Thursday, December 27, 2012

Day 311 - 312: Los Angeles, Part One

The Walt Disney Concert Hall was the first item on our LA agenda. It was built by famed architect Frank Gehry and is a shiny, curvy bank of metal which, for better or worse, can genuinely be considered a "modern" building. The metal used for the plating was originally so reflective that on intensely sunny days it set fire to opposite buildings in the neighbourhood simply by bouncing beams of light through their windows. The panels had to be coated in a matte finish to counteract the effect, and ensure that half of LA didn't go up in smoke.






The interior is similarly modern, with the design focused on acoustics. The main concert hall has an organ with 3,164 pipes, most of which are hidden. There is also a performance area which has walls padded out with specially designed tiles to best reflect sound.



The building is free to visit, and you can get an audioguide narrated by John Lithgow included which takes about an hour and a half to complete. The gardens are equally nice, have a number of performance areas and apparently make a good venue for both wedding photos and odd-looking pigeons which appear as though they may claw your face off when you least expect it.





We'd worked up an appetite, so headed over to Grand Central Market for lunch. As close to an Asian hawker market as you're likely to find, it has a wide range of different stalls selling food of every ethnicity. I got a bento box from Bento Ya, whilst Gilly chose a tostada from Ana Maria's Mexican Food.


The portion sizes were, as you'd expect, huge.

Just opposite the market is the Angels Flight Railway - the world's shortest railway. After taking the world's steepest railway in the Blue Mountains in Australia, we couldn't pass up the chance to board the shortest. Plus, it saved us climbing all the way back up the hill we'd come down. And at a mere 50 cents, it is approximately 2850% cheaper than the ride in Oz (this is an estimate).




Just up the road (well, by US standards) is the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). It had what looked like the remnants of several Transformers welded together outside.


Like many contemporary art museums it was hit and miss, but did have some funky carpet to walk on, which was one of the exhibits. The ticket included entrance to the Geffen Contemporary museum too, so we trundled down past the LAPD headquarters and through Chinatown in the blazing heat which showed no remorse.






The Geffen was mainly focused on hydrology and geology and wasn't really my cup of tea, but it did have some excellent videos of several firework displays made by a pyrotechnic artist. One of his displays was in Bath, but his attempt to set it off was postponed for weeks thanks to the fantastic English weather.

It was getting close to sunset so we took a drive up to the Hollywood hills to try and capture the iconic sign. Here's a tip: go at sunrise. The evening sun is in exactly the wrong place to get the best photos, and despite our efforts they came out either too dark, or hazy and washed out.






In the evening, Santa Monica's famed pedestrian area - the 3rd Street Promenade - comes to life. Street performers, live music, dancing lessons, monkeys who shake your hand for a dollar - you can find it all here.


The restaurants in the area are slightly more expensive than normal, but there are dozens of them crowding the promenade so you're bound to find something to fit your budget. We went to Johnny Rocket's, a decent enough hamburger place which also does a mean pasta.

It had been a packed day, so we decided to scale back the itinerary for the next day, and took a leisurely stroll around the California Science Centre for a good few hours. Like every other science centre we'd visited, it had more than enough interesting and unique exhibits and things to play with to keep us entertained for the day.


They had an extensive space section which housed some of the pods which various animals and people were sent up to space in.


To my delight, there was also a live mini-lecture given by a resident ex-teacher on light and sound. I love stuff like this. I find it engages me far more as an adult than it ever did in school. We got to learn about tuning forks, and how telephones work. Brilliant.


Amongst other things that made you feel like a kid again, there were infra-red walls, a hands-on aquarium where you could stroke starfish, the chance to create your own slime, and another aquarium filled with luminescent jellyfish and leopard sharks.







I topped off the day by using my immense strength to lift a pick-up truck fully off the ground, completely unaided. Science is great.


We stopped off at a supermarket on the way back and picked up some wine and veg to accompany the simply fantastic chicken wings that Bill had prepared. He could probably sell his secret recipe to KFC and retire comfortably.

We had two more days left in the area, and plenty more to pack in.

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