Tourist First

Travel notes and advice from around the world. Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Los Angeles: On Foot in La La Land

"Urban Light" by Chris Burden in the entrance plaza of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 
  Los Angeles is an easy train ride from our home in San Diego, so one Sunday Jane and I walked to the Amtrak station a couple of blocks from our home and hopped the Surf Liner to Los Angeles. Once there, we relied on Lyft to take us to our hotel, the Sofitel on Beverly Avenue (click HERE), which may be in Beverly Hills but it's not Jed Clampett's old neighborhood.  There were a Target and a Marshalls nearby and the Beverly Center mall, complete with a Macy's and a Bloomingdale's directly across the street. 
     We weren't here to shop, though. We particularly wanted to see LACMA (the Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and La Brea Tar Pits, and we wanted to simply experience the city a bit, but without the main element of almost any L.A. experience -- a car.
     From the Sofitel we could walk to the museum district, about a half-hour away on Wilshire Boulevard, where we  found the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (click HERE), La Brea Tar Pits (click HERE), and the Petersen Automotive Museum (click HERE).  At some point in the future they'll be joined by the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures (click HERE), which is building a Smithsonian-size structure at the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire, just across from the Petersen. There's at least one other major art museum in L.A., the Getty Center, which we visited a decade ago. At the time we thought the building was much more interesting than the art it housed. We have been told that LACMA is actually the much better museum; we didn't revisit the Getty. 
     LACMA is a campus of several different buildings and sculpture gardens and plazas adjacent to La Brea Tar Pits. It probably has more works by Picasso and Leger and Giocometti than most people have seen, though not necessarily those artists' best or most interesting works. Jane and I agreed on a favorite: "Metropolis II" by the late Chris Burden -- a roaring kinetic sculpture simulating a fast-paced, car-driven city, like Los Angeles.  Small cars race along curving and intertwining roadways as trains snake along on tracks. 
     La Brea Tar Pits gives visitors a chance to see first-hand the process of recovering and cleaning and cataloging bones from animals that died tens of thousands of years ago.  Don't skip the 3D movie about the animals of the Ice Age. I think this would be a great place for elementary-school-age kids.
    Petersen Automotive Museum is not the sort of encyclopedic car museum that I was hoping to see. It's a random collection of movie cars, custom and concept cars, motorcycles and a few as-they-were production vehicles. I was disappointed that there were no Packards, Kaisers and especially Studebakers on display. 
    Aside from the museums, we wondered along the stars on Hollywood Boulevard. We walked more than nine miles on our one full day in L.A., going on foot to the museums from our hotel, then a Lyft to Hollywood Boulevard, and then another long walk back to the hotel.  (We also walked roundtrip between LACMA and our hotel on the afternoon we arrived.) We walked along major thoroughfares like La Cienga and San Vincente, through shopping areas like Melrose Avenue, and on quiet tree-lined streets with two-story apartment buildings and single-family homes. Turns out that sprawling L.A. can be surprisingly walkable. 
     And when we got hungry, we found very good places to eat and drink, mostly near our hotel:
  • We had lunch when we arrived at Granville (click HERE), just a few steps along Beverly Boulevard from the Sofitel.
  • Dinner that night was at a posh Vietnamese-themed place called The District (click HERE).
  • Breakfast the next morning was at Joan's on Third (click HERE).
  • At lunch time we were on Hollywood Boulevard and we stumbled upon a modest, inexpensive and good Chinese place called Oriental Bistro (click HERE).
  • Our second and last dinner was at a Peruvian restaurant, Rosaline (click HERE), where we enjoyed Pisco sours and beef heart skewers.
  •  The next morning, before getting on the train home, we had breakfast at the iconic Norms on La Cienega (click HERE), proof that breakfast is better in an original 1950s diner.
Below are some snapshots from the trip.
Chris Burden's "Urban Light" during the day, before the lights are turned on.
We visited the museum area twice, touring LACMA the afternoon after
we got into town, and visiting La Brea Tar Pits and the Petersen
museum the morning of the next day. All three could easily fill
an entire (and tiring) day.
Picasso's "Centaur." 
Matchbox cars appear as blurs as they race along the streets of "Metropolis II" by Chris Burden.
They collect at the bottom of the sculpture before being raised by conveyer belts (visible at upper left)
 to the top where they start their downward trips again.
Another view of "Metropolis II." Note the orange-haired attendant in the middle of it all. I assume
her or his job is to help out if a traffic jam brings everything to a halt. Click on the photo and you'll
be able to enlarge it to look more closely at this amazing work.
The Tar Pits entrance is just down Wilshire from LACMA.
There's a lot of ivory in those tusks.
A sign at one of the actual tar pits shows what has been found there. Click on the image to be able
to enlarge it for easier reading. 
A sabre-toothed cat skull (the museum doesn't call them tigers).
The Petersen Automotive Museum has a lot of curb appeal.
1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz.
1947 Cisitalia 202 coupe from Italy. Note the right-hand drive. Did Italy once have left-side driving, or
was this car made for the British market? 
A 1948 Davis Divan, a Los Angeles-made three-wheeled vehicle with an airplane-inspired design.
 Only 16 of these cars were built.
One of two driveable 1958 Plymouth Furys that were used in the
 movie "Christine." Also visible here are a "Love Bug" Volkswagen
and, beyond it, the red Ferrari used in "Magnum P.I." 
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures under construction. 
Stars sign their names and leave hand prints and sometimes
shoe prints in cement in the courtyard of Grauman's
Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. The famous
brass-outlined stars dedicated to scores of celebrities are
in the sidewalks on either side of Hollywood Boulevard.


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