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In a city as large and as full of people (and helicopters) as L.A., quiet is relative. 

Rebecca Razo explains: “There’s literal quiet and then there’s calming quiet. There are those places you can go, like a library, that are absolutely silent, but there are also those places where you’re going to quiet your mind; that doesn't always mean in total silence. There’s going to be ambient noise on the street, but you're still able to connect to yourself.”

For instance, Echo Park Lake: It's a place to go for quiet time, even if you can't exactly escape the hum of the 101. Razo, a former LAPD officer who currently works in publishing, included Echo Park Lake in the “Parks and Green Spaces” chapter of her new book, Quiet Los Angeles (Frances Lincoln, $19.95), a guide filled with Mark Mendez's beautiful photographs of places where calm and quiet aren't totally elusive. Other chapters include “Gardens”; “Beaches and Trails”; “Places of Worship”; “Bookshops”; “Places to Relax”; “Restaurants, Bars and Cafes”; “Small Shops and Boutiques”; “Places to Sit and Walk”; “Quiet Drives”; and “Places to Stay.”

Razo, who lives in Orange County, was an LAPD officer for about a decade, from 1993 till 2003. Her beats were mostly in the harbor, places like San Pedro and Wilmington, but she patrolled Hollywood for a time, too. The experience didn't exactly engender affection for the city. She explains: “Working in that sort of capacity, you don't always get to see the best parts of what the city is — that can take its toll over the course of a law enforcement career over time. I knew the city, worked in the city and then I sort of fell out of love with it because I wasn't seeing its best parts every day.”

Razos and her cruiser in the '90s; Credit: Courtesy Rebecca Razo

Razos and her cruiser in the '90s; Credit: Courtesy Rebecca Razo

When Razo was tapped to write Quiet Los Angeles, she took it as an opportunity to look at the city anew. “Having had that time [away from the city], coming back with fresh eyes and discovering the city brand new — for me it revealed itself in these new, beautiful ways.” The book includes all manner of locations: the Christian Science Reading Room on Hope Street downtown; the TOMS flagship store in Venice; a slew of botanical gardens, from Descanso to South Coast; even an Italian restaurant, La Strada Italiano in Long Beach. It's meant to be a guidebook for visitors and locals alike, people who are seeing the city for the first time and people who want to refresh their perspective. 

The Last Bookstore in DTLA; Credit: Photo by Mark Mendez

The Last Bookstore in DTLA; Credit: Photo by Mark Mendez

Flipping through the pages of Quiet Los Angeles is a relaxing experience in itself, thanks in part to the marked lack of people cluttering up Mendez's images. I counted only two photos in the entire book that feature people (the image of Leo Carrillo State Park at the top of this piece being one of them); in the rest Mendez captures absolute tranquility. Each location is a blank slate onto which the reader can project herself. Maybe you can't actually make it to El Matador State Beach or Cahuenga Peak or the serenity-rich Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes, but imagining yourself there is a nice exercise. 

LA Weekly