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

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.)

California: Palm Springs Art Museum

Your Dog Fiberglass Statue

Your Dog Fiberglass Statue

Sputnik-Style Starburst Chandelier

Sputnik-Style Starburst Chandelier

Golden Rain

Golden Rain

Acoma-Hopi Seed Jar

Acoma-Hopi Seed Jar

Rattlesnake and Desert Iguana Basket

Rattlesnake and Desert Iguana Basket

Paiute Beaded Basket

Paiute Beaded Basket

Navajo Yeibeichai Rug with Female Dancers

Navajo Yeibeichai Rug with Female Dancers

Driftwood Bronze Horse

Driftwood Bronze Horse

Picasso Owl

Picasso Owl

Twin 6-Foot Bronze Hearts in Outdoor Sculpture Garden

Twin 6-Foot Bronze Hearts in Outdoor Sculpture Garden

Costa's Hummingbird at Red Salvia in Dining Courtyard

Costa’s Hummingbird at Red Salvia in Dining Courtyard

We always enjoy visiting the Palm Springs Art Museum in Southern California. There is a wonderful variety of items on display, and it is delightful dining outside beside cacti and hummingbirds. Info about visiting the museum is at: http://www.psmuseum.org/

Nature at Alcatraz Island National Park

Fog Bank Flowing Over Alcatraz

Alcatraz Island - "The Rock" Front Side

Alcatraz Island – “The Rock” Front Side

Alcatraz Island - "The Rock" Back Side

Alcatraz Island – “The Rock” Back Side

Western Gull

Western Gull

Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron

Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron

Pigeon Guillemot

Pigeon Guillemot

Beautiful Peach Rose

Beautiful Peach Rose

Gorgeous Calla Lily

Gorgeous Calla Lily

Succulent Garden

Succulent Garden

Alcatraz Island National Park is San Francisco’s number one tourist attraction.  Most people visit “The Rock” to learn about its role as a Federal Penitentiary housing criminals such as Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly (1934-1963).  But some visitors come for a different reason – they come to see its historic gardens and nesting sea bird colonies in spring. 

The gardens were important to everyone living on the island.  Park rangers say the gardens demonstrate the importance of plants to the human spirit.  More info is at:  http://www.alcatrazgardens.org/index.php   A self-guiding brochure of the gardens is at:  http://www.alcatrazgardens.org/pdf/AZ%20Garden_05_12.pdf

Sea birds nest on the island from February – September.  Birds that breed on the island include California and Western Gulls, Pigeon Guillemot, Brandt’s Cormorants, Black-Crowned Night Herons, and Snowy Egrets.  A brochure on the “Waterbirds of Alcatraz” is at:  http://www.nps.gov/alca/naturescience/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=388749

Sea Lions at San Francisco’s Pier 39

Sea Lion Statue at Pier 39

Sea Lion Statue at Pier 39

Sign Pointing to Sea Lions

Sign Pointing to Sea Lions

Sea Lions on Floating Docks

Sea Lions on Floating Docks

Sea Lions Sleeping

Sea Lions Sleeping

Sea Lion Hello

Sea Lion Hello

Sea lions are quite a tourist attraction at San Francisco’s Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf.  The animals first showed up in 1989, and have made their home there ever since.  Sea lion numbers rise and fall with the seasons and food supply.  Activity is lowest in summer, when most of the sea lions migrate south for breeding season.  The animals are endlessly entertaining.  Visitors always laugh when they watch them!  Imagine yourself there with the cool fog on your face,  the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, and these raucous sea lions in front of you.  Adding to the ambiance are the deep booms of a fog horn and sea gulls calling overhead – what fun!  A live cam is at:  http://www.pier39.com/home/the-sea-lion-story/sea-lion-webcam/   

Killdeer Nest at Matanzas Creek Winery and Lavender Gardens

Killdeer Distraction Display

Killdeer Distraction Display

Killdeer Eggs in Nest

Killdeer Eggs in Nest

Matanzas Creek Wishing Well

Matanzas Creek Wishing Well

Lavender Flowers

Lavender Flowers

View of Matanzas Creek Lavender Gardens

View of Matanzas Creek Lavender Gardens

Killdeer nests are a simple depression scraped out of the ground with added bits of sticks, grass, rocks, or shells.  If a predator gets too close, killdeer perform a distraction display.  We knew we were near a nest when this mother killdeer pretended to have a broken-wing – the performance was quite convincing!  We didn’t want to upset her, so we quickly walked away in the other direction.  Just like that she “recovered” and ran back to the 4 eggs safely tucked in her nest.  She couldn’t have picked a more scenic place to raise her family – right in the middle of the lavender gardens at the Matanzas Creek Winery in Sonoma County, California.  Info on visiting is at:  http://www.matanzascreek.com/

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: Owl Painting

San Francisco MOMA Owl Painting

San Francisco MOMA Owl Painting

When we visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, I fell in love with one piece of art in particular by Joseph Cornell from 1957. The painting features an owl and is called “For Sale”.  The delightful text reads:
“FOR SALE. Sequestered bower – numerous compartments, look-outs, guest rooms, cozy nooks (feather-lined), pine-scented lounge, ivy-covered observatory for early dawn views and romantic sunsets, cheese cellar, moss-lined alcoves with dripping water and large variety of snails, cool storage, chalet-view of valley, bird’s eye view of old chateau inhabited by storks, aquarium in base of trunk with rare deep forest specimens, salamander’s crannies, violet-banked approaches, musical waterfalls, natural mineral specimens, and easy walking distance to enchanted lake.”

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