Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Los Angeles ~ La Brea Tar Pits and Urban Light Sculpture

As many parts of this series that there is...and we are not done yet, there is still one more segment...I've only touched the tip of the iceberg here with this tour of Los Angeles. If you want a little more help with deciding where to go and what to see you may want to try out the Discover LA website. Lots of information there to help you decide on what to see and when to see it!
 After the Walk of Fame we headed to one of the most famous areas of Los Angeles, the Miracle Mile. Wilshire Boulevard has some of the most famous attractions of downtown LA. There are lots of museums as well as movie and television studios on Wilshire. The two we were visiting were the La Brea Tar Pits and the Urban Lights Sculpture at the LA County Museum of Art. 
 As with all things you see as a child,  the La Brea Tar Pits looks much bigger and much more dramatic than it does when you see it as an adult. I remembered the display being much larger with many more dinos stuck in the muck. 
 Fortunately our 12 year old son was totally fascinated...in the muck. This is the reflection of the light and trees on the muck which is a nasty blend of oil and water and tar. No wonder the dinosaurs got stuck!
 You even get to see prehistoric looking plants in the gardens there.
 This plant was twice my height and those "leaves" would have made great weapons...against another man but totally useless against anything larger! Good thing man and dino were here at different times!
 The wonderful new addition for us was the Page Museum. As I mentioned before, it's been a couple of decades since we did the "tourist" thing in LA so finding new stuff was really fun!
The Page is set in a beautiful park where you can bring a picnic and enjoy the Southern California weather.
 The museum is set up in a circular pattern with a atrium area in the center of it. Everything inside of it is from the area and there are some mind blowing animals you never would have expected ever existed in the United States....like camels. I kid you not...camels... in America...camels! Mind Blown.
 But it was the saber tooth cats that grabbed my imagination! I'm seriously happy that no human ever had to come up against THAT! On the back wall there, all lit up in gold, are wolf skulls. Yup...about 200 of them!
 There is a lab in the center of this area where you can, if you are lucky, watch the scientists working on the skeletons.
 The Page isn't a really large museum but it has a lot to offer. Take the time to read all that is there, especially the back wall right past this display, and you will find out so much more than you ever dreamed and have your mind blown quite a few times! This is the view of the lab from the other side of the museum.
 As I mentioned, there is an atrium in the center that you can walk through. There's a waterfall and cute little koi fish and turtles as well as lots of lush plant life to enjoy.
 Now here was where we got a big surprise. We were hungry after a long day of walking around LA so we asked the receptionist at The Page where we could go to eat. She directed us to the corner of the tar pits on Wilshire and told us to make a left across the street and there would be two or three places to eat there. I stopped to admire this canopy and take a few photos of the vintage details and we decided we'd go give this place a chance. Yes, it says "Callenders" up there on the sign. What we didn't realize is that it's a MARIE Callenders. Yeah, the pie place. But this was a Callenders like you have never seen before!
 This is a vintage Callenders...like 1940's gorgeous! Lots of dark wood, vintage details and gorgeous antique lamps and light fixtures.
Most Marie Callenders are a small step up from Denny's but this one is just one small step down from any fine dining place you have visited. We ate gourmet dishes where the only familiar Callender food was their famous corn bread! Our waiter was simply amazing and the experience was incredible. It felt like we were being totally spoiled! And, yes, they have pie and yes, we had some! Our only thought on why this place even existed is that there are some major tv studios across the street from here. It was easy to imagine some really big deals going down at the gorgeous bar or at these tables surrounded by photos of Old Hollywood.
After dinner we headed back past The Page and the tar pits. Notice the fence that is surrounding the place? Yeah, that wasn't there when I was a kid. I mean, it was cordoned off, but not quite the security fencing that is up now. Here and there in LA you will see signs of the times...security put in place to protect people who would either fall in due to carelessness or due to unchecked curiosity.
 Just a short half block away from the tar pits is the LA County Museum of Art. We didn't have the time to actually tour the museum but I loved the geometric lines and patterns of the entryway!
 We were there to see the Urban Lights Sculpture! This was installed in 2008 by artist Chris Burden and includes 202 vintage streetlamps of different sizes and styles that use to light the streets of LA.
 I was truly like a kid in a candy store. For a photographer it's almost overwhelming! There are so many angles and patterns and so much symmetry all lit up in the brilliant light from 202 streetlamps! We were only there for 30 minutes but I know I could have stayed much longer and been very happy! 
I've included this photograph, not just because it's beautiful and shows off the beautiful lamps, but because it helps prove that I was shooting in color, not black and white as the next photo seems to indicate!
 With a love of all things vintage these are just so beautiful to me and the experience of being in the bright lights was so lovely and romantic. I wasn't in the least bit surprised that there were several couples walking around it hand in hand or sitting on the side steps cuddled up together. Like 202 candelabras lighting up the night. If you are anywhere near the area make sure to swing on by and walk around for at least a few moments and if you are a photographer, give yourself even more time!

Unfortunately we didn't have more time to give to the sculpture because we were headed up to the Griffith Observatory! Next week we'll wind up our tour of LA with a tour of the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign. See you then!


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Los Angeles ~Grauman's Chinese Theater and Hollywood Walk of Fame

 I grew up in Southern California and lived there till I was almost 16 so we had visited Hollywood many times over those years. But we realized that our 12 year old son had never been...had no idea it even existed! Being "movie" people we knew that we had to bring our son to this tourist destination. He was not disappointed. Of course, never knowing it even existed he had no expectations and, in fact, wasn't even sure he wanted to go so the bar we needed to exceed to impress him was really really low!

Driving into downtown we saw this fun building. It's actually a school but it's definitely a great example of some of the wonderful architecture you can see in Los Angeles. The fun part of touring LA is that you can see something ultra modern like this one right next to something that was built when the city was first formed!
There is a parking garage right at the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and N. Orange and when you come up the stairs from parking your car you are greeted by Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. This version of Johnny Depp was waiting for us on the day we visited. Reactions to it ranged from "Cool" to "Funny" to "Creepy" but not a single person walked past without noticing!

Keep walking toward Highland Ave and you will find that Grauman's Chinese Theater is next on your tour. Famous for movie premiers and movie stars foot and hand prints in the concrete, this is definitely a great stop for any tourist seeing LA. 
 The prints in the small courtyard of the theater include more modern references such as these by the cast of Harry Potter. It's fun to match up your own foot and hand prints with those of the stars.
 It's even more fun to match up your prints with the vintage stars like Humphrey Bogart! His shoes, and those of many of his contemporaries, are actually very, very small! 
The courtyard is always very crowded with people looking for their favorite stars, standing in footprints and taking photos of the ground but don't forget to look up! The architecture is actually very striking! So take the time to really look at all of the embellishments on these buildings.

 Keep in mind that most of the outdoor embellishments are metal. So, yes, those horns and fangs would be very sharp!
But it was the dragon that stole my heart. It would be pretty easy to visit Grauman's Chinese Theater and not take in the details but there are many to take in so spend some time looking up, not just looking down. Oh! And if you really have some time, take in a show! Yes, they still show movies at the theater.
One of the most fun details is actually to the right of the theater doors. This staircase connects the theater with the Dolby Theater complex next door. I simply thought they were cool looking so I waited till the escalator, which most people were using, was empty to take my photo. I stopped for a second to check the shot and I'm so very glad I did. A few seconds after I pressed the shutter some teenagers started up the stairs...to find out that they are actually a real keyboard! It plays music! It was completely a joy to watch the kids play on the steps. What a great surprise!
 It was cool to realize that I was standing where they run the Red Carpet for the Academy Awards. If you head up these stairs you will find more shops and restaurants, many of those are upscale but just standing on the sidewalk you get to feel a part of Hollywood without spending a dime.
The big yellow arch is where the stars enter the theater but there is plenty to see here without going inside. You can eat at the Hard Rock Cafe, grab a hot dog from the sidewalk vendor and, of course, take in the costume performers walking the sidewalks and posing with tourists for tips. There's a certain irony in seeing a Spiderman wearing tennis shoes and a fanny pack on Hollywood Blvd.
But none of the performers tickled me more than the Johnny Depp characters of Willy Wonka (seen here in a Candy Shop...no, not kidding you...a Candy Shop) and Captain Jack Sparrow! I've never been tempted to take photos and tip these performers but this was just too good to pass up!
All the way up and down the sidewalks here, for several blocks on each side of the street, are the Stars. The Hollywood Walk of Fame. All different forms of entertainment are featured with music stars such as Michael Jackson. Notice the phonograph icon in the center...do kids even know what that means now? 
 Movie actors and actresses like Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts are featured as well. These stars are paid for from the fan clubs of these performers and the honor is really honoring their fans so they always show up for the presentation and it's a really big celebration when they do.
Sometimes the stars are awarded, as in this case, with the location being honored by the chairman of the Walk of Fame. I, wholeheartedly, support this one! (click on the small picture to read the plaque inscription)
When you get to the corner of Hollywood and Highland you may be distracted by the stores, the enormous gift shop across the way, Souvenirs of Hollywood (which has been there for as long as I can remember) or Ripley's Believe It Or Not on the other corner but, once again, look up. This amazing building is right on that corner and it's worth a few moments just to take in the many details. Oh, look, I found another stone lion! LOL! (click on the photo to see the larger version and then look in the lower left for the lion)
Across the way isn't so shabby either. This view of Hollywood Blvd and the El Capitan Theater (home of the very first Academy Awards ceremony...and, yes, I know way too much about this stuff...) is from the corner of Hollywood and Highland and gives you an idea how vintage architecture is surrounded with more modern buildings on this street.
And the El Capitan is a wonderful example of this classical architecture. It truly is amazing all of the building details that are included in this one piece.
Even the fire escape is ornate! Ok, so you've noticed the landing and how there are plaques and filigree but look at the rungs in the ladder! They, too, are decorated!
The front of the building is no less amazing. Part of this building is now the Disney Store so it was a challenge to show you the vintage details without the modern advertising being a major distraction. 
The details of this building are distracting on their own. This was one of those times when I stopped to take a photograph and lots of people were passing me by on the sidewalk. Slowly, as I figured out how I could capture the fabulous windows, I noticed that people were stopping to see what I was seeing. Probably wondering what I could possibly be so intent on photographing and then to realize how gorgeous this facade actually is and how they could have just walked right by it and never have noticed. LOOK UP. Seriously, there's a whole other world waiting for you. Especially in a city. 
The details are everywhere on this building and I could have eaten up a good part of our day just exploring it but that will have to wait for another trip. This was simply a side gate to the courtyard. Amazing. If you are on Instagram there is an artist that does nothing but spotlight this type of amazing architecture and details in Los Angeles. Look up Revheavygilnoir on Instagram if you love this type of detail!

But if you are into more modern architecture and details, Los Angeles has plenty of that available right outside your window. This was on our way from Hollywood to the La Brea Tar Pits and is now one of my favorites from this trip. Join me next Monday for a tour of that part of Downtown Los Angeles!


Monday, May 12, 2014

Los Angeles ~ The Huntington Library

When I was a kid I remember rebelling against the thought of going to a "Library" with my parents. By the end of my first visit to The Huntington Library, at age 7, I was completely and utterly hooked. I don't know if this was the first "House and Gardens" I had ever toured with my parents but it was the first that I remember. I remember the Japanese Gardens, the Rose Gardens and the Main House and Sculpture Gardens. It has really grown from there!
 Coming up from the Rose Gardens you see the gorgeous main house. This is the back patio and it overlooks an open area as well as the Rose Gardens. What a lovely place this would be to have had a cocktail party!

 You actually enter the Main House from this dark portico in the front. Hidden in the greenery is this beautiful sculpture...the first one you see in the Sculpture Garden area you can just glimpse in the background of this photo.
 But then you enter the front hallway. This staircase has charmed me since I was a child. The grand columns along with the ironwork of the banister are just SO romantic. There are galleries at the top of these stairs including a beautiful statue of Diana. We were running out of time before the grounds closed so we limited ourselves to the lower galleries only this trip.
 This amazing stained glass window is easily missed on the bottom level of the Main House so make sure to look for it. It's down a side hallway. It is the David Healey Memorial Window manufactured by Morris & Co. (remember to click on the small photo to make it larger to see the details!)
 But this...this is where I head every single time we visit. The main hall gallery in the Main House. This is where I first fell in love with Art. Long before I ever held a camera in my hand, long before I ever considered making it my life, I sat in silent awe in front of these oil paintings and soaked up the wonder of it all. This trip we took our 12 year old for the first time and his reaction was the same. Our hyper 12 year old son sat in awe in front of the painting of "Pinkie" and was just blown away. Lots and lots of questions followed and all of the beauty of the gardens was eclipsed by this one room. 
 And this one...this is the painting I would love to have hanging in my home over all the other paintings I have ever seen in any museum I've ever visited. This beautiful painting by Joshua Reynolds caught my heart. It's just so romantic. The background reminds me of the Huntington itself and the lady pictured was just so different looking from all of those I'd ever seen before or since.
 Jane Fleming, the Countess of Harrington was born in England and painted at the age of 23. There is something about her expression, her hair, even her clothing that is so soft and sweet and romantic. Very different from the very polished, uptight women in most of the paintings of the era. I could, literally, stare at this painting for hours.
 To the right of my favorite painting is Thomas Gainsborough's The Blue Boy. This one, as well as "Pinkie" are what the Huntington Library is known for. People come just to see these two paintings. The Blue Boy is actually a "costume" painting. The artist dressed up a friends son in a costume that dated back 140 years and then painted him in the style of  Van Dyke as an homage to the painter. I'm sure he had no idea how popular this portrait would be in the future!
 Thomas Lawrence's "Pinkie" doesn't have such a happy history. This painting of Sarah Barrett Moulton was painted in 1794. Lawrence painted Sarah's likeness when she was 11 and, sadly, she died of tuberculosis only a few months after the painting was completed. The family had just moved from Jamaica to England for her education. Her younger brother, Edward, was the father of the poetess Elizabeth Barrett Browning. So it is always with a bit of sorrow that we view this painting. I think, perhaps, that is what drew my son to this one, her sad story at such a young age.
 There IS a library in the Main House of the Huntington Library! Adorned with grand chandeliers as well as beautiful furniture (works of art in themselves!) and many books line the shelves.
 The romantic notions in the statues and architecture continues outside the front of the Main House giving you the feeling of a grand Italian Villa rather than a Southern California Mansion.
 But it is this European influence that helps to create such beautiful buildings and grounds at The Huntington Library. (Of course I found another lion...even if he is hiding behind her drapes!)

 There is the Main Library as well. Inside if very clean in design, very modern in design and very very dark! This helps to preserve the valuable books, of course, but made it impossible for me to consider photographing without a tri-pod and long exposures. But the outside is truly lovely on it's own. One of the things I love about the grounds here is that not all of the sculptures are made of white marble. Not that I don't love white marble but the variations are beautiful to see.
 And there is plenty of white marble to be seen. We loved the mermaid fountain, including the "seahorses" at the base!
Our son said the mermaids looked more like belly dancers...I can totally see that! Of course the immature pre-teen boy also giggled at the bare upper bodies of the mermaids as well. But it was the hair that had me fascinated. It falls so realistically. As always, I'm in awe of the movement that can be sculpted into marble.
The Sculpture Gardens are beautiful to tour as well. My only disappointment was that the main fountain, a really ornate piece on it's own, was being fully restored so it was completely covered in scaffolding. However, we had seen this Monk all over the gardens, visiting the same areas we were, so I couldn't resist adding him into our photo-blog as well. 

The Huntington Library is something you shouldn't miss if you are in the Los Angeles area. There is, easily, enough to see and do there to cover 8 full hours. Sadly they are not open 8 full hours a day so you would really need two visits to see everything here. Your best bet for a single day visit is to go on the weekends when it's open from 10:30 to 4:30pm. You wouldn't be disappointed! 

Next Monday we'll move the tour of LA downtown! Hope you can join us!