From Lake Elsinore, Los Angeles is about 70 miles away. Hollywood is 5 miles further. We leave around 9 in the morning, taking the 15 to the 91 to the 71 to the 10 to the 101. Sounds confusing and it is!
Along the way, 2 structures catch my attention from the passenger seat.
The first one is in Chino Hills off the 71. I look to my right and see a magnificent pink building carved of pinnacles and domes. Stunned, I can’t believe my eyes. Instead of taking a picture, I just stare in awe. As we pass by, I “google” unusual building in Chino Hills.
I learn that this is a Hindu temple or mandir, known as BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. BAPS is an acronym for Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha.
According to en.m.wikipedia.org, the Hindu spiritual leader Pramukh Swami Maharaj visited California in 1977 and attracted a group of people who began to assemble weekly. In 1984 a small center was established just outside of Los Angeles. As the congregation grew, a larger complex was needed and the land in Chino Hills, overlooking the 71, was the perfect fit.
In 2000, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj visited this site and approved the building of a traditional Hindu Mandir. In 2012 the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir was dedicated and opened. It is the 5th traditional Hindu Mandir in North America. (baps.org)
Click here to find out more about this socio-spiritual community. Click here to learn more about the Chino Hills complex.
The second structure pops up over the 101 as we pass through downtown LA.
Can you guess what this building is? (Don’t let the exit sign confuse you.)
It’s a high school… Grand Arts Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts.
And guess what part of the school is inside the slanted cylinder circled below?
The school’s website explains how the architecture symbolizes the students:
We don’t encounter many slowdowns, except for a few minutes on the 15 as we approach the 91, and then again on the 101 entering downtown LA. (Total driving time… 90 minutes)
By 10:45 we find Hollywood Blvd. in search of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Walk of Fame where stars embedded in the sidewalk honor famous people in radio, film, theater, music, and television. (I read somewhere recently that the person honored pays $30,000 for his or her star.)
So, basically it’s just a sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard from Gower Street to La Brea Avenue, and on Vine Street from Yucca Street to Sunset Boulevard.
The stars are made of pink terrazzo and brass. (Betsy Malloy, gocalifornia.about.com) A darker charcoal-colored terrazzo completes the background.
The nearer you get to Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the entire sidewalk is black terrazzo.
Before we decide to park and pay and walk around, we GPS our search for the famous movie palace, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, renamed Mann’s Chinese Theatre in 1973. In 2001 its original Grauman’s Chinese Theatre name was restored. In 2013 the TCL Corporation, a Chinese electronics manufacturing company purchased the named rights. (en.m.wikipedia.org) Who knew? Did you?
Finally, figuring out TCL Chinese Theatre is the one and the same Grauman’s, we catch Hollywood Blvd. between Highland Ave. and N. Orange Dr..
Looming overhead, in the picture above, is the tower of El Capitan, where the new Guardians of the Galaxy is opening tonight.
Snowbirding in Southern California, movie openings are big news. Likewise, new stars on the Walk of Fame. Just yesterday Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell celebrated a double star dedication ceremony with guest speakers, Kate Hudson, Quentin Tarantino, and Reese Witherspoon.
A little past El Capitan on the other side of Hollywood Blvd. is the Chinese Theatre. I quickly get a drive-by shot.
We decide to head back this way later after heading northeast to…
…for a view of the famous Hollywood Sign situated on Mount Lee in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Apparently, this iconic symbol can also be seen at the corner of Highland and Hollywood, but today the marine layer is blocking the sun, creating what looks like a haze of smog. (hollywoodsign.org)
Griffith Park, situated on the eastern range of the Santa Monica Mountains, is one of the largest urban parks in the United States, with 53 miles of hiking, bridle, and fire road trails. Think of Central Park in New York City, only with an elevation up to 1,625 feet above sea level and with a large portion of the land unchanged since the days the lower slopes were home to Native American settlers. (laparks.org)
We are heading up to the Griffith Observatory hoping to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood Sign. Cars are parked on the side of the road but we don’t see anything. We keep winding our way up and I keep craning my neck over my right shoulder. Then we are on a one-way route as we sort of approach the top. Parking spaces cost $4/hour, but we remain skeptical. So, we decide to keep driving to the Observatory thinking that we are on a wild goose chase. All of a sudden I see it! The sign! Of course by now we cannot turn around. We have passed all the parking areas. I take a quick picture of the Griffith Observatory
and our only option is to head back down.
But… What goes down must go back up, right? Well, we hope so… yes, we can! So, we park, pay, and walk up and up and up until…
…and a little close-up pic…
It’s 11:00 and we have an hour to spend looking around.
We walk around the grounds of the Observatory.
We walk around the back of the building and take in views of the city of LA below, through the marine layer haze. (The entrance to the planetarium is back here too.)
We return to the car and descend into the landscaped neighborhood of Los Feliz living in the foothills of Griffith Park, one beautiful home after another.
It’s time for a little history connecting Griffith and Los Feliz.
Rancho Los Feliz came first.
Between 1784 and 1821, the Spanish government awarded prominent Hispanic men land grants, called ranchos, to promote and continue the culture of Spain. (Mexico continued this tradition of land ownership from 1833-1846.)
In 1795 Jose Vicente Feliz, a member of the expedition bringing the first Mexican settlers to California, and later a soldier guarding the settlement, received 6,647 acres of land from the Spanish Governor. Rancho Los Feliz remained in the family and was grandfathered in by Mexico in 1843. When Mexico ceded their land to the United States in 1848, existing land grants were honored but had to be claimed, filed, and land patented.
Rancho Los Feliz belonged to the heirs of Jose Vicente until 1863 when Antonio F. Coronel acquired ownership. Coronel then sold the land to a wealthy businessman from San Francisco, James Lick, who died in 1876.
In 1882 Griffith Jenkins Griffith purchased some 4,000 acres of Rancho Los Feliz. (Griffith was born in Wales in 1850 and immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1865. In 1873 he moved to San Francisco and managed the Herald Publishing Company. In 1878 he became the mining correspondent for a San Francisco newspaper eventually making him a mining expert which helped him to become quite wealthy.) In December of 1896, Griffith presented a Christmas gift to the city of LA… 3,015 acres of Los Ranchos Feliz to be dedicated as a public park.
In 1912 he proposed financing the building of an amphitheater, to be called the Greek Theater, and a Hall of Science. City Council approved his request, but the Park Commission overruled. Upon his death in 1919, however, his will bequeathed some 1.5 million dollars for these buildings. The present day 5,870- seat music venue, whose stage is modeled after a Greek temple, was built in 1929. The Griffith Observatory was built in 1935. (en.m.wikipedia.org)
While we head west to Beverly Hills, I propose we take a break from this lengthy post. Let’s catch up in Part II.