Boston Travel: Quincy Market, Boston Commons, Copley Square and the Back Bay Area
On an initially overcast and later rainy September 6, 2011 I embarked on my second day of sightseeing in Boston, this time heading west from our hotel towards the Copley Square area. This large square is one of Boston’s most important public spaces and anchored by Trinity Church, which was currently under renovation, the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel and the Boston Public Library. Other important architectural icons in the area include the Old South Church, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the John Hancock Tower. A colourful fruit and vegetable market was set up on the square and the locals were shopping eagerly for fresh local produce.
The western end of the square is framed by the Boston Public Library McKim Building, a true architectural jewel of the city of Boston. Opened in 1895, this impressive Renaissance Revival structure was referred to as a “palace for the people”. Today it holds the library system’s research collection, various administrative offices and exhibition spaces. The most impressive space inside the library building is Bates Hall, a huge reading room whose desks are illuminated by a sea of characteristic green lampshades. The high rounded coffered ceiling provides a majestic ambiance to this great space.
Upstairs, Sargent Hall is home to a series of impressive murals themed “The Triumph of Religion”, created by John Singer Sargent, considered the leading portrait painter of the Edwardian era. The artist worked on the murals for nearly thirty years from 1890 to 1919. They are an expression of the artist’s belief that religion is a private matter, to be chosen solely by the individual.
The attractive open-air courtyard of the McKim Building features renaissance-revival arcaded walkways and an open space that centers around a fountain. The courtyard is closely modelled after the 16th century Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome and holds a series of tables that are frequented by library users for lunch or quiet reading time.
Finally it had started to drizzle, but I continued my walk through Boston’s Back Bay area. Now I was heading through the surrounding streets which are full of restaurants, bistros, upscale boutiques and beautiful townhouses. I admired the New Old South Church, a stunning Gothic Revival Structure from 1873 and a designated National Historic Landmark.
Many of the Victorian row houses on Commonwealth Avenue, a wide boulevard separated by a median strip of greenery that is punctuated with lots of statues and memorials, had just welcomed a new crop of university students that had moved in last weekend for the new academic year. After all, Boston is often described as the “Athens of America”, with its more than 250,000 university students that attend illustrious institutions such as Harvard, MIT, Northeastern University, Boston College and others of the more than 100 colleges and universities in the Boston area.
Nearby Newbury and Boylston Streets are a mecca for shoppers where many upscale brands such as Chanel, Armani , Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Gucci and Escada are represented. After cozying up for the next few hours in our hotel room at the Radisson on Stuart Street we enjoyed an Italian dinner at Vapiano across the street, a restaurant that specializes in food that is cooked right in front of the customer. Pastas, pizzas and salad are made to order and picked up by the clients themselves who use a chip card to keep track of their orders. We enjoyed the cool urban ambience of this restaurant.
Our brief two days in Boston convinced us that this was a city to come back to and explore in more detail.