This is the first in a series of my favorite places in America.
It’s been a rough week-and-a-half. On top of a major restructure at work in which a number of people were laid off, Alberto and I parted ways. We had been together for nearly 11 months, and I thought I’d finally found a life partner and travel companion. But it was not to be. We had planned to go to Europe for three weeks in July, but had to cancel the trip due to a last-minute professional commitment. After the dust settled, we scheduled a trip to Barcelona in December. Now, I will be going to Barcelona alone.
Last night I was sitting in heavy traffic on my way into Hollywood for a bi-weekly screenwriters table read. We had had our first rain of the season in Los Angeles, and the rain clouds were just beginning to clear. As I waited at a red light near the Warner Bros. studio, I snapped a photo of the sun fighting its way through dark clouds. There’s always a silver lining, or a golden one, behind every dark day. Sometimes you just have to open your eyes and look for it. This one was blinding me.
It made me think about some of my favorite places, the ones that made me feel warm and fuzzy and happy. Over the years, I’ve visited and lived in many places across the U.S. Some of them have left fond memories that stay fixed in my brain. They’re places I’ve visited one or more times, places with which I have a deep-seated emotional bond. Here are five that you may enjoy visiting, too.
Thunder Hole, Bar Harbor, Maine:
I grew up in the state of Maine, a state known worldwide for its rugged, spectacular coastline (and for its lobsters, of course). Bar Harbor is one of the most beautiful locations in Maine, and Thunder Hole is one of the most beautiful spots in Bar Harbor. Aptly named, when a wave that’s just the right size rushes just the right way into a cavern in the granite cliff, it punches the air and forces it out with a roar that sounds like distant thunder. You may even see a wave fan into the air as high as 40 feet. As a little girl, I used to love spending time here. It’s a beautiful place, and for me, is the highlight of Acadia National Park. From that location, one can view Sand Beach, the Great Head and the 110-foot Otter Cliff, the highest headland north of Rio de Janeiro. During tourist season, traffic can be very heavy on the one-way loop that takes you around the peninsula, and parking is limited. The best option is to take the Island Explorer Shuttle Bus. It stops at Thunder Hole about every 30 minutes during tourist season.
Fallingwater, Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania:
Fallingwater is one of the most iconic structures in modern architecture. Located in the Laurel Highlands in the Allegheny Mountains 23 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, the house was designed in 1935 by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Kaufmann family, who used it as their vacation home. The monolithic concrete slabs that form part of the main house cantilever over a waterfall. Lush, mountain woodlands surround the home. In Spring, the landscape is dotted with glorious displays of purple Rhododendrons that are natural to the region. In 1966, the house was designated a National Historic Landmark. The Smithsonian Institute lists it among the 28 places to visit before you die. I’ve been fortunate to have visited Fallingwater twice. One of the many beautiful features that stood out for me was the abundance of gorgeous walnut built-ins that furnish the main house. Albert Einstein was among the many famous guests who stayed in the guesthouse above. Advance ticket purchase is required. If you’d like to tour the home, visit the ticket page on their website for information: http://www.fallingwater.org/82/tours-and-tickets.
The Wayfarer’s Chapel, Rancho Palos Verdes, California:
The Wayfarer’s Chapel is a little spot of heaven on the Rancho Palos Verdes peninsula south of Los Angeles. It’s an ethereal glass sanctuary perched on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and nestled in the embrace of a natural cathedral of Redwoods. Known as the “glass church”, the chapel was designed by Lloyd Wright (Frank Lloyd Wright’s son) and now stands as a memorial to the Swedenborgian Church of North America and its founder, Emanuel Swedenborg. This unique, organic structure was designed to be part of the natural landscape and incorporates geometric designs that echo the patterns of the surrounding tree branches. When you sit inside the small sanctuary, there’s a surprising grandeur. You feel a lightness of being with no apparent separation from nature. The architecture lifts your focus upward through the trees and into infinity. The chapel is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is a popular venue for weddings and has been used as a location for television shows, including “The O.C.” and “90210.” There is no fee for individuals who want to visit, and all are welcome to attend the worship service held on Sunday mornings at 10:00 am. The Visitors Center and Gift Shop are open daily 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Group tours can be arranged by calling the Visitors Center at (310) 377-1650, ext. 2.
Japanese Garden at the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California:
Located in San Marino, California near Los Angeles, the Japanese Garden in the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens is one of my favorite spots to unwind and reflect. The garden reopened in April this year after a $6.8 million renovation. The nine-acre site incorporates koi ponds, a moon bridge, a lovely Zen Garden, bonsai display and an historic Japanese House. Among some of the new features in the garden, a recently-restored authentic ceremonial teahouse is perched on a ridge above the Japanese House, landscaped with a traditional Japanese tea garden. A new waterfall leads the eye from the tea garden to the ponds below. For tour and admission information, please visit their website at http://www.huntington.org/default.aspx.
Duquesne Incline, Pittsburgh, PA:
The Duquesne Incline is one of Pittsburgh’s favorite attractions. This inclined plane railroad on the South Side takes passengers up and down Mount Washington. At the top, an overlook allows visitors to admire a spectacular downtown skyline. The view is particularly impressive at night when the spires of the castle-like PPG Place are lit up. The upper station houses a small museum dedicated to Pittsburgh history, where visitors can see some of the original machinery used to hoist the cars up the tracks. Many years ago, I worked on a film released under the name of “Backstreet Justice” that shot a fight scene on one of these cars. I spent a long day traveling up and down the mountain, but it was a lot of fun. Because it’s part of the mass transit system, the Duquesne Incline is open 365 days a year. Group tours are available. For more information, visit their website at http://www.duquesneincline.org/.
There are so many special places in America. Please tell me about your favorites on the Mia Terra Blog facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/#!/miaterrablog.