It's my pleasure
We enjoyed breakfast in a different place this morning, just next door but one from The Friendly Toast in terms of location but a world away in style and clientele. Flour is a super-trendy, hip kind of place, popular with the young business people around here and doing a great trade in both takeout and eat in this morning. My choice of French Toast - with a side of bacon - was different from that of the previous two breakfasts but equally yummy in its own way and my hero's "strata" was declared to be great as well. Seeing a "strata" on the menu hit the spot, because recently I've been making such things at home, ever since a recipe appeared on my FB page and proved a hit. That recipe has since been passed around here and there and everyone who has tried it declares it a success. Seeing a variation on the menu here was fun because it confirmed that we are up there with the cool cats when it comes to the latest, greatest trends in home cooking... (not)
Time to check out then and get the day started properly. As we did so, we noted the Interstate entrance right opposite the hotel; a most unpreposessing junction for an important route out of the city. Funny to think that we might just slip down there and end up spending the day with dear Jordi! Tempting though that might be, we thought better of it, for e had a flight to catch later and we didn't suppose the Captain would make a deviation just for us.
Insstead, we went in search of culture. Not, on this visit, to the Art Institute, where the Murakami exhibit we saw in Chicago was showing, but to another gallery, just around the corner, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
I had visited the Museum once before, on one of our first visits to Boston some twenty years ago. I remembered it being in a kind of mansion property and at the time, the principal claim to fame was that quite a few of the most valuable pieces in the collection had been stolen in an overnight raid and they had never been recovered. As we turned the corner and found ourselves standing outside a modern glass building, I questioned my memory.
The Museum didn't open until 11am though, allowing us time to find a park bench to sit on and survey the property from a distance. Recent developments have extended the museum with an extension by the Renzo Piano partnership and the original "palace" museum that I remembered has been embraced in the overall scheme. I'll admit to feeling somewhat relieved that I wasn't losing the plot completely!
The current exhibition, as promoted in this large scale piece by Elaine Reichek focused on the relationship between Isabella Stewart Gardner and Henry James, in particular the letters which were sent between them. It was seeing an advert for this on the side of a Boston bus that reminded me that a visit to the museum could be a grand way to spend part of our last day here, especially since my hero had not been with me on that previous occasion.
Anyhow, here we were, awaiting entry to the museum, which judging from the large numbers of people outside, ought to open a good hour earlier. But we did admire the creative entrance concessions and will remember to wear Red Sox T shirts next time (or simply wear red socks?)
Our first stop was the exhibition we'd seen advertised and sure enough, the lady herself was here to greet us in a portrait by John Singer Sargent. Rather than trot out what we learned of her and her life, I'll simply post a link to the details. Suffice to say, she sounded a fascinating woman and someone who mixed in interesting circles, for sure.
Those who know me well won't be surprised that I was as fascinated by the design of this fairly small exhibit as I was by the items on shown within it. A simple, square room was the location ad the designer had worked on the diagonal, emphasising that "salon" feel by means of a huge velvet curtain from one corner to the other, tied back with a large gold tassel. A small coffee table setting was placed, again on the diagonal, with a few books and other papers on there, inviting visitors to sit and read, perhaps, or to write a letter to a friend, following Henry and Isabella's lead (not that they addressed each other as such: Mrs Gardner and Mr James, if you please)
Here were such lovely personal details, so many interesting bits to read and a real feel for the circles in which they moved. Portraits by John Singer Sargent, who benefitted hugely from Isabella's support, beautiful paintings and photographs of Venice, where she spent happy times collecting art and simply enjoying her wealthy lifestyle with "characteristic energy and confidence". We loved it.
But of course, there was the "Palace" still to see, accessed by a glass bridge from this new wing.
Somewhere along the way, the contrast between new and old became apparent!
But if new was wonderful and exciting, old was most certainly exquisite and breathtaking. This was the museum I remembered - and yes, my hero recalled my being enthusiastic about what I'd seen all those years ago when he was taking our small boy around the US Constitution.
We sat a while, not only to take in the delicious scent from these orchids by our side, but to simply adjust to this new/old landscape we found ourselves in. We needed time to refocus, to absorb the beautiful courtyard and the wealth of interesting things within it.
After a while, we were ready to move on through a series of "galleries" which weren't really galleries at all but just rooms, furnished to a theme with the riches of things an American connoisseur chose to bring home from Europe in the heady days of the turn of the 20th century.
Rooms had been left much the same as they had been in Isabella's day. She'd been a gracious hostess, inviting visitors to her museum to share the treasures of her collection and as we moved from one room to another, we found it difficult to choose a favourite.
For me, it wasn't so difficult once I'd spotted the way in which this small masterpiece had been placed on a table by the window with a chair, inviting one to sit and contemplate the painting by Bellini in comfort.
Isabella had always kept a small vase of fresh flowers by the painting and staff continue to do the same today, reminding me of our recent visit to Croome Park. This was my favourite spot because not only could I sit and contemplate the painting, I could also look out of the window and see what was going on outside!
My hero most certainly had a different favourite; one which you will have to discover in a conversation with him. Of one thing, we were both in agreement however - it was time for a spot of lunch.
And a visit to the gift shop as well, of course...
We - especially me - had not bargained for a visit to Whistler, the resident canary in the "living room", but securely caged, this little soul was singing his heart out and commanded an audience that even I could not ignore.
We had loved every minute of our visit here and found our encounter with Isabella Stewart Gardner to be nothing short of fascinating. Her words were to be found here and there around the museum, but those we'll remember most will be her personal motto: "C'est mon Plaisir" or "It's my pleasure".
Actually, on this occasion, the pleasure was most certainly ours.