Saturday, October 11, 2008

Visiting the flora, fauna and stars of the Griffith Park Observatory...

Following a trip to Burbank on Thursday to show my parents where the Disney and Warner Bros Studios are and where we lived in our first two months in the U.S., on Friday we headed to the Griffith Park Observatory to visit another of L.A.'s famous landmarks.
Griffith Park Observatory
Yesterday was my Mum's birthday, so along with the soundtrack to the Mamma Mia movie, which she loved, and tickets to see 9 to 5 - The Musical today, we'd also promised her some sunshine and some fresh air, so off we headed to Griffith Park
Griffith Park entrance sign
The Griffith Observatory is another local attraction that we'd still not found the time to visit in our first six months.  In 1896 a fellow Welshman, Griffith J. Griffith, first gave Griffith Park to L.A. and in 1919 he left money in his will to have the Observatory and Greek Theatre built at the park.
Jason in Hollywood at the Griffith Park Observatory
In 2002 the Observatory closed for a comprehensive renovation and expansion, after 67 years of intense use.  When we've asked our friends about the Observatory, a lot of them say they still haven't visited since it reopened.
Griffith Observatory entrance lawn
Located on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood, it's been on our list to visit because it's one of those landmarks that you can actually see from a distance in L.A. (not that there are that many!) and being 1,134 feet above sea level is fairly visible from most of the Los Angeles basin. 
View of Griffith Observatory
The Griffith Observatory opens at Noon from Tuesday to Friday and from 10am at the weekend and stays open until 10pm.  
Griffith Observatory Telescope dome
There's not much parking up close to the Observatory, so we parked a little down the hill and strolled up taking in the views of Griffith Park and of the infamous Hollywood Sign.
The infamous Hollywood Sign
What better way to spend your birthday than to mix it up with a Hollywood legend at the Griffith Observatory.  Does it matter that they are no longer alive? 
James Dean Statue at Griffith Observatory
There's a memorial to cultural icon, James Dean, in front of the Observatory as he famously filmed scenes from Rebel Without a Cause there.  So Jason in Hollywood is once again face to face with another movie star, well almost (I'm not that tall!).
Jason in Hollywood meets James Dean
As always, I'm less interested in the astronomy exhibits and state-of-the-art planetarium, but more in the fantastic views offered by the Observatory's location - the Hollywood Sign, Downtown Los Angeles, Griffith Park and more.
View of Downtown LA. from Griffith ObservatoryView of Downtown L.A. from Griffith ObservatoryGriffith Observatory L.A. view
So, the Observatory is a great tourist attraction.  Aside from the scientific interest there are famous faces and sights to be seen.

The world renowned Hollywood Sign clearly stands out like a beacon against the rugged Mt Lee Perch hillside.  Originally constructed in 1923 as a giant advert for a real estate development 'Hollywoodland', the shortened version has since become one of L.A.'s defining landmarks. 
View of Hollywood Sign
As well as the surrounding sights, there's also lots of local flora to take in, from the Birds of Paradise flowers, to the trees and shrubs of Griffith Park.
Bird of Paradise flowers at Griffith Observatory
The local fauna also has some interesting sights on offer.  We spotted these woodpeckers around the Observatory, saw a few squirrels, plus friends who live nearby tell us tales of deer and coyotes venturing into their back yards.
Griffith Park ObservatoryGriffith Observatory Woodpecker
Inside the Observatory, aside from the astronomy displays and exhibits on the main and lower levels (including this fab model of the Moon), we obviously explored the gift shop and took a look at one of the telescopes under one of the rooftop domes.
Griffith Observatory Moon displayGriffith Observatory telescope close-up
The photos below make up part of an astrological ceiling mural over a pendulum in the entrance of the Observatory.
Griffith Observatory ceiling muralGriffith Observatory ceiling mural
After about an hour wandering around the Observatory (we skipped the planetarium show for another time - all my family will be back to visit in about six months so I'm sure we'll return), we headed off for a spot of lunch at Aroma Cafe on Tujunga Avenue in Studio City.
Aroma Cafe in Studio City
We've only ever been for breakfast before, but we had a great lunch.  I opted for a lovely chopped salad with Tiger Shrimp and one of their yummy smoothies (which is a meal in itself).  Afterwards we helped ourselves to a selection of their wonderfully mouth-watering cakes (it was my mum's birthday after all) to take home to have with a cup of tea later (we're such Brits).

In a few hours we're off to the Ahmanson Theatre in Downtown L.A. to see 9 to 5 - The Musical, so I'd better go get ready...

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