13-23 April 2012

With the invitation of friends and the advice of Horace Greeley: "Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country," I put on a pair of wings and did just that. I'm not quite so young anymore, but when one goes to California a certain magic happens that brings back a carefree feeling and lightens the load of years that have piled high.

While driving from the airport to my home for the next ten days the sky let loose with a huge thunderstorm and downpour.

I saw these strange trees everywhere. I am not in Minnesota!

We performed the ritual that I had been anticipating for a long time—"going up the hill" in Runyon Canyon Park. I looked up at the sky and saw the sign of my childhood hero Zorro. Swish, swish, swish, and his mark was left as he galloped off triumphantly in his fight against villains. The years melted away...

A classic view of the sparkling gem called the City of Angels.

The next day found us leaving that city and heading north along the coast. We took a little break to see a man about a horse and watched a pair of kitesurfers. This is a sport that amazes me. I can't imagine the endurance it must take to fly across the tumultuous surface while being dragged along by the wind and be able to stay upright!

Rocks have been pounded by the waves and worn by the grit of the sandy beach.

We stopped in Santa Barbara for lunch. In one of the little pedestrian plazas tucked away from the main street a weeping tepee watched. I swear that the eye did follow us.

Well, I guess I won't be going in there!

We walked through this charming courtyard while searching for a well-hidden restaurant. It turned out that it was closed but we didn't let that detail put an end to our quest for food.

We arrived at our B&B in Paso Robles. It was on the top of a hill surrounded by vineyards and the patio was a delightful calm in the late afternoon sun.

The person behind Bella Collina is the amazing Roberta. This lady of many talents makes you feel right at home...

...but don't let her get the idea that you may kidnap (catnap?) her precious Jadabella.

We were watched by this patron saint of animals as we dined on steaks and pork bellies at the local Villa Creek Restaurant.

The next day we drove around in the beautiful countryside in search of wine.

One of the wineries also had a nursery where this figure was blissfully smelling the flowers.

How about being served at a wine tasting by a cool guy from France!

As we walked up a hill we weren't the only ones enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun.

The leafless, fruitless vineyards make this hill look like it could be a French war cemetery.

Supper under a tree. We were on a quest for crab cakes but there were none to be had.

Back at the B&B the patio was beginning to fall asleep.

We polished off a bottle and it wasn't hard to do! This Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 was produced from Roberta's grapes.

The early morning fog added a certain mystery to the villa.

Next to the highway there's a retro McDonald's. Again I could feel my youth—back when there had only been millions sold. By now the planet could be covered by the billions of burgers and countless fries that have come through the golden arches.

Back in LA the sun settled down behind a hill.

There are many lovely homes in West Hollywood. This topiary and its shadows caught my attention.

Palms in front of the a Spanish style home were accented by lights.

Well, at least I was able to see one celebrity in an area where there are probably more celebrities per square foot than anywhere else in the world. Honestly, I would not have known that this man is a celebrity or his name is Ron Jeremy but for the fact that I was with someone who is in the know about these kind of things.

Today we went to the J. Paul Getty Museum. After you park your car you're taken up the hill by a tram to a totally different world.

The dazzling sleek, modern buildings are spread out on top of the hill and follow it's natural contour.

A small cafe sits under pollarded trees that will grow a dense cover of leaves.

The bright organic outline of this building contrasted with the deep blue sky.

You feel very much removed from the surrounding sea of the city below.

A skylight hung above a minimal utilitarian stairway.

One of the rooms filled with the amazing art collection. A skylight—carefully adjusted by computer controlled louvers—provides the natural lighting that best displays the paintings.

This "Bacchante with an Ape" shows what happens with all those grapes filling the hillsides of Paso Robles.

I'd hate to have to walk barefoot through this minefield of prickly grapes.!

Besides all of the pre-1900 pieces of art there is an amazing photography collection. This eerie example shows Marilyn Monroe topped off with Mao's forehead and hair—a creation of photographer Philippe Halsman.

Another day, another adventure. We're getting ready to head out through the bay at Newport Beach.

This buoy has been sequestered by seals—or is it sea lions? Whatever, they are a funny crowd not unlike some people on the beach. One tried to climb up out of the water only to be knocked back off.

This is what we were in search of. A finback whale came up for air. Their fin is very small but they're the second longest animal in the world.

That evening we enjoyed a drink at the Pagoda Bar in the Yamashiro Restaurant.

The pool glowed like a nuclear reactor as the evening sky darkened.

There's a farmers market with fresh hats for sale.

After an elegant dinner by the window overlooking the city, we took a look at other parts of the restaurant.

We went to the market the next morning and then I was initiated in the art of making sarmale:

It is a lot of work but well worth the effort! Two plates of mămăligă (and a couple of gin and tonics) accompany this classic Romanian dish.

I kept seeing this much larger-than-life Dictator about town.

My last evening in Los Angeles we dined outside at the Le Petit Four. The heaters kept us toasty in the cool evening air.

Just about everywhere I turned in the city, a pale Barnabas was staring at me behind a pair of sunglasses. A vampire wearing sunglasses? Only in LA!

I had to do a double take after my eyes ran across this billboard put up by the Armenian Youth Federation Western USA referring to the Armenian Genocide .

A place I like to go for a coffee and poppy seed muffin is the Caffé Latte.

I said goodbye to the charming little Wilshire Crest Hotel where I spent my last few nights.

As I flew back home, the sun set on my California Dreams.