Despite being a Southern California local, I am painfully deficient in my knowledge of many of the neighborhoods, communities and districts of Los Angeles. When I first watched 500 Days of Summer, I hardly recognized downtown Los Angeles. A little embarrassing.
An LA times article by Christopher Reynolds commented on this phenomenon suggesting that locals are too conscious of the traffic and hassle to consider criss-crossing from Los Feliz, to Venice, to Beverly Hills to explore the LA area. “Downtown sits in the middle of all of this, but to thousands of Angelenos, it’s more remote than Manhattan, never mind Manhattan Beach.” As PC and I are now more tourists than residents of LA, I figured that we should take a cue from the tourists and cross over to explore downtown.
First stop: Olvera Street. Beyond the kitschy wares, and tired street mariachis, this historic street is home of the oldest standing house in Los Angeles- the Avila Adobe.
California has a unique heritage and history having been settled by Native Americans, Spanish and Mexicans. In school, we learn about the Spanish legacy of missions built along El Camino Real. Father Junipero Serra led the Spanish through Alta California building missions to convert Native Americans to Catholicism, and subservience to Spanish rule. In the courtyards surrounding the street you can find Father Serra, and King Carlos III of Spain.
It’s fun to reexamine California’s history in a place like this. To imagine Los Angeles not as a sprawling metropolis, but a sprawl of ranches and farms.
We then walked over to Union Station. Apart from being the central hub of the metro system, it also houses some beautiful architecture.
A walk outside of the station brings you face to face with a pretty nifty looking post office, across the street from famous Phillipe’s restaurant. Olvera also butts up against Chinatown, and the base of Chavez Ravine (think blue!).
After all this we took a brief detour into Little Tokyo for some frozen yogurt and macarons. With our renewed energy, we drove over to the Griffith Observatory.
Inside the observatory, we watched a massive pendulum demonstrate the turning of the earth, meteorite samples, images of the sun and a seismograph. The seismograph has three different measures. One section for far off quakes, one for local California tremors, and one for movement on the observatory floor. Upon realizing the graph measured movement on the floor, PC began making his mark…
It was a lovely day of exploration, history, science– Plus, all of these sights are free! I’m looking forward to another LA adventure before we leave. Ideas welcomed.