Okay, you can’t actually steal a room unless you count the tsar’s amber room, I suppose. But I was in Washington DC on business right when I was compiling research notes for this book. Quite by accident, I wandered into the Freer Gallery, part of the Smithsonian. This museum is perfect for a free hour. It’s small and compact and beautifully curated. I roamed around aimlessly, just soaking up the beauty of the place–until I came to the Peacock Room. Designed by James McNeill Whistler, the room was once a dining room in a private home. It was reassembled in the gallery and is utterly spectacular. I sat for half an hour, taking notes and photos and soaking up the atmosphere, and when I was finished, I knew exactly what my tea plantation in India would look like–and I knew I had to have peacocks. So, not only did the gallery give me inspiration for a physical setting, it was directly responsible for the creation of Feuilly and Madame Feuilly, the newest and most exotic additions to Julia’s burgeoning menagerie. Not bad for an afternoon’s puttering. To read more about the Peacock Room, please visit the gallery site here.