Thursday, August 11, 2016

Dynasty? Downton Abbey? Filoli!

As a child I was always fascinated by the aerial view of the beautiful estate during the opening credits for television series Dynasty that made me fantasize of being a Carrington.  When I discovered almost 20 years ago that the estate and working gardens were located just 30 miles outside of San Francisco in Woodside, I knew I had to see it for myself.  Even more impressive in person, it was easy to fall in love with it. 

Unlike Hearst Castle and other estates open for public viewing, guests are able to get up close and personal in many of the downstairs rooms.  Throughout the year, they host special events where you can have an immersive experience as you enjoy your drinks inside the main house like a real guest.  I was lucky enough to have experienced their annual 1 night Holiday Evening party, not once, not twice, but 3 times during the Thanksgiving weekend before it had been recently discontinued.  Since I was more about the food than the dancing, I always chose the later dinner seating so I can sip champagne and enjoy passed hors d’oeuvres while holiday shopping in the main house before dinner and return afterwards for decadent desserts.  For a moment, you really will think you are a Carrington or at least know one. 

Unfortunately the Holiday Evening Party had been discontinued but you can still experience the holiday shopping tradition in the festively decorated house while enjoying holiday music accompanied by a simple lunch or supper in the cafĂ© for about 10 days after Thanksgiving and before their annual holiday break. 


For those of you who did not grow up watching Dynasty as a child which is another story altogether, you may be able to relate more to the extremely popular Downton Abbey.  After what is close to an almost 10 year hiatus with only one visit in between for their docent led nature preserve hike, I recently returned to Filoli for their Step Back in Time summer party.  Although it is an annual event, I just discovered it this year and I could not have picked a better year than as part of their 3 year Centennial celebration to reacquaint myself with it.  Upon arrival, volunteers dressed in period wear welcome you as if you just stepped off the coach as a guest of Lord Grantham at Downton with 1920’s automobiles on display and an opportunity to chat with their gracious owners over a glass of wine. 


Although optional, all guests came in style dressed as if it was the roaring 20s and coinciding with the special Historic Costume Exhibit (ending 9/25/16) throughout the rooms in the Main House, it lent even more authenticity to the atmosphere.  Many are originals from both the Bourn and Roth periods while understandably the staff’s uniforms due to wear and tear were recreated for the exhibit.  With each room more impressive than the next, the grand ballroom complete with a live pianist almost makes you never want to leave. 



Exiting out the back of the house, there was a delicious display of light bites to savor while lingering and mingling with new friends you are sure to meet. 



Within the already beautiful Filoli Garden where many flowers especially the hydrangeas were in full bloom, it created the perfect backdrop for a leisurely stroll as you start heading over to the tennis courts for more hor d’oeuvres, drinks, music, and dancing. 

We on the other hand could not help being sidetracked by their sculpture exhibit on display until mid-October by talented local artists that could easily rival Chihuly, creating the perfect playground for the sun to play off of as the evening light did its own dance with these beautiful pieces.   


Returning to the main house for one last look this time around, I practically had the house to myself to reflect and appreciate what the Bourns had created and the Roths had continue to build upon.  Filoli, Fight for a just cause, Love your fellow man, Live a good life. 



Whether you want to feel like a guest of Lord Grantham, Blake Carrington, the Bourns or Roths, you still have time to visit and take in the sculpture exhibit in the garden until 10/16/16 and the special Historic Costume Exhibit until 9/25/16.  Check out the calendar for upcoming events including afternoon tea and the holiday traditions - 


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