There are times when our family yearns to feel the hot city sidewalks burning into our feet, and to satisfy that calling, we escape to what we sometimes miss: A big city full of hip loud people, busy sidewalks, crowded cafes, beautiful neighborhoods, opulent residences turned into museums, serene gardens, and lots of culture. It is quite far for us to go to the New York City, Chicago or San Francisco; so the proximity of Los Angeles makes that city of angels our happy city refuge often. And we love it. And we live it up when there!
Our early summer trip takes us first to the Getty Center in Santa Monica and it must be our hundredth visit or so! Opened in 1997, it was designed by the minimalist architect Richard Meier who had in mind two prerequisites to employ: Geometry and Panorama. The Geometry is based upon a 30' grid found everywhere, the beauty of the Panorama is for us to discover, and to leave astonished. With these attributes, Meier built what is a vast almost utopian peaceful paradise sprawling on unimaginable 700 or so acres in the otherwise densely populated Los Angeles. We are approaching the Museum, catching a sight of it perched on a hill, the buildings reminding us of an ancient Roman villas in a grand and modern style. The Museum consists of six buildings clad in enemail, marble and astonishing 16, 000 tons of Italian fossilized travertine brought all the way from Bagni di Tivoli outside of Rome. Money was not a problem, the budget that closed at 1.2 billion dollars, makes the Getty Center the most lavish cultural institution. Wow and wow and all of this splendor for our enjoyment, education and art conservancy.
What we love the most is the openness of the campus that never traps you in" the stuffy museum" like setting. You are whisked up in a tram and then, after you climb the majestic marble stairwell, you hop from building to building crossing bridges with breathtaking vistas or you pass through the courtyard with a fountain, a small stage with music, chattering people drinking coffee, beer or wine or you find nooks with chairs to sit down and refresh.
Our first steps take us always to see again and again the Gogh's Irises, a painting acquired for 53 million dollars. You rush to it, you stare at it, you are lost in the field full of irises and their brilliance, and you do not want to leave. When you finally do, life and world seem more beautiful. That Gogh's soul gets to you! And he is "hanging out" in this fabulous gallery with remarkable likes of Renoir, Manet, Monet, Cezanne…
Our favorite temporary exhibit this time is The Beast in Art and it is amazing amazing amazing: It features medieval illuminated books full of legendary and mythological animals. The exhibit explains in a wonderful way (through readily available audios or write-ups) the symbolism of these "beast animals". Let us take a pelican:
Always shown in the biblical texts with three babies and the pelican-mama with her head down piercing with the beak her chest to get blood for her famished children; the unicorn is always seen with the mother Mary as it symbolizes the only faith, the only God, the ultimate mother, the uniqueness of those who can see him, not to mention that the unicorn could detect with his horn the poison, so all of the kings wanted the unicorn. It was believed that lion's cubs are born dead and revived by the breath of their powerful divine father lion who is then believed to sleep with his eyes opened hence lions by the gates...and here is the legendary griffin, a half eagle and half lion, two feared and revered animals at the same time. Griffins were considered during Medieval to have a divine power to guard treasures, their feathers could restore eyesight, their eggs were laid in nests that contained gold nuggets…
And now off to the garden to relax, to lounge on the grass! It is raining, but nothing will stop us! The garden is work of an installation artist Robert Irving (not a garden architect) who says "it is a sculpture in a form of a garden aspiring to be art". And it feels as a piece of art that you explore on your own following the swirling path, the creek, the lush blooms of wild flowers while admiring the brilliant dark pink color of sculpted bougevias and sprawling purple wisterias radiating against the white buildings. Even though Robert Meier had in mind a grand more conventional with wide open stairways accessible garden, this "minimalist" stylized refuge is beautiful and it feels you are a part of this “garden-sculpture”. Even though sometimes I wonder how it would be if the Getty offered less formal refuge with small garden tables to enjoy sparkling wine in the midst of wild flowers...
UCLA! What a campus, what a beautiful cozy historical pleasant university that feels like you are in Portugal,
Spain or Italy! Nested in a beautiful Westwood neighborhood, opened in 1929, built in a Romanesque revival style, wow!! I wish I could study here! To teach here! To hang out here every weekend! The campus is deserted and belongs to us, the Powel historical gorgeous library is opened so we step in. Cicero quote "Haec studia adulescentiam alunt, senectutem oblectant" "These studies nourish youth and delight old age" is welcoming us and we admire the Byzantine mosaics inside, Renaissance frescoes, we feel through and through the Romanesque stateliness, we sense the values of the classics....it feels so welcoming to sit down and read. I feel already smarter just visiting it! Ha ha!
Our airb&b is great, in a nice part of town, the house if full of young foreigners- travelers, we chat, we make dinner, we sip some wine, excited what tomorrow will bring!
To be with my family "on the go", exploring the beauty of this New World, is my favorite thing to do of all! So long!