California: Monterey Bay Aquarium

Author Photographing Sardines at Open Seas. “The sea is as near as we come to another world.”

Sea Pen Display

Chambered Nautilus (cousin of the octopus)

Green Moray Eels

Bigfin Reef Squid

Lookdown Fish

Stone Scorpionfish (looking left)

Orange Cup Coral

Southern Sea Otter

Avocet (at least 26 years old)

Marbled Godwit (at least 21 years old)

Black Oystercatcher ( at least 24 years old)

Semipalmated Sandpiper (at least 20 years old)

Beautiful California Coast South of Monterey

We visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium at the end of February.  It is always a delight – one of the best aquariums we’ve ever seen!  It is extra special because of its beautiful location on the central California coast.  Although temporarily closed now because of the pandemic, you can visit virtually through these live cams:  https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams

Some of the birds at the aquarium are quite old  (https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/stories/the-aviarys-amazing-senior-citizens).  Each one was found injured and unable to be released back into the wild.  They have been happily living their lives in the aviary ever since.  I read that birdwatching and nature is good for the soul and health – agreed!  https://www.healthfitnessrevolution.com/top-10-health-benefits-of-bird-watching/

California: Filoli Gardens in Early Spring

White Flowering Fruit Tree and Daffodils

Cherub and Daffodils

Yellow Daffodils Blooming

White and Orange Daffodil Blooming

Pink Star Tulips

White Narcissus Flowers and Bird Bath

Majestic Tulip Tree in Bloom

Tulip Tree Flower Close-up

Red and White Camellia

Red Velvet Camellia

It seems like ages ago, but in February we enjoyed a trip to Filoli Gardens in Woodside, California (south of San Francisco).  It is one of the most beautiful gardens in the United States!  It is well worth a visit.  More info is at:  https://filoli.org/

California: Pink Beach!

Short Walk to Pfeiffer Beach through Monterey Cypress Trees

Walk North on Beach

Pink Diamond Patterns in Sand

Pink Sand Around Rocks

Seaweed at Water’s Edge

Sea Stack with Keyhole Arch

Pfeiffer Beach is a real gem tucked away at the end of Sycamore Canyon Road at Big Sur, California (south of Monterey).  This spectacular beach is famous for its pink sand, formed by manganese garnet crystals that have washed down from the cliffs above. Look for ever-changing patterns of increasing pink sand as you walk north along the beach.  A bonus to your walk is the rocky sea arch offshore – watch for the waves to come roaring through its keyhole arch.  Don’t miss this hidden secret!  Learn more at:   https://www.hikespeak.com/trails/pfeiffer-beach-big-sur/  

A previous post about Pfeiffer Beach is at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/big-sur-stunning-pink-sand-beach/

Scenic Golden Gate Bridge is the Best!

Golden Gate Bridge Approach Looking North

Golden Gate Bridge and Surfer as seen from Fort Point National Historic Site (also location of famous scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Vertigo)

Golden Gate Bridge in Infrared as seen from Fort Point National Historic Site

Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center Viewpoint

Golden Gate Bridge Walkway Looking North

Golden Gate Bridge Panorama of San Francisco Bay Area (click to enlarge)

Golden Gate Bridge Tower’s Art Deco Style

Golden Gate Bridge Art Deco Lightposts

Close-up of Golden Gate Bridge’s Art Deco Lamp

Golden Gate Bridge Historic Plaque

Golden Gate Bridge Span Cable and Wire Statistics

Close-up of Single Golden Gate Bridge Cable

Golden Gate Bridge as Viewed from the Water Looking North (tours from Pier 39)

Golden Gate Bridge Span as seen from Marin Headlands Looking South (at Battery Spencer)

Golden Gate Bridge Tower as seen from Marin Headlands (at Battery Spencer)

Richard and Pam (author) at Marin Headlands by Foggy Golden Gate Bridge

Whimsical Golden Gate Bridge and Dinosaurs Card

In February this year we made a return visit to San Francisco, California.  We left just before the Pandemic and lockdown occurred.  We look forward to the day when life returns to normal.  Meanwhile we’ll enjoy thinking about the good times we had and more to come (note all pictures can be clicked to enlarge).

The iconic Golden Gate Bridge first opened on May 27, 1937.  This suspension bridge is an engineering marvel that is 1.7 miles long and contains 80,000 miles of steel wire – enough to circle the Earth three times!  Painting the bridge is a never-ending job.  Read a fascinating story about it at:  https://www.citylab.com/life/2015/04/the-fascinating-neverending-job-of-painting-the-golden-gate-bridge/390453/

The U.S. Navy originally wanted to paint the bridge black with yellow stripes.  Others wanted to paint it aluminum grey to evoke the beauty of a dirigible airship.  Architect Irving Morrow decided to keep the bridge the same color (International Orange) as the original red primer on the steel.  He thought it blended well with the nearby hills, ocean, and sky throughout the seasons. 

San Francisco is famous for its fog.  It forms most often in summer when warm air flows over the cool Pacific Ocean.  Some visitors never see the bridge because of the dense fog!  Poets have described the fog as “moving art”.  Our time-lapse video of fog streaming past the Golden Gate Bridge can be viewed at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2012/05/27/our-best-video-of-the-golden-gate-bridge-and-fog-time-lapse-10x-speed/

San Francisco is consistently voted one of the top ten cities in the world by travelers. The “City by the Bay” has inspired the following quotes:

Billy Graham: “The Bay Area is so beautiful that I hesitate to preach about Heaven while I am here.”

Walter Cronkite: “Leaving San Francisco is like saying goodbye to an old sweetheart. You want to linger as long as possible.”

Julia Child: “It is simply a very romantic place…you couldn’t be anywhere else.”

Larry King: “The ultimate for me would be one perfect day in San Francisco. There’s no city like it anywhere.”

Rudyard Kipling: “San Francisco has only one drawback…it is hard to leave.”

Frank Sinatra: “I left my heart in San Francisco.”

And on a funny note, a famous quote attributed to Mark Twain is: “The coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco.”

You can read about the history and features of the Golden Gate Bridge at:  https://www.goldengate.org/bridge/history-research/

Huell Howser of California’s Gold has a must-see video about the Golden Gate Bridge and the men who work there – an absolute classic and one of my favorites:  https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/1993/12/10/golden-gate-bridge-californias-gold-407/

UCSC Arboretum: Unusual Flowers

Female Anna’s Hummingbird at Bridal Heath

Pink Poker Grevillea

Clusters of White Eucalyptus Flowers

Common Pagoda

Grevillea Robyn Gordon

Rose Coneflower

Bishop Tutu Protea

Allens Hummingbird on Protea Bud

The diversity of plants at the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum is amazing!  There are unusual flower shapes that you could never imagine.  The hummingbirds are especially abundant too – it is a photographer’s playground.  It is well worth a visit.  More info is at:  https://www.santacruz.org/a-stroll-through-the-arboretum/

Gorgeous Banksias!

Strawberry Banksia

California Quail on Showy Banksia

Anna’s Hummingbird by Silver Banksia

Golden Acorn Banksia

Teddy Bear Banksia

Candlestick Banksia

Popcorn Banksia

Popcorn Banksia Seedpod

“Hairy” Banksia Man Seedpod

Naughty Banksia Men Illustration in Australian Children’s Book by May Gibbs

Carved Popcorn Banksia Seedpod Vase

The banksias at the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum are gorgeous!  These Australian native wildflowers attract wildlife, and the woody seedpods are carved into vases and other gifts.  Popcorn banksias smell exactly like buttered popcorn!  Banksias range in size from shrubs to full grown trees.  More info is at:  https://arboretum.ucsc.edu/visit/garden/australia/index.html

Spectacular Pincushion Flowers!

Leucospermum cordifolium, Yellow Bird

Leucospermum Spider Portrait

Leucospermum Spider Pair

Leucospermum cordifolium (Perry’s Orange)

Leucospermum veldfire: Close-up of Ribbons

Leucospermum erubescens (natural “bouquet” of flowers at various stages of bloom)

Leucospermum Tango (closed bloom)

Leucospermum Tango (open bloom)

Leucospermum grandiflorum (Rainbow Pincushion)

Leucospermum reflexum luteum (Yellow Comet / Rocket Pincushion)

Leucospermum reflexum (Red Comet / Rocket Pincushion)

The pincushion flowers at the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum are spectacular!  These evergreen shrubs in the genus Leucospermum originated in South Africa.  Proteas are one of the Earth’s oldest families of flowering plants.  The flower structures are incredibly complex and interesting, and heavy nectar attracts birds and insects.  Learn more at:  https://arboretum.ucsc.edu/

California: Long Beach Aquarium

Bicolor Anthias

California Moray Eel

Clown Fish

Clown Triggerfish

Rockmover or Dragon Wrasse

Leafy Sea Dragon

Giant Green Anemones

Strawberry Anemones

Moon Jellies

Spotted Lagoon Jellies

Zebra Shark

Fin Whale

Pacific White-Sided Dolphins

The Aquarium of the Pacific is a gem in Long Beach, California.  The displays are wall to ceiling and cover a variety of habitats.  You can also go out on whale watching excursions by aquarium naturalists from the dock outside.  An exciting expansion of the aquarium is currently underway.  We definitely will return again!  More info is at:  http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/

California: Huntington Garden Favorites

Chinese Garden’s Scenic Lake

Tranquil Japanese Garden’s Weeping Willow Overhanging Bridge

Japanese Garden’s Entrance to Bamboo Forest Walkway

Historic Mexican Pincushion Garden

Mammillaria Pincushion Cactus with Pink Flowers

Hundreds of Globular Golden Barrel Cacti

Shapes of Barrel Cacti and Agave

Desert Garden’s Blooming Agave

California Praying Mantis on Red Hot Poker Flowers

Matchstick Bromeliad

Sundew Carnivorous Plant

Flock of Wild Red Crowned Parrots in Garden

Sweet Dog Statue Beside Camellia Flowers

Besides favorites detailed previously on roses and orchids at Huntington Gardens, we also enjoyed seeing the Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, and Desert Garden.  The plants and landscapes are stunning at this California treasure.  Some of the largest specimens were first planted in the 1920’s, and the golden barrel cacti collection is one of the largest in the world.  If you get lucky, you  might see a flock of wild red crowned parrots and hummingbirds too (read about urban parrots in the Los Angeles area at:  https://www.kcet.org/shows/earth-focus/creating-an-urban-ark-for-endangered-species-in-los-angeles). Our anticipated one day visit was not nearly enough, so we returned again a second day.  There are also multiple museums in the garden and so much more to see that is not detailed here.  If you would like to visit, more info is at:  http://www.huntington.org/

Huntington Gardens: Roses

Red and White Striped Rose

Vibrant Pink Rose

Pink and Cream Rose

Pink and Cream Rose

Lavender Rose

Peach Rose

Butterscotch Rose

Red Roses

Huntington Gardens’ historic rose garden contains over 1,400 cultivars covered in thousands of blooms.  Two beds are devoted exclusively to fragrant varieties – joy! Roses do exceptionally well in the area, which explains why Pasedena, California, is home to the annual Rose Parade every New Year’s Day.

Huntington Gardens: Orchids

Showy Lady Slipper Orchid

Pink Lady Slipper Orchid

Spotted Lady Slipper Orchid

Yellow Lady Slipper Orchid

Complex Orchids

Huntington Gardens in Pasedena, California, has gorgeous orchids on display in the Brody Botanical Center.  The variety, complexity, and colors of these beautiful plants are amazing!  Pictures of unusual orchid species are at: https://www.boredpanda.com/flowers-look-like-animals-people-monkeys-orchids-pareidolia/

 

California: Gondola Ride and Christmas Lights

Long Beach: Orange Sunset

Long Beach Marina: Pink Sunset

Sailboats and Full Moon at Sunset

Pam and Richard in Gondola

View of Canal from Gondola

Decorated House and Full Moon at Sunset

Santa House

Dolphin Lights

Dragon with Santa Hat

Decorated Houses and Tall Palm Tree

Candy Cane House

Christmas Trees in Water

Recently when we were in Long Beach, California, we went on a gondola ride through the canals looking at Christmas lights at sunset.  We rode in an authentic Venetian gondola under a full moon.  It was spectacular!   The Naples canals are among the top 10 places to see Christmas lights in the Los Angeles area.   When we were there in early December, it was very peaceful and quiet.  Close to the holiday it gets quite lively, and sometimes the residents give out hot chocolate and cookies.  Info about Gondola Getaway is at:  http://gondolagetawayinc.com/

Monterey Bay Aquarium is Great!

Striped Pyjama Squid

Scrawled Filefish

Sea Gooseberry

Orange Sea Nettles

Baja Tropical Reef Tank

Orange Garibaldi

Sea Otters Sleeping on Beach Nearby at Moss Landing

Sea Otters Returning to Water

Sea Otter and Sea Gull

Raft of Sea Otters

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a wonderful place to visit – it is one of the top aquariums in the country!  It is located on the beautiful California coast south of San Francisco.  Up to 2,000 gallons per minute of fresh sea water constantly flows through the exhibits.  

We especially enjoyed seeing a recent display featuring the striped pyjama squid.  These shy cuttlefish have never been shown in the United States before now.  More info is at:  https://montereybayaquarium.tumblr.com/post/138692614238/were-geeking-out-over-the-newest-addition-to-our

Animators from Pixar Studios visited the aquarium before animation began on the movie “Finding Dory”.  They studied octopus, sea otters, and shorebirds in detail.  That attention to detail shines through in the film, and hopefully inspires a new generation of children to love the ocean too!

Palm Springs: Top 10 U.S. Places to Travel

Greater Palm Springs Area

Desert Oasis

Looking Up at Oasis Fan Palms

Golden Barrel Cacti

Roadrunner in Desert

Close-up of Roadrunner Face

Anna’s Hummingbird at Mexican Honeysuckle in Desert Garden

Greater Palm Springs was voted one of the top ten places to travel in the United States by Lonely Planet in 2017.  We visited in early spring and loved it as usual!

Palm Springs: Giant Wind Turbines

Wind Turbines by Mount San Jacinto

Trio of Wind Turbines

Wind Turbines in Desert Landscape

San Gorgonio Pass in Black and White

The San Gorgonio Pass near Palm Springs is one of the windiest places in California.  The area is famous for its huge wind farms containing over 4,000 wind turbines.  The largest blades measure half the length of a football field.  Currently engineers are working on a prototype that would have blades twice the length of a football field mounted on a tower taller than the Empire State Building!  Another post is at:  https://naturetime.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/california-palm-springs-wind-turbines/

Desert Art: Mirror House

Mirage House of Polished Steel

Kaleidoscopic Mirrored Interior

View of Palm Springs from Inside the House

Outside of House Reflecting Wind Turbines in Distance

Mirrored House Angles

Mirrored Corner Angles

Recently we enjoyed seeing some of the Desert X art installations on view throughout the Coachella Valley in Palm Springs, California (https://www.desertx.org/).  Overall the exhibition runs February 25 – April 20, 2017, but this exhibit will remain open until October 31st.

Artist Doug Aitken created this mirrored home of polished steel called “Mirage”.  Environment and home are blended together in this unique kaleidoscopic structure.  The view is said to be especially stunning at sunset and in moonlight.  This was a favorite and a real treat to see on the last day of our trip!

Desert Art: Mirrored Pillars

Curve of Mirrored Pillars

Pillar Row

Pillars Reflecting Sky

Authors’ Portraits in Pillars

When we visited Palm Springs recently, we were happy to see some of the Desert X art installations on view throughout the Coachella Valley (https://www.desertx.org/).  The exhibition runs February 25 – April 20, 2017. 

These pictures show a ring of mirrored pillars called “The Circle of Land and Sky” by artist Phillip K. Smith III.  I think it would be fun to have a couple of mirrored pillars at home in the flower garden!

California: Spectacular Filoli Gardens!

Birdbath with Pink Camellia Flowers

Layered Delicate Pink Camellia Flower

White Camellia Flower with Yellow Center

Hot Pink Camellia Flower with Yellow Center

Red and White Camellia Flower

Bench by Yellow Daffodils and Red Camellia Tree

Yellow and White Daffodil Pair

Orange and White Daffodil

Field of Yellow Daffodils

Pink Tulip Magnolia Tree and Bench

Pink Tulip Magnolia Tree Flower

Branch of White Magnolia Flowers

White Magnolia Flower Pair

Bunny Statue by Flowering Tulips and Hyacinths

Filoli Gardens (south of San Francisco, California) is spectacular in spring!  The blooming flowers put on a beautiful show.  It is one of the top gardens in the United States and a must-see.  These pictures were taken in February just a week after it opened for the season.  In full bloom already were camellias, daffodils, and magnolia trees.  More info is at:  http://filoli.org/

California Hummingbirds

Male Anna’s Hummingbird’s Spectacular Pink Gorget Feathers

Female Anna’s Hummingbird on Nest

Two Tiny Eggs in Nest

Anna’s Hummingbird at Grevillea Flower

Costa’s Hummingbird’s Purple Gorget

On a recent trip to California we got lucky and saw some spectacular hummingbirds.  They are a favorite!  Hummingbirds are incredibly beautiful and full of personality.  In flight their wings beat at least 50 times per second, which sounds like a buzz when they zoom past you in the garden.  Forward flight speed reaches 30 mph, and dive speeds reach 60 mph! 

Hummingbird nests are constructed of plant material bound together with sticky, stretchy spider webs.  Lichens are attached to the outside of the nest for camouflage.  Mother hummingbirds lay two eggs.  Although each egg is less than ½ inch long and smaller than a jellybean, they represent as much as 10% of her body weight.  These little flying jewels are precious!  More fun facts about hummingbirds are at:  https://www.thespruce.com/fun-facts-about-hummingbirds-387106   A live cam on Bella’s current active hummingbird nest is at: http://explore.org/live-cams/player/bella-hummingbird-nest

San Diego: Cabrillo National Monument and Point Loma Lighthouse

Rocky Tide Pool Area on Coast

Rocky Tide Pool Area on Coast

Beautiful View of San Diego from  Cabrillo National Monument

Beautiful View of San Diego from
Cabrillo National Monument

Statue of Cabrillo

Statue of Cabrillo

Point Loma Lighthouse

Point Loma Lighthouse

3rd Order Fresnel Lens In Lighthouse Museum

3rd Order Fresnel Lens In Lighthouse Museum

Prismatic Colors of Fresnel Lens

Prismatic Colors of Fresnel Lens

Overlook of Gray Whale "Highway"

Overlook of Gray Whale “Highway”

A popular place to visit near San Diego is Cabrillo National Monument.   At the park’s southern end are some of the most accessible tidepools in southern California.  The rocky trails there overlooking the Pacific Ocean are very scenic.  Nearby stands a statue of Juan Cabrillo overlooking beautiful San Diego Bay.  It commemorates his landing there in 1542.  At the top of Point Loma Peninsula stands the old Point Loma Lighthouse.  It was in active service from 1855-1891, but was retired because the light was often above the fog line and was thus invisible.  A short stroll from the lighthouse leads to the Gray Whale Overlook.  It is an excellent place to watch for whale spouts in winter. 

Emma Minter, who lived at the lighthouse as a child in 1878, said:  “What had I for playthings?  The nicest in the world!  Pretty shells, colored stones, kelp babies.  It seems to me that I can remember every day of my young life there.”  

Information on visiting Cabrillo National Monument is at:  https://www.nps.gov/cabr/index.htm

Los Angeles: Disney Concert Hall

Disney Concert Hall

Disney Concert Hall

Understated Sign

Understated Sign

Soaring Architecture

Soaring Architecture

Narrow Passageway Through “Sails”

Narrow Passageway Through “Sails”

Photographer Reflections

Photographer Reflections

Glass Reception Desk

Glass Reception Desk

Lobby’s Wooden Support Columns Mimic Trees (designed to hide structural/mechanical equipment)

Lobby’s Wooden Support Columns Mimic Trees (designed to hide structural/mechanical equipment)

Pre-Concert Lecture Hall for “Talks with Maestro"

Pre-Concert Lecture Hall for “Talks with Maestro”

Concert Hall’s Massive Pipe Organ (nicknamed “Hurricane Mama”)

Concert Hall’s Massive Pipe Organ (nicknamed “Hurricane Mama”)

Close-up of Unique Curved Pipes

Close-up of Unique Curved Pipes

48-Foot Mural “Blue” by Peter Alexander

48-Foot Mural “Blue” by Peter Alexander

Rose Fountain Centerpiece in Garden Outside

Rose Fountain Centerpiece in Garden Outside

“A Rose for Lilly” Commissioned by Mrs. Disney's Children and Grandchildren

“A Rose for Lilly” Commissioned by Mrs. Disney’s Children and Grandchildren

Close-up of Fountain’s Delft Porcelain Mosaic

Close-up of Fountain’s Delft Porcelain Mosaic

Coral Tree in Blue Ribbon Garden

Coral Tree in Blue Ribbon Garden

Hong Kong Orchid Tree Near Triangular Doorway

Hong Kong Orchid Tree Near Triangular Doorway

Hong Kong Orchid Tree Flower

Hong Kong Orchid Tree Flower

When we visited Los Angeles, California, we attended a classical concert at the Disney Concert Hall.  The acoustics were incredible!  We sat front row center – so close to the musicians that we could almost read their music.  There is nothing quite like being that close to a full orchestra – it is unforgettable!  Lillian Disney commissioned the building in tribute to her late husband Walt to honor his dedication to the arts.

Before the LA Philharmonics concert, we went on an architectural tour of the building.  It was designed by Frank Gehry, who said the building’s billowing shape was meant to evoke a sailing ship.  Initially the stainless steel exterior was buffed to a mirror-like shine, but the shiny metal reflected too much heat, so the surface was changed to matte.

Inside the concert hall the acoustics are absolute perfection.  Douglas fir wood lines the walls and ceiling of the auditorium.  The cushions of the chairs are engineered to reflect sound in the same way whether people are seated in them or not.  The organ at the front of the hall contains 6,134 uniquely curved pipes (its nickname is “Hurricane Mama”).  The size of the pipes range from smaller than a pencil to as big as a telephone pole.

Outside the building, visitors can enjoy the public Blue Ribbon Garden (up a left staircase to the second level from the street).  The lush garden is a nice counterpoint to the modernistic building.  A centerpiece of the garden is a fountain designed for Lillian as a tribute from her children and grandchildren.  Its flower shape reflects her fondness for roses, and its composition reflects her passion for Delft porcelain.  Designer Frank Gehry commissioned 200 Delft vases from Holland at a cost of $34,000 to produce the thousands of pieces needed for the sculpture’s mosaic.  It took a team of 8 artists over 4 months to complete the lovely fountain.

When speaking of his work, Gehry said “Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.”

A fun TV show about the Disney Concert Hall by Huell Howser of “California’s Gold” is at:  https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/2007/09/11/disney-concert-hall-downtown-111/

More info is at:  http://www.laphil.com/visit/tours

Long Beach: Art Deco Queen Mary

Queen Mary Beside Modern Day Cruise Ship (left)

Queen Mary Beside Modern Day Cruise Ship (left)

View on Top Deck of Ship

View on Top Deck of Ship

Queen Mary's Triple Stacks

Queen Mary’s Triple Stacks

Vintage Luggage Label

Vintage Luggage Label

Shipyard Room:  World's Longest LEGO Model Ship

Shipyard Room: World’s Longest LEGO Model Ship

Polished Brass Equipment of Helm

Polished Brass Equipment of Helm

Hydraulic Steering Wheel Turns 40-Ton Rudder

Hydraulic Steering Wheel Turns 40-Ton Rudder

Wireless Room (note antique microphone and inset rotary dial telephone)

Wireless Room (note antique microphone and inset rotary dial telephone)

Ship of Woods (56 species)

Ship of Woods (56 species)

Green Onyx Art Deco Style Clock

Green Onyx Art Deco Style Clock

Vintage Queen Mary Doll

Vintage Queen Mary Doll

Vintage Cunard Race Card (Neptune with his Trident Keeping Score)

Vintage Cunard Race Card (Neptune with his Trident Keeping Score)

Russian Attack Submarine Scorpion (berthed for tours beside ship)

Russian Attack Submarine Scorpion (berthed for tours beside ship)

The Queen Mary is an iconic ship that was built in 1934.   At the time she was the fastest and most luxurious ship in the world!  The beloved ocean liner sailed from 1936-1967 and is now permanently docked at Long Beach, California. Famous stars on her passenger list included Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Elizabeth Taylor, Clark Gable, and Walt Disney.

The Queen Mary’s nickname is the “Ship of Woods”.   Fifty-six different kinds of wood are on display throughout her decks, including six that are now extinct.  Her grand art deco style makes her the perfect location to host the region’s annual Art Deco Festival: http://www.queenmary.com/events/art-deco-festival/.

A big celebration is planned today, May 26, 2016, for the 80th anniversary of Queen Mary’s maiden voyage:http://www.queenmary.com/events/80th-anniversary-celebration/.   

In April 2016 big plans were announced to bring her back to her former glory: 
http://la.curbed.com/2016/4/20/11467598/long-beach-queen-mary-renovation and to rejuvenate the entire area: http://la.curbed.com/2016/3/24/11299792/aquarium-pacific-long-beach-expansion.   Can’t wait to see the results! 

Los Angeles: Beautiful Getty Villa

Centerpiece of Collection:  Temple of Herakles Room

Centerpiece of Collection: Temple of Herakles Room

Intricate Yellow Floor Composed of 4,000 Separate Pieces of Marble

Intricate Yellow Floor Composed of 4,000 Separate Pieces of Marble

Mosaic Floor's Spinning Shield Motif with Head of Medusa in Center

Mosaic Floor’s Spinning Shield Motif with Head of Medusa in Center

Cube Design of Trompe l’oeil (fool-the-eye) Flooring

Cube Design of Trompe l’oeil (fool-the-eye) Flooring

Illusionist Vanishing Point Colonnade

Illusionist Vanishing Point Colonnade

Colonnade Ceiling Featuring Carved Wooden Flowers

Colonnade Ceiling Featuring Carved Wooden Flowers

Mosaic Circular Seating in Outer Peristyle Garden by Reflecting Pool

Mosaic Circular Seating in Outer Peristyle Garden by Reflecting Pool

Mosaic and Shell Fountain in East Garden

Mosaic and Shell Fountain in East Garden

Close-up of Shell Fountain

Close-up of Shell Fountain

Stemmed Cup with Seashells

Stemmed Cup with Seashells

Roman Fish Flask

Roman Fish Flask

Greek Pitcher with Lions and Panthers

Greek Pitcher with Lions and Panthers

Greek Mixing Vessel with Horses and Youths

Greek Mixing Vessel with Horses and Youths

Roman Gold Coin Belt with Emeralds, Garnets, and Sapphire

Roman Gold Coin Belt with Emeralds, Garnets, and Sapphire

Blue and Burgundy Ribbed Bowls with White Trails

Blue and Burgundy Ribbed Bowls with White Trails

Roman Tombstone Honoring Pet Dog Helena (150-200 AD)

Roman Tombstone Honoring Pet Dog Helena (150-200 AD)

The beautiful Getty Villa features antiquities of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria (6,500 BC – 400 AD).  It is tucked into a canyon along the California coast at Malibu/Pacific Palisades.  The Villa’s design was inspired by a 2000-year-old Roman country house that overlooked the Bay of Naples near Pompeii.  Many of the plants, trees, and fragrant flowers in the garden are the exact same cultivars that grew in the first century after Christ.  We visited the Getty Villa on the last day of our vacation and are so glad we did.  The artifacts and location are stunning – it makes for a wonderful day.  And the Café serves delicious Mediterranean food!  More info is at:  http://www.getty.edu/visit/villa/

Los Angeles: Getty Center and Gardens

Getty Center Campus

Getty Center Campus

Building's Curvilinear Design

Building’s Curvilinear Design

Giant Travertine Slab of Fossilized Reeds, Mosses, and Algae

Giant Travertine Slab of Fossilized Reeds, Mosses, and Algae

Travertine’s Fossilized Crystallized Bubbles Formed in Ancient Hot Springs

Travertine’s Fossilized Crystallized Bubbles Formed in Ancient Hot Springs

Natural Ravine and Tree-Lined Walkway of Stream Garden

Natural Ravine and Tree-Lined Walkway of Stream Garden

Blooming Bougainvillea Arbors

Blooming Bougainvillea Arbors

Central Garden Overlook of Getty Logo formed by Floating Azalea Maze

Central Garden Overlook of Getty Logo formed by Floating Azalea Maze

Flower Bowl Garden

Flower Bowl Garden

Waterfall into Floating Azalea Pool

Waterfall into Floating Azalea Pool

South Promontory Cactus Garden

South Promontory Cactus Garden

Close-up of Barrel Cactus

Close-up of Barrel Cactus

Van Gogh’s Irises Sold for $53.9 million in 1987

Van Gogh’s Irises Sold for $53.9 million in 1987

When we visited Los Angeles, California, last summer we toured the Getty Center and Gardens.  The $1.3 billion Center opened in 1997 and sits on a hilltop overlooking the Los Angeles basin.  Featured on campus are the Getty Art Museum, outdoor sculptures and fountains, the Central Garden, and the Getty Research Institute.  Buildings are covered in white Italian travertine that comes from the same quarry used to build the Roman Coliseum (look for fossilized plants, marine life, and crystallized bubbles in the stone).  The architecture is stunning.  On a clear day the view extends from the mountains to the sea.  Indoor spaces emphasize the use of natural light.  Masterpiece paintings on display include those by Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Edgar Degas.  

The ever-changing Central Garden is so exquisitely planned down to the last detail that it is registered as a piece of art in the Getty collection.  Even the way the soil is tilled is part of the master plan created by artist and designer Robert Irwin.  A fun television show called “California’s Gold” by Huell Howser features details and interviews about the garden: https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/2008/01/13/getty-garden-californias-gold-10006/

The Getty Center was an all day excursion that far exceeded our expectations – it is a very impressive and amazing place to walk around.  It is a monument to both nature and culture.  And besides the parking fee, the Center is free!   Don’t miss this gem in Los Angeles.  More info is at:  http://www.getty.edu/visit/center/­­­­­

UPDATE:  The Getty Center escaped damage when a wildfire raged on a hillside nearby in early December 2017.  An interesting article about how the Getty Center was constructed to withstand fire and protect the art is at:  https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/12/arts/design/getty-center-fire-evacuation.html?smid=tw-share.  

An interesting article about fire-chasing beetles (genus Melanophila) is at:  https://baynature.org/article/fire-chasing-beetles-make-appearance/  Charcoal beetles are known by firefighters to follow smoke – they encounter them most often during cleanup operations when the beetles swarm out of burned out stumps.  There are even reports from the 1940s of beetles swarming people smoking en masse at California football stadiums!

Catalina Island: Beautiful Tile Pottery

Orange Garibaldi Fish

Orange Garibaldi Fish Tile

Seal in Kelp Forest Tile

Seal in Kelp Forest Tile

Boat Spotting Flying Fish Tile

Boat Spotting Flying Fish Tile

Flying Fish Tile

Flying Fish Tile

Sea Lions Tile

Sea Lions Tile

Humpback Whales Tile

Humpback Whales Tile

Pelican at Sunset Tile

Pelican at Sunset Tile

Yellow Birds Tile

Yellow Birds Tile

Catalina Casino Tile

Catalina Casino Tile

Avalon, California, is famous for its historic Catalina tile. Pottery and tiles from 1927-1937 were made in Avalon from the island’s red clay and then glazed with local minerals. Vintage Catalina tiles are now a hot collector’s item. Tiles were decorated in four primary colors: Catalina blue, Descanso green, Toyon red, and Manchu yellow. Tiles often feature island scenes and animals, along with patterns and geometric shapes. Beautiful historic tiles and murals can be viewed throughout town, and reproductions are available in gift shops. In 2013 the City of Avalon celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Catalina Island’s Crown Jewel: 1929 Casino

Walkway to Casino

Walkway to Casino

Entrance to Casino

Entrance to Casino

Close-up of 18-foot-tall Catalina Tile Mermaid

Close-up of 18-foot-tall Catalina Tile Mermaid

Black Walnut Paneled Lobby with Seashell Theme Chairs

Black Walnut Paneled Lobby with Seashell Theme Chairs

22-Karat Gold Leaf Stars on Ceiling

22-Karat Gold Leaf Stars on Ceiling

Art Deco Avalon Theater (seats 1,154 people)

Art Deco Avalon Theater (seats 1,154 people)

Looking Toward Entrance Doors Inside Theater

Looking Toward Entrance Doors Inside Theater

1929 Exotic Peacock Mural in Theater

1929 Exotic Peacock Mural in Theater

California Desert Landscape Mural with Stylized Leaping Antelopes in Theater

California Desert Landscape Mural with Stylized Leaping Antelopes in Theater

Reproduction in 22-Karat Gold Leaf of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus Above Stage

Reproduction in 22-Karat Gold Leaf of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus Above Stage

Close-up of Intricate Design of Proscenium Arch Above Stage

Close-up of Intricate Design of Proscenium Arch Above Stage

1929 Page Pipe Organ in Theater (one of three in world and still in use today)

1929 Page Pipe Organ in Theater (one of three in world and still in use today)

Theater Projectors / Original Editing Room where Cecil B. DeMille Viewed Daily Island Movie Shoots

Theater Projectors / Original Editing Room where Cecil B. DeMille Viewed Daily Island Movie Shoots

Benny Goodman Poster

Benny Goodman Poster

World’s Largest Circular Ballroom (can hold over 6,000 people and has no support beams)

World’s Largest Circular Ballroom (can hold over 6,000 people and has no support beams)

Looking Straight Up at Tiffany Chandelier in Ballroom

Looking Straight Up at Tiffany Chandelier in Ballroom

Riding a Dolphin Design in Sterling Silver Leaf in Ballroom

Riding a Dolphin Design in Sterling Silver Leaf in Ballroom

Romance Promenade Overlooking Avalon Harbor

Romance Promenade Overlooking Avalon Harbor

Casino Fish Bar

Casino Fish Bar

Lyrics to Avalon, Sung by Al Jolson in 1920

Lyrics to Avalon, Sung by Al Jolson in 1920

Catalina’s historic Casino is the crown jewel of Avalon, California. Its name means “gathering place” or “entertainment” in Italian (it never hosted gambling). The Casino was built in 1929 by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley and features the world’s largest circular ballroom. Benny Goodman’s Big Band music was broadcast live from there to a nationwide audience in the 1930s and 1940s. Movie stars including Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Cary Grant, and more visited the Casino during that era. The ballroom is still in use today.  

The Casino reflects its island location through designs and furnishings with sea themes. The murals were painted over 3 months’ time by John Gabriel Beckman in 1929 (he had previously worked on murals at Grauman’s Chinese Theater). Murals outside above the main entrance feature ocean life, kelp forests, and an 18-foot tall Catalina tile mermaid. Murals inside the art deco Avalon Theater reflect California’s early history and environment. The Avalon Theater was used as a model to design the Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The architecture of the Casino is amazing, and the setting is stunning!    (Click on any image for enlargement and more detailed information.)

Catalina Island: Wrigley Botanic Garden – Amazing Cactus!

Photographing the Garden

Photographing the Garden

Photographing 80 year old Barrel Cactus

Photographing 80 year old Barrel Cactus

Trail Past Cacti and Succulents

Trail Past Cacti and Succulents

Cactus Garden

Cactus Garden

Tropical Aloe (Quiver Tree)

Tropical Aloe (Quiver Tree)

Stone Aloe

Stone Aloe

Blooming Pachypodium

Blooming Pachypodium

Barrel Cactus "Face"

Barrel Cactus “Face”

Heart Shaped Opuntia Cactus Pad

Heart Shaped Opuntia Cactus Pad

Wrigley Memorial

Wrigley Memorial

View Down Canyon to Pacific from Wrigley Memorial

View Down Canyon to Pacific from Wrigley Memorial

Tile Arch of Memorial

Tile Arch of Memorial

Close-up of Tile Arch

Close-up of Tile Arch

Beautiful Catalina Tile on Memorial Walls

Beautiful Catalina Tile on Memorial Walls

Catalina Mule Deer

Catalina Mule Deer

One of our favorite activities at Catalina Island was visiting the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden. The idea for the 37-acre garden came from chewing gum magnate William Wrigley’s wife Ada in 1935. She wanted to showcase a Desert Plant Collection. Many of the original cacti and succulents still thrive in the garden today. New plantings are focused on those unique to the Channel Islands – many are extremely rare or endangered.

The Wrigley Memorial contains beautiful examples of locally made Catalina tile. The memorial sits on a hill overlooking the Pacific.   Wrigley’s greatest legacy was his vision to protect most of Catalina Island in its natural state for future generations to enjoy. Over 88% of the island remains undeveloped and is under management by the Catalina Island Conservancy. More info is at: www.catalinaconservancy.org/index.php?s=visit&p=Wrigley_memorial_and_botanic_garden

Catalina Island: Flying Fish!

Historic Catalina Flying Fish Tour Boat Blanche W

Historic Catalina Flying Fish Tour Boat Blanche W

Vintage Spotlights

Vintage Spotlights

Vintage Flying Fish Spotting Postcard

Vintage Flying Fish Spotting Postcard

Vintage Catalina Flying Fish Postcard

Vintage Catalina Flying Fish Postcard

Summer Flying Fish Festival Logo

Summer Flying Fish Festival Logo

1915 Postcard Featuring Child Feeding Old Ben the Sea Lion at Dock

1915 Postcard Featuring Child Feeding Old Ben the Sea Lion at Dock

The waters offshore Catalina Island deliver a special treat to visitors in summer – the chance to view flying fish at night. We went out on the historic wooden boat Blanche W. built in 1924. The boat was named after chewing gum magnate William Wrigley’s first granddaughter, and features open air mahogany benches in the back. Spotlights (vintage World War One, 40-million candle-power) mounted on the front of the boat were used to scan the water for fish. At one point we watched a pelican join in the fun by diving for fish when they jumped out of the water. What a memorable night! A wonderful TV show about Catalina’s flying fish by Huell Howser of “California’s Gold” is at:  https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/1999/08/01/flying-fish-californias-gold-1009/

Catalina Island: Underwater Tour

Semi-Submersible Tour

Semi-Submersible Tour

Underwater Viewing

Underwater Viewing

Abundant Fish by Windows

Abundant Fish by Windows

Kelp Bass

Kelp Bass

Bright Orange Garibaldi

Bright Orange Garibaldi

Santa Catalina Island Kelp Forest Creatures Identification Guide

Santa Catalina Island Kelp Forest Creatures Identification Guide

When we visited Catalina Island, we went on an underwater semi-submersible tour (other ways to view sea life include snorkeling, diving, and glass bottom kayaking). Numerous marine preserves surround the island and protect vast numbers of fish. Our favorite fish was the orange garibaldi – they are very feisty and often approach divers (learn more at http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/fishes/garibaldi). The fun part of the tour was never knowing what we’d see next!

California: Beautiful Catalina Island

View of Avalon from Hilltop

View of Avalon from Hilltop

Avalon Harbor

Avalon Harbor

Eagle Statue at Catalina Ferry Terminal

Eagle Statue at Catalina Ferry Terminal

Catalina Sea Life Tile Mural

Catalina Sea Life Tile Mural

Historic Catalina Tile Fountain

Historic Catalina Tile Fountain

Allen's Hummingbird

Allen’s Hummingbird

Vintage 1930s Catalina Luggage Label

Vintage 1930s Catalina Luggage Label

Catalina Island has been famous as an island getaway for southern Californians for over 100 years.  Early advertising boasted “In all the world, no trip like this!”  In 1957 the Four Preps sang “Twenty-six miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is a-waitin’ for me”.  Dick Clark dubbed it the first surfer song, and Brian Wilson said it was a major influence on the Beach Boys.  A fun LA Times article about the song is at:  http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-ca-socal15jul15-story.html.

The maritime distance from the Los Angeles mainland to Catalina Island is actually 22.3 miles, which is easily traversed these days by high speed ferry.  In 1894 messages were sent there via Carrier Pigeon Service.  Notes were printed on tiny oilskin squares, rolled up, and placed into little canisters on pigeon legs.  Within an hour a pigeon could complete the ocean crossing and deliver the message – twice as fast as steamships at the time!  By 1902 the service ended when wireless messaging became available.  We were charmed by the island’s beauty and landscape.  Visitor information is at:  http://www.visitcatalinaisland.com/.

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