TRAVEL THERE: THE HUNTINGTON LIBRARY AND GARDENS IN SAN MARINO, CALIFORNA
Until I started planning this trip I hadn’t heard of the Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino. I was just looking for a museum to visit, since the Getty Villa would be closed the day I wanted to go. As it turned out, I got to see both the Getty Villa and the Huntington. Let me tell you – you’ve got to go to the Huntington.
THE HUNTING WHAT?
Even now that I’ve been there, I don’t quite know how to describe the Huntington – which might be part of the problem. The official name of the place is The Huntington Library. Quite frankly, though I’m very grateful our nation is blessed with wonderful libraries, I don’t consider them as tourist destinations. Also, it’s in San Marino, not LA, so maybe that’s why I’d never heard of it. Call it what you will, it’s one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been and very little of it is actually a library.
THE HUNTINGTON GALLERY
As I researched LA, some clue hinted at an art museum inside the grounds of the Huntington Library. Following my nose I found The Huntington’s website and investigated their collection. I about had a heart attack. Staring right at me from the webpage was Blue Boy – yes, Gainsborough’s Blue Boy. And do you want to know who is looking at Blue Boy from across the room? You’re not going to believe it!! Pinkie! Thomas Lawrence’s painting of a young girl in pink and white. (Go ahead and click over there, I’ll wait.)You’ll be amazed You’ve seen prints of the two displayed together a million times. Well, at the Huntington, the real things are in the same room…looking at one another. It was almost too much for me to bear.
The Huntington has a whole slew of gorgeous European paintings that you will devour, but even if they didn’t have a single painting, I’d still tell you to go. I’ve been to a lot of luxurious, ornate, beautiful historic homes in my life, but I have never ever seen anything like the Huntington Art Gallery. Well, maybe “never ever” is stretching it a bit. King Ludwig’s Linderhof in Bavaria was on par. (Probably Versailles is too, but I’m still mad a Jimmy Carter for being there when I went to Paris.) Bottom line – go get your socks knocked off.
THE PRICE OF ADMISSION
If you go during the week, it will cost you $20 per person ($23 on weekends). It doesn’t open until noon (10:30 on weekends) and they shoo you out at 4:30. It ought to be illegal. Not the price, it’s worth every penny, even if all you see is the Art Gallery, but how are you supposed to see any of it in just four and a half hours. I could have spent four and a half hours in the Art Gallery alone. I call a foul. They should open up at the crack of dawn and stay until very late. Charge me by the hour. I don’t care. Just give me more access.
THE HUNTINGTON BOTANICAL GARDENS
With only a few hours to see everything and an entourage to manage, I made a tactical error. I thought the prudent thing to do would be to stroll along the paved road that leads through the gardens. Sure enough, you get a peek at the edge of the gardens, but not much more. The gardens are designed for you to enjoy them on the foot paths within the various settings, not zipping by on the paved road.
Needless to say, my entourage soon tired of almost seeing things. Just about the time I figured out the drill, the entourage was through. I tried to encourage them deeper into the garden, but their visit was over. A lot of the conversation happened in Arabic, but I knew they thought I was nuts. Besides, I don’t think they had prints of Blue Boy and Pinkie for sale at the five and dime in Egypt. They just didn’t get any of my rapture.
Too bad. They departed and Bill reluctantly followed me into the Japanese Garden. Moments later he was calling the kids and begging them to come back, but it was too late.
The Japanese Garden, which was unbelievably beautiful, gave way to a Chinese Garden which was even better. I realize that I’ve run out of superlatives, but if you’ve been there you understand. Get this! There are fifteen gardens, each one more amazing than the last one. How are you supposed to see fifteen gardens in four and a half hours?
AND THAT’S NOT ALL!
As if being able to enjoy the Huntington Art Gallery in the gorgeous palace housing the remarkable collection wasn’t enough, there are two other galleries. One is home to American art and the other hosts special exhibitions. I’d pay twenty dollars to see either of them!
Oh, and why is it called a library? Because they have a huge building with 420,ooo rare books and 7,000,000 manuscripts. Yes – SEVEN MILLION manuscripts. Now the general public is not allowed to get their grubby hands on all of that, but they can see highlights of the library in an exhibit hall.
I didn’t even get near to any of this. I’m ready to go back, right now.
A GIFT SHOP TO BEAT ALL GIFT SHOPS
The Huntington Gift Shop is not the largest gift shop I’ve ever been to. Oh you can get a T-shirt, but why would you bother when there are gorgeous scarves, amazing jewelry and stunning decor items. Go ahead – do a little browsing. See if you won’t want one of everything.
So, now you know. The Huntington is more than an art museum, more than a library and more than a garden. It’s shangri-la, the garden of eden and utopia all rolled into one. Go! It’s wonderful!
But my day wasn’t over! I was meeting one of my besties at one of my favorite places for dinner. Come back next week and I’ll tell you about it.