Los Angeles, a city that rivals New York in cultural tourism.
Some people who don't know Los Angeles think there is no "center
of town". However, downtown Los Angeles is a vital and genuine metropolitan
area, charged with lively mercantile activity, colorful cultural events,
and fine architectural preservation reflecting the unique history of the
city. Much of Downtown conveys the atmosphere of Mexico City, while its
other neighbourhoods, such as Chinatown and Little Tokyo, allow glimpses
of other global influences present throughout Los Angeles, the world's
most ethnically diverse city.
A visit to Los Angeles should include a stay Downtown. Depending on the
time of year, one might be able to find affordable rooms at one of the
landmark hotels in the area, such as the Bonaventure, The Biltmore, or
the Figueroa. There are also the usual Hiltons, Holiday Inns and Marriotts.
The Biltmore and the Figueroa are the oldest and most architecturally
The Biltmore (now called the Millenium Biltmore) has the advantage of
being just two blocks from Broadway's jewelry district, where one can
also see the facades of the old burlesque theatres, later converted to
the opulent movie palaces of the Twenties and Thirties. A stroll up Broadway
from Sixth to First Street is a marvellous way to spend the day. If you
are not staying at a hotel downtown, you can easily ride the Metro from
Hollywood or Universal City, and get off at Seventh and Flower, which
is just four blocks from Broadway.
Despite what you might have heard, Downtown Los Angeles is a very safe
place, if you know where you are going. Skid Row (Fifth Street, called
"The Nickel") is a place where homeless people panhandle (ask
for money). You may even see "tent cities" and people living
in boxes. Be prepared to hand out a dollar bill or two. This situation
is the legacy of Ronald Reagan, our President in the Eighties, who closed
down federally supported mental institutions and other government facilities
for poor people. Back in the Eighties, a sign began to appear on the bus
benches of West Hollywood. It read: "Another Ronald Reagan affordable
housing project." The eight-term of Bill Clinton did little to relieve
our homeless population. Although a Democrat, Clinton was too much of
a Republican compromiser, and his Welfare Reform Act has made matters
worse. Needless to say, the current Administration in Washington has not
addressed the national problem of homelessness.
Homeless people are nothing to be afraid of. They are poor, helpless,
and harmless. Give them a few coins or a buck, smile, and be on your way.
The receiver of you gift will say "God bless you, brother (or sister),"
leaving you to fell actively involved in the life of the city. You will
find the homeless in all parts of the greater Los Angeles area. They come
from all over the country, because the mild climate makes it easier to
survive here without shelter.
During the summer, you might run into a heat wave, where the temperature
goes into the nineties. For the most part, the temperatures stay in the
eighties. From autumn to spring, the climate is lovely, in the sixties
and seventies, with the exception of a few rainy days, especially in late
winter (January through March), when the night time temperature can dip
into the forties. (Fahrenheit)
Get yourself to Broadway and Sixth or Seventh. Put on your walking shoes.
You might think you're in Mexico City, not Los Angeles. Storekeepers flood
the sidewalks in front of their shops with displays and racks of goods.
Music blares from every entrance. This is the Jewelry District. You'll
also pass several of the movie palaces built during the burlesque and
silent film era. The aren't usually open for public viewing, and their
future is in question at present, due to the cost of maintaining these
cavernous, rococo theatres.
Arrive at Third Street, 317 S. Broadway at lunchtime, and you'll find
yourself at the entrance to the Grand Central Public Market, which is
open from 9-6 Monday to Saturday. This is a huge bustling market, which
contains delicatessens, fruit and vegetable stands, lunch counters, bakeries,
fish and meat stalls, international foods, health bars and specialty shops.
You'll have fun here, and you should get a bite to eat. After lunch go
across the street to the Bradbury Building, at 304 S. Broadway. It is
open from 9-5 Monday through Friday. Built in 1893, you will recognize
the interior as the setting for many movie and t.v. shows.
Walk through the Central Market to Hill Street and ride the Angel's Flight
cable car to Olive Street and the California Plaza. Walk up to Olive and
Second Street and head west one block to Grand. You will find yourself
standing at the back of the fabulous new Walt Disney Concert Hall. Designed
by the architect Frank O. Gehry, it resembles an abstract metallic schooner
in full sail. It is a remarkable, startlingly unique edifice. The front
entrance is on First Street, and if the box office is open, you might
want to inquire about tickets. This is the new home of the Los Angeles
Philharmonic Orchestra. The Director has said that since it began playing
inside the hall, which has been called an acoustic marvel, the orchestra
sounds as if it has gained a full octave to its tone. Across from the
Disney Hall you will see the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center,
where the Los Angeles Opera, under the direction of Plácido Domingo,
is in full season from October to June. It is usually possible to buy
tickets at the box office, as the performances do not always sell out.
Also at the Music Center, you will find the Mark Taper Forum and the Ahmanson
Theater, where first-run theatrical productions are performed year-round.
If you keep walking north, past the Music Center to Temple Street, at
Temple and Grand you will find the massive new Cathedral of Our Lady of
the Angels. The grounds are lovely, and the Cathedral is impressive from
the inside. The stark exterior has been the subject of much controversy.
There is a nice café where outdoor lunch is served. Occasionally,
there are concerts or programs going on inside.
If you have returned to the Biltmore Hotel, either by taxi or shuttle,
be sure to enjoy high tea in the sumptuous lobby at 4 p.m., where you
can savor pastires, tea, cocktails, and the impressive decor of a beautifully
recreated sixteenth century Italian palazzo. The Biltmore also has three
restaurants, and a taxi or shuttle will take you back to the Disney Hall
or the Music Center after supper.
another day, take the Metro to Union Station, the lovely old train station
which sits directly across from Olvera Street, a feastive and delightful
place to spend the afternoon and evening. This is the oldest part of Los
Angeles, founded by Spanish settlers, and officially named, El Pueblo
de Nuestra Señora La Reina de Los Angeles (The City of Our Lady
the Queen of Angels). You will find a wealth of Mexican curios and artisan
crafts here, as well as clothing to buy, and restaurants where you can
sit and enjoy cervezas and margaritas while Mexican musicians stroll among
the tables. After you have spent two days in Downtown Los Angeles, you
will agree, it is the "Queen of Angeles."