First time hiking in LA: Fryman Canyon

Los Angeles is a wonderful and complex city, filled with freeways and concrete, but surrounded by hills and a sprawling landscape that every once in a while reminds you to connect with Mother Nature.

A mi no se me da mucho eso del hiking y los nature walks, neither am I the outdoorsy R.E.I. type. But when presented for the first time ever with an invitation to go hiking last Sunday, it was honestly an offer I couldn’t refuse. The place: Dearing Mountain Trail: Fryman Canyon to Tree People Park.

Starting the hike.

The location was right off Mullholland Drive (the famous spot of many movies and weird incidents) and it was a hike that promised a bit of adventure.

A group of newfound very cool friends, all experienced hikers and nature lovers, organized and lead the hike. So off we went.

It was initially a challenge for moi; going down a hill with slippery dirt, rocks of all sizes, not to mention ubiquitous poison ivy. When you haven’t done this, it can be a task not suitable for the faint of heart (ni para los que sufrimos de vertigo– at one point where I looked all the way down, I thought to myself, what was I thinking?!) But I kept trying to not look below, enjoy it as much as I could, and take a few pictures.

Don’t get me wrong, I may be eco-friendly, use those funky foquitos en espiral, and recycle often, but the thought of going too far with this did cross my mind. Some sections of the trail are extremely narrow and the way down looks quite bottomless.  (Or I may exaggerate. Aquí su segura servilleta se medio ‘panickeo’ cuando vio las profundidades de las barrancas, bien bien profundas y verdes. Pero mentalmente me puse a cantar la canción de “Sacaremos a Ese Buey de la Barranca” y me alegró el momento.)

Yet, the views are amazing and the walk provides time to meditate or just catch up with nature and make friends.  After a few hours on the trail, when we arrived back at the parking lot, I emerged with a newfound appreciation for nature in LA, and with a slightly improved concept of hiking.

This is another perfect example of why we are spoiled in California, with great backdrops and idyllic landscapes, a stones throw away from the city.

So I want to say Thank You AMIGOS– Gracias Ken, Aaron, Olivia, and everyone. They are new friends and made this experience one to remember. ¡Gracias a todos! And especially thanks to Loic for the post hike dinner. Truly a treat.

One of the views of the hike.

Poison Oak interweaves everywhere. It is not to be messed with! (Primera vez que la conozco en persona, pero de lejecitos.)

Ahi vamos todos, going up the hill.

Taking a mini break. Every once in a while you would find these kind of spots, with a bit of space for conversation.

When coming to a fork in the road, naturally we had to go in the direction of the rainforest.

Nice group shot by the lovely Ms. Erin Tamayo. We stood by the sign just to prove we had "arrived" at the rainforest.

Another group shot of the hiking friends.

Post hike rest and stretch at the parking lot. There is free parking, by the way.

A view from the trail. This is a great place for meditation and nature appreciation.

A visit to The Last Bookstore in DTLA

The Last Bookstore is located on the corner of Spring and 5th Street in downtown Los Angeles.

For those of us who love books, finding a new bookstore that speaks to our nerdy sensibilites as well as to our aesthetic values brings new thrills which are hard to describe. For me, I guess it’s one of those things that makes me want to do a happy dance. No me da pena admitirlo, estas son las cosas that get me all excited.

So it was a particular joy to discover such a place right in the middle of the vibrant downtown LA reinvention, on the corner of Spring and 5th street. The place is called “The Last Bookstore” and it is awesome.

Originally, I had read of about this bookstore in a fabulous article/list which was shared on Twitter called “The 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World”. (Click on the link to go to the list.) I was particularly excited to see that El Péndulo, in Mexico DF (La Condesa) had made the list. I’ve been there several times and yes, it’s beautiful. But since one of the bookstores mentioned is right here in LA, I knew I had to visit. (I hereby proclaim a newfound obsession about visiting them all, even if it takes years to travel around the world.)

Lucky for me that my friend Olivia is also a nerd (I say it with respect and admiration) and was psyched to go along for the discovery. So off we went. The site is a wonderful building with great “bones” and architecture. Its wide open space and columns made me think of an opulent time from the past in downtown LA, when it may have been a bank or financial institution, but thankfully has been rescued/recycled into a place of knowledge.

You can read the story about The Last Bookstore here, and you may be curious to know, they buy books in good condition (no encyclopedias, no books that are falling apart or smell like kitty litter) and they are usually interested in classical literature in hardcover. Pero yo les voy a llevar algunas novelas/libros en español que talvez puedan quedar en mejores manos…

Here are some pictures, and just so you know, you can find books on almost any subject here at a great deal. Most of them are very cheap and you won’t feel like you are breaking the bank.

Happy Reading!

A wide angle view of the bookstore.

The cashier is a beautiful sculpture of books.

Grab a book and make yourself comfortable.

Just don't stay there too long, lounging and not buying anything. This is a business after all. There is a one hour time limit for sitting and reading. ¡No se vayan a dormir!

La sección de libros en español. I personally plan to contribute to new reading material, since I think they could use more titles.

Hey, you can find paperbacks from James Joyce and the book of Dream Interpretation from Freud. (I have a few dreams I have to analyze myself!)

Olivia finds a Decca record she likes. They have a huge selection of LP's for 99 cents.

She also found a disco de Menudo, from the early days, and I almost flipped. Look: Miguel, Xavier, Charly, Ricky, and Jhonny!

They also have a coffee bar that serves "Cafecito Orgánico" coffee and other treats.

The lovely Miss O at The Last Bookstore.

Frivolous Friday post: How I love thee, Kate Spade

TGIF and Happy Friday everybody.

Can you believe it’s almost Easter? Ya falta bien poquito.

I remember when I was a kid, we used to get new dresses for Easter Sunday and we used to love it. I thought about recreating that for this year, pues traigo ganas de estrenar vestido.

So the first place I thought of  for a dress was my favorite designer, la Kate Spade. It is pretty incredible that everything she has in store is everything I would want in my closet. But you need to win the mega jackpot for that to happen.

Pero pues como soñar no cuesta nada, I was browsing through the Kate Spade website and found lovely things (although carísimas!) and came across a great ebook  made for her blog called “things we love,” and I fell in love with it.

You can see a link to the book here.

One of the pages of the "Things we Love" book on the blog from Katespade.com

I really like this brand, have always loved her clean designs and girly-cutesy-preppy-fresa style, but lately their branding and marketing has been so original and fresh that I take my hat off to the team behind it. It’s pure feminine inspiration. They make a jeans and t-shirt girl want to dress up, so that is a miracle.

A  few months ago I took this picture at one of their stores and I thought, my God, does Kate know me or what?

I think Kate me conoce bien, me describió a la perfección, especialmente the part about losing the umbrella and calling my grandmother. This big board decorated the cashier at Kate Spade's store.

Of course, I had this beautiful Kate Spade iPhone case last year, which was my absolute favorite thing ever, but I broke it TWICE and have not been able to use it since. They don’t make it anymore, she has new designs, but I managed to get the iPad Case on sale, so I guess I can’t complain.

You can imagine tears were shed over this one: my broken newspaper print case is now unusable. The classified NY messages circled with red lipstick are Brooklyn Book Club and Piano Lessons in NYC.

Walking the High Line in NYC

Spring is almost here, and I’m still thinking about a wonderful park where I left my heart a few weeks ago.

Anyone who is visiting New York City soon should take note of the wonderful and recently opened space called the “High Line.” It is a an elevated park built over the old railroad tracks in the Meat Packing District.  It has revitalized the area and made it the most energetic and cool part of town at the moment. Es el lugar mas padre, en mi humble opinion. A true re-invention of unused resources transformed into a city park. Recycling…What a genius idea!

On a cold day in late February when we visited, the views and the sunshine/lighting around the city were absolutely beautiful. Had we had a bit more time and the weather would’ve permitted, it would have been a lovely spot for lounging in one of their benches and reading a book, or just sitting and enjoying the view, which is what I suspect New Yorkers like to do when the weather turns nice and when they want a little escape. How lucky are they?

As if it were an act of serendipity, or maybe because I can’t stop thinking about it y luego ya ven como the Law of Attracion works, el latest issue de Architectural Digest tiene un articulo de Diane Von Furstenberg, who helped fund the High Line along with her husband Barry Diller with a nice donation of 35 million dollars. The article shows her new digs and store right at the entrance of the High Line. She has incredible taste of course, and she is such an icon of New York City that when you see what she’s done in the area, you can’t help but be grateful to her. I love you Diane. Muchas Gracias DVF!

You can see a few of the images of DVF residence headquarters at the Architectural Digest website by clicking here and on the image below.

From the Architectural Digest issue, February 2012. Diane Von Furstenberg's residence by the High Line. Click on the image for a photo gallery from the magazine.

You can get more information about the High Line here. (Open from 7am to 7pm. Free. No Smoking please!)

And below are some of images of my visit. Enjoy!

The DVF building right by the entrance to the High Line at Gansevoort Street and Washington Street in the Meat Packing District.

The stair entrance to the High Line is just past the Diane Von Furstenberg store.

A street view from one of the many observation decks along the line.

Nice little bridge. Photo by CB.

The "street cinema" steps are meant for admiring the city views. What a concept!

This is the view from the benches.

Another view, now looking north, towards the modern landscapes and residential high rises.

A close up of the new modern façades along the High Line.

Keep walking, you'll be amazed at the fusion between old and new.

This set of buildings is amazing, It is just so grand, so immense. ¿Cuánto tiempo tendrá ahi, cuánta gente vivirá en ese espacio?

The new skyline: postmodern, mixed and matched, and very sexy.

Walking towards the end of the line.

NY City Bites, or how I ate my way around Manhattan

“If this town is just an Apple, then let me take a bite.” – Michael Jackson, Human Nature

What is it about New York City that makes its food so delicious and unique? Is it the water?

I was  there last week celebrating my birthday with two of the most important women in my life (Mi Mamá y Mi Tia)  and in retrospect, it seemed our mantra was let’s “Eat, Drink and Be Merry.”

According to one of the city’s tourist gurus, there are 31 thousand restaurants in New York City (Manhattan) alone. THIRTY ONE THOUSAND!

Here are a few photos of recently discovered and eternal favorites. This was my 7th trip to New York and it was wonderful. (Gracias Mama y Tia!!)

PS: Full disclosure: I took all the photos except for one, and I am happy to share as long as you give me credit for them.

Balthazar SoHo:

Balthazar from its interior. A French Bistro that feels like heaven.

It was 10 am and the place was already busting at the seams. We needed a reservation for breakfast.

Still one of my favorites after all these years. Balthazar on Spring street in SoHo never disappoints.

Prune, Lower East Side:

We went on the recommendation of my beloved Anthony Bourdain, from a  few seasons ago on “No Reservations.” And I don’t say this lightly, but it was one of the best meals I have ever had in my life. We ordered several things, but for my dinner I chose the short ribs over the Yorkshire bread and every bite was a delight. This is a tiny tiny restaurant with a French feel. We absolutely loved everything about it, even the price.

Bone Marrow dish with salt and toast, a glass of wine, and radishes with butter and salt. Simply Amazing. No le pide nada a los taquitos de tuétano que nos comemos en familia.

Tiny place on the Lower East Side. Prune is frequented by stylish New Yorkers who love good food.

Make a reservation in advance. Prune is located on 1st street between 1st and 2nd Avenue in New York City.

Waverly Restaurant (around the Village)

Here’s a great place for breakfast, which I initially confused with the “Restaurant” from the Seinfeld show. Nos estabamos muriendo de hambre when we walked in, and we were delighted with all the options, it has the look and feel of a coffee shop, but has a full scale menu.The price is nice too.

The Waverly Retsaurant is a full scale restaurant with a coffee shop feel. Inexpensive and a really great spot for breakfast on a Sunday morning.

When I saw the sign I initally thought it was the original "Restaurant" from the Seinfeld show, but that is another restaurant altogether. The sign is pretty great though.

Tiny coffee shop/restaurant with all the typical breakfast noshing your heart desires, and then some. They have a huge menu to choose from.

You can also eat at the tiny bar, which resembles a diner. Cash only, please.

PizzArte, at 56th Street. Midtown

A modern, elegant, artsy place with great pizza napolitana, salads and pastas. Very cool setting and we also loved the food. As a bonus, they had a great soundtrack. Owners are ITALIANOS. Can’t go wrong with this place.

Entrance of Pizza Arte at 56th Street.

Margherita Pizza and Linguini al Vongole at Pizza Arte. MUUUY RICO.

Hot dog stand in front of the MOMA museum:

Need I say more?

You can't miss them, they're all over the place.

No guts no glory: Le pedi a este chavo tomarme una foto con el. Nunca habia visto un vendedor tan guapo. Nice guy too with a great smile.

Bar at the St. Regis Hotel:

A very swanky and posh place to have a drink. Elegant, rich, old school, and hits the spot after a long day. “Sip it slowly.”

Lovely place for a drink or two.

One martini, Two Martinii, Threee Martiniii...

At the Oscars: Demián, Demián, Ra! Ra! Ra! (New Bromance: Bichir and Clooney!)

¡Seguimos echando porras!

However, Oscar night did not go as planned for our favorites, at least for the Mexican nominees Demián Bichir and (five time!) nominated cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki. When all is said and done, we still feel a little bit robbed, but as they say, “it is an honor just to be nominated.”  I’ll leave out my nationalistic sentiments and all the “shoulda woulda” comments. Ni modo, no nos ha tocado ver ganar a nuestros nominados todos estos años, but at least it was a fun ride.

Para mi Demián fue el ganador y no sólo porque en mi humilde opinión fue la mejor actuación. Ganó porque sólo hay que ver como lo reciben y quieren todos los del Hollywood royalty to know he’s up there with the big guns.

Look at this picture below from the arrivals last night and how Clooney greeted Bichir in this lovely “Quiubole compa!” moment. That is genuine love among men, my friends. You can’t fake that, I don’t care how good an actor you are.

We witnessed a true Hollywood romance brewing before our eyes on national television in the Oscar pre-telecast:

Feel the LOVE. Clooney and Bichir are the newest Hollywood power couple. (photos from the E! Telecast)

From People.com, a lovely moment between Demian and Clooney.

We also found these great pictures on Quien.com, back from the Oscar nominee luncheon in Beverly Hills a few weeks ago. You can practically feel the joy in these images en donde se ve que le están echando muchas porras a Demián. 

Y así se acaba otro Oscar season. Congratulations to Lubezki and Bichir, you made us very proud.

From Quien.com (Demian y su momento Whiskey, articulo 26 de febrero 2012)

Demián, Demián, RA RA RA!! Foto de Quien.com ("Demián y su momento "whiskey" articulo 26 de febrero 2012)

Great Maps of LA exhibit at the Central Library in downtown

I’m always amazed at the sprawling, extensive size of the City of Los Angeles. This city I love está toda spread out, es enorme, llena de tráfico y luces, y freeways y mini-malls. What’s not to love?

So it was such a nice surprise to run into a very interesting exhibit of old Los Angeles maps at the Central Library in Downtown LA called “As The City Grew.” These maps are from the 184o’s to more recent ones from the last century. They all are amazing to look at just for the fact that they portray the gradual growth and initial distribution of el pueblo de Los Angeles.

This is one of the texts from the exhibit:

“The historical maps here trace Los Angeles’ challenges and illustrate its evolution into the metropolis we know today. The maps tell a story about a Spanish pueblo settled by eleven families that, in just 130 years, was to become the second largest city in America. From a Wild West frontier town that lived mostly outside the law, the city grew more sophisticated, surviving periodic cycles of “boom and bust” and doubling its population every decade, from a meager 5,000 at statehood to over a million by 1930.”

I’m always intrigued by the transformation of a place, of how things used to be and how people used to live before.  Did they ride horses? Can you imagine LA without freeways? How did people get to Santa Monica? What was life like here? These maps give you an idea of how LA transitioned into the place we live today.

So it’s worth a visit, and you may also want to check out some books at the library too! Everything is GRATIS, as you know, so take a trip soon if you can.

DTLA Central Library at 5th and Figueroa hours are Monday, Wed, Friday and Saturday from 10am to 5:30 pm; Tuesday and Thursday from 10 am to 8 pm. It is closed  Sundays and will be closed next Monday due to Martin Luther King’s Day.

LA Maps exhibit at Central Library hallway, 1st floor.

Map of the City of Los Angeles, 1884, by Henry J Stevenson.

Birds Eye View of Los Angeles in 1909. Shows LA growing fast and becoming one of the nation's major cities. Population is 300,000.

This was one of the more elaborate maps, very colorful and showing different ethnicities.

The Old Spanish and Mexican Ranchos of Los Angeles County, 1937. Shows LA in the years 1784 to 1849. "The Ranchos as they were called were sometiems as large as 48,000 acres."

Yes people, WE were here first. Se les olvida quien formó esta ciudad.

Hollywood star maps, version 1937. But I doubt they had any paparazzi then.

Hey, with this map you could go look for Cary Grant, Marion Davies and Gary Cooper. Their head drawing was used as the pin point for their house!