As you know, we’ve had the opportunity to do a fair amount of traveling in the last twenty some odd years. In these wanderings, we’ve discovered a few gems in mostly small museums which offer an outstanding overview of some history and culture of a specific area.
I’d like to share a few of these gems that are not the first thought in these destinations. Certainly the Metropolitan Museum of NYC, the Louvre in Paris, the Victoria & Albert in London or the Prada in Madrid are outstanding and well worth the time to visit. They’re all great, but you’re in for some enjoyable surprises if you’re willing to go off the beaten path a bit.
We can start right here in So. California, where the L.A. County Museum is terrific, but don’t miss out on: The Norton Simon Museum on the west end of Pasadena or the Huntington Gardens on the other end.
Then there’s the Bowers in Santa Ana and a real sleeper, the Frederick Weisman House in Beverly Hills. Here, one of America’s landed gentry has accumulated a trove of art and furnishings to create a wonderful museum. You need an advance reservation, so call (310) 277-5321.
In Century City there is a special museum called The Annenberg Space for Photography. They change exhibits about every three months so you can keep going back. Never been disappointed!
In Washington, D.C., all the buildings are a huge museum unto themselves. The Library of Congress, the Capitol, the Supreme Court, the White House, all of the Smithsonians are not to be missed. Two special visits are the Portrait Gallery and the Spy Museum.
In NYC, the Art & Design Museum on Columbus Circle is special. MOMA (the Museum Of Modern Art) is probably my all-time favorite.
London has a trove of historical sites and museums, but my favorites are the Wellington House on Hyde Park and the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square.
By the way, in back of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum is the Royal Albert Hall. If you get a chance to see a musical presentation there like the military guards or the philharmonic, don’t miss it.
The Wellington House is the former home of the Duke of Wellington, one of England’s more prominent military leaders. The home features quite comfortable living quarters, specialized colorful dinnerwear and a robust armory.
The Wallace Collection is a rather large townhouse sumptuously filled with all the comforts of home for a family who lived at the turn of the century.
Paris, of course, has the Louvre, but a little out of the way is the Marmottan, another interestingly furnished home for the gentry.
The Weisman House in L.A., the Wellington and Wallace Collection in London, and the Marmottan in Paris are historic manor houses filled with a treasure trove of furnishings, artifacts and art from a past era.
The city of Victoria on Vancouver Island is a great place to visit by ferry or seaplane. The Empress Hotel is a great museum but the star of this charming city is the State Museum of Victoria.
It’s well organized with creative displays and a truly delightful place to visit. It’s within walking distance to the Empress Hotel, which is a glimpse of another era.
The Shanghai Museum fits into that same category. There is a lot to see in the fabulous city, but the museum should definitely be on your list.
Yad Vashem in Israel is more than a museum. It is the most dramatic, impactful memorial I have ever witnessed. Located in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem tells the story of the holocaust better than anywhere else.
Certainly there are more gems you can discover in your own travels.