Friday, May 31, 2013

Boston Day 5

Today took us across the river on the T to Cambridge and Harvard. We set off with great plans for breakfast, but greatly overestimated the hospitality the town could provide. One place we thought of was now closed and there were not many others to choose from, but we finally found some coffee and breakfasty stuff in a Peet's coffee shop off the main square. Suitably refreshed on this hot day, we eventually found our way into Harvard Yard. Here we discovered that it was Commencement Day, yesterday and Oprah Winfrey had addressed The Quad as she received an honorary doctorate. There were empty easy-up tents and chairs in rows all over the area, that the estate staff were starting to clear away.
We had read about the glass flowers at the Natural History Museum, and so that was our next visit. These are really amazing, made by Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka, between 1887 and 1936. The father and son team came from a long line of jewellers and glassmakers from Dresden in Germany. There are life-size models of some 847 species and also some enlarged anatomical sections and flower parts. It was quite nerve wracking to watch some of the school children also visiting, careering up and down the display cases. We also saw some wonderful beetles

The galleries of the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler museums are closed from 1 June for a fabulous renovation designed by Renzo Piano, much to our surprise. So we hurried off to visit the Sackler Museum where there was a display of Islamic Art as well as several other exhibitions. Now we needed some more coffee to keep us going and called in at Peet's Coffee again, which was very welcome, before we made our way back to Boston.
Tonight we went down to Charles St. again and popped into the Beacon Hill Hotel and Bistro for dinner. We were not disappointed and ate a delicious dinner - our last one in Boston before we move on tomorrow.

Harvard Yard
Harvard Natural History Museum
Harvard Art Museums
Beacon Hill Hotel and Bistro

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Boston Day 4

Today we had two destinations in mind. First off we took the first tour of the Massachusetts State House (1790s). Its dome is under renovation just now, but that didn't detract from the spectacular stained glass ceiling we could view from the inside. The central hall (Nurses' Hall) has several inspirational sculptures around the edge including one to US Army nurses (of course) and one that is a bust of Mr Ames, of our hotel building fame. We visited the Hall of Flags, where the flags of the towns of Massachusetts are displayed, and found one of Manchester by the Sea, where we will visit in a few days. There is an impressive staircase leading to the upper floor, and apparently after the iron balustrade was cast, the mould was broken so no-one else could use the design. There is a commemorative stained glass window halfway up.

Upstairs we visited the legislative rooms. The House of Representatives has the Sacred Cod hanging in it to remind the members how important the fishing industry was to Massachusetts. The Senate Chamber occupies the space under the gilded dome which is being renovated. Downstairs again we went to see Sheila de Bretteville and Susan Sellers' piece, "HEAR US,"that honours all Massachusetts women who were active in public life from Dorothea Dix to Florence Luscomb. The latter was not only able to vote, but also stood for office four times. Quite an awe inspiring display.

Now we took the T down to The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.This is the private collection of Mrs. Gardner and is housed in a Venetian Palazzo surrounding a green courtyard. Everything has it's place, according to Mrs. Gardner's wishes who was very precise about how her collection should be displayed. No photographs are allowed. We enjoyed coffee and amazing cakes before we began our visit in the new visitors' centre. They also hold concerts here.

After our visit we 'whizzed' back to town and walked around, stumbling across the delightful tea shop that is David's Tea. Later on we dined at Clink, the lovely restaurant at The Liberty Hotel at the end of Charles St. This used to be one of the town jails, hence the name. Well worth a visit!

Massachusetts State House
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
David's Tea

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Boston Day 3

It was very wet this morning and we arrived for breakfast at the Four Seasons rather drowned! Nevertheless, they made us very welcome and we had a great breakfast and benefited from some insider advice from our waiter. At last the rain seemed to be letting up and we made our way out onto Newbury Street, known for it's posh shops housed in mansions that line the road. There were shops up the steps on the first floor as well as down steps at a sort of sub-basement level - but all the well known brands are here.

It was a long walk down to the Museum of Fine Arts and we were glad to arrive! It is a really great Museum to visit, housing some outstanding art and it was difficult to know what to see on our first and only visit this time. One of the first things we saw was a Dale Chihuly glass tower (lime green icicle tower) hanging in the café. We decided to look at some of the special exhibitions being held at the moment and found ourselves, via several areas, in an exhibition called 'New Blue and White'. Very interesting how modern artists and designers view and use this ancient art. We also saw a poster display and a fascinating installation called 'Endlessly Repeating Twentieth Century Modernism' by Josiah McElheny, 2007. He placed hand blown glass vessels in a mirror box, so that they are endlessly reflected. There was a van Gogh, some Tiffany glass and fascinating Asian galleries. So much to see!

At last we left and walked down Boylston Street to Copley Square. We had hoped to see the Singer Sargent murals at the Public Library, but arrived just too late! Instead we saw many interesting buildings, including, of course the John Hancock Tower. Then we retraced our steps through the Public Gardens and Boston Common, where we at last took some photos of the sculpture, Make Way for the Ducklings (Nancy Schön).

Tonight we had dinner at Lala Rokh, a Persian Restaurant on Mt Vernon St., Beacon Hill. This was a super experience with its warm welcoming atmosphere, attentive, but far from intrusive service and delicious flavourful food.

Museum of Fine Arts 
Dale Chihuly
Boston Public Library
Lala Rokh

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Boston Day 2

We had a great breakfast down at the Boston Hilton, then picked up the Freedom Trail visiting the Quincy Market early before it got too crowded. We enjoyed the central hall with its domed ceiling and the old traders' signs decorating the walls. The Trail, today, took us across the river to Charlestown City Square, then up the hill to the Bunker Hill Monument. This is a granite obelisk commemorating the 17 June 1775 battle, won by the English, but with heavy losses. Those losses were of great importance as the colonial forces eventually gained from them. Then we made our way down to the Charlestown Navy Yard. On the way we kept spotting some 'Tree Gardens', by Jake. Sort of guerilla gardens planted in slim boxes attached to trees, bringing colour to the streets.
At the Navy Yard we looked for a café, but ended up popping into the local store for a press button coffee and sandwich, which we ate on a bench on the street. Then we were off to view USS Constitution or 'Old Ironsides' to give her her nickname. This is the flagship of the US Navy and was built in 1797, her hull made of live oak that is incredible hard - even resisting cannonballs. She has been completely restored (1997) and we were able to climb all over under the supervision of various guides stationed throughout the ship, above and below decks!

The lovely day tempted us to walk back over the bridge and along wharves, which brought us to the Institute of Contemporary Art where we saw the exhibition of 2013 James and Audrey Foster Prize, a biennial award recognizing a Boston-area artist of exceptional promise. There was a display all about a fictional female Bauhaus architect complete with model buildings, press cuttings and life history. Katarina Burin was the winner of the prize with this installation.

On we strolled eventually coming to the Boston Tea Party Museum complete with tea ship and teapot weather vane, before we turned for the hotel. We decided dinner would be at the Hungry I on Charles St. We were deeply disappointed with the offhand service and definitely second rate dinner compared with the previous two evenings. Maybe too many rave reviews have led to complacency. Not a place we would recommend.

Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall
Bunker Hill Monument
Charlestown Navy Yard
Institute of Contemporary Art
Boston Tea Party Museum

Monday, May 27, 2013

Boston Day 1

We are visiting Boston for a few days on the way to stay with friends in New Hampshire. We arrived last night and we are staying at Ames Hotel. Strangely the taxi driver couldn't find it and we now learn that the restaurant has closed, but it means we have to get out and about for breakfast and dinner, which is a good thing. The room is lovely, quite small, but we won't be spending a lot of time in it, so that's fine.
Today we began with breakfast at the famous Parker House, now the Omni hotel. It dates from 1855 and has a colourful history especially involving JFK. The Breakfast was great and seems popular as it was quite busy, but not over-crowded. As it was on the Freedom Trail, we felt we had already started our dyas 'entertainment'.
When we were ready, we set off for the Public Gardens and Boston Common to the start of the Freedom Trail. Here we saw the 33,000 or so flags painstakingly planted into the ground representing every brave Massachusetts service member who gave his or her life defending the country since the Civil War. What an amazing and moving sight. We walked on eventually and made our way across to the famous sculpture 'Make Way for the Ducklings' by Nancy Schön, representing Robert McCloskey’s popular children book, written in 1941. It was mobbed by families all wanting photos of their children with the cute ducklings.

We were side tracked up Charles the wonderful shopping and dining area of Beacon Hill, before we started following the first part of the Freedom Trail. Although the State House (new) was closed, we could return to visit it another day, and we strolled on looking at cemeteries, buildings and memorials all associated with the time of the Civil War; and we should not have been surprised by the glee of the Americans also visiting these places as they read of their ancestors' victories, who were, afterall, British themselves for the most part. The last place we saw was Paul Revere House. It is downtown Boston's oldest building and was built of wood around 1680. Paul Revere and his family moved in in 1770.
After this, we began making our way back to the hotel, but wanted to go via City Hall, a building designed by architect I M Pei. Well, it was an eye-opener, and perhaps even an eye sore. I'm sorry to say that we were not greatly taken with this building after liking quite a lot of this man's work.
So, we had to find a place to eat, and found a great place just around the corner from the hotel, which seems to have changed its name several times recently. However, Hillstone, as it is now called, is a great place and we sat at a table overlooking the bar area for a delicious dinner and some wonderful information from our waiter. Lots of ideas about what we should go and see.

Omni Parker House
Boston Common
The Paul Revere House
Boston City Hall

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Centenary Flower Show at Chelsea

This year the RHS is celebrating one hundred years of Chelsea Flower Show, and it is carefully worded thus as there were a few show missed during two World Wars, making it the 92nd show in the one hundred years. It was cold, today and the volunteers were shivering in their special orchid motif T-shirts, even with long sleeves underneath. Nevertheless, there was a sell-out crowd. In fact every day to the close on Saturday is a sell out and has been since just after Christmas.

This orchid is the motif on the volunteer T-shirts

 The gardens are looking wonderful and all the designers have pulled out all the stops to try and gain one of those prestigious medals at this centenary show. That also applies to the exhibitors in the Great Pavilion where the plant displays are equally stunning - perhaps even more so.

The Best Artisan Garden was awarded to Ishihara Kazuyuki Design Laboratory for the Tokonoma Garden,representing an alcove within a traditional Japanese tatami room.


The Best in Show Award went to Flemings Trailfinders Garden, who always put on a wonderful Aussie display. This is their last year at Chelsea, so it is very fitting they get this huge accolade.

In the Great Pavilion there were stunning displays from flower arrangers, countries, nurseries and plantsmen.

Hillier Nurseries

Nong Nooch Tropical Botanic Garden, Thailand

Fabulous flower arranging from young florists

NAFAS - an underwater theme

 A couple of other gardens we like:

M&G's Centenary Garden - Windows through Time
Stoke- on Trent - Story of Transformation
Arthritis Research UK, Chris Beardshaw

There was so much to see, I can't show it all here!

 Well, they seem to have had a good time at Chelsea.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2013 - This link will not last for ever