Hollyhock House @ Barnsdall Art Park

I’ve been visiting Los Angeles regularly for several years now (hurray for friends in far-flung locations!). One of my favourite neighbourhoods is Los Feliz, with its great cafes, a wonderful independent bookstore, lovely old movie theatre and proximity to the Hollywood Hills (and one of the most beautiful LA landmarks, the Griffith Observatory).

As if it needed more going for it, Los Feliz also borders Barnsdall Art Park, and a beautiful house that Frank Lloyd Wright built (for Aline Barnsdall, American oil heiress, theatre patron, and all-around feminist radical), Hollyhock House. It got its name from the stylized hollyhock desings that adorn the entire home – both inside and out.

I went on one of the docent-led tours (call first to verify times), and it was well worth the extra couple of dollars it cost me. I learned all about Barnsdall and Wright’s arguments, the original intent of the 35-acre property (a sort of theatre community), and the history of the house’s decline and subsequent revival.  I admit, I’m a sucker for Wright’s brand of architecture (I’m likewise a big fan of Scottish architect & designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh), so I try to see anything he’s designed. Hollyhock House, much of it newly restored, was a delight!

I wasn’t able to take any interior shots, but I urge you to wander around inside. It’s completely sumptuous, from the wood panelling and built-in shelving, to the design details on the furniture and how Wright brings the outdoors inside. I went for a wander around the home afterwards, where I was able to get a few shots of the back of the house, with its courtyard and small pool – just stunning!

Extra bonus: There were some very friendly, helpful and clearly enthusiastic folks around inside the house ready to answer questions and engage visitors. A very interesting visit!


Must-See Museums: Getty Center, Los Angeles

How much do I love the Getty Center? Let me count the ways.

My first visit was in May 1999, about 18 months after it first opened. I was entranced. It’s part museum, part gallery, and part conservation and research institution. Oil tycoon and avid art collector J. Paul Getty left a heap of money to an art trust – and what the trust has done with it is spectacular. Even if you have no interest in coming to look at the art (and I have to ask, why wouldn’t you?), you really need to visit to get a gander at the buildings. I mean, it’s got its own monorail. Need I say more?

Before you set foot inside the buildings, it’s pretty amazing. (I’ve even photographed the floor tiling!) If you get a clear day (without clouds, smog or haze), you can have a fantastic view. But mostly, I’m just wandering around, looking up at buildings.

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A trip to the Getty alos wouldn’t be complete without a wander around their gorgeous gardens. And because it’s LA, something is almost always in bloom.

Getty Center lobby

The Getty Center Lobby

And that doesn’t even cover what’s inside the building – oodles of fantastic art! On my first visit, I went through most of the collection on display, which ranged from antiquities and medieval manuscripts, to impressionist paintings. But the best (according to me) is the roomd dedicated to photography – it’s one of the few places that really pays significant attention to important fine art photography.

During my May 2016 sojourn to Los Angeles, I went to its co-exhibition (with LACMA) of Robert Mapplethorpe‘s work. It was shown alongside Sam Wagstaff’s photo collection – which includes some of the most historically significant and recognizable pieces there are. So interesting!

And just in case you needed one more reason to make it to the Getty, consider that entry is free! (Parking, however, is not.)

Signspotting: We’ll have none of that dancing in your seats, people!

As I sort though travel photos from previous trips, I’ve recently noticed that I’ve taken a number of photos of signs – traffic and road signs, safety signs, store signs, etc. Some I enjoy for their typeface fonts (yes, I’m that kind of nerd), and others for their nonsensical nature. Some are just incomprehensible.

So I’ve decided that, from time to time, I’ll be sharing some “signspotting” entries.

First up, it’s a sign we got to know well during the recent trip to Disneyland:

Disney Safety Sign

Disney Safety Sign

Rather than it being interpreted as a warning to not stand up and to keep your arms and legs safely tucked inside while on the ride, my 5-year-old niece understood it as “no dancing allowed”. Looks more like a sign for “no dancing in your seats” to me.

Either way, it was a source of tremendous amusement for our entire journey 🙂

Getting over my theme park moratorium

I’m not a big fan of crowds. The city I live in – Toronto – is a city of festivals and events, especially in the summertime. To be honest, I simply tend to avoid them because of the crowds, the line-ups and the inability to see anything (I’m only 5 feet tall). And I don’t tend to like amusement and theme parks for the same reason.

So about 18 months ago, when my sister invited me to travel to Disneyland in California with her family, I was willing, but had a few trepidations. I’d be more than happy to spend a week with their family – I just wasn’t sure I’d enjoy the theme parks. My sister assured me that I would be pleasantly surprised.

Last March, I joined them. And I found out I had misjudged Disney. My sister was right. It was kind of awesome.

Disneyland rides are so fun

Disneyland rides are so fun

We went to Disneyland on three different days – traditional Disney and the California Adventure Park (my personal fave). We visited Universal Studios (I really wish the Harry Potter and/or Minions rides had been opened when we were there), and Santa Monica pier. We strolled down Hollywood Boulevard and sunk our toes in the Pacific. I may lose all credibility as a serious traveller, but I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed it all. It was quite fab.

And I had to hand it to Disney – they’ve got it down to a science. Despite all the people, all the strollers, all the crazy, they make it totally enjoyable. Everyone we encountered from the Disney world was friendly, helpful and welcoming. And let’s not forget – I’m childless, so my tolerance for the kind of crazy that family oriented theme parks offer is likely lower than your average parental figure. I was more charmed than I would have expected.

Highlights included:

  • Watching how excited my niece and nephew got about everything.
  • The food was surprisingly good, notably the Princess brunch we had down in Ariel’s Grotto.
  • The absolutely incredible evening water and light show called World of Color – riveting!
  • Fave rides: Radiator Springs, Toy Story Midway Mania and Star Tours.

So now that my bias against theme parks has been shattered, perhaps I should put my mind to overcoming my other travel no-go: the cruise. Floating around for a week in a giant apartment building with half a dozen pools and a movie theatre has never struck me as the ultimate vacation. But what do I know?! I didn’t think I’d enjoy Disneyland…