2008: A Year of Travel in Pictures

palmshadow

The year 2008 began and ended in San Francisco. So lets consider some old/new highlights of San Francisco in honor of the new year. Favorite old site: the fabulously eccentric late Frank Lloyd Wright Marin Civic Center. Favorite new site: the fabulously eccentric just opened Renzo Piano designed California Academy of Sciences. Favorite old restaurant: deliciously Italian Delfina in San Francisco. Favorite new restaurant: deliciously eccentric Camino in Oakland.

Albino Aligator

In February it was off to historic Savannah for a week with my sister. I hadn’t been there since the long ago publication of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I credit John Berendt’s book with turning a sleepy southern town into a major tourist attraction—and perhaps saving the city’s historic core.

Savannah

From there it was a drive up to Baltimore for a visit with my brother and his family.

Baltimore

Then my first trip to South America for a 10 day stay in Buenos Aires. Loved the city, loved the food, and loved the fact that I could afford it! Rent an apartment through www.bytargentina.com (thanks to Marc Leonard for the tip); eat at La Cabrera, La Dorita, Social Paraiso, and the cheese room at the fabulous Park Hyatt Hotel; have a suit made, have a leather jacket made; get a massage. Enjoy the urbanity of this great world city.

Buenos Aires 2008

Buenos Aires 2008

El Autobus

We took a side trip to Iguazu Falls. The falls are truly impressive, but it had much more the air of an amusement park than I expected. Apparently the “most visited site in South America” aspect had not registered until I got there!

Iguazu Falls

After Buenos Aires, travel with business colleagues took me to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. I probably would not have gone there on my own—there are very few tourists—but I’m very glad I had the experience.

Montevideo

A day long layover allowed a chance to see the Panama Canal, and a good deal of the Panamanian countryside as well. We put ourselves entirely at the mercy of a random driver at the Panama Airport and were rewarded with a comfortable, reasonably priced, and comprehensive guided tour! I’m not really a proponent of the “see it in a day” brand of tourism—yet neither do I feel the need to rush back to Panama.

Panama Canal

Next up was a weekend trip to Denver to see the John Adams opera Nixon in China. We enjoyed the stylishly quirky Curtis hotel and appreciated the public transportation in what is  essentially a car-centric city.

Denver

I got to spend much of August in my former “hometown” of Amsterdam, researching a couple of travel articles (see the articles below) and visiting old friends.

Amsterdam

A quick trip to Paris on the super-efficient Thalys high-speed train, confirmed what everyone has always said about Paris in August—all the best places to eat are closed! But I got to use the new Velib public bicycles—I’m hooked, what a great way to get around Paris.

Richard Serra - Tuilieries

The rest of the year was spent in California, tending to work, with short trips to Morro Bay and Ventura, and ending up back in San Francisco for the New Year.

Little Dom’s $15 Monday Supper

Little Dom's Monday Night Supper Menu

I’d keep this to myself, except that word is already out—each week it becomes harder to get a reservation. It’s worth it though, because where else can you get a delicious and interesting three course dinner for fifteen dollars? Throw in a bottle of cheap wine ($10 marked down from the regular $25) and you have a real feast at a price that’s hard to beat. The menu changes every week, and there are no substitutions, so the bargain may not go to the picky eater. In that case you can order off the regular (pricier) menu, and still compensate with the cheap wine. I’m willing to eat anything they offer though, and I’ve only once been disappointed. The food is Italian—a mix of Italian Italian, New York Italian, and a bit of California. On Hillhurst in Los Feliz, Little Dom’s is open for breakfast (also delicious), lunch and dinner 7 days a week. Reservations advised; essential for Monday night. 323.661.0055

Overheard at the Alcove

Alcove Umbrella

An Introduction of sorts

A couple weeks before Thanksgiving, on the patio of the Alcove, I was trying to prevent Lily, Michael’s Bedlington Terrier, from noticing the dog at the very adjacent next table. This was possible only because a) the dog was sitting in a woman’s lap and b) it was wearing one of those huge cone-shaped plastic things from the vet that somehow always make dogs look like they have just dropped in from outer space. Anyway, this cone was not only bigger than the dog’s head, but possibly larger than the dog itself.

While Lily remained oblivious, I could not restrain myself from listening in on the conversation of the four thin, attractive twenty-something women who sat picking at their impossibly large brunch platters.

“Are you having a Tofurkey for Thanksgiving?” one of them asked.
“What exactly is a Tofurkey,” another interjected, “Do they, like, take the tofu and then mold it into a turkey shape?”
“Basically,” the one with the dog replied.

An energetic discussion of the virtues of veganism ensued, culminating eventually in this entertaining, if possibly apocryphal, anecdote,

“When I was in Paris with my father last year,” the one with the dog began, “I was starting to feel guilty rejecting so many cute little restaurants because they had nothing vegan, or even vegetarian on the menus. I mean nothing. The European’s just don’t get it,” she sighed. “They don’t get it. I tried telling everyone to go to dinner without me, but of course they wouldn’t. Then one afternoon, we saw the cutest little restaurant. It was between lunch and dinner, so of course it was closed, but the chef just happened to be sitting at a little outside table, so I decided to ask him if he could make a vegetarian meal if we booked for dinner. Well he just didn’t get it. The more I tried to explain, he got so mad, he turned red. Then, he actually chased me down the street, waving his arms and screaming ‘viande, viande!’ ”

This is not even the most amusing conversation we’ve overheard during our frequent visits to the Alcove, a neighborhood cafe frequented by Los Feliz hipsters, and a surprisingly large number of screenwriters and actors, both accomplished and aspiring. In that regard, there is something quintessentially ‘Hollywood’ about it, and why I’ve decided to call this journal of musings about life in Los Angeles Overheard at the Alcove.

Alcove Cafe & Bakery
1929 Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027-2711
(323) 644-0100