I set my alarm for 7:00, wanting to be sure I'd wake up in time to call Hertz to arrange for them to pick me up from the hotel (they'd been closed when I'd called the day before). I woke up earlier and lay in bed, waiting for the alarm. Eventually I got up - the alarm never worked anyway. I called Hertz, and they told me I'd have to take a cab, but that they'd take it off my rental. So I did, and got to the Hertz place, like, half an hour early. The couple in front of me was returning their car for a smaller one, which had me nervous, but when it came my turn, I got a cute light blue Hyundai Accent. It was small and had wonderfully responsive gas and breaks, which was great for city driving. I made sure I knew where the hazard lights were, went over my route one more time and headed out for Pasadena.
I'll probably jinx it by writing this, but so far, I kinda like LA driving. The freeway was no worse than driving into Northern Virginia, and once I figured out the three lanes thing in the city, it was a breeze - the roads so far have been clearly marked... and I need to shut up now, don't I?
Anyway, I got to the museum, pulled into the parking lot - to find a rope across the entrance. I rolled down my window and asked a lady going in why it was closed. The museum was open on Monday, but not till noon. It was 9:30. So I parallel parked on the street and sat on the steps outside till a guard came over. He told me again the place didn't open till noon, so I told him I hadn't known, and the museum was what I came to Pasadena for, so was there anything else to do? He suggested old town Pasadena, which I'm not 100% sure I ever found. I drove around on some shady streets with little stores, and some sun-baked ones with Starbucks and Macy's. Eventually I gave in and found an overpriced garage. Car parked, I wandered around - went in Macy's for the bathroom, the post office for stamps, a bookstore for an LA map, Starbucks for lunch. I snapped some photos of City Hall, etc. Time effectively killed, I headed back to the museum.
I'm glad I drove all the way out there to see it. No major masterworks, but it's an incredibly impressive collection when you realize one man (Norton Simon) bought it all. And in a really short span of time - he was a super business man who didn't get into art until his 40s. I had pretty much come because I wanted to see a Canaletto in person, and it didn't disappoint. There were also some Rembrandts (I almost wanted to tell the self-portrait happy birthday), and a bunch of Degas (though the little ballerina sculpture was cast too many times and skeeves me out anyway). A lovely Raphael, several Van Goghs and Picassos - lots of good stuff.
So once I'd seen everything but the Asian art, I took another look at my map, and headed toward the city for the La Brea Tar Pits. They were fun, if pretty much what I expected - smelly holes in the ground and a slightly cheesy, but still cool, museum. After checking out the big, bubbling pit that you can see from the street, I went into the museum and saw the film. Awesome cheesy animation. I was a little surprised not more kids left bawling. The exhibits included the fossils and fuzzy, animatronic mammoths, sloths, and saber-tooth cats. After going through the museum, I went outside and wandered over to the pits where they're currently excavating. It looks like pretty tedious, thankless, dirty work, and it was so hot outside. But still - finding packs of dire wolves? Pretty cool.
So then I headed for Beverly Hills (and got honked at for the first time as I took a little too long to turn into one of the "1 hour free" garages). I walked up to Rodeo Drive, and quickly got over the embarrassment of being a tourist with a camera. The fancy section is pretty tiny, so at the other end of that, I traded cameras with some teenagers, and got my picture taken. I explored a little more before heading back to the hotel.
After a bit of journal writing, I figured I needed to go out and get some dinner. I really didn't want to bother to take the car out again, find parking, tip valets, etc., so I got on the hotel's speedy internet and looked for some cheap places nearby. I found a Baja Fresh Grille, which I'd actually been considering for lunch in my trip planning. It was also over in Westwood Village, about half the way the Geffen, so I thought it would be a nice way to scout out the neighborhood and see if walking the following night would be feasible. You could tell the difference right away as you turned onto Westwood Rd - lots of places to eat and shop, and lots of college kids hanging around. I got a chicken Baja burrito (which came with a side order of tortilla chips), and took it back to the hotel to eat while I spent more time online.