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A Trip to Los Angeles

An interesting megacity

I have very clear ideas about where I want to go in the USA: San Francisco - done it, the Grand Canyon - just done it, New York - still to do, Boston - still to do. Virginia and the Bryce Canyon, Utah newly added to list. Los Angeles actually held no interest for me. My husband suggested it last year instead of San Francisco and I said no. I only agreed for this holiday as we could use it as a way to see the Grand Canyon. I had very low expectations but was pleasantly surprised by L.A. It is a huge urban sprawl but it has very interesting pockets of things to do.

Our trip did not start well. I had come down with a terrible flu before leaving Hong Kong. It necessitated me taking two days off work and to be honest I should have taken a week. By the end of my flu bout I felt totally drained and as if the motivational centres of my brain had been turned off. When we arrived in L.A. my husband came down with the same thing. The first two days were a right off. He could not move. Even when he got better, he was not completely right.

On the first day he felt well enough to go out we headed off to Watts Towers. When I was planning our trip, I came across the Watts Towers and thought that is the kind of off the wall site I really enjoy visiting. However, on closer inspection I kept reading mixed reviews about the area it is located in - Watts. Some reviews claim this is a very dangerous area, others say it is fine - just don't wander aimlessly, go straight to the towers, visit in the day. One very negative review even said it was too dangerous to use the blue metro line to get there as it went through some really bad areas. After weighing it all up, I decided I still wanted to go. I told my husband only that one sight we were going to might be in a dangerous area, but I refused to tell him which one in case he would not go.

Anyway we got on the blue line to get to Watts Towers on the first day we were both well enough to go out at all. Across from us on the train was a young (teenage) white girl. She was talking to a black man and woman that she had just met on the train. She was explaining she had had a big row with her mum, run away from home and was going to stay with a boy she knew from school in an area that was considered dangerous. The black man tried to persuade her to go back home and make it up with her mum. Soon everyone on the train was involved in this discussion and they were all sharing experiences of when they had been robbed, had guns pulled out on them and so on. We just sat there quietly terrified to hear all these tales of how dangerous Los Angeles is. Anyway, the end result of everything was the black man gave the young girl, a total stranger to him, money to go back home to her mum. So we are hearing all these horror stories, but actually witnessing a very good, kind and charitable deed.

We got off the train at 103rd Street/Watts Towers . If you look straight ahead and a bit to the right you can see the towers when you get off the train. To get there go left to exit the station, turn right on the first road which is 103rd Street, then turn right onto Graham Avenue and walk straight ahead. You will pass a church and the towers are just past it on the left.

On the walk there we passed several black people sitting next to a little stall near the station who said "Good morning, how are you all doing to us?" So nothing scary at all, perfectly friendly in fact. I'm going to conclude that the advice about going during the day and going straight to the towers rather than wandering is probably good advice, but we had no trouble either finding the towers or experiencing any dangers on our visit.

I wanted to visit Watts Towers because of the story behind them. They were created by an eccentric man with a big dream, who devoted every free moment of his time to their construction. Watts Towers consists of seventeen interconnected towers. These are made of steel covered with mortar. The tallest of the towers is over 30 metres high.The towers were created by Simon Rodia, a man with a dream. He was born in Ribottoli, Italy in 1879, but later emigrated to the United States and became a construction worker. He worked in many parts of the USA before settling in Los Angeles. In 1921, Rodia bought a triangular-shaped lot on 107th Street in Watts. He lived in a small house here. Next to his house he began to build his towers, devoting every moment of his free time to their construction . He was inspired by the urge to create something big, something different. He may have been remembering great architectural sighs from his childhood in Italy. He said of his work: "I built the tower the people like. Everybody come. "

Rodia worked alone using only his hands and simple tools such as hammers and chisels for more than thirty years to build his towers. He decorated them with broken glass, sea shells, pottery and tiles which he wandered around collecting off the streets and the railway line. When he was too old to build more, Rodia moved to Martinez, California to be near his sister. He died there in June 1965.

We are very lucky the towers are still standing nowadays, because in the 1950s the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety ordered the towers to be demolished fearing they were unsafe. Fortunately, a group of residents calling themselves 'The Committee for Simon Rodia's Towers in Watts' fought to save the Towers from demolition. An engineering test was carried out in 1959. This proved the Towers' strength and safety. In 1975, the Towers and their adjoining Arts Center were handed over to the City of Los Angeles for operation and maintenance.

The Watts Towers can be viewed from outside any day of the week or explored on a paying tour. Tours take place on Thursdays and Fridays between 11.00-3.00, Saturday 10.30-3.00, Sun 12.00-3.00. We did not go on the tour.

The Watts Towers Art Centre is open Wednesdays to Saturdays from 10.00 to 4.00 and on Sundays from 12.00 to 4.00.

Admission: Adult $7 - Seniors / Children 13-17 $3 - Children 12 and under Free.
Address: See prior tip.
Directions: The Metro Blue Line also passes quite close to the Towers.
Phone: +1 213-847-4646

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After looking at Watts Towers we headed for Hollywood. Everyone I knew who had been to Hollywood told me I would be disappointed as it was not glamorous or anything like its image. I went with low expectations and discovered that I did like it even though it was not really what I was expecting.

To get there we took the red metro line to Hollywood and Highland Station. This is right next to a very fancy shopping centre with good views of the Hollywood sign.

Outside on the street there were hundreds of stars making up the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There were masses of people dressed up and trying to persuade tourists to have their photo taken with them. We saw people dressed as Superman, Batman, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Captain Jack Sparrow, Wonder Woman, rather sexy, semi-naked LAPD women officers among many others. I don't know how much it costs to have your photo taken with them as we didn't. Hollywood Boulevard was lined with many theatres. Near the Hollywood Highland stop you will find TCL Chinese Theatre, Dolby Theatre, El Capitan Theatre and in the other direction from the metro the Egyptian Theatre. At the corner of North La Brea Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard stands a silver gazebo with famous Hollywood stars on each of its corners.

Near the Hollywood and Vine metro Station on Hollywood Boulevard you will also find several theatres such as Pentages Theatre. The Capital Records building which is designed to look like a stack of records is also located here. There is a famous Hollywood and Vine sign quite close to the Pentages Theatre. The Hollywood Walk of Fame continues here, too. In addition to all this there were also some interesting paintings on the buildings. The metro stop itself is decorated with fake cameras and theatre curtains.

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Posted by irenevt 05:36 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Los Angeles

Day 2

On our second day of being well enough to go out we began with a trip to the Queen Mary, Long Island. It took us a long time to get to The Queen Mary at Long Beach by public transport, but we both felt it was well worth the effort. The Queen Mary is special to me as it was built in my home town of Clydebank at John Brown's Engineering and Ship-building Yard. As many of my family worked in the ship building yard, it was probably built by some of my relations. I know for sure several of my uncles worked on the QE2.

To get to the Queen Mary we took the blue metro line to Downtown Long Beach then walked around the corner to a bus stop and took a free Passport bus out to the ship. This free Passport bus is a very handy way to get around Long Beach. It stops at the Queen Mary, Aquarium of the Pacific, Pine Avenue, City Place Mall, The Pike at Rainbow Harbor, Convention Center, Shoreline Village, many downtown hotels and Long Beach Transit’s water taxis, the AquaLink & AquaBus.

Long Beach looked like a really nice place and we could easily have devoted a whole day to exploring it, but we just concentrated on the Queen Mary.

The Queen Mary was built by John Browns in Clydebank, Scotland. She was launched by her namesake, the real Queen Mary, wife of King George V, in 1934. Together with her sister ship, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mary was part of Cunard's two ships a week express service between Southampton, Cherbourg, and New York.

The Queen Mary sailed on her maiden voyage in 1936. She left Southampton on the 27th of May and arrived in New York on the 1st of June.

During World War II, the Queen Mary was converted into a troopship. She transported Allied soldiers for the entire duration of the war.

After the war, the Queen Mary was refitted for passenger service and along with Queen Elizabeth commenced the two-ship transatlantic passenger service for which she was built.

With the increase in air travel, ships declined in popularity. The Queen Mary was officially retired from service in 1967. She left Southampton for the last time on 31 October 1967 and sailed to the port of Long Beach, California where she remains permanently moored. She is now used as a hotel.

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You can only go on the Queen Mary nowadays on an organized tour or if you are a hotel guest. We had no intention of going on, but I must admit I am an endless wanderer. First, I wandered into the engine rooms, which are huge. I think these are free and open to anyone. Then I just thought I'd look at the ship from up a set of stairs outside the engine rooms. Suddenly I was on board and with no-one to stop me I had a good look around. I wandered various floors and the decks, enjoyed their views over Long Island. I found locations for the ghostly sightings which the ship is now famous for.

The Queen Mary was ranked as "one of the top 10 most haunted places in America" by Time Magazine in 2008. Cabin B340 is allegedly haunted by the spirit of a person who was murdered there. Other reported ghosts include a young sailor who was accidentally killed in the ship's engine room and an unidentified "lady in white". There is always one of those!!!

The Queen Mary has had many, many much more famous visitors than me in her time including: Bob Hope, Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II, Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Elizabeth Taylor, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn and General Dwight Eisenhower.

I'm sure I would have been allowed in many more places if I had taken the official tour and I really had not intended to go on. Nonetheless I very much enjoyed my visit.

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After visiting the Queen Mary, we headed back to Union Station to visit El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the historic area where Los Angeles began.

El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles was founded in 1781 on the Los Angeles River-El Río de la Porciuncula- from which it got its drinking and farming water.

This civil settlement consisted of forty-four people in eleven families. They settled here to farm. Before the civil settlement could be established missions and forts were build in the surrounding areas.

The Pueblo de Los Angeles had two beautiful old churches. One of these was La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles - The Church of Our Lady Queen of the Angels. This is a Roman Catholic church. It was founded on August 18th, 1814, by Franciscan Fray Luis Gil y Taboada, a Spaniard. The church is very peaceful inside. The other is the Plaza Methodist Church. We were shown around this by its very friendly minister.

Olvera Street is part of the Pueblo de Los Angeles. It is known as the birthplace of Los Angeles and was created in 1930. It is a colourful Mexican market street selling food, souvenirs, clothes, shoes and many other items. It is an interesting area in which to take a stroll.

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Posted by irenevt 06:24 Comments (0)

Los Angeles Day Three

Wandering from sight to sight.

We began the day at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the resting place of some of Hollywood's rich and famous. We got here by taking the red metro line to Vermont/Santa Monica then catching a number 4 bus in the direction of Santa Monica. We got off at Santa Monica and Bronson about 8 stops away from the metro.

Apparently there is a good view of the Hollywood sign from here but we could not see it due to intense cloud and rain during our visit.

I read that the flower shop near the entrance provides maps of the cemetery but it was closed when we got there so we just wandered. The first sight that interested us was a collection of Thai structures covered with wandering peacocks.

We later found the grave of Mel Blanc who did the voices of several cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Speedy Gonzales, Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner. His inscription simply read 'That's All Folks'.

Near the lake we found the grave of Johnny Ramone, guitarist with the Ramones.

Nearby was the grave of Hattie Mc Daniel, the actress who played Mammy in Gone With the Wind. Although it was her dying wish to be buried there, at the time of her death in 1952 the cemetery would not accept her because she was black. Later in 1999, Tyler Cassidy, the new owner of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, offered to have McDaniel re-interred there, but her family did not wish to disturb her remains and declined the offer, so he placed a cenotaph by the lake commemorating her.

In the same area you can find the grave of Toto, the dog from The Wizard of Oz.

Mickey Rooney is also close by as is Don Adam, the actor from Get Smart.

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The above photo shows the grave of Johnny Ramone.

After visiting Hollywood Cemetery we got back on the number four bus in the direction of Santa Monica and went to Beverly Hills. This took about 40 minutes.

We got off at Santa Monica/Wilshire near the electric fountain. We had a quick look at that then walked towards Carmelita Avenue. We walked along this avenue passed huge, luxurious mansions to the Witch's House.

The Witch's House, is also known as the Spadena House, as the Spadena family were its first residents. The house is located on the corner of Walden Drive and Carmelita Avenue. It was designed by Hollywood art director Harry Oliver, in Storybook architecture style. It was originally built in 1921in Culver City and was moved to its present location in 1934.

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The photo above shows the witch's house.

After visiting the Witch's House we walked back to the electric fountain and started strolling through the Beverly Hill Gardens.

Our walk took us through a pretty cactus garden, then to a lovely church where we went inside and listened to part of the service.

When we reached North Rodeo Drive, we walked to number 507 - the O'Niell House. In 1978 art dealer Don O’Neill and his wife, Sandy, decided to remodel their home in the Art Nouveau-style of Antoni Gaudi.

We continued through the gardens passed various sculptures and ended up at the Beverly Hills sign.

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The O'Niell House

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The Electric Fountain.

I am not really a shopper. In fact I hate shopping and you would not ever find me in a designer store, but despite all this, because it is so famous I took a stroll down Rodeo Drive. I took photos of the designer shops and walked all the way to number 2 Rodeo Drive with its Spanish Steps.

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Rodeo Drive.

After wandering Rodeo Drive, I returned to Beverly Gardens Park and walked passed more interesting and attractive sculptures before crossing the road to see Beverly Hills City Hall. This is an interesting building a bit similar to Los Angeles City Hall.

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Beverly Hills City Hall

Then we left Beverley Hills and headed for Los Angeles City Hall. We reached Los Angeles City Hall in downtown LA by taking the metro to Civic Centre on the red line. The City Hall is next to Grand Park which is quite a pleasant place with fountains and flags.

Los Angeles City Hall was completed 1928. It is the center of the government of the city of Los Angeles. It was designed by John Parkinson, John C. Austin, and Albert C. Martin, Sr.

Los Angeles City Hall has featured in several movies and television shows. It appeared in the Adventures of Superman, Dragnet, Perry Mason, War of the Worlds, LA Confidential and Mission Impossible.

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Los Angeles City Hall.

Next we visited Los Angeles Cathedral. Los Angeles Cathedral is correctly known as The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. It is a Roman Catholic Cathedral. and was opened in 2002. It was designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels replaced the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana, which was severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Los Angeles Cathedral is very modern in its design. I was not expecting to like it, but actually found it very peaceful and calming. It was also very honest; I accidentally left my camera on a seat here and had to run all the way back to retrieve it and there it was waiting for me. What a relief!!!

There is a sculpture garden just outside it with many statues of animals.

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Los Angeles Cathedral.

After that we visited the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall is located at 111 South Grand Avenue, not too far away from the cathedral or the city hall. It is an extremely striking building.

It and was designed by Frank Gehry and was opened on October 24th, 2003. It can seat 2,265 people and is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

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The Walt Disney Concert Hall

Then we took the metro to Pershing Square. Angels Flight is a 2 foot 6 inch narrow gauge funicular railway located next to Pershing Square Metro Station. It has two funicular cars which are named Sinai and Olivet.

The original Angels Flight operated from 1901 until 1969. Then it was relocated to the south in 1996 due to redevelopment of the area. In 2001 Angels Flight was closed after a fatal accident. It reopened in 2010, but after several minor accidents was closed down in 2013. It is currently closed.

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Angels' Flight.

After that we visited Grand Central Market. To get to Grand Central Market take the red metro line to Pershing Square Station. The market is opposite the Angels Flight railway.

Grand Central Market has food stalls and cafes and bars. It dates from 1917. It is open from 8am to 10pm every day.

Next was Pershing Square. Pershing Square rather unsurprisingly is next to the Pershing Square Metro Station.

In 1866 the site currently known as Pershing Square was dedicated as a public square by Mayor Cristobal Aguilar. In November 1918 the park was named Pershing Square, in honor of Gen. John J. Pershing.

There are several monuments in Pershing Square but as it was getting dark as we arrived I did not photograph them.

During our visit the centre of Pershing Square had been turned into a large ice-skating rink.

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Pershing Square.

Posted by irenevt 04:27 Comments (0)

Los Angeles

Last Day

We travelled around santa Monica using the big blue bus, but Santa Monica is also on the Expo Metro Line so it is easy to reach by public transport.

We wandered along the gardens above Santa Monica Beach, enjoying the views over the ocean. We also took a walk along Santa Monica Pier with its amusement park and street entertainers.

Route 66 ended at Santa Monica and that is commemorated on the Santa Monica Pier.

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Santa Monica Beach

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Santa Monica Pier

We took the number 1 big blue bus from Santa Monica to Venice Beach.

The beach is long and we did not explore it all. We started at the skate park, then walked along the front for a while past Muscles Beach and then onto the Venice fishing pier.

The beach was lined with shops, restaurants and bars.

Venice is called Venice because of its canal area. We really enjoyed wandering around this area. It had some wonderful houses, several canals, lots of little bridges and was basically just extremely pretty and photogenic.

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Venice Beach.

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Venice Canals.

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Venice Canals.

We walked to Marina del Rey from Venice Beach fishing pier. I don't think we did the marina full justice as we were getting tired and it was getting dark. We only walked a small part of it before jumping on a number 18 big blue bus.

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Marina del Rey

Posted by irenevt 05:06 Comments (2)

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