Friday, June 27, 2014

Grand Finale

Our Northwest Passage Adventure ended with a bang.  We took everyone to Dodger Stadium to see the Cardinals play the Dodgers.  
It was a pitching duel with Adam Wainwright against Josh Beckett.  The kids enjoyed the atmosphere, the cheering and the food, although when the Dodgers finally scored a run, and the stadium erupted in cheers, Edie thought it was "too noisy."  

Kate learned a lot about baseball and was amused to hear the opening of Beethoven's Fifth used to foreshadow a blow to the Cardinals.  The Dodgers won narrowly, and we made it home through the traffic.  It was a short night of sleep, but we were able to doze on the plane as we turned back to Massachusetts.  We have been away for a month, and we are more than ready to find our own bed again.
After a month on the road we will live calmly for a bit.  Maybe we will be ready to pack our bags again in the Fall.

Some Retro Moments

We visited two small museums in LA that took us back in time to a past that we remember.  To Oliver it was long ago, but to us, it was a walk down memory lane.  
First we went to the Autry Museum in Griffith Park.
It was a project of Gene Autry, a very well done museum of the West.  The current exhibit is about Route 66.  When we took our last road trip to CA in 1989 we had returned as far as St Louis on this iconic route.  The exhibit was excellent.  There were photographs,videos, artifacts and recordings from the 30s through the present.  There were videos of the dust storms in the 30s that sent so many families west.  There were recordings of Woody Guthrie songs based on his Dust Bowl trips.  There were old fashioned gas pumps from Texaco and Phillips 66 and a juke box with 120 different recordings of "Route 66." Right in the middle was a gleaming 1960 white Corvette with blue leather seats.  
There was also an interesting collection of paintings, Native American textiles and Hispanic religious artifacts.  And the collection of cowboy memorabilia included beautiful saddles, hats and guns.  Many of  the cowboy artifacts came from television personalities like The Lone Ranger, Dale Evans, Roy Rogers and others.

The next day we visited the Flight Path Learning Center which is a collection of artifacts from the history of air travel displayed in a low building near the LAX airport.  It is a small museum but very rich in material.  
The guides were retired airline employees who are passionate about their collection.  There were models of planes from the WWI biplanes to the Dreamliner.  The collection of uniforms seemingly from every era and airline is impressive.  The decades of style are almost as innovative as the airlines themselves.  One of the guides told us that for the 30s stewardesses were required to be registered nurses and even changed into a white uniform when they went on board.  The highlight was a visit to the Spirit of 76 DC-3 outside the building.  Oliver climbed in the cockpit in the pilot's seat with his grandfather as copilot.  


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Boy Becomes a Swimmer

On Tuesday we decided that no visit to LA was complete without a trip to the beach.  We turned toward Santa Monica and the Annenberg Community Beach House.

This is a remarkable place.  It's like a club open to everyone. It was originally part of the Marion Davies estate.  She was an actress and partner to William Randolph Hearst and gave lavish parties by the side of this marble edged pool.  Eventually the site was acquired by the city and the Annenberg Foundation gave the funds needed to convert it to public use. 
We had a wonderful day.  There was plenty of room to sit in the shade,
and a heated pool with a four foot end for the kids.  
When we began Oliver was still holding on to the pool edge.  Then he began to venture out on his own for a foot or two.

 But as time went on he.gained confidence. By the he time we stopped for lunch he was swimming a few feet at a.time under water before coming up for air.
 After lunch he continued to swim longer stretches until he could do the width of the pool reliably.  Finally when his Grandpa joined him, he was feeling very strong.  Peter took him into the deep end, and by the end of the afternoon he was swimming the width and even diving to the bottom in the deep end.
The Beach house pool is on the edge of the beach, so strolling in the surf is a great way to end the afternoon.

Hanging out briefly in Hollywood

When you visit LA for the first time you have to see the HOLLYWOOD sign.  It is actually visible from pretty far away, but we decided to drive to the Observatory in Griffith Park. There is only one planetarium show per day that is open to under five year olds, and we missed it.  Instead we picnicked on the grass in front and threw a frisbee,
 The sky was hazy, but we could see the city and the sign.  

Oliver picked our next stop: Yogurtland.  This is a genius marketing scheme.  You fill a cup with a selection of different favors of soft serve yogurt and choose toppings to match.  Then you weigh it and pay by weight.  Each of us concocted a delicious treat, and it wasn't even expensive. The kids loved it.

From there we drove to Hollywood Boulevard.  With Edith asleep in the car Amanda decided to drop me and Kate off for a few minutes strolling through the crazy tourists.  We passed the Mann Chinese Theater and the Dolby Theater where the Academy Awards are held.  

But a few minutes of the craziness was enough for us, and we were ready to head home when Amanda picked us up.  

Life in LA

One of the advantages of visiting family instead of just staying in a hotel, is that you get the insiders' viewpoint.  So we started our visit to Los Angeles with a great family day.  We met John's parents and sister for Sunday Dim Sum. Thirteen people sat comfortably around one of the large tables in their favorite restaurant. The banquet room was crowded with more than a hundred tables, and servers pushed trays of treats past us.  John's parents picked the family favorits, and the four Chinese American cousins ate greedily. Edith used a plastic fork and her fingers.  Oliver used his chopsticks effectively as spears.  Having done this before we knew to pace ourselves and not to choose from every dish.  

The rest of the afternoon was spent in the kitchen cooking for Amanda's birthday party.  She decided to prepare an elaborate Charlotte with raspberry coulis. It was elegant, beautiful and very successful.  She had invited two couples and their children to celebrate with us, and we had a great party.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Nonstop Vista Points

Our route from San Francisco to LA led us along the California coast following CA Route 1 from Santa Cruz to Santa Monica.  It was overcast when we started, but a hazy blue sky appeared at last.  At every turn the blue waves beat against the rocky shore.  

There were spots where the water washed behind the rock into a cavity and rushed out the other side.  Many of the Vista Points were on steep hills with views that plunged steeply to the water.  There were a lot of people on the road.  Some were on bikes or motorcycles.  Many sports cars were out for the day too.  We didn't stop everywhere, and as the landscape flattened the cliffs turned to wide white beaches.  At one beach we discovered an enormous colony of elephant seals.  Twenty years ago there had been only a dozen, but the colony has grown enormously, and although a large portion of them are at sea, the beach was covered with resting and playful seals.

We arrived at Amanda's in I.A just after 9:30 and tiptoed in to avoid waking Edith, who had been so excited that she could hardly get to sleep.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Fine Friends of Long Standing

Twenty-five years ago our family drove about 10,000 miles around the United States. When we got to California our first stop was with our friends Ron and Martha Kuhlmann who live outside the city.  We decided to see them again on this trip.  Our friendship has survived the distance, aided by Christmas cards, Facebook and the occasional visit in Massachusetts.  We were thrilled to discover that we had just as much fun together as ever.  We shared delicious food, witty conversation and a love of grandchildren.  We met their little granddaughter, Ellie.  Their sons Michael and David came to dinner with their wife and fiancĂ©.  The evening we spent together was a great joy.  

Ron's orchid collection continues to grow and amaze.

Under the Golden Gate

On Friday, after a sumptuous breakfast with Ron and Martha, Ron drove us to the nearby BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit),station and we hurtled off to downtown San Francisco. Ron had given us good advice.  With less than a day in the city we should not waste our time on the road, but head to Pier 39 where we could take a 60 minute cruise in the bay.  The air was crystal clear and the sky was brilliant blue as we exited the Embarcadero station.  We found our way using our phone, and had enough time to pick up sandwiches and eat in a park on he way.

We started walking the Harbor Walk at Pier 1.  The route was beautiful and hugged the harbor.  
But it wound around too much, and we were afraid of missing the 2:15 sailing, so we headed back to the sidewalk and sped up.  When we got to Pier 39 we found that it was huge, with many different excursions possible.  We scrambled a bit, but eventually picked up our tickets and boarded the boat just in time.  
There was a stiff breeze as we found spots along the rail in the bow.  
The boat passed close by Alcatraz before heading west toward the Golden Gate Bridge.  

The guide narrated a number of historic facts, but I was not taking notes, and not much sunk in.  We had a great view of the city on the return, although we didn't see any of the sea lions for which the harbor is known.

We did see pelicans and learned that Alcatraz means "pelican."  
The walk back to the BART station was more purposeful, and when we arrived back, Matha picked us up.  We had just enough time for a quick swim before dinner.