Boston is one of the U.S.'s oldest cities - a fascinating combination of history, art, education, and modern-day sensibilities.
by Sierra on February 13, 2007
I have found a B&B in Boston that is going to change me from a day-trip only visitor to a weekend guest: the Irving House at Harvard.As much as I love Boston, I rarely stay there overnight because hotel rates are so high - to find economical rooms, you usually have to go out to the suburbs, which then requires use of a car. My favorite part of Boston is Cambridge, anyway, so I was delighted to come across this guesthouse, close to Harvard University and with easy access to public transportation. Located at 24 Irving Street, this inviting B&B has all the basic amenities a traveller could want: hearty breakfast, daily newspapers, wireless Internet (and a common room computer if you didn't bring your own), free local phone calls, coin laundry facilities, central air, museum passes, guest refrigerator. (Not all rooms have TVs, however - only those with private baths.) With over sixty years' experience, the staff here make you feel warmly welcomed - it felt more like staying in somebody's home than a hotel. The inn is clean, bright, and warm, making it a lovely and cozy place to come home to after exploring Cambridge and Boston. The neighborhood it is located in, on the northeastern side of Harvard, is away from the noise and bustle of Harvard Square, but within 10-15 minutes of easy walking distance from the restaurants and shops. Irving House has earned a spot among my favorite B&Bs, and I look forward to returning here on my next trip to Boston.* * * * *Irving House is part of the Cambridge Inns group, which also includes Harding House (288 Harvard St., Cambridge), and for those looking for longer-term accommodations, Turner House. The Irving offers several types of rooms, ranging from single twins with shared baths, to queen/twin combos with private bath that can accommodate up to four. Rates range from $75-255 for most of the year, with peak rates (Commencement Season in mid-May/early June; Head of the Charles Regatta in mid-October) of $190-375. Check their website for possible specials. Front desk is open 24/7.Limited parking is available. Note: parking is tight, so if you have a larger vehicle, you will want to park on the side slots, and not in the back. Irving House is HCP accessible.
by Sierra on February 12, 2007
The Museum of Fine Arts ("MFA") in Boston, founded in 1870, has the second largest museum collection in the Western hemisphere, after the Metropolitan Museum. You can pass a few hours in the MFA, viewing selection collections or one of the touring art shows that come here - or you could easily spend a whole day here, wandering through one fascinating gallery after another. You rarely have to loop back through a gallery unless you choose to. The MFA has many excellent collections, but its Japanese art is particularly noteworthy: it's the largest collection outside of Japan and includes ceramics, origami, kimonos, prints, statuary, furniture, and more, as well as a Japanese garden which is open from 10am to 4pm from spring through early fall. Other major sections of the museum include American, Indian, Greek, Egyptian, European, and Chinese. As well as being an incredibly popular destination, the MFA also supports an art school.With such a sizeable collection, my best recommendation is to pick a particular area of the museum that you want to focus on, and go from there. Yes, it would be possible to walk the entire museum in 2-3 hours, but you will not get to see as much - and there are all kinds of interesting items on display. Don't worry if you get lost - guards are available throughout the museum to help you.Currently, the MFA is undergoing a construction project which will greatly expand the museum's facilities, giving 28% more display space, as well as other functions. The Garden Court is being remade into a year-round usable space, and the new "American Wing" will primarily function as display space for their massive American art collection, as well as creating a much larger space for the Contemporary/Modern art collections.Can't make it to Boston in person? The MFA has much of its collection online at mfa.org, including the ability to take a virtual tour. You can even listen to samplings from their music collection.* * * *Getting there:Limited metered street parking; paid parking lots/garages within 1-2 blocks."T" (subway) lines: Green "E" line, Museum of Fine Arts stop (directly across the street). Adults $2/single ride; LinkPass $9 (day) or $15 (week).Hours: Wed. 10am-9:45pm / Thurs. & Fri. 10am-9:45pm (only West Wing/select galleries open after 4:45pm) / Sat.-Tue. 10am-4:45pm Closed New Year's Day (Jan. 1), Patriots' Day (3rd Monday in April), Independence Day (July 4), Thanksgiving (4th Thurs. in Nov.) and Christmas Day (Dec. 25).Ticket costs:Adults $15 Seniors/Students 18+ $13 Youths 7-17 $6.50*Youths 6 & under FREEAdmission includes 1 free repeat visit within 10 days. Special exhibitions ticketed separately. Wednesdays 4pm–9:45pm: General admission free.*Youths 7–17 are admitted free on weekdays after 3 pm, weekends, and on Public School holidays. Free tours and gallery talks available; audio tours extra ($5-7). Foreign-language Visitor Guides available in Chinese, German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Italian, and Russian.
by Sierra on February 27, 2007
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is one of the more unusual museums in the U.S. - housed in a Venetian-style palazzo, and located on the Back Bay Fens park, two blocks from the MFA. The building was designed by Willard T. Sears with considerable input from Gardner, and opened in 1903. The modest exterior doesn't prepare you for passing through the dark entry into the glorious Italian palazzo garden in the building's center. (I have no pictures of the courtyard because photography is forbidden inside the museum. See their website for photos.) Gardner was inspired by her childhood visits to Italy. By 16, she was determined that if she ever had the means, she would create a museum like the wonderful palazzos she had visited, and make art accessible for all, not just the well-to-do.Throughout her life, she collected art, which she displayed in their house on nearby Beacon Street. After her husband died, she dedicated her fortunes to building and stocking the museum: it currently contains over 2,500 pieces of art. The collection is highly eclectic, but considered to have many noteworthy pieces of art: paintings, textiles, sculpture, furniture, ceramics, prints, drawings, jewelry, Japanese screens, manuscripts and rare books are on display. Some pieces of particular note are works by John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler, and a notable collection of Italian Renaissance portraits. Gardner willed her museum to the city on three conditions: 1. No new art could be added to the collection;2. No art could be permanently removed from the collection;3. All art must remain on display exactly as she planned it, and not moved or rearranged.Her will further stipulated that if any of these three conditions were not met, then all the art would be sold at auction and the proceeds would benefit Harvard University. This also makes it very difficult for the curatorial staff to protect the condition of the art, as museums generally rotate art to protect it from the damaging effects of light. These conditions also make the museum seem somewhat chaotic. Very few items are labeled; some rooms are jammed with items while others seem sparse. There is little if no obvious sense to most of the rooms' groupings; Gardner felt that art was a highly personal experience, and wanted to encourage looking at the art, not merely reading labels. (You can boy/borrow a museum guidebook at the entrance.)On March 18, 1990, art thieves disguised as policemen overcame museum guards and made off with 13 pieces of art, including Rembrandt's only know seascape (The Storm on the Sea of Galilee). Due to the museum conditions, the empty frames remain on display, a reminder of the biggest art theft in U.S. history - still unsolved, nearly twenty years later. * * *Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 11am-5pm Closed: July 4, Thanksgiving, Christmas.Adults $12; seniors $10; students $5; under 18 free (check website for latest prices)Transportation: Green Line E-train - Museum stop. Limited street parking; garage nearby.Tel. 617-566-1401
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