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Published: October 24th 2013
We are now in Mesa, Arizona (a suburb east of Phoenix) and we wanted to post some thoughts about our time in Pasadena and Los Angeles, California. (We are always so busy in this new life adventure on the road that we are always catching up with ourselves on facebook!)
After our six weeks the leafy environs of Henry Street in Brooklyn NYC we flew to visit friends on the west coast. Justin and Georgie kindly collected us at Los Angeles LAX airport and we were immediately experiencing the vast highways of LA en-route to their lovely apartment in Pasadena, which is one of the suburbs of Los Angeles. LA is a sprawling metropolis of over 1000 square miles and located in a great broad and flat desert basin and has a population of nearly 4 million people and probably even more automobiles. There are literally highways everywhere and this extensive network knits together all the communities between the Pacific Ocean and the San Gabriel mountains.
Because LA has been so extensively filmed it feels like you have already been there before. With Georgie’s expert guidance, we made the most of our few days here. On our first full day we did an open-top hop-on-hop-off tour. Because the city is so spread out it is divided into 5 tours. We did two of the tours that started in Hollywood outside the Chinese Theatre and the Walk of Stars of Hollywood Boulevard where we saw Marilyn Monroe having her photo taken with visitors. We drove along Sunset Boulevard and saw its famous music clubs like the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, the Roxy, the original House of Blue Club and also the Viper Room that was once formerly owned by Keanu Reeves and outside of which River Phoenix died of a drug overdose. We also saw the Comedy Store where many internationally famous comedians began their careers.
From there we viewed the beauty of Beverly Hills from the top of our bus. The long tree-lined streets and the famous brand name shops of Rodeo Drive, one of which is by appointment only and the average spend there is 100,000 USDollars. (We did not shopping there.) In Beverly Hills each of the residential streets that heads up into the foothills is lined with a different tree, and the fire hydrants aren’t painted yellow but a more sedate sliver to better blend into their environment. There are street sculptures everywhere in this area, including one of Barry Flanagan’s rabbits that is very similar to the one outside the Museum at the Kilmainham in Dublin.
We hopped-off at the Original Farmer’s Market, established 1930s-ish (it’s hard to remember all the facts the tour guide provided) for a wonderful lunch of Pastrami sandwiches that were every bit as good as though we had in NYC. We switched buses in Beverly Hills and took the tour to Santa Monica and the coast and then back through Glendale. Santa Monica is famous for its pier and beach that looked very inviting as the day was sweltering and it was very hot riding on the top of the bus in their searing sunshine. (Joan loved it!)
The next day we avoided the traffic by taking the metro from Pasadena to Downtown LA. Downtown LA consists of a few high rise office buildings as well as the Gehry-designed Disney Hall that looks very similar to his famous building in Bilbao that houses a museum there. The Disney Hall is a 2,300 seat performance center. Our first stop, however, was Avila Adobe, the oldest dwelling built in LA and recently rebuilt. It is a low building with a center courtyard not unlike the inner-facing houses prevalent in North Africa, although this house did have large windows and doorways extending outward and well as inward. The commercial Plaza area is vast – everything in LA is vast – and concrete. There is very little green space; even that space set aside for parks are mostly concrete. I guess that is because this entire area is just a desert that has been converted, much like Dubai is doing.
We walked to the slightly-grungy and grimy Downtown LA. Here are the old buildings that used to be the heart of the city before it moved out to the suburbs and their shopping malls, typical of many large US cities. There is a burgeoning regeneration movement here and it is the only area that is built as much for pedestrians as automobiles. And in an area called Little Tokyo we found a proper jazz club called the Blue Whale (the Japanese love jazz!) The club featured local musicians and Justin and I went to a gig the following night consisting of vibraphone, piano and cello. It was a very enjoyable two sets of music, so much so that we missed the last metro back to Pasadena and had to get a taxi back (and you all know how much we hate taxis!)
Pasadena itself is a very nice, very pretty, mostly-middle class suburb with a spotlessly clean main shopping street (they even polish the rubbish bins) consisting mostly of well known national chain shops like Barnes & Noble and La Sur Table. The streets of Pasadena are very wide and point toward the nearby mountains so are very picturesque. We had a couple lovely meals here with Justin and Georgie, especially the steaks at Houston’s which we nearly divine and so tender you could cut them with a butter knife.
Another day Georgie took us to Venice Beach to walk the promenade and view the attractions. The main attractions are the men of Muscle Beach who no longer look human, the ‘medical’ marijuana sellers in their green hospital-like outfits shouting : ‘Don’t hesitate to medicate – the doctor is in the house – walk-ins welcome!’. As it is the end of the season most of the arts and craft sellers have packed up; the promenade usually has over 100 small crafts-persons stalls there. The famous begging dog dressed in a bikini was still there, as were the reggae-singer on roller blades also in a g-string. The beach, like the rest of LA, is vast: stretching for miles in both directions and soft sand. It was mildly busy the day we strolled it. Venice Beach is a cool and funky place to stroll and hang out.
It took us the best part of two hours to drive back to Pasadena from the coast, so we really got to experience first-hand the ‘car culture’ of California. The highways are sometimes six and seven lanes wide in each direction and are filled with cars mostly moving at a snail’s pace. Georgie was born and brought up in Orange County just south of LA so is well used to this kind of traffic. We were chatting away the whole trip so it passed effortlessly but we would not like to have to encounter this kind of traffic on a daily basis (it makes the GRA around Rome look like a speedway!)
We enjoyed our few days in Pasadena LA very much and many thanks go to our friends and hosts Justin and Georgie!
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