20151230 – Getty Adventures

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There are a lot of people who are born and raised in Los Angeles that don’t know anything about their own city. Sure, they know to take visitors to Disneyland or to the LA Zoo but ask them about the Huntington Library, the Arboretum or the Getty and you sometimes get a blank stare. We aren’t so different I guess, I always leave town before I go to a museum or art gallery, which is strange considering the great places that we have locally. In my almost thirty years of living in LA, I had only been to the Getty Center once and had only heard about the Villa once or twice. We needed to change that so we decided to make a day of visiting the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, the Getty Center in Brentwood and round it all off with dinner somewhere on the Westside. If you are from the Westside then this may sound pretty pedestrian but to us hardcore East-siders this is a mini adventure!

The Getty Villa is in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles although they claim Malibu as their home. It is one of two locations of the J. Paul Getty Museum. Oil tycoon, J. Paul Getty opened a art gallery adjacent to his home in Pacific Palisades. As his collection grew he added a second gallery, the Getty Villa, on the property down the hill from the original gallery. Inspired by the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, the Villa incorporated additional details from several different ancient sites. It was designed by architects Robert E. Langdon, Jr. and Ernest C. Wilson, Jr. and opened in 1974. Sadly Getty would never get to visit the Villa himself but upon his death in 1976 he left the museum over $661 million dollars.

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Our friends Spencer, Cindy and Amy and her two kids.

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The Getty Villa is an educational center and museum dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria. The collection has 44,000 Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities dating from 6,500 BC to 400 AD. The sculptures are truly amazing in detail and it boggles the mind to think that the flowing lines and soft curves are carved from stone. I find it facinating that these sculptures have survived and still retain their beauty.

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In 1997, portions of the museum’s collection of Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities were moved to the Getty Center for display, and the Getty Villa was closed for renovation. When the Villa reopened in 2006, the Getty Villa included a new architectural plan that included buildings that surrounded the Villa, which are designed to simulate an archaeological dig with its many layers.

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To explore the Getty plan for at least two or three hours. The museum has so much to offer, it can seem overwhelming at first but take your time and wander around its gardens, listen to the fountains and drink in its views. Along the way enjoy an al fresco lunch in its informal, outdoor patio cafeteria. Soak in the atmosphere while strolling through the Roman herb garden and enjoy something that even J. Paul Getty himself never got to experience!


Our next stop is the Getty Center located in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. The Center is a campus of the Getty Museum and other programs of the Getty Trust. The Center opened to the public in 1997 and is well known for its architecture, gardens, and views overlooking Los Angeles. The two locations of the J. Paul Getty Museum together draw 1.3 million visitors annually. The Center features pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts; and 19th- and 20th-century American, Asian, and European photographs.20151230 033

The Museum’s collection at the Center includes outdoor sculpture displayed on terraces and in gardens and the large 134,000-square-foot Central Garden designed by Robert Irwin. Irwin was quoted as saying that the Central Garden “is a sculpture in the form of a garden, which aims to be art.” We got here a little later in the day so it was hard to get photos of the flowers themselves but the late afternoon sun looked great on the buildings!

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More than 500 varieties of plant material are used for the Central Garden which is always changing and is never the same.

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The Getty Center was designed by architect Richard Meier and all of the buildings at the Getty Center are made from concrete and steel with either travertine or aluminum cladding. Around 1,200,000 square feet of travertine was used to build the Center and although the travertine looks great at sunset, the aluminum cladding is starkly beautiful at night…

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So now its time to get some dinner and where do we go? There’s a lot of options on the West Side but we decide on a San Francisco favorite! The Stinking Rose! Executive Chef and San Francisco restaurateur Andrea Froncillo opened The Stinking Rose in Beverly Hills in 1995 as a follow up to his North Beach restuarant on Columbus. The theme of The Stinking Rose is encapsulated in the restaurants’ official motto, “We Season Our Garlic With Food.”and they aren’t kidding around. If you don’t like garlic then you need to stay away from this place. From the exterior, it may be hard to tell what’s going on inside. They saved all the character for inside the restaurant, to the point of sensory overload. This place is literally devoted to all things garlic… decorations, t-shirts, bumper stickers, hot sauce, cookbooks, you name it and they got it with garlic on it, in it or about it. Understated and reserved it is not.. but the kids loved it!20151230_184604

Start off with an order of bagna cauda, literaly means “hot bath” and made with roasted garlic cloves in butter, olive oil and gasp! anchovies… shh! Just ignore that last item and try it out! Smear the garlic clove onto a warm roll and you’ll be in garlicky carb heaven. I could just eat these all night… the food here is suprisingly good and kid friendly. If you must you can always order “Vampire style” and they’ll prepare your dish sans garlic, but why are you here if you don’t want any garlic?? The pasta is perfectly al dente and none of the dishes are overpoweringly garlicky. They manage to use three tons of garlic each month and so they’ve learned how to coax the sweetness and other subtle flavors from the stinking rose. They even have a garlic ice cream, that although we did not get to try any this time, I have had it in the past and I love it! It is a unique dining experience in LA and the service is always excellent. The food is as flavorful as the decor and a must try for garlic lovers everywhere… and if you don’t like garlic well… I’m sorry but you’re gonna have to put up with the rest of us!

To see more pictures from this trip click here

20151028 – Family Central Coast Adventure

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Our family is pretty spread out across California from San Diego to Sunnyvale so we don’t get together very often. We try to see each other at least a couple of times a year but this year I wanted to do something special. Irene and I looked at renting a house so that the whole family could spend time together. We have been spending a lot of time up in the Central Coast area and so Avila Beach was definitely in the front of our minds When we found Casa Contenta on VBRO.com we knew we found the right place. The home is a beautifully designed and furnished 3 bedroom Spanish Hacienda with a 2 bedroom guest house and a loft over the garage. This was the perfect place!

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The plan was to stay from Wednesday to Sunday and have plenty of downtime to relax or pursue whatever adventure they wanted to indulge in. The area has plenty of activites from kayaking, biking, surfing, ATV’s, golf and of course, our favorite… eating! So the whole gang was able to make it and they all showed up on Wednesday afternoon. After a great dinner cooked on the grill on the patio, we planned for an excursion out to Solvang the next day. Breakfast at Paula’s Pancakes was on the agenda and we couldn’t wait to see my little nephew stuff his face with Danish pancakes. This place always has a line out the door and is very popular on weekends but it is a absolute must do when visiting the area.

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Solvang was founded in 1911 by a group of Danish settlers and now is home to a number of Danish bakeries, restaurants and stores. The architecture reflects traditional Danish styles and there is even a copy of the Little Mermaid statue from Copenhagen and the Round Tower or Rundetarn in the town center. We wandered through the streets after breakfast, hunting and gathering like our family does best. We found some stuffed olives, tapenade and smoked gouda to bring back to the house and we had to stop to try an abelskiver! Although we’ve stopped here in Solvang a few times, this was the first time to try one of these Danish treats. Fluffy and similar to a doughnut hole with bright red strawberry jam, they would go great with a good cup of coffee. Despite the name, they are not apple flavored as I thought and subsequently was disappointed… some warm apples in the center would have been perfect!

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Later that afternoon, we decided to drop by the Kelsey See Winery to pick up my wine club shipment and visit the tasting room. This small family owned winery is located in See Canyon which was right next door to Casa Contenta. I fell in love with this place a few years ago while visiting the area and even considered buying property nearby. As always this friendly tasting room did not disappoint and I bought a couple of extra bottles to share. The grounds here are beautiful and inviting, combine this with great wine and couple of really fluffy dogs and peacocks running around the property and it makes for a relaxing afternoon.


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That evening we went down to the Harford Pier which is the commercial fishing pier in Avila. Built in 1873 for shipping purposes and to serve as Port San Luis before the train lines were built. It is one of my favorite places to visit in the area and although most tourists probably go to the Avila Beach Pier on the other side of the bay, I like to walk down this one! Sea lions are found most of the year, basking under the deck and many times you will hear their barking and grunts while you walk. The restaurant at the end, Olde Port Inn, is a nice place to grab some fresh seafood and a drink while enjoying the sunset. While we are mentioning places to eat, Fat Cats Cafe in the parking lot of the pier is a nice spot to grab a late breakfast.

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Another of our favorite stops is the Avila Valley Barn located right off the freeway. This place used to be open only seasonally but has recently started staying open all year round. Stocking up on the seasonal fruit and vegetables at the open air farmer’s market or stopping by for an ice cream is something that we rarely pass up. Behind the market is a small petting zoo where you can feed, see and espeically smell some animals. The baby goats are always entertaining and watching little kids excitedly feeding the animals always elicits a smile or laugh from us. Unfortunately for us, my nephew wasn’t feeling well and had to end his trip early so we didn’t get to see him interact with any of the animals. That didn’t stop us from visiting them but the fun was diminished some.

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Saturday night was the big event at Casa Contenta! My niece offered to prepare a turkey dinner and wow did she deliver! Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mac and cheese, green bean cassarole… and the yams… my god, the yams… I don’t even like yams but these were delicious! This girl can COOK, she most definitely is part of this family!

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After the awesome dinner and packing what will be the best leftovers EVER! We packed up to head back home. We said goodbye to each other and to the wonderful home wistfully thinking about the next time we can get together. Whenever our family gets together it is a true adventure, so until next time! Much love and happy thoughts!TBCS Trek to Avila Beach 072

To see more pictures from this trip, click here!