is not that scenic !  In between the frequent  “make a turn as soon as possible” instruction coming from the Garmin,  72hrJetsetterGirl gave her buddy a brief synopsis of Marjorie Merriweather Post – businesswoman, socialite, philanthropist and collector. 

Marjorie Merriweather Post

Marjorie Merriweather Post

Marjorie was one of America’s most successful businesswomen (Go Girl Power!).  In the early 1910s, at the age of 27, she inherited the $20M Postsum Cereal empire from her parents, which later became the General Foods Corporation. Over the years Marjorie became an avid collector of neoclassical style of Louis XVI French furniture, tapestries, Seyres porcelain, gold boxes and all things jeweled which later lead to her exquisite collection of Faberge Easter Eggs.

Marjorie epitomized the Roaring 20s lifestyle and decorated her legendary and multiple residences with fine art pieces.  Her residences included a 52 room New York Apartment, her West Palm Beach estate Mar-a-Lago (now owned by Mr Trump) and her well-appointed four masted yacht just to name a few. Yes, definitely lifestyles of the rich and famous!

Mar-a-Largo, West Palm Beach, Florida

Mar-a-Largo, West Palm Beach, Florida

Hillwood is renowned as having the most comprehensive collection of Russian Imperial Art outside of Russia. How many people would know this? Marjorie’s third husband was the US Ambassador to the Soviet Union.  During the 1930’s the Soviet government was in the process of selling the treasures seized from the church, the Imperial family and the Aristocracy to raise funds to finance the Union’s industrialization plan. Whilst in the Soviet Union, these finely crafted objects ignited Marjorie’s passion as a collector of Russian Art. 72hrJetsetterGirl would not mind having a Faberge Easter Egg or two.

In 1955, following her divorce Marjorie purchased Hillwood as her permanent residence. In 1977 Hillwood opened as a museum to showcase the beauty, elegance of Marjorie Merriweather Post and her exquisite gardens and collections for our enjoyment.   

The Mansion that Became a Museum

As the traveling duo wandered along the garden path to the Georgian-style Mansion, taking in the splendor of the pristine floral displays, they knew they were in for a lovely afternoon even on a rainy day. Before commencing the docent tour, the duo decided to have a light lunch of Coronation Chicken Salad Sandwiches and a pot of Earl Grey tea at Hillwood Cafe.  Yes that does sound very regal! Now they were ready to step into a very different world to their own and find out how the Mansion became a Museum.

Hillwood Estate - Museum & Gardens

Hillwood Estate – Museum & Gardens

Grand Entrance – Entry Hall

The docent led tour, started in the Grand Entry Hall.  What an entry hall! 72hrJetsetterGirl’s eyes lit up with excitement with the grandeur of the French wrought iron and gilt bronze railing of the regal staircase and paintings of nobility.  72hrJetsetterGirl loves visiting a mansion home and with the added touch of Russian royalty she thought she was in heaven.  It became very apparent very quickly that Marjorie’s collection is one of the finest in the world. Already 72hrJetsetterGirl’s mate was giving her the double thumbs up for finding this treasured attraction in DC. As we ascended the stately staircase, the portrait of the Russian Empress – Catherine II also known as Catherine the Great is smiling down on you.  The docent informed the small party that Marjorie was fascinated by Catherine the Great, who was a self-declared “defender of the arts and sciences” – sounds like Marjorie!

A Grand Entrance - Hillwood Museum - Entry Hall

A Grand Entrance – Hillwood Museum – Entry Hall

The Dining Room

The well informed docent then led the group through to the French Drawing Room where guests (diplomats, socialites and politicians) used to gather sipping aperitifs cocktails as a prelude to an elegant evening at Hillwood.  72hrJetsetterGirl managed to catch a glimpse of some of the prominent guests to Hillwood’s soirees as their photographs are displayed on the grand piano.  Throughout each of the exquisitely decorated rooms,  the perfume of fresh flowers filled the air. It was Ms Post’s wishes to continue this practice for perpetuity, just like when she resided in the Mansion.  The Dining Room is filled with eclectic objects, with the centre-piece being the 30 seat dining table with a mosaic top containing eleven different stones.  Oh to be a guest at one of Marjorie’s dinner parties.

Dining Room - Hillwood Museum

Dining Room – Hillwood Museum

Bedroom Suite

The next stop on the tour, was Marjorie’s bedroom furnished in a pink and gold colour scheme with its Louis XVI canopied bed.  A Pierre Tartoue’s portrait of Marjorie’ daughters Adelaide and Eleanor adores one of the bedroom walls. An item of particular interest is the neoclassical desk by Conrad Mauter situated to the side of the bed. 72hrJetsetterGirl would certainly have sweet dreams if this was her bedroom.

Marjorie Post's Bedroom Suite - Louis XVI canopied bed and neoclassical desk

Marjorie Post’s Bedroom Suite – Louis XVI canopied bed and neoclassical desk

Marjorie Post's Bedroom Suite - Pierre Tartoue's portrait of daughters Adelaide and Eleanor

Marjorie Post’s Bedroom Suite – Pierre Tartoue’s portrait of daughters Adelaide and Eleanor

Russian Collection – Faberge Imperial Easter Eggs

Throughout the museum there is a treasure chest of stunning and rare Russian collection pieces, ranging from silver covered icons, to fine porcelain to a gold chalice that Catherine the Great commissioned in 1791 as part of a communion set.  Definitely Marjorie’s collection could easily pass as the US’ version of The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia.  72hrJetsetterGirl was very keen to view Marjorie’s stunning Faberge Imperial Easter Eggs Collection.  These Easter Eggs were a gift from Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, to his mother, Maria Fedorovna.   As 72hrJetsetterGirl toured the Mansion, she noted the decorative light switch covers which are exquisite and highlights Marjorie exceptional decorating skills.

Faberge Easter Eggs

Faberge Easter Eggs

 Outdoor Rooms

After a very intensive and informative tour of the Mansion Museum, it was time to explore the formal gardens of Hillwood designed by landscape architects Umberto Innocenti and Richard Webel. 72hrJetsetterGirl and her mate enjoyed exploring the “outdoor rooms” which are meant to complement the décor of  each of the Mansion’s rooms. Each of the outdoor rooms are private, however connected by subtle transitional features as visitors pass from the French Parterre, to the Rose Garden, to the Japanese Garden and then onto the Friendship Walk.  In addition to the outdoor rooms, Hillwood has a very impressive Orchid collection as well as a putting green on the Lunar Lawn. 

French Parterre Garden - Hillwood Estate

French Parterre Garden, Hillwood Estate

Hillwood Estate - The Rose Garden

The Rose Garden

Friendship Garden - Four Seasons,Hillwood Estate

Friendship Garden – Four Seasons, Hillwood Estate

Japanese Garden, Hillwood Estate

Japanese Garden, Hillwood Estate

Orchid Collection, Hillwood Estate

Orchid Collection, Hillwood Estate

Hillwood Estate - Putting Green

Putting Green

Dacha

Whilst exploring the outdoor gardens, the traveling duo were very pleasantly surprised to see the “Russian” influence continue.  Whilst in Russia, Ms Post was charmed by the Russian country houses, known as Dachas. During the period of the Cold War, Ms Post arranged for a Dacha to be built at Hillwood.   Hillwood’s Dacha represents a nostalgic view of Russian culture and used today to showcase special exhibitions.

Dacha House, Hillwood Estate

Dacha House, Hillwood Estate

Verdict

72hrJetsetterGirl and her Aussie buddy certainly enjoyed their afternoon exploring Hillwood Mansion and Gardens.  Definitely a must see for any traveler to the Nation’s capital. Throughout the year Hillwood hosts seasonal special events and exhibitions, details can be found on their website.  72hrJetsetterGirl will certainly return to Hillwood for a visit in Fall (autumn for my Aussie friends) – the colours would very pretty.   It is truly a lovely, tranquil place to spend an afternoon with your mate!

New York North America - USA The Northeast

New York, New York….Start Spreading the News…There is no other city like it

June 8, 2017
Manhattan Skyline

The Northwest – New York

New York City, NY – 40.7128 N, 74.0059 W

C&C Approach – The Mission Possible?

Your Mission should you choose to accept it..

The current mantra at 72hrJetsetterGirl’s office is “Cost and Competitiveness” aka C&C. In short – how to get more with less $$s. As we know, NYC is not a very $$ friendly destination to visit, but hey we do LOVE it. 72hrJetsetterGirl’s mission for this adventure is to see the attractions and experience the vibe of the Big Apple…but wait with the only expenses being her subway fares. This mission will self-destruct in 72 hours.

Love Love NYC

Love Love NYC

Warning, Warning...

This mission is not 72hrJetsetterGirl’s first trip to NY. It’s actually her #7. LOVE LOVE NYC!

Day One…Ready to Rock NYC

55 minutes after touching down at JFK and for under US$15, 72hrJetsetterGirl dropped her luggage off at her hotel and was ready to get this mission started. 

72hrJetsetterGirl’s first C&C adventure was a tramway ride to Roosevelt Island. As a fan of all things presidential, exploring FDR’s Four Freedom Park was definitely on the itinerary. The park celebrates the four freedoms (of Speech, of Worship, from Want, from Fear) which the US President articulated in his 1941 State of the Union address. On a side note, his better half, Eleanor, changed the role of First Lady through her active participation in American politics – You rock Eleanor! The park has views across the East River to the United Nations Building. Cost of entry to the park was a $1 donation.

View from FDR's Four Freedom Park across the East River to the United Nations Building

View from FDR’s Four Freedom Park across the East River to the United Nations Building

FDR's Four Freedom Park on Roosevelt Island

FDR’s Four Freedom Park on Roosevelt Island

Admiring NYC’s architecture

Back on the subway, the next attraction was a free guided tour of the world’s largest terminal – Grand Central Terminal.  (Alert! – it is a terminal as trains terminate here, not a station). Thank you Cornelius Vanderbilt for a magnificent Beaux Art masterpiece. The tour guide did a fabulous job, some of the stops on the tour were the “kissing room” and the cocktail bar of The Campbell Apartments . The piece-de-resistance is the Grand Central Terminal Clock with its four opal faces – worth $10M+. Former First Lady Jackie Kennedy, played a surprising role in saving this landmark from being demolished to make way for an office tower development in the 70s. The tour also included a stop at the Chrysler Building for all Art Deco lovers. A tip was given to the guide.

Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal

Stomach rumbling, mind wandering…Grand Central Terminal has a dining concourse; but why eat there when you can dine at the iconic Oyster Bar Restaurant for a couple extra greenbacks.  72hrJetsetterGirl’s lunch was a fried oyster po boy sandwich – delicious – well worth the extra $s for the ambience of a beautiful decorated setting.

Oyster Bar Restaurant, Grand Central Terminal NYC

Oyster Bar Restaurant, Grand Central Terminal NYC

Fitbit time

With perfect weather 72hrJetsetterGirl decided to take in the sunshine and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple on foot and meandered up 5th Avenue, feeling like Holly Golightly window shopping along the way (yes 72hrJetsetterGirl is a big Audrey Hepburn fan – pure elegance). The next stop was the Museum of Modern Art, often referred to as MoMA.  If you arrive on a Friday afternoon, after 4pm = FREE admission, to interpret the masterpieces of modern and contemporary art.  The sculpture garden is a great place to rest weary feet. MoMA is definitely a MUST SEE museum in NYC.

Enjoying the exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art - MoMA

Enjoying the exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art – MoMA

The final C&C attractions on the Upper East Side before calling it a day, was strolling through Central Park to the tranquil setting of the living memorial to singer, songwriter and peace activist John Lennon’s “Strawberry Fields Forever” and the greco-roman designed “Imagine” meditation spot. 72hrJetsetterGirl could not go pass a photo opportunity of the 16th US President who brought about the emancipation of slaves – Abe Lincoln. It was certainly a busy, informative, culturally diverse and cost effective day.

Exploring the Upper East Side of NYC

Exploring the Upper East Side of NYC

Day Two..the mission continues

72hrJetsetterGirl joined a “pay-what-you-wish” tour of the Bohemian capital of the west side of lower Manhattan – “the Village” (Greenwich Village). The walking tour covered such landmarks as The Stonewall Inn and Monica’s apartment on Bedford St from the “Friends” TV series. The informative tour concluded at the heart and center of the neighborhood, Washington Square Park.  72hrJetsetterGirl tipped the guide who provided an interesting narrative of the Village which has undergone an extensive gentrification process.

Exploring The Village - Greenwich Village

Exploring The Village – Greenwich Village

Lunch was a quick was a catch-up with a fellow Aussie expat at the hip Tommy Bahama Bar and Restaurant on 5th Avenue.  Once up to date on all the happenings it was time to bid “hoo-roo” and continue the C&C mission.

Time for a Ferry Ride

On previous trips to the “City that never sleeps” 72hrJetsetterGirl had made the ferry ride across the Hudson to America’s Great Lady and toured where the “American Dream” became a reality for 12 million immigrants.  The mission this trip was to view the Giant Goddess and the Manhattan Skyline from the FREE Staten Island Ferry ride.

Never get tired of these views - Staten Island Ferry Ride

Never get tired of these views – Staten Island Ferry Ride

Paying respects

After a relaxing ferry ride, 72hrJetsetterGirl paid her respects at the 9/11 Memorial and then moseyed her way back along Broadway admiring the great buildings of yesteryears!

9/11 Memorial

9/11 Memorial

The Iconic NYC Buildings

The Iconic NYC Buildings

Sunday – the day of rest?

72hrJetsetterGirl’s final day in NYC on this Mission Possible was more subdued and low key.  Central Park never gets boring, no matter how any times you visit such landmarks as Belvedere Castle, Alice in Wonderland sculpture and the Jackie K Reservoir.  72hrJetsetterGirl then strolled along the Museum Mile taking in the architecture of the United States’ largest art museum and one of the world’s most visited museum “The Met” and the Frank Lloyd Wright’s designed Guggenheim museum (72hrJetsetterGirl is a big fan of FLW).  72hrJetsetterGirl then took time to reflect upon the Mission of the last 72 hours with a cupcake at The Todd English Food Hall at The Plaza Hotel.

Central Park

Central Park

Museum Mile - The Guggenheim and The Met; Coffee at The Todd English Food Hall at The Plaza Hotel

Museum Mile – The Guggenheim and The Met; Coffee at The Todd English Food Hall at The Plaza Hotel

Mode of Transport

During this mission, 72hrJetsetterGirl travelled on various modes of transportations (plane, monorail, subway, tramway, ferry) and the last but not least was Amtrak, the passenger railway service, from Penn Station, NY back to Union Station in the nation’s capital.

Start Spreading The News – Useful tips

  • If flying into JFK get acquainted with the JFK AirTrain to Federal Circle and then jump on the LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) at Jamaica Station to Penn Station and change to the appropriate line for your accommodation. Would not suggest this option if you have a number of large suitcases;
  • Not sure what to see a MoMA or limited on time, google Must-See Works at New York’s Museum of Modern Art;
  • The “pay-what- you-like” tours by “Free Tours by Foot” company offer many walking tours of NY neighborhoods as well as food, bike and bus tours. To date 72hrJetsetterGirl has not been disappointed with these tours.
  • At the Ellis Island Immigration museum, you can check the register to find out if your decedents made the journey across the Atlantic. 
Window shopping along 5th Avenue

Window shopping along 5th Avenue

New York#FunFact: 

  • Acorns are adorned throughout Grand Central Terminal; top of the clock at the information booth, engraved in the marble and on every light fixture – it’s the Vanderbilt’s family symbol “from the acorn grows the mighty oak”;
  • Grand Central Terminal is the world’s largest train terminal. During morning peak hour, trains platform there every 58 seconds;
  • Greenwich Village ranked among the ten most expensive housing areas in the US;
  • The Status of Liberty, is in fact a nickname. Bartholdi, the French Sculptor who designed the statue, named his gift “Liberty Enlightening the World”.

The Nuts and Bolts of this C&C Mission

Why this destination
  • It is New York!  There is no other place like it.
  • A friend was going there on business and asked 72hrJetsetterGirl if she would like come along. Didn’t need to ask 72hrJetsetterGirl twice, tickets were booked before the sentence was finished!
How Long
  • 72 hours (In Friday morning, Out late Sunday afternoon)
Getting around
  • Inbound flight to JFK. Outbound Amtrak back to DC.
  • Best way to navigate NYC is on foot and by the subway. A map from the hotel will be your best go to guide for directions.
What to take
  • Carry on… Anything Audrey Hepburn or Carrie Bradshaw will have you feeling that you belong in New York.
Considerations
  • Even 72hrJetsetterGirl cannot see everything in NYC in one trip. 
  • For us Southern Hemisphere folks, winters in NY can be brutal and unfortunately in bitterly cold weather, being out and about sightseeing in negative temperatures would be a tough mission… A snow covered Central Park is priceless though.
  • Look to travel to NYC in “shoulder seasons” – Spring or Fall (colors very pretty) and the crowds are a little less.
  • Accommodation rates are always a premium in NYC – just need to bite the bullet and do it. You won’t regret your time in the Big Apple. 
  • For any new traveler to NYC, yes you want to visit the attractions you have read about, seen in the movies or people have told you about – it is certainly a city with its own particular “vibe” and needs to be experienced at least once in a lifetime.  Some of these attractions/activities can have you eating 2 minute noodles when you get back home, but theses are the sacrifices for having wonderful memories.

Verdict

This is a city no matter how often 72hrJetsetterGirl visits it is one of her favorites. Even on a C&C mission you can still experience the culture and the sights of New York and not feel that you have “missed” out. 72hrJetsetterGirl felt very pleased with the outcome of this mission and having a few more greenbacks in her purse to allowed for some “reward” shopping at Tiffany & Co…all hard works deserves a nice reward! 

We can always dream!

We can always dream!

Where have you used the C&C approach to discover a new city?