Malibu Trekker @ thecityedition.com ----- Post #4 - Jan. 27, 2010

One of J. Paul Getty's numerous former residences. It offers a nice view of the Pacific Ocean and a 10-minute commute to Santa Monica. I took this shot during a 3-day timeout between storms that were pounding the southland.

It's All Ancient History at the Getty Villa

While most tourists in West Los Angeles are familiar with the vast Getty Center complex off the 405 freeway, few have even heard of its less-publicized sister out in Malibu.  The "Getty Villa" does sound like a quaint affair, but it’s plenty big enough to occupy the discerning trekker for hours on end. It so happens that this is where they keep artifacts dating back to remote antiquity. According to the museum's website, this facility houses 44,000 Greek, Roman, and Etruscan objects.

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A view of the museum courtyard from one of the gallery doorways. At right, a very cool depiction of Leda and the Swan.

Like Getty in L.A., admission is free here.  Unlike L.A., you can’t just show up on the Villa doorstep and expect to have the run of the place.  To the contrary, you must schedule a date and time online at getty.edu. Then, when you print out your ticket, the sheet doubles as your map and directions. So the extra step makes up for itself in an instant.  Parking runs a hefty $15, so it's better to do like me and hop on the MTA 534 in Santa Monica (or downtown Malibu, if you're coming from the north) and get off at Coastline Drive. (That's the intersection in the photo below.) The ride takes fifteen minutes from the Santa Monica Pier and costs a whopping $1.25. Then you’ll cross the street at the stoplight, walking south, and enter the wrought iron gate at the corner. Someone at the nearby security station will pop over and inspect your ticket. Then a minivan shuttle comes down to chauffer you up the hill and to the entrance of the villa.   That's another nice perk you can't enjoy if you just drive there and park in the garage.

The museum's walk-in gate is next to the umbrella. The address is 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, at the corner of Coastline Drive. (The car is heading south along PCH.) The drive-in entrance is 50 yards ahead of this car on the PCH, but you have to be headed northward to make the turn.

Even if you’re one of those people who regard history as "just one thing after another”, there’s other fun to be had at this hilltop sanctuary overlooking the world's biggest ocean. After all, an oil tycoon once lived here, so it's sort of an adventure just for that reason alone. Like the Getty Center, you can traipse around the garden grounds, eat a picnic lunch or otherwise luxuriate to your heart's content. While the acreage here comprises but a postage stamp by comparison to Getty, Sr., it's worth the trip - trust me.

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Once you're squarely on the premises, you'll ride an elevator up a couple floors, then follow a footpath that takes you to the scene in the photo above left. There's an amphitheatre, although you can't see it there at the bottom of the stairs. The lobby of the museum is just to the right. The next photo gives you a view from that lobby looking out onto the central courtyard of the building that houses the museum. All the ground floor galleries are nestled around that location. Very cozy setting, too. Not much walking involved.  And don't forget to take advantage of the free coat and bag check before you start looking around. 

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These four photos were taken outside the west doors of the courtyard.

There's the fountain and long pool on the west side of the museum.  As you'd expect from the Getty, the esthetics are quintessential. Given the small space they’re working with, it's all the more of a feat.  The mix of greenery, statuary, surrounding edifice and blue sky combines to give this place a much warmer, fuzzier feeling than big brother off the 405. I saw a young woman sitting beside a trestle vine just off the fountain pool, reading a book in the sunlight. I didn’t need to disturb her with my camera, though, since there were so many other prospects to choose from.

In fact, the Getty staff has thought of just about everything when it comes to running a museum.  Well, maybe they could post a sign at the entrance warning photographers not to use a flash indoors.  That would save the security guard in the first gallery a lot of grief. Other than that, I have no complaints, and that's highly unusual.

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The Getty Villa sits at the foot of the Santa Monica Mountains. The hall to the right is located at the entrance to the parking garage. This is also where the mini-van shuttle drops off and picks up to take you back down the hill.

As enjoyable as it was meandering around outdoors, I didn't neglect the artifacts inside. So let's get on with the show, shall we? 

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