Saturday, July 20, 2013

More of Delaware

Leaving Ocean City we traveled north to an RV Park a few miles into New Jersey, yet spent our days sightseeing in Delaware. Our first task however was to make a dinner date with our friends Carole and Fred DeSantis. Carole did the research; made the reservation so all we had to do was turn up at the Mendenhall Restaurant…we liked that idea.

The day we were to meet Carole and Fred was spent first in the town of New Castle on the banks of the Delaware River; a suggested destination in one of our tour books. New Castle is a well preserved old town with quite an abundance of historical buildings including Ye Olde English Tavern Jessop’s where we had lunch; this turned out to be a good decision, excellent food served by wenches.

New Castle is a gorgeous town and not that small, a little below Wilmington, it is where Penn first landed and held a ceremony when he was handed some soil and a twig to symbolize taking possession of the land in the name of the King. Some of the streets are still cobbled with large stones that must have been ballast from ships, other streets and most of the pavement/sidewalk was paved in red brick which presents a challenge when walking as tree roots push the bricks upwards at differing angles. The houses are very old country (British). We wandered round the streets following a walking tour map; we talked to 4 men who were sitting by the river, all over 80 but joked that they were lining up waiting to be hired as day laborers. One of them gave us 3 pencil sketches he had drawn as a memento. Right across the river is the state of New Jersey which does not own any of the Delaware River; New Jersey has sued, without success, including to the Supreme Court for rights to half the river. The state boundary of Delaware is the river coast line on the New Jersey side. An interesting bit of trivia we learned…to add insult to injury Delaware owns a pocket of land on the New Jersey side of the river.

Later on as we were strolling we stopped to admire the Old Library Building - it was closed - but there were two men chatting outside; they were docent volunteers so we ended up having a private tour. Of course we admitted to being Irish (must be something to do with the brogue) and apart from the tour received extra special treatment, and…yes we did inform them that we are American Citizens. The common feature as we travel – 47 states now, is that Americans are so hospitable and just love to talk to foreigners. The day was hot, very hot with high humidity.

From New Castle we headed northwest of Wilmington to Winterthur (named after a village/town of the same name in Switzerland) Henry Francis DuPont inherited the property, then a home. His vision and mission was to develop the gardens and expand the house into a museum to display his collection of artifacts, art and furniture. That afternoon we managed to do one of the house tours (there are several). Then it was time to meet Carole and Fred at Mendenhall in Pennsylvania. This was a beautiful old hotel (have we lived too long in CA? We think everything on the east coast is old) we had a gourmet meal at a very reasonable price thanks to Carole’s research. Carole and Fred had visited us in April in Saint Augustine. So it was good to catch up on news. We visited three states on this day New Jersey where we were staying; Delaware where we toured; and Pennsylvania where we dined.

The following day we went back to Winterthur to view an old maps of America exhibit and learned how important maps were in everyday life in 18th century America. There where maps of all sizes on display including pocket maps which folded up to an incredibly small size. Afterwards, we took a tour of the gardens. Henry Francis du Pont had studied Agriculture and Horticulture Science at Harvard and developed a lifelong passion for both disciplines. The result is that the grounds and gardens - all 60 acres of them - are beautifully laid out to look natural, all planned and supervised by Henry du Pont himself. The gardens behind the house are any gardeners dream; reflecting pools, rocky waterfalls, babbling brooks and pathways through flowering shrubs. It was so cool in the shaded gardens although once again it was a hot day.

Due to all the rainfall in the eastern US everything is lush and very green. Rain falls mostly at night so our travels thus far have been mostly in sunshine.

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