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Los Angeles: San Gabriel Valley
Visiting Monterey Park, Huntington Library, and Pasadena

The San Gabriel Valley makes a fine day trip from Los Angeles for those who have cars.

The valley includes Monterey Park, the Huntington Library and Gardens, and various spots in Pasadena, such as the Gamble House, popular with locals, but seldom visited by people from outside of California.

The selection below is pick and choose. You don't have to see these in any particular order.

Most people will not visit everything. In fact, no visitor can reasonably expect to visit all the places mentioned in one day.

Sadly, bus frequency in much of this area, especially on North-South routes, is among the poorest in the Los Angeles area. If you use public transportation, visit the Huntington Library first, and then visit Pasadena.

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Monterey Park — Focus of Hong Kong immigration

When the British government announced that it was giving up control of Hong Kong, the demographics of Monterey Park changed almost overnight.

Monterey Park, a suburb some ten miles east of centre city Los Angeles, as well as adjacent Rosemead and the southern part of Alhambra became a focal point of Chinese immigration, especially from Hong Kong. Ignore the tourist Chinatown, just north of LA Union Station, and instead head out to Monterey Park.

Unlike other immigrant groups who came to the U.S., the Hong Kong Chinese tended to arrive with some money. Thus, in a relatively short time, a thriving retail sector formed to serve them and visitors. Home sales and upgrades also boomed.

In sociology, there's a rule that the more new people come and the faster they come, the slower the assimilation. That's certainly true in Monterey Park. Chinese culture survives in the face of the American assimilation machine.

A lucky visitor can find food, for example, as good as any in Hong Kong, served in an atmosphere that duplicates a fine restaurant in Hong Kong.

From centre city Los Angeles or Santa Monica, take Interstate 10 eastbound. Continue on Interstate 10 ("the I-10") until it becomes the San Bernardino Freeway.

Continue past the interchange of the I-10 with the Long Beach Freeway, Interstate 710, and exit south on Atlantic Boulevard into Monterey Park.

The greatest concentration of Chinese restaurants and retail shops is around the intersection of Atlantic with Garvey Avenue. See Yelp for current reviews of the best of these.

The highly-rated Happy Family at 111 North Atlantic, just north of Garvey, is one of the best-known vegetarian restaurants in California.

At Garvey Avenue, turn left.

At Garfield Avenue, turn left again, and go back toward the I-10.

You can either take the I-10 back to LA or continue north on Garfield to Huntington Drive.

Turn right on Huntington Drive.

The landscaped divider strip in the middle of Huntington Drive used to be the right of way of one of the interurban rail lines owned by the man who built the Huntington Library and Gardens as his estate. This "Pacific Electric" company once provided, some historians say, the best suburban passenger rail service in the U.S., hard to believe in present day Los Angeles.

Turn left on Sierra Madre, and follow the signs to the library.

Metropolitan Transit buses from near Union Station pass near the library and gardens.


The Huntington Library and Gardens

Southern Californians absolutely love the Huntington Library and Gardens, and you'll find out why.

The Huntington is located in San Marino, one of the wealthiest bedroom communities in California.

Due to the less ostentatious time when the town and the original portion of Beverly Hills were developed, lots and homes in San Marino are not especially large, but they are certainly expensive. You are buying the grace of this neighbourhood.

San Marino served as the venue of the Father of the Bride films starring Steve Martin.

The former estate of the man who developed the finest interurban train system in the United States, right here in Los Angeles and Orange counties—oh, where is it now?—the Huntington Library offers extensive gardens, which are beautiful all year, and a formidable collection of rare books and treasured paintings such as Benjamin Franklin's autobiography in his own handwriting and the painting Blue Boy.

Dr. Voyageur, who has visited here many times, always enjoys the Japanese and other gardens most of all.

Nearby are several other gardens, one of which is the Los Angeles County Arboretum, 301 North Baldwin Avenue, Arcadia, just east of Pasadena. Numerous movies like the original Tarzan were filmed here, especially in the tropical plants section.

Perhaps even more enjoyable is the Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive, in La Canada, northwest of Pasadena.

Even in the middle of winter, the abundant flowers impress. The temperate climate of southern California nurtures a horticultural paradise, and these gardens are fine places to enjoy a huge variety of plant life year round.


Pasadena

Pasadena, the most important town in the San Gabriel Valley, has much to offer a traveller.

Home of the Rose Bowl and the Rose Parade each New Year's Day, Pasadena is tucked against the San Gabriel Mountains, known to millions around the world who see its images on television.

Being the last stop before Los Angeles on the Santa Fe Railway (now re-routed), once the fastest way to get to southern California from Chicago and the East, Pasadena became the winter home for thousands of wealthy Americans at the turn of the century—at a time when proximity to the ocean was not a deciding factor in the choice of a holiday in the sun.

People from the "flatlands" of Chicago and other cities in the Midwest preferred to snuggle next to the mountains behind Pasadena and enjoy their winter gardens.

Many of the innovative homes of wealthy still exist in the residential neighbourhoods west of downtown Pasadena.

An outstanding example of these is the Gamble House (yes, as in Proctor and Gamble) at 4 Westmoreland Drive, just off Orange Grove Boulevard, near Walnut.

A more mellow example of holiday-centred So Cal-style residential architecture was never built.

The University of Southern California, which preserves this home, gives tours between Noon and 3:00 Thursdays through Sundays, except holidays (Call 818 793-3334 to confirm times and current cost). This place is a must for anyone who appreciates fine home design that impresses through the decades.

Also in Pasadena is the Norton Simon Museum, a gift from a wealthy southern California financier, at 411 West Colorado Boulevard, not far from the Gamble House.

This offers an extensive eclectic art collection from numerous periods, including works of Rembrandt, Renoir, and Van Gogh.

An excellent next stop, after Pasadena, is Forest Lawn.

For more off the beaten track L.A.:

Go to >> Forest Lawn
Go to >> Burbank

For additional L.A. information:

Go to >> Introduction to your visit
Go to >> L.A. at night
Go to >> Disneyland
Go to >> Links to the most useful information

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