We began in LA's Chinatown, which is neither as extensive nor as colorful as San Francisco's Chinatown. When we parked our car, my son said he wasn't getting out, that he felt too strange being there. Yet he did. True to his expectation, in our one hour among the shops of Chinatown, we did not encounter a single person who appeared not to be of Chinese descent. I was surprised!
From Chinatown, we walked through Union Station, built in 1939 and billed as "the last of America's great train stations." It is a beautiful building, and though the architecture is different, it is reminiscent of Union Station in DC or Grand Central Station in New York -- cavernous, with a musty, old smell to it, great chandeliers, and wonderful flower-filled plazas on each side of the building.
From Union Station, we walked across the street to Olvera Street, in an area know as El Pueblo Historic Monument. The birthplace of Los Angeles, it's home to 27 historic buildings and a Mexican marketplace. I didn't care much for the marketplace, but the history of the place was interesting. The restaurant we ate lunch in (the name escapes me) was located in the first brick building in Los Angeles. It was a good way to spend the day, and we even got out of the city and back to Santa Monica without significant traffic, on Friday afternoon at that!
Immediately on returning, my son and I rented bikes and headed south down the beach bike path toward Venice Beach and Marina De Ray. The bike path extends 18 miles, but our time was limited. We only made it halfway around Marina Del Ray, a boat harbor for the wealthy. Venice beach was as I imagined -- full of every sort of weirdness -- body builders, tattooed and pierced men and women, bong and waterpipe shops, and throngs of people. Hard to believe what houses cost in this place. I'm not sure why anyone would want to frequent these tacky shops. It really looked like it'd be better if they bulldozed the whole place and started over. But it was a fitting end to a multi-cultural day!
We finished the day with dinner at "The Lobster," a good restaurant on Ocean Avenue at the beginning of the Santa Monica Pier. I took my daughter for some rides on the midway at the pier, catching a nice sunset as we left. We then joined my wife and son where they were shopping on Third Street Promenade. Busy day. Good day. Good end to our trip. Tomorrow, we go home. I'm just wondering, however, if we can hit In-N-Out once more before we leave. It's so SoCal. I leave you there.