Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Okay- at the LA Zoo there are LOTS of strollers and at Descanso Gardens there are LOTS of walkers. So many in fact, that I felt bad about even considering using the handicapped stall in the Visitor Center bathroom. But who can blame the elderly for wanting to spend a lovely Sunday strolling through 160 acres of rambling, carefully curated and (what a rarity in Los Angeles County) elegant nature?
Certainly not me. There ain't no shame in pretending you're Eliza Bennet romping through the English Countryside be you 27 or 99. Speaking of the English, not only did a good deal of the 20 acres of shaded oak forest look like Britain (or at least like the muted woods of the East coast that I played in as a child), European tourists ran a close second to the olds as visitors.
Lots of blonde babies and fanny packs.
Descanso Gardens started out as the private estate of E. Machester Boddy, who besides having a great early 1900s name was also a self made man and the publisher of the Los Angeles Daily News(which much to my surprise actually still exists?!?). The family sold Descanso to the County in 1953 and now it is a public park(admission for adults: $8) with a Rosarium, amphitheater, lilac garden, tea garden, Camellia Forest and California's fave attraction-I have now seen three in the LA area alone- the Japanese Garden complete with tea house and koi pond.
I also got to see a man and his butt crack trying to fish his child's pacifier out of the koi stream, while his wife howled with laughter and the baby cried and cried.
The thing that is so cool about Descanso is that it is highly accessible for every kind of tourist. There is a tram for the olds, a little train for the kiddies. You can walk on the established pavement loop around the park, but you can also amble around the countless dirt paths and impromptu trails that weave through the area. At the end of many of these you will find a subtle stone sculpture, a small lake, a bench dedicated to some rich local, or a maze made of bushes. It is a wonderfully romantic place, with Camellia's seemingly placed everywhere, from the crook of a fallen oak tree to the top of the stone staircase that leads to Boddy Mansion , where you can tour the first floor, which has been strangely compounded into a half-museum, half-Restoration Hardwareish showplace.
The only sucky aspect is that you are not allowed to bring picnic stuff or blankets, though there is an overpriced cafe if you are starving. Also when I was there, there was a Camilla show in the Van de Kamp Hall with hundreds of kinds of Camellas in little plastic cups that had been judged on color, size, appearance, you name it. It was like a highbrow plant show at the State Fair, complete with nice ladies who would tell you everything you ever ever wanted to know about treated vs. untreated flowers, and the debate that rages on.
I think the thing I like most about Descanso was the aforementioned shade. There were hills with Oaks so high you couldn't see the sky, and for a second the California sun, always so bright and harsh, made everything diffused and lovely, and not like modern city life at all.
Directions: From Hollywood take the 1-5 South to the CA-2N. Stay on the 2N for eight miles and then take the 1-210 exit towards Pasadena. Keep right at fork and follow signs for Verdugo Blvd. Turn right at Verdugo Blvd. and then right at Descanso Drive. There is a large parking lot and it is free, free, free.
Hours: Daily except Xmass. 9am-4:30pm.
Price: Adults: $8, Seniors and Youth: $6, Children: $3, Children under five: free.