Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Our French Bastille weekend in Washington D.C.

This past weekend we were down in Washington D.C. On Saturday we displayed our 1972 DS Pallas Citroën at the Hillwood estate museum and gardens for the French Festival. The festival is presented in partnership with Alliance Francaise de Washington. Held at the mansion of Marjorie Merriweather Post. Our friend Judy who coordinates with the museum and Alliance Francaise a display of Citroën's that are part of the celebration. For 3 years John and I have been asked to display and join in by Judy, this was our first year we were able to attend. On Saturday the temps reached 93 and the humidity seemed to be 1000%! We spent the day with friends and by the time my touring the museum and gardens was completed I discovered appreciation in the grace of aging.

Marjorie Merriweather Post was a leading American socialite and founder of General Foods, Inc.
Heiress to Father C.W. Post and Mother Ella Letina Merriweather she inherited The Postum Cereal company that became General Foods, Inc.  Born on March 15th 1887 died on September 12th 1973 in Washington D.C. Living between her dash 1887-1973 Post left a legacy of a dedicated philanthropist and business woman for all. Post's first collecting passion was 18th century French decorative art.

I was intrigued that Post owned a pair of 20 carat diamond earrings which belonged to Marie Antoinette and that she donated millions of dollars to charities. The Kennedy center in D.C. received $100,000.00 from Post. She was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government. Throughout the day on Saturday I learned about this amazing woman full of grace as I leisurely spent the day with friends, exploring in the air conditioned museum and walking the gardens and observing the exhibits. 

"And the beauty of a woman, with passing years only grows!"
~Audrey Hepburn~

A painting of Marjorie Merriweather Post in her later years. throughout Hillwood nearly on all surfaces and hanging on walls are photographs, portraits, oil painting of Post. At first glance one might almost think she was narcissistic. But quickly you understand the complexity of this socialite and her sincere gracious lifestyle. A savvy shrewd businesswoman secure in her own skin, comfortable with her maturity, glowing from within.

"The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in the woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she knows."
~ Audrey Hepburn ~

Post was married 4 times...
Married Edward Bennett Close in 1905 and had two daughters with him. Adelaide and Eleanor
In 1919 they divorced and Post started collecting French decorative arts.
Next married Edward F. Hutton and had their daughter actress Dina Merrill.
The marriage to Hutton ended in 1935
In 1937 - 1938 Post lived in Russia with her third husband United States Ambassador Joseph E. Davies in 1955 that marriage ended and Post purchased Hillwood in Washington D.C.
In 1958 she married Herbert May divorced him 6 years later.
In 1973 as Post's final act of philanthropy she opened her estate as a museum as a gift to the public. Living in her dash Post's profound passion for the arts grew her collections. Displayed in the mansion as when she lived there and touring the museum you are able to view everything up close. Now onto the Citroën's on display outside in the motor court.

This amazing 1950 Traction Avant 11CV Berline Legere belongs to our friend Brad. Brad, his wife and his daughter drove down from PA to display their Traction Avant which means front wheel drive.

Once upon a time this 1981 CX Pallas belonged to Princess Grace. It was in the Prince of Monaco car collection and went up for auction from Prince Rainier's Palace fleet. Our friend Brian from Washington DC owns it, nicknamed "The Princess" Such is a stunning car. Brian and his fiancé Alicia enjoy this rare beauty with history.

See the Principaute de Monaco license plate

Mon amie Judy's adorable Citroën Truckette. It is a derivative of the 2CV. Brought over from France, Judy lives in Silver Spring, Maryland. 

The 1972 DS Pallas belongs to John and I. Driving down from Philadelphia around Baltimore John says to me "Did you just hear a funny noise?" I said no, nothing unusual ... well notice the left front hubcap? That funny noise was our hubcap blowing off!!! Today John located 2 mint condition vintage DS hubcaps, one for replacement, one a spare. C'est la Vie, it's always one thing or another with these vintage French motor babies.

Judy, Alicia and I toured the mansion, but I will concentrate on the private areas of the house.
This is Marjorie Post's bedroom suite. Decorated in French style as the downstairs is.  We honestly lingered admiring the richness and sense of her spirit which seems to still be present in Hillwood.

As in the rest of the house exquisite chandelier's have rock crystal drops. Rock crystal is my favorite and these are magnificent. The table case is filled with around 50 items and each is made from Bloodstone, Marjorie Post's March birthstone. Aquamarine is also March's birthstone. Bloodstone is a dark green opaque quartz flecked with red, it symbolizes courage. 

Photo of Post's private sitting room. Notice the Black and White framed photo on the right, a picture of JFK and Jackie.

Off the bedroom is a silver and pale blue dressing area. My favorite section of Post's bedroom suite. Marjorie not only dressed here but also had breakfast here and conducted business in here.

This photograph of an amazing sconce is hands down my favorite lighting in the house. There are four identical sconces on the walls, the dressing area is stunning and allowed a greater understanding and appreciation of this confident woman.

Be still my heart... the next photos are displayed behind glass in her dressing area. As though  out the buildings I used my iPhone5, no flash, many photos shot behind glass ... I tried my best.

Diamonds and Pearls ... Sigh

Aquamarine - Marjorie's other March birthstone

Marjorie's private bathroom is in her bedroom suite/dressing room area.
Alicia and I commented about how the scent of powder, of talc had permeated the area, still lingering in the air ... Marjorie's essence remains if you still yourself and feel her lingering presence of elegance.

Marjorie's bathroom is small but feminine.

Perhaps it is what I feel and suspect, Marjorie's spirit is still present. I spent time observing her private area, reading encased letters to high society socialites, thank you's, invitations and photos of the events. A brilliant business woman and one of the wealthiest woman in America.
Throughout the mansion there are portraits and photos of her taken throughout her lifetime. Each displaying a woman of grace and beauty one of confidence, one truly comfortable and happy in her own skin.  Long before Botox or fillers, just natural beauty and poise.

I photographed so many rooms and French decorative items in the mansion but chose to only concentrate on the personal side of Marjorie. Believe me the Icon Room is filled with cases.
Fabergé eggs, music boxes, Fabergé clocks, all beautiful ... But it was learning about Marjorie which was my reward of the day. I have a different slant now on the aging process and I will embrace the decades of self discovery and the gentle creases of time. Truly I feel ready to embrace, to accept the process of age, oh sure I will continue using my Micro Retin - A 1% but Marjorie imprinted on my soul ... Kid you not.

Shall we look at a few photos I snapped with my phone before I got in trouble with the guard in the Cartier exhibit? Yup, you heard me right an entire exhibit in a building housed on the 25 areas of gardens. Gems and items on loan from the Smithsonian.  John and I toured this exhibit arm in arm as I dreamed of wearing such dazzling gems! 

Wish the guard hadn't caught me, as I wish I had more snaps to share.

Marjorie's dressing table grooming set. Elegant silver, Art Deco.

Coral bracelet, earrings and ring, OK I agree bad photo!

The painting has the Cartier jewelry Marjorie wore with this black velvet gown.

Emeralds, dazzling ... Sigh

Photo of the cutting garden. Throughout the 25 acres there are amazing vivid flower gardens, a puting green and garden statuary. Before we headed out Judy and I went to Marjorie's Rose garden, breathtaking beauty, lovely fragrance. Judy and I sat and chatted and reflected on the days activities.

There were continual scheduled activities. Dance and flirtation of the fan performances. Baroque Guitar, strolling Mimes, strolling Nobility of French whimsy Madame ToutseSuite and Marquis Aubergine. 

But the biggest effect the day had on me was the realization to be more mindful of aging gracefully. I felt the presence and left empowered by the inspiring woman named Marjorie Merriweather Post.

Before I take you to Le Chat Noir, I leave you with my poetry inspired by the day.

Mirror, mirror - oh dear!    

It often seems growing old in our culture is considered taboo,
but what is true is that it will certainly happen to me and you.

Slowly and softly as you go through your life year after year,
Creases of time, those tiny little laugh lines start to appear.

So do those crinkles and wrinkles have you buying lotions and potions?
Truth is, the cosmetic industry is playing off our vanity and our emotions.

Consider your face a visual time capsule of learned insight,
Embracing your radiance and wisdom is your intended birthright.

You realize your own unique beauty has always come from within,
where grace and elegance dwell in your heart and has always been.

© Vera

6 of us ate dinner at Le Chat Noir, Judy, Les, Alicia, Brian, John and I. Le Chat Noir is a French owned restaurant on 4907 Wisconsin Ave.NW. A French neighborhood restaurant & Wine lounge in Friendship Heights.

Menu of Le Chat Noir

inside Le Chat Noir

I was intrigued by these waxed and pressed real leaves spot glued to the wall.
Lower left corner I captured a smidgen of Les. 

Another photo of these leaves, you better believe I will be doing this somewhere at sometime in the near future. But with my coloration in our row-home I believe I will wait for the painted leaves of Autum. The silver wavy head belongs to hubby John.

Please join me on July 25th back at our row-home as I post a very special post about memories which will include our vintage camera collection and special tribute of a ballet presentation. I bounced that post feeling inspired to sit down and write this one.

Photo sources:
4-7 taken by hubby John

All others by me - Vera


  1. Vera, how interesting learning about Marjorie! I love that you could sense her spirit in her home and how she inspired you! Your poem is a wonderful reminder that truly it's what's on the inside that really matters (and makes us attractive!)

  2. Vera,
    This is so beautiful. I went back through your writing and post pictures. Ahhh to have lived the life she did. What a remarkable women and so kind and generous. A true woman to believe in and carved the way for so many other women. I would have loved to tour the home with you. I think it is so great you could feel her presence as you admired her beautiful home. Glad you had such a wonderful time. I look forward to your next post.

  3. The sconces in the Dressing Room are by Bagues.
    _ The Devoted Classicist

  4. What a wonderful time you must have had. My favorite part of this post is your poem. Thank you always for sharing from your heart. xx

  5. So much to comment on:
    ... I love that first photo of a younger Marjorie Merriweather Post- she looks so sweet, not like the high powered woman she was.
    ... don't be insulted, but my favorite Citroen's were the first red one and your friend's truck
    ...what an interesting woman
    ...what a beautiful house, grounds and collections

    One of our friends, who has since passed away, saved and saved to purchase a Citroen. He was so excited to finally be driving his dream car home when his car struck a herd of wild horses. The herd escaped from their pens, somehow got onto the freeway and were running down the road. Mike could not escape them and his car was smashed. He never bought another Citroen.

  6. Oh Vera, I am down for a weekend like this, what grandeur in all things eloquent and a French dinning experience that only you, next to me would take notice of those waxy glue leaves, I too would love to experiment with leaves like this in some way...Vera I did get leaves once and dipped them making a fall winter tree for the holidays, I could so see the leaves strung like garlands in your home for the holidays, do you think they were dipped in a paraffin wax?
    I adore your poem, although I don't want to look old, my plan is to embrace the grace of beauty in getting mature with those wrinkles, and grey hair. I plan to create my way all the way through my last stages of life. This poem is brilliant and encourages the beauty in what is and what doesn't work with plans of protecting our age. I think if one embraces it and eccentrically excepts it, go with a free spirit that you don't even notice that you have gotten old, maybe one would fool the whole aging process into a whole new beauty.

    Well, my sweet dear friend, I am on that guest list next time you take a weekend trip like this one.
    I also wanted to tell you I was hurrying up to finish up another one of my more boxy style theatres in hopes to join in on your post. Let me know and I too will work up a small little production over here, Hannah says she will get in on it, of course on my post. I will not be doing any theatres for a while, giving my spirit a break to enjoy my personal one that I finally finished for myself, some parts are from a frame of an old Rocco French mirror and the theatre is a humidor smokers cabinet (French) I tore this sad thing apart and built walls and a floor of wood to dance about on. I happen to adore how all theses pieces just fell together so delightfully. I will take photos during the day with the mini lights so I can get clear enough detailed photos. I am excited to somehow weave a bit of me I to your production. Perhaps Anita will join in and do a charming silhouette theatre production as well. You should let her know what you are up to. I think I could fit it in with my paint project and all.

    Love you girl.
    When Hannah was 9 years old it was my Birthday and I told her I was sad because I was getting old....Hannah looked at me and said no Mommy "your still new" Vera we are all still new :)


  7. Good morning dear heart! WOW, am I tingling with joy as I read your experience in DC and about the late heiress. This era of glamor has to be amongst my favorites for both French and American wealth! The jewels as well as the rock crystal embellishments in her home are what make my flesh tingle, and the idea of her philanthropy makes my spirit soar. Lovely shots of what looks like a magical day! I can only imagine however, that out in DC (I know this region well), it's been humid? Wishing you a cooler week as you enjoy yet another summer day.

    I see Doré's comment here, and saw my name....you bet I'd love to stage something fab in my theatre in conjunction with you and Doré!!!!

    Hoping all is well and that you are rested up. Hugs, Anita

  8. Hillwood is a magical place -isn't it? I'm lucky enough to live 6 blocks away and visit often.
    Our summer weather here is horrid I know, thats why I was away in Maine!
    So the scent -they pump it in through the AC ducts! yes thats right! Marjorie loved a particular scent and bought it in bulk and the museum STILL HAS SOME LEFT and puts a small amount in the HVAC system. Love that museum and Love your car!!

  9. VERY interesting..love all the jewels!

  10. Dear Vera,
    What a remarkable woman, and such an inspiration... You must have had such a wonderful time... I just love your poem Vera.. You are so right, beauty does come from within. Thank you for sharing this with us all.. Keeping you in my thoughts.

  11. Merci dear friend! I am so happy you enjoyed traveling along with Bebe to Tuscany... Thank you for your kind words.
    Have a wonderful day!

  12. Here I am, following our dear Penny! Oh Vera, what a fun party, and I wish you could have joined in. I know you've had your own party/plans to work on, so I understand! This is however, going to be my last link party and I'm sorry that some of my dear friends were not able to be a part of it. But there are other fun things in store for us, I know!

    The Netherlands (and most of Europe) certainly is a great place from which we can learn how to better manage so much here in our country, as you mentioned how the Dutch manage their water ways. It also enchants me how they use the landscape to create the most intriguing engineering feats! The art (the Dutch Masters) is among my favorite styles, and just yesterday I was able to go to our local Fine Arts Museum and catch a glimpse of some Van Gogh, etc.....but the masterpiece of all is The Dutchess, a talented and most kind blogger friend from NOWHERE - really, the "brains" of Nowhere is she! And without her, Bebe, Tea Rat and Rattus wouldn't have had a home to come to life.

    Well my friend, I am partied out! I've been at it since 3:30 AM! But have I enjoyed myself!

    Sending you lots of love and hugs, Anita

  13. Thanks for sharing your trip. Beautiful photos. I really need a getaway. Of course you always amaze with your poetry.

  14. Lovely post, Vera. Most might have been dazzled by the glamor, but you found something even more beautiful to share.
    P.S. I am 62 now, and my husband tells me he loves my laugh lines. Which only makes me smile and laugh more. :)

  15. Such an interesting post with fabulous photos and wonderful history!! Loved your reflections on aging gracefully.
    Mary Alice

  16. Lovely poem and I love the term "life's creases".

  17. Great post.Your car is absolutely fabulous!

  18. What a fabulous post with great photos to go with the amazing history lesson.
    Love your French Car. So motor chic~~
    Thank you for sharing. Have to go back and take it all in again.

  19. This sounds like a wonderful trip and love seeing all of your images - adore your poem as always…

  20. what an interesting trip! I love your car and really love vintage autos. I have a 97 BMW but my brother has a 2002 and Ive been to car shows with him and loved all the vintage european cars. Lovely post! xo Nancy

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