August 18, 2010

Old Westbury Gardens

Sunday, July 18, 2010--While searching online for something to do for the day, I came across a link to Old Westbury Gardens' website; it sounded good so I programmed the address into my GPS and headed out. After about a 45-minute drive, the GPS announced "Arriving at destination" yet there was nothing visible through my windshield that looked even remotely like a garden. I kept driving, ready to dismiss it as some kind of GPS error; it wasn't until I doubled back that I noticed the wrought iron gate and the single lane driveway with the inconspicuous sign next to it that read "Old Westbury Gardens."

I pulled into the narrow driveway that meandered through woods on both sides, still feeling as though I was trespassing on someone's private property. Soon the woods gave way to an open field and a grand estate loomed in front of me.

The Westbury House is a magnificent Charles II-style mansion that was built in 1906 by English designer George A. Crawley. It is the former home of John S Phipps and his wife, Margarita Grace Phipps. It has been opened to the public since 1959 as part of the mission to preserve Long Island's unique heritage.

From a distance, the house is an impressive sight, with its regal columns and oval windows. The western wing boasts a marble porch that is full of greenery and shaded by a immense tree. I entered through the front doors and walked the mansion, viewing the intricate woodworking, cavernous fireplaces, and fine English antiques and arts that have remained intact since the house's construction.

Feeling mildly aristocratic, I left the house to walk around the 200 acres of land that make up the gardens. The grounds consist of a series of paths that lead to many surprises: several lakes and ponds, hidden statues, a circular rose garden, tranquil fountains, a secret garden with ivy climbing up its brick walls, a secluded tree-lined ghost walk, a koi pond with an ornate gazebo, a pool adorned with striking mosaic tilework, quaint bridges, and even a thatched cottage.

I really enjoyed my day. I love the feeling of adventure and Old Westbury Gardens is definitely a place that rewards a curious spirit. Almost every bend in the path reveals another treasure...

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged.
Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.
Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be
given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together
and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure
you use, it will be measured to you."

~Luke 6:37-38