Los Angeles: Day One

A couple of weeks ago, we headed out west to take advantage of my cousin Drew’s, hospitality. We’ve been to LA a few times, but never made it out of LAX, so this time we were finally able to step out the airport and take in the smoggy air.

We arrived at night, so on our first full day we headed to the La Brea Tar Pits.

Totally touristy, perfectly clichéd in a classic LA kind of way, the tar pits were areas of earth where tar is seeping forth. Besides the big lake and the several excavation sites, there are numerous spots throughout the park where “black gold” oozes to the surface. And this is all smack dab in the middle of the town, right on Wilshire Blvd. Amazing!

Next, we acted on a tip from Drew’s roommate Mike and went down to the edge of Chinatown to grab a bite from Phillipe’s, the birthplace of the French Dip sandwich.

The women behind the counter were all dressed as if it was opening day — old-timey aprons, hairnets, etc. — and they served up the most delicious French Dips we’ve ever had. The chili and potato salad were great as well. Sawdust on the floor added an extra layer of “authenticity” to the experience.

The we went to the Getty Center, a world famous art museum perched on the side of a bluff overlooking the city. To get there, you ride a tram up from the parking up to the center and the first thing you notice is the incredible architecture.

The bright white buildings that make up the museum contrast beautifully with the blue skies and the green hillsides. Since we were up above the smog (or it had burned off — it was 2pm or so by then —) the whole area seemed designed for maximum aesthetic impact.

It was very quiet and serene as well, not just inside the galleries, but out along the gardens too. It seemed like the kind of place a person could go frequently, if for no other reason than to recharge their batteries and experience a thoroughly considered environment.

Our favorite exhibit, art-wise, was a series of photographs by Irving Penn called Small Trades. Simple in concept, but beautiful in execution, each portrait was of a person outfitted to perform their job. For example, a firefighter would have on the heavy coat, boots, and helmet and be carrying a fire ax. The thing that made this so interesting was that all of these pictures were taken 50-60 years ago and it was like a fun guessing game to try and figure out some of the obsolete professions. We would recommend budgeting more time for the Getty, as a person could easily spend all day there.

After that, we went to Santa Monica beach (because we didn’t think we’d get any other proper beach time (full schedule!) and because we were more or less in the area. The water was too cold for swimming, but it was very nice and beachy and the sunset was beautiful.

After the sun dipped down below the horizon, we made our way back to Downey to gather up Drew’s other roommate, Jeff, and head out to Father’s Office for dinner. A gastropub that has a reputation as the first spot to hit in the evening, Father’s Office was hella packed. It was basically a free for all to get a table, but fortunately, I am enough of an a-hole to spot a group of girls leaving to meet their friends and swoop in before anyone else could. Once we were seated, we enjoyed some beers (and water for Jen) and ordered their famous burgers and fries. Oh man that burger was so good. It had friggin’ arugula on it! The caramelized onions were so sweet that Jen thought it was fig jam. Topped with gorgonzola, the burger was stupendous. Highly, highly recommended.

Once we cleared out of there, we went back to Downey to chill. Jeff had to work the next day, and we were pretty beat from our big first day in LA. Plus, we had to rest up for tomorrow, as we were headed down to San Diego to check out the San Diego Zoo! But that will have to wait for the next installment. Stay tuned…

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