Arts, Science & Culture Thrive in the City of Roses
On a chilly Tuesday in March of 1986, the last king of Rwanda stepped into a tea room in Pasadena.
Twenty-five years after fleeing his throne, eight years before a genocide in his country, King Kigeli V spent a quiet afternoon sipping a blend of Indian and Kenyan teas and dining on finger sandwiches at Rose Tree Cottage.
Then, as now, proprietors Edmund and Mary Fry served Yorkshire pudding, apple pie and their family recipe sticky toffee pudding with warm wit and hospitality.
Then, as now, Pasadena, a charming cultural center nestled in the San Gabriel Valley, served as a quaint haven for the traveler needing a break from the hustle and bustle.
Located about an hour east of the Conejo Valley, Pasadena offers a wealth of options for a fulfilling day trip. Those interested in history, art and the outdoors will want to explore several destinations in the City of Roses.
Food & Drink
King Kigeli isn’t the only public figure to have visited the world-renowned Rose Tree Cottage. Meryl Streep has been there, too. So has Brad Pitt. The Prince of Wales called the cottage, with its soft pink walls and furniture dressed in florals and brocades, a “sterling sight.” Margaret Thatcher visited six times.
“We’ve entertained politicians from all over the world, actors, musicians,” Edmund Fry said. “All the people who want to get away from the paparazzi.”
The Frys have operated Rose Tree Cottage since the ’70s, earning a reputation as a relaxed yet refined destination for those seeking a proper English high tea.
Entering the cottage on South Pasadena Avenue, visitors are greeted by all manner of British wares. A candy section blooms with Jaffa Cakes, Cadbury Flakes, Crunchies, Curly-Wurlys, shortbread tins, crystallized ginger, Turkish delights and toffee galore. Homemade jams join British condiments such as mint sauce, HP sauce (which tastes like a combination of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, but sweeter) and piccalilli (labeled “deliciously chunky vegetables in a tangy mustard sauce”).
It’s a feast for the eyes that almost measures up to what comes next: an even richer feast for the palate. High tea opens with fresh strawberries from Rose Tree Cottage’s garden, sprinkled with sugar, an elderflower soda favored by Queen Elizabeth II, and, of course, tea. Over the course of the meal, diners are treated to finger sandwiches, scones and clotted cream, roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and a mouthwatering selection of desserts. All the food is homemade on the premises, and the tea has been hand-selected with the utmost care by Mary and Edmund, who visit the plantations where the tea leaves are grown.
Rose Tree Cottage
801 S. Pasadena Ave.
Later in the day, if you’re looking for something to wet your whistle, check out Der Wolfskopf. Located on Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena’s Old Town, this upscale German beer hall features 20 German and German-inspired beers on draft.
Grab a stool at the dark-wood bar and gaze at the row of taps, or have a seat at a table that offers Connect Four, Jenga, Battleship and other games. If you’re hungry, try a German specialty: bratwurst ($7 to $9), spatzle mac ($9) or schnitzel ($9 to $11).
72 N. Fair Oaks Ave.
More local favorites: Real Food Daily and Sage Vegan Bistro offer delicious plant-based dining.
Arts, Culture & Nature
No day trip to Pasadena is complete without a visit to the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens on Oxford Road. Founded in 1919 by businessman Henry E. Huntington, whose support for Los Angeles helped mold the city, the estate features 12 gardens spanning 120 acres, a library containing an estimated six million items (and a venerated rare book collection), four art galleries and a new, 90,000-square-foot research center.
Needless to say, set aside a good chunk of time to get to know this beloved landmark.
If the sun is out, make sure to stroll the gardens. Seven curators, 40 gardeners and more than 100 volunteers lovingly tend to the plants, which form collections, such as the Japanese garden, Shakespeare garden, herb garden, desert garden and California garden.
This time of year, eucalyptus, lotus flowers, roses, water lilies and daylilies are in bloom, among others, but with 15,000 plant varieties on view, you’re likely to find whatever flora you fancy at the Huntington.
1151 Oxford Road