On the nicest day, weather-wise, of our visit we took a scenic drive to Malibu – down Las Virgenes Road, then along the PCH (Pacific Coat Highway) all the way to Ventura County and Point Mugu Beach, and then back up Topanga Canyon Road. Rather than another visit to Malibu Seafood, we tried Neptune’s Net, which was fun — less expensive, more fried food and range of seafood than the other place. I had good crab cakes, Dirck had fish and chips which we ate at a picnic table on a roofed open air patio with a great view of the ocean. No complaints.
I thought Point Mugu was the beach I visited a few years ago but I was mistaken. Still nice. But not quite as secluded as El Pescadore Beach (the beach I was looking for and finally found…) We saw quite bit of damage from the fire that ravaged Malibu late last year, mostly charred trees but the vegetation may have been greener than usual, which is what happens when farmers routinely burn their pastures to spur new growth (something I learned about up close and personal in Kansas). We stopped at the Malibu Country Mart which was surely a tongue-in-cheek name, since it’s not the least bit country. It’s a chichi shopping center. Not much there of interest. In Topanga, we stopped as usual at Cafe Mimosa where we had to endure an old hippie talking to his friend about how Obama was the “anti-Christ.” Yes, Obama. Not Trump. Wanted to tell him where to shove it but I refrained.
An art exhibit I was dying to see in DC turned out to be in LA this trip, hence our first trip to LACMA, which was a great option on a chilly Sunday. The show, about the interplay between untrained and trained artists, was fascinating and as I suspected, one of my favorite Kansas sights, The Garden of Eden in the small rural town of Lucas got a prominent nod in the exhibit (“Outliers and American Vanguard Art.”)
Dora, Denise and Dirck at LACMA
We parked for free on a residential street near LACMA. Before the museum, we had a good quick lunch at Sycamore Kitchen – the fried cauliflower side was a favorite (in a hot red sauce with a cool creamy dressing).
Dirck and Dora at Sycamore Kitchen
In Burbank, we have done the tour of playgrounds, thanks to our 6-year-old niece Lucy who prefers Johnny Carson Playground and Betsy Lueke Playground. Dinner tonight was in Venice at my cousin Jenny’s house, with superb food by her husband Jay. We enjoyed walking down the narrow sidewalks lined with beautiful cottages, bungalows and modern showpieces, plus dense gorgeous foliage and flowers.
We did wake up to blue skies which was a welcome change. Outside our sweet little Airbnb casita, we sat beside the pool (not heated so too cold to swim in) and looked out across the green lawn and tall palm trees to the snow-capped mountains in the distance. It finally felt like we were in California (or Tucson). After a nice chat with another Airbnb guest from Rochester NY (by way of Sparta, Wisconsin) and our very nice hosts (she from Dublin, he from Illinois) we set out for a day at Joshua Tree National Park, about an hour drive northeast.
En route we stopped for a very good breakfast (huevos rancheros, mike’s mess – scrambled eggs with goodies) at the rustic Crossroads Cafe in the town of Joshua Tree, then onto the park visitors center where a very nice ranger originally from Romania gave us some great recommendations for short hikes and drives in the park. We also discovered that Dirck is now at the grand old age of 62 able to get a year pass to any national park for $20, cheaper than the $30 one day pass to Joshua Tree.
The weather was nippy (glad I brought my light down jacket) but the sky clear, albeit not always blue, and we spent several hours hiking and diving past the strange Joshua trees, which look like giant bristle brushes used to clean the inside of bottles. Dr. Seuss must have visited. We felt like we were walking The Lorax. The strange giant boulder formations (skull rock and jumbo rocks) were cool to see and we took two easy 1 mile walks (Hidden Valley, Barker Dam). We had a spectacular views from Key Point of The rugged San Bernardino mountains and in the distance the Salton Sea and even Palm Springs. Like Palm Springs, there were also telltale signs of flooding at Joshua Tree but the water had receded by morning in both places, fortunately.
Dinner was delicious ribs, steak, red rice and margaritas at Pappy and Harriet’s, a large ramshackle honky tonk place in Pioneertown, a strange forlorn community high in the mountains on a former film set for westerns. A band was setting up for a sold out show and tons of cars made the climb up a rough mountain road, with some sections covered with dirt after receding floodwaters. Unfortunately it started raining on our drive back to Burbank. Next trip: idlewood.
We are going to Palm Springs next month for only two days but I have enough recommendations from my well-traveled relatives to last far longer. Here they are in case others can use:
- Birba is a great choice. The night we went, the kitchen was slow, but that may not always be the case, and the food is really good.
- Our first night there we stayed at a place called Arrive, which we liked and wasn’t too steep.
- If you like going out for cocktails at all, you should definitely go to Seymours. Very cool, old PS place.
We stayed at the Orbit In which was amazing. But I would try to book right away. It seems to fill up fast. It has a sister property the hideaway. Both were quiet and not party hotels at all. They are right in the heart of PAM springs and walking distance to the main drag. I would stay in Palm Springs and drive to Joshua tree which is about 45 minutes away. You could do a day in Palm Springs and a day In Joshua tree.
Here are the restaurants we went to:
- Melvyns: Old school steak house in a hotel with live music and table side cooking. I made reservations, but on the day of, so don’t think they were too busy.
- King’s Highway: Located in the Ace Hotel. Has a sort of Flinestones Mid Century Road Side vibe with yummy food.
- Birba: Good pizza. I made reservations.
- Norma’s: We went here for a decadent breakfast. Located in the Jonathan Adler-designed Parker Palm Springs. For me, the decor of the hotel sights were worth it. But it was pricey. We made reservations.
- El Jefe: We got snacks at this bar located in the famous Sagauro, the Rainbow Hotel.
- Sherman’s Jewish Deli: For bagels to go on the way to Joshua Tree
- The Visitor’s Center is located in a famous Mid-Century Gas Station and has some good maps.
Places that we wanted to try, but didn’t get to:
- Mr. Lyon: Retro Restaurant with cocktail bar.
- Hadleys for famous Date Nut Shakes
- Bootlegger Tiki for Tiki Drinks. There’s a really cute coffee shop in the front of this place called Ernest Coffee.
The food overall was not outstanding, but the decor of some of the places was pretty incredible. We borrowed bikes from our hotel and looked at all the mid century housing. We also did a full day at Joshua Tree.
Baby Benji — my cousin’s so sweet four-month-old son- was the highlight of (and reason for) my trip to Venice but I was reminded of how cool and pretty and pricey this seaside community is. I loved strolling along the narrow pedestrian-only lanes of the Places, “walk streets” each lined with usually small (but sometimes large) houses, some old bungalows and cottages (my favorite) or sleek flat-faced modern newcomers, most with gorgeous overgrown foliage and lush colorful flowers. (Nowita, Marco, Amoroso Places)
I had a delicious (but almost $20) Niçoise salad and green apple lemonade ($4 but u was relieved to learn, after-the-fact that the refill was free) at trendy Superba Bar and Grill. I drove around until I found Rose Street, which I decided was the emerging area I visited a few years ago. It appeared to still be emerging.
I also wandered a little along Abbott Kinney, window shopping and people watching and since I happened to park around the block from the superb ice cream shop Salt & Straw, I decided it was a sign from above and had a large (almost $5) scoop of “freckled woodblock chocolate,” which was delicious although I didn’t really understand the name. (I choose it in part because it was the rare chocolate flavor without salt as a touted ingredient.)
After a ridiculously long drive back to Burbank in rush hour traffic (I started my drive at 4 pm, not 3 pm as planned) I went for a burger with my family at a local place, Simmzy’s (3000 W. Olive) …yet another newish and bustling Burbank restaurant.