Thursday became an explore LA day because I’d found what looked like a nice beach house in Redondo Beach to spend the night. I wondered if that would bring a different side of LA.
I had the Getty, the Huntington Library, lunch with a friend of a friend, and then a drive down the shore on my list, and I quickly realized that was far more than I could handle. Finding that the Huntington didn’t open until that afternoon, the Griffith Observatory just up the hill became a convenient substitute. The climb up the hill was lined with beautiful homes, planted with all kinds of flowers and perfectly manicured gardens. The view at the top was expansive, the sprawl of Los Angeles uninterrupted for miles. The buildings forming downtown were trapped in a haze. The fog/smog combination was so dense that the ocean, just a few miles away, wasn’t visible.
I drove across town to meet a friend for lunch. On the way, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, Century City were visited, gawked at, driven through.
Trays of sushi came by our seats on a conveyor belt, color coded to indicate price. We grabbed one here and there, often not knowing what exactly came by. The few around us didn’t seem to face the same uncertainty, their stacked empty trays seeming to indicate.
The Getty was a short drive north, but in between was my first adventure on an LA freeway during the day. It was uneventful, the only hitch being a brief slowdown. I drove into the Getty, paid the parking fee, rounded full floor of an underground parking lot after full floor of an underground parking lot a few times before slipping my Highlander into a compact car spot.
A tram took me to the top, opening onto a platform that leads to steps that lead to the main entrance. The place was stunning, a hilltop conquered by white, a series of levels and plateaus, buildings, gardens and forms. It was a wonderland of order, direction, shape and vista, a fascinating place for someone in love with lines. Apparently it’s quite a museum, too.
I took a garden tour, dropped off onto the architecture tour. An enthusiastic Eastern European guide in her 50s or 60s repeated much of the stuff that the garden tour guide said – Richard Meier did everything on a grid, the entire structure’s built along two ridge lines, everything’s done in 30 x 30 inch squares, all the stone’s from one very special Italian quarry, etc etc. She took us to a far corner of the property and went on about a helipad and forest fires and opposition from swanky neighbors in Bel-Air and wasted precious minutes that I’d rather have spent in the museum itself.
It was a collection of buildings with meeting spaces, cafes and gardens spread throughout. It’s a Center, they told us, not a Museum. I walked into one on the east side which housed their permanent European art as well as a Da Vinci exhibit. I wandered through Monets and a Van Gogh, awed for once by what was inside rather than outside. I found a photography exhibit in a building next door but it valued the medium more than the subject itself. The pictures were too often unimpressive on their own.
The gardens were a wonderful stroll. A stream wound its way through meticulously placed rocks to a waterfall empting into a pool where ducks swam among a symmetrical maze formed of shrubbery, flowers surrounding the scene.
I left the lines of the Getty behind for the beaches of Santa Monica, Venice, Hermosa, and Redondo. A slow drive down Highway 1 as the sun set led me to my beach cottage. I parked, met my exceptionally welcoming hosts, left my things behind and walked down to the beach and along the pier, stepping into the icy Pacific after 2,700 miles and nearly a full month on the road.
The beach was relatively empty, the sun had set, and the air was getting cold. The pier was full of corn dog stands, ice cream shops, seafood joints and, for whatever reason, a bunch of Chinese food places. People fished along the edges, dogs barked, kids dashed about.
This was a calmer, smog-less, traffic-free, far less hip, fancy Los Angeles, and I finally wanted to stay.
View pictures from LA here.