The Brandywine Valley,Delaware

Just over the border from Pennsylvania, a short 45 mile hop from Philadelphia, is the beautiful Brandwine Valley,chock full of fascinating museums, outlet shopping and world class dining.

The Brandywine Valley,Delaware

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by diminor1929 on September 16, 2002

My tried and true traveling companion and I took a trip to explore the wonders of northern Delaware, including Winterthur, Delaware Museum of Natural History, the Hagley Museum, as well as some of the outstanding local establishments noted for fine food and drink. Each of the museums gives a unique perspective of Delaware's history and, believe it or not, these are much more interesting than I had previously imagined.${QuickSuggestions} Make this a leisurely 2-day trip by booking a room in a beautiful bed and breakfast or a convenient hotel. Winterthur,(Museum & Country Estate Route 52; 5105 Kennett Pike)is located southwest of Philadelphia in the glorious horse-country and old estate farmland that makes up this section of Delaware.To thoroughly take in Winterthur and all of its surroundings,definitely plan to spend a day. Be sure to include lunch in the very upscale (but reasonably-priced) cafeteria-style dining room in the main house. After lunch head for the gardens and then the Museum store where you will find reproductions of treasures found in the Dupont mansion and gardens. Have a marvelous dinner at one of the local historical establishments. Next day take your time and leisurely head for the Delaware Museum of Natural History, just a few short miles down Rt.52 from Winterthur. Here you will find a totally different type of visual and cerebral experience, with a truly unique exhibit of an African watering hole, life-sized dinosaurs and a most interesting exhibit of birds and shells from around the world. After several hours there, stop for lunch, then go to the Hagley Museum, which explains the history of gunpowder (yawn) but also gives you the "inside story" on the Duponts whose wealth was built on gunpowder and who literally shaped the history of Delaware. ${BestWay} You will need a car to get around in this area. It is within a few short one or two hour ride from Philadelphia, Baltimore, and the Washington,DC area.

Simon Pearce on the Brandywine at Lenape

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by diminor1929 on September 18, 2002

A visit to Simon Pearce is more than just a dining expereince. It is a unique opportunity to witness delicate handmade glass being blown right before your eyes. Visit an on-site shop where examples of this exquisite glassware can be purchased and then the "piece de resistance"...dinner in a superb restaurant where the same respect for perfection and crafsmanship is evident in the menu selections presented by the chef.

Regional specialties such as Chadd's Ford mushrooms were offered both in an appetizer (my partner's crab-stuffed mushroom) and my salad selection of mushrooms roasted in a delicate Marsala wine then tossed with baby lettuces and spring greens. After much speculation, I chose for a main course a savory horseradish-crusted cod that was served with leeks over garlic mashed potatoes. The horseradish and potatoes complimented each other perfectly. I would say this dish is a MUST. My partner's crisp roast duck was just that...crisp without a speck of fat and flavored delicately with some type of mango chutney. The dessert tray did not particularly appeal to us but we were impressed by the wine list. All in all the visit was a memorable one that we agreed we would like to return to with our spouses.

Simon Pearce on the Brandywine at Lenape
1333 Lenape Rd.
West Chester, 19382
(610) 793-0948

Buckley's Tavern

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by diminor1929 on September 30, 2002

My touring partner suggested this spot as a good place for lunch in the Brandywine Valley, and as her instincts are usually right on, I agreed. Once again, she was right. This is a special place. Its historic atmosphere and contemporary menu provided an aura of good cheer. Since it was rather warm we chose not to eat on the roof veranda but stayed in the comfy air-conditioned dining room. The beautiful fireplace must be very romantic in the winter.

Since I am a true fungi-fancier, I felt that a Wild Mushroom Soup from the mushroom capital of the world would be in order. It certainly was! I can't identify the mushrooms in the soup but the broth was full of their flavor, yet it was delicate and a great starter. My friend selected the French Tomato Onion, a slightly different twist on an old standby that was original and full of tasty garlic croutons and plenty of melted gruyere cheese.

I also have an affinity for Asian food and so ordered the Vietnamese Shrimp Salad in this highly unlikely spot for a dish like this. It was very, very good with basil and mint stuffed shrimp rolls served traditionally on fresh greens with cucumber, tomato, peanuts, rice noodles and a top knotch spicy Thai dressing. My more adventurous friend chose the Spinach and Roasted Beet Salad that was loaded with fresh goat cheese, spiced pecans, red onion and a wonderful apple cider-shallot vinaigrette.

While the desserts sounded scrumptious, we both bowed out, knowing that if we planned to tour the rest of the afternoon we could not afford to feel over-indulged!

Buckley's Tavern
5812 Kennett Pike Route 52
Centerville, Delaware, 19807
(302) 656-9776

Winterthur , An American Country Estate

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by diminor1929 on September 16, 2002

Described as an American Country Estate, Winterthur looks and feels like a place where time stands still. As you walk into each of the period rooms, you will sense the grandeur and beauty that Dupont tried to create with the finest in craftsmanship and furnishings. You can visually experience how furniture and clocks were made (Dominy Shops). Tools used by early American craftsmen are exhibited and explained. As a frequent visitor of antique shops and flea markets where these tools are often for sale, I was very fascinated by this room. There is a special "touch-it" room for children where interactive exhibits encourage children to play and experience the past by participating in activities such as setting the table for a tea party, trading in the general store and watching cooks prepare meals in an open hearth setting. Many rooms are decorated with objects made for royal palaces, presidential homes and aristocratic mansions. I particularly loved the display of soup tureens presented by Campbell Soup.

After the museum, have lunch in the very upscale (but reasonable) cafeteria-type dining room. (You can eat outside under market umbrellas if the weather warrants it). Then head for the Gardens and the Museum shop.

Winterthur Museum: Garden Shop
RR 52
Winterthur, 19735
(302) 888-4620

Hagley Museum

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by diminor1929 on September 28, 2002

To really appreciate the other wonders of the Brandywine Valley, a visit first to the Hagley Museum is recommended. Here you will get an insight into the history of the Dupont family who shaped the economy and lifestyle of this area. Five generations of Duponts have been associated with the estate and visitors can see all facets of the furnishings, powder mill and gardens. Eleutherian Mills,sitting on a huge hill overlooking the Brandywine River, was built in 1803. Blacksmith Hill,located on the grounds, is where the homes of the factory workers who operated the powder mills lived. This area is also open for visitors and interpreters in period dress discuss the social and family life of the workers. Next to the Eleutherian Mills is a magnificent French-style garden created by E.I. Dupont, an avid botanist.

The gunpowder yards and machine shop were not as interesting to me, but the men in the tour groups seemed quite fascinated by this part. There is still an operating waterwheel that operates the machinery of the exhibits and working models of a water turbine,steam engine and powder tester. It takes several hours to see and experience everything that the Hagley has to offer.

Hagley Museum and Library
200 Hagley Rd
Wilmington, Delaware, 19807
(302) 658-2400

Antiqueing in Chester County

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by diminor1929 on September 21, 2002

If Early American 18th and 19th century antiques are your passion... Chester County is the place to head. A good place to start your tour is on Rt. 30, one of the main roads that connects most towns of Chester County. Starting in the town of Wayne, The Pembroke Shop at 167 W. Lancaster Ave. is reknowned for custom made English and Continental estate furniture. A few miles down the road and off of Rt. 30 at 329 East Conestoga Road in Strafford is Wilson's Main Line Antiques who do great metal polishing and can advise you on repairs,etc...They also carry a fine variety of imported antique furniture.

Travel down Rt.30 a few more miles and turn left onto King road in Malvern. This is an antique-lovers paradise with King Street Traders and Gallery at 16 E. King St., Dixon-Hall Fine Art on Monument Avenue, a fine old Victorian house chock full of fine art pieces. At Van Tassel/Baumann American Antiques and Early Schoolgirl Needlework on Sugartown Road, you will find lots of examples of furniture and decorative arts as well as a large selection of early schoolgirl needlework.

If you retrace your steps and get back to Rt.30, head west and you will come to town of Frazer and Steven's Antiques. It is full of 19th and early 20th century furniture and accessories. I once bought an antique smoking stand that I still use as an end table.

Another diversion is to take a left off of 30 at rt.100 and head into west Chester,the county seat. On Oakbourne Road you will find Olivier Fleury,Inc. and their collection of 18th and 19th century Provincial French antiques housed in a renovated Chester County Bank Barn. Stop at Monroe Coldron and Son at 723 E. Virginia Ave. for copper, iron and brass works. They are known for hardware, lighting, architectural elements, mantles and fireplace equipment. Good if you are shopping for or renovating a large house.

Heading back out to Rt.30 and on to Exton, is shop of John Bunker and Son at 411 E. Lincoln Highway. Here you will find more knick-knack type antiques, one of a kind items like samplers,vintage ship models as well as tin and brass accessories.

If you aren't completely exhausted by this tour, you can spend the night and start over again for day 2. This time I would recommend you take the route from West Chester along Rt.52 and head into the Brandywine Valley. In Chadd's Ford you will find Jan Whitlock Antiques, right on Rt. 52 and Fairville rd. She is noted for her lovely antique textiles and you can find the most exquisite tablecloths here at most reasonable prices. She carries a lot of folk art and up-scale decorative accessories. At the same intersection is J.&L. West Antiques who carries a great assortment of furniture,accessories and paintings but is only open by chance or appointment.

Finish up the tour on Rt.52 by continuing on into Delaware where you will find Jackson Mitchell,Inc.,a purveyor of English period furniture of 17th, 18th and 19th century. The emphasis here is on wood color and surface. Their pieces are of superior quality and they also feature metalware accessories and botanical engravings. If you collect Victorian Staffordshire animals they always have a large selection. If you aren't completely exhausted or over-saturated, enjoy a wonderful meal and evening in a local bed and breakfast and return home with your new quality antiques.

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