I was going to start this post in the third person, almost in the style of a cheesy 90s voiceover to a cartoon made into movie style (yes, I am ‘having a go’ at George of the Jungle with Brendan Fraser, love that film) but somehow I couldn’t keep a straight face long enough to type out the words. But alas, you’ll just have to put up with me, in black jeans, not a ‘butt flap’ a la George.
Eventually the Southwest Chief made an appearance and collected us from Williams, once again it was ‘late’. But when we were discussing this with the duty manager at the hotel and she explained that it’s late more often than not, I suggested then that perhaps ‘late’ was actually ‘on time’ and if it ever arrived on the scheduled time, that this surely should be considered ‘early’. She kindly laughed and gave J the look that says ‘is she joking? or what?’ and took her leave. We tried not to laugh. So at close to midnight we board the train, stumble into our roomette to discover that the beds were made, although still in the ‘upright’ position, and the sheets wrapped so tightly around the inch thick mattresses that they were something akin to a straight-jacket. Some minor adjusting thus ensued.
Now given that the train was1.5hrs late, that also means we arrived 1.5hrs late into Los Angeles, we missed breakfast, couldn’t have a proper shower – they were out of towels, so we could only use the emergency sports chamois we’d packed from home – and were rather grumpy from a terrible nights sleep, in that we didn’t really sleep because the cabin was so hot and the a/c didn’t work. So with salvation in sight (Union Station that is) we exited the train in a hasty fashion and now refer to that leg of our journey as the Southwest Thief! Union Station was something of an enigma. I’d read a lot of reviews, and lot of complaints about what it lacks – no free wifi seems to be the most prolific downside together with an obvious deficiency in stores – but what very few of the reviews mentioned was the beauty of this station. Modern, sleek, and contemporary it is not. Perhaps this is what puts people off. It is however a small slice of architectural history and culture. It’s huge main lobby is awe inspiring, the massive honey coloured cedar (or at least I think they were cedar) beams, the glazed floor tiles that cover the floor of every room in a different pattern and the colourful art deco inlay panels are something that cannot help but make you smile at the skill of the craftsmen who built it. This is what we walked into after our night that would not end. We tried bravely not to trip over our jaws as we found somewhere to store our bags for the day, and fought valiantly not to stop in the middle of the walkways each time we entered a new room or section – like when we discovered the private gardens within the building complex, fountains, shady trees and wrought iron park benches to relax upon.
When we could finally pull ourselves away from the interior of the building we staggered outside (through a filmset mind you, we still don’t know what they were shooting) and tried not to stare at the outside too much. Timeless, that’s how we’d describe it. Caught somewhere between 1928 and 1941 it’s a reminder of travel in less harried times, where gentlemen held doors for slim waisted ladies (rather than us, both of a more stout build and pushing doors open for ourselves). From here we wandered up a slight incline and into the heart of El Pueblo de Los Angeles, there were open air markets, a myriad of mexican trinkets to tempt the eye, and the purse, but we refrained, we were there on a mission.
La Luz Del Dia – one of the most blogged about, most well patronised eating establishments in this area of old Los Angeles. Of course we had to check it out, and it was worth the effort! A beef tostada and two pork soft taco’s later and we were reluctant to ever leave, we almost offered to move in as overnight security, but thought they’d get suspicious when all the produce would disappear on our shift. It seemed to be run by the one family, husband and wife running the front and an older lady gathering the plates from well fed and satisfied patrons. We fully understand why they have such a dedicated following.
From there we wandered around some more, took in the first Fire House in L.A., now a free museum open to the public, and toured the inside, checking out the horse-drawn wagon and the original man-pumped bucket system designed and built by Paul Revere’s apprentice Ephraim Thayer. With time pushing on we made our way back to the station, sat a while in the garden, where we noticed a poignant plaquard to some of the people who passed on in the 9/11 attacks, the plaque is titled ‘Unfinished Journeys‘, and whilst I won’t go into what it said – you’ll need to check it out for yourselves – it brought a sad smile to our faces.
But our surprises for the day weren’t quite over just yet! Upon our return we discovered that there is wifi, it comes in the form of a green and white mermaid with a star upon her head. From there we were able to catch up on some news from home, finally fix our internet issue, and of course, drink some coffee! To mark the occasion we each bought a ‘venti’ sized cup, almost matching even, which we can also use on the train to keep our water and juice cool as we traipse across Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and finally into Louisiana.
Our train boarded at 9.30pm for a 10pm departure, our bed’s already turned down and waiting for us. As we fell asleep we waived goodbye to the nightsky and Los Angeles nightline, tomorrow would be a very long, dry and sunny day!