Olvera Street, Los Angeles

Have you ever gone back to your old childhood neighborhood but as an adult?   You look down your former street and wonder why it looks so small now?   That tiny block in my youth once seemed to go on for miles and felt about two football fields wide.

That is my recollection of Olvera Street in Los Angeles.  When I went there as a kid it seemed like an endless lane packed with vendors, food, and my favorite…toys!  Going there as an adult, the tree-lined street didn’t seem as long.

The aroma of authentic Mexican food still filled the air and colorful booths were packed with clothes, hats, shoes, tiles, handmade leather goods, etc. just as they were back then.

My Mom always bought me one of those wooden puppets that had four strings to control the hands and feet.   It was a must have, and I was happy to see that they still sell them there!  In fact about ten were hanging on a display where a small boy was tugging on his dad’s shirt asking him to buy him one.

With all of the high tech games today, it is nice to know that such a simple toy like that has not been forgotten.

Other than it not being as large as I remember, Olvera Street hasn’t changed much.

Even now, the sweet aroma of food floods the air, there is  entertainment in the square, mariachis, and the same vendors selling their goods.

The History
Olvera Street, known as “the birthplace of Los Angeles,”   is a block-long Mexican Marketplace that was created in 1930. It preserves the customs of early California and some of the merchants today are actually descendants of the original vendors.

Besides the tented vendors, the narrow shaded street features cafes, old structures, and restaurants.

The tree lined street has street vendors on one side

There are also brick and mortar stores which are actually brick and mortar!

The Culture
There is main center square where you can sit and watch the provided entertainment which can include bands, dancers, or singers.    On this day, a woman dressed in colorful Mexican attire was singing songs that entertained all that were gathered around.

To keep with the spirit of the place, we sat down in a hole in the wall café to test out the authentic Mexican food.  Based on the crowds, I am guessing that this is how they like it prepared.   Nearby, the ball of a homemade tortilla was gently rolled out to soon become a fresh warm delicious staple of the Mexican culture.

In our tiny establishment, the popular drink Horchata was pouring into many a glass.

I was half inclined to join in, although with a couple of Coronas instead, but I knew I had to drive.   I settled for munching on a taco in the back of that four table café while watching a Mariachi band stroll through the crowd.

Olvera Street is open 10:00 am to 6-8pm daily and until 8-10pm on the weekends.  I like how they leave it open, maybe we will close at 8:00, maybe 10:00. That is the Mexican way, family, home, and food, all important in its own way.

If you are looking for something to do in the Los Angeles area, check out Olvera Street.

The best part, admission is free.

Next time, we visit Chinatown which happens to be right around the corner.

Map of Olvera Street

Stories and Photos: Debbie Colwell


The Adamson House, Malibu

The Adamson House:
Just perusing Google to find something to do up in the Los Angeles area, we came across the Adamson House in Malibu.

This grand home sits on the beach very close to the Malibu Pier so we thought it might be interesting to see what it was all about, plus I have never seen the pier.   At the very worst, hanging out by the beach wouldn’t be such a bad way to spend the day.

Situated just off of Pacific Coast Highway, we saw the Adamson sign and turned into an all day parking lot that cost a hefty twelve dollars a car.  We learned later you could also park on the street to save the parking fees.

The sign just off of PCH

Since the home is open to the public, you don’t have to pay to just walk around the outside or visit the museum.   It is only if you take the inside docent led tour that you have to pay a nominal seven dollars each.

The front courtyard. You can walk around without taking the tour.

We paid the fee and made our way into the five car garage that has been converted into the visitor center/ museum.  There you can view old photos and learn a little more about the beginnings of the house.

While in the garage, you are then led to a seating area where the guide proceeds to tell you the history of how the home came to be.

My problem is, I am a visual person so I just wanted to get into the house.  To top things off, somewhere during our guide’s speech she mentioned that no photos could be taken inside, darn!!!!

I started getting antsy, the history lesson was taking way too long. I just wanted the basics but she was getting into the chronicles of both the original families.  I looked around and most people seemed to be enjoying the lecture by laughing when they were supposed to or nodding during interesting tidbits. My eyes were wandering, I was officially losing interest.  Maybe these types of tours are not for me.

The History of Adamson House:
So with that in mind I will give you a very brief history.

This site was once the home of the Chumash Indians who lived there until the late 18thcentury.  Later, the Rindge family owned the location as well as 20 miles of additional coastline and soon the family’s daughter, Rhoda, along with her husband, Merritt Huntley Adamson, used this plot of land to construct a beach house.

Built in 1929, it sits on one of the most premier oceanfront spots in all of Southern California.

In 1968 the State of California bought the property and it is now a National Historic Site plus a California Historical Landmark.

There is so much more involved in the history but let’s leave it at that and get to the actual tour!

The Tour:
It was now time to go inside!   Standing in the courtyard, we got our first glimpse at the massive front door while the docent described the windows, tiles, and other architectural features.  My eyes wandered yet again but this time towards that amazing beach, the sparkling ocean view, and just offshore, the emerging rocks of the tide pools

The view from the court yard. The tide pools are to the left.

In the distance, you could see the lagoon and beyond that, the Malibu Colony. The Malibu Colony is a private gated community where movie stars and Hollywood folk live in massive homes that are just a few yards from the breaking waves.

Malibu Colony where the movie starts and entertainers live

The Adamson House is considered the first beach home in Malibu and from each room, the view is incredible.

Stepping into 1929:
Just like the iconic Hearst Castle up the coast a few hours, this residence also had furnishings that were preserved from the era that it was built.

Besides world-famous Malibu Tile which can be seen throughout the house, it also features hand-carved doors, hand-painted murals, molded ceilings, and bottle glass windows.

The rooms were filled with the furniture, appliances, and light features from the time it was built.  I believe our guide said that only one chair had been refurbished.  The other chairs and couches all had the original fabric.

The paint and wall features made it seem dark in inside.   Visualizing that if it was my house, I would definitely lighten it up with some fresh paint, maybe a soft sea foam green, pastel blue?  However, for its day, I am sure it was a beautiful home.

The kitchen was super interesting with its old time appliances and items that took you back in time.  I poked my head into the dishwasher which was state of the art in its time, but it just looked like an oversized washing machine basin to me.

The tour wasn’t short as we went through quite a few rooms including bedrooms, living rooms, and even the master bedroom. We also got to see the bathrooms where quite a few were decked out in that amazing locally made Malibu Tile.

One of the many fountains with Malibu Tile.  Malibu Pier in the background.

In the master bedroom, there was a cozy little sitting area next to a window where Rhoda and Merritt Adamson frequently sat while facing their preferred view.  One would look south toward the pier and the other north toward he lagoon.

The living room had massive arched windows and what looked like comfortable furniture.  We obviously couldn’t sit on anything so I can only go by looks alone.

The arched windows

There was a small kitchenette upstairs for the residents to use sans the housekeeper and we were told this is where the daughters learned to cook.

After the indoor tour was over, we went outside to visit the pool and pool house. We passed by a few fountains and again there was that backdrop!!   You really couldn’t pick a better location.

The original diving board, keeping it real.

All in all, it is a great tour for the seven bucks.   The twelve dollar parking we utilized by spending another couple of hours at the beach.

Down by the shore, it is a magical scene as the beach stretched for miles. You could see the sea life in the tide pools as well as hundreds of tiny colorful rocks in shades of pinks, light blues, turquoise, yellows, and reds  just below the water surface.

The beach out front. Over to the left you have access from the parking lot.

I walked down the beach a little more and saw the front of the Adamson House.   Though they are long gone, I hope the Adamsons realize what they had.  I am just glad I was able to spend a few hours in their former world and happy that the state of California is sharing it with us.  It is definitely worth a visit.

The coastline view from the house

You can find this hidden gem at 23200 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265.  Be sure and save time to check out the beach and the pier is only a short walk.

Be prepared to hear a history lesson at the very beginning and I hope you listen better than I did. It actually is a good story.

All I can say is thank goodness for Goggle.

Story and photos: Debbie Colwell

Del Mar

Del Mar

We didn’t set out to go to Del Mar on this typical gray day in California but somehow we ended up driving through this southern coastal city in San Diego County.

We had an activity planned but changed our mind, so we turned back towards Interstate 5.

However, the freeway was going to have to wait as we came across a great little lookout featuring an expansive view of the San Dieguito Lagoon.  There was a long wooden pier like structure that allowed us to walk out and gaze over the waterways.   It was then and there that we decided to explore a little more around this area and the rest of Del Mar.

A few friendly locals were also enjoying the scene and let us know about all the different types of fish that wander through the canals.  They also rattled off the many species of birds that call this place home including an often returning Blue Heron.

Amazingly, we were told of an Osprey nest about a mile away , so finding it was now our immediate mission.  This is exactly why I like to talk to the people who live in the area, you find out about little tidbits like this.

So we set out in the general area and drove around until we saw the nest way up high on a super tall man-made pole.  I strained my telephoto as far as it could go and definitely saw the Ospreys, all three of them.

The male sat at the very top post protecting and surveying the scene below while the female tended to the nest or maybe newborns?  I moved a little closer to get a clearer shot even though I could tell the male was watching me to make sure I didn’t disturb his home and family.   Pretty cool getting eye balled by an Osprey while I was about a quarter mile from the Interstate 5 and only a stones throw from  Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Where the Surf Meets the Turf
Speaking of the fairgrounds, this is Del Mars claim to fame.  These renowned grounds are the host to over 300 events every year.  This includes the big draw events like, the San Diego County Fair, Del Mar thoroughbred horse races, the Scream Zone at Halloween, and the Holiday of Light show at Christmas.  There are a multitude of shows for horses, home products, concerts, and much more.

The race track is a popular destination as every summer it comes alive with people of every age passing through its gates.  The excitement begins as each race starts with the voice of long time announcer, Trevor Denman, declaring, “And a way we go!”   So begins two minutes of pure excitement that will either end with money in your pocket or another ripped up ticket.

This beautiful facility is rich in history and can hold around 44,000 people, so it is no wonder that in 2017 it was selected to host the prestigious Breeders Cup.

No slouch itself, the San Diego Fair has well over a million people visit it every year. With tons of rides, top entertainment, great food, and interesting exhibits, the fair has something for everyone. Try a fried Twinkie, bungee jump, or browse through the wonderful photography exhibit, this is the place to be every summer…that is if you are not at the beach.

Continue reading “Del Mar”

Four Unusual Things to do in San Diego 

The Tale of Ghosts, Munchkins, Musical Bridges, and Man-Made Animals:

The plan was to go to Los Angeles for the day to explore a few different and unusual things that we investigated via Google.   However,   laziness was taking over as on this dreary gray day in Southern California, the warmth of a couch was more inviting.

As the morning was slipping away, a few of us decided that we had to get going and seize the day.   Los Angeles was out of the question now because it was already approaching noon and L.A. is a two hour drive.

So our trusty search engine found a few out of the ordinary things to do in the nearby San Diego area that sounded interesting.

Each one on its own wouldn’t be worth the drive but we bunched a few together since they were all within five miles of each other.

With a plan of action and directions in hand, we set off to visit four unusual things to do in San Diego.

The 25th Street Musical Bridge
On one of the lists we read, it told about a bridge in San Diego that has 488 chimes on its rail that If struck would actually play music.

Artist Roman de Salvo and composer Joseph Waters created this unusual musical display by attaching brass pipes over the steel bars of the railing.  A song was created by cutting each pipe a certain length to create different notes.   These brass pipes fit over the steel bars of the railing so that when you hit them with a stick or metal piece, you could create a musical tone and if done right, play the song.

So the information we received said to bring something like a stick or a metal rod as a bare hand wouldn’t work.  Basically, it is like a giant xylophone in the form of a guard rail next to the sidewalk.

On this Saturday afternoon, the bridge was easily found and I asked a passerby if that was the musical bridge since nobody was on the sidewalk.  He didn’t know so it made me wonder if we would look stupid going back and forth whacking on the railing.

Then I looked over at Staycationer JoJo and saw what she brought to hit against the pipes.  It was a hollow plastic vacuum cleaner attachment!!     You know the kind you use to get in corners and behind furniture.   I thought to myself, is that is all she could find?

The bridge was in fact the musical bridge and it sat above a noisy highway which I found odd but as it turns out, I preferred the noise of the cars below over the awful concerto JoJo was playing.  Yes I could hear the ringing of the pipes and I am sure with a piece of metal it would sound quite nice.  However, the clattering of the plastic attachment overwhelmed the mellow wind chime type ringing coming from the railing.  What was supposed to be a pleasing sound was actually, ok, I will say it…annoying.

I don’t think the composer had vacumn cleaner attachments in mind when he designed the musical pipes.

If you choose to go, you can find the bridge on 25th Street in San Diego near F and G streets.  It hovers over the State Route  94 freeway.   Take it from me, bring something metal.

Continue readingFour Unusual Things to do in San Diego 

Day at the Docks

The Day at the Docks

On the end of the line, the mighty trout was fighting for dear life while on the other end,  Staycationer JoJo was fiercely reeling it up to the surface.   As the fish tugged and pulled, the rod would bend over almost to its breaking point.  Two minutes into this struggle, JoJo was huffing and puffing as her face was turning a bright crimson red.  She was getting tired now although soon it would be over.   You see there wasn’t really a live fish on the line, this was just a simulation, one of many booths and demos at the annual “Day at The Docks” event in San Diego.

JoJo trying to catch a fake trout

Prior to her trying this demo, there was a young boy trying to snare in a large Marlin that could be seen on the TV monitor in the tent.  Every time it jumped out of the water he would reel in the line at a rapid pace.  When it was her turn, big kid JoJo selected a smaller fish thinking she wouldn’t have to work that hard.  The trout proved to be quite a challenge.

I briefly thought I’d give it a try but the line behind me was full of youngsters anxiously waiting their turn.  I had to give it up for the kidlets as it was a great chance for them to try fishing.

The even younger tykes were given an opportunity to catch real fish in a penned in area next to one of the docks.  The netted area was stocked with small mackerel and from what I saw, every one of them caught a fish.

All of this interaction was part of this amazing celebration and was a perfect day for the whole family.

Day at the Docks:
I feel bad about reporting about it after the fact although sometimes we have to experience it ourselves first.   If it is a worthy happening as this one was, hopefully you will put it on your bucket list for the following year.

Held at America’s Cup Harbor near Point Loma, every year the Day at the Docks celebrates the beginning of the sport fishing season.  San Diego’s sport fishing fleet is known as the worlds largest.

Part of Americas Cup Harbor Continue reading “Day at the Docks”