Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 4 - The Getty Museum

January 26, 2016 (continued): On my last day of this trip, I had some time to before my flight back to Hawaii so I decided to check out the iconic Getty Museum.

I decided to indulge in a “hearty” (a.k.a. fat-fueled) meal. Doughboys Cafe & Bakery (now closed), was nearby my AirBnB and looked like it had interesting items on the menu. I ordered the Southern Corn Pudding Special which consisted of half creamy cheesy corn pudding, half pulled pork with grilled onions, corn and potatoes, topped with two griddled fried eggs and broiled in a cast iron skillet. It sounded delicious but I was a little disappointed as it was surprisingly bland and underseasoned for all the richness. I also ordered a mocha and chocolate chip cookie because I had seen they sold cookies the size of people’s faces and I’m all for novelty.

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After finishing my breakfast I immediately made my way to the museum since I was flying out in the afternoon and wanted to have time to explore. Even though I had a few hours there, it was so expansive that I didn’t get to see everything thoroughly, so I recommend giving yourself at least half a day to explore if you are an art aficionado.

The museum is free admission but if you are driving (which I was), the parking fee is a flat $15. I believe you can get a same day deal if you’re also visiting the Getty Villa. To get to the museum, you have to take a tram ride up to the top, it’s a great way to see views overlooking LA.

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Upon arrival you are immediately greeted by the museum’s undulating architecture designed by Richard Meier, it is somewhat reminiscent to me of a swimming pool for some reason.

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As you venture through the main building and head outside you can see expansive views of LA.

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There were many artifacts on display but I only captured a few that piqued my interest, partly because I was a little photo fatigued from the trip and also wanted to be more in the moment when observing the collections.

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One of the highlights for me personally was seeing many of the illuminated manuscripts they had in their collection. It’s always gratifying to see something in real life which you learned about only through books, as this was for me when I was in college. I love how the colors and gilding of each page was still vibrant to this day, and seeing the amount of detail that went into each page.

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This painting of Madonna and Child with Two Hermit Saints by Bernardino Fungai made me chuckle a little because of the child’s expression and posture like he’s saying “Guurrrl, chill...”

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More views from outside.

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I love the playfulness of the trompe l'oeil technique so this Musical Group on a Balcony painting on the ceiling by Gerrit van Honthorst was a fun piece to see.

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Other painted details.

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Portrait of Louis XIV by Hyancinthe Rigaud.

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There were many pieces of furniture dating from the late 1700s. Elaborately ornate details, inlays, gildings, and embroidered materials fit for a king (or queen!).

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I headed outside where I saw different views of LA’s landscape, more of the museum’s architecture, and the desert gardens.

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The Central Garden had a maze like feature as its main centerpiece. Since it was winter at the time, the flora and fauna was a little barren but it was still stunning nonetheless.

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There were still many areas I had yet to explore but I had a flight to catch. This was a fantastic way to wrap up an amazing trip.

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Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 3 (Part 3) - Go For Broke Monument

January 25, 2016 (continued): One of my must visit places I had to see for very personal reasons when I came to LA, was the Go For Broke Monument in Little Tokyo.

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My paternal grandfather, Takao Matsuoka was a second generation Japanese American living in Hawaii, and on December 7, 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the Americans distrust of anyone with Japanese ethnicity grew exponentially. Even though the second generation Japanese Americans were citizens by birthright, during this time many questioned their loyalty and allegiances.

My grandfather, Takao Matsuoka (right), with his father (left).

My grandfather, Takao Matsuoka (right), with his father (left).

Over 30,000 Japanese Americans served in the U.S. military during World War 2, despite having family still in internment camps, despite the American anti-Japanese propaganda, and from personal anecdotes from my grandfather - being called racial slurs by fellow servicemen while fighting alongside each other.

My grandfather was part of the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated in U.S. history to this day for their size and length of service. To honor those Japanese Americans who served, and recognize their loyalty despite the prejudices they faced, a monument was erected with the unit’s motto “Go For Broke” as its name. “Go For Broke” is Hawaiian pidgin English used when describing going all in on something and giving it everything you’ve got.

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Inscribed on the front is the quotation from a 100th Infantry veteran:

“Rising to the defense of their country, by the thousands they came – these young Japanese American soldiers from Hawaii, the states, America's concentration camps – to fight in Europe and the Pacific during World War II. Looked upon with suspicion, set apart and deprived of their constitutional rights, they nevertheless remained steadfast and served with indomitable spirit and uncommon valor, for theirs was a fight to prove loyalty. This legacy will serve as a sobering reminder that never again shall any group be denied liberty and the rights of citizenship”. – Ben H. Tamashiro

Below are more quotes from others recognizing the history these Japanese Americans achieved:

"You not only fought the enemy . . . you fought prejudice and won." – President Harry S. Truman as he welcomed the 100/442 RCT home

"Never in military history did an army know as much about the enemy prior to actual engagement" – General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, Pacific Theater, referring to the MIS

"My fellow Americans, we gather here today to right a grave wrong . . . now let me sign H.R. 442." – President Ronald Reagan, Civil Liberties Act of 1988

"The Nisei saved countless lives and shortened the war by two years" – Charles A. Willoughby, General MacArthur's Intelligence Officer, referring to the MIS

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On the back of the monument, inscribed are the names of 16,126 Nisei soldiers that served. One of them being my grandfathers’.

It was incredibly moving being there, seeing his name on this monument. Not only because he was part of a significant point in history but also thinking of the difficulties and hardships many faced at that time while just soldiering on through because there was no other choice.

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I’m a proud granddaughter, but this is not the only reason why I would highly recommend visiting this monument and the museum next door where you can learn more about this part of history. I think it’s more relevant than ever as this cycle seems to be repeating itself again in current day, just with different players. We can all take into account how our own attitudes can affect others, even on a day to day basis.

Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 3 (Part 2) - DTLA and The Last Bookstore

January 25, 2016 (continued): The next place I wanted to check out was The Last Bookstore which was in walking distance from Grand Central Market.

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On my way there, I spotted another cool electrical box with the Egyptian God Anubis, painted in a way that reminds me of Sanna Annukka’s scandinavian style animals.

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I passed through the Historic Core of DTLA with many beautiful buildings having an architectural style dating back to the early 1900s.

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Upon entering the store, I could see why this was a highly recommended place to visit as it was part art installation/gallery, part bookstore. There were sculptural pieces made of books everywhere in the main room, including the checkout bar station.

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When coming from the front the room to the left is the art/design books section, so of course it had to be filled with little bits of artistic expression. On the walls were these beautiful, largely detailed pencil(?) drawing murals. The back of the room had a large gallery of paintings in different styles, from thrift store chic to modern, contemporary works.

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Even the stairway area had little bits of art thrown in, albeit a bit creepy, even more so when I was editing this image and noticed reflected in the security mirror, that there was a person standing in the stairwell.

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Hanging above the stairs was a gothic-esque sculpture.

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Further up was an art installation reminiscent of something out of Harry Potter, where the books come alive appear to be “flying” out of the bookcase.

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Part of the upstairs has a few mini shops selling cool vintage trinkets, to paintings, to stationery bits and bobs.

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Once you reach the end of the loop of mini shops, there is an entrance to the upstairs part of the bookstore. Here, are even more sculptural book wonders, from little windows, to a lit up cave.

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Also sprinkled throughout are more artsy influenced installations including 3D murals, color categorized bookshelves and various vintage sculptures.

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Their inventory of books is a mixture of new, and secondhand with a few hard to find thrown in. I would recommend visiting whether you’re a bibliophile or quirky art connoisseur!

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On the way back to my car, I spotted a few more representations of DTLA’s eclectic mix of artistic inspiration like this pretty black and white building.

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To the *ahem* creepy.

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To the amusing.

Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 3 (Part 1) - Eggslut, Grand Central Market, and the Bradbury Building

January 25, 2016 (continued): Day 3 of my trip in LA, consisted of tackling the Downtown area. For breakfast, I definitely wanted to try the much lauded, Eggslut - I’d seen it mentioned by a couple YouTubers and the food looked delicious. Their first and only location at the time was in Grand Central Market, a hub of many different food vendors that you could eat cuisines from around the world and never have left that place.

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Since this was their only location at the time, and as many hyped places tend to have, the line stretched around the block. Usually I just skip it if there’s a line, because most of the time the line wait vs the food in the end is almost never worth it. But I was determined and the line moved fairly quickly so it wasn’t too bad. The menu is pretty simple with only a few selections, so I ordered the Fairfax Sandwich (soft scrambled eggs, chives, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, sriracha mayo, in a brioche bun), it’s namesake the Slut (coddled egg on top of a puree poached in a glass jar, topped with gray salt, chives and served with a baguette), and fresh orange juice.

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Now living in LA I have tried a few of Eggslut’s different items and I feel like most are just ok, tend to be quite rich, and the seasoning is hit or miss, except for the Slut. That is almost worth waiting in line for on its own to me, as when you receive the Slut, you quickly stir the coddled egg into the potato puree and then dip your baguette in. The warm, creaminess of the mixture coats your mouth in deliciousness and the crunch of the bread adds a nice, needed counterbalance to the smooth texture.

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After my big breakfast, I needed some java to get me going for the rest of the day. I stopped by G&B Coffee, still in Grand Central Market and ordered a Mocha and what I thought was a sweet potato pie, but it turns out it was a coffee flavor, so I was double fisting it on to my next locale. While stopping to figure out how to carry all my equipment and 2 coffees, I had a direct view of the famous Angels Flight, which was featured in the movie La La Land.

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While researching the area, I saw that the Bradbury building was nearby and a neat place to visit if you’re into interiors/architecture. It is still a functioning office building, so you’re only able to go in the lobby area unless you have an appointment. Originally built in 1893, it has been featured in several films including Blade Runner and 500 Days of Summer.

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When you walk in, you immediately are transported back in time with all the architectural details of the past. The entire ceiling is a glass skylight, to let the natural light shine through.

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The gorgeous, ornate ironwork staircases are divine, I mean I have an entire board on Pinterest dedicated to stairs, so you know I’m a little obsessed with these.

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To top it off they still have a set of working birdcage elevators. I would definitely recommend stopping by if you’re in the area.

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Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 2 (Part 1) - Venice Canals

January 25, 2016 (continued): After many of the heavy, sleep-inducing, carb-laden meals I’ve had throughout the trip I was craving something lighter and cleaner for breakfast. My plan was to explore the Venice/Santa Monica area so I googled juice places near there. I chose Juice Served Here as they had a few food options as well. There were only a couple of parking spaces out front, the building itself looked like a converted garage with a cool, glass roller door. The interiors were clean, modern with a slight industrial feel.

For breakfast, I chose the juice flight which was a selection of their juices in shot sized glasses that were supposed to be a re-invigoration for the day. There was an order to which one you drank first, including starting with Green Easy (Cucumber, Red Apple, Kale, Spinach, Lemon, Romaine, Green Pepper), to things like Charcoal Lemonade (Filtered Water, Sugar Cane Juice, Lemon, Montmorillonite Clay, Activated Charcoal), to finishing it off with the “dessert”, Cream Party (Coconut Water, Coconut Cream). As someone who regularly made their own smoothies and tried similar juices before, I didn’t mind the veggies in my juice thing as I know some people get weirded out and think it’s gross, but honestly the fruit flavors usually balance out any “green” tastes. I thought each juice had their own unique flavor profile, and the flight was a good way to test out which juices you might prefer over others.

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I also ordered the vegan grilled cheese to round out my meal. Usually, I’m pretty wary of vegan imitation products as it’s never quite the same but thought I’d give it a go. As a connoisseur of grilled cheese and lover of dairy (but trying to cut back on it), this was one of the best grilled cheese I’ve had in my life. It was packed with flavor, with some red peppery bits in it, and a nice amount of creaminess to it. The melty, stringy cheese part was a little lacking because, well it’s not cheese but I didn’t really miss it. Since I am so late to writing this post, I don’t think they have it on their menu anymore unfortunately!

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My first sightseeing stop of the day was at the Venice Canals. I’d wanted to visit as it was the scene to several movies, plus a few YouTubers I watched had also been there, the location looked interesting and artistic so it was definitely on my list. Since I had started my day off early the place was almost empty apart from the residents, so I had it all to myself. The interwoven walk amongst the canals was one of the most peaceful, serene, and picturesque places I’ve ever been. I can see why one resident had to post a sign saying that they’d never sell so stop asking!

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I loved crossing the bridges and stopping to take in the scenery of the canals, each one was slightly different and unique. Funny story, there was a young man who went on one of the bridges and sat down with his puppet and started talking to himself, at first you’d think quite odd but then this is LA so I figured he was rehearsing for some project. Not sure why he had to sit on a bridge to do it but whatever helps the process I guess!

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Each house was decorated in their own unique way, which for my curious/detail oriented mind was like heaven just stopping at each home to see what they had done. The architecture was also unique in itself with some resembling quaint cottages, to clean and modern, to artsy/hippie decor, to some that looked like what I’d imagine was out of a Hansel and Gretel storybook.

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There were also several animal spottings like the ducks gliding down the canals, or in someone’s backyard, to doggo’s chilling on the porch, to crows and squirrels getting their feed on.

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In conclusion, this was one of my favorite places I had visited, as it touched on a number of my top things, arts, architecture, animals, nature, water, the peace and tranquility (especially for my introverted self). It was such an expansive place that I couldn’t see everything thoroughly but I knew if I was ever back I’d have to visit again.

Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 1 (Part 1) - LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits

January 24, 2016 (continued): My first day in Los Angeles, I left my AirBnB in West Hollywood and began with breakfast at Fratelli Cafe. Being in California, I decided to take advantage of all the Mexican food I could get my hands on so I ordered the huevos rancheros and a mocha. The huevos rancheros was 2 eggs over-medium served on fried corn tortillas, topped with cheddar cheese, black beans, avocado, and house-made pico de gallo, it also came with a side of potatoes. Every part of the meal was well seasoned and a perfect amalgamation of textures and flavors. The service was friendly and the coffee strong so I give this place two thumbs up!

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Walking back to my car I spotted the first of many artistically decorated electrical boxes.

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This trip could’ve been nicknamed the West Coast Museum Tour since my next destination was the largest art museum in the west, LACMA. I’d seen all the posts from other creators of some of the famous installations located outside the museum so this was on a must visit for me.

Emerging from the parking lot elevator, you’re immediately greeted by the first piece of outdoor art, Sam Durant’s “Like man, I’m tired (of waiting)” from his electric signs series.

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On the right of the elevator is one of the most iconic installations at LACMA, the Urban Light sculpture by Chris Burden. I can see why thousands flock to this site for their selfie backdrop of the day - it is really stunning in person and the fact that they are real, re-purposed working street lamps makes it all the more dynamic and fun.

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Entering the first floor of the Ahmanson Building, the Smoke sculpture by Tony Smith overwhelms the space, taking over the main foyer.

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I was captivated by these textile patterns by Joan Miró and Fernand Léger as I love quirky, interesting prints for fashion because you can show off little parts of your personality without it being too obvious at first glance.

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The colors on this George Braques painting, Boats on the Beach is so fun and playful that it really does evoke feelings of summer time by the sea.

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Head of a Woman bronze cast sculpture by Pablo Picasso.

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This Georges Braques painting, Still Life with Violin brought me back to my high school art class days when we were learning about the Cubism movement.

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See my own beginnings of learning how to create in the Cubist aesthetic, where we had to draw a violin at different angles within the same piece to show its dimensional shape within a flat surface. (Side note: Can’t believe I still have this from high school!)

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I love the colors of The Disks painting by Fernand Leger.

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Woman with Blue Veil by Pablo Picasso. I love the freeform, softer technique in this painting.

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Jeanette I bronze sculpture heads by Henri Matisse.

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Tea by Henri Matisse has a beautiful color palette along with an ideal setting of having tea in a garden with friends and a doggeh.

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Portrait of Sebastia Juñer Vidal by Pablo Picasso from his famous Blue Period. The way just the use of one color tonally can evoke an emotion is fascinating to me. Here, the blue palette adds to the story of the sombre tone in his work during this period.

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Composition in White, Red, and Yellow by Piet Mondrian. To see one of his most famous pieces up close with the cracks in the white paint after many years is something to behold. I know most people don’t understand why this type of art is a thing in the “I could do that attitude”, but after many years of art movements with ornate flourishes and detail, Mondrian was one of the first to strip it back to representing what he saw in its most minimalist form.

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Detail from a surrealist painting (can’t remember who this is by!).

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Weeping Woman with Handkerchief by Pablo Picasso has an almost contemporary modern feel to it in its style and colors.

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Animated Forms by Joan Miró.

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Suicide at Dawn by Victor Brauner. This painting was a little disturbing but it still made me stop, look and think so isn’t that what art is supposed to do?

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The Treachery of Images (This is Not a Pipe) (La trahison des images [Ceci n'est pas une pipe]) by René Magritte is one of my favorite pieces of art, as it mixes my favorite things in one - art, psychology and philosophy.

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Number 15 by Jackson Pollock. Seeing a Pollock up close in real life, you can see the layers of paint and amount of movement andwork that went into it as opposed to when you see a picture of it.

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This sculpture is not creeping me out at all.

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Speaking of layers of paint, this piece created its own texture.

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Life Begins (in more ways then one!) by Lorser Feitelson.

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I found the textures and patterns created by the paint interesting on this piece.

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One of the iconic Campbell’s Soup Can prints by Andy Warhol.

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Had to capture this SPAM homage in Edward Ruscha’s Actual Size painting for my Hawaii roots.

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Giant Pool Balls by Claes Oldenburg was another favorite I saw at LACMA as I enjoy novelty size items giant or miniature. I had first heard of Claes Oldenburg, ironically while watching Clueless when Cher is giving a tour of her house to Christian and he spots a Claes Oldenburg sculpture. Who says entertainment can’t be informative?

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I would need this big of a comb to deal with my unruly hair. (Untitled) Comb by Vija Celmins.

La Gerbe by Henri Matisse.

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Another view of Smoke by Tony Smith.

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Miracle Mile by Robert Irwin consists of 66 fluorescent tubes stretching the span of 36 feet.

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Metropolis II by Chris Burden is a bustling model of a  miniature city but ironically also quite a large, significant piece at the same time. I love when pieces have so much detail that every time you look at it you see something new.

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I enjoyed the interior aesthetics of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum building at LACMA. The colored window panels allowed tinted reflections when the light shone through, while the giant glass elevator gave me Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator vibes.

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The Sympathetic Imagination exhibit by Diana Thater was one of my favorites with large scale projections of planets, moons, animals and architecture.

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On top of the BCAM building you can see a straight shot view of the Hollywood sign.

I finished off my tour of LACMA at one of the other famous art installations there, the Levitated Mass by Michael Heizer.

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Conveniently located next to LACMA was the La Brea Tar Pits - I did not go into the museum but part of the outdoor area is free to the public so that was a bonus! As you approach the many tar pits around the park, you can definitely smell the oil seeping from as well as see that iridescent sheen on the surface. There were a few pits that were still actively bubbling as well. I also learned that La Brea means “the tar” in Spanish so this place is basically called “The Tar, Tar Pits”.

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*Dug from UP voice* - “SQUIRREL!”

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Overall, I had a great time seeing iconic pieces of art in person that I’d only seen in print previously. LACMA has a vast range of collections, as I only managed to see maybe ¾ of it and that was rushing through a few exhibitions. Definitely worth the ticket price!

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Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 4 (Part 3) - Palace de Fine Arts and Golden Gate Bridge

January 22, 2016 (continued): I decided to walk from Lucasfilm to the Palace de Fine Arts, it looked like an easy, quick trail on Google Maps. Alas, that wasn’t the case as the arrow always seems to point in the opposite direction for a while while walking, you start heading the wrong way and then it finally beeps to turn around - by then you’ve gone off the beaten path. That coupled with road blocks and construction at the time, exhaustion from lugging all my equipment, and dodging the rain - I was a hot, frustrated mess by the time I got to the destination. However, my heightened emotional state quickly dissipated as soon as the monumental structure started to come into view.

The architecture and its surrounding environment of the man made lagoon was breathtaking to say the least, photos do not do justice to the magnitude and beauty of seeing it in person. I have been fortunate enough to have visited Italy and viewed many famous Roman architectures, and I feel the Palace of Fine Arts is certainly comparable. Standing under the main dome, the vast height of the structure looms over with it’s intricately carved honeycomb ceiling and statues. I can see why this place was featured as a backdrop to many movies including Vertigo.

I eventually made my way to the most iconic sight to see in San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge. As I was walking there from the Palace of Fine Arts, I only made it to the Crissy Field Beach before my legs and exhaustion gave out. Though I only made it to the beach, it still gave a nice, clear, side-on view of the entire bridge. Now that I live in California, I will be definitely making my way back to San Francisco to cross the bridge and another thing off my bucket list!

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Ending off my day back in downtown, I had dinner at Delarosa. I was craving my Italian food, googled and found this spot. They had these delectable and artery hardening deep-fried macaroni and cheese balls that everyone was raving about in their reviews. I got there and it was packed to the brim, luckily as a solo traveler I got a spot at the bar fairly quickly. I ordered the deep-fried balls and a caesar salad to you know, off set the decadence of the balls, but yes I know caesar salad isn’t exactly health food either.

My food arrived, and a couple next to me even commented when they saw the balls like, “whoa what is that?!”. If I’m going to be honest maybe they were too hyped in my mind because they were just ok. Not bad, but not amazing either. Maybe it was a little too rich for me, and even the tomato sauce it came in couldn’t off-set the decadence.

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 4 (Part 1) - Chinatown

January 22, 2016 (continued): I began my fourth and final full day in San Francisco, with a little rain and getting my Art Deco fill at 450 Sutter St. When I was researching places to visit in SF, this came up as a must see and it was perfect that it was near my hotel. It is known for its “Neo-Mayan”, Art Deco architecture and was designed by Timothy L. Pflueger. The golden interior in the lobby is stunning! I wanted to take more pictures but the security guard was giving me a suspicious side-eye so I quickly snapped a couple and then left for breakfast.

For breakfast, I decided on something lighter since I’d been having my fair share of heavy comfort foods - my body was craving something a little healthier. I yelped places in the nearby area and came across Native Juice Co. it was the perfect choice since it was literally down the road. I ordered their You’ve Got Kale smoothie (consisting of kale, pineapple, banana, coconut milk, and coconut water) and the ultimate millennial choice, Smashed Avocado Toast (pain au levain, maldon sea salt, lemon zest, micro greens, and chili flakes). I also got a coffee for the road to keep me going for my big adventure for the day. Verdict on the food - the smoothie had a nice flavor and I know some people get put off by having vegetables in their drinks, but having had a few smoothies in my day you don’t really notice it with the inclusion of banana which kind of neutralizes most flavors with its creamy sweetness. The Avocado toast was definitely decent but I think the large chunks of sea salt kind of left of an inconsistency in the general bite flavors as some were too salty and some not enough.

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My first big exploration of the day was the nearby Chinatown. I’d heard how iconic it was before visiting and why not connect to my Chinese roots while here. Walking through, you could see many of the familiar local vendors hawking their wares from China that you see in many other Chinatowns.

Had to get a pic of this interesting, yet creepy form of advertisement. I saw another fellow photographer grab a snap as well after me hehe.

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Further into Chinatown, I saw what set this one apart for me personally - it was the multitude of vibrant art and architecture adorning each street you turned down. My art heart was in love.

While I did enjoy visiting this neighborhood and wished I had time to look around a little longer, the rain had started to pick up, my gear was getting heavier with every step and navigating the narrow, steep, crowded sidewalks while also trying to avoid getting impaled in the head by everyone’s umbrella was wearing on me a little. So I decided to move onto my next destination, Lombard Street!

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 3 (Part 2) - Pier 39 and Musée Mécanique

January 21, 2016 (continued): After my tour of Alcatraz and since I was in the area, I headed down to the nearby tourist mecca Pier 39. I don’t have too many pictures since it was mainly souvenir and tourist-y shops, but have to shout out the left-handed shop I spotted, finally us lefties get some love! The famous sea lions of Pier 39 will be getting it’s own mega post in the next one because I went a bit snap happy with them.

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Of course my main focus was the healthy and nutritious lunch I got consisting of a s'mores filled crepe with a side of fries with a pesto aioli dip. I could feel my arteries hardening just looking at it and was already full after a few bites.

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I decided to walk off my impending food coma and go towards my next destination the Musée Mécanique, which was in the Fisherman’s Wharf. I was stopped while walking through a pedestrian crossing by a guy saying he was going to give me a ticket but then handed me a sticker saying I <3 YOUR SMILE. Then he asked me to write down my details and give a charity donation. I think I gave something like $5 because something didn't feel right and the guy seemed a little disappointed, which even more-so fueled my suspicions . Later googling I found out my instincts were right and they were panhandlers, I feel worse for the other people who had "donated" $20 - $100. So if you’re visiting in that area, beware!

Heading further towards my destination, I was spotted another attempt at some cash - this time, with a little more honesty.

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I discovered the existence of Musée Mécanique when I was researching places to visit in this area. I love pretty much anything vintage and these mechanicals were no exception. They had a range of old, interactive arcade games, fortune tellers, to mechanical scenes that played out various stories. Each game ranged from about $0.25 to $2.00.

I don’t know how the Career Pilot game caught onto the fact that I secretly self diagnose myself by googling symptoms through Web MD and think I have some obscure disease.

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I was also amused by trying out a fortune telling machine that resembled the Bocca della Verità in Rome, the mouth of truth. This game resembled various depictions of this mask where you stick your hand in it’s mouth, here it pops a fortune after, it was funny because I don’t think I realized I pressed another language and my fortune came out in Spanish. I managed to piece together the gist of it though, thanks Google Translate!

The museum is on the small side but I think worth a quick visit if you’re in the area!

Travel Diary: San Francisco Day 3 (Part 1) - Blue Bottle & Alcatraz

January 21, 2016 (continued): Being raised in New Zealand - home of many coffee connoisseurs, my eternal search for a great cup coffee in the States continued with Blue Bottle Coffee. I’d heard good things about it, so I decided to start off my day there with breakfast.

I walked to the cafe from my temporary residence, seeing great little snippets of art and architecture along the way.

I arrived there early, yet a line had already formed out the door - thankfully it moved pretty quickly. I made my order of a eggs and toast with I think was a salsa verde sauce, and a mocha. The meal and coffee were a bit on the higher end of cost, but both were well made so I had no complaints. I also liked watching their cool siphon contraption and watching the barista stir the coffee in a beaker over an open flame, it felt like being in a mad scientist’s laboratory.

Finishing up my meal, I hopped on a tram towards my next locale - Alcatraz! Being a tourist in this city, why not visit the No. 1 tourist destination in the States. I pre-booked my tickets through the official site, before I left for my trip as I read that tours are nearly always sold out on the day.

Going into the tour, I only had a general knowledge of it being the most notoriously inescapable prisons, for the most hard core criminals. My curiosity leaned more towards why everyone who had visited previously, encouraged others to do so fervently.

The line for the ferry was snaked around the lot and I can see why you should definitely pre-book your tickets, we eventually hopped aboard and departed from Pier 33. The ferry consisted of indoor seating but of course, most people chose to wrap themselves around the outside decks. It was definitely a brisk, prickly combination with the mix of San Francisco winter winds and the speed of the boat but the view was worth it. We got to witness views of the Bay Bridge, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and the mass of seagulls overhead and diving below - fishing for their next meal.


We arrived at Alcatraz and gathered near the dock where the docent welcomed us in and gave us a little introduction into the history. At the gathering point, you could still see remnants when the Native Americans took over the island. After the introduction we were free to explore on our own, and once inside you could get the guided tour headsets. Walking around the outside, it was a kind of eerie feeling seeing all the abandoned buildings where nature and time had taken over.

In one of the exhibits, they had displayed many of the prisoner’s personal stories of what lead them to be incarcerated. It was incredibly moving and gave you pause to not paint everyone in prison with an “evil” brushstroke. Many of them were in desperate times, stealing to provide for their family, or got caught up with the wrong people and were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I made my way into the main prison area, where they gave you headsets that guided you through with the corresponding numbers above each area. Seeing it in person you got to see how big the prison really was, with stacks up stacks, and rows upon rows of cells that were so tight you could practically touch each end with arms stretched.

It was also interesting to see remnants of the numerous escape attempts by inmates, from widening bars with a nut and bolt contraption and starving themselves to fit through, to the infamous Battle of Alcatraz where prisoners overpowered officers, and gained control of weapons and the hanging key from the gun gallery. You could still see the damage on the floor where security had dropped grenades through the roof in an attempt to corral the prisoners to a certain area.

Out of the Administration building you could see the skyline of San Francisco as well as the Golden Gate Bridge.

Back inside the Admin building, there was this creepy red handprint above the doorframe that wasn’t mentioned in the tour but through later google research is apparently from the Native American occupation.

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I headed into the prison area where the only successful escape attempt took place. Four inmates were in on the plan and they had sculpted dummy heads in their likeness from soap, toilet paper, hair clippings from the barber and paint from the workshop. These were placed in bed the night of the escape. For 6 months they had widened the hole of the ventilation duct in their cells using various tools found discarded around the prison, this lead to the utility corridor behind the walls that was unguarded. Three of the inmates escaped successfully and their disappearance was only discovered the next morning.

I finished off my tour walking through various parts of the prison including the kitchen and underground where they showed a film on the history of Alcatraz. In the gift shop there was a former inmate there promoting his book on his experience.

I ended my tour and got onto the next ferry heading back towards San Francisco. My overall experience of Alcatraz showed me why many recommend visiting, it is thought-provoking, eye-opening, and you get to see humanity or lack thereof that took place. It is also being able to experience a piece of history that has been frozen in time, and how often do you get to do that?