Los Angeles Miscellany

So we did less sightseeing and more hanging around during our last trip to LA. This was partly because Judy was under the weather for a couple of days, and partly because everybody was feeling lazier than usual. Shockingly, we didn’t visit a single garden.

In this post I’ve got a collection of photos from various things we did during our trip. It is by no means meant to be a “top things to do” sort of list.


On the Friday before Christmas, Judy and I went to buy tamales for Christmas dinner. For the second year in a row, we stood in line at Me Gusta Gourmet Tamales in Pacoima. They do have really good tamales.

We chatted with a woman in line who told us she drove 30 miles to Me Gusta with orders for tamales from several of her neighbors. We left with cheese and peppers, chicken in green sauce, and pork in red sauce – enough for dinner and lunch the next day.


Walking around Venice my attention was always drawn to the front gardens and porches. I thought a good deal of creativity was on display, plus it’s worth appreciating how very different everything is from Chicago.


For example, see that flowering bush in front of the yellow house? That is a jade plant (Crassula ovata). I’m familiar with jade plants as little indoor pot plants that grow up to 24″ at most. I had not noticed them in bloom on our other trips to LA.


Speaking of blooms, there aren’t many in Los Angeles at Christmas time, but the Bird of Paradise flowers (Strelitzia reginae) are certainly striking.


Here’s an interesting planter. Wonder what kind of grass that is.


Tall grasses catching the late afternoon sun near Venice Beach.


A cliche, perhaps, but I’m still amazed by the thought of picking oranges right off your front porch!


This was an unusual sort of house near where we stayed. The shape suggested a Quonset hut.


Walking in the neighborhood we came upon a sculptor’s workshop. He or she had created Brobdingnagian tools and toys and set them out in the yard.


One day we took the commuter train from the Santa Monica station to downtown Los Angeles. Daniel is a transit geek (excited by trains from a young age), so this made him happy. On the train he regaled us with facts about the LA mass transit system. It has a very large ridership, though not large enough to get car traffic under control.


From the train car we could see skyscrapers and snow covered mountains in the distance.


On the way downtown we made a stop at Exposition Park, which has a large rose garden. The rose garden isn’t all that exciting – just lots of roses in rectangular beds growing out of bare earth. There were some flowers, and we checked to see which ones were fragrant. Most of the roses, though, had faded flowers or none at all.


After getting the rest of the way downtown we visited the Los Angeles Public Library, with its Art Deco exterior dating to 1926.


Inside there are a series of murals, also from the 1920s, depicting the history of California.


We visited Pershing Square while walking around downtown.


Eventually we got back on the subway and rode to MacArthur Park, which is really not too exciting. However, Judy insisted on seeing it. I think she really wanted to see the cake that was left out in the rain.

The real reason everyone agreed to go out to MacArthur Park is because it is right next to Langer’s, a venerable Jewish deli. We had lunch there, and it was good.


The day before we left we drove the Pacific Coast Highway to Point Dume State Beach in Malibu. The beach here is very nice, and you can hike up to the top of Point Dume, so we did.


Point Dume was worth visiting, though I found the Pacific Coast Highway pretty disappointing. The traffic was slow and most of the shore was privately developed, so there wasn’t much to see. Maybe it’s more scenic north of Malibu.

I don’t know if we’ll return to LA for a fourth time next Christmas. It’s a wonderful place to visit, but perhaps it’s time to try someplace else. We’ll see.

45 Comments on “Los Angeles Miscellany

  1. I was born and grew up in LA. When I was a little girl, it was a huge thrill to go downtown and park in the garage that was under Pershing Square , and go to a department store or a play at the Biltmore Theater ! If you want a scenic coastline Socal is not the place . I hope you will someday have the chance to visit the Big Sur coastline, or even better the coast in Mendocino County. The Oregon Coast is beautiful too.

  2. That flowering Jade plant is amazing, mine is just a little plant in a pot indoors in the conservatory, it lovely to see it released outside!

  3. Looks a fun trip, the grass looks like Stipa tenuissima (Mexican Feather grass) to me. It would be right for the climate too.

  4. I so enjoyed “seeing” LA and its surrounds with you and your family. Definitely a different impression of LA than one usually gets from film and television. That Jade plant was nothing short of amazing, and I think I would faint with delight if I had oranges growing in my front yard.

  5. Sometimes (especially during Midwest winters like the current one – thunderstorms today!), I’ve wondered what it might be like to live in CA. Imagine growing houseplants OUTDOORS. And the idea of picking citrus right from a backyard tree is very appealing.

    • I know what you mean. I would think while we were out there that maybe I could like living out there. Then I spent some time in the traffic.

  6. Thank you for sharing your trip! So many familiar places. SoCal was a great place to grow up!

  7. It looks like you were blessed with good weather while in LA. It is fun seeing many of the plants I know as house plants growing so large outside, in gardens. It would be fun to see the sculptures. Fun to have one in the garden.

  8. Interesting to see a place similar to Australia, in fact Sydney could face similar transport problems before long. Although we have flown into LA I never realised there were snow-clad mountains nearby..
    …and I’ve never come across tamales…what are they? Tasty I guess.

    • Tamales are a Mexican dish, I’m guessing regional though I don’t know which region, which consist of a layer of corn meal dough (called masa) wrapped around a bit of filling (often spiced meat or cheese) and then wrapped in a corn husk and steamed. Google a photo, it’s hard to describe! They are not easy to make at home, unless you were taught by your Mexican grandmother. They are frequently eaten for Christmas, but in Mexico City we bought them from a street vendor. Very yummy. I say regional partly because we have a lot of Mexican food in Chicago, but not a lot of tamales, and I’m under the impression that it has to do with which region people are from.

      • Will look out for those .. We do have some Mexican food here but not as tasty sounding as

  9. Thank you for sharing the photos.

    Have you ever driven between Carmel-by-the-Sea and Pacific Grove/Monterey? It’s been 7 years since I did but it was a pretty drive. (I like PG and Monterey better than Carmel. My one time in LA I was astounded by the traffic. Yikes!)

  10. I grew up in Hollywood when people thought nothing about leaving their doors unlocked. That and a lot more in Los Angeles has changed. I think it’s called progress! In spite of the way many things used to be and aren’t any longer, it’s still a wonderful city and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Hope you and your family will return again.

  11. Sounds as if it was a good getaway for the holidays, with fine food and relaxing strolls around the neighbourhood… lovely to look into other people’s front gardens too – those plants in front of the yellow house are enormous compared with what I’ve seen of them before!

  12. Jason, your Danny looks very adult, it’s not surprisingly that he loves trains. I liked the library’s mural, it’s awesome.

  13. This is a great guide to L.A.-area attractions. I agree–it’s so fun to compare the home and neighborhood landscapings when visiting a new place. I’m always thrilled to see Bird of Paradise while traveling–it sure seems to like the S. Calif. climate.

  14. Fun to see (relatively) local sites through a visitor’s camera. Enjoyed all your photos very much!

  15. You saw lots of gardens! The sunshine is delightful to my eyes tired by relentless grey here. I think the grass is perhaps Stipa tenuissima

  16. Just looking at those front gardens and blue skies cheers me up. A lovely selection of photos. Those tools are astonishing! I cannot imagine how lovely it must be to grow oranges!
    Daniel always has me smiling, how cute he is, a dead ringer for you!xxx

  17. It has been a long time since I was in L.A. An orange tree right off the porch sounds lovely as we are in the middle of winter. In season, I can stroll out back here and eat all the blueberries, cherries, apples, pears, plums, grapes, blackberries, etc I can hold. Nothing like it!

    • I would love to have some fruit to pick fresh here – especially blueberries. Soil not acidic enough, though. Tried growing them in containers but not successfully.

  18. Did you check out the Venice beach canals? I’ve lived in LA for 2 years, and there is SO much to explore here:) It is kind of cold and wet during the winter months tho.

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