Her Ladyship’s British Season

Oh, how could I have left Europe without stopping for a few days in the land of real duchesses and princes? Downton Abbey and Earl Grey tea? Cricket and Fish&Chips? Beatlemania and One Direction? There was no way I was going to turn down my friend Lady Marianna’s offer to stay at her fabulous Georgian house just a few doors down from Charles Dickens’ own pad in central London, before heading back to the States. So, there I was, driving in a spacious black taxi by Buckingham Palace towards my new neighborhood for the next 6 days and thinking to myself, why did it take so long to come back?? London is such a glorious town that like Paris, to quote Audrey Hepburn, “It’s always a good idea!!” I’m determined not to let another 14 years go by, that’s for sure!

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Buckingham Palace

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Downton Abbey – LA Style

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 just irresistible. The costumes, the mannerism and the events throughout the episodes are so grand and fascinating that one develops a real dependency to 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? LOL….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 LA 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 and makes you feel you’re either in Italy or France, 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.