By Diane Ako
One of the finest remaining country estates of the early 20th century was the setting for our next activity. We went to Filoli Gardens in Woodside, which is very near Menlo Park. To that end, I can't believe I've never heard of it before. It was so close to my college.
Because it's not an Italian name, like everyone thinks, it's pronounced FIE-lo-li, the FI rhyming with lie. Like the fi of Wi-fi.Or the first part of fight.
People go to tour not only the gardens, but the mansion as well. "Opened to the public in 1976 as a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Filoli features a 36,000 sq. ft. home and a 16–acre English Renaissance garden. In addition, Filoli's property includes a 6.8 acre Gentlemen's Heritage Orchard and a trail system that transverses five different ecosystems for docent-guided nature hikes and visits to the Sally MacBride Nature Center," describes its website.
"Filoli was built for Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn, prominent San Franciscans whose chief source of wealth was the Empire Mine, a hard-rock gold mine in Grass Valley, California. Mr. Bourn arrived at the unusual name Filoli by combining the first two letters from the key words of his credo: 'Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.'"
We have, however, its next owners to thank, for letting us get a look inside. Mr. and Mrs. William P. Roth bought the estate in 1937, and there's a Hawaii tie-in here! The Roths owned the Matson Navigation Company! In the house, there are some Hawaii-insipred artifacts.
Mrs. Roth lived there until 1975. She donated 125 acres, which included the House and formal garden, to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the enjoyment and inspiration of future generations. The remaining acreage was given to Filoli Center, the non-profit that manages the estate.
After paying your admission, you are encouraged to watch a 15 minute video about the estate, before taking a self-guided tour of the property. Allow for about an hour to wander through a dozen differently themed gardens (rose garden, fruit garden, etc).
At this point, we chose to break for lunch in the wonderful cafe. The line was long but it moved fairly decently (though, be warned, my frame of reference is definitely broader after the dulling experience of Disneyland lines). We got to sit outside and eat on the patio to further enjoy the beautiful environs. I liked the red velvet cake, by the way.
Then, we strolled through the mansion. It's so humbly referred to as a house in all the brochures, but come on. If you want a house, I'll show you my house. Claus and I were laughing that our front yard was smaller than the entryway.
You can only see the first floor, in which there are 14 rooms, including the quaint idea of a ship room, a kitchen with a large intercom system, and a ballroom with 22.5' high ceilings. Now that's living the good life.
In real people's homes, like mine, the ship room would be converted a space that people can actually use, the kitchen intercom is designed by Yelling Really Loud, and the only dancing we're doing is the pau-hana rush to cook dinner, feed everyone, and get Olivia to bed on time.
It was neat to see how the Other Half lives.
It's funny how everyone in our traveling party has different tastes. Of the gardens, my favorite was the Sunken Garden. Claus' was the pool (duh; swimmer). Val's was the Rose Garden.
The girls liked it, though I had to keep reminding Olivia to stay on the path, not pick the flowers, and not jump in the pool. They seemed to enjoy all the flowers, plus running in circles around the tennis court.
If you can make it there, you should. Allow for at least half a day to really enjoy yourself. And I'd be curious to see which landscape you like!
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