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If you've ever flown out of LAX airport and looked out the window of the plane right after take off, you may have noticed a patch of land between the airport and the ocean that looks like a small town. Well, that's exactly what it WAS. It isn't any longer, I'm afraid, but visiting it makes for a pleasant side trip from the beach, especially if you appreciate quirky historical stories.
The name of this town was Surfridge and in the 1920s it sprang up rather quickly. Very nice homes went up along the coast, streets and lampposts went in and everyone was happy - until that little airport behind Surfridge started growing and becoming more popular. After less than a generation, with Los Angeles International Airport thriving, it became clear that this was no place anyone could comfortably live and the entire town was abandoned.
There is a fence around the 48-acre plot of land now but you can still see in - roads cracked and filled with weeds looping around on themselves, foundations of some of those fancy houses, lampposts (most of the lamps themselves have long since shattered), and even, in a few spots, some steps leading nowhere.
What is nice about this otherwise sad story is that the fence is keeping people out, which means the area is now filled with wildlife. It is gradually being turned into a nature preserve to try to resuscitate the El Segundo Blue Butterfly but those purple lupines, yellow daisies, grasslands, and palm trees that all sway gently in the ocean breezes are also home to a wide array of birds, including herons, gophers that run around playing with each other, and even, if you're lucky to see one, foxes.
There is a walking trail that leads along the northern edge of this land and there are sidewalks along the other three sides. The best views are from the northern and western sides as you get the coastal views from there as well. It's near Dockweiler State Beach so you can park there for a small fee and spend the whole day if you want but if you don't, you can park for free along Vista Del Mar (on the west) or Napoleon (on the north).
Updated Mar 6, 2013
"Little" towns are a plenty within Los Angeles. One of the most tiny ones is Little Ethiopia (beginning from the early 1990s), situated in the exciting Mid-city/Westside area of the city, along a small stretch of Fairfax Ave. Though lacking the ancient and ultra-desert topography, one will come across generations of Ethiopian people gathering together, speaking Amharic and other native tongues along with English.
Small enough of an area to discover by foot, discover Little Ethiopia with your eyes and mouth, as there are about a dozen of restaurants from which to try. Walk along South Fairfax (SoFax) between Olympic Blvd and Whitworth Dr.
Written Nov 9, 2012
Larchmont Village is an interesting little Los Angeles neighborhood that lies hidden between the leafy, mansion lined lanes of Hancock Park and the chaos of nearby Koreatown.
It's main street is tough to find(Larchmont Blvd) as it's a dead end on both ends. But, enter from Beverly and you're smack dab in "Main Street America". More Mid West than SoCal, the Village has pharmacies, sandwich shops, pizzerias and a bustling street scene that is difficult to find in LA.
And, although it's a fairly wealthy district of Los Angeles, it has an everyman air that belies the expensive real estate.
Try one of the famous sandwiches at the Larchmont Village Wine, Spirits & Cheese ... just be prepared to wait in line, as they've become local legends.
Village Pizzeria is quite good, as well; often considered among the best in the whole city. Pity they serve their pies with a huge helping of attitude.....
But, minus that Larchmont is an oasis in the midst of Los Angeles, and a nice spot to park that d*mned car and stretch your legs on a sunny afternoon.
Written Dec 16, 2011
This pearl in the necklace of 21 missions that stretches the length of the state is the oldest structure in Los Angeles County. Built in 1791, the fourth (working up from San Diego) in the series, San Gabriel Mission is located just north of the 10 fwy, and can be visited but bear in mind it is still a working church. Try to time your visit so you don't arrive when there is a service going on. Admission is $5.
There is an excellent example of the Mission Bell Lampposts at San Gabriel. These big bells were installed in the early 20th C. to mark the path from mission to mission, called the El Camino Real. Alas, there aren't many left these days, although they keep talking about replacing the missing ones but there is one here in San Gabriel to see.
The street the mission is on leads to other historic buildings of the area.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
That's what they claim! The Brewery Art Colony. Located at the former Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery. Most of the buildings seem to have remained and are rented and leased out as living space and galleries. This is quite an amazing place. Twice a year they hold a the Brewery Art Walk. It's a free event with free parking. Kind of like an open house. Please see my album posted on my LA travel page for more pics. Not sure if the art colony is accessible at other times of the year so you should call first to get info.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Operating in its 45th year, the Renaissance Pleasure Faire and Artisans Market in Irwindale, CA, is a truly unique experience not to be missed. You'll be transported back to the 16th century when cleavage-bearing wenches, valiant knights, swashbuckling pirates, and many other fascinating characters roam the faire streets eating, drinking, and just having a merry ol time. This was the first year that I attended the faire, but it was H's fifth time, so he was the veteran orienting me to the whole experience. Grammercy good master H!
Here's a few tips for all you faire-goers: Don't forget to try the infamous turkey legs; tip your busty food-stall server for a boob shake (a man's fave); attend any of the NC-17 stage performances; be a spectator at a joust; and most importantly, just immerse yourself in the renaissance!
Some useful phrases to know:
Good morning. = Good morrow.
Good afternoon. = Good day.
Goodbye, I gotta go! = Fare thee well; I must away!
Please = Prithee or Pray
Thank you. = Grammercy.
Where are the restrooms? = Whither be the privies?
Ways to address the royal court and/or villagers:
The Queen = Your Majesty, Her Majesty
Court Ladies = My lady, good Madam
Archbishop = Your Grace
Court men = My lord, good sir
Villagers = Good mistress, my good woman, good master
The faire is held at the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area
15501 E. Arrow Highway, Irwindale, CA 91706
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Phone: (626) 969-4750
Visit Lake Shrine. This is a Self Realization Fellowship. In short, these are meditation gardens. I found them absolutely BEAUTIFUL. You can feed the ducks and fish or you could just sit somewhere and read or pray or take a nap :)
17190 Sunset Boulevard
Pacific Palisades, California
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Phone: (310) 454-4114
I think of Frank Lloyd Wright as being a midwestern architect, he was born in Wisconsin and started his career in Chicago working for Adler & (Louis) Sullivan. After being fired from Adler & Sullivan, he opened his own office in Oak Park, Illinois and designed around 50 houses in that area, many of them in the Prairie style for which he would become famous. But he also was commissioned for work outside the midwest, a couple of his more famous works are Fallingwater in Pennsylvania and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
Ironically, Wright's use of large open interior spaces and lots of windows is more suited to warmer climates, one of the things I've always found odd about the Robie House in Chicago is that during the winter months, the living areas would be extremely cold and uncomfortable. The Hollyhock House was his first commission in Los Angeles, built between 1919-1923 for philanthropist Aline Barnsdall who donated it to the city of Los Angeles in 1927 to be used as a park and arts center. It does not appear on the lists of his most famous designs but if you find yourself driving through this section of Hollywood, it's worth a stop to take a look at the exterior of the house and for the panoramic view of Hollywood from Barnsdall Park which is located on the top of a hill.
There are public tours of the interior but I didn't have time, besides it looked like there was renovation going on in the interior. If you do go on the tour, be sure to look out for the use of the hollyhock in the design and furnishings, it was Aline Barnsdall's favorite flower.
4800 Hollywood Boulevard, near Vermont Avenue
Updated Apr 4, 2011
A longstanding American Western tradition, the rodeo is alive and kicking in the city of San Dimas. For the 12th year in a row, the city hosted its weekend long (10/7/06 and 10/8/06) San Dimas Western Days Rodeo, a PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) prorodeo sanctioned event. As I'd never been to the rodeo before in my life, I was very much interested in seeing what this cowboy culture phenomenon was all about and did so with my colleague and her family.
It was fascinating to see all the sexy cowboys in their cute cowboy hats, boots, tight jeans, chaps, and spurs riding about on their big horseys. But I have to say, it was difficult for me to stomach seeing those poor and defenseless calves being roped by their necks, yanked to the dirt, and their legs tied together. I mean, what does that really prove? On the open range - acceptable, but for pure entertainment? Just doesn't seem right somehow. But anyway, what was neat to watch were the macho cowboys bull riding and saddle bronc riding. Now that's a true test of athleticism and stamina. Yeehaw!!!
A full day's schedule at the rodeo included bareback riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, team roping, barrel racing (for cowgirls), etc., plus entertainment, i.e., skydivers and the rodeo clown. For children with special needs, they offered the Challenged “Buckaroos” Rodeo on the second day. The cost was $15.00 for adults and $8.00 for kids.
Location: The Tex Shoemaker Arena in Horsethief Canyon Park on San Dimas Canyon Rd., north of Foothill Blvd.
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Phone: (909) 394-7633
Descanso Gardens is 160 acres of gardens, woodlands, and chaparral that includes botanical collections and seasonal horticultural displays highlighting some of Southern California’s natural beauty, predominantly, the camellia. A definite haven for the green thumbed! On grounds, you'll also find the Boddy House Gallery with exhibits changing every month. When visiting the gardens, you may want to keep handy the Calendar of Blooms below.
Calendar of Blooms:
Jan.: Camellias, cherry trees and winter annuals.
Feb.: Camellias, magnolias, cherry trees and daffodils.
March: Camellias, iris, lilacs, cherry trees and daffodils.
April: Azaleas, camellias, iris, lilacs, native plants and wildflowers, tulips, clivia, and wisteria.
May: Azaleas, camellias, roses, iris, wildflowers and California Natives.
June: Modern and heritage roses and summer annuals.
July, Aug., & Sept.: Roses, summer annuals and perennials, crape myrtle and cassia.
Oct.: Sasanqua camellias, roses and Fall foliage.
Nov.: Camellias, toyon berries, annuals, gingko and Fall foliage.
Dec: Camellias, toyon berries, annuals and gingko.
Descanso Gardens is located near the intersection of the 210 and 2 freeways. There is ample free parking.
Hours: Open 9am to 5pm every day except Christmas.
Admission: General $7. Seniors/Students $5. Children (5 to 12 years) $2. Guild members and kids under 5 are free.
1418 Descanso Dr.,
La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Phone: (818) 949-4200
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