Heading to Heath: Taking Granite for Granted – Lesson Three

Lots of Lessons to Learn When Building

I need to let you know something.  I may be the one who is telling you all about this build, but I’m not the driving force behind it.  I’d like to hear a round of applause for my husband.

When it came to finding the lot in Heath, I think I can honestly say I was the one making things happen.  Once Bill said we were going to move, I devoted all my time to finding the right property and then to getting our house on Squaw Valley sold.  Then I handed the baton to Bill.

He’s been the one who has made the design come together, negotiated the contract for the build and then he’s really been the one managing the build.  Whittle & Johnson has been building homes for a long time, but custom building homes for individuals has not been something they’ve done a lot of.  They specialize in building spec homes for the Whittle Development Co.  Of course, after going through our build, they may be ready for anything.  Then again, they may just go back to building spec homes.  It’s been rough.

Back to the Granite Grind

So, once the cabinets were scheduled for installation, we had to find some countertops or the whole build was going to get behind schedule.  Bill had been watching for slabs online, he’d been calling around and he’d been talking about getting out there to look around again.

The day came for looking, albeit a chilly one.  Verona didn’t have anything new, so we started at a place called IMC.  The good news was that their marble was inside.  The bad news was that they kept the doors open, so it was just as cold inside as it was out.

Their version of the price game was L,M,H,H+ and E.  The E was for exotic – or don’t EVEN think about it.  As I mentioned before, Bill is magnetically attracted to exotic marble.  He gave up on so many loves that morning that you had to feel sorry for him.  Every other slab he loved was E, the rest were H+, as in HIGH PLUS!!

Next door was Levantina.  They played another version of the price game.  You go pick stuff out and then they will tell you if it is low, medium or high.  That was marginally better than MSI, but not by much.

Can We Move Something for You?

Here’s something else you hear a lot of at slab yards.  Slabs are displayed in one of two ways.  One way lets you see an entire slab of granite or marble.  The other way is more like books on a shelf with some strategically placed spaces for you to peer down the length of the slab.  Needless to say, seeing the whole slab is much to be preferred.

Our friends at Verona used a mixture of the two methods.  To MSI’s credit, they show the full slabs, with a plaque which shows the name of the type of stone and the country of origin.  IMC goes one better – showing slab and type as well as the price game designation.  Levantina uses the library book method.

No matter what method is used, most people need more than one slab and they like to see all the slabs they are going to get.  That’s why, even when you can see whole slabs, you might need some slabs moved.  When slabs are displayed with the library book method, that’s the only way you’re going to get an idea of what you’re looking at.  Don’t worry though.  They have really cool machines to move the slabs with and I think they actually enjoy doing it.  Beats having a real job, I guess.

In Love With Blue Fire 

We spent the day going back and forth between IMC and Levantina.  There were dramas and frustrations, but we found what we thought we wanted.  Blue Fire Granite is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life.  It was categorized as an H, which concerned us, but the salesperson told us it was reasonable.  In fact, it was at the lowest level of the H category.  That couldn’t be too bad could it?  Find out next week.

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Travel Here: Michael Borremans at the DMA

It’s no secret that I love the Dallas Museum of Art. My Facebook pals probably gDMA MB03142015ot tired of my almost daily reminders that they needed to see the DMA Bouquets exhibition.  They won’t be hearing much from me during this latest show.

Let’s Party!

I’m busy.  You’re busy.  We’re all busy.  That’s why you should belong to the DMA.  We tell ourselves we ought to get down to the Dallas Arts District more often – but do we?

I’ll confess, I’m not there as often as I’d like to be.  The fact that I’m currently living in Wylie has something to do with it, but let’s face it, we forget.  The museum regularly has events for its members and thank goodness I’m one.  The events remind me to go.

Choose Your Poison

The Incas are coming!

The Incas are coming!

To keep me informed, the museum sends a quarterly magazine with the big picture, email blurbs to remind me of certain events and then sometimes we get a fancy full-color invitation in the mail.  The most recent mailing offered us a choice of opening receptions: Michael Borremans in March or Inca in May.

My inclination was to opt for the Incas, but the intriguing picture above convinced Bill he’d rather see Mr. Borremans.  With an exhibition tagline like “As sweet as it gets,” I figured it sounded pretty good.  We sent in our reservation and marked our calendars.

Getting There Was Not Half the Fun

Hubby and I hang around the house on most Friday nights and occasionally I have a wistful moment, wishing for those romantic dates that used to occur at the end of the work week.  Then we’ll try to get to the DMA from Wylie one Friday night and I’m cured for months.  Of the three and a half hours away from home, only an hour and a half was spent at the DMA.  Have I mentioned that I hate living in Wylie?

A Few Bites

The DMA’s opening receptions include light hors d’oeuvres.  When I was a kid (enjoying the receptions on my Mom’s membership) light hors d’oeuvres  was usually a generous display of fruits and cheeses.  Later is was lighter on the fruit and cheese, while offering oceans of brightly colored tostada chips with salsa.  Nowadays its a mixed bag.  We’ll go one time and be offered enough food to feed an army on the march.  Next time it’s tiny bites on skewers.

For this soiree, the emphasis was on veggies.  There were offerings of asparagus and brussel sprouts, as well as two kinds of potatoes.  One potato dish claimed to be a stew, but it looked and tasted like mashed potatoes with gravy.  There were also french fries with catsup and mayonnaise.  On another table were tea trays of what looked to be handmade truffles, but on closer inspection proved to be tiny meatballs.  Not bad, but disappointing to a mouth ready for chocolate.

Preview Talk

Art is my thing.  When I travel, art museums are my primary destination.  I’ve taken all kinds of art classes and my degree is in Arts and Performance.  I read novels about artists.  I watch TV shows about art and archaeology.  Still, my favorite part of an opening reception is not the snacks, it’s the Preview Talk.

Who is the artist?  How did he come to choose art as a profession?  Who influenced him? Do I know some of his works?  Where does he fit in history?  These are the questions I was asking myself as I claimed a seat in the Horchow Auditorium, because Michael Borremans is not a household name – at least not at my house.

We started with the obligatory welcome and words of appreciation for us, the members who help them afford to mount the exhibitions, and the staff responsible for the installation.  In this case the curator-in-charge was relatively new to the museum and he gave creds to those who had been working on the installation for almost a decade.

Things started out well, but then they put up a slide which looked like a mass murder super-imposed onto a museum postcard.  Then the guy started talking about existentialism.  That and the Irish accent inspired Bill to take an early exit.  I try really hard to appreciate art that isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I could tell one walk- through was going to do it for this exhibit.

The Exhibit

Pieces and parts are wonderful.  Take the picture on the invitation above, for instance.  The attention to detail is awesome.  The intensity of the white – devine.  And fragilty? Yes, it’s there.  A room devoted to drawings and models of a really weird building without windows or doors?  I’m taking the express train.

In some of the paintings and drawings I found things I could identify with and contemplate, but then he’d throw in something that just made it weird.  Life throws me enough curve balls that I don’t feel inspired to tolerate them in my leisurely appreciation of art objects.

Now if you like the macabre and seriously odd, then you might truly enjoy this exhibit and that’s why I’m taking time to tell you about it.  If, on the other hand, you prefer to be entertained by the beautiful, then like me, you can go to the Bass Collection which is currently being exhibited at the Kimbell over in Ft. Worth (through May 24th).

If you do go to the DMA to see Borremans, here’s a few things that they said too look for: symbols of overpowering authority, an attempt at creating a “found” look in his drawings, references to the Belgian occupation of the Congo and surrealism.  Personally, I’m looking forward to the opening of Incas: Conquests of the Andes, which will open up in the last few days of the Kimbell’s current exhibit.

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Heading to Heath: Granite Interruptted

The Masons Begin

The Masons Begin

Granite Before the Storm

Nothing on a building site happens in a vacuum.  While we were shopping for the elusive granite slab of our dreams, we were also picking out brick and trying to find a vendor for the pre-finished cabinets we’d chosen for the kitchen.  (Cabinets – another long story I won’t go into right now.)

On a Saturday in late December, after our disappointing return visit to the granite slab yard, we were on our way to a holiday event with the family in Flower Mound.  Our fabricator had given us the names and addresses of some other slab yards to check out and one of them was sort of on the way to Flower Mound.

Now, what works for one person might not work for someone else and visa versa.  So, if you’re looking for granite or marble, don’t let me stop you from going to MSI over on Valley Branch Lane, but we won’t be going back.  Remember the price game I mentioned when I started talking about slabs.  Well, MSI ain’t playing.  Yes, the price game is irritating, but it’s better than a poke in the eye and that’s about all we got.

See, MSI won’t even tell you a price range, much less a price.  No ABC.  No 123.  No Low, Medium, High.  You just go in there, write down which slabs you like and they turn the list over to your fabricator.  One thing we’ve learned is that Bill naturally gravitates to the most expensive slabs in any slab yard.  Having him write down what he likes and then waiting to hear from a fabricator would just be an exercise in futility.  You have to say, “Bill, you can only look at X.”  Without that, we were wasting our time.

It Hit Us Like a Brick Wall

After wasting time at MSI, we continued the trek to Flower Mound.  We were discussing the cabinets, which we planned to look into after our family event.  The phone rang and it was the guy who is building next door to us in Heath.  “Uh Bill, I thought you said you were having some sort of pattern in your brick.”

Come to find out the masons had finished up with the job they were working and started bricking our house.  The only problem was that they’d never given us pricing for the work we wanted done.  Standard brick-laying was included, but we had some special treatments we wanted done – if we could afford it.  The whole issue of our cast stone was up in the air also.  The masons were laying on straight brick as if no cast stone or brick patterns were involved.  Our options were being walled-up you might say.

The next hour or so was filled with flurries of phone calls and text messages.  We wanted to enjoy our family get together, especially since this was one of the only times we’d see some of them in a year, but it was hard with all the building issues we were handling.  Just about the time we were wrapping up the blind gift exchange a frantic Bill let me know we had to go – RIGHT THAT MINUTE.

GPS FAIL

By the time we got to the car, Bill was nearly hysterical.  Basically, we had a choice of paying either $750 or $2200 and either way we went about it, we wouldn’t get exactly what we’d wanted in the first place.  We also needed to get from Flower Mound to Grand Prairie for the cabinet appointment and we needed to get there fast.  Of course, as we madly drove south, communicating unsatisfactorily with our builder, that’s when we discovered that all that new road construction out by the airport isn’t on our latest GPS update.

Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty and it didn’t get any prettier.  To give our builder’s rep his due, he kept trying to convince us that everything was going to be OK.  The high point make that low point of the conversation was when he told me in order to make it right, if he had to, then he’d have them tear down every brick and start all over.

That was the wrong thing to say to me at that moment.The last thing I wanted was another delay and I was certain that whatever happened I’d end up with another added expense.  Their favorite increment of add-on was about $300.  We were sitting at the desk of the cabinet vendor when I unloaded my angst on the builder’s rep.  It was not my finest moment of the build.

By necessity, granite fell several slots on the priority table that day.  A couple of weeks passed before we returned to the search for granite, but Lesson Three in Taking Granite for Granted will be next week.

 

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Travel Here: Nebraska Furniture Mart, Texas

Welcome to Nebraska1

Welcome to Nebraska!

It’s Big!
I’d heard that the big furniture store over in The Colony was finally open.  Since we were on the Northwest side of Dallas for another house-related errand, we decided to drop into the brand-spanking new Nebraska Furniture Mart.  The old saw about everything being bigger in Texas may finally be true, now that we have Nebraska Furniture Mart here in the Metroplex.

My husband is an investor by trade and a decorator by desire, so a furniture store by Warren Buffet was a temptation he could not resist.  I’d already been online to check out their selection, but nothing could have prepared me for the real thing.

Getting There

We’d just merged onto the George from I-35 when we made the decision to visit the behemoth furniture store.  So, we took Josey north, because we remembered it being built somewhere in that vicinity.  Unsure of which way to turn when we got to 121, I checked the GPS on my phone.  It let me know that I needed to go right.  Soon I could see the store, but the GPS wanted to take me past it and then wrap back around.  We turned off the GPS and followed our noses.

If You Build It They Will Come

Though the furniture store itself is actually complete, everything around it is still under construction, so drive with extreme caution.  The place is so huge that it’s hard to figure out exactly where you should park.  On the weekday afternoon we visited there was plenty of parking, but who knows what it will be like on weekends.

The Eloi going to dinner, in a scene from the 1960’s movie version of H.G. Wells Time Machine, is deeply ingrained on my mind.  Anytime I find myself in a casual crowd that grows as it enters an edifice, I’m right there with the Eloi.  The poor things were just following their appetite into the communal dining room with no understanding that they were fattening themselves up to be someone else’s dinner.  A little later they are harvested as they strolled into yet another cavern at the direction of their hosts.

That should give you an idea of the Nebraska Furniture Mart.  You wander towards it with your mouth open, trying to imagine the delights that are held behind the massive walls of the building.  As we entered, we were handed a map, but it took us awhile to open it, because the scene is so overwhelming.  What looks unbelievably large from the outside seems to grow once you get inside.

Sticker Shock

Right inside the door we entered was an “accessory bazaar”, think Z Gallarie/Pier One/Kirkland/Crate& Barrell/etc.  We veered to the right, distracted by the siren call of patio furniture.  I mean we are building a patio that overlooks a pond and a golf course.  After seeing a $1300 chair, we walked out of the patio furniture department and through more accessory type stuff to the Home Entertainment Furniture Department.  Can you say $7K isn’t in our budget for home entertainment furniture?

At the back of the store was a fan and lighting gallery.  This is where our amazement became true sticker shock.  I have two words for you:  Lamps Plus.  The selection puts Nebraska to shame, the brands are the same and once you buy your lighting fixtures you can actually afford light bulbs.

We test drove a few chairs in the office furniture department and went over to check out the “Hard Surface Flooring and Countertops.”  Do not buy granite from these people.  It was all level one granite with level three pricing.  What scares me is that they didn’t say whether the $45/sq ft price included installation or not.  I was afraid to ask.  More advice:  Do not pay $45 for Brown Baltic and Santa Cecelia – with or without installation.  You really can get it a lot cheaper than that.

Carpets were next.  We were interested in those.  With so much wood flooring going in, we’re going to need some area rugs.  I’ve got to tell you they have some gorgeous stuff, their selection is humongous and there seems to be a wide variety of pricing.  Surprisingly, some of the prices actually looked like something we might pay.  However, there were also prices that sent us howling.  I am sure there are people in Dallas who buy $20K area rugs, but that wouldn’t be us.

Come On Up

Another sci-fi scene that looms large in my memory bank is the elevator scene from The Twilight Zone’s “To Serve Man” Episode.  I was certainly feeling like the fatted calf of consumerism as I stepped off the Nebraska Furniture Store elevator into the dining department.  Since barstools are another thing on our shopping list, we lingered in that section for a while.  They did have one of the larger collections of barstools that we’ve run into anywhere else and some reasonable pricing, but we didn’t fall in love.  The perfect barstools are still mere figments of our imagination.

As we made our way across the upper level of the store, Bill stopped to admire a dining room table.  He commented that the price seemed reasonable.  Then I pointed out that the chairs were separate.  Bill changed his mind about affordability and we decided we were very happy with our consignment store find.

If you are actually looking for furniture (as opposed to accessories, lighting, granite and rugs) allow plenty of time to browse this store.  When they say they have an unequaled selection, they are not kidding. All we did was stroll across the front half of the upper level and even that did take some time.

As we wandered west to east in the front aisle we noticed that while most of the furniture was spread out in glorious array to our right, on the left side were glassed-in storefronts.  Gazing across the facades I saw names like Thomasville, Drexel Heritage and Herendon.  This is the real stuff folks.  The kind of furniture your mom and your aunts used to buy before we became addicted to disposable fashion.  There’s wood in them there tabletops!!  In my next life, the one where I can afford my champagne taste, I’m going to walk right in there and pick out my stuff.  Since I’m not quite there yet, we kept walking and made a circuit of the rest of the upper level.

Time for Lunch

All that sticker shock created an appetite.  The map told us a Subway was somewhere in the building, so we headed back down one of the many escalators and found ourselves in the pool table and fitness areas.  Next was electronics.  And then (hit the spotlight) Subway.

During lunch we discussed the huge number of salespeople they’d hired to staff the sales floor.  We tripped over them constantly.  I’ll give them creds though.  They would politely offer to help and then fade away when we smiled and said, “Just looking.”  We hate being shadowed by a hungry salespeople, especially those that want to chat us up.  Though it would be great for the local economy if this place keeps all these people, we think it’s a grand opening ploy and that staff reductions are inevitable – probably a lot will disappear through attrition, but they would have to sell a lot of furnishings to support all the people they have hired.

Bill’s Favorite Part

Unwittingly, we saved the best for last.  Wandering out of Subway, we headed to the left, because that was the only part of the place we hadn’t seen.  Voila!  The appliance department!

Bill loved it.  They had an entire appliance department very much like what you’d see at the local Lowe’s or Home Depot, but then they had little individual sections carved out along the wall for Viking, Sub Zero, Miele and the like.  FYI, GE Monogram had it’s own little cubbyhole which impressed us.

Then we landed in TV’s and we were worn out.  Time to head to the hacienda.  Have you heard the the DMA has a new exhibit.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about Michael Borremans.

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Heading to Heath: Taking Granite for Granted – Lesson Two

Carrara Shamara - show me the Granite!

Carrara Shamara – show me the Granite!

The Cold Bitter Truth

The slab yard we visited in deep winter is a sad place.  All the good stuff is gone.  The folks at the slab yard were very nice and quite willing to stomp around the chilly yard with us as long as we wanted to, but the truth of the matter was, the yard was full of dogs – and I’m not talking the cute cuddly kind.  Oh, they still had some pretty slabs, but every thing good they had was either reserved (something I’ll tell you more about) or lone orphans too small on their own to do us much good.

There’s Inventory and Then Again, There’s Inventory

Slab yards have a phrase I hate:  “Keep an eye on our website.”  Trying to fall in love with a piece of granite online is like trying to kiss through a screen.  It just doesn’t do a thing for me.  Bill bless his heart can spend hours comparing slabs online.  I last about 90 seconds on a good day.  I just can’t extrapolate a tiny rectangle on the screen into a kitchen counter.  Let’s say that somehow you do manage to find a piece of granite that you think you want.  Try calling the granite yard and see what happens.

That’s on Reserve

What you’ll usually hear when you ask about a piece of granite, in person or online, is, “That’s on reserve.”  Reserve is the magic thing you do between falling in love with a piece of granite and discovering that you can’t afford it.  The slab yard puts it on reserve so that they can tell your fabricator how much it costs and he can, in turn, work up his quote and give you sticker shock.  Before I was through with our granite procurement, I grew to hate “That’s on reserve.”

Reserve can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks.  Take our second visit to the slab yard, for instance.  We wandered around and found nothing that would work.  Oh, we saw orphans we loved, pieces we couldn’t afford and a lot of reserved pieces, but nothing that we could have in our kitchen.  In order to make us feel better they put some slabs on reserve for us.  Not that we understood what they were doing, because weeks later we discovered that the four slabs, none of which we wanted, were still reserved for us.

That’s in Tulsa

On that second trip to the slab yard we discovered some of the slabs we were looking at online weren’t even in the slab yard.  Some of the slabs were actually pieces which had been purchased by the slab yard and were in transit.  When were they supposed to arrive?  Sometime in March?  That wasn’t helping us.  We needed our slabs in weeks, not months.

Big vendors, like Verona Marble, also put slabs out on consignment to other yards and those yards can be all over the place.  Sometimes that’s at a place across town.  Sometimes it’s far away.  Slabs in Tulsa weren’t doing me much good since I’m extrapolation-challenged, but that didn’t stop them from showing me a picture of them.

Just Walk Away Renee

So, at the end of the day, we sadly left the slab yard.  We were told to keep checking online. (Yeah, sure, I’ll get right on that.)  They put slabs on reserve for us.  Then we called the fabricator and got a list of other places to visit.  Come back next week and you can visit these other yards with us.

 

 

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Heading to Heath: Taking Granite for Granted – Lesson One

Eeeny Meany Miney Moe

Eeeny Meany Miney Moe

Next time you walk into someone’s kitchen and see a slab of granite on their countertop, don’t just walk past it.  Stop and admire it.  Your host and hostess will most likely puff up like you’ve complimented them on a grandchild.

Just in case you’re ever foolish enough to want to build your own house (something we’ll NEVER do again) then let me give you a primer on selecting granite.

First Loves in the Slab Yard

Back in the early days of our build when we were still blissfully unaware of all the headaches ahead, our builder told us to go on over to the granite place and pick out a slab.  They were a little premature.  Since we had no place to store the pair of slabs we’d need, the trip was pretty much in vain.  In fact, it left us with a misconceived assumption that later brought only heartache.

See, we went to the granite yard in September and they had what seemed like zillions of beautiful slabs.  We ASSUMED they always had that many slabs – not like we asked or anything.  It just seemed reasonable.  They were in the marble and granite slab business, so why wouldn’t they always have lots of marble and granite slabs.  We wrote “lapidus juniperious” and ‘carrera marble” in our notebooks and walked away.

The Price Game

We did learn one important thing on this first visit.  For the most part, granite yards are not going to tell you a price.  Their customer is your fabricator and the fabricator doesn’t want you to know what his mark-up is.  There are exceptions to that rule, of course, but none of the places our fabricator recommended were among the exceptions – and we inherited our fabricator from our contractor.

Instead of knowing actual prices, you play the price game.  At Verona Marble Company they had price levels 1,2,3 and on up, but we were told level three or the Verona Value slabs were our best bet in our price range.  Verona Value is truly a good deal if you can find what you want.

You know how show dogs have certain traits that make them winners.  The traits don’t necessarily make them a better dog pet-wise, but they do make a big difference in the arena.  Granite and marble are a lot like that.  When a professional buyer is looking for, let’s say, lapidarius, there are certain traits they expect to see when they go to the mining areas.

Now, just like the show dogs, there might be a perfectly beautiful, perfectly desirable piece of granite available that isn’t quite up to lapidarius standards, but when a buyer from a major slab yard asks for lapidarius, no granite miner in his right mind is going to pull out the second rate stuff.  I’m sure there are slab yards all over the place that make their living selling substandard slabs, but that’s why you want to be careful about who you buy from.  There’s nothing wrong with choosing a mutt, but no one should sell you a mutt when the price tag belongs on a purebred.

Verona takes the middle ground.  Much of what they have is the best of the best.  They truly have beautiful slabs, but some of those beautiful slabs are mutts and if they are mutts, then you get a bargain.  Other slab yards choose abc or some other scheme besides numerical grading, but the effects are the same.  You wander around the slab yard guess-timating whether or not you are going to be able to afford what you are falling in love with.

A Chilly Second Visit

By late December it seemed as if we were getting close enough to countertop time that we’d better revisit the slab yard – only it was a virtually empty slab yard.  No juniperious anything.  The lapidus wasn’t exactly right, either.  It was also very, very cold.  See, Verona Marble starts getting their shipments in early spring and when we visited them in September their inventory was at a peak.  The bad news is that they don’t get any shipments after that, so by December we were pretty much looking at leftovers.  If we did happen to like a slab, it was an orphan – the only one of its kind and not big enough to cover our footage.

That’s when our education really began.  Come back next week for Lesson Two in Taking Granite for Granted.

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Travel There: Le Pain Quotidien and the Venice Canals

travel

Le Pain Quotidien

LAST DAY IN LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

It was our last day in LA. The family arrived in waves. Bill and I were the first departing wave. There were only a few hours left. At 1:18 AM, my nephew texted me the location where we’d meet at 10 AM for brunch. At 4:13 AM he texted me to let me know it would actually be 11.  The nieces and nephews were keeping different hours than Auntie Jane.

BRUNCH AT LE PAIN QUOTIDIEN 

Before Steven married and moved up to San Francisco, he and Bassem were a pair of young studs enjoying the single life in LA.  I can imagine them landing at Le Pain Quotidien to break their fast after a wild night on the town or even for a quiet Sunday morning reading the LA Times.

However, with thirteen people ranging in age from toddler to retired teacher, perhaps we should have gone to IHOP.  The little ones couldn’t find anything they wanted to eat and for that matter, neither could I.  It was all very healthy, fresh and chic, but I’d been awake since 4:13 AM and I was seriously hungry.  Also, we were spread out over several tables in a corner of the cafe and I’m sure our chatter was disruptive to everyone else.

NEXT STOP?

When brunch was over everyone turned to me for our next adventure.  I was honored that I hadn’t been disbarred from the family after the Huntington Garden fiasco, but maybe Bill’s telephoned assurance that there actually were amazing things behind the tall hedges saved face for me.  Problem was, I’d seen everything I’d put on my wish list except one and I was afraid the Venice Canals might not be appropriate for this huge crowd of people.

I confessed that my bag was empty except for the Canals, but suddenly I had a groundswell of support.  Steven and Shannon had courted nearby and Bassem thought the area was amazing.  Bill, too, was anxious to see the canals.  So we loaded up and headed out.

THE VENICE CANALS

Saturday afternoon with a caravan of cars is not the optimal time to see the canals – still I’m awfully glad they were included at the last minute.

The Venice Canals

The Venice Canals

You can’t see much from the car, so the entire caravan had to find places to park.  I think that privilege came with a price tag of twenty-something dollars per vehicle.  I thought that was outrageous, but everyone else took it in stride.

The Venice Canals is a neighborhood built on a series of man-made canals just a few blocks from Venice Beach.  The cute bungalows were affordable back in the day.  Now if you’ve got two or three extra mil laying around, you too can live there.

Except for the parking, it actually turned into a great outing for our large group.  In ever-changing groups of three or four folks, we strung out all along the canals with everyone strolling along at their own pace.

Auntie Jane at the Venice Canals

Auntie Jane at the Venice Canals

The canals were a real boon to me.  I don’t see my grandniece and grandnephew often enough for them to remember me.  So, I was about to leave, but they’d finally decided to let me into their special circle.  I pushed their stroller around the canals.  We made up a silly game to play as we went over the bridges.  We laughed, giggled and sang nonsense songs.  I’m sure the residents hated it, but I was in heaven.

FAREWELL TO THE GOLDEN STATE

Finally, we couldn’t put it off any longer.  There was a episode of fruit basket turnover as we re-arranged everyone to accommodate Bassem driving us to the airport. We were going to have to return the Maserati to him.  I would miss it.  My real car is a Nissan.

I’ll share a few more shots of the picturesque canals, but come back next week.  Who knows what I’ll have up my sleeve!

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