It used to be you couldn't get around the Los Angeles area without a car but that's changing. Ever since the days of Tom Bradley, city leaders have been investing in transit...in fits and starts...and creating a new network of railed, public transit.
We're now starting to get to the sweet spot in the results of all that work and billions of dollars worth of investment. The city's rail lines span just over a hundred miles, not counting the regional trains of Metrolink and the express bus lines of the orange and silver lines.
Recently, the latest extension of the Gold Line opened up in our area of the eastern San Gabriel Valley (another extension of the Expo Line has also opened and you can go from downtown Los Angeles to the Santa Monica Pier). Originally, this line went from Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles and now has been expanded to run from the Azusa/Glendora city line in the northeast to the edge of Montebello in East L.A. to the south.
I've been commuting on it daily to work, now I'm taking a day to bring Letty and Tim along to do a little exploring.
It's around 45 minutes from our start at the City of Hope in Duarte to the Little Tokyo/Arts District station one stop beyond Union Station. To get a little fortification for our journey, we start off with a little pie and coffee at the Pie Hole, a small coffee shop in the Arts District.
This former industrial area and extension of Skid Row attracted a lot of artists with it's low rents and large lofts where they could experiment and create away from the attention of Hollywood and downtown. Those days are gone and now it's a gentrified hot spot of Los Angeles.
While we're here, we'll take in a little tasting session at one of the microbreweries here, Angel City Brewery on the corner of Alameda and 4th Streets. We taste a variety of their beers and ales. Some are good, some are a bit more average.
Moving on, we head a couple of blocks east to Little Tokyo. This historically Japanese neighborhood is full of sushi bars, kimono shops, Japanese grocery stores, and restaurants.
Today, we're coming here because my wife is a big fan of Japanese knitting and crochet books, which she painstaking translates into working patterns. She finds these at the Kinokuniya Book Store in Weller Court, next to the Little Tokyo Doubletree Hotel.
A DASH bus takes us to downtown's other Asian enclave, Chinatown. Just north of the Hollywood freeway, in the area around Broadway and Hill Streets, Chinatown is another historical neighborhood that was originally Italian. When Union Station displaced the original Chinatown when it was built, the neighborhood moved a few blocks north to its current location.
A Shaolin festival is going on today with booths on meditation, books, musicians, and souvenirs.
The main stage features kung fu demonstrations by pint-sized students of local schools.
Around the corner on Broadway, the Phoenix Bakery has been turning out very good sweets for over 80 years.
The owner takes pity on me and gives me some free samples of the sugar butterflies, just being finished. They are outstanding.
Of course, that leads to me buying a box to take home along with the almond cookies my wife bought.
Chinatown has it's own Gold Line Station so we climb back onboard for the last leg of our trip to the eastern end in Azusa.
From the Azusa station, it's a short walk south until we hear Max yell out, "it's been a long time, where you been? I was about to call your house."
Mexican food fans in this neighborhood know that this is the call to come sip some of the state's finest margaritas and eat some fantastic food at Max's Mexican Cuisine.
We're on the train, so we'll take two. Why not?!?
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