Recently, my husband and I had a chance to go to Los Angeles and meet up with two dear friends visiting from Florence, Italy. We had to be back the following evening, so I examined our itinerary carefully – prioritizing the destinations and eateries and strategizing the commute in between for the brief time we had.
Yes, 48 hours is short, but when planned ahead, you can still see a lot and experience the cultural diversity in the City of Angels.
Our flight arrived mid-morning on a Friday. Upon picking up our rental car, we headed to The Getty. Both of us had gone to the museum separately and talked about visiting together again, so it was a no-brainer. The tram took us from the parking structure to the center, and it was like entering a whole other world, so light and airy with the sunshine reflected off the beautiful architecture. I took a sip of John’s ice latte from the coffee stand and smiled. We were ready to enter the exhibitions.
As we strolled from one gallery to another consisting of Renaissance art, I had flashbacks of “The Badia Polyptych” by Giotto di Bondone. I had spent days tracing patterns of its tempera paint and gold leaves on the high-res digital scan and analyzing the pigmentation through the Terahertz equipment one summer in Tokyo. As a lover of impressionism, I spent more time looking at this piece of Renaissance art than I thought I ever would. Who was Giotto? I really didn’t have much connection to him besides my time staring at the paint and gold on the screen. The following fall, Marcello, my Florentine friend, geology scientist from the national art conservation research institute in Italy, took me past the lines outside of Uffizi Gallery into a private tour. Before I realized, we were in front of The Badia Polyptych. A new appreciation was born.
We made our way to the garden. John instructed me to walk down the maze-like paths and stand next to a lamp post with the garden behind me. I closed my eyes, “Tell me when you are ready to take the photo, and then I’ll look!” The sunshine was so bright that day.
Despite running the risk of hitting traffic, we drove over to Blockheads for a shaved snow ice cream before heading east. The black sesame shaved snow ice cream, topped with mochi, crumbled Oreos, and coconut milk, was heavenly and refreshing especially on a warm day. There was no regret. I scooped the fluffy shaved snow ice cream in the sauna-like car, one spoonful for John, and another for me, and we headed east.
Have you guessed yet? We were heading over to Arcadia, where we planned to meet Andrew at Din Tai Fung for dinner. Growing up in Taipei, with the original Din Tai Fung just around the corner to my middle school, I had seen the line around the block outside of the dumpling shop. Many times after school, I wondered what the crowds were there for. Now, I was excited to introduce the pork dumplings (xiao long bao) and beef noodle soup to my food-loving husband. We stuffed ourselves at Din Tai Fung with various types of dumplings and beef noodle soup.
And we didn’t forget dessert! We picked up milk with boba from Half & Half and went back to Andrew’s home, where we had the privilege of viewing Andrew’s final edition of a documentary film that had been developing for 3 years.
The next morning, Andrew took us to De Cafe Baristas for coffee. I ordered my first cortado, inspired by many beautiful #mydailycortado shots on Instagram. Mine had a full body, sophisticated balance of milk and coffee, and perfect look. It was a love at first sip. We chatted at our window-seats and shared a coffee cake and cronut. The cronut was a first.
We spent the rest of the afternoon with Sirpa and Marcello, our Florentine friends, over Californian summer fruits and Italian biscuits in the West Covina home backyard. The backyard was the same as I remembered from four years prior. Here we were, the five of us, with new stories and adventures to share with one another. Time flew by. We hugged and said, Tanti baci, see you again soon somewhere in the world. It was true, from times in Tokyo, Pisa, Florence, Arrezzo, and West Covina, the world did not put a distance in our friendship.
John and I picked up freshly baked breads from 85C Bakery. We returned our car and boarded the plane while munching through the marble taro bread at LAX. The wind at dusk welcomed us home as we stepped out of the airplane at SFO. I thought, it was a lovely day in the San Gabriel Valley.
1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90049
Blockheads Shavery Co.
11311 Mississippi Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Din Tai Fung
1108 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, CA 91007
Half & Half Tea House
141 N Atlantic Blvd Ste 112, Monterey Park, CA 91754
De Cafe Baristas
500 N Atlantic Blvd Ste 121, Monterey Park, CA 91754
85C Bakery Cafe
2626 E Garvey Ave S West Covina, CA 91791