While house-sitting in Highland Park, I decided that I really needed to buy some clothes. Since I wasn’t in the mood to deal with traffic or crowds, I headed to Pasadena. I was there for dinner a couple of years ago and always meant to go back and learn more about it. About ten minutes after I left the house, I was driving across the beautiful Colorado Street Bridge. The San Gabriel mountains stood guard on the left, and Pasadena lay ahead of me. I was taken away by the beauty and instantly thought of Spain. I quickly found myself in Old Pasadena, a large, walkable area of the city with lots of shops and restaurants. I found a parking garage and started exploring Colorado Boulevard — the main street.
After spending a lot of time in Los Angeles, the first thing I noticed about downtown Pasadena was how clean it is. It’s really, really clean, and unlike a lot of L.A., the sidewalks are intact. It’s also very pretty with it’s lush, tree-lined streets. Pasadena is not actually part of Los Angeles; it’s a separate city on the northeast border of L.A. It has everything you need with less congestion, yet easy access to Los Angeles, both by road and by metro. I talked to a local who told me that it’s usually about 10 degrees warmer in Pasadena than in L.A. and that some of the neighborhoods north of the 210 highway are known for having more crime. As a tourist, you wouldn’t be going there anyway, so don’t worry.
I was there to shop, and shop I did. If you’re shopping for a luxury car, you can get one here. The beginning of Colorado Blvd. has a Bentley dealership as well as a few others in the high-priced category. I decided to pass since I needed some kitchen things at Sur la Table. I found some cool clothes at Splendid, and then I saw Lather. I am such a sucker for soaps and lotions, and Lather has good stuff. After strolling around and sampling half of the store, I came out with lots of heavenly smelling things. The people working in the stores were very friendly, and I ended up having pleasant conversations nearly everywhere I went. (I find this to be true of a lot of places in L.A. as well.) Finished with my shopping, I wandered off Colorado and found a park and the Metro. I liked what I saw, and I returned to Pasadena several times. Strangely, as I drove across the bridge, the San Gabriels were not always there. Sometimes they completely vanished under a haze, sometimes they were sort of there in a mysterious way, and at other times they were clearly visible. I guess that makes it exciting: You can get a different view every day! I learned that the bridge was built in 1912, and unfortunately, its nickname has been Suicide Bridge since 1932.
Get Your Zen On
Need an hour of peace on a Thursday afternoon? Try the noon meditation at the Unity Church, which they hold every Thursday. There weren’t many people there, but they were nice, and it always feels good to meditate with others. The church was located away from Colorado Blvd. in a more suburban setting. They have regular church services on Sundays as well. For nature lovers, the lovely Descanso Gardens are within a 10-minute drive. Descanso Gardens is a 150-acre botanical garden. I was fascinated by the camellia trees — they are a real treat for the eyes.
You’ll probably find just about any kind of food your looking for in Pasadena. It’s chock full of restaurants. In Old Pasadena, we dined at the 1810 Argentinean Restaurant. We really enjoyed our meals. I had gnocchi, my husband had a good steak, and we washed it down with delicious wine. On another night, we had a pretty good dinner at Mi Piace. We shared a grilled veggie platter, and had two different seafood dishes. The sauces were different than what you usually get at an Italian place, but still very tasty. If you go farther down Colorado Blvd., you’ll get to the Playhouse District. There are more shops and restaurants, nice apartment buildings, and venues for theater, dance, and art. We had lunch at Urth Caffe several times. This one is just as popular as it’s West Hollywood location. They have delicious healthy food and very good lattes, and provide excellent people-watching opportunities. Not far from there is Zona Rosa, a coffee shop with a few outdoor tables. Amara Cafe is a Venezuelan Restaurant offering breakfast, arepas, sandwiches, etc. We were intrigued by the Spanish chocolate and churros. The churros were good, but we were really disappointed in the chocolate dipping sauce. We needed some groceries for a cookout, so we went to the Pasadena Whole Foods, which was one of the nicest I’ve seen.
On Saturday nights after 10:00, Old Pasadena changes character completely. Several of the bars and restaurants turn into clubs, and the area is flooded with young people in tight clothing and high heels. Cops are everywhere. There are lots of signs saying “Parking $3.” But after you pull in, you’ll notice the fine print that says $3 for the first hour, so watch that. This wasn’t really our scene, so we walked toward the Playhouse District and found a nice wine bar with outdoor tables in the Paseo Colorado, which is a fancy apartment building with shops and restaurants in the courtyard.
Staying Fit on the Road
Pasadena offers lots of ways to stay fit. Besides being a walkable city, it’s also very bike-friendly. There are numerous dance and yoga classes. I took a couple of drop-in classes at PureBarre, and I was impressed by the studio, and I loved the teacher/owner, Rachel. I even talked my husband into taking a class! With those mountains so close, you can get to numerous hiking trails within 5 – 10 minutes. We took the dogs to Eaton Canyon, and did the 3.5 mile hike to a waterfall. After years of drought, the waterfall is down to a trickle but, thankfully, it’s still there. Parts of the trail are shaded and others are out in the open sun, so bring a hat and plenty of water for you and your dogs. You’ll see a lot of people here on weekends.
What to Wear
The same things you’d wear in L.A. (Click here to see that post.)
For me, Pasadena was a winner, and it’s on my list of possible retirement cities. Any comments or questions? Please leave them in the comment section below.