Intermission II: The LA Tourist Speaks

I asked my sister, Katherine, to list her LA: Top 5. Being a first timer in the city, I’m not surprised that she responded with the following:

1. Hiking to the Hollywood Sign.

2. Walking Hollywood Boulevard.

3. Driving through Orange County – to Laguna Beach and San Clemente.

4. Exploring Beverly Hills and witnessing everything it is known for – the Lamborghinis; the brand name stores – Gucci, Prada; Rodeo Drive…

5. Drinking a Moroccan mint matcha latte at Urth Caffe in Santa Monica.

Though I’m a resident of LA, even I get excited when I glimpse the Pacific Ocean’s shimmer on a sunny day, take a Star Line tour of Hollywood stars’ homes, and hopscotch the Hollywood Walk of Fame. While Kath’s Top 5 may read like that of a guidebook, it’s a worthy list that reminds me that all that glitters in LA really is gold to the tourist.

My sis and me peeking over the fence at "that" sign

My sis and me peeking over the fence at “that” sign

Hollywood Sign c/o the iphone

Hollywood Sign c/o the iPhone

Top of the Sign

Top of the Sign

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Looking over LA

Kath looking over LA

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Lucille Ball's old home

Lucille Ball’s old home in Beverly Hills

Bijan's Bugatti

Bijan’s million+ Bugatti on Rodeo Drive

Harry Winston store on Rodeo Drive

Harry Winston store on Rodeo Drive

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Tourists

Tourists

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Oz premiere on Hollywood Blvd

Oz premiere on Hollywood Blvd

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Chilling at the pool at the Loews Hotel hollywood

Chilling at the pool at the Loews Hotel Hollywood

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach

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Warming the fingertips - Montage Hotel Laguna Beach

Warming the fingertips – Montage Hotel Laguna Beach

Photo Shoot at Treasure Island Park, Laguna Beach

Photo Shoot at Treasure Island Park, Laguna Beach

The Pacific

The Pacific

San Clemente - through Katherine's rose coloured glasses

San Clemente – through Katherine’s rose coloured glasses

My sis, Kath, with her fave Moroccan Mint matcha drink at Urth Caffe

My sis, Kath, with her fave Moroccan Mint matcha drink at Urth Caffe

Urban Vs Natural ~ New York and California

I read some words today that I’ve been reflecting on ever since. You may read them here: mimokhair, Day 2, Vietnam

Energised by the built; energised by the wild. Constantly revved up by a kaleidoscope of impressions, versus quietly meditating on the infinite. Striving towards a balance.

The thoughts shared by the Native American on mimokhair’s post speak volumes about my love for city life, accompanied by the constant pull of the Pacific Ocean.

Looking towards the horizon from Heisler Park in Laguna Beach

View from my apartment building’s rooftop in Brooklyn, looking towards Manhattan. One World Trade Centre in NY’s downtown (background).

Love for New Beginnings

This post is symbolic of a fresh start.

A Rockrose Grows in Laguna Beach, CA

I am moving in a new direction with my career; a foray into the bountiful world of travel writing and travel photography. My love for media: magazines, books, the Internet, and (travel) shows is unwavering – as well as indulging in them, I hope to be writing for them soon.

I’m signed up with Matador Network so over the next couple of months I’ll be doing a whole lot of learning, reading, writing, and snapping. One of the requirements was to create a blog for coursework submissions; if you’d like to critically comment on my words, here’s your chance!

Breathing Travel | Documenting the journey (or http://marinac.matadoru.com/ )

I’ll continue blogging from here with updates; it’s where the ‘push’ happened after all.

I cannot wait for the journey ahead.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did… so throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~ Mark Twain

At Griffith Observatory, LA, CA

In the Land of Sun and Fog: Laguna Beach, Orange County, CA

Is it possible to see clearer for the fog?

When I think ‘SoCal’, especially Orange County, I think: sunny days, flip flop weather, that infinite Pacific Ocean, and colour… colour, colour everywhere. Yet when I was confronted with a fog-induced morning in Laguna Beach recently, I was suddenly reminded of the region’s regular weather changes.

Flashback to a few years ago: I’d be sitting in my home in San Clemente – the street would gleam under the sun’s rays one moment, only to be covered under a blanket of white an hour later. The thick mist would add mystique; it was a welcome change from those dawn-to-dusk sun filled days that I’d affectionately term Groundhog Day.

Back to present-day: I wonder why I never mention ‘fog’ in my descriptions of Southern California? Having just experienced it, I wanted to document those images as a reminder, and share them.

Here’s a look at the changing faces of Laguna, under the guises of sun and fog. Enjoy.

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Palm tree fringed vistas, wide ocean views, sun baked cliff faces; Laguna Beach is also known as The Riviera of the Pacific.

Beautiful Heisler Park: at an elevation of 17 feet, it sits atop the bluffs that look onto Laguna’s rock sprinkled beaches.

A sensational panorama. A horizon of blue upon blue – notice the subtle curve of the Earth’s surface. An Impressionist’s dreamscape.

A few hours later. At an elevation of 1,000 feet – way up in it Laguna’s hills – a spot called The Top of the World.

You really are above it all. From here, you look over a cloudy layer of fog -when did that happen? – so thick that it resembles that familiar view seen through the window of an airplane.A slow descent, down the slopes that lead to the underworld… At an elevation of 15 feet, A Tree Grows in Crescent Bay Point Park; a curtain of white hangs as its backdrop.

Ocean facing homes forgo their sought after ocean views for a short time as a haze takes over.

Succulents shine against a puff of smoke. Laguna’s bright colours never fade.

A rock between two thorns. The bark of seals can be heard in the distance – they must be hiding in the alcoves down below; a sight unseen.

Surrounding streets – homes topped with terracotta tiles, sporting Spanish Colonial styles. A burst of colour on white.

Nature, juxtaposed.

At sea level. Even the overhanging power line disappears into nothingness. Elegantly draped wisteria adds vibrancy to a street that leads into ‘white’.

At the end of that street stands the beach, enveloped by a cloud. Benches at its perimeter cater to fog gazers.

The beach may be shrouded in a low hanging mist, yet the beat goes on.

Chess figures sit in their designated squares. Too stunned to move, perhaps? All the while, in the background, the beat goes on…

A foggy day out at the beach. These beach goers know it’ll clear soon. Life goes on.

A walk through the mist gives a whole new meaning to ‘taking long walks on the beach’.

A cloak of smoke: it gives one a chance to stare into nothingness; or maybe, somethingess…

Minutes later – and only a few streets away – Laguna’s downtown relaxes under a thin veil of mist.

Contemplation… fog in black and white makes for a mysterious Riviera. Inspiration for another post.

Impressionist-inspired Laguna, in memory of Vincent van Gogh

Happy Birthday Vincent van Gogh ~

Having just returned from a visit to the US West Coast, I’ve been looking through my photos and was inspired to pay homage to the great Dutch post-Impressionist artist (30 March 1853-29 July 1890) by sharing with you one of my favourites.

Let me preface this by way of a bit of an explanation:

Van Gogh’s most notable works were painted after he’d discovered the works of the Impressionists in Paris, around 1886. Subsequently, he left for the south of France in hopes of establishing a community of artists in the city of Arles.

Captivated by the clarity of light and the vibrant colors of the Provençal spring, Van Gogh produced fourteen paintings of orchards in less than a month, painting outdoors and varying his style and technique. ~ metmuseum.org

It was during this time that he produced a number of masterpieces including Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers (1888), The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night (1888), Starry Night Over the Rhone (1888), Arles: View from the Wheat Fields (1888), and Still Life: Vase with Oleanders and Books. The latter may be viewed at NYC’s Met Museum of Art.

In the same vein, Laguna’s art scene evolved primarily during the early 1900’s, when artist Norman St Clair moved to the area and attracted an artist-following. Influenced by French Impressionism, the community became known as the ‘open air school’ as they found inspiration in the midst of Laguna’s landscape – rugged terrain, wild colourful flora, sunlight, and sweeping ocean vistas.

This is a photo I took of the fog unfurling over the Pacific Ocean, near Laguna’s Crescent Bay Point Park. In the background, the bark of seals could be heard though they were a sight unseen; a view obstructed by the thick mist and uneven rocky faced cliffs.

It was one of the most beautiful moments of the trip, and I hope you’ll enjoy the image.

If you hear a voice within you that says “you cannot paint”; by all means paint and that voice will be silenced. ~ Vincent Van Gogh

A Glimpse: Kaleidoscopic Kalifornia

Looking at the world through rose-tinted glasses…

Well, any pair of sunglasses will do as a sun-drenched Southern California – affectionately referred to as SoCal – naturally dons a pink tinged hue.

Having lived in San Clemente and Los Angeles for two years, it was exhilarating to return to the old stomping grounds after over a year-long absence. Complete immersion meant a daily embrace of the great outdoors; watching the changing colours of an always spectacular sunset; and falling, with ease, into a laid-back lifestyle that included much coffee-and-carb indulgence by day, and pressing of lip-to-champagne flute by night.

Sun-soaking and gastronomy aside (these activities were/are by no means mutually exclusive), admiring SoCal’s vistas was a soul-awakener. Appreciating its wild and urban landscapes through a fresh pair of eyes inevitably brought to mind the cliché: “The grass is always greener…”

What I love about SoCal are those pops of colour that are woven into its fabric, be it natural or with compliments of a street artist. Like a daily vitamin boost, the bright paintbox used to decorate the region provides a natural high; the various shades of bright-against-brighter are a quick fix to lift the spirit, even when rolling out of bed to welcome a fog-induced or overcast day.

All the while, a predominance of pink against green abounds.

During my travels in SoCal, I attempted to throw any, and all, of its stereotypes to the wind. I wanted to appreciate it from a grass-roots level; at the same time, acknowledge those industries – film, architecture, arts – that put its cities on the map.

I achieved that as best I could in a short space of time. The evidence is in the details.

Enjoy the prologue to a series of posts that I’m looking forward to dedicating to SoCal’s natural and urban palette. Starting from the southermost point of the trip, in Carlsbad, and ending in Los Angeles County – to the north, I hope you’ll join me on this trip.

A note of caution: the communities of SoCal are so diverse and spread out, you may feel as if you’re jumping from town, to ‘hood, to hilltop – all in one post. No fear: this is simply an introduction.

I’d be interested in your feedback – opinions, perceptions, and experiences – of Southern California. What you love about it, and what you don’t; what you may associate with it, and what may come as a surprise to you.

“Every time you can walk in another person’s shoes, the world is a slightly better place.” ~Anthony Bourdain

For now, enjoy an introduction to the makeup of SoCal!

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A blindingly bright sun, vast spaces, and the smell of a nearby ocean are instant reminders as to why Southern California is one of the best places to live well.

CARLSBAD, SAN DIEGO COUNTY

The Flower Fields are located in the coastal city of Carlsbad – a necessary stop for those who have always dreamt of being engulfed in a mass of blooms, not unlike those of Dutch tulip fields. Here, the slopes of the hills at Carlsbad Ranch are painted in stripes of yellow, white, purple, orange, and red, in a grid-like formation; crops of ranunculus flower for 2 months of the year during the spring. Symbolic of new life – regeneration through replanted bulbs – this sea of blooms set against a backdrop of infinite blue is a dazzling sight.

Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts. ~ Sigmund Freud

I’ve always thought my flowers had souls. ~ Myrtle Reed

A scenic drive, further up the coast…

SAN CLEMENTE, ORANGE COUNTY

… along Route 5, a highway edged by palms and decorated with a glistening ground-cover of the flowering evergreen Purple Ice plant; past the military site of Camp Pendleton, after which the road eventually leads into the Nixon-associated town of San Clemente, in Orange County (OC).

The hot pink of Bougainvillea is so prominent; the plant’s foliage and blooms spill over the terraces of Spanish Colonial styled villas and fringe the pathways of San Clemente’s residential streets.

A sparkly ocean mesmerises visitors and residents; its waves seduce surfers. Located close to the equator, the sun always shines brighter in this vacation town.

A little more north…

LAGUNA BEACH, ORANGE COUNTY

A leisurely twenty minute ocean-side drive ebbs and flows as the road leads into luxe Laguna Beach. Inspiration for artists since the 1800s, its steep cliffs are testament to the beauty of an unspoiled landscape; their rugged faces filled with homes, as well as an assortment of native shrubbery and flowers, punctuated by statuesque palms along the upper edges.

Laguna: a retreat for writers, Hollywood stars, and artists. Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland, Rudolph Valentino, John Steinbeck, and Mickey Rooney escaped here. The house below is located in the space where Bette Davis’ former home stood.

The expanse of blue hues viewed from the Rooftop Lounge of the historic La Casa del Camino Hotel call for endless champagne toasts. Twist my arm.

I’ve always found that seafood served near the ocean tastes better. Decadent eel sushi and cold bold sake at Hapi Sushi; the restaurant’s name, perhaps a spin on the oft-felt emotion of travelers and residents who wrap themselves in Laguna’s lush surroundings.

LOS ANGELES COUNTY

Traveling a couple of hours, away from the OC and into Los Angeles County. The freeway traffic flow is a steady one, for the most part.

GRIFFITH PARK, LA

In an inland direction: LA’s urban sprawl is made up of a number of vastly different communities. The city boasts an enviable sunset – its brush stroke of pink, yellow, purple and gold along the horizon is best seen from Griffith Observatory, up in the hills near Griffith Park.

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES

Minutes away – say 15 or so, sans traffic – downtown LA bustles. Surprisingly easy to navigate, this part of the county is undergoing a revival. Art galleries, historic architecture, and new dining spots feed off of one another in an area on the up. Downtown living means escapism in the midst of skyscrapers. Perfect example: Figueroa Hotel’s pool terrace is a resting spot for the uninhibited in the midst of surrounding commerce.

Nearby, the fruits borne by a neighbourhood undergoing gentrification: lofts, Porshes, and blushing blooms.

In the midst of it all, a creative community resides; its art colours a still-industrial neighbourhood.

In another part of downtown, more art abounds. Amongst institutions dedicated to contemporary works and music, stands an undulating design by Frank Gehry: the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Reminiscent of SoCal’s natural surroundings, a part of its architecture takes on the look of an unopened tulip; even a rosebud, nipped.

Further afield, close to downtown LA…

MUSEUM ROW, LA

Los Angeles County Museum of Art makes for a bold statement through design, colour, and a palm-dominated landscape. Its exterior is as beautiful as its art filled interior.

Better still: the Renzo Piano designed outdoor/indoor dining space – Ray’s and Stark Bar – doesn’t shy away from serving up heady liquid artworks of its own. Tequila, orange, and ice – such are the beverages prepared by innovators manning the liquor cabinet.

Onwards toward creative pastures of a different nature, not too far away…

SILVER LAKE, LA

Overcast skies don’t darken or dampen the ambiance of bohemian Silver Lake; the neighbourhood brims with street art, reflective of a creative community, alongside modern architecture. Case in point: modern architect Robert Neutra’s former office is located here, by Silver Lake Reservoir.

What’s more, the resident trend-setters take their coffee very seriously. Artisans on the rise.

BEVERLY HILLS, LA

The plush and posh Beverly Hills is emblematic of hedonism and history; well tended gardens, magnificent mansions, grand tree lined streets; once home to Marlon Brando, Lucille Ball,and Doris Day, and now home to Bill Cosby, Rod Stewart, and Diane Keaton.

Along its wide streets, playful architecture draws on LA’s cinematic roots….

.. and gives way to classic icons -pretty in pink, the famed Beverly Hills Hotel graces Sunset Boulevard.

Close by…

HOLLYWOOD, LA

A place where all the touristic action takes place. Yes, one may immediately think: Walk of Fame, the Wax Museum, and the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, with handprints of celebrities implanted by its entrance. Think this once: see it all, appreciate it for what it’s worth, and move beyond the crowds.

Seek out the Cirque du Soleil, Kodak Theatre, Capitol Records Building, Amoeba Records; perhaps make some time for a glass of bubbly at the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Hike even, and be wowed by viewing the Hollywood Reservoir and landmark Hollywood sign, up close.

HOLLYWOOD HILLS, LA

Spectacular architecture is built into Hollywood’s hilly backdrop; the Hills are alive with modern homes, Mediterranean inspired villas, and imaginative designs of a whole other level – Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House made famous by Bladerunner, and John Lautner’s Chemosphere House (below), are a couple of impressive name-droppers.

Meanwhile, modern lines and pink storefronts dominate on nearby Melrose Avenue, in West Hollywood.

Back to the coast…

MALIBU, LA

Dr Feelgood: breathing in the salty air, courtesy of the Pacific, does the soul alot of good.

In this part of LA, multi-million dollar homes line the water’s edge and are set into its steep hills. Malibu Pier offers spectacular 360 degree views – for free.

Malibu – home to alcoves and private beaches, wineries, acclaimed Nobu restaurant, and the delightful Mediterranean-inspired Getty Villa. From this museum, you can view the ocean whilst staying cool in the mountains.

Its gardens are worthy of a visit alone.

Down South from Malibu…

SANTA MONICA, LA

This is the place for beachside city living and a haven for outdoor exercise pursuits – located only a half hour away from the Hollywood Hills. It’s expanse of beach is interrupted by a few volleyball courts, lifeguard huts, and a boardwalk catering to cyclists, dog-walkers, joggers, roller-bladers, and leisurely strollers.

The Santa Monica Pier can be seen from miles away; so much larger upon closer inspection. A few streets back from the beach, the city offers boutique shopping and a location of the ever-popular Urth Caffe – this is an excellent spot for coffee and farm-to-table dining.

Adjoining Santa Monica is the trendier…

VENICE, LA

Art colours the streets; restaurants are full at noon; galleries, boutiques, and homewares stores are made for window shopping and browsing. Whilst it may be known for the famed boardwalk along its Muscle Beach, a stroll along Venice’s main street, Abbott Kinney, and a meander alongside the town’s canals is a much more pleasurable experience.

In closing…

Southern California, from sunrise (if you’re up) to sunset is a beautiful area of the US. By virtue of geographic location alone, the light that colours the horizon is sublime; its ever changing hues gently unfurl from pink, to purple, to burnt yellow, to gold. Yet it is the added drama of the region’s bold urban and natural landscape that makes the experience all the more unique and memorable.

From one community to the next, colour abounds – in its architecture, natural landscaping, art, people. An entertaining kaleidoscope.

This is a sampler of SoCal; a taste of things to come.