Wednesday, April 16, 2008

L.A. Excursion, Part Two

The eastern end of the Red Line is at Union Station. Union Station is a magnificent and graceful building. When we were there, the restaurant inside, Traxx, was closed for a private event, but it was so beautiful I intend to go back someday. The arched waiting room is simply gorgeous, with the hushed feeling you get in a library or church - even thought it's a train station!

We crossed Alvarado Street to the plaza, and walked the crowded touristy stretch of Olvera Street and the Avila Adobe.
Olvera Street is known as the birthplace of the City of Los Angeles. The first settlement was set up down by the river, and was known as the Mission Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles. Later it was moved to higher ground, where Olvera Street is now. This area was the heart of Los Angeles in the mid-19th century, before the Anglos moved in and took over.

Preserved due to efforts of civic-minded people in the 20's and 30's, it has an air of tourism that is quaint and sentimental and slightly outdated. There are plazas with performing bands and dancers, and then you walk through the street's crowded stalls and restaurants. There are restaurants and shops, and although it's touristy, it's still fun to check out all the cool stuff. You can find everything from fine art to tacky souvenirs. You can drink margaritas and listen to mariachi bands, yet there's something innocent and goofy about it, rather than the Disneyfied slickness I expected.

Outside the main entrance there was a stuffed burro you could sit on have your photo taken. If you didn't like that, there was a guy in a giant rabbit suit, available to pose with. I really liked the stalls that had embroidered women's blouses - brilliant colors against white cotton - and also the stalls that had assortments of Mexican wrestling masks, that looked like something worn by superheroes. One shop was filled with Dia de los Muertos items, including something I'd never seen before - calico cloth printed with skeleton figures. What cool pillows those will make!

After passing through the market, we walked north into Chinatown. Coming soon - Part Three with the rest of our trip.


JCK said...

Sounds like you had quite a cool excursion. Glad you were able to avoid Mr. Bunny. Probably scarier than the skeleton dolls.

skygge said...

Thanks for bringing back very nice memories from my childhood! Our family used to go to Olvera St. often, and I remember looking wide-eyed at all the skulls and white faces in the Dia de los Muertos shop.

Once we went there on Halloween and my father (still dressed in his suit from work) bought a giant sombrero to wear. We had a great time in a restaurant, especially when Dad told the singer he was from Australia and the man sang Waltzing Mathilda to us. Very fun!

Are the topiaries still there? And the huge tile floor in the main waiting room of Union Station? I think that's where my mother first saw Los Angeles when she came here during WW II by train. Am glad the city and RR haven't destroyed it.