Went to Los Angeles recently, and here's the trip report. The original suggested itinerary was posted here:
and it was adhered to with a few tweaks. Going to Los Angeles was a must given that I have family there (my nephew and his wife moved there a couple years ago), and they went along on several of the sightseeing days.
Spent the first day for the most part at Expo Park to see the museums. Got there a little early and was able to enjoy the large central fountain as well as the rose garden in this little park (some were in bloom). Went first to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, housed in a lovely turn-of-the-last-century building. The collection is very good, eclipsed only in my experience by similar museums in New York, Chicago, and Washington DC. There were loads of fossils, encompassing dinosaurs (Triceratops, three Tyrannosaurus rexes of different ages, Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Corythosaurus, Camarasaurus, plus eggs and a T Rex and Triceratops set up in fight mode), dinosaur relatives (Pteranodon, Pleisosaur, Mosasaur), and early mammals (dire wolf, Smilodon, ground sloth, mastodon). There were large dioramas (two for North American mammals and one for African mammals), lots of stuffed birds, shells, and minerals/gemstones (this last much more interesting than in most similar museums). There were also poorly lit marsh and rain forest environments, a section on Los Angeles history, and relics from Mayan, Aztec, and Incan civilizations. There were scads of noisy children here and at the next destination, the California Science Center. This latter was definitely geared for the pre-teen set, with hands-on exhibits encompassing biology, ecosystems, and creativity that proved of minimal interest. Best was the air and space section, containing originals and replicas of planes, space capsules, satellites, rockets, space suits, and a moon rock fragment. Fortunately, the California African-American Museum was both child-free and enjoyable. One section was given over to segregation issues in Los Angeles and information about major 20th-century riots there (Rodney King, 1960s Watts, Zoot Suit), while the rest focused on artwork. In the "works on paper" gallery were various nuggets, including brand name stuff by Picasso, Miro, Vasalery, and Albers. The ink/paint on canvas work by Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle was only fair, but the television-inspired mixed-media fancies by Derrick Adams were terrific, very clever, often funny, and occasionally chilling. Given that the Pacific Asia Museum is currently closed for earthquake retrofitting, decided to head next to the nearby USC campus (brick and charming) and the Doheny Library, where a small gallery holds what is currently in town from that museum. There were about 60 ceramic pieces, mostly Chinese and Japanese with a few Thai and Korean items of generally high quality. Had time to visit El Pueblo de Los Angeles, home to a large outdoor Mexican style market, a couple small historic homes (the Avila Adobe, which is the oldest house in LA, and the Sepulveda House, both with recreated rooms containing furniture and artifacts), and several tiny museums: Italian-American (deals with famous Italians, as well as prejudice against Italians in the US), Chinese-American (deals with the Asian-American Movement, as well as old and new LA Chinatown), and a tiny Fire Museum (with a few helmets and couple pieces of vintage apparatus), as well as an old church (Our Lady Queen of Angels Church) and a mural, “American Tropical," by David Alfaro Siqueiros.
Because of an uncharacteristically late start and misinformation about the size of the museum, was only able to do two things today, but both were very good. Went first to the Hammer Museum, which was nowhere near as large as the person I called there led me to believe. This place contains several small galleries, mostly given over to recent art. One had a respectable clutch of 20th century art, including a piece by Ruscha. Others were devoted to a single cutting-edge artist (mostly video-based and forgettable). Best by far was the small permanent collection of pre-20th-century masters: two works each by Rembrandt, Moreau, Van Gogh, Corot, and Toulouse-Lautrec, plus individual items by Cassatt, Degas, Rodin, Rubens, Sargent, Manet, Cezanne, Eakins, Gaugin, and Gericault. The courtyard was also full of funny wobble chairs that museum patrons seemed to be enjoying thoroughly. Short, but well worth the visit. Continued on to the bottom of the Venice Beach Boardwalk and strolled up to the Santa Monica Pier. Arguably, this is the best spot ever for people watching: everyone from bodybuilders (at Muscle Beach), artists, preachers, itinerant musicians, homeless, skateboarders, bicyclists, surfer dudes, families, and tourists (guilty as charged for this last). The Boardwalk is crammed with cheap eateries, souvenir shops, "medical" marijuana dispensaries, tattoo parlors, fortune tellers, and plenty more. The shops end in Santa Monica, though there's a huge stretch of beach volleyball courts and a few hotels and restaurants. The Santa Monica Pier (now officially designated as the terminus of Route 66) contains all the tacky shops, food stalls, and street musicians at this end of the Boardwalk. The Pier also has an amusement park and little aquarium, plus the expected hordes of people. Lots of fun.
Plenty of excellent experiences today. Begin at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, a huge church that unlike most modernist examples is very well done. The main chapel is large and tasteful, with alabaster panels (instead of stained glass) and modernist tapestries. There are several niches (including one each for John Paul II and Mother Teresa) and two smaller chapels, all with modernist art and both old and newer icons. A huge reredos from the 17th century sits near the back. There's a large basement burial crypt which does have nice stained-glass panels throughout. The whole thing is lead into by huge bronze doors echoing those of Florence’s Baptistry. Outside is a large courtyard plus gardens, sculpture, and a waterfall. Very nicely done. Toured two nice historic houses in Pasadena next. The Fenyes Mansion looks rather like The Mount in Lenox, MA and was probably built at about the same time. There's a shaggy but pleasing garden area. Inside is a good bit of original furnishing and effects, including a set of dining room carved chairs produced by Tiffany Senior. Besides the usual rooms is one which served as the local Finnish Embassy (the owner's second husband was the country's ambassador) and a large art studio with a small stage for performing. The tour was a little chatty at first but generally very good, heavily emphasizing the family that owned the house. Very close by is the Gamble House, a picture-perfect example of Arts and Crafts style architecture, here with strong Oriental influences. It's strikingly detailed, in a style I'd never encountered before. The architects used expensive foreign wood (teak, mahogany, cypress, ebony, and maple) and even designed furniture a la Frank Lloyd Wright. It's very dark in feel (in deference to the owner's wife, who had eye problems), but warm and pleasant. There's stained glass on the front door, and no sharp edges on any of the wood (it's all rounded and smoothed). Gorgeous and unique, a real find. The nearby Norton Simon Museum is in the running for the best small art museum I've ever been to. The quality to quantity ratio is astonishingly good. Practically every Impressionist French artist of note is found here, along with later masters like Picasso, Braque, Van Gogh, Gaugin, Matisse, Vuilliard, Modigliani, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rousseau, Nolde, Marc, Kirchner, Klee, Kandinsky, and Rivera. There are also old masters such as Rembrandt, Hals, Fragonard, Corot, Courbet, Daumier, Rubens, El Greco, Zurbaran, Cranach, Goya, Raphael, Lippi, Tiepolo, and Botticelli. Amazingly, many of these artists are represented multiple times. There are also some Asian artifacts as well as a nice outdoor sculpture garden (containing items by folks like Moore and Rodin) with a large lily pond.
Spent the day visiting the two Gettys. Headed first to the Getty Villa in Malibu, perched atop a high bluff overlooking the ocean. The museum is undergoing some upper floor renovation and some of the collection is away on loan. But there was plenty enough to see, all very enjoyable. The collection consists of Greek, Roman, Etruscan, and Parthian artifacts, including statues, urns, silver, wall frescoes, glass, pottery, mosaics, and sarcophagi. There are some sumptuous gardens studded with statuary as well as a big atrium with fountains and plants. And the building itself is nice, a copy of an Italian villa. Worthwhile even in an abbreviated mode. The Getty Center is large and world-class, arguably the best art museum in the city. They have an excellent collection of paintings, including work by Ensor, Van Gogh, every major Impressionist, Millet, Corot, Courbet, Manet, Turner, Goya, Friedrich, Gericault, Rousseau, Sorolla, Munch, David, Gainsborough, Hals (an unusually serious portrait), Rembrandt, Titian, Veronese, El Greco, and Fra Angelico. There's also a wealth of decorative art, including stained glass, sculpture, glassware, porcelain, furniture, illuminated manuscripts, tapestries, mosaics, silver, even an early microscope complete with carrying case – not to mention several whole rooms. An absolute must.
Spent most of the day at the Huntington Library, Museum, and Gardens. This was very much an all-day affair and most enjoyable. The art collection here is quite good. Their European gallery was almost all devoted to English works, including their two most famous paintings, Gainsborough's "Blue Boy" and Lawrence's “Pinky.” There were other canvases by these artists as well as by Turner, Constable, Romney, Reynolds, Hogarth, Van Dyck, Fuseli, Watteau, and David. Several decorative art pieces were found in the European gallery, as well as a number of sumptuous rooms. The American gallery had a lot of folk art and decorative art pieces (metalwork, pottery, rugs, quilts, glassware, silver, and everyday items) with an especially nice holding of Greene and Greene Arts and Crafts style furniture, windows, a staircase, even a whole room. There was also art by Hopper, Stuart, Copley, Benton, West, Bierstadt, Cassatt, Warhol, Prendergast, Rauschenberg, Inness, Ruscha, Hassam, Eakins, Bellowes, and Sargent. The library had an exhibit containing a Gutenberg Bible as well as old editions by Chaucer, Twain, and Shakespeare, plus scientific work by Audubon, Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, Darwin, Franklin, Einstein, Aristotle, Lamarck, and Mendel. Surprisingly, there was also a large collection of vintage light bulbs. The gardens were extensive and excellent -- desert, rose, palm, jungle, Chinese, and Japanese were all seen. Finished up with a jaunt to the Griffith Observatory, which proved to be a short visit. Its best features: the spectacular view of downtown Los Angeles, the building itself, a large slow rotating pendulum like at Boston's Museum of Science, seeing the Tesla coil being run (shades of old Frankenstein movies!), and the artwork on the dome near the front entrance. The exhibits were perfunctory and best suited for kids.
Headed down to Long Beach today, beginning at the Aquarium of the Pacific. There are three main sections here: Baja, Central Coast Pacific, and Arctic. There were scads of fish, frogs, salamanders, and such -- most notably seahorses, sea dragons, sharks, and rays – as well as a passel of lorikeets, penguins, seals and sea lions, and sea otters. Lots of fun and well done. Took the shuttle from there to the Queen Mary, the last of its kind of mid-20th century ocean liners -- one gigantic boat! There was an especially fine tour, by a guide both knowledgeable and able to out-shout the whiniest baby with ease (which it turns out he had to do). The ship itself is a mix of luxury and faded glory. The large salon room, complete with large floor lamps, wood and carpeted floor, stage, three fancy fireplaces, and large artworks was especially nice. There's a plethora of fancy tropical hardwoods used throughout the first class common areas and the cabins in the floor below, not mention then-luxurious bakelite plastic handrails. There were also lots of photos of celebrities who rode the vessel, as well as an open area to walk along inside the engine room (huge motors, pumps, and such). Quite good, and worth the trip.
Two things today, and given the slowness of the bus connection, that was a good thing. First took the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, which as it turned out was quite good. Rode around in a tram for much of it, getting off at a couple of locations along the way. Got an extensive look at the various backlots, all small enclaves of storefronts or house fronts except for the jungle backlot, which has a lot of dense growth, a few cabin-like buildings, and a lagoon area. The backlots suggested Anytown USA (complete with bandstand), New York, Chicago, a 30s urban scene, and an East Coast USA residential development. Were shown areas where things like Big Bang Theory, Batman (1960s), Drew Carey Show, Friends, The Music Man, Casablanca, and East of Eden had exterior scenes shot. Got off at the Archives, full of recent Batman and Harry Potter costumes and such (no thanks) and a building where cars were kept (most from recent Batman films). Did see one sound stage, which fortunately was that for the Big Bang Theory (shows Penny’s apartment, Sheldon and Leonard’s flat, and the hallway with broken elevator). Fascinating to see, though it was all notably smaller and less well lit than what one views on the screen. They let us off at a small museum with memorabilia as well as information on the effects and aspects of creating movies and TV shows, plus sets for the living room of “Two and a Half Men” and the Central Perk coffee shop from “Friends.” Very much enjoyed in sum. Later on, reached the Autry Museum of the American West. This was just okay -- the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City is notably better. There was a good bit of forgettable artwork (the few brand name folks included Bierstadt, O’Keeffe, Catlin, Remington, Henri, and N.C. Wyeth), plus Native American artifacts (totems, rugs, clothing, baskets, blankets). There was Western movie and TV memorabilia, some showcasing Gene Autry and Monte Hale (the museum’s founders), Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and John Wayne, plus information on Buffalo Bill's live Wild West Shows. Downstairs were cowboy artifacts (clothing, spurs, guns, saddles, barbed wire) and information about famous wild west characters like Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok, Black Bart, the Dalton gang, and Annie Oakley. There was a stagecoach, a piece of antique fire apparatus, and mockups of a saloon and gambling hall, plus a good bit of Native American artifacts, especially baskets and pottery.
More to come.
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Trip report--Los Angeles, mostly without a car
Went to Los Angeles recently, and here's the trip report. The original suggested itinerary was posted here: