Seeing Red, Los Angeles

The Santa Clarita brush fire, blazing over 4,050 hectares, has shrouded L.A. county in a dull haze. The sun appears red, the bruised clouds are tinged pink. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that midday’s 32 C heat has now dropped by five degrees. Whether the cool break is helping the firefighters with their massive undertaking, I don’t know. I hope so.

The latest news from CBS states:

10% containment

1,500 home evacuated

1 structure destroyed.

These photos were taken near Santa Monica, located 53 kilometers south of Santa Clarita, at 4.30 in the afternoon. When I returned to the same spot an hour later, the red sun had disappeared.

The word "apocalypse" is being overused so frequently today, it's in danger of turning into a cliche.

The word “apocalypse” has been used so much today, it’s in danger of becoming a cliche.

Firs against bruised skies.

Firs against bruised skies.

The streets are quiet.

The streets are quiet.

Going it solo.

Going it solo.

A patch of blue sky over Beverly Hills.

A patch of blue sky over Beverly Hills.

Groggy clouds.

Groggy clouds.

A Cliched Spring Day, Los Angeles

I took an hour-long sabbatical from my desk to stop and smell spring’s roses. Why save it for a rainy day?

NB: All pictures taken with my not-so-flashy phone camera.

Make Lemonade

Make LemonadePushing Up DaisiesFloral carpet

Between A Rock and A Hard Place

agaveSilver Lining

Palm fringed horizonMade In The Shade

In the shadow of palmsOn Middle Ground

Racing stripeSturdy As A Fir Tree

real firDon’t Gild The Lily

cala lilyKarma Camellia Carma Camelia

A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose

roses are redHow Green Was My Alley

how green is this alleyA Place In The Sun

Modern Home

 

 

Los Angeles After the Rain, CA

The Santa Monica Mountains are flush with wildflowers and new grass thanks to long-overdue rainfall in the lead up to spring. Even the freeways look beautiful from up here.

Getty Center, a fantastic museum with free admission, and the 405 freeway

Getty Center, a fantastic museum with free admission, and the 405 freeway

Matchbox cars on the 405 freeway

Matchbox cars on the 405 freeway

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

The Getty View trail

The Getty View trail

Looks like lavender

Looks like lavender

Across the dividing canyon

Across the dividing canyon

Los Angeles' sunlight brings everything to life

Los Angeles’ sunlight brings everything to life

Views of the Getty Center on Casiano Road, heading back to the 405.

Views of the Getty Center on Casiano Road, heading back to the 405.

 

Dream On: Cirque’s KURIOS show at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, CA

While much of America tuned into the Republican debate last night, I was watching curiosities of a different kind at KURIOS – Cabinet des Curiosités created by the enigmatic Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil. This show may not tour as long as the run for presidency (it ends in Los Angeles on February 7, 2016 before visiting Atlanta, Boston, NY, and DC), but it is a wonderful way to get lost in theatrical alchemy: acrobatics, steam punk fashion, otherwordly creatures, and soaring vocals by the brilliant Greek singer, Erini Tornesaki.

As soon as you enter the Cirque’s big top tent, or the Grand Chapiteau, you give yourself over to Kurios‘ fantastical world of the late 19th century, an era of steam power and engineering that influenced a whole subgenre of science fiction (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne, HG Wells’ Time Machine) and steam punk culture.

Our Kurios scientist is the inventor of a machine that transcends time and space. When the clock freezes at 11.11 — wishing hour — we’re introduced to the main characters in his cabinet of curiosities. There’s an accordion-shaped man; a telegraph named Klara in a hoop skirt that transmits messages; and Mr Microcosmos, the embodiment of the technological process, whose subconscious takes the form of a tiny lady named Mini Lili that lives in his boiler-as-potbelly.

I love Cirque for its contortionists, acrobats, and balancing acts, and in this show, they’re  as amazing as ever. A quartet of bendy ladies dressed as sea creatures effortlessly twist into unreal poses atop a giant mechanical hand. Twin aerialists display muscular strength while arm balancing on a set of rings. Rebounding off of an Acro Net, artists jump, flip, and glide through the air like swimmers in the sea. And just when you thought you’d seen it all, a chair balance taking place at a dinner party is interrupted by a second party happening above, upside down, on the ceiling. Suddenly, two sets of chairs  are being stacked towards each other from opposite directions. Teetering on the brink, they finally touch.

Perhaps the most unexpected act of the show is the finger puppetry, where one hand, costumed in sneakers and a baseball cap, dances to hip hop, swims, and performs skateboard moves on a mini theatre stage — all filmed with live video that’s projected onto a giant screen — before taking off in a hot air balloon. The act ends as a love story (there’s a second set of fingers involved) on top of an audience member’s head. It shouldn’t make sense, but it does – a perfect example of success in bizarre experimentation.

That’s the thing about Cirque du Soleil. It asks us to embrace the unexpected and stretch beyond our imaginations. I’m always compelled to write more, dream bigger, and read fiction after a show (I’m about to watch Oz the Great and Powerful actually). In Kurios, an invisible theatre act forces you to fill the void of the unseen characters whose presence is only made apparent by the consequences of their movements. Sound strange? It is, but it can be as crazy as you imagine it.

Other acts include the gripping Rola Bola that involves an aviator balancing atop a stack of tubes on a swing; a yo-yo extraordinaire (he lends a retro air); an aerial cyclist; and acrobats performing mesmerising synchronised sequences.

The whirlwind two-hour performance comes to an end when the Kurios clock flips to 11.12. As we filed out, I dared the performance to inhabit my dreams.

Photos Martin Girard / shootstudio.ca

Changing San Francisco, CA

I can be annoying to travel with.  I’m usually the first to shower and get dressed because I’m itching to go, walk, and explore.

But, when something slows me down, I’m probably also reaching for the camera.

This happened on a recent October morning in San Francisco, when the view from the hotel room pulled me away from the door. See the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, and Alcatraz? Now, imagine watching them rouse as the light changes from grey to pink to white.

Seeing San Francisco from this point of view gave me a whole new appreciation for the city. It also reminded me to stay in the moment.

6AM, from the window of Loews Regency, 40 floors up

6AM, from the window of Loews Regency, 43 floors up

7AM, pink and blue hues paint the sky

7AM, pink and blue hues paint the sky

8AM, bright lights means time for work.

8AM, bright lights means time for work.

Shhhh… Secrets about California’s Wine Country, Sonoma and Napa

We had a great time in Napa and Sonoma, and learned a lot that may be obvious to those in the know, but not to us. For example, why does Korbel  use the word “champagne” on its bottles when it’s produced in the Russian River Valley, CA? Same goes for Sonoma’s “port”. And why is there a ban on weddings in Napa?

I found out ten secrets about the region and compiled them here:

http://travelinsider.qantas.com.au/usa/california/interesting-things/california-wine-regions-10-secrets

I hope it helps with your trip to the wine country!

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Catalina Island, California

I’m sprawled on a deck chair on the Relaxation Deck of the Island Spa Catalina, blissed out after a hot stone spa treatment. Sipping champagne, I take in the spectacular ocean view. I don’t want to move. It’s about four in the afternoon, the sun will soon set, so I call my husband and coax him to laze with me (he’s at the hotel).

Our day began with a helicopter flight from Long Beach to Catalina Island, a 15-minute trip over the Pacific Ocean, which is currently filled with migrating whales. After landing, we drove to the Pavilion Hotel and woke up with coffee and oceanfront view — isn’t that the best way to instantly destress? By 10am, the sun had zapped the chill out oof the air. How different this winter feels to that of the East Coast. Up for some adventure, we hopped into golf cart – the standard mode of island transportation — and were chauffeured s to the zipline camp where, belted up and harnessed, I scaled heights and  revealed my nervous side. By the fifth attempt, my fears had subsided and my body rushed with adrenaline.

Hours later, a “spa” lunch — Caesar salad with avocado dressing — brought me back to earth, as did the Sage Stone Purification Ritual, experienced in the spa’s luxurious two-storey Silver Peaks Suite. I kid you not, the suite was as big as a big-city condo, and I felt like royalty. I sneaked a snooze on the ground-level couch before heading out.

My husband has arrived, and the sun is setting behind us. The Carnival cruise ship anchored ahead of us is slowly losing its gleam. Over coffees and some snacks, we revel in the moment — we talk, laugh, share stories — until a chill beckons us away. But all is not lost: there’ll be wine and cheese  in the hotel library, and California red trout, diver scallops, and chilled Rusack Sauvignon Blanc for dinner at the Avalon Grill. But first, we gather our things and recline by the hotel’s fire pit with a glass of red to continue basking in the moment.

Island Spa Catalina

Island Spa Catalina

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Zip lining (spot my husband on the line)

Zip lining (spot my husband on the line)

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View from a helicopter

View from a helicopter