Monday, January 10, 2011

California Dreamin'

Santa Monica Beach

I'm currently sitting at the Burbank Airport, making use of their free Wi-Fi while I wait for a flight back to Seattle and impending snowmageddon. I'll keep the above image (Santa Monica Beach) burned into my memory as I spend the next couple of days hoping that our power holds and we don't freeze to death.

Needless to say, the weather in Southern California is quite a departure from the damp chill of Seattle. I arrived to sunshine and left with sunshine and had lots of sunshine everywhere in between.

Day 1: Los Angeles Zoo

I arrived in L.A. around lunchtime, and my brother took me to his house to drop off my luggage and have a sandwich. Shortly afterwards, we drove to the Los Angeles Zoo. I loved the landscaping there, since the flora is quite different from Washington's, but otherwise, I didn't see any animal exhibits that impressed me. It's a nice zoo, but there was nothing really unique about it. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon, though. After traveling all morning, I didn't feel like doing any hardcore sightseeing.

Dinner that night was at a nice American restaurant called Dish in La CaƱada. The evening was very relaxed.

Day 2: Santa Monica Pier/Hollywood

I woke up, ready for some hardcore sightseeing. Weather-wise, this was the warmest day, which was great, because we were headed to the beach. My brother drove me out to Santa Monica Pier, which was almost empty that time of morning. Perfect. We walked along the pier, walked barefoot on the beach (so amazing to do that in early January), and stopped at Perry's Beachside Cafe for a late breakfast/early lunch. I can't even tell you how relaxing it is to sit outside in the sun on a warm January morning, eating fresh-made veggie burritos and hash browns, listening to the waves crash on the shore, and smelling the salty air.

Afterwards, we drove through Malibu, and then turned onto a mountain road and drove up through Toluca and back toward my brother's place, where we parked at the rail station and took the train to Union Station. From there, we took the subway to Hollywood & Vine.

Here's the disappointing part. I didn't see what the big deal was about Hollywood, honestly. I walked up one side of Hollywood Boulevard, along the Walk of Fame, and got harassed at every turn by tour operators trying to get me to take some overpriced tour. It was crowded. It was claustrophobic. You couldn't even stop to look at anything for fear of getting trampled. I took pictures of a few of the theaters, and we turned around at Grauman's Chinese Theater and headed back to the nearest subway station at Hollywood & Highland. Been there. Done that. No need to do it again.

The rest of day 2 was spent hanging out with the family. So now we move on to...

Day 3: The Getty

I've seen some pretty impressive museums in Europe. My top 3 are the Victoria & Albert, the Hermitage, and the Louvre. The Getty is on par with those. It's a huge, modern glass and concrete structure at the top of a mountain. You need to take a tram to get up there. Plan to spend an entire day, because it takes at least that long to see everything. Their galleries are extensive (European art, photography and illuminated manuscripts, among other things), and they also have a very nice garden. I think we covered most of it, but there were still come exhibits we missed. As for famous artwork that's displayed there, does this do anything for you? That's the most famous painting I saw. Regardless, their collection is impressive and fascinating.

Later on that day, right at dusk, my brother drove me into Pasadena (where we passed the Rose Bowl) for a quick hike at Eaton Canyon.

Day 4: The Huntington Library

As if The Getty isn't impressive enough, the Huntington Library completely knocked my socks off. This, for me, was the very best place I visited on the trip. My friend - being a fellow literature geek - suggested it, and I immediately agreed. We were not disappointed.

A 15th century manuscript of The Canterbury Tales!
Canterbury Tales manuscript, 15th century

Also, a first folio of Shakespeare!

This is an English major's playground. They also have a nice collection of art, including the famous painting of Thomas Gainsborough - "The Blue Boy."

And the gardens...oh, THE GARDENS!

So many gardens: Japanese, Chinese, rose, sculpture, desert (my favorite), Australian, sub-tropical...I could go on. All are different. All are jaw-dropping in their beauty.

Yes, The Huntington also takes an entire day to cover. Do go. It's worth it, I promise. We left at lunchtime to eat at an old-school soda fountain - Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain - on Route 66 in South Pasadena (go for the nostalgia and the ice cream - the food is ok), but you get stickers that allow you to come back. And come back, we did.

I was back at my brother's by dinnertime, where we had a last dinner out at Ernie Jr.'s Taco House.

And that takes us to today. But today was mostly just a day to chill out at my brother's house. We only ventured out to Barnes & Noble to get a book for me to read for the flight back.

We'll be boarding soon, so I leave you with my Flickr photo set (132 photos...YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED) and some links:

- Dish Restaurant

- The Getty

- Fair Oaks Pharmacy & Soda Fountain

- The Huntington Library

No comments: