An interesting megacity
19.12.2016 - 31.12.2016
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
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.