Travel

L.A. stopover has plenty to offer

IF the little old lady from Pasadena drove down Colorado Boulevard today she probably wouldn't recognise the place.

Go granny, go granny, go granny, go! sang Jan and Dean and then the Beach Boys in 1964.

The song is a Mickey-take of the many widows who settled in this part of northern Los Angeles in the 50s and 60s.

After their wealthy husbands passed away they got a reputation for roaring around in classic Buicks, Dodges or Cadillacs down Colorado - but just to church on Sundays, then parking it in the garage again until next week.

Old money is still evident along the quiet tree-lined streets of Old Pasadena but there is also plenty to see and do for a two-day stopover in LA.

Carnival
Granny would have loved the annual Rose Bowl parade and football game on New Year's Day.

It is one of the biggest events in the United States.

A million people line Colorado Boulevard from the crack of dawn to see the floats, marching bands and horses as part of the Tournament of Roses parade.

And every second Sunday of the month crowds flock to the Rose Bowl Flea Market where 2500 stallholders tout everything from knick-knacks to antiques, vintage clothing, books and jewellery.

You pay for admission and the earlier you come, the more expensive it is (from $20 to $8).  Check out www.tournamentofroses.com.

Cuisine
Pasadena has a fine reputation for cuisine, with 500 restaurants for its 100,000 population.

One of the newest places to open is Dish Bistro & Bar, which specialises in tapas.

I also liked Cafe Santorini for its outside veranda and Mediterranean-inspired small plates with a glass of white sangria.

Noir Food & Wine Bar has tables dressed in white and a courtyard cleverly landscaped with a pond and strategically placed mirrors so you think it goes on forever.

Cuteness

A few months ago, two female geese with a gaggle of goslings walked across the busy four-lane road outside the Norton Simon Museum, holding up traffic.

They waddled up to the glass-fronted doors and having spied the pond and gardens through the atrium, pecked until they were let in.

They have lived here ever since. But the Norton Simon Museum is not a wildlife park.

Simon was an astute businessman, art collector and philanthropist and has one of the world's largest private art collections, including pieces by Monet, Cezanne, Degas sculptures, Gauguin and Van Gogh.  For details check out www.nortonsimon.org.

Cultivating
The Huntington Library and Gardens are the jewel in Pasadena's crown.

This 84ha property is owned by more old money - railroad magnate Henry Huntington who acquired books, art and businesses.

Consequently, aside from the vast gardens that meander from desert to jungle, roses to Japanese and Chinese, the Huntington Library is stocked with six million manuscripts, books, photographs and literature spanning history, science, medicine, technology and art.

You'll find a manuscript of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, a Gutenberg Bible from the 1400s and the famous Blue Boy painting.

But the gallery is so spectacular you could bring a picnic and spend the better part of a day here and in the gardens. For information go to www.huntington.org.

Culture

Granny most certainly would have visited Gamble House for a spot of bridge.

This arts and crafts-style house was built in 1908 by the Gamble (Procter & Gamble) family who wintered here.

It cost $75,000 when houses ranged between $5000 and $25,000.

Even the furniture is architecturally designed and inlaid with silver and ebony.

These days, volunteers guide tours, place fresh flowers in the rooms and maintain the home for tourists, film crews and wedding parties.

Original Tiffany lamps and vases stand in most corners and the tour is well worth it, just to hear about the eclectic Gamble and her sister, Aunt Julia, who used to give the local mechanics an earful if her car broke down.  Details at www.gamblehouse.org.

Where to stay
The Westin Hotel is beautifully appointed and an easy walk to Colorado Boulevard, where all the shopping action is.

Their pillow-top heavenly beds are so comfortable that writer actually bought one last year.  Details at www.westinpasadena.com.

* Megan Singleton travelled courtesy of Air NZ, the Westin Hotel and Pasadena Convention and Visitors Bureau.

* For more of Megan's travel stories visit www.bloggeratlarge.com.


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