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An (Almost) Los Angeles Weekend

March 19-22, 2015
Written March 21+

Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,
This is the story of our weekend in LA, or, more precisely, in Pasadena, Sierra Madre and Azusa.  The target event is a 70th birthday party for Edie, Marianne's cousin, but we are taking the opportunity to spend time with Bonny, another cousin and a veteran of a Pommersfelden visit.

d150319_02_la_route.jpgThursday, after yet another quick trip to the Kaiser Medical Facility for one more blood-letting, we headed south.  We have now driven through the south San Joaquin Valley two or three times, and it remains pretty plain.  Miles and miles of orchards, vineyards, and agricultural communities.  It is a little nicer now that the fields are turning green, but not one of the roads that maps mark with green highlight.

After a couple hours of driving, and an hour-long lunch stop, we hit the famous Grapevine hills and pass into the Los Angeles valley.  Shortly after, we hit the famous Interstate 210 (locally ALWAYS called "The 210") traffic.  No traffic pictures.  Use your imagination of miles and miles of almost-parked cars.
Famous Grapevine - up and down
Bonny welcomed us in Sierra Madre with great hospitality, especially since we had told her of our recently adopted diet regime that eliminated most of the treats she had prepared.  (No wine, carbs, and sweets for us for the time being.)  We spent a pleasant evening, catching up.


d150320_00_daytrip.jpgWe had a full day to see local sights.  That's about 200 too-few to do a decent tourist job, but still a path that took us across all of Pasadena. We will have to return.

d150320_04_route.jpgStaying nearby, we started with the Huntington Library Gardens and Art Gallery, where Bonny volunteers with kids' garden programs.  Her volunteer badge allowed us in, free and early, a nice benefit.  Marianne and I really did not know just how large "The Huntington" is (207 acres) nor how extensive the gardens themselves are (120 acres).  We covered maybe two-thirds of the gardens and did a quick pass through the Art Gallery.  This took three or four hours of hard work, and we seemed to just touch the surface.  We will have to return.  

In the course of our garden walk, I took way too many pictures.  Sorry, but I just can't pass up the colors. Then we hit the Japanese and Chinese gardens, filled with wonderful plantings and picture-worthy architecture.  More pictures.  The Japanese bonsai exhibit required a bunch of pictures all by itself.   Zoom quickly or slowly past, as you wish.

Next, we went over to the Huntington Art Gallery and Museum.  In 1911 Henry Huntington, a famous railroad magnate, built his home as a western retreat and two years later he married Arabella, his uncle's widow and a clear influence on the house and garden even earlier.
The first floor remains decorated as the Huntingtons left it, with opulent furniture and a part of the Huntington Library.  Most of the Library, reportedly 9 million items,  is stored or displayed elsewhere on the grounds.  We need to return.
Upstairs are galleries housing Arabella's collection of mostly-European art.  The most famous may be  Thomas Gainsborough's "Blue Boy" and, its display partner, Thomas Lawrence's "Pinkie" - two among hundreds of European paintings. We passed by all very quickly.  We need to return.

After lunch and hours at the Huntington, Bonny took us on a quick driving tour of Pasadena, including a drive-by of son Brian's and daughter-in-law Jen's alma mater Cal Tech - just so they know we were thinking of them!

By now, we were pretty tired, after the short driving tour of Pasadena, Marianne concluded we did have enough energy for our afternoon goal: The Gamble House.  For fans of American homes, the Gamble House is the finest example of turn-of-the-20th-century architecture.  Built for David and Mary Gamble, of the Proctor and Gamble empire, the house was designed by the Greene brothers, whose firm of Greene and Greene designed many of the best examples of the Arts and Crafts genre.

We were fortunate to be able to take three spots on the 2:00 tour, one of only a handful of tours offered every week. The guide did a wonderful job of explaining the house, taking care to point out the tremendous amount of detail put into the house by the Greenes.  There was no part of the 1009 home that did not have details created by Greene and Greene.  Structure, finishes, custom furnishings, essentially everything was as the Greenes designed and as the Gambles had lived with in the early 1900s.

Photos are not allowed inside the Gamble House, and it is just as well.  I would have gone nuts trying to capture the rooms and their details.  It seemed that nothing was left to chance. Everything was filled with common themes, with design motifs repeated in floors, walls, lamps, windows, and furniture.  At the time, the house cost $50,000 and the furniture another $20,000, but that was when an average Pasadena house cost $2,000.  Now they are probably closer to $1,000,000 so reproducing the Gamble House would ... more, much more.

The restoration of the last decade has made the house look almost new, although there was very little deterioration over the last 100+ years.  The guide pointed out that the ends of the roof beams did rot, as much from improper preservation as simple age.  Now, the ends are all synthetic, hand-made to look like properly weathered redwood.  The view of the Rose Bowl has become impeded by gardens and growth, but is still visible from an upper deck.

By now, we were completely exhausted and ready for a healthy dinner and conversation back at Bonny's.  We covered the day's excursion as well as the cousins' re-telling of family stories from the last few decades.  I will not document those stories!

On Saturday morning, I did the normal diary-at-Starbucks duty and returned to breakfast with relatives.  We then leisurely spent the morning catching up with events from Marianne's extended family.  That would turn out to be the major activity of the entire weekend!

Of course, the primary event was celebration of Marianne's cousin Edie's 70th birthday.  I certainly learned more about her family than I had known in 20 years, but I still can't keep straight who is who!  Maybe next time.

The party in pictures:
Waiting before shouting "surprise!!".
Opening a photo album and video.  Not a dry eye in the house.
Plenty of presents, but the one opened was a memory of Edie's arrival as a Displaced Person in 1952, a history she shares with cousin Marianne.
Edie and her Kids and cousins

Marianne (it's our diary after all)

A great time and lots of promises to visit more frequently.  No more waiting for decades.

Now we need to head home and start preparations for the next adventure, Marianne's Thursday procedure at the Kaiser Santa Clara heart specialist.  But that's another story.

John and Marianne


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