Sun. Mar. 17, 2013:
As it turns out 11 hours of sleep will leave you feeling well-rested. Which is not to say I was in no need of caffeine, no sooner had I rolled out of bed I was on my way to Starbucks. I needed food too of course. A few steps away from the hotel and already there was no sidewalk. I had to jaywalk to the other side, hoping that the sidewalk would not also abruptly end over there too. First I stopped at the gas station, it was small and crappy and had a terrible selection, but it wasn’t that bad: they had Cherry Coke Zero and Pop-Tarts. The LA marathon was happening later, and all the runners were at Starbucks fueling up with coffee. Wearing my usual vacation gear (cropped black athletic pants and running shoes) I blended right in- except for my giant purse. And the birthday cake pop I was eating for breakfast. The sun had still not come out. I had it on good authority from The Ramones that California was known for sunshine. I rescinded my earlier complaints about my retinas being fried- I missed it now, I wanted the bright glaring sun back.
We took a cab to the Huntingon Library and Botanical Gardens because if we took transit it would be over 2 hours, not counting the delays caused by road closures for the marathon (where else would the marathoners run? There are no sidewalks anywhere it seems). Plus the Library was all the way out in San Merino. We passed by a hotel in downtown LA that had a giant Coca-Cola ad down the side of it that read Drinking In LA. It made me giggle, but it didn’t make up for the fact that the cab ride still took 40 minutes. At some point I thought we were never going to get there and that we were horribly lost, especially when driving through a residential area- which is where the library is oddly located.
I thought that this would be the smaller of the two places; after all it’s a library- how big could it possibly be I thought? Turns out the place is giant and I have yet to learn my lesson about misjudging a place (cough, Shelbourne Museum, cough). The Huntington consisted of a few buildings spread out over acres and acres of land, spotted throughout with various botanical gardens (desert, Australia, Japan, China, rose, herb). We there less than 5 minutes and already it was easily one of the best botanical gardens we had been to. There was a small green bird sitting in a tree, picking off petals and dropping them, just over and over. He would stop, look at me cockeyed as I photographed him, and continue in a mildly-OCD manner. It was as cute as it was confusing. We started off in the desert garden which delivered exactly what was promised: lots of cacti and lizards. The first lizard was really cool, it was unexpected to just see one sitting on a rock in the sun (unexpected because it was not really afraid of me). Then we saw another one, and another, and a few more throughout the day in various gardens. Turns out these lizards are rather commonplace. Much more interesting was the hummingbird drinking nectar from a cactus flower. And how well the hummingbird blended in with the surroundings, it took us a few minutes to realize it was there- and more than a few minutes later when I was looking over the photos (I had no idea why I had taken them until I saw the hummingbird).
The first gallery we went to was set up as Huntington’s house had been, with fancy living room and lots of portraits. There were only 2 or 3 paintings that weren’t of people. And one of those was the crown jewel of their collection (at least in my opinion). After years of going to galleries, I finally found what I was looking for: a painting of a disappointed horse. It was magnificent and glorious and it alone made the trek out to San Merino worth it. And just when I thought things could not get any better, in the Japanese botanical garden there was a Bonita tree. The botanical gardens provided a nice interlude between the galleries, which in turn provided a nice break from the sun (which had finally come out and was threatening to burn us).
One gallery featured what the curators thought were the Library’s gems (why the horse painting was not in there, I will never know). Some of the stuff was just over my head and really only cool because it was old. There were first editions of Shakespeare’s plays (even harder to understand than modern versions). The most interesting one hands-down was a copy of Vesalius’s book on anatomy. It was opened to a page with an illustration of the human body (for story-telling purposes let’s say it was a diagram of the circulatory system). There were also some terribly boring (but very old) items in the collection, such as an inventory of what ship passengers had brought. It did not even make any sense; I had no idea what it said. Partly due to the language and partly the fancy chicken scratch (this was true of almost all the hand-written texts they had). The rose garden was rather anti-climactic, as none of the roses were yet in bloom.
I had seen a squirrel, but in my sun-drenched hungry state, called it a weasel. Then later I saw what I thought was a squirrel (and called it so), disappear quickly into a hole in the ground- like a weasel would. It was clearly time for lunch in the shade. We split two paninis (steak and bleu cheese; chicken, pesto and tomatoes) out on the patio. I had one bite of Brent’s and demanded a trade-back. Tomatoes are gross. A male scrub jay flew down from the trees to eat the crumbs after a family left, he was so pretty, his colours so bright.
We finished off the rest of the museum and gardens and headed out. Even in San Merino we weren’t free from the lack of sidewalks. We had to walk along the road to even just leave the grounds, resulting in many perplexed looks from drivers. Thankfully once we got out there were sidewalks. We passed a few orange and lemon trees, however the fruits were not hanging low enough for me to just reach up and grab one. It was yet another of those 30 minute walks to ride a bus for 10 minutes. At least I had an excuse to buy a green tea: we needed change to get on the bus. As it turns out that section of the bus route is on Route 66 (it had been repurposed as a regular city street, all that remains is the Historic Route 66 sign and apparently an old hotel). Being on a bus, passing by unaware of the sign, I did not get a chance to take a picture.
The Norton Simon Museum was much smaller but just as cool. We fulfilled our usual quota of religious paintings; it was curated very well, not a very large collection and not too crowded. Of course we were drawn to the Impressionist gallery- spending a considerable amount of time there, in awe of the talent. Especially given that they had an unfinished Rembrandt portrait, so you could see how he worked. I was happy to see a painting by Ed Ruscha, as I am only familiar with his photographic work; it made me appreciate his talent that much more. As if this was not enough, they also had some Giacometti sculptures! I can never get enough of his weird tall elongated figures (even though I sometimes get sick of Degas’s dancers).
We couldn’t find the business card with the phone number for the cab, so we walked down the street to see if we could hail a cab. It seemed that all the cabs had just disappeared into thin air, we went back to the museum to make change (a great excuse to buy a Dr Pepper) to take the bus. It seemed like forever before the bus finally arrived- and even longer just sitting on the bus. We were taking it to the end of the line and it was unbearable at times. There were so many weirdoes on our bus: the mother who did not want to sit with her daughter, a gangster drinking diet Dr Pepper, people constantly choosing to sit beside others rather than getting to sit alone (we decided this was because they didn’t want to sit sideways on the bus), the guy that smelled really bad.
We almost missed our stop because it was not announced, but we recognized that we were on Hollywood Blvd. It was so insanely crowded with people bar-crawling for St. Patrick’s Day. Thankfully it was still relatively early in the day so they were still half-sober. We saw some more stars on the Blvd, including one for Thomas Edison and Kevin Bacon’s star too. I demanded that we stop at H&M so I could buy flip-flops and socks (some of my socks had worn out since I wore them last summer and were sliding down my foot- driving me nuts). We went to In N Out to get burgers for dinner, to eat later in the hotel; there was no way I was going to leave the hotel again for the rest of the day- I was exhausted. We got on yet another bus that was supposed to have taken us right to the hotel, but instead it decided to short-turn on campus leaving us with yet another 30 minute walk. We walked right past another In N Out- our burgers could have been a tiny bit fresher. We stopped at a gas station to stock up on soda and snacks. I found a weird Mexican apple soda, weird rolled up Doritos and gummy Starbursts.
Walking back was less than stellar. It was starting to get dark, I was getting hungry and I was not looking forward to having to cross Sunset Blvd through a construction site. I perked right back up when we got back to the hotel and settled in for burgers and Amazing Race. At In N Out I ordered a double-double (2 patties, 2 slices of cheese) because that is the original. This time I did not screw up, I made sure to say no lettuce or tomatoes (lest my burger get contaminated). Even 3 hours and 1 bus ride later, the burger was delicious, it held up very well. The bag, not so much, it was greased through. While watching Amazing Race I ended up laughing so hard I got myself into a coughing fit.
Day 3 celebrity sightings: another goose egg, we did see a guy who looked like Braeden walking a dog, but that does not really count.