Episode 53 – California Dreamin’

Our last 2 cruise stops were in San Diego and Los Angeles.

Ted and I have spent time in San Diego before, enjoying the Gaslamp District, the zoo, Balboa Park, the Del Coronado Hotel, and touring the USS Midway, so we didn’t feel the need to take a guided tour. Instead, since we were not sailing for L.A. until late in the evening, we decided simply to spend the day strolling on our own. The weather was glorious, and the Viking Sun docked right in San Diego harbour, so we could walk directly into the terminal and then into the city – almost like being on a river cruise!

Our “home” for the past month, anchored at Terminal B.

San Diego was just as lovely as I remembered: an eclectic yet pleasing mix of architecture from Victorian (Gilded Age) through Art Deco, and right up to glass and steel modern. Green parks line much of the waterfront, with shops and restaurants galore for browsing. Here are a few of our favourite pictures from our day in San Diego:

The art deco County Administrative building, plus detail of its mosaic framed doorway and the water carrier statue in front of it.
L: The magnificent U.S.Grant Hotel, on the register of U.S. historic sites. R: The Pacific marker for the transcontinental highway that runs from St. Augustine Florida to San Diego.
Top: Exterior of the Santa Fe Depot, built in 1915 for the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, a lovely mission/Spanish revival style building, now surrounded by more modern structures and yet still somehow looking like it belongs exactly where it is. Its tile-covered domes and interior tile-work are in the railway’s blue and yellow colour scheme. Bottom left: a section of the interior walls. Bottom right: the arched wooden ceiling beams and milk-glass lights.
A sampling of the beautiful buildings in San Diego’s Gaslamp District.

L.A. was a different story. All we’ve ever done there is go through the airport, so we were happy to take a panoramic bus tour to see the highlights.

To say everything is bigger here is almost an understatement. The freeways are bigger, and 3 stories tall in places. The skyscrapers are taller. The university campuses are huger. The sports and entertainment venues are more massive. The crowds…. well, let’s just say there are crowds! The homeless problem is bigger too; we saw tent cities along the freeway, as well as lots of trash everywhere. The city is so much richer than any we saw in South America, yet litter is at least as big a concern here as in any of those countries,

Unfortunately, it’s hard to get great pictures on a bus tour, but we made 2 stops where photos were possible. The first was on Hollywood Boulevard between Orange and Sarasota, the location of the Walk of Fame, the Dolby Theatre, and Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Did you know that prior to his Chinese Theater, there was the Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre? It still exists further down the boulevard.

In the Dolby Theatre shopping and entertainment complex, called the Hollywood and Highland Centre, the central courtyard features two gigantic elephant pillars and a Babylonian-style gateway that is a smaller-than-life-sized replica of part of the set for the 1916 D. W. Griffith movie, “Intolerance”. It really lends perspective to the scale of those epic movies.
The center is also a great place to get a shot of the iconic Hollywood sign.
In front of Grauman’s Chinese we took in the current display of celebrity hand and footprints. As more stars get this honour, older cement tiles are removed to storage to allow newer ones to be placed. Some classics never get moved though, like the silent film star Pola Negri from the 1930’s, or Marilyn Monroe.
With so many stars embedded in the sidewalk over a length of 15 blocks, it’s hard to pick just one….. but I sure did love Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele, and I almost stepped on him when we got off the bus!(the concerned look on my face is really squinting at the sun)
Inside the Dolby Theater, we walked up the staircase that movie stars use when attending the Oscars. No red carpet on “ordinary” days, and lots of other people walking with us, but still a neat thing to do.
Naturally, there are lots of touristy gift shops lining Hollywood Boulevard. One of the biggest, LALALAND, had life-size movie figures for photo-ops around the store. Ted got to show off his guns beside Harley Quinn, and challenge Batman.

Our second stop was in downtown Los Angeles, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. This is my favourite Frank Gehry-designed building yet. Its satiny patina was an afterthought: it was originally glossy stainless steel, but the sun shining off its surface blinded pilots flying into LAX, and the reflected rays actually burned holes into the curtains of condos across the road!

Hidden in one of the concert hall’s upper courtyards is a Gehry-designed rose fountain dedicated to Lillian Disney, Walt’s wife, who funded the over $30 million dollar construction of the building.

That, sadly, is it for this trip. Tomorrow we’re on a plane from LAX back to Tucson to continue our winter travels. Thanks for following along!