day activity

Food, Los Angeles CA, Travel

How to do Catalina Island like a native

Avalon  Harbor, Catalina Island. Boats, paddle boarders and swimmers abound!

Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island. Boats, paddle boarders and swimmers abound!

This summer I'm all about weekend trips and short getaways.   My next door neighbor, now friend, grew up on Catalina, and invited me home with her to experience another side to the island. Previously, I had only thought of it as a summer tourist destination or for sleep away camp.  I hadn't visited Catalina Island since ninth grade on a sleep away trip with high school and my husband and son had never been so it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Catalina Express  ferry from Long Beach, CA to Avalon, Catalina

Catalina Express ferry from Long Beach, CA to Avalon, Catalina

To get to Catalina, you take an hour long ferry ride from several ports in LA. The closest one for us was Long Beach so we departed from there on a Friday afternoon. Cars are restricted on Catalina, with a wait list as long as 20 years +!  So the ferry is only for people and dogs (either caged or in muzzles). We took our dachshund Junior with us, he didn't love the ferry but he did pretty well overall. Once there, you can walk around the main city part of Avalon on foot or rent a golf cart or bike.

Lovely bougainvillea, quaint beach cottages, license plate birdhouses, colorful murals, proud Democrat (not too many of those on Catalina), and Casino at night on Avalon, Catalina

I had never driven a golf cart before and was surprised to find it was a blast! My son loved it too and would tell me to "Hit it!" and we would blast down the road. A golf cart's engine is similar to a lawnmower so by blast I mean when we were chugging up the hill, you could probably run alongside us.

Thierry Lasry  Sunglasses, Zara beach cover up,  Zara kids t shirt . Janna Conner  Amina hoop earrings ,  Catori cuff bracelet

Thierry Lasry Sunglasses, Zara beach cover up, Zara kids t shirt. Janna Conner Amina hoop earrings, Catori cuff bracelet

Avalon Casino, Junior the island dog, stairs at Casino Point Dive Park

One of my favorite things we did was swim at Lover's Cove. Dries had fallen asleep and Raf and I snuck out for an hour to tool around in the golf cart, exploring the city and to take a dip in the water. It's been so hot lately, it felt great! The water was a little cold at first but instantly warmed up. Catalina's rocky coastline reminded me of Sardinia where we honeymooned because it too is mostly rocky beaches. Pro tip: Don't forget the water shoes, you will want them! The current was pretty strong the weekend we were there and some of the beaches (Descanso) had sharp rocks but Lover's Cove had really smooth ones which also made them a bit slippery. My friend Katie prefers Pebbly Beach, but there was a construction site nearby to it so we opted for Lover's Cove. You be the judge!

My plastic Eva birkenstocks were no match for the rocks at Lover's Cove!

The next day we did Descanso Beach Club, which is Catalina's version of a family friendly Miami Beach. They have a DJ on the weekends, and a section that has cabanas and beach chairs for day rental and an outdoor café & bar (that will also serve on the beach), a smoothie & ice cream shop, and a shop that sells pool floaties, paddle ball racquets, hats, umbrellas and all with decent prices. The day we were there, the private section was sold out so we just sat on the public beach part, immediately adjacent to it. It was just fine, the restaurant brought us our fish tacos, fries and margies and everything was alright with the world. 

 Descanso Beach Club. Janna Conner Aleeza rock crystal ring, Catori brass cuff, 14k gold initial bracelet.

There are a lot of boats docked in the harbor and you can swim up in one section, another is reserved for kayaks, jet skis and paddle boards. Dries wanted to kayak so we rented a two person one with Dries sitting in the middle for an hour. Once he got over screaming "Oh nooooooooo, we're going to die, this was a terrrrrrrible idea!" he actually enjoyed the last 15 minutes or so. It was lovely out on the water, sunny but not too hot and with no waves.

Catalina kayaking.jpg

The next day we headed into the hills, which requires a car (no golf carts there!). We winded our way up and around, passing the zip line station that goes all the way down to Descanso and then paused for a moment to admire some bison and heron at Haypress reservoir. The bison were brought to the island in the 1920's for a movie, but were never used and then left on the island because they didn't want to deal with taking them back. Not very nice. Now they casually wander the island. We saw one just chilling on the side of the road, minding his own business.

Catalina island bison.jpeg

We stopped at the Airport for lunch at DC-3 café and gift shop. It's very scenic high up with all the little planes flying in and out. Some of the famous pilots that have flown in include Angelina Jolie and Harrison Ford. It's not for the weak of heart, the runway is only 3000 feet! I think I'll stick to driving up for the food, I had a great salad and Raf had a buffalo burger. No meal is complete without one of their killer homemade cookies, the oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip are delicious. They also sell Rusack wine, wish I had a bought a bottle because it seemed a good price at $30 since Rusack isn't that easy to find, at least in LA. I didn't though because we were on our way to do the Trans Catalina trail and didn't think it was a great idea to keep the wine in the car. Oh well, next time!

Airport in the Sky, Catalina Island

With full bellies, we continued on our way to Little Harbor, the starting point for our afternoon hike along the Trans Catalina Trail. Little Harbor was largely deserted except for a few campers, (there's a nearby campground) it was perfectly peaceful. The Trans Catalina Trail stretches 37.2 miles across the island, seemingly never ending but we did just a portion of it since we had Dries and Junior, our mini dachshund with us and we wanted to get some beach time in. It wasn't difficult, and provided lovely vistas along the soapstone path with striking red flowers.

Trans Catalina Trail from Little Harbor and Whale's Tail Catalina Island.  Unusual red flowers everywhere along with cacti.

Catalina makes for a great weekend trip, or longer. They have great camps for kids and many scenic options for both the casual traveler and camping options for the outdoorsman. Now that I've done part of the TCT, I think I would like to try doing the whole trail!

Art, Los Angeles CA, Travel

14th Factory Tour: 10 reasons you need to go now!

I had seen a lot of images of 14th Factory popping up on my Instagram feed when it opened in Spring. For one reason or another, I wasn't able to make it until earlier this month. Since it was late in its run, I wondered if it would be worth it or if it was another Museum of Ice Cream type of expensive selfie photo op. I decided to go and I'm so glad I did. It's closing at the end of July, so make your way there as soon as you can!

The outside of the factory is painted black with giant Chinese characters and black and white flags hanging outside the entrance, imparting the foreboding feel of a pirate ship. (I have a 5 year old son, so we see Pirates everywhere these days) I love that it's in Lincoln Heights, a peaceful, industrial neighborhood I often drive through on my way home. Once inside, there are 14 rooms showcasing mainly Simon Birch's work, the British born, Hong Kong based artist who is the founder/creator of the 14th factory. I spent my Junior year abroad in Hong Kong, and haven't been back since so was excited to see this little bit of Hong Kong brought to LA.

Los Angeles was not the first city envisioned to be the home of 14th factory. 5 other cities were previously in the works, the most recent, New York City, but with all other cities, the project was about to open to the public and they either lost their funding, permitting etc, so this installation has been years in the making and very much a labor of love. Supposedly two of the pieces in the factory were sold to LACMA, so it seems that there really was a happy ending after all.

The site selected for 14th factory LA is huge; 3 acres in total in a former warehouse, making it the largest experiential art project in LA. When I visited, they were in the process of filming a documentary for the BBC, and hoping to have the next site take place in London. This whole project is like a rotating mini museum that is entirely funded by ticket sales and donations. There is no guided tour as you walk through the space, and because of its size it can be a little confusing and overwhelming at times. Birch's intention was that it be an informal space for viewing art in a casual setting rather than the conventional museum going experience. He often gives talks on site and has other collaborative, interactive events with artists on the weekends.

What was the most famous room in the factory (that is until the crown room selfie fiasco) is a replica of the room from the last scene in Stanley Kubrick's 2001. The light up floor emanates a lot of heat, each group of 4 or so has 2 minute to walk through, without shoes on and experience it. It's gimmicky for sure but still pretty cool to experience.

The Barmecide Feast by Simon Birch and KplusK associates

Garlands  by Simon Birch, Lily Kwong and KplusK associates.

Garlands by Simon Birch, Lily Kwong and KplusK associates.

Next up is an interior courtyard, filled with grass. They had just replaced it the evening before. Even though the ceiling is perforated, with the extreme heat of LA summers, the grass just couldn't survive very long. There were a few swings scattered throughout but we were told not to step on the grass because it had just been put down. With nobody on the grass it seemed like a haunted idyllic playground.

In the Garlands hall there are 10 photographs by Li Wei with various people suspended in mid air. They were shot with the subjects on cranes and in some you can see the expression of the crowd as they look at the people flying in front of them.

Upclose of The Crusher by Simon Birch, 300 wood and steel painted pitchforks suspended from the ceiling. Acrylic paintings by Dominique Fung, The Inhabitants. Closeups of vegetables in various stages of decay.

One way we've found to keep our son actively engaged while looking at artwork is to give him a camera to record his own view of the art. It's fascinating to see the angles and compositions he comes up with. We also discuss what's going on in the piece, be it the subject matter, technique employed, setting or materials involved.

Closeup of the audience watching of  The Inevitable  By Eric Hu and Simon Birch.

Closeup of the audience watching of The Inevitable By Eric Hu and Simon Birch.

The video of a vintage Ferrari speeding and crashing, flipping over and over until it's destroyed feels hypnotic and voyeuristic, it's hard to look away from. I'm not personally a big car fan, but I can imagine that this video is upsetting for any car aficionado. My son was incredulous that anyone would willing destroy a car. (Again 5 year old here) Various pieces of the car wreckage are displayed on a long table in the adjoining room like archaeological finds.

Hypercaine by Simon Birch, Gloria Yu, Gabriel Chan, and Jacob Blitzer.

Sometimes you experience an emotional reaction just from simply looking at a piece of art, and with others the story behind it makes it much more impactful.  At first glance, this room had simplistic crowns made out of various stones and metal juxtaposed with more intricate Alexander Mc Queen like head pieces and some metal fragments. When chatting with the security guard, he explained that various pieces throughout the exhibit detailed the emotional journey that Birch embarked up on after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Some pieces represent the chaos and turmoil of receiving such a grim prognosis. Others are more hopeful. The metal fragments and some of the metal cages were made from Birch's actual brain scans. This is also the room where a girl attempting to take a selfie recently fell backwards, knocking several of the pedestals down in a domino effect and causing $200,000 worth of damage. Its great when people can get right up close to enjoy and experience the artwork but it's a shame when people are careless and inconsiderate. Just because it's not a conventional museum viewing experience doesn't mean that the artwork shouldn't be treated with the same respect.

Tannhauser  by Simon Birch

Tannhauser by Simon Birch

One of my strongest memories living in Hong Kong was how crowded it was, with people and buildings.  It made New York City look like a suburb. I was there in 1997 so I can only imagine what its like now, with the rapid pace of development. Hong Kong has so many of these drab high rise buildings shooting everywhere out of the ground up to the sky everywhere as far as the eye could see.  Tannhauser gives the experience of riding upwards in a glass elevator outside these buildings as it goes from the ground floor up. Dizzying and electrifying, I really enjoyed it and you can see from the face of my son above, he did too!

Clear Air Turbulence by Simon Birch

The last piece of the show is Clear Air Turbulence, which is comprised of salvaged airplane tails submerged in a steel frame pool.  The shadows reflecting in the still water create a peaceful calm while the eeriness of the subject matter makes it slightly unsettling. The airplane tails seem like a scene of a giant plane crash. With the deck chairs circling one end its like pulling up a chair to a car crash. Voyeurism on steroids.

14th Factory closes July 30 with special events until then. A panel on the Art Experience and the age of Social Media is this Saturday, July 22 and Simon Birch will be tattooing various limited edition designs all day Saturday as well.

Tickets are $18 online, $22 at the door with residents of Lincoln Heights entering for free with valid license.

440 North Ave. 19
Los Angeles, CA 90031