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Posts Tagged ‘excursions’

Tucked away on a side street near the Fens, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is one of Boston’s hidden gems. I’ve been there a few times, with my parents or visiting friends, but I hadn’t been back in several years.

The museum is open late on Thursdays, with jazz and samba music winding through the galleries and evocative shadows dancing in the corners. I spent the evening there last night with someone dear to me who had never been before (though he’s lived in Boston for years).

We wandered through the galleries, marveling at intricate tapestries, delicate handmade lace, elaborate marble statues and tile work, and gorgeous paintings. In each room, I always end up at the windows, gazing down into the central courtyard, which is amazing from every angle.

The museum is a different place at night: arranged exactly as it is in the daytime, but with more mystery in its corners. We wondered about the origins of some pieces, and noted a few empty frames (which held the pieces stolen in the Gardner’s 1990 heist). Different details catch my eye every time: a medieval portrait of an anonymous woman, an impressionist painting of gladioli, a bronze sculpture of Diana the huntress.

There’s far too much art to take in all at once, and so you don’t have to try, which is what I love about the Gardner: you can simply wander through and experience the art and the place.

I’d never spent an evening at the Gardner before: I’d always been on a weekend afternoon, with the attendant crowds (and sunshine pouring through the skylight). But this was a lovely way to enjoy a beautiful space. I can see more evenings there in my future.

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I’ve been having a bit of museum guilt lately.

You know, the guilt that sets in when you live in a city full of amazing cultural opportunities, and yet you rarely seem to take advantage of any of them, especially on weeknights. I know there’s so much in Boston I have yet to see, so many events I’m missing every week. Yet on so many weeknights, all I want to do is leave the office, pull out a book, and ride the train home with the other tired commuters, so I can cook dinner and relax.

However, last Friday, J and I had heard the Museum of Fine Arts was free all day (as part of Highland Street’s Free Fun Fridays summer program), so after work, we grabbed a snack, hopped on the Green Line and headed over to check it out.

There were TONS of other people – which we had expected – so we only stayed about an hour and a half. But that was enough time to check out the seriously amazing exhibit of Dale Chihuly’s glass flowers:

Weird, right? But wonderful. It’s like the world of Alice in Wonderland, in vibrantly colored blown glass.

We also saw a room full of musical instruments, including a glass flute (my inner band geek was fascinated!), and gazed up through the lovely rotunda in the museum’s center. And we visited the Art of the Americas wing, which features a portrait of Paul Revere, greeting you with a slightly quizzical stare, and lots of colonial furniture and portraits and really cool models of ships, and an impressive embroidery exhibit that made me so glad I didn’t live 250 years ago, when girls were not only encouraged but expected to complete such large-scale pieces of stitchery. (I used to cross-stitch and I still love to knit – but the great gift of the times I live in is choice, at least in this country. I chose to learn these things because I wanted to, not because I had to. Ahem. Feminist rant over.)

There was, obviously, no way we could take in the whole museum in one evening – not least because we were starving around 9 p.m. and opted to go grab a burrito at Qdoba down the street instead of staying until closing time. But the MFA is there for us to go back to. And I’m thankful to live in a city with such astounding collections of artifacts and art – and to have crossed another item off my Boston list.

What quirky, fun or wonderful cultural opportunities are available in your city? (And does anyone else ever get museum guilt?)

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