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Saturday, 4 April 2015

OF TOURISTS AND INSIDERS: L.A., PT.1


With Lana del Reys "West Coast" ringing in my ears and more than one hour delay, I arrived in LA on a Wednesday night to meet a friend from Berlin who had come down from San Francisco. After careful deliberation, we had decided to stay somewhere central and I was excited: unlike Houston, LA seemed to offer a public transport system! Even though a lady waiting for the bus to Union Station with me and a self-proclaimed LA local assured me that, literally: "there is no subway in LA!", there was. The long search on Airbnb payed off: The place we stayed at was so wonderful that it deserves it's own post, but later more. Long story short: we ended up staying in Korea Town and Adam, our host was ful of valuable advice. Although we shyed away from Korean BBQ the first night, as it was late and not enough people in the restaurant (Chosun Galbee, 3330 W Olympic Blvd) to watch and learn from. Bibimbap was soon become a staple in our LA diet.

We started our first day on foot. Even though the subway station was near, we decided to walk towards down town. The main axis of Korea Town is Wilshire Boulevard, and its centre is the end of the purple subway line. Opposite the station is the incredible Pellissier Building and Wiltern Theatre (3780 Wilshire Boulevard, read more here), an art deco high rise clad in lustrous blue-green tiles. It now hosts offices and a live music venue, where actually Faith No More was scheduled to play on the day of our departure. Damn.


Walking along Wilshire Blvd, we marvelled at a few other Art Deco buildings, one being now the faculty of Law. We tried to sneak in, but the security guide caught us and did not even let us take pictures inside.

Down town with its skyscrapers, narrow sidewalks clogged with business people around lunchtime may not be enthralling for Americans, but for us Europeans it is not devoid of a certain fascination. The immersion into concrete, glass and steel always induces feelings of alienation in me.
Hungry and thirsty from the walk, we stopped at Grand Central Market (317 S. Broadway) for a break and were amused to find a piece of home:

Currywurst is not exactly what I miss about Berlin, so we passed on that. The market is in close proximity to other must sees on every tourist's list, so dutifully we trotted on to the Walt Disney concert hall. The sky had cleared and the metal waves and curves contrasted nicely with the azur blue.
The building looks spectacular, but also perched in between the neighbouring lots filled with high rises and the old fashioned pavilion of the music academy. We decided to head South through Grand Park, a cosy stretch of green with chairs and tables to hang out, leading towards another jewel of American Art Deco, LA City Hall (200 N Spring St).
You can go up to the 27th floor and enjoy a panoramic view of the city, weather permitting. Built in the late 1920s, no other edifice was allowed to be higher, but unfortunately that regulation was discarded mid century.

China town was around the corner, but unlike in San Francisco it is not particularly impressive. Good for a quick bite though and conveniently located at the bus line (no. 2) along Sunset Blvd. Our host had told us about lower Sunset boasting with cafes, shops and bars and we saw a good deal of it from the bus. However, Hollywood Blvd with the walk of fame was next on our tourist-to-do-list.
The Walk of Fame and the Chinese theatre are so (in)famous, that you probably just have to see them. However, the area does not deserve more time than it takes to have a quick look and snap a few pictures, unless you want to go shopping in international chain stores. Hoards of promotion people molested us with flyers, Cd's and unwanted photo opportunities, the street is lined with cheap shops selling tacky souvenirs so we spend a total of about 10 minutes there, then fleeing the place and headed back towards lower Sunset Blvd.


A safe haven seemed to be laid back Intelligentsia (3922 West Sunset Blvd.), which is actually a small chain, but a nice spot to drink coffee and watch hipsters locals. The girl in at the tabel next to us was frantically drawing some pretty cool illustrations. As the sun went down we discovered why the street is called waht it is: The setting sun cast an enchanting glow of gold over cars and buildings. 
TIred and hungry, we stumbled into one of the best mexican with a twist places for margaritas and tacos:  Malo Bar and Restaurant (4326 Sunset Blvd).

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