Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Day in L.A. : Checking Some Tourist Attractions Off My To-Do List

Mexican-style architecture, lots of greenery, and churros on Olvera Street.
While visiting my niece in Los Angeles this spring, I came down with a flu or bad cold, so the amount of things I was able to see while there was greatly curtailed. Unfortunately, I spent more than 24 hours in bed my depressing little motel room. Actually, that's not really fair. It wasn't really depressing - I was just depressed because I was really sick on vacation. Jerry's Motel was actually a bit above the typical motel room. The location was right in downtown L.A., which seemed deserted, with almost zero pedestrian traffic while I was there. And the motel parking lot was next to two kinda shabby looking apartment buildings. But the room itself was clean and bright, with IKEA-style furnishings, and you could tell the management was trying to make it as nice as possible. The aircon worked fine, it was pretty quiet, and the price was great.

I was able to cross off a couple "must-sees" off my travel to-do list while in L.A. (one on the afternoon before I got sick, and a couple morning in the morning right before leaving town. The first place I visited (not counting stopping for burgers at In-N-Out - because you HAVE to do that while out west!) was the open-air Mexican market called Olvera Street.
Olvera Street Mexican Style Market in Los Angeles
I love the visual aesthetic of Latin culture, so I really wanted to visit Olvera Street market. My niece was up for it, too, and I couldn't believe she'd never been there. You really should stop in. It is a partially covered street market with a variety of stalls, plus shops that are inside buildings. It's like an outdoor pedestrian mall selling all Mexican items, from kitchy souvenirs to beautiful art. It was just fun to walk around and look at all the colorful and interesting items for sale. Lots of beautiful embroidered and bedazzled Mexican blouses, skirts, dresses, and costumes for special occasions. Food is available too, though we had just eaten so we didn't have anything. While we were there, there were also mariachi musicians. I bought some incense, candles, and postcards. My niece bought a tiny doll-sized sombrero and a pair of mermaid earrings.
Display window - and me in the mirror!
Another place I was able to visit was the Pinup Girl Boutique in Burbank.  I really wanted to go because I am a big fan of their online shop, but haven't really ordered clothing from them because they are not cheap and I wasn't sure I'd look good in their 1950s revival, retro-style clothing. So I headed out to the brick-and-mortar store with the intention of trying on everything I'd ever thought of buying online. The shop is pretty cute. True to their reputation for being very body-positive and inclusive, the sales girls were super warm, friendly and easy going. The shop windows were inspiring and adorable! The inside decor was cute, too. I was just a little disappointed that the shop held only a fraction of the clothing that is available online, so I wasn't able to try on everything I wanted to. But I did try on some of their full skirts and sundresses, and I'm so glad I did because they do not suit my body type, at all. My short but round figure was completely overwhelmed by the very full skirts and the stiffer fabrics with pockets and linings and petticoats. I looked really poufy! Not a good look. So while that was a bit disappointing, it's good to know. In the future, I will stick to their cute accessories.
The main pit of the La Brea tar pits.
I love all things kitsch and retro, especially including touristy roadside attractions, so the La Brea Tar Pits was on my list next. It is really cool and at the same time, a little disappointing. If you are a science nerd like I am, you will find the pits of natural asphalt that bubble up everywhere in this park, really interesting. But the site itself is not as kitchy as I expected. I (AMAZINGLY) was able to find street parking right next to the pretty park that hosts the tar pits, and then walked a few feet to stare at them. They smell like tar (a smell I love, strangely enough) but are surrounded by an ugly chain link fence. Families were in the park, playing, and nobody else was paying much attention to the pits. I did find a tiny one, unfenced, just bubbling up in the middle of a patch of grass. Apparently, the pits are an archeological site as well, and have bubbled up tons of fossils. It wasn't super spectacular, but it was interesting and I'm glad I took the time to see them.
Natural asphalt just oozing to the surface in the middle of a city park!
On the morning I left L.A., I drove to the Farmer's Market for breakfast. I was in no hurry, so I let myself meander through the neighborhoods on the way there, and was struck by these beautiful old apartment buildings. The architecture was so unique - unlike any apartment buildings I'd ever seen before. They had a romantic, time-worn, glory-days-gone-by majesty that really captivated me. I wished I could have seen the insides when they were new and shiny. I love studying architecture but I'd never read anything about these cool old Hollywood style apartment buildings. If anyone knows anything about them, please share with me. In my imagination, I pictured them populated with young actors and actresses, trying to making it in Hollywood in the 30s and 40s. Everyone beautiful, idealistic, hungry for stardom.
Love the arches, juliet balconies, and ironwork!

Impressive entryway, little balconies, decorative doodads...

Spanish colonial style.

Pretty pink stucco, decorative awnings and architectural details inspired by Moorish Spain.

That curved balcony!!! I can just picture it graced by a starlet from Hollywood's golden age!

A mash-up of Spanish and Federal styles? Very regal.
The L.A. Farmer's Market was yet another tourist attraction that took me by surprise. I just feel like the tour guides don't really describe what these places are actually like. I hope I am doing a better job! When you hear the words "farmer's market," don't you picture an open-air space with stalls or food stands hosting a variety of local farmers who bring their just-picked fruits and vegetables to sell? And there are usually also vendors selling farm-fresh, homemade cheese, baked goods, maybe vinegars, fresh flowers, and honey? Well this farmer's market is NOTHING like that.
The famous L.A. Farmer's Market
It's a permanent structure across from a big shopping mall, with a paid parking lot. It is arranged in a rectangle and the shops are set up under roofs around the rectangle, with more shops, under roofs in the center. There was only one, maybe two, farmstands there. It is a great place for casual eating, but it's not a typical farmer's market. There were crepe shops, several bakeries, candy shops, Asian food stalls, Italian food stalls, Mexican food stalls, etc. There were gift shops selling candles, stickers, toys, clothes, souvenirs, and a newsstand. So to me, it was more like a food court and mini shopping center. I was thinking it was a real farmer's market, and truth be told, I was also thinking I might see some celebrities, because in US Magazine, you always see celebrities shopping at farmer's market for their gluten-free baked goods and their kale. But it wasn't that kind of farmer's market, and it definitely wasn't the kind of place you see celebrities. Anyway, I'm glad I got to see it. If you go to their website, it does have a cool history, which is interesting to read. I, of course, did not do this until after I got home! But I bought some fancy Mrs. Grossman stickers (love those!!!), some chocolates for the road, and ate delicious crepes for brunch before leaving town.
One of several candy shops at the L.A. Farmer's Market