Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hikes #5 & #6: Franklin Canyon Park Hastain Trail and Elysian Park Wildflower Trail

Two weeks ago, I went to Franklin Canyon Park to try out the Hastain Trail. Unfortunately, I didn't complete this trail. All I'll say regarding this is don't ever try to do a hike when you're hungry, thirsty and hot with no way of fixing any of those conditions. It wasn't a total loss as I still got a good hour of hiking in (most of it spent getting to the actual trailhead since I parked in the upper park as opposed to the lower park.)

In any event, last weekend's hike at Elysian Park was much more successful. The weather was cloudy and mild, plus I was much better prepared. As someone who is supposedly very knowledgeable about L.A., I'm ashamed to say that this was my first time in the actual park (of course, I've been to many, many Dodgers games) and that I had no idea how nice it is, despite being so close to the rest of the city:

I'll definitely come back especially since I want to check out the small arboretum on the grounds.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

A note on all the hiking...

I am not a naturally outdoorsy person. Most people who know me would define me as a city/indoorsy person, which I think is true for the most part. I don't like getting dirty and being outside usually means some sort of elemental assault on my allergy-riddled system. Plus, I spook very easily and tend to feel frightened and vulnerable when in unfamiliar natural settings. In other words, I am seldom fully at ease.

However, despite this, I am very drawn to lush, green, overgrown, wild landscapes. Strangely, being in unspoilt nature makes me feel closer to the past than most historic buildings or sites I've been to. I guess I just love knowing that more or less my eyes are seeing things the way they've been for centuries. No doubt one hundred years ago, people felt the same awe I do when I watch a brook flow through a heavily-wooded ravine or when I see the sunlight filter through a dense canopy of leaves. I feel strongly connected to everything in these rare moments and that far outweighs any fear or discomfort.

Three years ago, I had a very emotional and cathartic session with a psychic healer (my first and so far, only time). While so many things came up for me, one thing she mentioned stands out right now. She said that I needed to dig my feet into the earth, to really be a part of it, in order to combat my natural tendency to be ungrounded and aloof. Too often, I lose myself in obsessive thinking and daydreaming, which really wreaks havoc on my reality. But, when I am on a hiking adventure (or any exploratory adventure, for that matter), I am very much out of my head and into the world.

Friday, April 03, 2009

New York, New York

Last week, I took a quick (3 days, 2 nights) trip to NYC to visit friends, go to museums and eat good food. Here are my highlights:

POD Hotel
- For the most part, NYC hotel rooms are small. So why not embrace that and save money at the same time? I loved my perfectly-designed double room at the POD, but what I loved even more was that I paid as much for two nights than I would have for one night at an equally stylish hotel. It's also a block away from the 6 train which is very convenient if you're going to hit the museums on the Upper East Side, and because it's in Midtown, it's an easy to walk to most of the main tourist attractions. The only thing to note is that some of the rooms use the bathrooms in the hallway, which can lead to interesting smells and dormlike/noisy frolicking in the public areas, but I didn't really have a problem with this because I have a high tolerance for noise and I had my own bathroom.

Frick Museum
- Still my favorite museum, probably because I'm such a fan of "America's Castles"-type residences. But the collection is outstanding if you like beautiful paintings by Old Masters (with some exceptions). My only quibble is that I wished Frick had collected some Sargents, but I'll take the Whistlers happily as substitutes. I thought it was ironic that the special exhibition consisted of paintings from the Norton Simon, but since I love that collection, too, I didn't really mind.

Madame X at the Met - Probably one of my favorite paintings of all time. When I was last in NYC, it was on loan to another museum, but this time, I got to fully admire John Singer Sargent's controversial painting at my leisure.

Tea @ Alice's Tea Cup - Amazing scones! I had "The Nibbler" tea service which consisted of one scone (pumpkin for me) with jam and cream, a rather hearty tea sandwich (Lapsang Souchong Chicken on multigrain bread), various cookies, and a pot of tea (Lavender Earl Grey). I was pretty ravenous, but this filled me up very quickly, so it makes me wonder who would consider this just a nibble.

Sofia Wine Bar - I needed a quiet place near my hotel to catch up with an old friend and found this new wine bar a block away. The sommelier was very accommodating and helped me to zero in on the perfect glass of Brunello.

Lemony mini croissants @ Sant Ambroeus - These came in a bread basket I had during Saturday morning brunch at Sant Ambroeus and I'm still thinking about them. Dusted with powdered sugar, they had a faint lemon flavor that brightened the buttery sweetness. This restaurant/pasticceria/gelateria gets extra points for the sweet but sophisticated design of its branding (the waiters even wore pink button-down shirts to match!)

Food @ MOMA - I like eating at museums when I get the chance and usually the food is okay to good, but I have to say that the food service at MOMA was revelatory. For lunch at Cafe 2, the lemon ricotta manicotti with swiss chard I had was sublime and better than many dishes I've had at proper sit-down restaurants. Later in the afternoon, despite already eating a chocolate chunk cookie at lunch, I shared the inventive MOMA sundae with a friend at Terrace 5: raspberry & fromage blanc sorbets, cheesecake, fresh berries, vanilla sauce. Decadent, but light.

MOMA Store
- I bought a new watch here in addition to some other cool things, and spent more money than I had planned. If you like museum stores and good design, you'd probably drop a bit of cash here, too.

Pret a Manger
- I loved these grab and go food shops in London and was glad to see them stateside. If only they were in L.A...

AirTrain - This is the first time I've had the chance to take the AirTrain to and from JFK and I have to say that it was very convenient (especially since my hotel was a few blocks away from the subway station.) Previously, I used to take the Grayline Bus from JFK to Grand Central, but I liked this much better. Unless I have more than one suitcase to carry by myself, I will definitely be sticking with the Airtrain for my NYC airport transfers.

I really enjoyed myself on this trip because I didn't have to really worry about orienting myself (which can be a drawback when you go to a new location). I just got to re-experience all the stuff I love, while checking out some of the new things I've heard about. To me, NYC is one of the best repeat travel destinations because it does a fantastic job of preserving its history and character while still moving forward at a dizzying pace. It's always easy to find something to satisfy any one of my many moods and I am never bored there. While I love home, it's definitely a nice change of pace from laidback and less-accessible Los Angeles.