Monday, April 24, 2017

Los Angeles Double Decker Tour

We took a double decker bus to tour Los Angeles. The bus is a hop on hop off service and has four routes. We bought tickets for one day only and therefore the best we could do was to explore only two routes: the red route which tours Hollywood and Beverly Hills, and the purple route which tours downtown LA. Each of the tours is more than two hours, so we did not have time to get off at any point but remained on the top deck watching the scenery and listening to the narration with earphones. We started at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood by the Walk of Fame area. The red route went through Sunset Blvd to the exclusive area of Beverly Hills where the rich and famous live. Along the way we saw Chateau Marmont, the Beverly Hills shield, and the exclusive streets where Palm trees stand tall on either side. We saw the Spanish Renaissance City Hall building of Beverly Hills where the police of the city reside, and where the movie "Beverly Hills Cop" was made. At Beverly Center is the premier fashion shopping mall of Los Angeles where you find hundred plus stores like Vuitton, Gucci and Burberry making Beverly Center a unique shopping destination. Then we took the purple route which took us through Wilshire Blvd to LA Museum of Arts (LACMA) and the Tar Pits Park, where you can see oil in the form of tar still bubbling to the surface as a reminder of the oil fields under the city. We passed by Canter's Deli which is open 24 hours a day and is considered an LA classic. Along the way we saw pioneer studios like CBS and Paramount pictures still standing in their original places. We passed by MacArthur park and lake in Westlake area, then on to the Broad, LA city Hall and the new famous LAPD building often called the glass house. Next we passed by Koreatown, where all the signs are in Korean and English. They say there is a famous stationery store in Koreatown called Daiso of Japan, which I am planning on visiting one of these days. Then we passed by El Pueblo historic Monument, which reminds you that the city of Los Angeles was established by the Spanish in the eighteenth century. The famous Union Station is next to El Pueblo, and next is Chinatown which is maintained by the Chinese government itself as a tourist attraction. Nearby Chinatown is Little Tokyo whish has interesting free museum to see. We saw the tallest skyscraper in downtown LA which is the US Bank tower, and then we passed by the Staples Center situated at Figueroa St., which is a multi-purpose sports arena and whose picture you can see on the right. That concluded our one day trip. The bus then took the highway back to Hollywood and dropped us at the Dolby Theater where we started. This tour was just a means to know about the places of interest in LA so that one can visit them again later at his leisure. LA is a very vast city and it is impossible to visit everything in one day or even one week. It requires many weekends to cover all the other places. For example there is the yellow route that takes you to Santa Monica area and Venice beach, but that requires a separate day, so we will visit that area on our own at some later date.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Lights of the Valkyries

We visited the Griffith Observatory of the city of Los Angeles on mount Hollywood near the Hollywood sign. You can climb up the Hollywood sign, which takes about 1 hour, but you can see it clearly from the observatory as shown in this picture. What we liked most was the live show in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. The show was called "Light of the Valkyries" which took us on a voyage of Viking cosmology and explored the true nature of the aurora borealis - the northern lights. We explored the source of the northern lights (the Sun) in a cosmic light show set to one of the most iconic pieces of music of all time, Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries. We learnt how in the northern arctic (and the southern arctic) there are days when the sun never sets, but moves across the sky near the horizon in a full circle that starts from the north and ends also at the north. There are other days when the sun never rises leaving the arctic north in creepy darkness for months.
There were telescopes outside set up for free viewing. We looked at the moon magnified 130 times and we looked at the city of Los Angeles. The telescope's power enabled us to see street signs from above mount Hollywood many miles down the city. There are hiking trails also that one can take you down to the park along the way to the city of Los Angeles, but this is best done in the weekend because the park closes by sunset. One of the items displayed inside the observatory building is Tesla's coil that Nicola Tesla built in 1891. It is an electrical resonant transformer circuit used to produce high-voltage, low-current, high frequency sparks, and was used in the Frankenstein movie. There is other exciting information inside so go visit the observatory if you can, you will enjoy the information inside, and the fantastic views of the city of Los Angeles and the Hollywood mount, but above all visiting the Planetarium is a must. Admission to the observatory is free and there is free parking outside, however the planetarium ticket costs a mere $7 per adult.