My Mom and I arrived in Los Angeles the week Prince William and his new wife Kate were in town, and in fact we missed them by a couple of days in Santa Barbara. I am all too used to having VIPs causing havoc from years of UN assemblies and the President visiting New York City, and was concerned about running into similar problems in California. Luckily we avoided any unusual traffic jams aside from the daily nightmare that can only be Los Angeles highways. Originally I had planned to visit the Getty Center but my aunt convinced me that the Villa in Malibu would make for a better atmosphere and views, so I thought about when it would be best to make the drive.
Since we were coming from Valencia/Santa Clarita area I was heading down to Malibu via the 405 (I-405). I-405 is a major north-south interstate highway in California and is notorious for being one of the most congested roads in the country. We were careful not to plan our outing during what was dubbed as “carmageddon” or “carpocalypse” where a section of the 405 were to close for roadwork. The entire city was preparing for the severe impact this closure would bring and JetBlue even offered a flight that flew over the affected area (Burbank to Long Beach ~ 30 miles) for $4. Along with the young British royals being in town, this road closure was the other big topic of conversation for most Angelinos while we were there.
On a gorgeous Friday morning we set off for the Getty Villa with our reservation set for 11AM and a good hour set aside for getting there. For the Getty Center no reservations are necessary but to visit the Villa one must make an advance reservation online. I usually like to do that sort of thing well in advance but since we were just going with the flow (and the wi-fi at the Hilton did not work for me for the entire duration of our stay) we didn’t make the reservation until that morning. By then the 10AM and the 10:30AM slots were all sold out and we had to settle for 11AM. It all worked out fine and the traffic wasn’t too terrible on the way there; we ended up arriving at the front gates at exactly 11AM. The Getty Villa overlooks the Pacific Ocean atop a hill in Malibu and the reason I wanted to get there earlier was to avoid the hot sun beating down on us when we were strolling its gardens. It was hot day but not unbearable, and the lush greens and water features made us feel cool and tranquil. We could have easily spent hours browsing the Greek and Roman collections indoors but we kept our time inside brief. Instead we walked around the gardens, admired the fountains, gazed at lavender and water lilies.
The next day we stayed clear of the 405 and downtown Los Angeles. I wanted to go hiking somewhere and thought of a few places but ended up going to the Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, which allowed us to stay near my cousins’ place in Santa Clarita. I had read that because of its unusual rock formations (formed by the San Andreas fault) Vasquez Rocks has served as extraterrestrial landscape in an episode of the old Star Trek series and was also filmed for the TV drama Roswell and numerous of motion pictures. Wikipedia notes that these rocks were used by an infamous bandit named Tiburcio Vasquez in 1873 and 1874 to elude capture, and since then have been associated with his name.
Without any tall trees it was HOT on a sunny day but the hike itself was very easy. There are caves and little nooks and crannies you can explore, where I’m sure Tiburcio Vasquez hid out and Indians in the area used for shelter. For us, the highlight of the hike was the 25 million year old volcanic rock formation. In its scale and color it didn’t quite compare to the Garden of the Gods I visited in Colorado last summer, but it was a fun and interesting place to hike. If I go back again, I’d make sure to get there earlier and take the “geology trail” for a 2 mile loop hike.
I really enjoyed our trip out to California. LA offers a great mix of outdoor activities, scenery, food, and unbelievable weather I can’t find on the east coast. Except for having to drive everywhere and the annoyance of the traffic you encounter, I think I could possibly, maybe live there… There are lots more I’ll want to do next time, including going to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. On my schedule was to see the LA Philharmonic playing the score from West Side Story along with the movie at the Bowl this time but we didn’t make it. Aside from that there is still Joshua Tree, Big Bear Lake, the Sequoia National Park, and more Mexican food. Maybe I’ll want to take a train up the coast towards San Francisco. That’s probably enough for a few trips, starting with next summer when I’m back in the country…
But tomorrow I’m off to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Some of the parks I’ve wanted to visit are closed due to a serious fire from a month ago but I’m hoping for a wonderful trip. Will be back in about a week!
Getty Villa in Malibu: 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, California 90272
Vasquez Rocks Natural Area: 10700 West Escondido Canyon Road, Agua Dulce, CA 91390