L.A. story, in 36 hours

7 January 2016
Ben Pentreath

Happy New Year! Sorry for the strange timing but it’s been wonderful to keep my laptop shut, as I am sure you can imagine.

Charlie and I are slowly floating back across the world, lost in a minor haze/dreamworld…. memories falling in and out of my mind. I actually love that strange half-awake, half-asleep sensation you get from flying a very long way, drifting way above the clouds, looking at the vastness of the sky, the huge width of the horizon line, sun rising, sun setting, a silver crescent moon high in a black sky glimpsed out of the plane window while everyone slept last night… Soon we will be back in London and home, and into reality; but for now, we can space out in the never-never world of airports and immigration queues and planes and millions and millions of patient people in transit.

I know it shouldn’t really be me, but I like the otherness of this place, the completely bland anonymity – while you are in the plane world you could literally be anywhere in the world. It makes reality feel so much sharper and more beautiful when we finally arrive at our destination.

So here I am at Los Angeles Airport with an hour to spare before we board our flight home and Charlie has gone wandering and I’m reminiscing about the minor weirdness of being here in LA just a couple of weeks back on our way to New Zealand for Christmas. We stopped for one and a half lovely strange happy days on the way south. I’d never been to LA, a place I’d wanted to see for some little time. (I can’t believe in the five years that I lived in New York that I never properly made a trip west – I’m afraid we must blame toxically short American holiday allowances for that, I suppose, or maybe I was just less curious about parts of the world in those days?)

We stayed at the Line hotel, recommended by friends. We loved it.  Who wouldn’t love waking up to this view (having arrived in the dark, the evening before):

P1050867 P1050879P1050876It’s brilliant.  But we got very good about getting out and about, too.  Everyone had said to visit the Getty, which we did, early that first morning.  A beautiful place. We loved it.P1050884

P1050892 P1050896 P1050897 P1050898

Incredible pictures, of course; and incredible views in every direction.P1050902 P1050910 P1050911 P1050913 P1050928

And then to the Getty Villa, which was like some weird 1970s kitsch classical film set. The interiors really need to be full of plastic junk collected by Jonathan Adler and then all would be well.P1050941 P1050946 P1050963 P1050966

I think we breathed a bit of a sigh of relief to be away and then we went for a massive drive, with a few stops along the way…P1050990 P1050993 P1060013 P1060020 P1060025 P1060052 P1060057 P1060064 P1060065Those palm trees are at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I’ve always been excited to see the Beverly Hills Hotel because we are shortly going to be decorating, for a client, a huge swimming pool room in London in Don Loper’s famous ‘Martinique’ wallpaper first designed for the hotel in 1942.  Bold clients – it’s going to be an incredible room!

Beverly Hills MartiniqueYou can read all about this famous wallpaper in a lovely little essay by Fabrice Bana over on his blog here.  Worth a read.  Well, in the meantime, Charlie and I thought we would go and drink a cocktail in the Polo Bar. I posted a wee instagram. Who knew the social outrage I’d just caused! I’m afraid we were both simply and completely unaware of the boycott of the Beverly Hills Hotel.  Haha!! Who knew? Social pariahs. Well, we enjoyed our drink but then it was time to leave; the night beckoned.

The following morning was again beautiful and clear. The rising sun shone, reflecting on windows like fires around the Hollywood Hills…P1060074 P1060075We had a bit less time on our second day – we needed to do a bit of last minute Christmas shopping (I will spare you photographs of the Mall, but it was amazing in its way) and our flight left in the afternoon.  But there was just time to get to the Huntington Library, collection and gardens, all of which were sublime…. and needless to say I was fascinated by the drive as well.P1060078 P1060120 P1060131 P1060136 P1060151Charlie declares that Bonsai is back. Here in LA, I am not sure if it ever went away. Beautiful, and amazing. Are you a secret bonsai fancier? Please get in touch.P1060153 P1060160 P1060164 P1060175

And then we sped our way back across the golden-dusty highways, in to the city….P1060178 P1060188 P1060204and we were off again. And the next road I photographed was in beautiful, wide, clear, airy, spacious, empty New Zealand. Life is all about contrast.P1060248And of all that, more will follow when we’re home.  I hope you’ve had a wonderful start to the New Year!

12 comments on this post


The BH hotel is a glorious place. It’s very unfortunate that it’s current ownership is linked to a brutal regime. At least your post brought a bit of attention back to the cause, perhaps inadvertently, but nevertheless. Who knows what if any good the boycott is serving, but even if it’s simply to honor the victims and those not allowed a voice, then that’s something.


Welcome back to rainy old Blighty! Have nieces who grew up in England and L.A. One is obsessed with old castles in England, Wales and Scotland; the other moved to Washington DC. Make of that what you will. Bonsai=cruelty to plants?! Best, Nicola


I have just started looking at your website etc. and I think it’s great!! You must have had a fantastic holiday and I loved the LA photos.
Looking forward to the NZ photos and hoping you made it to the South Island!

Ben, it’s great to be reading your posts again! I was amused at your comment about never “properly making a trip west.” I’ve lived in this country all my life, and I’ve never been further west than Chicago. It is a big country, after all.
I too love bonsai for so many more reasons than I will put here (you once chastised me for an overly-long comment, remember?)and I get my bonsai fixes at Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens here in Pittsburgh. Please paste in your browser to see the bonsai, I can’t seem to get a link:
Looking forward to seeing more of your and Charlie’s Christmas vacation photos. Especially New Zealand–MUCH more exciting than L.A.!

Andrew Beansays:

Thanks for another marvellous blog.
Was the detail of the painting of a white satin dress.. the portrait of Princess Clary(nee Kinsky) by John Singer Sargent?
Hope you had a good journey home and A very happy new year to you and Charlie.


Hope the flight back to Blighty is good. Have loved following you on Instagram but have missed your posts!! Happy New Year to you both (Think I can get away with saying it this late, as you’ve been away!!)
Can’t wait to see what you have in store for the NZ update I LOVE your photography!


I live in LA! Pasadena to be exact, just a short straight drive into the Huntington Library’s gates. It’s strange to see LA’s photos on your blog, but they do capture the City. I’m amazed how you covered those distances in a day and a half!

I’ve tried several times to keep bonsai, I love them, but no matter how I try, they always dry out and die.

I went to high school in LA and left to move to Santa Barbara in 1967. In all these years the only places I’ve visited you chose to go to! Well done. Admittedly in high school we traipsed the grounds of the Huntington Library and Gardens under certain influences!

deby (in Canada)says:

Happy landing back home, happy new year… Have so enjoyed your holiday pictures. Tell Charlie the Botanical Garden in Montreal has an amazing collection of bonsai… trees are as old as 350 years!
cheers Deby

Richard Cornettsays:

In the photo of the road in New Zealand, it is lovely there are no electric wires which are such a blight on the landscape in USA.


Welcome back and Happy New Year. Regarding your comment about Bonsai, if Charlie is a fan have you been to the Model Village in Godshill? If not, make a visit next time you are on the IoW. It is wonderful in its own right as a reminder of what entertained children in the 1960s and 70s (I was one of them), but on a recent visit I was pleasantly surprised by the really well maintained miniature trees and cloud-pruned standards that are dotted around the site. Kitsch it may be, but where’s the harm in that?

Funny I have that feeling when I leave the Getty (nice art, for a corporate office park IMHO) – never been to the Villa. I’m guessing you’ll be back – 36 hrs. is far too short a visit. But now you’ve had a taste…….

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