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Off the beaten track L.A.

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

The San Gabriel Valley includes Monterey Park, the Huntington Library and Gardens, and various spots in Pasadena, such as the Gamble House, and is popular with locals, but seldom visited by people from outside of California, except during Rose Bowl season.

The San Gabriel Valley received a huge wave of Chinese immigration at the time the British government announced that it was leaving Hong Kong.

That means that it is the premier place to enjoy authentic Chinese food in Southern California in all price ranges. I suggest Yelp.com for recent reviews of these.

Above: Dining on the cheap, but deliciously so in the San Gabriel Valley.

Using a car will save time, but you can access the entire area by Metropolitan Transit from a transit plaza in back of L.A. Union Station.

The Huntington Library and Gardens

Southern Californians love the Huntington Library and Gardens, but few travellers to Los Angeles venture there. A shame.

The Huntington Library is located in San Marino, one of the wealthiest "bedroom" communities in California. The Father of the Bride films starring Steve Martin were filmed here.

Due to the less ostentatious time when San Marino 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.

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.

The grass area between the lanes of Huntington Drive as you approach the library mark where a route of Arabella and Henry Huntington's Pacific Electric Railway once ran. It provided rapid access to the entire Los Angeles area, including Orange County and the most populated portions of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. That ease of access is greatly missed!

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


Gamble House—Doc Brown's house in the Back to the Future series—in Pasadena displays a unique Southern California architectural style at its finest.

Pasadena, the most important city 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 tucked against the San Gabriel Mountains is known to millions around the world, who see its images on television.

Being the last stop before downtown 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 instead of living adjacent to the ocean, as the wealthy did in Florida.

Even today, other than Malibu and the Pacific Palisades neighbourhood of Los Angeles, L.A. County beach side communities such as Long Beach and Torrance are not home to the truly wealthy.

Iconic Pasadena architecture

Many 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, offers tours. 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.

Norton Simon Museum

The Norton Simon Museum, a gift from a wealthy Southern California financier, is 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.

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 boomed.

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.

The greatest concentration of Chinese restaurants and retail shops is around the intersection of Atlantic with Garvey Avenue.


Acadia, one of the wealthiest communities in Southern California, hosts the Los Angeles County Arboretum at 301 North Baldwin Avenue.

Numerous films such as the original Tarzan one (1936) were filmed there, especially in the tropical plants section.

Northwest of Pasadena, the Descanso Gardens at 1418 Descanso Drive in La Canada also brings us the peace found in nature.

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.

For more off the beaten track L.A.:

Go to >> Southern California's wild and wacky obsession with death. A travel guide

For additional L.A. information:

Go to >> Introduction to your visit
Go to >> Links to the most useful information

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