yk's Trip Report: 40 Hours in Los Angeles

Old Apr 13th, 2009, 09:57 AM
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yk's Trip Report: 40 Hours in Los Angeles

Hi all-

This is my poor attempt to emulate the “36 Hours in _____” column in the NYT Travel Section.

You may recall that I had spend 3 weeks in LA last December and did a fair amount of sightseeing during that time. DH did not come with me on that trip, so I tried my best to show him as much as possible in these 40 hours. You can read my December 2008 Trip report here:

DH & I, mid-30s, with main interests in art, architecture, classical music, and food.

Each year, if possible, I try to treat DH on a trip for his birthday in March. Back in Jan 2009, we started planning his b-day trip, and I told him that he could choose any place with the following restrictions:
1) Due to money being a bit tight, we can go anywhere as long as I can claim my American Airlines FF miles for the flights.
2) Since we only have a weekend (DH doesn’t like taking days off), we should limit ourselves to destinations reached by a nonstop flight

These severely limited his options. In the end, he chose LA because
1) He’s never been to LA (unless you count Orange County)
2) He enjoyed the photos I took on my last trip and wanted to see the places with his own eyes.
3) We get to see my brother who lives there.

So, we claimed 2 tickets using my FF miles back in late January. Even though we were booking a few months in advance, the only weekend we could claim tix (and works with our schedule) is the Easter Weekend. About 6 weeks later, AA announced a fare sale plus triple bonus miles for nonstop flights between Boston and LA. It is too good a promo to pass, so while I kept DH's FF ticket, I changed mine and bought my own BOS/LAX ticket for $280. After this trip, I will earn almost 21,000 miles.


1) Welcome to LA!

We took the last flight out of Boston on Friday. Our flight was uneventful except for a 15-min delay. My brother, rkkwan, was waiting for us at LAX and drove us to our hotel in downtown, the Millennium Biltmore. (More about this hotel at the end of the report.) Since it was past 2am East Coast time for us, we just went to bed after checking in.


2) Art Deco Walk


Despite exhausted from the traveling the day before, we were up early because we were still on East Coast time. Our room rate included the use of the hotel's Club Lounge, which offers daily breakfast and evening hors d'oeuvres. So we made our way to the Lounge and had a lovely and relaxed breakfast.

The Art Deco Walk is one of many docent-guided walks offered by the LA Conservancy. I first learned about these from Fodorite lvk a few months ago when I was planning my December trip. Apart from docent-guided tours, the website also describes a self-guided tour:

Our Art Deco tour ended up with only 5 people. Since both the Art Deco walk and the Historic Core walk (which Fodorite klam_chowder did, and you can read about it in her TR) do not require advance booking, the LA Conservancy appoints multiple docents for each tour. There were actually 2 guides that day for the Art Deco Walk, and 1 ended up going home because it made no sense to have 2 guides for 5 people. The Historic Core tour was much more popular that day by comparison. In any case, what I want to point out is there is no lack of docents, so that none of the tour groups will have too many people on it.

This Art Deco tour is the highlight of our trip, well worth the $10 fee. I chose this over Historic Core because this tour includes the interior and penthouse apt of Oviatt Building, which is the creme de la creme when it comes to Art Deco. It was built in 1927-28 for James Oviatt, who needed a HQ and penthouse for his haberdashery in LA. He had attended the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes and was so taken by this new style that he wanted his building to be of this style. Just the lobby of the building alone, has over 30 tons of etched glass done by Rene Lalique!

This photo shows the lobby (glass in the ceiling, and original doors by Lalique to the shop)
Close-up of some glass details

We entered the Cicada restaurant on the street level. The interior was the setting for the escargot scene in Pretty Woman.

The highlight was visiting the Penthouse suite, which was full of Art Deco details and Lalique designs.

Other wonderful buildings we visited on the tour include:
Southern California Edison Company Building - beautiful lobby:

Sun Realty Building which has a lovely blue-green terracotta exterior:

Eastern Columbia Building, with pulverized gold in the terracotta surface, giving it a "glitter" sheen.
And the Art Deco sunburst entrance

(You can look at the LA Conservancy website to see the full list of buildings covered on this tour.)

P.S. Next time, I'll try to take their Broadway Historic Theatre District Tour.

After the tour, we walked to the site of a demolished Art Deco gem (Richfield Building which stood at Flower/6th streets). It was demolished in 1968 but at least someone thought about saving some of the magnificent bronze doors:


3) Blessing of the Animals at Olvera Street

After a quick rest back in our room at the Biltmore, we took the Metro ($1.25pp) 2 stops to Union Station. The Union Station is worth a visit, as it was built in the 1930s and was the last major rail station to be built in the US.

Across the street from Union Station is El Pueblo de Los Angeles - the first area in LA to be settled by Spanish/Mexicans in the late 1700s. The whole area was extremely crowded... it turns out today is the annual Blessing of the Animals festival!

Many locals brought their pets - mainly dogs, but we saw a pig as well. There was also a bunch of animals for the parade which included an ox, goats, chickens/ducks, python...

We were pretty hungry, so I took DH to the 2 places I ate before: Cielito Lindo for its taquitos, and Mr. Churro for, what else, churros of course! After our bellies are full, we visited the Avila Adobe - the oldest building in LA.

P.S. There are free guided walking tours of El Pueblo in the mornings of most days. I took one in December and I highly recommend it!

< To be Continued... >
yk is online now  
Old Apr 13th, 2009, 10:29 AM
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yk- next time you are in LA, let me know! I'd be interested in doing one of those walks by the LA Conservancy. Even though I live here, I'm unlikely to do it without a little push, you know?
That Art Deco walk sounds great. I may have to get my friends (the ones I went to SF with who loved the special exhibit at the Legion of Honor) to go on it.
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Old Apr 13th, 2009, 10:50 AM
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Absolutely marvelous report, yk! As usual you do more in forty hours than most do in forty weeks. Welcome home.
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Old Apr 13th, 2009, 11:00 AM
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4) DASH to Central Library

DASH is a shuttle operated by LA DOT, with multiple routes in the city. Several routes serve the downtown area, and the routes are different on weekdays vs weekends.

On our trip, the Weekend Downtown Discovery route was perfect for us.

It loops through many of the sights in DT, so it is perfect for sightseeing. And the best? It's only $0.25 per ride!

We got on at Olvera Street, saw City Hall, CalTran building, Little Tokyo, Grand Central Market, Angels Flight, and got off at the LA Central Library.


I had visited the Library on my last trip and even took the free guided tour then. We didn't have time for it on this trip, so I gave DH a very abbreviated tour based on what I remember. We then went back to the Biltmore (right next door to the Library.)

5) Tea Time at Rendezvous Court


One of the birthday treats I planned for DH is afternoon tea at the Rendezvous Court at the Biltmore. It is a beautiful indoor court with Moorish-style ceiling. This photo was taken on my Dec trip:

The afternoon tea set is $28, which includes a pot of tea, finger sandwiches, scones, almond tart, and 4 types of desserts. We decided to split one tea set ($28) and order an additional pot of tea ($6.50).

The one and only waiter was really nice, but he was the only person on duty. He said the hotel decided to cut down the staff because of the holiday, so he basically was rushing around all by himself.

My tea (English breakfast) was really nice. The food was okay - not great but not bad either. The scones were no good though. Premade and cold.

Love the tea cozies though:

Finger sandwiches and desserts:

6) LA Phil @ WDCH with EPS


My brother, rkkwan, came over to our hotel room around 6:30pm, and he and DH went up to the Club Lounge for the evening hors d'oeuvres (I was too full to eat after the tea).

We then set off for the Walt Disney Concert Hall at 7pm. I took the WDCH's free guided tour on my last trip, but again, we didn't have time this time. So I acted as the guide based on what I recall.

I bought the concert tickets about 1 month ago. I didn't realize this is the last season for LA Phil's music director, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and tonight's concert is one of the very last concerts he is conducting. And tonight's concert is the world premier of his Violin Concerto, which he specifically wrote for the soloist, Leila Josefowicz.

In any case, our seats were in the "bench" section, which is behind the orchestra. I like these seats because we get a good view of the orchestra plus we get to watch EPS's conducting - his gestures, his facial expressions. Here's the view from our seats during intermission:

The first half of the concert was all new music:
Gyorgy Ligeti's Clocks and Clouds, and
EPS's Violin Concert (World Premier)

While I don't really like new music, I enjoyed both pieces. The second half was the familiar Beethoven's Fifth. Somehow, our seats got really horrible reflected vibrations from the Double Bass, which was rather annoying.

Here's a glowing review of the concert by NYT's music critic, Anthony Tommasini:

7) Korean BBQ in Koreatown

No visit to LA is complete without a Korean meal, as LA is home to the most Koreans outside of Korea. After the LA Philharmonic concert, we went to Gui Il Bun Ji BBQ which rkkwan found on Yelp with decent reviews. It offers all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ for $16.99 per person. We tried 6 different kinds of meat, and most were pretty good (our favorite was the BBQ marinated pork).

Gui Il Bun Ji BBQ
3055 W 7th St Ste C (@ Vermont)
(213) 380-6606
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Old Apr 13th, 2009, 11:17 AM
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I guess I'd forgotten the whole hoopla about the music scene in LA. Dudamel is taking over for Esa Pekka Salonen. I don't think I've attended a concert conducted by either. It's nice that you caught one of his last concerts as music director.

I'm not too surprised that Tommasini gave a raving review. This is exactly the kind of concert that he likes a lot.

I seem to remember somewhere that Finland has some of the highest concentrations of classical music venues and performances. So you have Esa Pekka Salonen, and you have the soprano Karita Mattila, and I think there must be a few other very high-profile Finnish artists (is the pianist Mustonen Finnish?).
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Old Apr 13th, 2009, 11:51 AM
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Another great LA report, yk. The L.A. Times had a very nice "good-bye" pull-out piece for Esa Pekka Salonen in yesterday's paper: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment...2.storygallery

Kristina- I also live here, and some friends and I have been planning on taking that Broadway Historic Theatre tour for some time now and never seem to get around to it. We do get to attend performances at the classic Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro: www.warnergrand.org/, which is also being restored to its former glory.
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Old Apr 13th, 2009, 12:21 PM
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I am constantly in awe of you, yk!! Here is another fine report on LA that will go into my bookmarks. If DH and I ever get the chance to move out there, we will not lack for things to do for many a year, thanks to you.
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Old Apr 13th, 2009, 12:40 PM
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Very nice, YK!

If you like Art Deco, you should include Napier, NZ on your list of places to visit when you go to New Zealand (whenever that may be - I'm sure with your wanderlust you will go sometime!).
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Old Apr 13th, 2009, 02:29 PM
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Thank you everyone for your comments!

lvk - I did see the Sunday section on EPS, and there were also 2 articles on him in the Saturday LA Times. It appears that the locals really do like EPS and what he's done to the LA Philharmonic. The applause at the end of the concert went on for a very long time.

flygirl - New Zealand! Now that's a bit far away, but I'll put it on my (very long) list.
yk is online now  
Old Apr 13th, 2009, 02:59 PM
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8) Griffith Observatory


We had such a long day on Saturday that we decided to sleep in today. Again, we enjoyed a lovely and relaxing breakfast in the Club Lounge, then we checked out of the Biltmore.

rkkwan came by to pick us up, then we proceeded to Griffith Observatory.

I never got around to visit it on my last trip, and with beautiful weather today, it seemed the perfect place to go.

While there was some smog, we still had a decent view. Towards the West, we could see as far as Westwood, but could not quite make out the Pacific Ocean. Towards the East, we saw the San Gabriel Mtns, the very top still covered with snow. And almost due South was downtown where we stayed.

After lingering on the viewing terraces for some time, we went inside the observatory to check out some of the exhibits. In the lobby is a recreation of Foucault's pendulum - really neat.

The lobby also has multiple murals by Hugo Ballin:

9) Hollyhock House by Frank Lloyd Wright


Originally, we wanted to visit Gamble House in Pasadena, but it was closed on Easter Sunday. The Hollyhock House by FLW seems to be an excellent substitute. Plus, my DH has a tiny FLW craze.

I visited Hollyhock House back in December. Since we had the same guide on this visit, there isn't much I have to add to what I had written here:

Some photos from this visit:

View from House (you can see Griffith Observatory and Hollywood sign)

10) Ready to head home

Well, our trip was over. It was a crazy whirlwind trip - I don't think our bodies ever adjusted to the West Coast time. But it was a nice getaway for DH, who has been working pretty hard. The nice weather and the different scenery transported him far away from the responsibilities at work. Our flight home was on time and we arrived 15 minutes early. It was freezing cold back East - just 33F! Oh, I miss the weather in LA already!

< Next: Hotel Review >
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Old Apr 13th, 2009, 03:49 PM
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Hotel Review
Millennium Biltmore


Believe it or not, I booked this hotel directly (using a Travelzoo promo code). I have been a Priceline loyalist for years; in fact, I can't even recall the last time I did not use PL to book a hotel in the US!


Based on my last visit to LA, I really like the location of the Biltmore. It is perfect for our goals on this trip:

Proximity to Pershing Sq (for the Conservancy walk)
Proximity to local transportation - subway station right at Pershing Sq, DART route stops right across the street
Rendezvous Court for afternoon tea
Plus I love the old-style grand hotel lobby and other public spaces

Therefore, when I saw the offer on Travelzoo ($99/n), I went ahead and booked it instead of taking risks on PL.

My reservation ended up hitting some major snafu, so when the problem was resolved, the hotel management offered to give us a free upgrade from a standard King room to a Junior Suite, which included the free use of the Club Lounge for breakfasts and evening hors d'oeuvres.

Our room is H-U-G-E. It is probably at least 500 sq ft. It has a sitting area with sofas and coffee table, plus TV armoire. The bedroom section is very large, with a writing table.

I would say that the room is both old-style and just plain old. The bathroom itself can really use a complete re-do. It still has old tiled vanity and bathroom walls (with stains in the grout). Amenities include a coffee maker, iron/ironing board, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, lotion. No in-room safe and no mini-bar.

Our room faces East right onto Pershing Sq, which brings up my major complaint. It is noisy. We are not used to city noise, and the buses which pass by Perhsing Sq are quite noisy. It doesn't help that the hotel windows are really old too. I bet if they replace the windows with new soundproof ones, it will be much better.

Breakfast at the Lounge has a good selection: a huge variety of pastries (croissants, danish, muffins, scones), cold cereal, fruit cup, granola/yogurt, juices, coffee/tea, hard-boiled eggs, and one hot dish each day. The first day was a mushroom fritata which was pretty good. The second day was some awful soggy french toast.

Evening hors d'oeuvres (per my DH and rkkwan's report) offer free alcohol, cheese and crackers, cold cuts... and probably some more things which I can't remember right now.

The Lounge also has a computer terminal for free internet access, complete with a printer.

All the staff we encountered in the hotel was polite, courteous, friendly, and professional.

We did not use parking, but the fee is $40/n. I would only recommend this hotel if:
1) Your complete understanding of the location of the hotel. There are plenty of Tripadvisor reviews where the posters complained that they didn't like its location
2) You get a good rate for it.
3) I don't know how much more expensive it is to book a Club Room (vs a standard room), but if it's not much more, I think it's worth the extra cost for the Lounge access.

Hotel Exterior:

Beautiful Lobby:

Our room:
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Old Apr 13th, 2009, 04:13 PM
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My version of this trip report:

1. The hors d'oeuvres at the Biltmore also has samosa, vegetable dips and olives & artichoke hearts, and cookies. It's really nice.

2. I like our Bench Seats behind the orchestra at the WDCH. The hall is very impressive inside and out, with great acoustics even where we sit. The layout is quite radical inside, with a symmetrical shape lengthwise. The conductor's podium is basically at the very center of the hall. And it feels smaller and more intimate than its 2,265-seat capacity may suggest.

Like yk, I also enjoyed the two new pieces. Of course, one major disadvantage of sitting behind the orchestra is that we could only see the soloist back. For Beethoven's 5th, I didn't notice the reflection of the bass except once or twice, from my seat. But of course, I could hear the horns too well... The 5th was decently played, but I found the tempo for the first two movements a bit slow for my taste.

3. For Korean BBQ, I had wanted to go to "Road to Seoul" on Western, which was my one and only previous KBBQ experience, but they close at 11p, so we have to find a different place. I think Gui Il Bun Ji was fine, but service was totally lacking despite we being the only table there at that time (11p-midnight).

Here are my photos from the Griffith Observatory and outside Hollyhock House:

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Old Apr 13th, 2009, 05:06 PM
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Ray- I miss you! Nice mini-mini non-trip report.

yk- as always, I love reading your trip reports. They are thorough and yet don't seem too long. The pictures are great! Thanks so much for taking the time to educate us!

Hope it warms up there soon!

(Signing from the 73 degree/sunny land of north Texas!)
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Old Apr 13th, 2009, 06:27 PM
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yk, another well-organized report with lots of good detail and pictures. Thanks for sharing.
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Old Apr 14th, 2009, 09:06 AM
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yk and rkkwan, thanks for the additional details. You've now convinced me to purchase bench seats the next time I attend a WDCH performance-- probably in the fall when "The Dude" arrives. Watching his conducting style and expressions will be a real treat for my musician DD.

yk, did your DH enjoy his birthday trip, overall?
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Old Apr 14th, 2009, 11:54 AM
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Hi lvk - My husband always enjoys the trips I planned.

Regarding the seats behind the orchestra, I really do prefer them. When we were living in Dallas, the Meyerson Symphony Hall also has similar seats and I usually request those. I feel more "involved" with the music and with the musicians. Of course, having played in an orchestra in high school, I particularly enjoy watching the conductor and the interactions between him and the musicians. BTW, those bench seats are relatively comfortable too.
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Old Apr 14th, 2009, 01:17 PM
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Another good report by yk. I have used those choir/bench seats also, and thought it was very entertaining and not much of a loss in the musical experience (it was a violin concert). I had wanted to see the inside of the concert hall on tour and it wasn't possible, so I bought a last minute seat (I think it was for a casual Friday date) and it was very reasonable.

They are only available when the performance doesn't require their use, however.
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Old Apr 14th, 2009, 01:44 PM
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mlgb - You brought up a very good point. I was able to see the Disney Hall auditorium when I took the free guided tour of WDCH back in December. However, the docent clearly stated that this was the exception rather than the norm. (The LA Phil were away on tour that week so no rehearsals were scheduled for the auditorium.)

Along the same lines, the Art Deco tour does not guarantee that you will be able to see the Penthouse (or the Cicada restaurant) of the Ovaitt Building on their tour. It depends on whether those spaces are being used or not during the tour times.
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Old Apr 14th, 2009, 02:39 PM
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yk, I think it is worthwhile to buy a ticket for a performance just to see the inside of the concert hall. My first impression was that it felt like being inside a whale's belly. (I am more interested in architecture than music, but I did enjoy the whole experience). I often ate at the cafeteria inside for lunch when I worked downtown.
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Old Apr 14th, 2009, 08:32 PM
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Yk, Thanks for sharing all the info from your recent trip to LA. It made me realize there are a lot of places I need to check out in LA even tho I have lived in S. CA for many years. I am anxious to do more exploring.
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