Winter Trip 2011-2012 travel blog

Bradbury Bldg. interior

Bradbury Bldg.

Million Dollar Theatre

Grand Central market

Don's manager, Austine

Angels Flight from the top

California Plaza & Water Court

Pershing Square skating rink

Union Train Station


Lines in Philippe's

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I slept well, and my new location had less environmental noise than the state park. Last night, I talked with my sister, and she told me that Don would take us downtown today, to his business, so I could see where he works. I’ve never been down there, so I had trouble imagining his situation when Sharry would relate something.

He not only offered to fight the LA traffic, but he had actually driven into work at 3 AM this morning, and returned, so he would be making the trip all over again. Sharry and I offered to take the Metro Link and meet him, but he thought that would be too time consuming and difficult, so wanted to drive us.

They picked me up at Scott’s and I left Zack and Zoey in the motor home for the time we’d be gone. The freeway going in, at 9:30, wasn’t too bad, but the closer we got to downtown, the more stop-and-go the traffic was. Don got off the freeway and ended up taking us to their old house in Downey. I was surprised to see that the neighborhood hadn’t changed that much and their old house looked pretty much the same.

After stopping for gas, we got back on the freeway and made our way to Don’s work, Grand Central Market. We parked and went to the Bradbury Building, which is an architectural beauty, with ornamental ironwork, rich marble, tile and polished wood, capped by a five-story high skylight, built in 1893. The story behind its design of it is quite interesting, as it was designed by a draftsman with no architectural or engineering training and made possible by a ghost, as the story goes ( However it came about, it is a shining example of a building that was built to last. The sad part was that Lewis Bradbury died a few months before it was finished.

Directly across the street is the Million Dollar Theater (, built in 1917 by Sid Grauman, who later built the Egyptian theatre and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, which hosted such famous actors and actresses as Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino, to name a few.

While it wasn’t open to the public today, photos of the interior show the opulence of days gone by. The exterior façade is a never ending visual experience as one could stare at it for an hour and still not see all of the intricate designs and details.

Next door to the theater is the Homer Laughlin Building, which houses the Grand Central Market on the ground floor. It has been in existence as an open-air market since completion in 1896. It rivals the open markets that I’ve been in around the world, and offers many different food stalls, as well as fresh produce, fish market and of course Don’s Economy Meat market. While the current clientele is mainly Hispanic and Asian, the market served the wealthy of Bunker Hill, back in the day. In fact, the shortest railway in the world, Angels Flight, was built to allow the wealthy to access the market from their lofty mansions on the hill above.

We took Angels Flight (, which is a vernacular cable train, up to California Plaza and the Water Court, which unfortunately wasn’t working, but had a nice holiday display, with a Christmas tree, packages, a model trains around the base, and a menorah. Angels Flight was closed for several years in 1996 and dismantled, moved a few blocks to its current location, where it was completely restored. A fatal accident in 2001 closed it again, with it reopening in 2010. It is still only .25 for a one-way ride, and is a fun attraction for the young and the old. My sister and I had ridden it when we were children, and had memories.

The two cars operate by a cable system that allows one car to go up, while the other comes down, passing each other on a special bypass track. They cannot be operated independently, and my memory of riding it, is when a drunk tried to catch our upward bound car and passed out on the tracks. My father could whistle very loudly and caught the attention of the attendant at the top of the hill, who stopped the train just before the downhill car would have run over him.

The walking tour that Don had laid out for us, created an all-downhill walk, with us never having to walk back up hill, which Sharry and I were very thankful. From California Plaza, we walked down hill to the old library, but due to holiday hours, it wouldn’t be open for another 45 minutes, so we headed to Pershing Square, where they have an outdoor ice skating rink. We watched the children, and adults, make their way around the rink, never letting go of the railing, with only a couple of people actually skating, then we headed to the Metro Link, which is the subway system that ties into Amtrak at Union Station.

Don bought tickets at the electronic ticket station, for a quick ride to Union Station. The tickets are normally $1.50 for adults, but for seniors and handicapped, it is only .25 each. We rode the subway, which is clean and very safe as there are uniformed and plain-clothes officers everywhere, to Union Station and got off. The old train station is well maintained, inside and out, with tunnels leading to the train tracks above ground. While the station was busy, it didn’t seem crowded, and we made our way out the front doors and crossed the street.

A short walk later had us at Philippe’s, which is where the French Dip sandwich was invented. I know, most people think it was invented in France, like they believe French fries where too, or back east, but no . . . it was right here in downtown Los Angeles. The story goes that a policeman, or fireman, depending on which story you believe, was in a hurry, and after Philippe, whom was also known as Frenchy, accidentally dropped the bun in the pan of roast drippings, he insisted on taking the sandwich as-is. He loved the taste the rich juices gave the sandwich and returned the next day, with a group of fellow workers, to order the same, and the French Dip was born.

I have long used the French Dip as a ruler, for judging a restaurants food, as I travel the country, so it was a real treat to have one where it originated. The line of customers went out the door and Sharry went to save us a table, while Don and I stood in line to order. Servers behind the counter wait on 6 or 7 lines of people and we waited 25 minute to give our order. This is not the place to grab a quick sandwich on your lunch hour folks.

We bought three beef French Dips, with beef, lamp, ham and pork being offered. I got an order of their coleslaw and a dill pickle, while Don added a bowl of their chili, some chips and a slice of pecan pie, along with three cokes. They serve potato and macaroni salads, along with a dinner salad and two other types, and have a full compliment of wine and beer, plus ice tea and lemon aide.

We made our way upstairs, to where Sharry had gone, and found her in a small room with only one table and had the place to ourselves. The sandwich was excellent, and I’m not sure I could describe why it was better than others I’ve had, but it seemed to be. The coleslaw was also very good, as was the pickle. Don said the chili was good and he and Sharry shared the pecan pie, which they also liked. Maybe it all tasted so good because of the wait and anticipation of Philippe’s reputation.

We walked back to Union Station passing Olvera Street, which is the birthplace of Los Angeles, all of those years ago, and took the Metro Link back to our starting point, Grand Central Market, where we departed downtown LA for home. The commute is arduous and even with Don driving in before dawn, and the heavy traffic, then home before the afternoon traffic, it is more than I would be willing to put up with. He rides the Amtrak, then the Metro Link a few times a week, but drives himself several days out of his 7-day workweek. The train schedule doesn’t work out on the weekends, leaving him to fend for himself, which he does. Having commuted from Placerville to Sacramento, some 35 miles, five days a week, for several years, I know that one gets used to commuting and it just becomes part of the day, but with LA traffic, NO THANK YOU.

By the time they dropped me off at the motor home, everyone was ready for a nap. I let Zack out to play and then crashed in my recliner, not feeling like doing much. It was late afternoon, so I did some writing and watched some television, not feeling like I needed any dinner, as we ate at about 2:40, so I had some yogurt and that was it. Bedtime was inviting me by 9:30, so I was asleep before 10 PM.

I really enjoyed the day and being able to see where Don works, plus the downtown area, and told Don that I really appreciated him going to the trouble to commute back to work for a second time today, and showing me around.

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