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Published: August 11th 2016
The US Bank Tower featuring the OUE Skyspace.
We woke-up this morning still absolutely certain that we could not face the freeways again for another day, so today we planned to get to the Downtown area by the Metro Rail. Why not? We've done the Tube in London and the Subway in New York so we know how these things work.
As we eventually managed to work out in New York, we first needed to buy a 'Tap Card' and then charge it with credit. No problem there. To get to Downtown, we had to take the Green Line to Willowbrook / Rosa Parks and then change to the Blue Line. Also, no problem there. The Green Line was actually quite nice. Then we got on the Blue Line.
After Redondo Beach, Hollywood and La Crescenta, the Blue Line was a great way to see the other side of LA. First of all the smell of urine hit you when you stepped on. Then the smell of weed. The only person on the train who was talking was talking extremely loudly to me, in between phone calls arranging 'transportation' with a number of his drivers / clients / contacts. Apparently we need to be careful of the
Downtown LA View
The view over part of Downtown LA from the top of the OUE Skyspace.
Devil's Angels gang as they will f*** us up in a big way, as they had done to one of his friends. He was a nice enough guy though and not one to feel threatened by. The same could not be said for the big tattooed guy with a blue bandanna who spent his whole journey looking distastefully at the only four middle class looking white people on the whole train.
There was also the guy with the speaker blasting out rap music at full volume, which consisted mainly of the 'f' word, the 'n' word and an 's' word. Despite the announcements over the speaker to not do business with touts, there were people selling drinks out of a cold-box, chocolate cigarettes and headphones. Nothing illicit it has to be said however, or at least not that I saw.
Furthermore, the train went through what looked like some of the roughest areas of inner LA. And when I say "went through" I don't mean the usual disconnected train line separated from its surroundings, I mean literally right down the middle of the streets.
Downtown looked and felt exactly like New York, much to the excitement of
One of the interactive features on the 54th floor.
our daughter for whom New York is the best place in the whole world.
The reason for us braving the journey is that we had booked to tryout the new glass slide that had just been installed on one of the Downtown skyscrapers and had made the news in the UK before we left.
We had pre-booked and had some time to kill before our allocated time, so we walked to Pershing Square to see something called the Liquid Shard. This is basically a massive silver wing made from strands of foil raised up over the square. At first it seemed a bit under whelming, and not what had been described in the reports we had read, which had obviously been embellished by a certain amount of artistic licence. It was a lot more interesting when the wind started to blow and it moved or slithered as the reports put it.
The slide is on the 70th floor of the US Bank building, which is the highest building is LA. As well as the slide, there are two levels of viewing galleries (one at the top and one at the bottom of the slide) called the OUE
The Liquid Shard art exhibit in Pershing Square.
Skyspace. My son, daughter and I had booked the slide and the viewing gallery, whereas my wife did not fancy the slide and had just booked the viewing gallery.
When we booked in we realised that we had pre-paid for parking, which we were not now using. They were however happy to refund what we had paid and avoid another mugged-off incident.
Compared to almost every other viewing gallery we have visited, in the US and elsewhere, this was the most calm and civilised we have ever been to. There was almost no one up there. Sad really, as it is a great set-up. There were the usual security checks at the bottom and, of course, the mandatory 'green-screen' photograph.
The lifts first went up to the 54th floor, where there were some interactive exhibits to experience. There is then another lift to the top gallery level on the 70th floor from where we could see LA spiralling as far as the eye can see in every direction. However with the LA smog, as far as the eye can see is not actually that far. We could make out the Hollywood sign on some distant, far away
Back to Hermosa Beach for another sunset.
hills, but only just.
The slide itself was great and worth doing, but it only went down one floor so it was pretty much over as soon as it started. A great idea, but it needs to be longer. We don't normally like the 'official' photos on things like this, but it had been done in such a way that it makes you look like you are on flying outside the building on a magic carpet. It still wasn't worth $24.99 however.
Looking down from the viewing platform, we could see that there is another transportation option for those in LA who can afford it - there are a surprisingly high number of helipads on top of most of the buildings around downtown.
After the gauntlet of the really rather aggressive beggars in Downtown, we then of course had to repeat the whole Blue Line experience to get back to Redondo Beach. We survived and hence managed to avoid a very serious mugged-off #11, but fully in the knowledge of why the freeways are the only option as far as most people in Los Angeles are concerned. The infrequency of the trains, the small size of the trains and the fact that the network is really not that extensive also made it seem a little half-hearted as a serious transport option.
The hierarchy of transport options in LA are helicopter; express-lane, freeway, Metro Rail. Capitalism at its best. Sadly, we had only tried the latter two options on that scale.
The green line literally runs down the middle of the I-105 freeway. It was annoying to see the traffic on the freeway actually moving without the jams that we had experienced over the last few days. So we ditched the freeways and took our lives in our hands by taking on the Blue Line and not only had we already pre-paid the parking, but the freeways were actually moving. At least we have the experience to talk about.
In the evening, we were so impressed with the whole Hermosa Beach experience that we went for another sunset walk to round the day off before going for something to eat.
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