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Solvang and the return south

The delightful Danish town of Solvang, brush fire smoke and the infamous 'four-oh-five' freeway

sunny 32 °C
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The following day we continued our return south towards Los Angeles diverting slightly to stop for a couple of hours to look around Solvang. Solvang (translates as 'sunny fields' in Danish) was founded in 1911 by a group of Danes who bought a 9,000 acre (3,600 hectare) ranch next to the historic Santa Ines Mission in the Santa Ynez Valley with the aim of creating a Danish colony away from the severe winters they suffered in the US Mid West.

Classic street view of Solvang

Classic street view of Solvang


Entrance to the Old Mission in Solvang

Entrance to the Old Mission in Solvang

The Old Mission in Solvang

The Old Mission in Solvang

Solvang with its unique half-timbered architecture, colourful potted plants and 'little Denmark' ambiance has become a major tourist attraction with over a million visitors every year. There are several restaurants and pastry shops serving Danish specialities, a Hans Christen Andersen Museum celebrating his fables together with a copy of Copenhagen's Mermaid's Fountain and 1:3 scale copy of the Rundetarn (Round Tower).

A colourful Danish restaurant in Solvang

A colourful Danish restaurant in Solvang


The Solvang Rundetarn (Round Tower)

The Solvang Rundetarn (Round Tower)


The Mermaid's Fountain in Solvang

The Mermaid's Fountain in Solvang


Tivoli Square in Solvang

Tivoli Square in Solvang


Solvang Bell Tower

Solvang Bell Tower

However probably the biggest attraction are the town's Danish windmills; although we didn't see all of them I counted at least half a dozen on the map dotted amongst the town's streets. All in all Solvang was a delightful little town well worth the visit.

Close up of the Windmill on Alisal Road in Solvang

Close up of the Windmill on Alisal Road in Solvang


The windmill in Hamlet Square

The windmill in Hamlet Square


The windmill on Mission Drive is now part of a brewery!

The windmill on Mission Drive is now part of a brewery!

We then descended from the mountains back on to the freeway only to be confronted by the smoke from a large bush fire that threatened to block our route south back to Los Angeles. Because of the way the wind direction changes near the coast one minute the sky was relatively clear while the next minute there was a very distinct layer of smoke above us.

Brush fire smoke begins to darken the skyline

Brush fire smoke begins to darken the skyline


Brush fire smoke above Port Hueneme

Brush fire smoke above Port Hueneme


Brush fire smoke billowing in the distance

Brush fire smoke billowing in the distance


The brush fire threatens to close the highway

The brush fire threatens to close the highway

Fortunately the brush fire didn't cross the Freeway to cut our route back like it threatened to do at one point but we still had to travel down the notorious interstate 'four-oh-five' freeway to get through Los Angeles, the busiest and most congested freeway in the USA. What we had hoped would be a two hour drive turned out to be four hours plus with bumper to bumper traffic. Although little consolation while we were stuck in heavy traffic we did see the Goodyear Blimp (Airship) take off from close by the freeway.

Traffic jam on Los Angeles' infamous Interstate 'four-oh-five' Freeway

Traffic jam on Los Angeles' infamous Interstate 'four-oh-five' Freeway


Wall to wall traffic on the I405 Freeway going through Los Angeles

Wall to wall traffic on the I405 Freeway going through Los Angeles


The Goodyear Blimp takes off near the I405 Freeway

The Goodyear Blimp takes off near the I405 Freeway


The Goodyear Blimp

The Goodyear Blimp

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in USA Tagged churches california windmills danish missions mexican natural_disasters airship Comments (0)

San Clemente and a weekend away in Mexico

Visit to a bonus country while staying at a Spanish Village by the Sea

semi-overcast 21 °C
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San Clemente describes itself as a "Spanish Village by the Sea" and is located on California's Pacific Coast about half way between Los Angeles and San Diego. It was founded by a former Mayor of Seattle, Ole Hanson, who envisaged it becoming a haven for Californians who tired of "the big city". Its most obvious landmark is its beautiful 1,296 foot (395 metre) long wooden pier original built in 1928.

San Clemente Pier

San Clemente Pier


Looking out along San Clemente Pier

Looking out along San Clemente Pier


Looking back along San Clemente Pier

Looking back along San Clemente Pier

Sat on a bluff-top above the pier is Casa Romantica, with a red tiled roof and white stucco arches it was the original home of San Clemente's founder Ole Hanson built in 1928 in the Spanish style and is now heritage listed. However what San Clemente is more famous for is La Casa Pacifica which was bought by President Richard Nixon in 1969 as his vacation home during his presidency and became known as the "Western White House".

Casa Romantica above San Clemente Pier

Casa Romantica above San Clemente Pier


Looking along San Clemente State Beach towards La Casa Pacifica with surfers waiting for waves and the Amtrak heading south to San Diego

Looking along San Clemente State Beach towards La Casa Pacifica with surfers waiting for waves and the Amtrak heading south to San Diego

Mexico was not a country I thought I would be able to include in my itinerary of my trip around the world so I was very pleased when the chance of a weekend south of the border arose while I was in San Clemente. We drove down to Rosarito Beach (Playas de Rosarito in Spanish), a Pacific coastal resort 30 miles south of San Diego in the Mexican state of Baja California that is very popular for its beaches and dance clubs. Our hotel, around which the surrounding town grew, was originally opened in 1925 but since then has had a lot built onto it including the 17 storey Presido Tower in which we stayed.

The Pacifico Tower at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

The Pacifico Tower at the Rosarito Beach Hotel


Security Checkpoint at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

Security Checkpoint at the Rosarito Beach Hotel


The street outside the Rosarito Beach Hotel

The street outside the Rosarito Beach Hotel


Corridor in the old part of the Rosarito Beach Hotel

Corridor in the old part of the Rosarito Beach Hotel

In addition to bars, restaurants and a ballroom the hotel we were staying at also had a lovely golden sand beach and a quarter mile long private pier. Unfortunately the weather was not at its best while we were there so the pier was closed and there were few takers for the horse or quad bike riding however it was evident from the volleyball nets, stands of empty seating and other paraphernalia that this could often become a very busy beach.

View from the beach of the Rosarito Beach Hotel

View from the beach of the Rosarito Beach Hotel


Horses and quad bikes waiting for tourists on Rosarito Beach

Horses and quad bikes waiting for tourists on Rosarito Beach


The pier at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

The pier at the Rosarito Beach Hotel


The beach at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

The beach at the Rosarito Beach Hotel

We did venture south to Puerto Nuevo passing the enormous 75 foot (23 metre) high statue of Christ of the Sacred Heart (Cristo del Sagrado Corazon in Spanish) above the highway at the town of El Morro. Puerto Nuevo itself is known as "the Lobster Capital of Baja" and having been coaxed into a restaurant and chosen the crustaceans we wanted to eat we enjoyed lovely fresh lobster for Sunday lunch.

Christ of the Sacred Heart Statute above the highway at El Morro

Christ of the Sacred Heart Statute above the highway at El Morro


Entering the town of Puerto Nuevo in Baja California Mexico

Entering the town of Puerto Nuevo in Baja California Mexico


Street scene in Puerto Nuevo

Street scene in Puerto Nuevo


Lobster ready for the pot in Puerto Nuevo

Lobster ready for the pot in Puerto Nuevo

On the Monday morning it was time for us to return north across the USA border, experiencing the heavy traffic in Tijuana just south of San Diego on the way. Thankfully our hotel was part of the Border Fastpass Scheme and this enabled us to use a dedicated lane to avoid the chaos and often 2 hour delay crossing over the Mexico/USA border.

Entering Tijuna on the way back to the USA border

Entering Tijuna on the way back to the USA border


Traffic jam in downtown Tijuana

Traffic jam in downtown Tijuana


Following the signs in Tijuna to the USA border

Following the signs in Tijuna to the USA border


Chaos approaching the USA border, thankfully we had a Border Fastpass from our hotel :-)

Chaos approaching the USA border, thankfully we had a Border Fastpass from our hotel :-)

On our return to San Clemente we visited family in Valley Center just north of San Diego and managed to stop at Mission San Luis Rey de Francia founded in 1798 at Oceanside on the way back. The 21 Spanish missions in California are a series of religious and military outposts established by Spanish Catholics of the Franciscan Order between 1769 and 1833 to spread the Christian faith among the local Native Americans. Starting from San Diego they stretch north with each mission about 30 miles apart - considered a long days ride on horseback or 3 days walk. All told I saw 5 of the 21 missions while I was in California, including the Mission at San Juan Capistrano which I had visited on a previous visit to California and we passed as I got on the Amtrak train to Fullerton.

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia at Oceanside

Mission San Luis Rey de Francia at Oceanside


Another view of the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia at Oceanside

Another view of the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia at Oceanside


The Mission at San Juan Capistrano

The Mission at San Juan Capistrano


My train pulls into San Juan Capistrano Station to take me to Fullerton

My train pulls into San Juan Capistrano Station to take me to Fullerton

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches churches trains hotels california piers missions mexican us_presidents Comments (0)

Historic Downtown Los Angeles

Chinatown and Olvera Street but first (being a Brit) a visit to the Leo Magnus Cricket Complex

sunny 24 °C
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Los Angeles has a cricket complex! I stumbled upon this little known fact while investigating what I might want to see while I was visiting the city and of course been a cricket fan I was quite keen to go and see it. Trying to explain cricket to my American relatives as like baseball but with two 'bases' (i.e. wickets) moved to the centre of the field with the 'pitcher' (i.e. bowler) bouncing the ball before it reach reaches the batsman was always fun! So we spent the morning of my final full day in Los Angeles making our way down to the Leo Magnus Cricket Complex in Woodley Park in the Van Nuys District of LA to have a look.

Me by the entrance to the Leo Magnus Cricket Complex in Los Angeles

Me by the entrance to the Leo Magnus Cricket Complex in Los Angeles

The first cricket ground in LA opened at Griffiths Park in 1933 but was moved to Woodley Park in 1978. The pitches themselves are quite good and are judged by the former Jamaican test cricketers instrumental in setting them up as amongst the best in the USA. Although there are only small pavilions beside each of the pitches it has had 5,000 spectators in temporary stands for bigger games and the ground has been visited by the New Zealand National Team, the India and Australian A Teams as well as several England counties.

A wicket chalked up ready for a cricket match at the weekend

A wicket chalked up ready for a cricket match at the weekend


A small pavilion beside one of the cricket pitches at Leo Magnus

A small pavilion beside one of the cricket pitches at Leo Magnus


Changing rooms and scoreboard beside one of the cricket pitches at Leo Magnus

Changing rooms and scoreboard beside one of the cricket pitches at Leo Magnus

As we walked around the four pitches and limited facilities at the Leo Magnus Complex we stumbled upon a couple of Pakistani ex-pats practising in the nets. It was great to see the cricket facilities being actively used during a quiet spell in the working week, there's hope for the USA yet!

Bowling and batting practise underway in the nets

Bowling and batting practise underway in the nets


Close up of the batting in the practise nets

Close up of the batting in the practise nets

Next stop was Chinatown in Downtown Los Angeles; or more correctly New Chinatown as the original Chinatown founded in 1852 was moved in 1938 to make way for LA's new main ground transportation hub at Union Station. The 25 feet (7.6 metre) high Twin Dragon Towers Gateway entrance to Chinatown at Cesar Chavez Ave and North Broadway was erected in July 2001 and was designed to symbolize luck, prosperity and longevity.

The Twin Dragon Towers Gateway into Chinatown

The Twin Dragon Towers Gateway into Chinatown


A typical shop in Chinatown

A typical shop in Chinatown

The hub of New Chinatown however is the Central Plaza between North Broadway and North Spring Street with decorative gateways at each end. In the square by the Gate of Filial Piety at the North Spring Street end is a statue erected in the 1960s of Sun Yat-sen, the Chinese revolutionary leader who is considered the "founder of modern (Nationalist) China".

New Chinatown's Gate of Filial Piety and Central Plaza Square

New Chinatown's Gate of Filial Piety and Central Plaza Square


Gateway to New Chinatown Main Plaza from North Broadway

Gateway to New Chinatown Main Plaza from North Broadway


Statute of Sun Yat-sen in the square of Chinatown's Central Plaza

Statute of Sun Yat-sen in the square of Chinatown's Central Plaza

Between the two gateways Chinatown's Main Plaza is a Hollywoodized version of Shanghai designed by Hollywood set designers in the 1930s with Chinese lanterns strung overhead. There is a Wishing Well with saucers labelled with such things as "wealth", "serenity" and "romance" into which passers by are encouraged to toss coins and make a wish. The last major landmark constructed in the Central Plaza was the Hop Louie Restaurant Pagoda (formerly the Golden Pagoda Restaurant) in early 1941.

New Chinatown Main Plaza

New Chinatown Main Plaza


Wishing Well in New Chinatown Central Plaza

Wishing Well in New Chinatown Central Plaza


Hop Louie Restaurant Pagoda in New Chinatown Central Plaza

Hop Louie Restaurant Pagoda in New Chinatown Central Plaza

My final stop in Los Angeles (and one I was particularly looking forward to because of happy memories I have from there in the past) was Olvera Street. This is where El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles was founded in 1782 on land close to the River Porciuncula (aka 'Los Angeles River'). The site was chosen by Felipe de Neve, the Spanish Governor of California, on the orders of King Carlos III of Spain to setup a new pueblo in Alta California. The original Spanish "pobladores" (settlers) consisted of 11 families - 44 men, women, and children, accompanied by a contingent of soldiers - and their names are listed on plaque in the Plaza at the southern end of the street alongside statues of the Governor and the King.

Statue of Felipe de Neve, Spanish Governor of California 1775-1782 and founder of Los Angeles

Statue of Felipe de Neve, Spanish Governor of California 1775-1782 and founder of Los Angeles


The top end of Olvera Street as seen from the Plaza

The top end of Olvera Street as seen from the Plaza


Plaque in the Plaza listing the names of the original 44 Spanish pobladores (settlers) of Los Angeles

Plaque in the Plaza listing the names of the original 44 Spanish pobladores (settlers) of Los Angeles

Just across the road from the Plaza is La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles ("The Church of Our Lady Queen of the Angels" also known as the "Old Plaza Church") which was founded a couple of years later as an "asistencia" (or "sub-mission") of the nearby Mission San Gabriel Arcángel with the current church constructed 1814-1822. A large cross has been erected at the southern end of Olvera Street where it opens out onto the Plaza, it looks old but is actually a replica of a cross erected in 1929 to commemorate the city's 148th birthday.

La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles (The Church of Our Lady Queen of the Angels)

La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles (The Church of Our Lady Queen of the Angels)


Me stood by the large cross erected at the southern end of Olvera Street

Me stood by the large cross erected at the southern end of Olvera Street

Olvera Street itself is only about 500 feet (152.5 metres) long and was originally called Wine Street until it was renamed in 1877 in honour of a senior court judge who was a long time resident there. About half way along its length is the Avila Adobe, the oldest existing house in Los Angeles. It was originally constructed from bricks made primarily of clay and straw about 1818 and then damaged by an earthquake is 1971. It has now been restored to look as it did in the late 1840s, about the time when Commodore Robert F. Stockton of the US Navy used the house as his headquarters during the Mexican-American War of 1847.

Me stood on the steps of the Avila Adobe, the oldest remaining building in LA (circa 1818)

Me stood on the steps of the Avila Adobe, the oldest remaining building in LA (circa 1818)


The courtyard fo the Avila Adobe

The courtyard fo the Avila Adobe


Reconstruction in the courtyard of the Avila Adobe of a wooden 'carretta' as used in the early days of Los Angeles

Reconstruction in the courtyard of the Avila Adobe of a wooden 'carretta' as used in the early days of Los Angeles

Inside we were able to walk around the various rooms in the Avila Adobe; the parlour was only used on special occasions and the kitchen was only used for cooking when the weather was bad preventing cooking outside in the courtyard. The descendants of the Avila family lived in the house until 1868 after which it deteriorated as a rented property until it was condemned by the city in 1928. Mrs Sterling with the help of influential friends then restored the house and created a Mexican style market place on Olvera Street itself which when opened to the public in 1930 quickly became a major tourist attraction in which to experience Los Angeles' Mexican culture and heritage.

The family room in the Avila Adobe where regular meals were eaten

The family room in the Avila Adobe where regular meals were eaten


The Indoor Kitchen in the Avila Adobe

The Indoor Kitchen in the Avila Adobe


The Parlour or Sitting Room in the Avila Adobe

The Parlour or Sitting Room in the Avila Adobe


The parents bedroom in the Avila Adobe

The parents bedroom in the Avila Adobe


The Office in the Avila Adobe were the business affairs of the vineyard and ranch were transacted

The Office in the Avila Adobe were the business affairs of the vineyard and ranch were transacted

As a tourist attraction, Olvera Street has become a living museum paying homage to a romantic vision of old Mexico including a fountain and a water trough. Its sides and centre are lined with small shops and stalls selling colourful dresses, oversized sombreros, serapes, piñatas, pottery, leather goods and a host of other Mexican trinkets to the nearly 2 million tourists that come to visit the street every year.

View south along Olvera Street towards the United Methodist Church

View south along Olvera Street towards the United Methodist Church


The fountain on Olvera Street

The fountain on Olvera Street


Colourful Mexican clothes on display outside a shop in Olvera Street

Colourful Mexican clothes on display outside a shop in Olvera Street


Colourful trinkets on sale in a shop on Olvera Street

Colourful trinkets on sale in a shop on Olvera Street

Olvera Street is also dotted with many Mexican Restaurants which have musicians strolling amongst their guests playing serenades. While Mexican restaurants are as a common in California as Indian Restaurants are in the UK somehow the ones on Olvera Street with all the Mexican culture around them feel like they have the most authentic setting than Mexican restaurants elsewhere.

Musicians serenading outside their restaurant in Olvera Street

Musicians serenading outside their restaurant in Olvera Street


Market stalls on Olvera Street

Market stalls on Olvera Street


More market stalls on Olvera Street

More market stalls on Olvera Street

The following morning I flew to Denver from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and managed to get a picture of its futuristic icon the googie style "Theme Building" built in 1961 before I took off. The building (which has been heritage listed since 1992) was never intended or used as a control tower and is actually a restaurant suspended beneath two arches that form the legs.

The googie style 'Theme Building' at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

The googie style 'Theme Building' at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Posted by FrancisRTW 02:00 Archived in USA Tagged churches museums food markets california sport city chinese missions mexican earthquakes film_locations Comments (0)

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