The first week in LA we spend around downtown area. We stayed in a artist community house in Echo Park through AirBnb and enjoyed our private little studio house in the backyard, and big community breakfasts during the mornings (one of the cheapest rooms we found by the way, sometimes you get lucky).
The days we spent exploring downtown were burning hot. We tried to see as much as we could, but the weather really had a heavy impact on us and we took it pretty easy. Luckily we had reserved 11 days for LA, so we had the luxury of spreading our sightseeing on many different days.
All those 11 days were needed, since Los Angeles is everything but a compact city. Your main tourist spots are all around and with public transportation can easily take 30 minutes to 90 minutes to go from one place to another. We found Uber quite affordable in this city and happily used the service, but whenever we could, we walked.
Downtown is a home to various kind of neighbourhoods like the fashion or jewelry district. It also has the financial hub and you definitely can see more sharply dressed people running around there. But also a lot of the LA’s homeless seemed to have found places especially in downtown area: infamous Skid Row at least used to have the largest homeless population in the whole of United States. During the last years the city has tried to ‘clean up the streets’, but the process is still ongoing. Nevertheless it was still obvious that US is battling with this big issue.
Maybe as a result from this or for other reasons, we found downtown area in and out quite dirty at times. It sounds harsh to say, but the piles of garbage by the roads when we were walking back and forth kept us talking. Later we noticed that it was less of an problem near Hollywood or especially near Venice and Santa Monica area, but the roads to downtown scream for some cleaning up. Our AirBnb hosts thought we might just be visiting during a bad time of the week, since apparently they do weekly cleaning on the street. Who knows, right?
Hollywood glam is present, though, also in downtown. There are beautiful buildings built in early 20th Century and old fashioned theatres all around. Some of the buildings are a bit more run down, but nevertheless we thought it was fun to walk around and see what was there.
Gorgeous, modern architecture as well. Frank Gehry’s amazing Walt Disney Concert Hall was a pleasure to the eye every time we walked by. We were also happy to be able to partly walked up on the building and around it. Many other people were using the opportunity as well, and we saw many photo shoots in the midst of the building.
We also had a look at the Union Station: the busiest station in the Western US and probably one of the most photographed one. It is actually surprisingly small once you get inside the building. The design combines Art Deco, Mission Revival and Moderne. My camera is hopeless to capture big spaces, so all you get is a few details.
On the edge of downtown is El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park, which is the historical center of LA during Spanish, Mexican and US rule till most of 19th Century.
There is no LA history without telling about the Spanish and Mexican history. We learned more about it in the LA Plaza De Culturas Y Artes, which features Mexican-American history and culture. The exhibition was free of charge and very well made. To be honest we had had not much previous knowledge about Mexican-American War or mass deportations of 2 million people during 1930’s and ’40s. We found what we learned interesting, since the Mexican-American relations are still such a current topic.
The area itself was fun to wander around and look at. We sat down to eat some tacos and watched the people do some shopping on the nearby alley.
It is so easy to get good Mexican food in LA. But there is only so much you can eat and when we needed changed we either went to KazuNori Sushi (especially Matte was drooling on the table) or the Grand Central Market, which was filled with good food.
One Friday night we walked up to Chinatown for dinner. To our big surprise the whole place was pretty much shut down on Friday evening, but luckily we still found good and affordable food. Mostly we tried to cook at ‘home’ (pasta dishes for the win), since it is just too easy to save some bucks that way.
We did not really visit any museums except for the LA Plaza one in downtown. For a few times we planned to go see Moma or Broad art museums, but could not bring ourselves to do that with the heat making us a bit drowsy. We opted to binge watch Netflix under a fan instead – how very cultural of us. Maybe someone would think that we were crazy not to be and about out in the city all day, but honestly, I don’t regret a second of our relax-time inside four walls.
Those relaxing times just provided us with enough energy to take in and embrace what we were seeing when we were out of the house. I definitely did not see everything downtown LA has to offer, but what I saw already made me think that downtown LA is the unnecessarily neglected part of LA when it comes to tourism.