Monday, 1 February 2010


Here’s a brief rundown of the Culture we have participated in since Barbara’s arrival:

- California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco: the city’s newest museum, dedicated to natural history, it features a brilliantly arranged rainforest, aquarium and planetarium. I think it’s worth the hefty $25 entry fee ($15 for kids ages 4-11), which presumably covers the upkeep and large, smiling staff – two of whom are exclusively dedicated to preventing butterflies from escaping the top level of the rainforest (one as you enter the elevator, and one as you leave it – this second part includes a sweep under strollers, a favored butterfly hideout.

- de Young Museum, San Francisco:


- National John Steinbeck Center, Salinas: a modern, interactive museum dedicated to the life of John Steinbeck, whose writing heavily featured the people and agriculture of the Salinas Valley, where he grew up. A second part of the museum tells a detailed history of the produce grown in this fertile area. Daniel and I are reading ‘America and Americans’, a series of essays and letters written by Steinbeck. We were interested to learn that Steinbeck himself went on a cross-country USA trip with his dog in an RV – a slide-on cleverly named ‘Rocinante’. His travels are documented in ‘Travels with Charley’, which we plan to read next.

- Getty Villa, Los Angeles: one of the homes of oil magnate J Paul Getty, modeled on the ancient Roman house Villa dei Papiri, and built to house his collection of Etruscan, Roman and Greek antiquities. The staff was keen to point out that Getty’s house was an exact replica, rather than a pastiche of European styles, as favored by contemporaneous mogul William Randolph Hearst. The setting along the Malibu coast was stunning, and the free entry appreciated. Accustomed to the vacant stares of most Greco-roman statues, we were startled by the demonic painted on eyes of the statues here. We can highly recommend the museum’s food, especially the very reasonably priced platter of raisin-walnut toast, three cheeses, almonds, dates, apricots and figs.

- Getty Center, Los Angeles: the jewel in the crown of LA’s museums, whose best quality – for me - is their indoor-outdoor architecture. This all-white Richard Meier masterpiece floats between the mountains and the sea, and includes multi-leveled landscaped gardens.

- LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art): Another indoor-outdoor marvel, this one featuring contemporary art and its own American wing, which Barbara and Daniel particularly enjoyed.
This was also the scene of a near misplacement of Barbara, who wandered off to another museum and left Julia frantic, the co-star in her own surreal thriller.

- El Capitan Theater, Hollywood: Daniel, Barbara and Sophia went to see ‘Dumbo’ at this Disney-owned 1920s movie theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.

Pictured: The Getty Center, over and over again

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