City of Angels

It’s 23:00h on Christmas Night. The taxi driver drops us off from LAX in Manning Street. Westwood is silent and resting. A few lights can be seen lit, but I noticed a clear, open night sky above. We arrive at Christina’s. It is the first time I meet her. She’s speaking softly not to wake Jon up I guess.

We had no plans for this city, other than wander around, eat tacos and drool our way through the mansions… and yet, or thus rather, I want to go back so badly. I was captivated by the peace of the first daylight sun rays on the palm trees, perfectly mown lawns, birds singing, light sea breeze and ideal temperature. You get the idea. Sort of like Valencia back in Spain, but with more money, bigger trucks, and less buildings.

Space in LA is cheap. Obviously they’re not in a hurry to build upwards and squares tend to spread widely into residential areas, leaving the stores and cafes to the main boulevards only. It is not LA Downtown I’m talking about, but the other cities that make up this ginormous county area, that you never see the end of no matter how up the mountain you hike.

Café Chez Marie

First morning there we brunched at Café Chez Marie. A few steps from Santa Monica Blvd. (precisely 10669-10683 Santa Monica Blvd, in Westwood) and you’re in a charming Norman village, complete with conical towers and shingled roofs. It’s The Grove (or Grove Bungalow Court), designed by Allen Siple back in 1932. The property has been listed on the Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments on the Westside since March 11, 1987.

Cafe Chez Marie
Cafe Chez Marie

One of the French cottages is home to this fine little restaurant with an extensive, but strange menu that seems to consist mostly of snacks, salads, breakfast items and super omelettes. Seems a bit out-of sorts, yet perfectly in harmony with it’s surroundings.

Not touristic, frequent diners are either locals or the creative and media executives that work in the nearby building and cottages and perhaps some neighbourhood pups because this is a doggy friendly location.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum, commonly referred to as The Getty, is an art museum in California housed on two campuses: the Getty Center (since 1997) and Getty Villa (since 1974) —Frank Gehry buildings. The Getty Center is in the Brentwood neighbourhood and is the primary location of the Museum. The collection features Western art from the Middle Ages to the present. Its estimated 1.3 million visitors annually make it one of the most visited museums in the United States. The Museum’s second location, the Getty Villa, is in the Pacific Palisades neighbourhood and displays art from ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria.

Getty Museum
Getty Museum

Born in Minnesota to an oil family, J. Paul Getty —father to Mark Getty, founder of Gettyimages— was one of the first in the world to ever have a fortune over 1.000 million dollars and was also an avid art and antiquity collector.

We visited only the Getty Center and were able to see works from Rembrandt, Rubens, Manet, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, etc. Being from Europe and having visited already museums in Paris, London, Rome, Berlin, Madrid… Renaissance and medieval paintings were not new to us, but I could understand why the hype over the Getty for americans. Some of the most world renown pieces of art are found here. In addition, and what I found a really good idea, was an area were one could sit for a while and draw from observation selected paintings and sculptures. Obviously, by observing originals! That’s kind of an experience there! Unfortunately we couldn’t wait for the queue but I would’ve certainly liked to hang a picture there. Next time!

Finally, as said in the Getty website:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is a cultural and philanthropic institution dedicated to critical thinking in the presentation, conservation, and interpretation of the world’s artistic legacy. Through the collective and individual work of its constituent Programs—the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute—it pursues its mission in Los Angeles and throughout the world, serving both the general interested public and a wide range of professional communities with the conviction that a greater and more profound sensitivity to and knowledge of the visual arts and their many histories are crucial to the promotion of a vital and civil society.

Santa Monica Promenade

Once back down the hill, we strolled down the 3rd Street Promenade in downtown Santa Monica, an upscale shopping, dining and entertainment complex since the 1960s, enclosing the Santa Monica Place —also a Frank Gehry design. As you can see in the picture above, Dexter was also wandering lonely through the promenade —hehe.

3rd promenade LA 2

The Adidas Store, perfect time to buy some LA souvenirs from the Lakers. Unluckily there are no sizes, but we’ll keep on looking for the perfect Lakers outfit!

Santa Monica beach and pier.
The story of a sunset.

Dusk was ticking so we headed to the beach to observe what was surprisingly my first sunset on the beach ever. I’m from an east coast, see? I never get to see the sun drop below sea level.

sunset in Santa Monica

Being so close to the mexican border, LA is greatly influenced by mexican food and culture. A Taco seemed the best option this evening… if only I would’ve known the red sauce was not tomato sauce, but scalding hot spicy chili!

Santa Monica State Beach is 3 miles long, covering 245 acres of sand along Santa Monica Bay. Residents and visitors enjoy broad stretches of sandy beach, rolling waves, meandering bike and walking paths, and inspiring views of the Santa Monica Mountains year-round.

Santa Monica Pier began in 1909 —the first concrete pier on the U.S. set coast— with an infamous mission. It was built to dump sewage 500m into the ocean. Fortunately this practice was discontinued in 1920. On June 12, 1916, Charles Looff opened to the public his newest project, the pier’s amusement park — the Looff Pleasure Pier.

But in 1919 the pier collapsed and it was closed for two years, during which it was rebuilt but this time using the old-fashion wooden piles. The Santa Monica Lifeguard Service was founded on 1920.

On July 1924 the La Monica Ballroom opened, but its success was short lived due to the Grand Depression of the mid thirties and was used as a convention center and even as a jail. A retired sailor, Olaf C. Olsen, came to work in the pier during the Great Depression, helping the needy and becoming inspiration for the comic character “Popeye”. In 1934 a breakwater was constructed for a yacht harbour.

In 1943 the amusement park was purchased by Walter Newcomb and after the II World War the pier regained activity. The La Monica Ballroom hosted the first-ever live broadcast of a variety show, by TV station KTLA.

But the pier was ageing badly and the City Council was proposed the idea of demolition in order to build a bridge to a manmade island resort. Community rallies would force Council member to back the pier and not one finally voted to demolish. In 1975 voters passed “Proposition I — an initiative which preserves the pier forever”. The storms of ’83 destructed one third of the pier, but in the end, it served as a good fresh start to restoration, which was completed in 1990 and a new amusement park — Pacific Park — was added in 1996. Together with the Pacific Park, the pier also hosts cafes, restaurants, fishermen activity, an aquarium, a hotel, concerts, a classic arcade… There’s even a Trapeze School

We stopped at the 66 to Cali store. Where the iconic Route 66 ends at the sea there’s this small shop dedicated to its legend. The historic route is no longer available. Gas stations, bars, motels and other services closed down as the amount of visitors and passers by decreased, so it is practically impossible to drive all the way now —but you can still drive along short sections.

When the night was tight, we headed home walking along the beach and couldn’t help notice the beautiful houses and architecture lining up by the sand.

Next stop: Hollywood & Malibu

Previous stop: Vancouver

Almost all photographs are mine

Author: Bea Cabrera

Freelance Filmmaker with a passion for big cities, snowboard, cinema and a weakness for the smell of freshly ground coffee. Engineer & Graphic Designer in a previous life, loving and living both: art and technology.  

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