By Jean Strauber, Travel Editor
In two weeks “Carmageddon” will be upon us. With the 405 Freeway closed and the other freeways and canyon roads to the city promising to be one big traffic jam, I have suggested a couple of alternatives. I suggested that you can drive to the San Fernando Mission de Espana which is located on Brand Boulevard just east of Sepulveda Bouelvard in Mission Hills. After you visit the mission why not picnic at the lovely park across the street? The second suggestion was to take the Metro subway and spend the day in Hollywood. In fact, why not take an overnight suitcase and spend a night at the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel? For that weekend the MTA has announced that riders on the Orange Line busway as well as the Red and Purple subway lines will NOT have to pay any fare!
Here are some other suggestions for the weekend of July 15-17th:
• My first suggestion: Take the Metro subway to its final destination, Union Station. Disembark and stroll through the Union Station, cross Alameda Street and you’ll find yourself in Olvera Street with its historic buildings, shops and fine restaurants. Your children will enjoy watching the glass blowers and the candle makers. Guided tours are offered in Olvera Street. You can sign up for them at the Old Firehouse in the Plaza. One of the more interesting sites is the restored Pio Pico House, the home of one of the early Spanish governors of Alta California. Or, continue strolling on Alameda for three blocks and you’ll find yourself in front of Phillippe’s, the home of the French Dip. Still not hungry? Then, turn left (west) and stroll one block and you’ll find yourself in Chinatown. Here too you’ll find many choices of restaurants.
• Second: How about a visit to the 4.5-acre Gardens of the World located in Thousand Oaks, just across the street from the Thousand Oaks Civic Plaza? Founded by Ed and Lyn Hogan, founders of Pleasant Holidays, who wanted to do something to give back to the community where they have lived and conducted their successful business. By establishing these gardens they are sharing with the community the beauty that they have seen during their travels around the world.
Just recently I visited the gardens with a group of friends. We met at the Resource Center where we met our volunteer docent, Andrea Martin. Located in the center of the Gardens of the World is a traditional American Bandstand. On Sunday afternoons during August you can come and listen to cool jazz on a hot summer evening. The Gardens encourage you to bring chairs or blankets for comfortable seating while you dine on your picnic supper. Bring your own food or purchase take-out from the many restaurants you find in Thousand Oaks. However, no pets, smoking or glassware allowed.
Leaving the Resource Center we followed the footpath which led us past the shaded picnic area. Some in our group had brought picnic lunches while others decided that we would eat at a nearby restaurant after the tour.
The first garden we encountered on our tour was The Japanese Gardens, where you will find an authentic Japanese Pagoda set in the midst of a Koi pond. We watched as the Koi swam towards Andrea as she fed them from a jar labeled “Koi Food.” We saw groves of Bamboo and Black Bamboo along the footpath. Andrea pointed out the rock formations in the pool representing a turtle and a crane, explaining that both are symbols of longevity.
She pointed out the Dragon’s Gate waterfall so named for the fable that if a Koi can swim to the top of the waterfall, it will turn into a dragon. We continued on the footpath towards the Mission Courtyard. This garden is dedicated to the early history of the state of California and the mission trail. In fact a lifelike statue of Father Junipero Sera is situated in the grassy area in front of the Courtyard. Much to our surprise we found out that the priest was only 5’2”, the same height as the statue. In the courtyard we viewed the orange and lemon trees.
Grapes were growing on a nearby arbor. On the walls of the courtyard local artists Bridget Duffy and Mark Fenton had painted murals of the 21 other missions founded by the Franciscan fathers. Returning to the footpath we cross into the beautiful French Garden. The highlight of the area, to me, is the replica of the French Fountain that one sees in Versailles. In this garden we found lowlying hedges and colorful flowers arranged in intricate designs.
We oohed and aahed as we felt the velvet smoothness of the “Baby Elephant Ear” that grows in this garden. From the French Garden, the footpath will take you to the English Perennial and Rose Garden. Andrea pointed out that there were more than 500 species of roses in the gardens. As in a typical English garden, plants such as star jasmine are seen throughout permeating the air with their heavy fragrance. We were also impressed with the beauty of the variety of roses planted, with Andrea pointing some of the varieties. The final garden that we visited was The Italian Garden. What beautiful cypress trees standing so tall and straight. Here too you found a “chain” fountain that was inspired by Italian architecture. Our tour ended with us saying farewell to Andrea and the opportunity to return to any of the gardens for a closer examination.
If you want to attend the Ninth Annual August Concert Series here is the schedule: – Aug 7th- The Phil Norman Tentet. This jazz ensemble has played with musical legends such as Tom Jones, Julio Iglesias, Mel Torme, The Beach Boys and Barry Manilow. – Aug 14th- The Barry Rillera Blues Band which will be offering blues and Barry’s own original music. Barry was one of the original members of the Mustangs, which were one of the first rock house bands that performed at Disneyland for many years. – Aug 21st- Open Hands with legendary musicians Bill Maxwell, Justo Almario, Greg Mattheson and Abraham Laboreal. These artists have performed with music legends Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streishand, Al Jarreau, Quincy Jones, Herb Alpert and many others. – Aug 28th- The Late Nite Big Band led by Joel Gray. Special guest vocalists.
The Gardens of the World is located at 2001 Thousand Oaks Boulevard. Parking is available in a small parking lot or along Thousand Oaks Boulevard. For more information go to www. gardensoftheworld.info or call (805) 557-1135. I want to thank my GCG/VNNP colleague Irv Leemon for taking such fine pictures.
Third Suggestion: Why not visit any of our fine Valley parks? Sherman Oaks Memorial Park has lovely picnic grounds, Reseda Park, Northridge Park with its refurbished plunge, North Hollywood Park with its magnificent picnic grounds, Lake Balboa with its picnic area. Or, rent one of the paddleboats and enjoy an afternoon of paddling on the lake. And, of course, there’s Warner Center Park with their Sunday afternoon concerts.