(F)All in: NY

Here we are again, time for a seasonal travel post, this time for Autumn, 2017.  I am re-posting this one I did for New York previously, largely because it is still my top choice for autumn travel, being my home town, but also because I have a new Autumn post in progress on North Carolina, another place I love for the Fall, and it is still developing, just posted on September 30.  I will be adding some restaurant recommendations to it over the coming weeks.

A note on my four seasonal travel posts. Some people realize they are “sticky” and always appear on my main page, while my current posts appear on the right, in a column. I put up new posts every two weeks and some of you have found your way to them. Thank you! But others seem not to realize that these seasonal posts are permanent fixtures and miss my newer ones.  I appreciate anyone stopping, reading and commenting, but if you want to know what I am thinking and doing lately, please look to the right and I hope I won’t disappoint or offend anyone. 

OK, so for now, here is my beloved City, which comes to life and sparkles in autumn

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If there was ever a time to visit New York City, this is it.

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Not only is Fall the prettiest time of the year in NY but there is a Mayoral race going on, so the city will be on its toes and putting all the bells and whistles out for the spotlight that this race will enjoy. If you can, visit NY right now. Bloomberg will get everything shipshape for this key election.

There are other reasons.  Having lived there for 25 years, this is the best season, in my opinion. First of all, it is usually sunny, dry and cool, not yet cold.  There is less precipitation in the Fall and the winds are not unusually brisk, though they can be just active enough to put a sparkle of energy in the air.

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At some point, depending on the temperatures, the leaves will be turning.  Many people do not realize how many parks and how much landscaping the city has.  Everyone knows about Central Park, but there are so many others, like Battery Park, Union Square, Gramercy Park, just to name the most obvious ones.  If you do a little Googling, you will get a full list of the hidden pocket parks.  If you will be there for more than a few days, you may also want to head over to Brooklyn, which has gentrified considerably and rivals Manhattan in almost every significant way. It’s most famous green space is the second largest in the five boroughs: Prospect Park, as magnificent as Central Park in Manhattan. Another fabulous thing to do is take the Henry Hudson Parkway up along the river and go to Tarrytown and Hastings-on-Hudson, among many old Yankee villages and Washington Irving’s stomping grounds; all points north along the river are pure magic at this time of the year.

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The most important decision you will make when coming to NYC is where to stay. My recommendation would be two hotels.  The first is my favorite and a secret that almost no one knows about.  This is the Hotel Wales at Madison and 92nd Street.  One of the prettiest, most convenient and safest, quietest neighborhoods in Manhattan is Carnegie Hill – the 90’s from Central Park to Lexington Avenue.  The Wales is right in the middle of it.  Built at the turn of the last century, when I stayed there it had elegant lobbies and rooms, good restaurant and room service and not only was immaculate but enjoyed exceptional European-style service, including tea served on the roof terrace with a view of the park. Best of all, it is probably one of the most affordable hotels you will ever stay in (priced below some motels in the vicinity) and considering it is in Manhattan, in the best residential neighborhood, overlooking Central Park, the price is unbelievable.

Hotel Wales

My other recommendation, if you have a bit more in your budget would be the Waldorf Astoria. I have stayed in almost all the top, established luxury hotels in NY (the Plaza, Pierre, Carlyle). My favorite is the Plaza but I have to say, for visitors, the location and beauty as well as history of the Waldorf would be my top recommendation.  All of these hotels are expensive, but you can get a deal at the Waldorf and stay in the hotel choice of kings and queens. It is gorgeous, elegant and the service cannot be topped anywhere on this planet.  In the East 50’s you can walk in every direction to many of the best attractions in midtown.

Waldorf Astoria

If you are flying in to the NY area, use Newark International Airport instead of JFK or La Guardia.  Newark is the newest of the three, it is actually closer to Manhattan than JFK, far safer, and much less hectic.  You will get to the city in less time than if you choose JFK.  In every way, Newark is a pleasure.  In fact, I like it so much and consider it to be so much safer than most airports that even when I am heading to Boston or Philadelphia, I fly into Newark and then take the train or rent a car and drive to those two cities. (Boston’s Logan Airport is a pure nightmare – avoid it at all costs: unsafe, bird strikes, terrible facilities, short runways – it is notorious for its inferiority as far as airports go, just take my word for it).

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I do not need to give you all kinds of tourist destinations as there are thousands of places you can find these things.  Let me instead recommend a strategy for ‘tackling’ NYC.

When I was in college, I had a boyfriend who worked in South America.  He would invite me down to visit and see the sights and so I made some friends amongst the very educated, sophisticated people I met there.  When a few of them came to visit in the City, I was excited to take them around.  They had been all over the world, in many European cities like London, Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Zurich, etc.  These were wealthy world travelers.  But!  When they got to Manhattan they were totally overwhelmed. The longstanding joke thereafter was that I could not get them to go above 34th Street (Macys).

NY has a palpable energy that makes some people thrive and others collapse.  I have always said it is far easier to live (if you can afford it these days with one bedroom apartments starting at $800K) and work there than to visit.  So how you approach the visit can be critical.

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Knowing what I know now, I would not start people off downtown as I had done with my Latin American friends.  If you are staying at the Wales, start with the upper east side of the Central Park district and work your way down, day by day until you hit Rockefeller Center.  If you are staying at the Waldorf in mid town on the east side, start there, go to Rockefeller Plaza and work your way up Fifth Avenue your first day or days. In this area are also Radio City Music Hall on 6th Avenue and a lot of UN-frequented exotic ethnic restaurants, many of them with excellent costumed performances and shows during dinner, at no extra cost (a way to be entertained without high priced theater tickets).

The upper and middle parts of Manhattan, on the East Side are the easiest to absorb and get acclimated.  They are beautiful, loaded with attractions including museums and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the best shopping and restaurants, etc. And of course they are incredibly safe, as is all Manhattan now, thanks to the last two Mayors (Bloomberg and Giuliani).

Toward the second half of the trip or at least after you are used to being in Manhattan, head to the 42nd Street area, stopping in at the New York Public Library, the Empire State Building, the Upper West Side (don’t forget to go to the Museum of Natural History), Lincoln Center, Columbus Circle, down to Battery Park and the 9/11 Memorial, South Street Seaport and if you can, take the Brooklyn Bridge by car, cab or train to Brooklyn and eat at the River Cafe, especially at sunset, for the most spectacular view of Manhattan anyone could want and fabulous food.

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After that hit the Village (west side, Greenwich Village.  If you are adventuresome and like ethic food, go the the East Village or better yet, Queens, but the latter may be for the end of a trip, not the beginning!), Washington Square, Soho and Tribeca.  All of these areas are safe, loaded with personality and fabulous food and shops.  Usually though, they are not first on people’s lists.  I would avoid Chinatown and Little Italy unless you like Chinese food and getting down and basic.  You are likely to find better Italian food in other parts of the city, especially Brooklyn.  Think Moonstruck.  If you are looking for inexpensive theater tickets check to see what is playing at the Barrow Street Theater. (Unfortunately, the Sullivan Street Playhouse that was home to The Fantasticks for 42 years, closed in 2012.)

If you have time left over, go to Bloomingdales on Lexington, Chelsea Pier over on the West side at 23rd, Gramercy Park on the East side around 18th Street, and up to the Bronx Zoo, which is in my opinion, the best one on the East Coast and rivals the famed San Diego Zoo for its quality and scientifically designed attractions.

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If it isn’t too cold, take the Circle Line, but be prepared for part of it to be a bit boring – I have taken it when showing guests around the city and I fall asleep as it heads up to West Point.  It is a three-hour trip, so take snacks because the last time I was there, the food on the boat was expensive junk.  If you do take the Circle Line, you will pass the big luxury liners, Chelsea Pier, Battery Park, a spectacular view of Wall Street, South Street Seaport and the Statue of Liberty, the UN, as well as the bridges on the East River abutting Queens.  You will see a lot that will help you determine whether or not you need to go to those individual attractions separately.

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Do this and you will get a real flavor for the city. If you can, give yourself a week.  You can do much of what I listed in three full days (with travel days on either side). Take it from a native, even in two weeks, you won’t see it all but if you go now, I promise you, you will have a spectacular experience.

Images: holidayforce.com,theweblicist.com,flickriver.com,virtualtourist.com,panoramio.com,commons.wikimedia.org,virtualtourist.com,restaurantsinyc.com,viator.com,fodors.com

 

Summer Like it Hot

But not I! 😀

Since I put up my Winter travel recommendation sticky-post late, I am offsetting it with an early-ish Summer piece.  This is Part One.

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It is already summer here in Valencia this week, hovering around 100F, unhappily for me. The minute the weather turns sultry I begin dreaming of cooler climes. If you have been following this blog for awhile, you know I am a cold weather fan. If I were like most people, I would pick Palm Springs or Phoenix even in August. But I am the Vermont in February Un-y-Mooner, if you recall. So …

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Now, I have already shared two places that I can heartily recommend for those of you who want to escape the heat. They are the Jersey Shore and La Jolla. See both posts for details. If I knew it better, I would recommend Vancouver/Vancouver Island. What all of these places have in common is beautiful beaches, old, lovely architecture, gorgeous vegetation, elegant upscale vintage towns with places to eat and shop in abundance and, wait for it: moderate, balmy temperatures even in August.

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As you know, if you read about my Jersey Shore, there used to be elegant old hotels there. I am no longer familiar with the local accommodations, so I will just suggest using a VRBO or Air BnB (see my Oakland post for winter). As for La Jolla, I do have a recommendation: La Jolla Shores Hotel.

It’s right on the beach, within a few steps of all the attractions. A large, sprawling complex with comfortable rooms and verandas for dining or having an afternoon drink to watch the sun set. It reminds me of those old, gracious, rambling colonial hotels one finds in Montego Bay. It is reasonable by La Jolla standards and the staff are friendly. Q.E.D.!

While you are in La Jolla, make sure you try the ice cream at Bobboi Natural Gelato, 8008 Girard Street, #150  – expect the unexpected in flavors like Charcoal Vanilla or Blood Orange or Meyer Lemon and Mint,

and have one dinner at Osteria Romantica, 2151 Avenida De La Playa La Jolla, CA 92037.

The latter is literally two short blocks from La Jolla Shores Hotel and wonderful, from the menu selection’s authenticity, to the quality of the food, to the service and ambience. A bit of Italy in California.

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If you are in the mood for Mexican, and don’t mind rustic, head right to The Taco Stand for hands down the best Mexican food in La Jolla.

Right across the street on Pearl is El Pescador, our favorite fish restaurant.

And yet another absolute must is Oscars, at its four locations for Mexican seafood!

But, if you want to sit and look out directly onto the Pacific, head to Carolines at the famous Birch Aquarium of Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

There is no end of things to do in La Jolla: take a snorkeling tour of the coast, go to any one of the dozens of coves and watch the sun set or jog along the beach at sunrise.  The shops are too numerous to list, but one of our favorites is Gepetto’s toy store. You can visit the Museum of Contemporary Art. There are, of course, many other things to do in the San Diego area that are unique, including the famous kayak tours, the world renowned San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, both of which I have visited several times and highly recommend, Old Town — which from my experience is the best way to get a taste of Mexico, while staying in California — and shopping in Horton Plaza or La Jolla Village.

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But, my main tip for a perfect place to spend a summer vacation has to be Woods Hole/Falmouth/Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, and that is coming up in Part Two: Summer Came Running:Languor Management.

Images: Chez Bebe Assets/La Jolla, California

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Ooh la LA

The weather has been so delightful lately, that I realized it was time to invite people to visit Southern California before it’s too late and we are either roasting alive or dying of thirst, LOL! These are my insider’s tips on visiting La-La land: the only five places you will need to know to party like a native. 😉

Rooftop Bar, Hotel The Standard, Downtown L.A., Los Angeles, California, USA

New York is the place to visit in autumn, as I wrote last year.  Spring is the time to visit LA. When I was reflecting on Los Angeles, and trying to summarize what it is about LA that is so attractive to people — apart from endless sunshine, that is, natch — the word seductive came to mind.

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A few years ago, I read this book about France and the French character.  It is worth reading just to see how differently the French look at everyday life, relationships, food, tourists, Americans etc.  Not to say that they are right or wrong, necessarily but truly it is a culture apart. France is seductive.

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Los Angeles is like that. Someone should write a book about it (note to self). Unlike NYC that instantly triggers love or hate, Los Angeles sidles up to you and lures you in with that sultry come hither environment that allows everyone to be utterly, nakedly themselves. And that is no mere metaphor. You have permission to be as uninhibited and as outrageously ‘you’, as you want here — and that is what I love most about this city, its welcoming diversity.

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There are three urban hubs that you need to hit if you want to understand California.  In some ways it should be two or three states.  San Francisco and San Diego are distinctive megalopolises with their own sphere of influence and mindsets.  You won’t get to know or understand all three, by just visiting one of them.

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People everywhere are drawn to Los Angeles, but not for the beaches, because, honestly, there are others far more beautiful.  If you are looking for the ideal beach environment, go to Cape Cod, Monterey, the Northeastern coast of Brazil or the Caribbean.  Don’t come to LA for that.

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People love Los Angeles because of its gigantic entertainment industry and the allure of being close to the stars. If you are a wannabe, the magnetism of LA is powerful and rightly so. But, I think the true main attraction of LA is that, you can park philosophies and ideologies at the threshold when you land at LAX and step into a completely welcoming, accepting culture that signals immediately: anything goes. Relax, have a great time. Not a Hawaii-lie-around-the-pool great time.  A get-out-there-and-have-a-ball. Mingle, go to barbecues, hit the club scene, do a night on the town. Be free to enjoy yourself, however you like. Angelenos are incredibly outgoing and friendly, right away.  They don’t need time to warm up to you.  For a transplanted NYer it was palpable immediately. Smiles and welcomes, sincere ones, not papier-mâché politeness, characterizes the citizenry.

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Last week, my cousin was in Los Angeles on an assignment. She always stays at the London West Hollywood.  Claire and I chatted in her sleek ultra-modern suite and then went up to the roof patio for dinner.  It was a beautiful clear day looking out over LA on the top floor of the hotel in late afternoon.  As we were sitting there gabbing, afloat over the city, evening fell, draping everything with its violet shawl. All around us was a crystal view of the sprawl that is the LA metropolis,  its lights flickering on and the stars popping out overhead. Some miles to the east, Downtown appeared as a cluster of glittering stacks that huddled together like intimate giants sharing a secret. Farther along Wilshire, Century City was gazing across the concourse toward Westwood. It was pure magic.

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Come to Los Angeles between April and July.  Summers here are too brutal now, the autumn is unremarkable and the winters, well, they can be misty and dull.

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Here is where I would start.  Stay at one of the newly restored more affordable hotels Downtown or on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. There is a lot to do at night on this stretch of the Strip. If you like off-off-off Broadway entertainment, lol, the Strip is the place to go.  Start at the Whiskey.  You can walk to it from the London WH, and frankly, that is where I would stay.  Rooms average about US$350, reasonable by LA standards. The other advantage you would have is being able to get to Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood, the Melrose restaurant row very easily, even using LA’s notoriously limited public transportation.  I have ridden the Metro bus and train system locally and they are clean, air conditioned, safe and comfortable.  Not like London, Paris or NY, not efficient, fast and ubitquitous, but good. You can even get to Downtown and Pasadena using public transportation, from a central hub of West Hollywood. Hollywood itself is also east on Sunset, so you couldn’t ask for a better place as home base.

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Not to oversell this location, you can also take Sunset to Santa Monica, Brentwood and Venice Beach. Although, as I will explain in a minute, I would suggest the South Bay or Beach Cities instead.  They are far more exemplary of what Angelenos consider beach living, while Santa Monica and Venice are for tourists.

From the hub you choose, I would visit the following places, depending on how much time you have:

  1. Downtown, LA
  2. West Hollywood/Hollywood/Melrose
  3. Pasadena
  4. South Bay beach cities: Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach
  5. Beverly Hills/Westwood

As you plan your visit, just remember the LA Golden rule:

Everything is always 45 minutes away from everything else …

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Downtown, as I have said previously somewhere on this blog, is really hopping now.  If there is a happening place in LA, DT is it.  It is packed with restaurants, clubs, bars, loft-hotels and entertainment.  The Disney Concert Hall, the Chandler Pavillion complex and other similar venues for traditional theater- and concert-going are at the north end.  There are museums and cathedrals as well as the very trendy and cool Grand Central Market that is worth an afternoon of eating and coffee in itself.

There is also a fab Art Walk that takes you around to galleries and the hidden creative underground/grunge that makes LA appealing for millennials right now, from burning men to urban hipsters.  The Natural History Museum and the Staples Center are at the bottom of DT LA and both are worth the trip.  Just walk up and down the north/south artery of Figueroa and you will see a history of architecture from the 18th through the 21st centuries, rising on either side of you.  While you are doing that, make sure to stop at Fig&7th to have a snack or a drink and get in a bit of shopping. Just a block or two north and you can eat at the famous, original Pantry, continuously open since 1924. Or take Wilshire from DT, via the Metros, all the way West to the beach, and watch the progress of the city the automobile built, materialize as you go.

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And while you are there, make sure you have afternoon English tea at the Biltmore Hotel. It is an LA institution and I guarantee you will gape at the world’s glitterati parading around you as they stream into DT in droves, snapping up refurbished buildings to re-rent out or install start-ups. It is very reasonably priced at about $200 per night for old world luxury.

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When we are DT, we eat at various places.  You can always grab a bite at the Grand Central Market, with all its many food stalls. If you are deep in the dough, try the Water Grill for perfect food in a flawless upscale environment.  If, like us, you are on a budget, head to the Fisherman’s Outlet.  An LA legend is Philippe’s for sandwiches.

West Hollywood/Hollywood/Melrose I probably don’t need to tell you too much about this part of LA, West of Downtown.  This is the hub of the night scene. There is shopping, of course, with a robust array of boutiques and galleries. But clubs and restaurants are the main draw. The Viper Room, Whiskey a Go Go, the Roxy Theatre and all sorts of sky bars are strung along Sunset.  Just drop your stuff at the hotel and head out in either direction on the Boulevard and you will stumble on them.  Whenever I am in this area and I have time, I make my way over to Little Ethiopia for lunch.  Not only is it affordable, it is exotic and exquisite food made and served by natives.  Try Messob, my fave.

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Pasadena may be a bit more staid but for my money, skip the Getty and the LACMA and head straight to the Norton Simon Museum, Gamble House, Asia Pacific Museum and Huntington Library and gardens that stretch from one end of Old Pasadena to the other.  There is more shopping and eating in Pasadena, with every kind of food from all over the world, than in any place outside of DT LA. It is a beautiful, pristine, elegant old city that has been updated and now boasts an influx of condo dwellers at an unprecedented rate.  Every possible kind of entertainment is available and you can walk to it, from the Metro which has several stations in Old Town. Definitely check out The Pasadena Playhouse for live theater, as well as various cinema complexes up and down the main east-west thoroughfare — especially at The Paseo –, Colorado Boulevard.  You can attend free concerts all summer at the Levitt Pavilion or the symphony at the stunning, world class Ambassador Auditorium.

Make sure you stop by the largest independent bookstore in Southern California, Vromans and have a homemade sundae at the 100 year old Fairoaks Pharmacy in South Pasadena. Eat dinner at the incomparable El Cholo, for Mexican food, SoCal style.

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Southbay/The Beach Cities This may be a bit out of the way, unless you have a car. If so, head west on Sunset to the 405/San Diego Freeway and points south.  Get off at Rosecrans and go west to Pacific Coast Highway, turning south again.  You will be in Manhattan Beach, the largest of the three.  Turn right on Manhattan Beach Boulevard and take it down to the Ocean. There you will find yourself amid the real coupon-clipping laid back millionaires that teem all over this part of LA.  These are the Angelenos who never work. Everywhere around you will be bronzed blonds zipping along in Italian convertibles.  There are literally dozens of places to eat, in every price range, as well as boutiques and bars.  But, of course, as you rise over the crest of the hill on MB Blvd., you will see the Pacific gleaming and winking ahead of you.  Bring a towel and beach wear. This is the place to watch the roller-bladers gliding along The Strand in front of the multi-million dollar manses that perch at the sand’s edge.  Take your margarita down there and imagine what life would be like if you had nothing to do every day but gaze out at the ocean liners and Catalina, while your help kept you supplied with refreshments.

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MBch is the best kept secret in the Southland.  Try the ancient Kettle for lunch and Love&Salt for dinner. Farther down PCH pointing south is Hermosa Beach.  Like Manhattan, it is for play not work, but trendier, younger, hipper and more bohemian.  Finally, a bit farther down is Redondo Beach.  It has the Pier and attracts an older, quieter crowd.  You can’t go wrong with any of the three.  Hermosa has a comedy club that is actually fabulous. You never know who is going to do a gig there, often well known comics, so check before you go and reserve a seat.

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Beverly Hills/ Bel Air/ Westwood I typically avoid the first two.  By the way, Century City is in this area but it is largely businesses and residential.  There is not much there to recommend you spend time in CC when you could be Downtown, in Manhattan Beach, or Pasadena. Beverly Hills needs little introduction. If mansion-crawling is your thing, just go west on Sunset from West Hollywood, and you will be in Bel Air in ten minutes.  It is self-explanatory once you see the sign (you can’t miss it). If you find yourself in Bel Air, visit the North side of the UCLA campus, the old part of this 419 acre magnificat.  You shouldn’t waste time looking at houses in BH, the main attraction of which is that Sultanic mecca known as Rodeo Drive. By the way, if you want to stay in this part of LA and actually go to the LACMA anyway, you can stay at the iconic Beverly Wilshire (Pretty Woman). But, it’s pricey.

Don’t bother eating in BH either. Overpriced, overhyped, mediocre food.  No celebs will be eating there, just tourists.  Eat instead in Westwood, the home village of UCLA, SoCal’s other premiere University (beside CalTech).  There are so many fantastic places to eat in Westwood, I would need another post for them.  Our favorite is Native Foods.

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Ok, ok, I hear you saying, but what if I absolutely must tell people I ate in Beverly Hills and money is no object? Then absolutely, you have to go to Crustacean, if for nothing else, the experience of the place.  You won’t be sorry — broke, but happy.   If you just need to use a restroom and grab a snack so you won’t faint while shopping, go to Neiman Marcus, located on Wilshire.

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Then head over to Westwood, gape at billionaire’s row on Wilshire as you approach the Westwood Village, and rest on the UCLA south campus after all this activity.

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By the way, there are three more items you might want to consider: LAX, Burbank Airport and Union Station.  If you want to start in the South Bay and see these three beautiful and entertaining beach cities, by all means fly into LAX.  They are just 15 minutes south on the 405 Freeway.  If you want to start in Pasadena or West Hollywood? Use the very nice, easy, safe Burbank Airport, you will be just minutes away from both.  If you plan to start Downtown, consider taking Amtrak to Union Station and see a classic with one of the best restaurants anywhere, Traxx.

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That’s it.  If you just hit those five key spots, you will be immersed in LA and totally ‘get it’ ever after.

Images: Beth Byrnes, The London West Hollywood and The Examiner

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Truckulence

Now for something completely different.  (Click on the pictures to view them large.)

Let’s just get an old truck and paint it ourselves! Genius. Then we save money for a Mercedes.

As I mentioned in my Flickr series featuring these pictures, Geoffrey woke up one day after Christmas and announced it was time to get two new vehicles. Finally! After 15 years. I was really looking forward to it, even though we buy cars to last. I always get either a Mercedes or a Volvo.  At one point I tried Mitsubishi Monteros — loved them and then for a couple of years drove a Chrysler Town & Country minivan — liked it a lot. But for longevity and safety, I am a Volvo fan.

Yup. Here’s my car, parked in San Diego while we went to a fair recently. No hesitation. Seats 7 and rides like a dream. Comfy seats. I love it!

So, I had been eyeing an XC90 SUV for a few years and didn’t even have to think twice. I ran right out and found one I loved, with sparkling dark gray metallic, just like my older one. Done and done!

I am not a Beemer fan per se, but how about a convertible with a sparkling roof?

Geoffrey was a different story. We already had, between us, five vehicles. He had two trucks and a car, I had two cars: my vintage Mercedes totally maintained and restored and my 2002 Volvo sedan. Both in the same silver grey.  Geoffrey had his two trucks, one with an extended bed (are you sleepy yet?) and his black 2002 Volvo station wagon.

Or a cool little job with glowing hubs and an iridescent “butterfly wing” finish? Works for me!

Naturally, I thought he was going to get a sedan. But no, he decided he simply had to have another truck. One that he could take to all the fancy clients when he needed to look professional and ready to work, but also upscale and sophisticated. Ugh. How does that work? Another truck? And, where would be put it?

Maybe a custom Jeep? Looks roomy.

Resistance!!

This is probably what he imagines, with me emerging from a massive metal monster looking fierce. I might be forced to get tattoos!

We have three garages at our house. One of them has my Merc, one has his Volvo, and the other one is full of junk. We can squeeze three vehicles in the driveway and he keeps one truck in front of the house on our street and another one at his building in Downtown LA. Now we would have my new XC90 and his truck? We can’t hog the street, so I was really getting upset.

Well, my favorite color right now is purple. How about this? Like, glow-in-the-dark, right?

Also, I don’t want to drive around in another ole truck when he is driving. What’s the fun of new wheels then? I wanted something really snazzy and snappy and cool. Not a clunky truck.

Or … mother-of-pearl!

So, the only resolution was to let me pick it out. Aha!!! Dangerous.

Copper and Dayglo pink?

These pictures reflect my ideas as I let my imagination do the shopping.

Uh, this is what a full extended bed and king cab look like! I just tweaked it a bit. Manly, huh?

I know, right?

Something spooky for Halloween …

Wait for it — right down at the bottom is the one we finally chose. We could agree on it because it has a regular bed and a totally tricked out luxurious “cab”.

Or eerie … for the coming apocalypse. Just sayin’ …

OK, so it’s not a Mercedes, but I scored a victory by getting one that matches my car and can fit, amazingly enough, both in the driveway and in front of our house (with his other truck sent packing to his building to join the first one).

Prrrrrrrrrr …

Got all that? Anyway, that’s one of the many things taking up our time as the summer draws to a close.

Thought you might enjoy seeing these “confections” that sprang full grown from my head.

Images: Chez BeBe assets/Santa Clarita, California

‘Tis the season

No, not the season of joy, love and giving.

The hunting season.

This post is for anyone who has the link.

Please do not friend, follow, “like” me or comment on any of my social media sites, if you are a hunter.

As far as I am concerned, in the 21st century, it is the cowardly and brutal act of a weak and emotionally handicapped individual.

I am not in the thrall of any organization. I have held this position my entire life.

The NRA has infiltrated every sector of American society with lies about the need for hunting. Many people call it a sport. Both would be laughable, if they were not so serious.

Hunters, the NRA are pathetic.

One hundred thousand years ago, certain tribes may have needed to hunt animals on a small, low-tech (naturally) scale for survival. There are virtually no tribes like these left. Certainly not the overweight, flaccid American men who like to hunt with computerized automatic missiles from high-speed vehicles in “preserves” where animals are cornered for the enjoyment of these sick people.

Don’t lecture me about overpopulation of deer. I am an expert on this subject. Don’t tell me you eat what you kill, that’s just as bad.

If you are a meat eater, I can understand somewhat because the animal concentration camps where the carcasses you consume are kept and tortured, are hidden and manned by immigrants desperate for work. Hunters confront their victims head on. They have no excuse.

When they wake up or get treatment, we might re-establish our relationship. Until then, I want nothing to do with hunters.

To my regular friends here on WP, I am sorry, but this is the best place to post this note. A regular post is imminent.

Tickling ivories

“Back up you creep. Get away from me. I know you love to intimidate women. But you can’t intimidate me. Back. Up!”  I love that line. Wish she had said it during that debate. More on this in a minute.

August flew by, didn’t it? It is my birthday month (yay) and I would always stretch out every minute to enjoy it, but these days August brings the dog days of heat and humidity.

Back when I first moved to Los Angeles, it was dry and there were cold winters, hot arid summers, with a bit of rain in winter and spring and very warm but breezy autumns. That is changing fast. It is warmish all year long, rarely dipping below 50F. Sigh.

Still, the cusp of September brings memories of crisp, cold, sunny New York City days, when I was growing up. And the thought of the icy, bright beauty of Ithaca, where I went to school. New outfits — lots of them tailored wool. Snug thigh-high boots shuffling through a crackly carpet of muted red, gold and violet maple leaves on bumpy Upstate sidewalks. I miss the Northeast most in Fall.

Would it surprise you to know that I am somewhat heartened by the obvious developments of the current political scene? The man has lost his mind and is now so disinhibited, his true ugly inner self has emerged in all its pathology. He was in Arizona last night, which always brings out the worst in him (and worst for him is pretty damn bad). There, he made sure he praised a racist criminal, convicted felon and trashed a war hero with brain cancer. We, the sane here, just keep shaking our heads, but anticipate his marginalization imminently. Small comfort, but at least the pain is over. Mrs. Clinton, a virtual hug of support goes out to you, once again.

But, I am rambling.  What have we here? My latest Flickr series.

I finally ventured into monochrome photography. It’s a subject so vast and well covered elsewhere by serious photographers that I don’t feel the need to amplify it further. I am always looking for the next creative experiment and this was the one for August. Something completely different coming up in September.

We are heading down to our house in SD next week and will be there for at least two weeks. It means hauling more furniture, which is always tedious but beats buying new stuff. Our current house in Los Angeles is half the size of the previous one, so we have had furniture packed to the rafters in the garage. Might as well use it. Geoffrey has been busy refinishing some of it and he is so good at this, it looks brand new. Good to have a handy husband!  Well, it’s his hobby anyway. We should always face in the direction the horse is traveling.

The ‘ivories’ reference points to my preference for warm whites in black and white photographs. I tried in each one of these to process the final jpeg with varying shades from eggshell to egg cream. See what you think. I also concentrated on human subjects — something that always makes me nervous, but, for this set I used long lenses and cropped the interim TIFs close.

Some I really liked. Some I felt were so-so.

The full set of 30 shots is on Flickr right now.  What I find intriguing is that pictures I thought were mediocre sometimes garner the most attention and others that I found astonishingly good considering I am not a photographer, people yawn at. Ah well. I have no ego in this!

In fact, the Romanovs occupying the WH right now have sucked all the ego out of America for the moment. So feel free to react to them however you like. I promise you I will not be offended.

Hugs, everyone. I hope to be around to see you all, while we pack up the cargo van.

Images: Chez Bebe assets/Southern California

 

Soft spots

I recently took an online class with Geo Rittenmyer on photography for stock sales.

His portfolio was impressive but even more intriguing were the tips he gave us about taking photographs that might be sold for thousands of dollars.

It is not what you would think.

The trend is not to use expensive cameras and lenses and studio equipment, and years of experience.

Instead he reported that the agencies who purchase stock photos are snapping up cell phone or film and toy camera shots with lots of grain.

There are two key elements: bring the viewer into the shot.

And keep it fresh.

That’s it. Those agencies are looking for new and emotional images of every kind.

At the same time I took that class, I decided my next series would be experimenting with soft glowing details and avoiding saturation.

Even though California has bright light all year long, and many areas reflect that by decorating exteriors in bright colors (especially Downtown San Diego where primary red, blue and yellow are evident everywhere in modern architecture) I was determined to make a whole series of subdued photos.

Then, the third element appeared. Topaz has a new suite called Studio that provides an array of precision tools for post-processing.

Et Voilà! These shots were among the results.

They are a mix of pictures. Some new, some old and reprocessed, some with my cell phone camera, some with the D800 and D610.

I don’t plan to be a Stock photographer (I am not in that league yet), but Rittenmyer convinced us that even a newbie can produce a shot that brings in years of residuals. Hmmm …

Stay tuned!

 

georittenmyer.com/portfolio/

Images: Chez BeBe assets/NoCal and SoCal

East of eatin’

Summer is finally upon us and it roared into Santa Clarita with a vengeance. It has been hovering around 100F for over a week. This is the time I begin dreaming of snow and even the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas in July seems like a high point, LOL!

We’ve been back and forth to San Diego. I was supposed to go on the family pilgrimage to Plum Island next week but I am just too busy.

The Houstapo (our local HOA) has been making the rounds dreaming up expensive improvements to all our properties, so Geoffrey and I have planned to stay put until the middle of August, working on the house and yard.

But, I did spend the latter part of May and the first half of June down south, so I have lots of pictures. Some of them are in this post.

Might as well explain them right now. This is another of the five quarters, called East Village, which is just, well, east of the Gaslamp quarter with all its restaurants and shops.

East Village is undergoing a building renaissance with new lofts springing up in glass-clad towers and old warehouses being refurbished as office buildings, eateries and clubs. It is also home to the Petco Stadium that hosts the Padres baseball team. San Diegans are fiercely proud of the Padres and you can see it all over East Village.

We stumbled on this part of Downtown when we were seeking out SD’s best bagelry, which turns out to be Brooklyn Bagel & Bialy. We suddenly realized it was the ideal place to buy an investment property so we have been back scouring each street.

There is also a stunning library there.  And a homeless Veteran population that has no where else to go and seems to be tolerated, if not welcomed.

Nonetheless, the quarter seems quietly industrious and clean. I can see an Air BnB making a steady income in the last affordable part of a major coastal city.

Since downtown San Diego is right on the ocean, you can feel and smell the sea from East Village, like no other part of Downtown. That is a nice perk and added incentive to invest there.

Not much else to report. Just waiting for the three years and six months to be up until we can hopefully go back to having civilization in this country. It has gradually sunk in that being civilized, like being adult, is harder than being barbarian and juvenile. Lately life just seems to rotate around the calendar with complete regularity. Just when I have gotten used to cool weather, the summer slams into us. The older I get, the more my life just seems like one big wheel, whirling faster and faster.

I guess America needed an infantile regression because the pain of facing adult, advanced responsibilities has finally caught up with the 35% of the voting population that made this choice — at the behest of the billionaire rulers — in a futile dream that somehow those billionaires would make life easy and safe for them again.

It would be tempting to fill this blog with inspirational fantasies of positivity or to simply indulge in weekly rants about selfishness and stupidity. But, I am just not into either. So, I will share my trivia and my photos until something changes. Until I see clear signs that the major blunder of last November is about to be corrected.

There are lots of things to be grateful for, and I am. Not the least of which is you, my WP community. Much love to you all.

Images: Chez BeBe assets: East Village, Downtown San Diego

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/wheel/