Saturday, March 26, 2011

LaLa Land

We left a storm-tossed Bay Area to visit Los Angeles for the weekend and the storm followed.  We've had a couple of weeks of rain with rare breaks and had been hoping for a bit of Southern California sunshine, but it was not to be.

We decided to stay in downtown LA this time rather than on the West Side where we usually do because I'd heard about how hip and interesting downtown had become. Someone had recommended  the Los Angeles Athletic Club, which functions as a hotel as well, and we stayed there.  Beautifully decorated in men's club style, huge rooms, free breakfast and use of the three floors of gyms, courts and swimming pool made it a real bargain.  (So I didn't use the gym; who are you to judge?)

And how hip is downtown?  Our first stop was for lunch at Bottegha Louie, a hanger size restaurant and patisserie a block from the hotel.  The take-out boxes reminded me of Ladurée in their pastel prettiness, and the pastries looked almost as good. 

The place was jammed with well-dressed and good-looking customers, a far cry from the derelict wanderers I recalled from my early years in LA decades ago.

Sated with poached salmon and prosecco, we wandered a bit ourselves, stopping to visit the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall (Disney and concerts don't fit comfortably in the same phrase in my mind, but it's a cool building), and moving on to the MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art, where I was pleased to find a very good permanent collection.  I hadn't been here in many years and liked it a lot.

The next day, after an excellent Italian dinner the previous evening at Drago Centro, also within easy walking distance of our hotel, we drove to LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the mid-Wilshire district.  I grew up not far from here and had been visiting this museum since it was first established.  I had even applied for a curatorial job here shortly after I graduated from school but I hadn't been back in years.  This time I barely recognized it.  It's huge! 

We spent a couple of hours in the galleries, took a short docent tour of some Abstract Expressionist pieces, and had a strange lunch in the brand-new Ray's and Stark Bar, part of Joachim Splichal's Patina Group.  People who think Parisian waiters are rude need to be served by the young woman at Stark Bar.  Brrrr....

But the nice young manager at Ray's next door made up for it.

That night we drove into the Warehouse District, through what looked like rain-saturated homeless encampments to dinner at Lazy Ox Canteen, a non-Japanese outpost in Little Tokyo.  The rain-slicked  streets were deserted but the tenements had been replaced by lofts and parking places were hard to find.  When we opened the not-very-well-marked door to the Ox we were greeted by a blast of music and conversation and convivial service and the food was good too.  Not your father's downtown LA.

The rain continued to follow us the next morning when we checked out and headed for Beverly Hills, thinking we'd kill some time in one of the shopping malls before leaving for the airport.  The closer we got to BH, the sunnier it got.  Maybe it's true that money counts.  Can one pay off the weather gods?
Our last meal in LA was on a patio on Beverly Drive, in full sun.

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