PARENTS SPREAD OUT blankets and mingle with friends while their children run wild at the nearby playground. Lovers find a secluded spot under the shade of a maple tree, dogs chase Frisbees, and a softball game ensues on the fringes of this city block. It’s a typical spring day. You could be in almost any metropolis in America, but inevitably you’ll come across one of the numerous plaques that read, “Boston Common, America’s Oldest Park, Founded in 1634.” Bostonians like to boast about their city’s lengthy history.
Author Stephen Jermanok Photography Augustus Butera
DAY TWO / Start the day with a trip to the South End, where trendy new eateries pop up every month. Mike’s City Diner is a Boston institution that, thankfully, is sticking around. Grab a seat at one of the tables for breakfast and you’ll be surrounded by Boston police, firefighters, nurses, and others who work in the neighborhood. French toast with a side of sausage will set you back a mere $5.45.
Take a five-minute taxi ride up Huntington Avenue to the Museum of Fine Arts. Designed by Guy Lowell and I.M. Pei, the MFA will only get bigger with the emergence of the American Wing, a $500 million expansion scheduled to be complete in 2010. Head straight to the galleries of early American painting to find Gilbert Stuart’s well-known portrait of debonair George Washington, along with John Singleton Copley’s painting of Paul Revere. Few realize that Revere was a silversmith, but next to his portrait is a large collection of his own wares. Other favorites are John Singer Sargent’s Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (1882) and Paul Gauguin’s lush masterpiece Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (1897–1898). An Edward Hopper retrospective exhibit opens this month and will run through August 19.
A block away, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum recently announced that architect Renzo Piano has been hired to design a new 62,000-square-foot building on the grounds. It will be hard to top the existing building, a jewellike re-creation of a 15th-century Venetian palazzo, where intimate rooms surround a bright floral courtyard. Hanging on the walls are Titian’s Europa (1575–1580) and Sandro Botticelli’s Virgin and Child, With an Angel (1472–1475), considered to be two of the most important paintings in Boston.
If warm weather prevails, dine alfresco on Newbury Street. Stephanie’s is the perfect spot to people-watch while digging into a large chopped chef salad or Mediterranean chicken sandwich.
Work off lunch by walking down Newbury Street and exploring the many boutiques and art galleries. The big daddy of designer clothing is Louis Boston, where personal attention is unparalleled. For natural, organic bath products stop by Fresh. The shop includes fresh-milk body lotions sold in old-fashioned glass milk jars and New England cranberry and chocolate soaps. Thirty years ago, Arthur Dion opened Gallery NAGA in a neo-Gothic stone church, and it still thrives with an eclectic and electric mix of talent.
Return to the South End for dinner at Hamersley’s Bistro. With its exposed-wood beams, inviting colors, and vases of sunflowers on every table, you’ll feel like you just entered a Provençal country inn. The French flair continues with the cooking as you watch the talented chef, Gordon Hamersley, work his magic in the open kitchen. His roast chicken with garlic, lemon, and parsley is a Boston phenomenon—crispy skin on the outside, moist meat on the inside, doused in a garlic-laden sauce. Or enjoy the spicy halibut and Wellfleet clams with white beans and black trumpet mushrooms.
Spend your evening with the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall. The young and extremely personable Keith Lockhart took over as conductor of the Boston Pops in 1995 and is so esteemed by the cognoscenti that they could easily rename the Pops the Keith Lockhart Orchestra. Its repertoire includes light classical music and show tunes by noted composers such as Gershwin and Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Or, if the Red Sox are in town, head to Kenmore Square and spend the night at 85-year-old FenwayPark. If you’re fortunate, you’ll see Manny Ramirez rip one over the 37-foot-high left-field wall they call “The Green Monster.” Nights can be nippy in May, so dress warmly.