Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Space Shuttle Endeavor - January 31

Last September the Space Shuttle Endeavour had its final flight, atop a 747, and made a farewell tour of California.  The building where I work allowed people up to the 57th floor to observe the flyover of Los Angeles, a thrilling opportunity for a lifelong follower of the space program like me.

That, of course, was before Coccinelle’s time with me, but Endeavour’s permanent home is now at the California Science Center right here in LA, so we had to go and see her.

The Science Center is just past the southern end of downtown, so we decided to take the Metro, a light rail system that travels both above and below ground.  The station we left from is underneath an office building, and if you look up as you go down the escalator, you’ll see the work of a fantastic muralist called Terry Schoonhoven which depicts what you might see from that same vantage point if the building overhead weren’t in the way:

We got off one stop too soon and had to walk a bit to get to the Science Center, which is in Exposition Park and part of a complex of museums.

There is a lot to see at the Science Center on a wide range of subjects.  We concentrated on the ones related to flight and aeronautics.

There are real used-in-space capsules from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs (which preceded the shuttles).  They’re encapsulated in form-fitting plexiglas, but the hatches are open so you can peek inside.

Mercury capsule - one astronaut

Gemini capsule - two astronauts

Apollo capsule - three astronauts

This replica of a Wright Brothers glider gives a perspective on how far manned flight has come in just a little more than 100 years:

An entire section is devoted to Endeavour with displays and artifacts from missions, lots of information, and a short film.  One of the first things you see you can also touch: tires from the vehicle:

This is part of a small recreation of Mission Control Center:

And we took a ride in a shuttle flight simulator!


But of course, our reason for coming was to see Endeavour, which is in a building of its own.  This is what you see when you first walk in:

There are lots of informational panels and a number of secondary displays:

SpaceHab - a sort of popup tent for use inside the cargo bay which could provide additional working room for the crew

But the shuttle is the star of the show:

Crew Hatch

Heat tiles - each one is numbered for placement


Nose to tail panorama shot
It was hard to leave, but the time had come…although not before spying more of Coccinelle’s cousins in a display for the gift shop!

In the park area across from the Science Center, Coccinelle was fascinated by some of our city dwellers:

Then it was onto the Metro and the end of another great outing:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Olvera Street and Union Station – January 30

Coccinelle and I visited Olvera Street (physically more of a short lane), which is often referred to as the oldest street in Los Angeles, and is certainly in the oldest part of the what is now downtown LA and the area where the city began.  Since 1930 Olvera Street has been a colorful Mexican-themed marketplace and that continues to draw both tourists and residents alike.

Olvera Street is part of El Pueblo de Los Angeles, which encompasses a number of historic buildings, a church, and a large plaza where you can find a wide variety performances almost any time you visit.  When we arrived there was a small dance troupe in native dress at one side of the plaza:

For decades at the main entry end of the street you could have your picture taken while sitting in a cart that was hitched to a live burro.  Today, the cart is gone and the burro has been replaced by a life-sized replica:

Olvera Street itself consists of historic buildings on either side that house shops and restaurants, and  wooden stalls lining the middle of the street:

Although the street is only about as long as one or two city blocks, it’s packed with charm and color:

One of the historic buildings that hasn't been turned into a shop is the Avila Adobe, believed to be the oldest existing house in the city:

The home was built around a central courtyard, and several of the rooms have been furnished as they might have been in the early 1800s:

Children's Room

This is Julie, one of the guides:

As we strolled back up the street, we spotted some cousins of Coccinelle’s in one of the stalls!

Across the street from El Pueblo is Union Station, the main railway station in Los Angeles:

Opened in 1939, the building combines Spanish Revival and Moderne architecture and design styles.  The light-filled waiting areas retain all their original tile, marble walls, terra cotta and inlaid marble floors, oversized seating, and decorative elements:

There is a garden on the south side and a large patio with a fountain on the north:

In one of the corridors leading to the trains, we met a woman named Maureen who was on her way to San Diego:

Coccinelle and I made this visit one day when I was done with work at my office job, so rather than driving over there and paying a lot to park, we took the DASH, a downtown shuttle bus service/  On the way back Coccinelle insisted on wearing her new Olvera Street mementos:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hollywood Boulevard - January 24

Coccinelle and I made a visit to the heart of Hollywood…well, at least where people like to think it is.  Hollywood is actually a district within the city of Los Angeles, and as for the movie-making part of Hollywood...well, the vast majority is elsewhere in the county.

But still, the area labeled Hollywood on a map really is where film-making began in southern California, and much of the public face of both historic and contemporary Hollywood lies within stretch of Hollywood Boulevard between Vine Street and La Brea Boulevard.

Don’t know if its reputation still holds, but “Hollywood and Vine” which is really just a relatively normal intersection, at least nowadays was once world famous:

Hollywood and Vine, from the northeast corner to the southwest
Half a block north on Vine is the Capitol Records building, the world’s first circular office building.  The story goes that when it was built in 1956 it was designed to look like a stack of records albums; however, according to someone on the design team that was not the case as the architecture firm didn’t tell the team who the client was.  Either way, on purpose or by coincidence, it works for a building where musicians from Frank Sinatra right up to the present have recorded music listened to the world over:

All along this part of Hollywood Boulevard (and a few blocks of Vine) is the Walk of Fame – stars embedded in the sidewalk which bear names mostly from the entertainment industry actors, musicians, directors, producers, writers, etc.  Here are a few:


Lionel Barryore - Drew Barrymore's Grandfather

The forecourt of the Chinese Theatre is where celebrities have had their hand and footprints immortalized in the cement for many decades.  Unfortunately, the theatre must have been preparing for a movie premiere as it was completely blocked off beyond the sidewalk and there was a lot of hustle and bustle going on behind the barrier.

The newest landmark on the Boulevard is the shopping-and-theatre complex known at Hollywood and Highland.  The Academy Awards ceremonies (the Oscars) are held here at the Dolby Theatre, where you might also see a touring musical or other live stage show.  In addition to a wing that houses several movie theatres, there’s also a shopping and restaurant area which surrounds an open courtyard:

As we were getting ready to head back to the Boulevard we spotted a Beard Papa’s cream puff store.  I’d first read about them before they even started opening stores outside of Japan and didn't know there was one so close by!  There were so many delicious looking pastries from which to choose, I asked the counter man for a suggestion and his immediate response was the green tea, which was, indeed, an excellent choice: