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Pacific Palisades

June 26, 2008|Pauline OConnor

BLESSED with views of the ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains, Pacific Palisades evokes for many the stereotypical California dream. One of the country's most affluent neighborhoods, it was founded in 1922 by a group of Methodists who envisioned the setting as the perfect site for a chautauqua, or religious-intellectual commune.

During World War II, the Palisades was a sanctuary to a large group of artists, writers and musicians fleeing Nazi Germany, earning it the nickname "Weimar by the Sea." Nowadays, A-list celebrities find a haven of privacy amid the soaring bluffs from which this secluded enclave gets its name.

Despite the presence of Oscar winners, the Palisades affects a low-key, small-town vibe. Local life centers on a commercial area known as "the village," the few blocks around Swarthmore Avenue and Sunset Boulevard where most of the town's shops and restaurants are concentrated. Every Sunday from 8 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., the village is closed to car traffic to make room for a bustling farmers market.

Though real estate prices in Pacific Palisades are out of reach for all but the filthy rich -- estates in its Riviera district routinely list in the $20- to $30-million range -- the area has a wealth of attractions that just about anyone can enjoy. And the views are free.


At the perpetually packed Italian spot Il Carpaccio (538 Palisades Drive, [310] 573-1411), chef Antonio Mure (pictured) serves several versions of the restaurant's namesake dish, including carpaccios of branzino and sea urchin, duck, filet mignon, veal and ahi tuna.


Set inside a hillside amphitheater along a spring-fed lake, the Self-Realization Lake Shrine (17190 Sunset Blvd., [310] 454-4114; is a 10-acre spiritual center founded in 1950 by Paramahansa Yogananda. Dedicated to five major world religions, the Lake Shrine includes a sarcophagus said to contain some of Mohandas K. Gandhi's ashes, the Golden Lotus Archway, artificial waterfalls and a working replica of a 16th century Dutch windmill built by a movie studio executive who once owned the property.


In addition to numerous riding and hiking trails, Will Rogers State Historic Park (1501 Will Rogers Park Road [310] 454-8212) is home to the only outdoor polo field in L.A. County. Polo matches are held every weekend from April to October.


At Village Books (1049 Swarthmore Ave., [310] 454-4063;, handwritten reviews are tucked inside books and between shelves. On Bickie Thursdays, staffers bring in home-baked cookies (or, as Brits say, "bickies") to share.


Designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1949, the Eames House (203 Chautauqua Blvd., [310] 459-9663; was one of 25 homes built as part of the Case Study program. Declared a historic landmark in 2007, it now serves as headquarters for the Eames Office. To visit, call at least 48 hours in advance.





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