The Huntington Library and Botanical Garden

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A couple of weekends ago, my husband and I visited the Huntington library and botanical gardens for the first time. We were impressed by the extension of land, the variety of flora, and, last but certainly not least, the books, manuscripts, and letters we found there. We spent the day there and we didn’t see everything.

The botanical garden is splendid. We started with the desert garden, where we were lucky to stumble upon a very enthusiastic tour guide teaching about cacti and succulents. I love cacti and succulents and have been eagerly reading about them and this was perhaps one of my favorite parts of the gardens. However, I’m never going to see my cacti grow as tall as some in the garden that were planted over a 100 years ago. From there, we walked through the other gardens: japanese, chinese, Shakespeare, australian, lily ponds, and others. We were in awe. It was just the start and we had already agreed it was one of the best places we had visited.

However, we were not entirely expecting what we found once we started going to the museums, house and library. We are used to classical architecture and design. Apparently Mrs Huntington was in love with French architecture and design and the Manor’s details reminded us of Versailles. The portrait gallery exhibits some more and some less famous paintings, such as the blue boy. What I found interesting was that they went through all the trouble of not only saying who the person was, but telling us the back story of the portrait, its relation with other paintings in the room (eg., spouses) and the similarities (or discrepancies) with their personality. It becomes more intimate, more reflective of the individual within the era.

Finally, we were enthralled by the collection of books: first editions, author’s manuscripts with their handwritten side notes, letters. There was the Gutenberg bible, Hubble’s letters, Darwin’s first edition Origin of the Species, Mendel, Copernicus, Galileo Galilei…we tried to read through the glasses the little notes. I believe book lovers and science aficionados would definitely love going to the library. We did not have the time to see it all, as the Huntington closes at 6pm, and we will most certainly return.

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