My favorite TV show, Downton Abbey, takes place in the English countryside at the beginning of the 1910s and evolves around the lives of an aristocratic family and their servants in the magnificent setting of the Highclere castle. The abundance of characters belonging to these two opposite classes offers juicy story lines and intrigues that are so irresistible. The costumes, the mannerism, and the events throughout the episodes are so fascinating that one develops a real dependency on the show. With the second season over in February and the third one not beginning until the Fall, the wait is almost unbearable. What’s going to happen next?* Will Lady Mary and Matthew finally wed? Will Lady Edith find love and fulfillment? What about Lady Sybil? Will she ever come back? Will Mr. Bates finally enjoy some peace? Will Thomas change and become a nicer human being? Although, I have affection for most of the characters, my favorite one is the witty Dowager Countess Grantham played by the amazing Maggie Smith.
There are a few places here in L.A. that remind me of the magic of Downton Abbey but probably the one that best captures the spirit and esthetics of this period drama is the Huntington Library and Gardens
. The Huntington has that dreamy quality that transports back in time, it is hard to believe this place is only a few miles east of Los Angeles, in the elegant city of San Marino.
Henry Huntington, a railroad and transportation magnate, purchased the land in 1903 with the intention of using it as a ranch. When he retired, he decided to devote his time to his book and art collections and the landscaping of the ranch. The property covers 207 acres, of which approximately 120 are landscaped. More than 14,000 different varieties of plants are showcased in more than a dozen principal garden areas (my favorite are the Rose, the Cactus, the Japanese and Chinese gardens.)
The Huntington Art Collections reside in two buildings on the Huntington estate: The Huntington Art Gallery and the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art. The Huntington Art Gallery is housed inside Huntington’s original mansion and includes the most distinguished collections of 18th- and 19th-century British paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts outside London, including Thomas Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy” and Thomas Lawrence’s “Pinkie” (Sarah Barrett Moulton). There is also a collection of 18th-century French sculpture, tapestries, porcelain, and furniture. Every time I walk in there I’m breathless!! This place is certainly fit for a duchess! 😉
To complete the Downton Abbey experience, you need to have a tea party at the Rose Garden Tea Room; it’s so delicious. There are all sorts of scones, pastries, little cucumber and egg sandwiches, and a vast assortment of teas. It’s the perfect place to raise your pinkie and be sassy Lady Grantham-style!
*Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched DA, yet, but you’re planning to, don’t read any further.