Tag Archives: gardens

Hillwood Gardens, Washington DC

Hi! Fancy seeing you again!

Just thought I’d quickly check in and let everyone know our nomadic adventures continue – and we’re happy to add another pin in the map. We now hang our hat in Washington, DC. Having moved from one capital city (London), we are feeling right at home and have wasted no time exploring this captivating town.

Spring is giving way to summer, and the weather here has been spectacular. We are trying to spend as much time outdoors as we can before the oppressive summer heat sets in.

As we celebrated our third wedding anniversary, we headed to Hillwood Museum for an early afternoon picnic in the gardens.

Hillwood mansion

The estate was founded by the glamorous (and somewhat eccentric) socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post. The mansion is now a museum, home to her incredible art collection and showcasing her wacky eye for interior design.

But the real delight are the gardens!

Hillwood japanese garden

Hillwood bridge1

We set right to work exploring every angle!

Hillwood Japanese garden waterfall

Hillwood japanese rock

And eventually settling in the shade to share a picnic.

Hillwood picnic dada luc

Hillwood picnic

I usually like to have a little lie-down after lunch, resting under the cool canopy, listening to the water babbling and birds crooning, inhaling the scent of freshly mown grass with every breath.

But this guy had other ideas!

Hillwood lawn run

Hillwood side yard

It was the day of the big Hillwood gala and everything was looking in tip-top shape for the evening’s events. So it was a bit embarrassing when we couldn’t keep our child from turning every fountain into his personal paddling pool.

His philosophy is clearly, “it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.”

Hillwood fountina

Hillwood fountain mama luc


Hillwood Japanese garden lilypads

Hillwood japanese garden bridge

Hillwood putting green umbrella

A glorious day, impeccable gardens, and the best company a girl could ask for.

Even if you have to chase after it.

Hillwood putting green


Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

On a recent trip up north, we pulled into beautiful Charlottesville, Virginia – to pay a visit to the fabled home of American founding father Thomas Jefferson.

He was waiting in the parking lot to greet us.

Thomas Jefferson bronze statue Monticello

A shuttle bus collected us from the Visitor’s Center and rumbled up the hill where we got our first glimpse of Monticello.

TJ designed and began building this place in 1769 – at the ripe old age of 26 years old, after inheriting 3,000 acres of plantation land from his father.

Monticello landscape wooded green

Monticello front entrance portico

It’s a truly graceful design. And the views from the top of the mountain aren’t bad either…

Monticello brick path view

Monticello side profile

Monticello deck side view2

I love the side decks branching out from each side of the house. I found TJ’s lime tree, close at hand for those sunset gin & tonics on the terrace I presume.

Monticello deck lime tree

Monticello deck sundial

Exploring the greenhouse piazza

Exploring the greenhouse piazza

Monticello deck sunroom porch window

Monticello kitchen

The Monticello foundation is refreshingly frank about the role that enslaved people played in everyday life. Jefferson owned more than 600 slaves over the course of his lifetime. They laboured on the plantation as field workers, gardeners, carpenters, textile weavers, blacksmiths, and household servants.

It’s astounding that with all that free labour, Jefferson still managed to die with over $2 million in debt. In his will, he bequeathed freedom to only five men – a great hypocrisy in regards to his belief that “slavery [was] contrary to the laws of nature” and that everyone had a right to personal liberty.

Monticello kitchen shelves

I can’t reconcile how Jefferson could advocate the abolishment of slavery, and even eventual emancipation of slaves, but still be a part of society that was growing more and more entrenched in the proliferation of slavery. The sad truth is that he is partly responsible for instilling in white American culture the notion that blacks were inferior. America is still grappling with the wounds of slavery and racism to this very day.

Log cabin dwelling for slaves

Log cabin dwelling for slaves

Monticello back lawn

It was a gorgeous day to stroll the grounds and explore the gardens, which symbolise the pioneering spirit of life in colonial America.

Monticello gardens hill landscape

Monticello gardens tree

Monticello gardens corn

Monticello gardens rosemary

Monticello gardens coupolla view

I could have spent all afternoon in this little brick pavilion with its double sash windows and extraordinary views across the rolling Piedmont countryside.

We wandered down the hill behind the house upon the family cemetery, to reflect on the obelisk marker of Jefferson’s grave.

Monticello grave fence emblym

Isn’t it surprising he didn’t mention being the third President of the United States as one of his accomplishments? Instead, he wanted to be remembered for his writings and for founding the University of Virginia.

Monticello gravestone

And how romantic that he died on the Fourth of July, fifty years to the day after signing the Declaration of Independence! Fellow signer and American revolutionary, John Adams would die on the same day, just four hours later.

Monticello gravestone gates

For all America’s complicated and dissonant history, this place is certainly a part of it.

Back at the Monticello discovery center, we tinkered around with some of Jefferson’s inventions, including a replica of his letter copying device.

Monticello letter copier demo

Monticello letter copier demo discovery

With our heads full of ideas and information, we stopped off at the Michie Tavern to debrief and reflect on our Monticello visit – over a mug of tavern ale!

Mitchie tavern sign

Mitchie tavern

Mitchie Tavern beer

Mitchie Tavern tavern ale

Mitchie Tavern beer sip

I’m so glad we had the chance to spend a day at Monticello and learn a little bit about the life of Thomas Jefferson.

In the words of the man himself, “If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed.”

Magnolia Plantation

Magnolia Plantation is a mere twenty-minute drive outside of Charleston and it’s known for its beautiful gardens.

When you pull up, you coast down a long drive covered in old oak boughs draped with Spanish moss.

Magnolia Plantation Spanish Moss Drive

Magnolia Plantation Spanish Moss Big Tree

Peacocks greet you on the front lawn of an old plantation house.

Magnolia Plantation Peacock

Magnolia Plantation Exterior Front

Magnolia used to be a rice plantation. The property backs up to the Ashley River, which was used to flood the fields to create the standing water needed to grow rice.

Reverend John Drayton inherited the property in the 1840s. It surprised me that he was a man of the cloth. As the tourguide gestured proudly to Drayton’s large Old Testament book commissioned from a London press, I couldn’t help but picture some creepy old villain, hunched over his Bible reading Exodus verses as enslaved labourers were being whipped (or worse) just outside his door.

I really struggled to separate the beauty of this property from its sinister history. I wonder if that’s what Drayton’s wife tried to do when she arrived at Magnolia from her hometown of Philadelphia. Legend has it that John built all the gardens on the property to please his out-of-town bride. There’s really no denying the refined allure of the landscape here.

Magnolia Plantation Exterior Rear Backyard

Magnolia Plantation Porch Bench

Magnolia Plantation Long White Bridge

Magnolia Plantation Long White Bridge Standing

Magnolia Plantation Long White Bridge Path

Magnolia Plantation Long White Bridge Pond

Magnolia Plantation Hedge Garden

The gardens remind me of the kind of Romantic landscapes you’d see in a Pre-Raphaelite painting. The kind of place a melancholy maiden might sulk around in a bohemian gown writing love letters…

Or maybe just prance gaily through a hedge maze!

Magnolia Plantation Garden Maze

The azalea bushes weren’t yet in full bloom, but there were plenty of exquisite flowers peeking out everywhere you looked. We toured down paths in every which direction, getting lost in the extensive grounds.

Magnolia Plantation Flowers

Magnolia Plantation Daisies

Magnolia Plantation Red Bridge Spanish Moss

Magnolia Plantation Red Bridge Gold Sandals

Magnolia Plantation Bag

Magnolia Plantation Peacock Fan

Part of our admission ticket included a walking tour of the swamp. So with some trepidation, we ventured in…

Swamp Tree Bark


Magnolia Plantation Swamp

Magnolia Plantation Swamp Path

Magnolia Plantation Swamp View

Magnolia Plantation Swamp Egret in Flight

The swamp is such a fascinating eco-habitat for so many creatures – especially birds. We saw egrets, red-headed woodpeckers, cardinals, and some others that we couldn’t identify. I would love to go back sometime with a pair of binoculars. It’s a bird-watcher’s paradise!

Thankfully, we were able to get close to some cute creatures in the swamp.

Magnolia Plantation Marsh Rabbit

This little marsh rabbit was not afraid to strike a pose for the camera!

Magnolia Plantation Marsh Rabbit Photoshoot

Magnolia Plantation Marsh Rabbit Swamp

By the time we left, it was starting to get very muggy in the swamp – it’s definitely not a forgiving climate in which to live! But this was a truly special place to visit and appreciate nature in one of its most enchanting forms.

Magnolia Plantation Swamp Bench

We left feeling completely swamped with lots of great memories!