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 Responses to “Fight. Love. Live. The Filoli Mansion and Gardens in Silicon Valley”

  1. Emily in Chile September 25, 2013 at 3:47 pm #

    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!

    • Erica September 25, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

      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. Maria September 25, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    Grounds like those are just begging for a picnic – and maybe an afternoon nap.

    • Erica September 26, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

      A nap by the pool!

  3. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures September 25, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    WOW!!!!! It’s breathtakingly beautiful! I want to renew my vows there haha!

    • Erica September 26, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

      If only they allowed wedding there! lol

  4. Ali September 26, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    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!

    • Erica September 26, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

      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.

  5. Kenin Bassart September 26, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    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 🙂

  6. karin@yumandmore September 26, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    Wow Erika, those gardens are gorgeous! Beautiful pictures. Hey I’m old and funky and love gardens too! as I like to say: there’s no rules until you make ’em!

    • Erica September 26, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

      Right?! Hey, I’m learning slowly!

  7. Nicole September 26, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

    Nothing wrong with old lady things. Crocheting for the win!

    • Erica September 26, 2013 at 10:18 pm #

      This is true… I have some awesome things from crocheting!

  8. Mary @ Green Global Travel September 27, 2013 at 7:22 am #

    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!

    • Erica October 13, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

      Thank you Mary. You always have the sweetest words for us. <3

  9. Hogga September 30, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    WOW it’s stunning!

    • Erica October 13, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

      When I win the lottery, I’m buying it to have a travel blogger reservation and permanent party.

  10. Alex October 3, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    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.

    • Erica October 13, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

      HAHAHAHAHA! It happens to the best of us. Flowers ARE pretty. I really have no clue when this popped up though.

  11. GiselleandCody October 3, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    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. 🙂

    • Erica October 13, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

      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.

  12. Juno October 4, 2013 at 5:22 am #

    Again, surprised to see different side of the Silicon Valley! 🙂

  13. Raymond @ Man On The Lam October 4, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    Yowzers! That place is stunning!

  14. Abby October 4, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    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!

    • Erica October 13, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

      Ummhmmmm… but in all seriousness, this place is a great place to just be.

  15. Diana Edelman October 7, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    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.

    • Erica October 13, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

      Oh see, I’m a huge nerd for old buildings but the garden really is what got me. So much work, care, and love goes into this place.

  16. rafting camps October 30, 2013 at 1:36 am #

    Wow! these all pics are Gorgeous

  17. Christy December 11, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    I never would have thought to visit here either (and I lived really close for three years). You make Silicon Valley look appealing.

    • Erica December 19, 2013 at 11:55 am #

      HA! Christy, I think that most places can be appealing – you just need to know where to look!

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