Monte Bello Open Space Preserve

M, on a rare break from medical residency, briefly visited the bay area with her husband J around the weekend of Sunday, May 8, 2011. I attended their wedding two years prior.

I found out two weeks before that M was pregnant. I imagine this was a last-chance trip before they were to have the baby (and thus not be able to travel for a while). It was also probably my last chance to see them without traveling to Chicago.

Di Yin, M, J, an acquaintance of mine whose name I forget, and someone I never met before whose name I also forget all met up to go on a hike. From the few choices I nominated, we selected to hike in Monte Bello Open Space Preserve. It was a great choice--with varying terrain, it was a true sample of bay area nature.

I took a handful of pictures.

As we walked, we talked. I rarely manage to talk on the phone to M and never hear much from/about J. It was nice to catch up with M and J and get the current scoop.

We hiked for about six miles.

After the hike, we drove into town separately, reuniting (along with a few more of M's friends) at the Palo Alto Creamery for dinner.

Los Angeles: May 1: An Indirect Route Home

After a small snack at home to tide us over, Di Yin and I headed to the day-after-the-wedding brunch at The Peninsula in Beverly Hills. It was a good spread at another fancy, expensive venue. I was impressed they served freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (in addition to fresh orange juice of course). We chatted with all the other guests we'd met the previous night, plus the people in the wedding and the wedding party who were too busy to talk with us the previous day.

After brunch, we began heading home. We drove north on 405 to route 5, but route 5 seemed backed up as it entered the hills so I took the road labeled "14N highway 5 truck detour" under the assumption it would rejoin the 5 later. This was a mistake.

We drove for a while and soon found ourselves in the desert. The landscape was flat, with lots of short, dry grasses and sagebrush, quite a contrast to the green hills one passes through on 5 in the national forest-land north of Los Angeles. We stopped so Di Yin could take pictures of the desert with the San Gabriel mountains in the distance. I wasn't in the mood to take pictures, and didn't end up taking any the entire day. We also passed a field of poppies, the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve, as well as multiple orange fields.

At one place we stopped on 138W (on our way back to the 5), we ended up beset by small bugs. We noticed them only after we returned to the car and discovered many on ours pants' legs. We got out, brushed ourselves off everywhere, and got back in. Over the next ten minutes we killed a dozen and a half more that managed to remain on us--that's a sense of how many must've been there originally. Di Yin said they were weevils.

Here are Di Yin's pictures. The link goes to her first picture from this day (picture #89 in the album). When you see a picture of me in bed, you're done with the pictures from the trip.

Once finally back on highway 5, we headed straight home, stopping for a late dinner in Gilroy (where we discovered a tasty frozen yogurt shop). It appears our detour took an hour longer than the direct route not counting the stops we made to take pictures. Though it was neat to see the desert, I wouldn't have made the trade-off given the choice.

Los Angeles: Apr 30: Encino and Wedding

This day was allocated to attend a wedding. I took few pictures, mainly because I didn't feel like taking pictures at the wedding. Di Yin took similarly few photos. The latter link goes to her first picture from this day (picture #80 in the album). When you've passed the wedding pictures and see another brunch picture (picture #89), you're done with her pictures for the day. I'll link to the next day's pictures in the following post.

For breakfast, B, E, Di Yin, and I drove to their local downtown in Encino for brunch at More Than Waffles. Indeed, More Than Waffles serves lots more breakfast items than just waffles, but almost everything is served with a Belgian waffle. And, yes, they make their waffles well.

From the drive, I noticed Encino is a hilly, pretty area filled with large estates (all different) and wide sidewalks. Once back at the house, we took a stroll around the neighborhood and admired the houses and gardening. The weather was the same beautiful weather as the previous day.

As for their house itself, it can rightly be called an estate. B and E invested heavily in the house because they want to raise kids there and eventually grow old there. Everything is 50%-100% larger than a "normal" house. Even the hallways are wider as well. It has four bedrooms plus a "maid's room"/den, a sizable pool, tons of patio plaza pool space, and a huge kitchen (six burner range, large island, large stove). In fact, the pool area reminded me of the pool scene in Octopussy. Admittedly, their pool area isn't as large or extravagant but it gave me the same feeling as the setting in the movie.

I especially liked two features of the house: the plantation shades and the recessed lighting. I hadn't seen many plantation shades, but now I know I like them. As for the lighting, I generally appreciate recessed lighting, but I liked this more than usual because the lights are also skylights. You can't tell by looking at them, but the light coming from the recessed area during the daytime is filtered sunlight. It looks like the lights are on even though they're not.

We hung around the house until it was time to go to the wedding.

Di Yin's college friend B was marrying S in the Calabasas Hills. These hills felt like ranch country. It's almost entirely nature, with cactuses and mountains, and the farmland is bounded by post and rail fences.

The wedding and reception were at Saddle Peak Lodge, a hunter's lodge nestled in the mountains. (This is the Santa Monica chain of mountains, by the way.) A cactus garden served as the immediate backdrop to the ceremony, with the mountains visible beyond.

Ironically (given the setting at the hunter's lodge), there were sushi hors d'oeuvre, plus cocktail shrimp. More apropos, elk was one of the dinner choices. Both Di Yin and I had it. She said it was like seared tuna in the sense of being raw in the center. It tasted meaty, like jerky, but was a really tender version thereof. It came with butternut squash puree, brandied cherries, stuffed mushrooms, and ciopinni onions (I love those).

Along with the main course, we ate asparagus soup, salad, bread pudding, and cake. The salad, made with endive, watercress, and apples, included St. Agur goat cheese, one of the few varieties of blue cheese I like. I didn't like much else about the salad however. On the other hand, I definitely liked the banana huckleberry bread pudding served as dessert.

It was clear the wedding was more for the parents than the couple. Indeed, we talked with one couple who'd only met the bride once or twice and didn't know the groom at all but were there because they're friends of the bride's parents. Also, music and dancing weren't a priority either; the dance floor was small and nevertheless barely used.

After dinner, we enjoyed the photo montage of the bride and groom together. I think more weddings should have one.

Los Angeles: Apr 29: Huntington Library/Museum/Gardens, and Food

I took many pictures this day. Di Yin did too. The latter link goes to her first picture from this day (picture #9 in the album). When you see a picture of us having brunch (picture #80), you're done with her pictures for the day. I'll link to the next day's pictures in the following post.

It began with us driving across L.A. to Pasadena. Surprisingly, on 110 near the center of the city, we passed through a series of tunnels. (A hill attempted to block the highway.) Pasadena is pretty, with tons of trees. I say this not in contrast to the rest of L.A.; there's just a lot of trees, period. It's a wealthy area. The residential part of it has fancy single-family houses.

We detoured to the neighboring town, San Marino, for lunch at Julienne. Julienne is in two-block-long commercial street in a residential area. We walked up and down it after lunch. As for lunch, it was very good; for details see the pictures.

From San Marino, we drove to the The Huntington Library/Museum/Garden, passing by/through CalTech on the way.

The Huntington is part botanical garden/park, with many themed gardens. We wandered through many (but not all) of these: the desert garden, the subtropical garden, the rose garden, and the herb garden. They were all very pretty; I took a ton of pictures. The Rose Garden was particularly notable because it was entirely in bloom. It's nicer than Portland's Rose Garden (supposedly world-famous), which I visited last year. We also stopped by the Japanese Garden and the Chinese garden but these were mostly closed.

It was a perfect temperature for strolling slowly with a hat to protect against the sun--a temperature that neither felt warm nor cold on your skin but rather neutral as if it was skin's natural temperature.

After exploring the gardens, we ventured into the Huntington art gallery. It presents European art (mostly eighteenth-century) in the Huntingtons' historic mansion, furnished and decorated according to the period. There was a free audioguide available but we didn't take the time. We were so short on time that we explored only the ground floor of the museum's two floors. We also skipped the American Art Gallery and the gallery housing changing exhibitions, both in other buildings.

We reserved a chunk of time for exploring the Huntington's third major facet: its library. We first explored its collection. Its old books include an old Chaucer, a Gutenberg Bible, a first-edition Paradise Lost, first-quarto and first-folio Shakespeare, early versions of The Life of Samuel Johnson and Gulliver's Travels, Audubon's huge book, various hand-written manuscripts, and much more, including some American documents. For instance, it has some Proceedings of the Continental Congress, a hand-written 1702 treaty between American settlers and the Mohawk Indians, and an original hand-written version of the thirteenth amendment. There was lots of info about each item. The collection reminded me a bit of the British Library (see visit report). Lots of items are the same (Gutenberg Bible, Audubon book, etc.).

We looked at the library's special exhibits. The exhibit on the regency didn't make much sense to me. In contrast, the history of science exhibits were rather good. One presented the history of astronomy through original texts by Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, Einstein, Hubble, and others. Another showed the history of biology/medicine through anatomical atlases and many other books, including for instance an early printed edition (sixteen-century) of Hippocrates's sayings. A third room explored the history of light with original texts by Kepler, Faraday, Volta, Newton, and more, and also items such as early light bulbs.

In these history of science exhibits I didn't have anywhere near enough time to read everything I wanted to. We got kicked out because the library was closing. I wonder how much longer we could've stayed in the gardens before being told to leave. (Everything is scheduled to close at the same time, but it looked like no one was patrolling the gardens.)

By the way, Di Yin observed that the organization is so wealthy that not only are its objects of high quality but also is the setting they're presented in. For instance, the astronomy room has constellations painted on the ceiling, the art galleries have period decoration, and the history rooms have numerous animal paintings.

Three hours was too short for the Huntington complex. I probably could spend another three while only seeing things I didn't see before.

After closing, we drove back across L.A. to meet E at his place and began a food crawl! Details are on the pictures.

After the food crawl, we returned to E's, then Di Yin and I left for our other friends B and E to spend the night at their place in Encino.

Los Angeles: Apr 28: To L.A.

We returned to Los Angeles in late April, this time for a wedding of one of Di Yin's friends. We stayed there from Thursday, April 28, 2011, to Sunday, May 1. This trip didn't change my previous impressions of L.A.; I have nothing to add to that post.

We followed the same route to L.A.--down the 5--as before, though this time it was sunny. Also, this time we didn't stop to enjoy the views (we enjoyed them only from the moving car).

Some observations from the drive down:

  • We spotted two burning vehicles: a car on highway 152 and a truck on route 5 near the grapevine. The latter burned so hot we felt the heat from it as we passed it three lanes over. Contrast this with the tire tread coincidence from our last drive down.
  • We spotted the industrial cattle farm that we somehow missed on the previous drive.
  • Pyramid Lake, just off the 5 in Los Padres National Forest, is pretty. Maybe we'll stop there sometime.
Once in L.A., we detoured to Santa Monica to check my e-mail and to meet a friend of E's, B, to pick up E's keys. We were staying with my friend E that night. B, a TV show editor, seemed like a cool, nice guy; I want to see him more. After meeting B, Di Yin and I headed to E's condo.

There, we relaxed a bit. Then, hungry but lazy, we decided to walk to a restaurant, Nook, near E's condo. It had a long wait; we decided to do take-out. The food we got was good. Di Yin remarked that she appreciates restaurants that use few spices and thereby allow the quality of the ingredients to show through. So do I. For details on the food, see these pictures, the only pictures I took this day.

Di Yin took more pictures during the day. The latter link goes to her first picture from this trip (picture #1 in the album). When you see a picture captioned "Day one" (picture #9), you're done with her pictures for the day. ("Day one" is the first picture from the following day.) I'll link to her later pictures in the following post.

Eventually E returned home and we chatted for a while before nodding off.