Saturday, May 05, 2007

Viaggio a LA

I haven't posted in a while because we weren't home last weekend.. we left to visit Alberto and Franca, some dear friends from Italy, who have been living in LA for almost one year. They were getting ready to go back to Italy, and I wanted to see them before they left. This was the best moment because they were house sitting for their boss, who has one of those wonderful houses on the ocean that LA coast is well-known for..
And in fact, it was really true that the house was amazing.. just to give you a glimpse of the outside:
And the inside was at the same level: I don't think I entered such a nice house ever before!
Before getting there, though, I must describe our trip through California to arrive. It was one of the best parts of the trip, as for sightseeing. Alberto and Franca suggested that we take Highway 1 and we go slowly to admire the wonderful coast, and the 'Big Sur' in particular.
So, we left in the morning (ehm, I cannot say early: it was 10 am :) ) and we went all the way down from Berkeley to Santa Cruz, where the Highway 1 starts coasting the ocean. We stopped before the Big Sur, at Carmel, for lunch. A nice little town, but unfortunately we didn't have time to visit the convent of the Carmel, which I would have liked to see. Anyway, this is not too far from Berkeley so once we'll just go there for the weekend.
After the Carmel, 'Big Sur' starts. Big Sur is a river, and also the name of a town, but it's mostly known as the part of Highway 1 that is really close to the ocean, and swirls around going up and down the rocks. The landscape is amazing. There are plenty of sightseeing points where one can stop the car to admire. I'll show here a few of the images, but there are more here.

This is one of the many bridges we crossed:
And this was called 'hurricane point' - the wind was blowing so strongly that it threw Lucas's glasses off his ears and on the ground!
The highway is full with natural parks. We had time to stop only at one of them, Julia Pfeiffer's State Park, which is well-known because one can see this wonderful waterfall falling down right onto the beach.
Going down, there are a few other places where it's really 'compulsory' to stop, and one is 'elefant seal' beach. It's a beach where elefant seals and sea lions rest most part of the year. We arrived there when they were molting (cambiavano pelle, in italiano). The amount of elefant seals that were there was stunning. They were just lying there, and one could have thought that they were dead, if it wasn't for some occasional movement of the head to make their funny verses. Also, some of them were throwing some sand on themselves! I guess that helped molting?
Anyway, it was an amazing spectacle.
To conclude this section, some cute daisies we saw at Julia Pfeiffer's state park:
We arrived in LA at 10 pm, after stopping in Santa Barbara for a quick dinner. Also Santa Barbara seemed like a nice town, but we didn't have time to visit it.
Visiting Alberto and Franca (and their friend Sasha) was the best part of the trip. Unfortunately, I don't know how this was possible, but I forgot to take a picture of us together :( - anyway, I have pictures of some of the food that we made together, so I'll post that in a later post.
Lucas and I visited Santa Monica and Venice the first morning. The beaches are wonderful.

We weren't as impressed by the towns. Just a small promenade with restaurants and expensive shops, in Santa Monica, and a long promenade with turistic little stores and fast food in Venice. I guess it would have been more 'folkloristic' to see on weekend days.
Later on we went to visit the Getty Museum. Lucas had been there already and he really liked it, so we decided to go there again. It's a wonderful museum, with masterpieces from the XV to the XXI century. And the architecture is amazing.
It's on the top of a hill, with wonderful views on LA.
There is a superb garden, too.
A detail of the garden:
The day after, we went to visit downtown. LA is a gigantic city. It expands like a monster of asfalt with highways full of cars as veins. Still, there are a few nice areas to visit. It's a pain to get from one to the other, since the roads are so big and full of cars, that it's not pleasant at all to walk on the sidewalks.
These are a few oases, which we visited:
A garden in front of the public library
The majestic, henormous, modern Catholic cathedral.
With a wonderful organ that we heard being played by chance.
I'd say the cathedral is in the style of the city: gigantic.
The Disney Concert Hall (we saw it from outside):
It's built on the style of the Guggenheim museum of Bilbao.
One of the nicest parts was 'el pueblo', where there was the first mission that was the starting point of this gigantic city. It's now a completely Mexican zone, and we had some really good mexican food for lunch here. This is the commercial street, with lots of stands for tourists.
We actually saw a commercial being shot here.. LA is the city of movies and such, and it's very common to find yourself on the set of some movie or similar.
Last nice thing: a square on the other side of the public library, another one of those oases in the asphalt desert:
It's actually a quiet and cool spot on the other side of the library. We enjoyed resting here for a bit.
The day after, Alberto and Franca brought us to see the Campus and their place. They have a very nice apartment, very close to campus. This day, there was a Book Fest on campus, so we saw a lot of people walking around.. I really liked the campus. There are big lawns, and the buildings are huge, in good proportion with the rest of the city, but their style is very nice. Red bricks, with wonderful decorations. Here are some examples:

There is also a wonderful statue garden. Here are a few that I liked very much, and on my other picture website you can find more.

At last, we saw a cooking show. I was quite interested, being a 'food blogger'. The cook was Ted Allen, apparently a well-know chef in the USA.
Of course I had no idea of who he was or who were the people he was making fun of during the show, so I guess I missed part of it because of that. But to be honest, I was quite disappointed. He's a good showman, for sure, he's funny and such, but as for the cooking part.. he was all excited about a cole slaw made with blue cheese sauce (prebought!!) and a 'lamburger' to eat with a yogurt and mint sauce. I was hoping to see something more interesting.. Ok, maybe I'm also biased because I read how they kill lambs and I decided I will never eat lamb again and in general I stopped cooking meat..
Anyway, the Book fest was interesting, lots of very small publishing companies and lots of people around.
Unfortunately we had to leave on Sunday.. so we just had time to watch a movie that we had been wanting to watch for the whole time we were there ('Amarcord', I will write about it later), and have a nice 'last lunch' together before hitting the road.. :( It was a bit sad to leave. Who know when I will see Alberto and Franca again? Anyway, I really enjoyed this trip.
As last pictures, I'll show you a view from highway 5, which we took on the way back to get home faster.
Highway 5 basically goes through a desertic, flat region for hours! These were the cool hills that we saw at the beginning, before the boring part started:

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