“Free” morning – and lunch
While Trudy and Carter spent the morning walking their dogs, Len and I did some last-minute errands, during which we had a cuppa at the local Barnes and Noble Starbucks. I checked the shelves for a few Aussie authors, and found Liane Moriarty (of course – she’s big here), Charlotte Wood, Graeme Simsion and Annabel Smith. I did a little surreptitious “facing out” for Wood and Smith.
It was then time to pack up all our stuff, and go meet Trudy and Carter. Our plan was to see Point Fermin Lighthouse (down at San Pedro), but first stop was lunch. After a quick confab, the fellows agreed on another favourite of Trudy and Carter’s, a lovely down-home diner-style eatery called Eat at Joe’s. We’d been wanting to go to at least one diner this trip so I didn’t need any convincing.
We love diners. Their food is not fine dining by any means, but it’s hearty, real (mostly, I think, anyhow), and such a big part of American culture. Eat at Joe’s, established in 1969, was all of that. (Indeed, even the Duke – you know, John Wayne – had dined there.) I loved that we met Trudy and Carter’s favourite server, Jan, and enjoyed some repartee with her. Of course, diner food is notoriously difficult for me, but I can usually find something to eat – and was lucky this time to find a few options including chicken teriyaki. Len, though, went for the traditional – roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy. It was a symphony in white, as you’ll see in the photos.
I photographed the Specials Board (see the pics), because it had some intriguing items, including:
- SOS, which we’d learnt about on the USS Midway – check the Wikipedia link if you are interested;
- Beef Stroganoff Mad Dog, which is, I think, a Joe’s special and involves, Jan told us, beef stew served on an omelet!; and
- Albondigas Soup, which some of you might know as meatball soup, and of which Jan insisted on giving us a sample.
Trudy had in mind a couple of sights for the afternoon, besides Point Fermin, and also indicated various other points of interest on the way. First stop was the surprising Wayfarers Chapel (aka “The Glass Church”), on cliffs above the Pacific Ocean in Rancho Palos Verdes. It’s apparently part of the Swedenborgian Church of North America.
It is gorgeous. You can barely see it until it is right upon you, as it’s surrounded by tall, but light-providing Redwoods. The structure is glass and wood, with the low solid part of the walls and altar being natural stone (i.e. not polished). It is a beautiful experience. (It made me think of Peter Carey’s glass church in Oscar and Lucinda.). It was designed by Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright, and described on the Chapel’s website as “renowned organic architect”) and built from 1949 to 1951. Wright’s aim was to “achieve a delicate enclosure” allowing “the surrounding landscape to define the sacred space” (Wikipedia). Wikipedia also says that its design, which features geometric shapes and incorporates the natural landscape, is typical of Lloyd Wright. Just lovely.
Point Fermin Lighthouse Historic District and Museum
Next stop was Point Fermin Lighthouse, but on the way I couldn’t resist taking a photo of some Trump territory (as you’ll see in the photos!)
The Lighthouse is really pretty. It was built in 1874, twenty years after the funding was approved. Land disputes, apparently. Plus ça change! What makes it pretty is partly its location, but also its architecture. It’s a Stick Style Victorian lighthouse, designed by US Lighthouse Board draftsman Paul J. Pelz. The style is simpler in design and decoration than that of the high Victorian period, and is characterized by “gabled roofs, horizontal siding, decorative cross beams and hand carved porch railings”. Only three of the six lighthouses built in this style are still standing.
The only way to see inside the lighthouse is via a (free) tour by volunteer guides, so we’d timed our visit to coincide with one of these. It was well worth it. Our guide, a retired man, was delightful. Point Fermin’s first lighthouse keepers were, he said, women, two sisters, Mary and Ella Smith, who came from a lighthouse family and served for 8 years. Quite coincidentally, the last were also two sisters, Thelma and Juanita Austin. They took over in 1925 when both their parents died, and served until 1927 when the lighthouse’s management was passed over to Los Angeles City.
The lighthouse was then managed by the City until Pearl Harbour, when the coast was “blacked out for fear of being a beacon to enemy ships and planes”. The light was, sadly, never lit again. During WWII, the lighthouse was a lookout tower and ships’ signalling station for the US Navy. It was then returned to the City, and used as a residence for Park employees until the 1970s.
There was some steep climbing – albeit only 58 steps apparently – to reach the top, but each level was interesting. The residential rooms on the first two floors were delightful because, unlike most Victorian buildings we’ve seen, the front rooms, overlooking the sea, were light and airy. All in all, a very pleasant sight, but then, we do love lighthouses.
Korean Bell of Friendship
Our final stop was the Korean Friendship Bell, a large bronze bell located in the Korean-American Peace Park section of Angel’s Gate Park, in San Pedro. It was presented by the Republic of Korea to the American people for the USA’s 1976 bicentennial, symbolising friendship between the two nations. It is struck five times a year on days significant to the US and/or Korea.
Wikipedia says it was modeled on the Divine Bell of King Seongdeok the Great of Silla which was cast in 771 for Bongdeok Temple and which is apparently largest ever cast in Korean history. Both these bells are still among the largest in the world. The pavilion housing it was built by Korean craftsmen to a traditional design. It has a hipped (“pyramidal”) roof which is supported by twelve columns representing the Korean zodiac. The colour patterning is something called dancheong. We didn’t know that, but Trudy and I were impressed by how beautiful and fresh the colours looked.
It was just a quick visit, but a lovely one – and it was also lovely to see the families in the park trying to fly kites. Seemed appropriate.
En route to and from San Pedro, we drove through a small section of road in an area called Portuguese Bend. There was a road sign advising “Constant land movement .8. miles”. What’s that about? Well, of course, Trudy and Carter knew. It’s because the land is geologically unstable (more than the rest of earthquake-prone California apparently). Landslides are an ongoing issue – including for the road itself. Consequently, it’s unsuitable for building, though there were once plans for a development here. Wikipedia describes it as the largest area of natural vegetation remaining on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, which is not surprising, really!
Len, who was driving, was glad to get past that .8 of a mile!! I didn’t ask him to stop for photos!
We then dropped Trudy and Carter home, making another sad farewell, before hitting the road (and freeways) for the last time this trip – to go to the airport.
All went smoothly – relatively, anyhow – for our return trip. An hour’s delay out of LA meant missing our Sydney-Canberra connection. However, rebooking was done for us inflight, and we were still home before lunch on Friday – just in time for our regular Friday lunch club with my Mum and Dad.
I will be writing one more wrap-up post … but in the meantime, thanks all for reading along with us, and particularly to those making comments (hint, hint!) We’ve enjoyed hearing from you.
A panorama of the Wayfarers Chapel…