In my last   blog   I suggested that the    snow  capped  mountains rising vertically from the desert floor, lush green meadows, ghost towns in “arrested decay,” more or less dormant volcanic craters, thermal hot springs, stunning waterfalls and tufa towers of the Eastern Sierras were one of California’s most beautiful destinations.

Getting there also offers unique pleasures. While the first half of the 300-mile trip can be visually boring even that stretch offers some noteworthy points of curiosity. 

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El Greco or Claude Monet? Do you prefer the drama of California’s northern coast along portions of California State Route 1 or the natural palette of colors of California’s Eastern Sierras along U.S. Highway 395?

I think the two most beautiful regions of California are its northern coastline and the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.

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Santa Monica Bay offers a potpourri of images and activities. Its shores reflect the ingenuity of developers adept at turning sand dunes and marshes into cities. The bay’s beaches have served  a s sets  for a fictional teenage surfing idol and at least one cheesy television series. Its waters have inspired noir detective stories and more than one forgettable song.

Apropos of its link with the entertainment industry Santa Monica Bay has also been the stage for an ambitious politician’s successful run for the California governorship. This   in turn   led to his appointment to the United States Supreme Court and authorship of a landmark decision that abolished racially “separate but equal” schools and other public facilities in America. It is this improbable series of events I want to look at.

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Spain claimed California in the early 1500s but for more than 200 years did nothing to advance that claim. Then, in 1769 as Russian interest in the area rejuvenated following the ascension of Catherine the Great and as British ships intruded on the Alta California coastline, Spain began to mark its territory by establishing a series of missions.

 The missions were not only religious institutions. They were intended as anchors for further colonization. 

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The other day I was looking at a reproduction of Claude Monet’s beautiful masterpiece, Banks of the Seine. His painting reminded me of something I often forget. Los Angeles has an outstanding selection of botanic gardens. Here are four worth a special trip.

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