The trip to southern California was a very pleasant change from the chilly canals of Amsterdam (although I'd go back to Amsterdam in any month of the year in a heartbeat). I include some information about the wonderful museums to see in California.
The museum itself is a beautiful building with stunning views of the ocean and the hilly countryside. The museum boasts an incredible collection of antiquities as well as an impressive selection of paintings. While the museum only has one Van Gogh painting in its holdings, it happens to be one of his most famous: Irises. This painting along makes the trip worthwhile. The Getty Museum also has a pen and ink drawing, Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin, in its collection, though it isn't on display. Try asking the extremely friendly and helpful staff if you can make arrangements to see it.
The rest of the Norton Simon collection is excellent and is presented with extreme attention to detail. Be sure to stop by the bookshop for a good selection of Van Gogh reference materials and gifts. The staff couldn't be more helpful and friendly.
I took a chance and enquired about the works when I arrived there. A brief and somewhat amusing anecdote:
"Sir! Do you have a question?!"
I gulped nervously and asked about the two Van Gogh works. She replied: "Well, I was supposed to be going on my break, but I'll take you to the information desk."
Meekly I followed her to the information desk where she proceeded to try and look up the phone number of one of the museum staff whom I could contact during working hours. I was momentarily distracted by another staff member at the information desk who said he only remembered one Van Gogh work and that it hadn't been part of the collection for years. The conversation with the information desk person took approximately five seconds. Then, out of the blue . . . .
"Sir!! Do you want this phone number or not?!? I'd like to get on with my life!!"
Dear web visitor, I pass along this story as a fair warning. I don't need to describe this museum bookstore employee. Believe me, you'll know her if you ever encounter her. I can't stress highly enough that this rude, nasty and extremely hostile young woman should be avoided at all costs. It's no exaggeration when I say that this girl is pure poison.
A non-Van Gogh recommendation: The Huntington Library (1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, tel. (818) 405-2100): The Huntington Library is an incredible complex which comprises a vast library, art collection and a wonderful series of botanical gardens.
The library boasts some incredible and rare works such as a Gutenberg bible on vellum, a gorgeous "double-elephant" folio edition of Audubon's Birds of America and an amazing collection of the early editions of the works of William Shakespeare.
The art collection is equally impressive. One of the must-see holdings is, in fact, one of the most famous paintings in the world: Gainsborough's Blue Boy. In addition to the large collection are some impressive eighteenth-century French sculpture, tapestries, porcelain and furniture.
Finally, for me the greatest pleasure of my visit to the Huntington was a walk through the incredible and diverse botanical gardens. Throughout the 207 acre grounds you'll find a beautiful Japanese Garden a Zen rock garden, rose and herb gardens and, for my money, the most impressive of all: the Desert Garden which boasts a huge collection of cacti and other
succulents. You could easily spend a full day (and more!) on the botanical gardens alone.
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