Trip to Southern California: Los Angeles

After arriving at Union Station, I found a display of all the Los Angeles bus schedules in the Gateway Center. I find it hard to believe that I’m holding up Los Angeles public transportation as exemplary, but other cities could benefit from having full collections of bus schedules and maps available in public places. I took the ones I needed and then boarded the sleek Red Line Metro train to Hollywood. Like Munich, the Los Angeles Metro (not to mention the trolley in San Diego) requires purchasing a ticket, but there are none of those pesky turnstiles. It’s kind of a honor system (although once while I was on the San Diego trolley officers came around to check tickets) and once again Los Angeles is ahead of the curve on public transportation. Too bad nobody uses it.

View all my photos from Southern California.

I checked into my lodgings at Orange Manor Drive Hostel and did a little necessary shopping before taking the Metro back to downtown Los Angeles. I liked downtown LA because it actually felt like a city and one that seems to have been frozen in time around 1960, albeit buzzing with the commercial activity of the local Hispanic population. I followed a walking tour of Historic Downtown from my Lonely Planet guidebook. Along the way I saw Los Angeles City Hall star of film & tv, the Bradbury Building with it’s spiffy interiors used in Blade Runner, the Grand Central Market, several abandoned theaters, the Art Deco Oviatt Building and Pershing Square. Across from the park stands the Millennium Biltmore Hotel which my guidebook claimed was the location of JFK’s nomination in 1960, so I wandered the ornate interiors wondering where the convention took place. Later I read that the convention took place at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena so that guide book author was speaking out of the butt. I was much more pleased with the Los Angeles Public Library across the street and raced around its labyrinthine interiors. Back outside I climbed the Bunker Hill Steps and strolled down Grand Street past the Gehry-ific Walt Disney Concert Hall.

There was more to the tour, but I was running out of time. So I did something that maybe no one has ever done in history: I walked to Dodger Stadium. The walk wasn’t bad through the scruffy neighborhood of Echo Park and across the sea of asphalt ringing the ballpark. Dodger Stadium isn’t so bad it’s definitely a relic of the early 60’s much like downtown LA. It’s kind of neat that it’s built in a ravine so that the upper deck entrance is at ground level. It was kind of annoying to walk down so many steps to try to find the entrance to the pavilion seating. The interior has the advantages of bleacher seating in the outfield (which I think should be mandatory at all ballparks) and open concourses so you can still watch the game while at the concession stand. Other than that, I really don’t see how it’s so different from Shea Stadium and why people make such a big deal about it. It certainly could be better served by public transit. For more on the ball game, visit my Mets Week in Review post.

The next morning I took a couple of buses out to Santa Monica. I wanted to visit the famous Santa Monica Pier and walk along the “boardwalk” to Venice Beach. Unfortunately, the pier was rather anticlimactic and I had forgotten that I really don’t like the beach. But I did do the walk feeling dehydrated and drained by the the unrelenting California sun. I got to Venice, was not to impressed and then had to take a bus back to Santa Monica. I did like the city of Santa Monica at least, and had a pint Ye Olde King’s Head.

I boarded a Rapidbus (it’s really called that) for downtown LA and endured a hot, sunny, endless slog across the endless series of strip malls, concrete, and palm trees. If I lived in LA, I would hate riding the bus too. But I finally made it downtown and completed my walking tour visiting the monumental historic section of Union Station, strolled the marketplace at El Pueblo De Los Angeles, and visited the magnificent Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels. The last stop was definitely a highlight of my visit to Los Angeles with it’s modern architecture, diffuse sunlight, and unique religious iconography. After visiting one cathedral I returned to a cathedral of baseball for another night of the Mets upsetting their hosts.

On my final day in Southern California I visited the Getty Museum. I decided to avoid another long bus ride by taking the Metro Red Line to the Metro Orange Line to Van Nuys and catch a bus to the Getty Center from there. They fooled me! Like the Silver Line in Boston, the Orange Line is just a big bus, but at least it runs on its own road (adjacent to bike paths) so it moved quickly and smoothly. Not a bad idea actually. The Getty is a magnificent work of art in it’s own right. I started with a garden tour learning that the architect intended the plantings to be his palette and thus the colors are changed with different plantings throughout the year. I also learned that the gardening is rather fussy, such as removing every other leaf on the trees to create a dappled effect. After the tour I wandered through the galleries which contain some magnificent art. The museum is a chameleon adapting to becoming an traditional gallery for older works and a starker room for newer works. Really the architecture and gardens overshadow everything.

To finish off my LA visit I went to Mass at St. Paul the Apostle in Westwood and met up with a priest I know from when he once served in Boston, Fr. John (who presided at my wedding among other things). He generously invited me to eat dinner with the other priests and then drove me to the airport! From there I flew home overnight and didn’t sleep well at all.

It’s funny to come home and discover this travel article in The Guardian about the unthinkable: Walking in LA!

Walk. Don’t walk

Most people only walk in LA if there’s a red carpet involved. Yet downtown it’s a different story – as Dea Birkett discovers when ditches her Chevy and hits the streets. Guardian Unlimited. Tuesday July 24 2007

I guess I’m a trend setter.

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