Our Holiday visit to La La Land

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Los Angeles, aka “La La Land,” is one of my fave American cities. There is a lot to see and do in this colorful sprawling city by the Pacific and also in areas close to it. I’ve also always found the locals to be very friendly.

Los Angeles City Hall

My wife, Ann, and I began our annual holiday trip on Christmas Day, December 25, 2016. We prefer to fly into the Burbank airport, named after the late comedian, Bob Hope, rather than LAX. Burbank is smaller and easier to get in and out of. Besides, it’s closer to where we were staying with relatives.

Los Angeles at night, from Griffith Obsrvatory

Our family members live on the fringe of Griffith Park. It is within spitting distance of the LA River, along which I enjoyed daily walks. It’s also close to the fabulous LA Zoo and Gene Autry’s Museum of the American West.

Christmas night we got invited out to dinner at a home located over in the Studio City area of LA. They had a terrific spread of food laid out. There was also entertainment. Two of the young people played Christmas songs using the piano and the French horn. That made it a truly special occasion.

The next day we rested up, but not before taking in the movie La La Land. It was playing at a theatre in Burbank, which was all lit up for the holidays. La La Land is a musical featuring two fine actors, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. It was just so delightfully over the top, that I had to give it “five stars.”

The opening shot in that very entertaining film was of the intersection of Franklin and Argyle Avenue in Hollywood. It just so happened that our host family used to live there earlier in their marriage. We all almost fell out of our seats laughing.

That night in Burbank, we had dinner at the “Market City Cafe.” I ordered steamed shrimp with rice and packed it all in. I thought I was home in Baltimore at Tio Pepe’s restaurant.

The next morning, I did a solo jaunt to Hollywood. It was packed with tourists. The preachers were out, too, and in top form barking out prayers for “redemption.” The tour buses were doing a brisk business, as I checked out the “stars” on the “Walk of Fame.” For some inexplicable reason, there isn’t any star for Baltimore’s iconic filmmaker, John Waters! There was, however, one for the “Screen Actors Guild.” Since I’ve been a proud member of that union for over 25 years, I am claiming it as my own.

Hollywood Preaching

Two nights and three days of our holiday were spent up in Big Bear Lake country, a popular recreation area about 100 miles northeast from LA. It rises to 6,800 feet, mostly snow-covered, with the temperature in winter going down to as low as 20 degrees and more at night. There was time here for some sledding in the snow and we also checked out the charming town of Big Bear Lake — population, 5019.

Sledding at Big Bear

We stayed at the Best Western Big Bear Chateau, in comfortable rooms, and took a trolley tour of the town. Our charming conductor, “Mr. John,” filled us in on its history. He mentioned how a dude from Tennessee, Benjamin David Wilson, came out West, married well and became a huge land owner in and around Southern California. I asked him if Mr. Wilson ever became a mayor of Los Angeles. He said he didn’t know.

Well, I researched it when I got home. Mr. Wilson eventually became the second Mayor of Los Angeles (1851-52). He was also the grandfather of one of America’s greatest son — General George S. Patton, Jr. — ///x a WWII hero in the European campaign.

We followed up our trolley tour with a walk around the shopping area and finished our day in town with a very satisfying lunch at “The Old German” cafe and restaurant.

On our return to LA, we worked in a visit to the Famers Market. There’s an old part and a newer, mall-like version, based in the Fairfax area of the city. We had a delicious counter-styled lunch in the old part at the “French Crepe” restaurant. It hit the spot. Then, we went shopping in the plaza-like mall. The weather was a little wet that day, but not enough to dampen our enthusiasm.

One night, the sky was clear for a change and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the crescent-shaped moon. I used my Nikon P900 that has a mega-zoom on it. I thought the shot turned out pretty well.

We liked going to LA’s downtown area, too. City Hall is looking as great as ever. The downtown has had a spirited rebirth in the last few years. There’s a lot happening there on an almost daily basis: festivals, music-making, dancing and theatrical shows of all kinds.

One night, we had dinner in the “Little Tokyo” area of the city, enjoyed some shopping. There was also a musical performance in its plaza by a talented entertainer — Arthur Nakane.

Arthur Nakane

After going out just about every night, we spent New Year’s Eve at our hosts’ residence, enjoying a home-cooked meal and a celebratory apple cider toast to 2017. The next day, January 2nd, we watched the Rose Bowl on cable. I was rooting for Penn State’s Nittany Lions to win, but it wasn’t to be. USC eked out a close win in a very exciting game by a score of 52 to 49.

The Griffith Observatory

Before going home to Baltimore, on January 3rd, I was hoping to get in some night shots at the Griffith Observatory. The city truly sparkles from there. It worked out that I could. The iconic observatory is a beacon to many visitors, myself included. It was a delightful way for me to finish a very enjoyable visit to the great city of Los Angeles and environs.

To see more of my photos, go to my Facebook page.