Our Man in the USA part two

I find it hard to stop thinking about museums and art galleries, even whilst I’m on holiday in California for two weeks. Try as I might to take my mind off work, there were a few moments when I found a connection back to Buxton Museum and Art Gallery.

The stuffed bear from the old Wonders of the Peak display at Buxton became its unintentional mascot. The Science Academy in San Francisco has its own really fun character; Claude the Albino Alligator. Unlike the Buxton museum bear, this pallid reptile is very much alive but he didn’t budge an inch while I was there. I guess it was nap time.

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The second stop on my Californian itinerary was Yosemite National Park. Bear country! At 4,000 feet (1200m) above sea level, I found myself higher up than Buxton, which resides at a mere 1,000 feet (300m). It was made clear to me beforehand that the chance of seeing a bear was remote. British bears were hunted to extinction over a thousand years ago so some chance was better than none. My luck was in, as this slightly blurry shot will testify. This specimen was about the same size as Buxton Museum’s bear but its fur was blond. After spending so much time in the company of a taxidermied bear in Buxton, it was great to see a live one and very animated it was too; furiously clawing away at a log in search of grubs to eat.

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Visiting museums is like a busman’s holiday for me but I couldn’t resist a quick peek at the one in Yosemite. I was curious about the heritage of the national park and where better to go than the local museum? Sadly, like a lot of American history, it seems to go back 200-300 years to an era when European settlers seized most of the land from the indigenous population, who had managed to live in harmony with nature for thousands of years. At least they don’t shy away from the fact. There is even a reconstructed Native American village next the museum that illustrates how people lived. I also was impressed by the information panels scattered throughout the park. They offer you the chance to learn more whilst catching your breath from the hike.

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I went in search of more recent history in Los Angeles. I love films or movies, as they call them over there so it seemed a logical decision to visit the birth place of the US film industry: Hollywood. This turned out to be a bit of a challenge. The vast urban sprawl of LA is difficult to negotiate, especially without a car. Hollywood Boulevard itself is a tourist trap where it’s impossible to move without being hustled. The Universal Studios tour is fun but offers little more than expensive theme park rides. Remaining philosophical, I suppose Hollywood has always been in the business of making money. There may have been some historical interpretation somewhere but it was lost amongst the dollars and the dazzle.

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Click here for Our Man in the USA part one

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