Friday, January 11, 2013

Fri 11 Jan - Los Angeles, CA

Today, we decided to head into downtown LA. It has a bit of a sad reputation of course, but we decided to have a look at it anyway. There are enough attractions there on paper to warrant a day excursion.

First up, train to Pershing Square and on the train we met our first out of work actor. A lovely african american man on his way to a job interview as an Account Manager ... you know, just to pay the bills until he can fulfill his real passion - acting". We wished him good luck for the job interview.

Once off the train we head to Angels Flight, see below. A very short funicular railway as you can see below. Shortest in the world? 25 cents to the top, which is about 1 block uphill.

Up there, we found our way between soulless big corporate skyscrapers to the Bonaventure Hotel, made "world famous" through Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie True Lies and some others. Pretty cool. We took one of the 4 sets of lifts to the 32nd floor.

Arnie went through one of these pools with his horse in the movie.

The Bonaventure Hotel was buzzing while we were there. IMTA had something on which was in full swing. IMTA? Well, it apparently stands for International Model & Talent Association. In other words, lots of very skinny tweenies tarted up and looking hopeful, mum at their side, more often than not also tarted up. Oh, this being America, there were some not so skinny youngsters there as well. All IMTA attendees also received a voucher for a free hot dog and bucket of fries. Isn't there some kind of contradiction there?

Next up, Walt Disney Concert Hall, another masterpiece designed by Frank Gehry. It is perhaps not quite up there with the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, but it is very impressive. Same style. Here is Di outside the main entrance.

We arrived 10.30am on the dot, and the timing could not have been more perfect. They were just starting a walking tour through the interior and exterior and also the older adjacent LA music venues - all for free. A lovely lady named Louise Sanchez was our host. Brilliant. The tour went for 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Here is another external shot of Walt Disney Concert Hall, called so because his widow contributed $50M to start the project in Walt's name and then did a huge amount of fundraising. The building was just finished before she died.

This alcove, BP Hall, with all its colourful chairs is used for pre-performance talks.

As noted, the walking tour also took us to the adjacent Mark Taper Forum, Ahmanson Theatre and Dorothy Chandler Pavilion , which is home of the LA Opera and used for a variety of cultural purposes. We were able to get into all of the main halls of these as they were all in the process of being rebuilt for future performances. All very fascinating as the places were buzzing with activity - and free!

The tour finished in the Plaza leading down to the Civic Centre and here we are in front of City Hall and the new Grand Park of Los Angeles, an attempt to rejuvenate the centre with fountains, restaurants, lawns and lots of seatings.

Time for lunch, and we went full circle back to the Grand Central Market opposite Angels Flight. Mexican food seemed appropriate and we found the place below which had much more punters waiting to order than any other, so that was it. Di (in sky blue top) is ordering, Hans is taking photos.

This bloke to the right just pushed himself to the front and start to yell for a tortilla. He got served. Everyone except Di was shouting orders to the 6 servers, all in Spanish.

Enormous amount of food for a total of $10.50. 2 very full soft shell tacos with BBQ chicken and 1 very full and heavy burrito with shredded pork. All very tasty, but even between 2 people, there was no way in the world that we could finish it up.

After lunch, we went to the LA Central Library. A better looking building from the outside than the inside as so many of these buildings are, apart from a few rooms including the children's library room which was very beautiful and a rotunda dome with very high mosaic ceilings. They had an original rare book by James Cook on display from their rare books collection of his "round the world" voyage.

Across the street was a Wells Fargo branch, and since we had decided to set up an account while we are in the US for the 6 months, we went in to open one up. Two very lovely ladies, Personal Bankers, served us and we were chatting away for more than an hour as they set up our accounts, comparing notes between the US and the Australian banking systems. They are still very fond of cheques here, so by default, we were given 2 cheque books as well as a saving account for OTTs from Australia, ATM access and debit cards.

The 2nd Personal Banker lady, Alma Murillo, had won a customer service award and was going out tonight to celebrate. Good on her. I think that we have to provide her boss with more glowing customer feedback as she was very helpful (and probably a bit tired of Hans' questions about this and that and everything, particularly on a Friday afternoon).

No fees (and no interest) means that we can keep the accounts open once we leave the US and use again for our next visit. Hopefully no tax implications in either country either, but shouldn't be as no interest is paid.

Back to Grand Central Market for a coffee before heading back home on the metro. We did go by Walgreens, which is a 24 hour chemist shop, and picked up a few things including a Virgin top-up phone card so that we can (hopefully) get Jim and Michel's Virgin phone working. We did. And we tried out the phone as we booked a tour of Hollywood stars' homes and of Hollywood crime scenes for tomorrow. Why???

Dinner was Widmar Brothers Hefeweizen beer and Jose Cuervo margarita in a bottle, supplemented with... Pringles chips, in our room. We were just too full after today's lunch. Lazy night.

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