A Short but Very Sweet LA Getaway
by Susan Montgomery
A few weeks ago, we celebrated a friend’s birthday with a short trip to LA. We spent the late morning and afternoon at the magnificent Getty Center and the night at the gracious, boutique Hotel Angeleno which is just minutes from the Getty. And we topped off our visit the next day with a drive around Beverly Hills, followed by an elegant lunch at The Ivy. A drive to the Getty from almost anywhere in the San Diego or Riverside County areas is no more than an-hour-and-a-half if you avoid the early morning rush hour. We stayed all night so we didn’t have to worry about battling the traffic on the way home. This same trip would be perfect for anyone wanting to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, or any special occasion. Even if you live in LA, an overnight stay nearby might be just the ticket for a wonderful getaway when you don’t have time for a longer trip.
If you haven’t been to the Getty Center, it is, of course, a must for any art lover. It may look imposing as it sits atop a ridge of the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking the 405, but it is easily accessible. Underground parking is plentiful and there are elevators to take you right to a tram that whisks you comfortably up the hill to the museum. The five-minute ride on the tram elevates you out of your daily life and is part of the Getty experience. As you wait to board the tram, you can enjoy the Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Garden, featuring Henry Moores’s imposing Bronze Form. Surprisingly, admittance to the Getty is free. Parking costs $15 a car.
Designed by the renowned architect, Richard M. Meier, the Center’s ingenious complex of buildings, fountains, and landscaped gardens is a work of art by itself. Circles and squares merge, creating a dramatic play of light and form that is ever-changing and inspiring. Sound, color and texture combine in a Central Garden with boulders in a stream bed that produce melodic sounds. There are other beautifully landscaped areas that make the Getty an outdoor as well as an indoor experience. We particularly enjoyed the J. M. W. Turner special exhibit, which closes May 24, but there are always intriguing, special exhibits at the Getty. For instance, “Degas: ‘Russian Dancers’ and the Art of Pastel” just opened and will be on view until October 11. The museum’s own collections are also extensive and impressive. Plan to spend a day at the Getty—and plan to go back again and again.
We also had a wonderful lunch at the Getty’s upscale restaurant, called “The Restaurant at the Getty Center,” where we indulged in inventive cocktails and gourmet entrees. Among the four of us, we ordered English Pea Risotto, Alaskan Halibut, and the Turner Exhibition-inspired entrée, a delicious meat pie. I was particularly enamoured with a lovely cherry tomato salad creatively served on what seemed to be a slice of a tree. On the lower level of The Restaurant is the more casual Café plus there is another Garden Terrace Café open in the summer. You won’t go hungry while visiting The Getty and the food in all the venues is fresh, seasonal, and delicious.
Another highlight of our brief sojourn to LA was our stay at the charming Hotel Angeleno. This is your ideal stopping place when visiting the Getty because it is literally five minutes away, right off the 405, and offers guests a courtesy shuttle service right to the Getty and also to nearby UCLA. One approach to visiting the Getty might be to check into the hotel first and then take the shuttle to the museum. Most of us have undoubtedly driven by the distinctive Hotel Angeleno many times. It is the unique, circular building that was formerly a Holiday Inn until it was privately purchased and artistically updated about six years ago. It is very appropriate that the hotel’s clever branding tagline is: “We are not square.”
Guests have a good time at Hotel Angeleno—a welcoming, luxury hotel with many amenities, including complimentary Wi-Fi and valet parking at no charge. The rooms are nicely decorated with comfortable beds, and the hotel is reasonably priced with rooms sometimes as low as $159 a night. The Angeleno also offers guests a complimentary wine hour each afternoon, which we really enjoyed. First we sipped our wine, served by a friendly staff member, in the comfy lobby and then we adjourned (with our wine of course) to the pool area where we snuggled by a bonfire, enjoying the lovely setting on a nice Southern California evening.
And we never had to leave the hotel to continue with our LA experience. We had drinks and dinner in the highly rated West Restaurant and Lounge on the hotel’s 17th floor penthouse level with breathtaking panoramic views of downtown LA and the ocean. We particularly relished watching the crawling traffic on the I-405 right below, happy in the knowledge that we were having a relaxing evening and not fighting the snarled traffic below us.
The restaurant’s wine list is extensive and the staff can make knowledgeable wine recommendations. We started our meal with delectable, cider-glazed scallops creatively served with truffled parsnip puree and roasted rainbow cauliflower. Then, among the four of us, we had an order of melt-in-your-mouth sea bream; rich and flavorful veal roulade; and two orders of ginger snap rack of lamb served with honey grits, rainbow chard, apple-garlic jam, and lamb jus. The unique mixture of flavors and textures in these entrees was scrumptious. In quite an impressive testimony to the excellence of this restaurant, one member of our party said it was absolutely the best rack of lamb she had ever had (and she is a culinary connoisseur). We also had the pleasure of meeting the personable Executive Chef, Laura Scollan, who put all these innovative dishes together with a focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients. Of course you don’t need to stay at the hotel to visit West. It is worth a special trip.
The next morning we ventured to close-by Beverly Hills, only about 15 minutes from the Angeleno. After driving around looking at the lushly landscaped homes on Rodeo Drive, we savored a special birthday lunch at The Ivy, the much-celebrated, iconic restaurant that is as much a place to be seen (and to see) as to eat. We had wisely made a reservation weeks before and only had about a ten-minute wait, which was made especially palatable by the complimentary flute of champagne.
The Ivy was packed with stylish, chattering guests, as it always is. Seating is cozy, but that is part of the charm. The abundance of multi-colored roses everywhere set the tone of casual elegance. The Ivy was everything we expected it to be: bustling, romantic, classy, and expensive. After snacking on warm, crusty bread, we tried some creative cocktails, such as refreshing Ivy Gimlets made with vodka, lime and mint. Our entrees were beautifully plated and delicious, and included the Ivy Lobster Cobb, Seafood Pasta, and Lobster Tacos. For dessert, we were full but succumbed to a lovely presentation of sorbets. And we appreciated the little box of the Ivy’s famous chocolate chip cookies that each guest takes home. While local celebrities may frequent The Ivy regularly, we will save it for special occasions. (I am already thinking about our next anniversary!) We loved every minute of this lovely lunch and agreed that all three meals during our mini-LA getaway were exceptional.
We arrived home in southwest Riverside County about 30 hours after leaving the day before, but we felt like we had really gotten away and had an extraordinary mini-vacation. We will be back. It’s nice to know the Getty, the Hotel Angeleno, and The Ivy will be there waiting for our return.
Photos taken by our intrepid photographer, Todd Montgomery.
Ivy patio photo taken by Linda Milks.