Sunday, 27 February 2011

Exploring around LA

Eagle Rock Topanga Park
In the last few days, we've interspersed spending time with the family with exploring places on the door-step, which we've overlooked on previous visits. We've cycled in the hills above Topanga Canyon, with far-reaching, unspoilt views over the mountains in the distance, and the near Santa Monica hills. This is mountain bike country, with technically challenging routes, if you decide to go adventuring off the wider easier routes which snake all over the hillsides. We cycled on the Temescal Trail to The Hub and back to Eagle Rock. Very beautiful and very quiet. To get to it you have to drive through Topanga to Tippetts Ranch, one of several access points. Tippetts Ranch is like being back in the UK, green, rolling pastureland. The Ranger sold us a map of the trails and said that the scenery was very green at this time of year, and there would be a guided walk to discover native flora and fauna, on Sunday pm. I'm coming back for that.

Downtown LA from Observatory
Topanga has a bohemian, fading hippy community feel to it- houses in the canyon range from wooden shacks, caravans to impressive country homes with front porches. It was famous for being the place where Neil Young, The Byrds, Jim Morrison and Emmy Lou Harris used to hang out and jam together. Less happily, it was also the site of one of the brutal murders of the serial killer, Charles Manson.

When the weather deteriorated again, we went on separate trips to Balboa Park, Ian cycling around the 3 mile perimeter in laps, and me having a go at jogging around the shorter inner route, managing 3x 1mile laps. With heavy showers forecast the following day, we decided to reccy Griffith Park, out towards Hollywood. We set off early on Saturday, with fairly quiet freeways, but coming back, the traffic into Hollywood was backed up- 7 lane freeway at a standstill. You've really got to time your local trips carefully, and rush hour can be two to three hours long. Driving here is n't much fun. It's much better away from LA, in the wide open spaces.

Griffith Park would be a great place to visit with Lily, when she's about 4! The most remarkable thing about it is the location of this mountainous park, full of walking trails, with a 20mile cycle path around its perimeter, slap bang in the city of LA. There is a splendid observatory at the peak, with astounding views of the city skyscrapers and grid network of streets, and a close-up of the famous HOLLYWOOD sign.

Best angle apparently!
Inside the marble-halled observatory, there are informative displays about the planets, sun,stars and seasons. There is an impressive brass pendulum,designed by the Frenchman, Foucault, to demonstrate the movement of the Earth on its axis. As the Earth moves, during the course of several hours, the pendulum swings and knocks down pegs on a fixed board. We also watched a fun presentation in the planetarium, where you lay back on a comfy chair, staring up at the "sky" in a dark circular space, whilst constellations and planets moved into view and were discussed. (It is thought that icy comets flying through Space from distant galaxies, getting closer to the Sun, "evaporate" and when they collided with Earth, could have contributed to it becoming a watery planet). Another fact which surprised us was that a chart lighting up the chemical elements of stars, humans etc, showed that we shared the elements of stars, with a few extra, so that when "first nations", as Ray Mears refers to them, look up at the stars and believed that their ancestors were there, they were absolutely right.

Then a short trip to the Museum. Apart from from some vaguely interesting landscape paintings, there is an excellent display of native american crafts and basket-work.

Looking across to San Gabriel Mountains
What about Lily?!

She is beautiful. In the brief period we've been here, we've noticed her getting stronger, lifting her little head off your shoulder, wriggling about and then suddenly stopping to take in all your facial expressions and beginning to SMILE! A gorgeous little dimply smile, where her face lights up. It's like her gift to you- she doesn't have to do it, but she wants to! Lizzy says she's already knocking out one of her night-feeds, so they're getting a bit more sleep.

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