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Sunday, December 24, 2023


BUSY TRAIN.  Angels Flight, a popular funicular in downtown Los Angeles remains one of the busiest rail lines in the country since its construction in 1901.

All Aboard: Two Trains in One Day. 

By Thomas Shess with photography by Phyllis Adkisson Shess—We hopped aboard Amtrak to Los Angeles earlier this week for a fun daytrip. 

Left San Diego’s Santa Fe Station at 8:10 a.m. and returned at 6 p.m. 

Late fall proved to be terrific for those coastal views and sunsets! 

 Exploring the Los Angeles was a perfect afternoon. 

Suggest adding Uber to budget since time is a factor on a one-day trip. 

MUNI TREE. LA's holiday tree is lit up on City Hall's 3rd floor Rotunda level.

Quick visits to City Hall (3rd floor rotunda had a beautiful xmas tree and the Bradbury Building is a working office building so security guards forbid upper floor explorations. 

Aside from being a national architectural treasure, the Bradbury Building has starred in a few movie productions (Blade Runner and many others). I liked Blue Bottle Coffee having a shop in the Bradbury.  Across the street, the Million Dollar Theater harkens to old Hollywood, but lately its street level appearance is more like the $1.99 Theatre. A better view is a huge mural beautifully installed on Bradbury's W. Third side of actor Anthony Quinn.  Tony, you look terrif.

POPE OF BROADWAY. Across the street from the landmark Bradbury Building is the “Pope of Broadway,” the title of a 70-foot mural of legendary Mexican-born actor Anthony Quinn. Painted by Eloy Torrez on the Victor Clothing Building in 1984, the mural depicts Quinn dancing in his Oscar-nominated performance as the title character in Zorba the Greek.

ALL ABOARD. Angels flight is a 1901 funicular railway in downtown Los Angeles. It is located on Hill Street opposite the Central Market. It has two cars named Olivet and Sinai that run in opposite directions at the same time on shared cable tracks. The line covers 298 feet over a vertical slope of 96 feet. Capacity 28 persons per trip. 

LUNCH STOP. Tourists arrived for lunch at Traxx Cafe in Union Station. 

Travel Tips: 

--For ocean views to LA sit on the left side of the train and coming home for those sunsets sit on the right side. 

--Conductors will save the facing 4 seaters for groups. So don’t let dally Sally or Manspread take over the tables with computers. Don’t be shy to ask conductor to shoo them away because there are tons of solo seats with nice sized airline style trays available. 

--The iconic and artsy Olvera Street is adjacent to the train depot. Given time restraints we chose Grand Market as it had a wider ethnic flavor (in our opinion). 

--Take the later train home for more gawking in LA (so many things to see). We left for San Diego on the Pacific Surfliner (business class) at 3:10 pm. Very comfortable. If all goes well on the tracks, the trip is three hours one way, which is amazing given all the stops the Surfliner makes. 

--Yes, you can drive but why? Cost about $100 round trip per person and Amtrak served as part of the deal a decent Central Valley red wine with a snack pack that beats any Southwest Airlines offering. Speaking of airlines, train seating in Biz class is twice the space allowed by most airlines. 

One downside but not deal breakers: 

 --Sadly, the wonderful seating in the main LA Union Station is fenced off and security guards escort you to and fro to your seat. 

--One restroom for all of Union Station.  Staff does its best but sheer volume of those who wash in the basins make it impossible for comfort.  If you can wait until you board to use the train toilets.  You will thank me for the tip.

 --Yes, you can hike from train depot to Angel’s Flight (one mile plus) but lots of homeless encampments until you get to City Hall. After City Hall seeing the new LAPD complex and the LA Times buildings are worth the walk, especially if you go in a group. 

. This work of neon art while sponsored by Bulleit Whiskey (a Diageo company) is a fund-raiser for the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale. Designed by Brendan Donnelly, the artwork was executed by Lisa Schulte, a longtime neon-art sculptor and member of the museum’s board. Here is how it works: Every time someone posts a photograph of this Bulleit Frontier Whisky sign on social media and tags it #FrontierWorks, the company will make a donation to the MONA for neon restoration purposes. So please feel free to copy the photo above and post it somewhere. Be sure to tag it!

As aficionados of Spain's central markets like those in Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia, we discovered LA's Grand Central Market to be diverse, intricate, fascinating, and so much fun and well worth the trip. 

BADGE OF HONOR. A replica of the 1928 Art Deco LA City Hall appears on police badges since 1940. The distinctive tower was modelled after the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Architects of the 32 story are John Parkinson, John C. Austin and Albert C. Martin, Sr. The concrete in its tower was made with sand from each of California’s 58 counties and water from its 21 historical missions. Street post names all of LA’s Sister Cities.

Sand volleyball early morning San Clemente Beach

SPLASHY. Locals often take AMTRAK Pacific Surfliner trip to Los Angeles for granted. For example, here's how close the tracks are to the Pacific Ocean. Take the trip now before it becomes a submarine ride.

Solo surfer, North County, San Diego.

THE BIZ. Among the first to board Amtrak’s popular Pacific Surfliner business class section.

FAMOUS BRADBURY BUILDING. You might recognize this National Landmark building as the star of the acclaimed film, “Blade Runner” as well as other location cameo’s. Steampunk architecture is revered worldwide. From the outside, however, the brick building looks like a brown pea hen.

HOT STUFF. Terrific photo of the chili vendor inside LA’s Central Market.

Lagoon inlet north of Torrey Pines bluffs and beach, San Diego County.

City of Oceanside Marina mid-morning 

Miles of great views of So. Calif. beaches, like San Clemente, can be seen from windows of Pacific Surfliner from San Diego to San Juan Capistrano.  Best views: sit on the left side to LA and right side return.

COMMENTS from fellow travelers:

Media Guru, Wine Journalist Tom Gable: “Great day trip. I used it regularly when I had clients in downtown L.A. and Century City. We also like it for visiting Santa Barbara and wine country. Relax on the train and avoid L.A. traffic, rent a car in Santa Barbara, and detox on the ride home.” 

Silly Stuff.  Holden DeMayo travel gadfly: After arriving at the train depot, I caught myself waiting for the announcement: "Please keep your seatbelts on until we arrive at the gate..."

Lew Decker, Author of sailing novel"Alligator Food."  Wow, what a great trip.  I have to be honest it never occurred to me that hopping on the train for a day trip to LA could be special.  Obviously, it is!

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