Friday, July 31, 2009

Do's and Don'ts of Sightseeing

Here are the things I did right and the things I did wrong in our tour of USC and downtown LA yesterday:

1) Leave extra time for travel even though the man at the hotel desk says that you can drive from Santa Monica to USC in half an hour in rush hour traffic. Maybe you can, and maybe you can't. After all, he didn't know I would miss the turn into Gate 3 on Figueroa Street and have to drive all the way around the large USC campus for a second try at it.
2) Take your guidebook with you even though you hadn't originally planned to go directly from USC to explore downtown LA. It's lovely to have options.
3) Check out guidebooks from the public library rather than buying them - the library has heaps, and why pay money for a book you'll just use for a week and then never use again?
4) Take public transportation instead of driving. We decided to leave our car in the parking lot at USC - $8 paid already there - and take the DASH bus downtown - for a quarter! - and then take the USC shuttle bus back from Union Station - for free! It made us feel much more as if we were savvy locals.
4) Ask questions. Because I asked if we could go into Frank Gehry's magnificent Disney Concert Hall, even though it was closed and past the hour for paid tours, I found out that we could walk up to the rooftop gardens, where we could see the "Rose for Lily" fountain made entirely of bits of broken Delftware, my favorite sight of the day.
5) Pick out at least one unusual sight to see. I think Gregory's favorite may have been the CalTrans headquarters at 1st and Main, which our guidebook told us had been voted as the "ugliest building" downtown. We went out of our way to see it, and it was indeed gratifyingly ugly!

1) Don't follow the guidebook too slavishly. I made the mistake of setting my heart on doing the Fodor's walking tour in order from start to finish, which means that I was so bent on starting with sight number one on the list that I actually walked by sights six, seven, and eight, refusing to look at them because we hadn't yet gotten to them on the list. Alas, as we walked on, it turned out that it would take us too far out of our way to cycle back to those attractions, so we never saw them at all. I may now live the rest of my life without ever seeing the Millennium Biltmore Hotel (an "atmospheric 19290s stunner") or even worse, not seeing the Riordan Central Library of the same period - all because I was so determined to do the tour in order. Very foolish!

Still, it was a near-perfect day: DASH bus ride, Delftware fountain, and ugly building!

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