Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Villa and Shrine

I spent a lovely Saturday with a couple of friends visiting the area of L.A. "where the mountain meets the sea," aka Pacific Palisades.  I'd only visited Pacific Palisades a couple times in my life, on both occasions as school field trips to Getty Villa museum when I was a teenager.  So here I was again on a field trip to Getty Villa.

Before our arrival there, however, we stopped off at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine Temple, a self-described "spiritual sanctuary" located only a mile and a half from the museum. 
I'm all about maximizing the potential of my trips, so the proximity to Getty Villa, added to the fact that it was free admission, drew me to the Lake Shrine.  I am not spiritual in any way, but I was also curious about the place, especially when I learned that some of Gandhi's ashes are interred here.
Gandhi shrine
Our plan was to explore the Lake Shrine for about a half hour or so and then head over to Getty Villa.  However, traffic was better than expected so we arrived at our first destination early, with an hour and a half to kill before our museum reservation.  As it turned out, it was very pleasant at the Lake Shrine. 
view of the lake
We walked around the man-made lake and looked at the various shrines ensconced in the foliage.  The lake itself and the landscape around it are very serene and beautifully maintained.  Water birds, including a couple of swans, meandered on the lake, and koi fish were visible beneath the murky surface.  We didn't go into the temple structure that overlooks the lake.
resident swans
The Lake Shrine's philosophy promotes all religions, claiming that every spiritual path leads to the same god.  To that idea, there were meditation areas for the major religions as well placards with pithy quotations from various spiritual teachings throughout the grounds.  However, the foremost emphasis of the Lake Shrine seems to be meditation and self-reflection, and not necessarily through the vessel of an established religion.
The windmill in the distant right is a meditation chapel.
We encountered people meditating in the several sanctuaries around the lake.  Understandably, silence is requested in all areas of the Lake Shrine grounds.  The three of us found a deserted bench at the edge of the lake where we relaxed and chatted and admired the view until we left for Getty Villa.
another meditation spot
Once at the museum, I tried to discern any obvious physical differences in the grounds and structures since I'd last seen them.  However, I couldn't remember enough from my previous visits to comment on the general improvements resulting from the decade-long renovation that took place during the late 1990s/early 2000s. 
What I do remember is that Getty Villa was wholly magnificent then, and it is still so today.  With views of the ocean in the distance, the entire property is ideally situated, and the landscape is green and lush and meticulously beautiful.
view overlooking peristyle
another view of peristyle
After walking around the grounds where we admired the architecture and the landscaping, we went inside to view the art collection, comprised mostly classical pieces. 
Marbury Hall Zeus
ancient Greek artifacts
There were two exhibitions of note:  one featuring ancient glass works; and the other entitled Modern Antiquity, a major exhibit focusing on four 20th century masters (Picasso, de Chirico, Leger, and Picabia) whose works were directly influenced by classical themes.  We especially liked the latter exhibit.  I was impressed with the quantity of Picasso pieces included in the exhibition and became acquainted with a couple of artists about whom I hadn't known prior to this occasion. 
Modern Antiquity exhibition
After almost two hours of exploring the villa and the art, we went to lunch.  Though the museum has an on-site cafe with a substantial menu, we opted for Getty Villa's "Tea by the Sea," an afternoon tea service that's only available twice a week by reservation.  I was famished by the time we sat down in the tea room, and so I devoured half of my delicious meal before I remembered to take photos.  There was a selection of generic teas and tisanes upon request, but the main tea served is the museum's own blend of fragrant black tea infused with lavender which I loved.
I drank many cups of tea with my delicious meal.
As an epilogue to our afternoon tea, Getty Villa offered a docent-led tour of the gardens that, in theory, influenced the meal that we'd just had.  I think this claim is seasonal, since our meal, though good, didn't feature much of the herbs, fruit, and vegetation of which the docent spoke.  Still, I liked the tour.  Our docent is an elegant woman who was eloquent and well-educated in her knowledge of the villa and of ancient Roman culture.
tour of the Getty gardens
Our time at Getty Villa concluded with the tour, and we finally headed home.  Including the tea, we spent close to five hours at Getty Villa.  That plus the hour and a half at the Lake Shrine added up to a very full day.  The weather perfectly suited outdoor strolling.  I had a great time, and my friends said the same. 
view of the ocean from Getty Villa
The Lake Shrine is a pleasant discovery, a welcome getaway for spiritual contemplation or at the least, a quiet respite from the buzz of daily life.  My friends especially became inspired by the Lake Shrine and plan on returning to take a meditation class in the near future.

As for Getty Villa, I enjoyed the grounds, the architecture, the art, and the afternoon tea.  The staff at the museum are all professional, courteous, friendly, and helpful.  I was also pleased that the museum wasn't terribly packed with visitors.  I think people tend to overlook Getty Villa for its flashier younger sibling, the Getty Center in Brentwood, which is fine by me since I prefer the ambiance of the former over that of the latter.  I hope to visit again soon.
making my mark at Getty Villa


  1. This sounded good. I think I've not been to the Getty Villa in over fifteen years, so I'll have to check it out sometime myself.

  2. Yeah, and you should try the afternoon tea. It was very good.