We started out our first full day in Los Angeles at the Euro Pane bakery on Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. When we lived in Pasadena six years ago this was our favorite breakfast spot, and I was delighted to see that nothing has changed, from the green walls to the thick, strong coffee to the smiles on the faces of everyone who works there (all the more impressive because it is always packed. This is the place to get pastries, bread, and apparently egg salad, and all of the locals know it). I love a bakery that doesn’t have its own website but instead understands the importance of good butter and fresh fruit. To wit: my apple strudel was both juicy and flaky. Divinely so.
After we had our fix of cinnamon, chocolate, caffeine, and fat, we headed for Long Beach and the Aquarium of the Pacific. There are two things that I really love about this aquarium. One was the size – it’s big enough to offer a wide variety of animals and exhibits but not so big that younger children are overwhelmed. We were there for just over two hours and saw almost everything including an orca’s skeleton:
And a huge piece of baleen from a blue whale (You know those things that look like teeth? Up close they couldn’t be less teeth-like):
The other thing I love about the aquarium is that visitors are encouraged to really interact with the animals, especially in the outdoor area where there we spent a lot of time and touched not only sting rays but small sharks.
One area is dedicated to showing what lives close to the coast, plant and animal, marine and avian. Teddy loved exploring the tide pools and touching the starfish and anemones. A nearby tank full of fish and seaweed actually had water that moved in undulating waves simulating coastal waters.
We watched a tank full of rays being fed, and the children were especially delighted when one of them pressed its mouth up against the side of the tank – “It looks like a monster!” Tommy shrieked.
The sea lions also put on a show – one in particular kept diving down in front of all the spectators and opening his mouth in a way that sent everyone watching into spasms of laughter.
A real favorite for all of us was the outdoor aviary full of lorikeets. We bought each of the boys a cup of nectar to feed them and they both loved having the birds land on them (and me).
Back inside, Teddy was determined to see an octopus. He’s developed a fascination lately with things that lurk in the deep and have tentacles. He didn’t seem to mind that when we arrived at the tank, the octopus had tucked itself into a very small corner. We spent a long time in the dimly lit North Pacific display admiring the translucent bodies of the jelly fish and laughing at the puffins as they tumbled and dove.
When we were finished we let the boys each make a souvenir penny and then headed over to the nearby P.F. Chang’s for lunch in the sun. All dining options in the immediate vicinity are chains. If I had been thinking ahead a bit I might have had sandwiches made at the bakery so that we could have a picnic. The aquarium sits right at the edge of Rainbow Harbor, which has a lovely marina and park and any number of benches and nice places where one might have a picnic overlooking the water.
There are also a variety of cruises that depart regularly – you can go whale watching similar to whale watching california at Newport Wales or get a tour of the Port of Los Angeles. Matt and I idly talked about taking one, but were put off by the boys’ continued fatigue, which manifested itself in the form of spazziness that seemed like it might be a recipe for disaster on a boat. So instead we strolled along the paved path that led us up to a small lighthouse from which we could see the Queen Mary, now a hotel and museum, and a large Carnival cruise ship towering over it. Sea lions delighted us and a group of Japanese tourist by swimming across the marina and climbing onto the backs of some of the boats to bask in the sun.
Leaving Long Beach is almost like driving through a modern sculpture – several huge bridges bisect the enormous port with its gantry cranes and multi-colored containers stacked in a dizzying array. I suppose it should be grim to think of all those cheap imported goods but somehow the whole scene is strangely beautiful, especially since its backdrop is the dazzling blue of the Pacific. As we drove away amidst the continually rumbling semis a white blimp floated behind us like magic. The boys sat in the backseat insisting that 66 degrees or no, they were going to swim in their great grandparents’ pool (which they did – yes, I love my husband who went in with them) and I watched in the car’s side mirror as we climbed the hill and the harbor receded until it looked like a child’s toy spread out behind us. That blimp and those cranes (to say nothing of the smell of cinnamon at Euro Pane and the smiling whale face above) will surely be in my dreams for months.
What are your Monday dreams? Please feel free to share a link to your own inspiration below, making sure you link directly to your post, not your site’s homepage and that you link back to this post. Questions? See About Monday Dreaming.