Saturday, April 19, 2008

California: Rancho Mirage & LA (1)

April 1-6, 2008. Joshua Tree National Park. Unfortunately we entered at the southeast end in the Colorado Desert, part of the Sonoran Desert, and there aren't any joshua trees here (so no pictures of one). But there was a cool oasis called Lost Palms. Everything is desert and all of a sudden you see huge fan palms with water at their base. We took a short hike and saw interesting rock formations and lots of wildflowers, some different varieties than in Tucson. (The Joshua Trees are in elevation higher than 3000 in the Mojave Desert.) We'll have to go to the western side next visit.

Friends to Visit. Next stop was Rancho Mirage, just south of Palm Springs, CA where our college friend, George Lee, lives with his partner, Scott. The town is beautiful! Very upscale with many large homes and some estates. They have a lovely home with pool and large backyard with established trees. We had a great visit with them, reminiscing with George about the old college days (at Hope College in Holland, MI). George is a great cook and he and Scott were great hosts. What a comfortable place to stay! (Front and back of house, view from our guest room, downtown, the 4 of us.)

They took us to The Living Desert (in Palm Desert), an outdoor museum with plants and animals from all the warm deserts in Africa, Asia, and North America. It was really interesting and I'm sure we'll go back some day and spend more time. We actually were lucky enough to get a private tour by tram since their friend, Patrick, is a contributor. We also visited Patrick and his wife. He had gone to Deerfield Academy. (A leopard grooving on scratching his chin, mommy and baby giraffe, a gila monster, and a spicebush butterfly.)

George and Scott collect cars. They have 11 total (most at their LA home). When we went to dinner we drove in their Rolls Royce. That was really fun for us since we'd never been in one. Super comfortable! Some cool features: In the back seat it had a button to push to gently close the door. In case of rain there is an umbrella inside the back door. The hood ornament goes down when the car is turned off. The wheel covers are floating so that the "RR" symbol is always in the correct position.

Sandy drove George to LA and I rode in Scott's car. Scott grew up in the area so told me about how things looked in the 50's and 60's. West of Palm Springs, which is north of Rancho Mirage, is a set of mountains that create a wind tunnel that the utility company has taken advantage of by installing a windmill farm with thousands of windmills. It was quite a sight! What lucky people to be saving money on their energy costs!

Their house in LA is in a very nice area on Los Feliz Blvd. A number of people associated with the entertainment industry live there or have lived there. Here's the back of the house, the guest house and the yard. It was such a comfortable place to stay. We enjoyed our days there tremendously! Thanks George and Scott. (We won't be there again since they're selling it and will only have their Rancho Mirage home.)

LA Area Sightseeing: (The weather was a bit chillier here, only high 60's to mid 70's.)

1-Disney Concert Center (North Grand Ave.). George, Sandy and I took a free tour of this center which was really special to do before our attendance there at night to hear the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It was dedicated in 2003 and designed by Frank Gehry with the generosity of Lillian Disney, Walt's widow. It has interesting curves (flower petals) with complementary petal designs in the carpet. I especially loved the rose petal fountain on one of the terraces made with broken bits of Delft china, a favorite of Mrs. Disney. The concert we saw (with Julie too, thanks to George) was the premier of the new LA Philharmonic conductor from Venezuela, only 27 years old, named Gustavo Dudamel. He was excellent! The incredible violinist was Leila Josefowicz. Wow, we've never seen a violin played so energetically. We all loved being in this beautiful building with amazing acoustics! (They have TV screens in all the hallways so if you're late you can watch until there's a break.)

2-The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. It was down the street so we stopped by this big, beautiful cathedral. We also visited its huge mausoleum made with Spanish limestone. Lay people can actually be buried or have their ashes buried here.

3-Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park. Awesome views from the top of this park, 2 blocks from George's house. It's over 4000 acres and was bequeathed to LA in 1896 by Col. Griffith who made his fortune in gold. It also has a Greek amphitheater, hiking paths, bridle paths, and an observatory and museum at the top. The museum is small but well worth a visit. There are interesting displays on stars and planets. The museum exterior is in a number of movies including "Rebel Without a Cause" and "The Terminator". You can also see the famous "Hollywood" sign from the top (3rd picture). (This was put up in 1923 as "Hollywoodland" as an ad but soon gained recognition for Hollywood so was kept with the "land" taken off. The letters are 50' high!!) In the picture the tall buildings are in Studio City. Too bad there's haze but we even had it in Tucson. At least it's improved in the past 30 years.

4-The Getty Villa. (I'll do a separate post for these last three since I have so many pictures.)
5-Walking Tour of the Historic area of downtown LA.
6-Huntington Library and Gardens.

More Friends to Visit. We had a great visit with college friends, Dave and Marcia Postmus who live in Huntington Beach, about an hour south of George's. They gave us a tour of their town. Did you know there were oil rigs right off the beach?

Julie was with us for dinner, the Disney concert, a night at George's, the Huntington Gardens and then at her boyfriend's parent's house in Pasadena. It was wonderful to see her again and do things with her on her new turf. (Yes, she's moving to LA permanently at some point in 2008.)

It was great to see Julie's boyfriend, Michael's parents again. Jim and Sylvia Beck have lived in the Pasadena area for more than 25 years and a few years ago downsized to a condo. We had dinner with them and spent the night. Pasadena is a really pretty town.

We had a great time in LA and look forward to many more visits to see Julie (and Michael) and go north to see Scott and Libby.

Next stop: Prescott, AZ and onward to Florida.

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