Monday, March 5, 2007

Antiquities, Books, and Great Chinese Food

Before we moved out West, I never thought there would be much to like about LA. I believed it was a filthy, sprawling city with bad traffic and gang violence, and I was pleased to live far enough north of it to avoid it. Picturesque, pedestrian-friendly cities like Boston, San Francisco, and Charleston have always had more appeal for me. However, shortly after arriving, we drove south and went through Hollywood, Venice Beach, and Malibu, had some great food, and I started to wonder if there was more to LA than all the negative stereotypes I’d assumed. I watched LA Story and Mulholland Drive and started to understand something about the culture and mystique of LA—it’s a strange place where it’s easy to feel downtrodden but unacceptable to face one’s depression in the wake of so much sunshine. Although I still wouldn’t want to live there, I always enjoy taking daytrips.

This past Saturday we drove down to the Getty Villa in Malibu. It was a perfectly sunny, warm-but-not-hot day, and our view of all those colorful cliff-side homes overlooking the aquamarine surf mirrored Tuscany. The villa is a great way to spend several hours—it’s full of antiquarian art, and the building and garden design emulates the ruins of an ancient villa. It’s set in a canyon, and the approach down modern stairs into an amphitheater creates the feel of an archeological dig, an especially nice touch.

After refreshing our scant memories of Greek and Roman mythology and ogling a lovely exhibit on ancient blown glass vessels, we headed over to Book Soup on Sunset Boulevard. Its excellent inventory lines dark wooden shelves crammed into the store at haphazard angles, and you can climb the attached ladders to the high ceilings without being chastised (take that, B. Dalton’s of my youth!). Ickie and I bought little but compiled two lists of potential fictional gems, and I salivated over the photography in a bread and sandwich cookbook.

Later, we met friends at Triumphal Palace in Alhambra for some tasty Cantonese food—the crispy, spicy-sweet green beans were my favorite dish, if you can believe such a thing. After dinner we all enjoyed tea next door at one of Ten Ren’s teahouses and then drove home.

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