Wednesday, March 30, 2011

When It Rains It Pours...

The weekend before last we spent in Los Angeles again. We had theater tickets for Saturday evening to see the musical stage version of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” at the Pantages in Hollywood.

It was also planned to meet up George’s brother Thomas on Sunday to spend the day at Six Flag’s Magic Mountain. Well, that plan fell through as Southern California happened to experience record rainfalls that day and the next.

Instead of riding some of the fastest and most insane roller coasters in the world we decided to take in some culture. The three of us braved torrential rains and gusty winds and drove into downtown L.A. to see and hear a live orchestra perform at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Having always marveled at this architectural masterpiece by Frank Gehry, we have been planning to see a symphonic concert there for years.

This particular Sunday afternoon the Los Angeles Philharmonic would be playing symphonies by Mozart and Beethoven, directed by their star conductor Gustavo Dudamel. Guest pianist Jeremy Denk accompanied the orchestra. It was quite an astounding recital and was well received by the audience.

A concert review by the Los Angeles Times can be found here.

Afterwards we thought we would visit the huge L.A. Live entertainment complex but continuing rains and winds, along with ridiculously high parking fees, put a damper on this plan. So we ended up driving back to the Pasadena area, where George and Thomas grew up, and have dinner at a traditional local staple, the Clearman’s North Woods Inn restaurant. The two brother’s reminisced childhood memories while all of us enjoyed a delicious and hearty dinner.

The next day, we stocked up on our beloved Peet’s Coffee at their coffee house on Lake Avenue before heading back home to Las Vegas. Just as we entered the I-210 freeway, the floodgates in the dark clouds opened and a deluge of water came crushing down. It was raining so hard that I could barely see the car in front of me. At times, the winds were again so strong that it felt like we would be blown off the road. But as soon as we’ve reached the high desert the rain would subside and eventually stop. We made it back to Las Vegas without further delays or disturbances.

Although it was a rather wet weekend we still had tons of fun. Come rain or shine, we always seem to have a grand time in the City of Angels. And it looks like we’ll be back again sometime in April.

We still need to cash in those rainchecks for Magic Mountain. We’ll ride those darn roller coasters yet...

These palm trees just scream L.A.

On Hillhurst Avenue in Los Feliz, after we had the most scrumptious dinner at the Alcove. The blackened salmon I had was out of this world. We love that place.

The main reason for our trip to L.A. this time. George has never seen "Beauty and the Beast" before and I'm up for any opportunity to go back to the Pantages again. I love this theater.

Starstruck in Hollywood? George admiring some of the architecture along Hollywood Blvd.

Hollywood Boulevard at Vine Street, with the Hollywood sign on top of Mt. Lee in the background.

This is actually a relatively new neon sign but I love the retro feel of it.

This is one of the most famous murals that can be found in many of the side streets off Hollywood Boulevard. This particular one has been featured in countless magazines and is described in every imaginable travel guide and photo book published around the world.

The entrance of the relatively new W Hotel in Hollywood, right across the Pantages Theatre.

What would Hollywood be without a grand staircase? Inside the lobby of the W Hotel in Hollywood.

The lobby area of the W Hotel.

The bar inside the lobby area of the W Hotel.

The neon marquee of the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. This iconic movie palace from 1922 was recently renovated and is again open to the public.

The ornate chandelier inside the auditorium of the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. I love art deco and this theater is art deco in its purest form.

I took this photo of George right after the theater. It was a fabulous show.

I took this picture of the iconic Los Angeles city hall tower the next day. I love this photo. It was also rather hard to take photos with all this rain and strong winds. We actually enjoyed the rain since it basically never rains in Las Vegas. Angelinos didn't quite share our enthusiasm though.

The Dorothy Chandler Pavillion across from the Walt Disney Concert Hall. It's L.A.'s opera house, but many Academy Awards ceremonies were held here before the Oscars moved to its permanent home at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood just a few years ago.

The Frank Gehry designed Walt Disney Concert Hall is a true architectural masterpiece. That very morning we decided to see the L.A. Philharmonics, hoping to still get some tickets. Conducted by Gustavo Dudamel with guest pianist Jeremy Denk, they played Beethoven, Mozart and a little Charles Ives. An interesting mix.

Another exterior detail shot of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Lots of wooden paneling inside the lobby areas of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Indoor detail photo of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Another interior detail shot of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall auditorium. We were lucky to find three seats together as the concert was nearly sold out.

A dark and rainy downtown Los Angeles. To the right is the Bonaventure Hotel with its massive atrium, which was used in countless movies. All of downtown has been used for films and TV shows for that matter.

The Simon brothers at Clearman's North Woods Inn in San Gabriel, an old restaurant that's been around for ages. George and Thomas had fun reminiscing the good old days.

George and I after having way too much food at the Clearman's North Woods Inn Restaurant. I think those cheese breads alone had over 10,000 calories, lol. But it was so good.

George and I stopped at Peet's in Pasadena on Lake Avenue to stock up on coffee for the next few weeks. A luxury we'll never let go. Here's George enjoying some freshly brewed Peet's coffee. It's just simply the best coffee around. I also found my new favorite pastry there, a Chocolate Cream Cheese Muffin. Yum!

Low clouds hanging over the San Gabriel Mountains, near George's old neighborhood. It's usually on the way and we almost always are getting gas here since it's one of the cheapest in the greater L.A. area. Pssst...don't tell anyone. ;) Besides, it is really beautiful here and always worth a stop. You should see it when it's warm and sunny.

On our drive through the Mojave Desert back to Las Vegas. While still in Los Angeles we were almost washed and blown off the 210 freeway. I thought the ocean was coming down. When it rains in rains!!! Once in the high desert, we had snow, rain, sun and high winds. It's never boring along I-15.

Somewhere in the middle of the Mojave Desert, on the I-15 freeway. In the higher elevations it was snowing and some views of the mountains were just beautiful.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Birthday in Vegas

Yesterday was George’s birthday. We celebrated his special day by doing some clothes shopping and getting See’s chocolate, a nice leisurely stroll on the Las Vegas Strip, and a nice dinner at the Bellagio. Most of the preceding week was rather cloudy and filled with chilly and gusty winds. Yesterday the sun decided to come out in full force. And boy, did it warm up quickly. The forecast for next weekend calls for temperature well above 90 degrees. Looks like the desert is once again skipping Spring altogether and heading right into Summer.

Below are some photos we took yesterday on the Strip.

The birthday boy at the atrium of the Wynn Resort on the Las Vegas Vegas Strip.

I call this photo “A Local Among Tourists.” This is me in front of the waterfall next to entrance of the Esplanade at Wynn.

The new Spring display at the Garden Conservatory inside the Bellagio Hotel & Casino.

A fantasy tree inside the Bellagio.

The Bellagio Garden with this year’s Spring display.

Art sprung to life. A “painting” made of real flowers.

George is enjoying the Spring show. We had a nice birthday dinner at the Bellagio shortly after this picture was taken.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Back To Your Diversions

Nothing has really changed that much over the course of time. Ancient Rome already had their “bread and games.”