North America, Photography

Fight. Love. Live. The Filoli Mansion and Gardens in Silicon Valley

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I don’t know when it happened but one day I woke up 30 years old and with the terrifying realization that I like a lot of old lady things. Long gone were the days of seeing Shaun’s metal shows every weekend, spending time at practices, partying hard, and living a “rock star” lifestyle. I woke up in Silicon Valley with an increased appreciation of champagne, s’mores, and dare I say it – GARDENS. Sweet Jesus what happened to me?!

We pulled up to the Filoli Mansion and Gardens and I found myself giddy, and my camera trigger finger locked and loaded. Over the next hour or two, our docent took us through the mansion and the gardens. Never in my life were so many memories flooding back to me about playing in my bestfriend’s backyard, pretending that we were part of the Secret Garden World. Yet I found myself, 20 years later, in the real thing. Trimmed hedges with passageways, Latin inscribed keystones above doorways, long well-manicured hallways of greenery… I was just looking to find some secret doorway into my dream world.

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Filoli, or a shortened version of “Fight. Love. Live.” is a extravagant 364 acre estate in San Mateo county built by Wailliam Bower Bourn II, one of the big wigs of the gold mines back in 1915. Little did he know he would be setting the standard for success in Silicon Valley! I admit, I have some weird longing for these old homes (I’m still holding out on owning a plantation style home one day). But what on earth would I do with 36,000 square feet, 43 rooms, 17 bathrooms, and 17 fireplaces? The thought of cleaning it all sends shivers down my spine. There are over 1000 volunteers at any given time keeping this property in one piece.

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But it really is the garden that I oohed and aahed over. I mean, look at it.

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The Sunken Gardens that has a reflecting pool for the sole purpose of reflecting the clock tower.

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Said clock tower. There is some serious landscaping happening here.
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This is the Garden House and is exactly what I would add to my imaginary garden that I own when I make a gazillion dollars. Anyone down for some sweet tea and good conversation?
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Some of the most beautiful hydrangeas I’ve seen in my LIFE.
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This 25 by 74 foot pool was designed in 1946 to reflect the blue sky and have another body of water to mirror the clock tower. I’m starting to think that they really like that clock tower or something.

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This picture is just because I’m a sucker for photographing flowers. Nothing more but flower porn.

The wedding photographer in me just wants to see everything lit up with lights and candles while hosting a rockin’ summer party. The one thing I wish I could have brought to you via smell-o-vision was the deep red Double Delight rose that I was trying very hard not to jump into the bushes and rub my body all over the smelly good stuff (I’m trying to ignore the concept of thorns).

I left with a newfound respect for horticulturists, flower arrangers, gardeners, and landscapers. There is something very special about gardens that are so meticulously put together. What kind of things ooh and aah you when you’re traveling?

Disclosure: I was a guest of the San Mateo County/Silicon Valley CVB, however all opinions are my own.

30 thoughts on “Fight. Love. Live. The Filoli Mansion and Gardens in Silicon Valley”

  1. This is so funny because I have awful memories of being forced into family outings here as a kid and thinking it was SO BORING. I should probably give it another try now that I actually appreciate pretty spaces!

    1. HAHAHAHA! Crazy how things change, right? Never in my right mind would I have wanted to visit something like this as a kid. EVER. EVER. EVER. Never. 😛

  2. I love taking pictures of flowers now. I could take hundreds at a time. These look gorgeous, though I’d never want to live in a big house like that!

    1. I could spend an entire day doing it. Flowers are some of my favorite subjects! I wish I had more time but we were making our way through at lightning speed.

  3. Welcome to your 30’s! It’s crazy how things that were once for “old” people are strangely palatable to us… but somehow we don’t consider ourselves old 🙂

  4. It’s amazing how the things you dread or find terribly boring as a young child become thrilling when you are an adult – career, gardens, knitting.. you name it! The garden house, Hydrangeas and Fuschia flowers are all gorgeous and I love your connection the your secret garden memories! Thank you for lovely article! ps: 1000 volunteers! Amazing!

  5. I too must have an old lady inside me trying to get out (wow that sounds creepy) because I love Botanical Gardens! I dragged my visitors to the one in Grand Cayman and when I was in Denver and Roatan I headed to those too. What can I say? Flowers are pretty.

  6. Once again, beautiful photos Erica.
    It’s always great when we can find Botanical Gardens while travelling.
    It’s a great way to escape the craziness of whatever city you may be in at the time.
    Just sit around and enjoy it. 🙂

    1. YES. I wish we had more time to reflect here. I probably could have been lost for hours. What I also didn’t realize is that roses smell different depending on the kind. I wanted to smell ALL OF THEM.

  7. Those buildings are gorgeous! And the flowers to die for… Hmmmm… I am currently right off the 280, and since my apartment-hunting isn’t doing so well, maybe it’s time for a field trip!

  8. What a whimsical, gorgeous place! I normally don’t like to tour old buildings because I don’t find it that exciting, but seeing a place like this, and those gardens!! What a way to take you back and make you believe all of your childhood dreams of growing up in a place like that.

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