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Visiting San Pedro and DTLA (May 18th 2019)

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Un cert-volant flotte au dessus de San Pedro.

Today we’ll be visiting San Pedro and Long Beach before heading back to downtown Los Angeles. My sleep is not of the best quality. The Los Angeles AirBnB apartment where we’re spending the night overlooks downtown, and the noise of the cars keeps me awake part of the night. At 6:30 a.m., I get up with my eyes ringed. 

Today’s program: visiting Long Beach, San Pedro and downtown Los Angeles

This morning, we meet in Long Beach, south of downtown, to have breakfast with Martin. This American is a friend I met here five years ago. He put me up at his place in Long Beach, and it was thanks to him that I had my first barbecue in the States. We’ve kept in touch and communicate regularly via WhatsApp. When I was planning my trip, and knew I’d be passing through L.A., I immediately contacted him to arrange a time to meet up. 

Sarah and I will take the opportunity to visit nearby Long Beach and San Pedro, as I did last time. Afterwards, we’ll come back downtown for a stroll and a few photos.

Reunion with my friend Martin

It takes us half an hour to drive the 25 miles to Long Beach, but more than 20 minutes to find parking. Martin is already waiting for us at Roscoe’s House of Chicken ‘n Waffles, an establishment specializing in chicken and waffles. Numerous celebrities and businessmen have already tried their hand at this restaurant. Our reunion is not without a certain emotion, and I make the introductions – Sarah and Martin don’t yet know each other. I’m reacquainted with the affectionate, warm and profoundly kind man I’d left behind five years earlier. 

Waffles and chicken… for breakfast!

When we consult the menu, my friend invites us to order the Obama special, a menu consisting of three chicken wings with a waffle, accompanied by a lemon-orange lemonade. Sarah and I follow his advice, although the idea of mixing these foods would never have occurred to us.

We have a long chat, he tells me what he’s been through in the last five years, insisting that he still spends a lot of time entertaining CouchSurfers – which is how I met him – and we tell him how the birth of our daughters has affected our lives, in a positive way. When our dishes are served, we take a first bite, shyly, but find the preparation very interesting and finish our plates.

To visit Long Beach… you have to find a parking space!

After a long time together, we say our goodbyes – I hope to have lunch together again in five years’ time – and then go our separate ways. Sarah and I wanted to go for a walk in Long Beach and see the Queen Mary, the British transatlantic liner named after Queen Mary de Teck and now converted into a museum and hotel. We get back in the car and head for the port, but we can’t find any free parking. 

Vincent Thomas Bridge

After a long spell of circling, we give up and head for San Pedro, which turns out to be our next stop. We pass over an impressive bridge – the Vincent Thomas Bridge, the fourth longest suspension bridge in California – and skirt the Port of Los Angeles. The port is immense.

Visiting San Pedro and Cabrillo Beach

Unlike Long Beach, we easily find space in a San Pedro parking lot to park the Mitsubishi. We decide to continue on foot. We’re next to Cabrillo Beach, which I came to see in 2014 because of its presence in the TV series Chuck. I’d shot some photos and seen three weddings by the water in the process. For me, it’s the ideal spot to get married. 

Cabrillo Marina

Along the way, we passed a small, friendly marina reminiscent of the South of France. And today, it’s not a wedding we’re attending, but a christening in a festive atmosphere, taking place in the Pacific Ocean. Again, it’s interesting, and if I decide to baptize my daughters, this is how I’d like it to be. 

Sharks in San Pedro?

A little further on, on the stretch of beach I’d chosen to spend some time on five years earlier, and as Sarah takes my photo – to take the same shot as before, with five years more for the subject and in front of palm trees that have grown a lot since then – I spot what look like fins in the water. Could they be sharks? Concerned and surprised, I tell Sarah to turn around – they’re very close to the beach. On closer inspection, we realize that it’s actually a pod of half a dozen dolphins. They’re swimming about twenty meters from us. It’s incredible.

An extremely rare phenomenon in the San Pedro sky

A little later, as I lift my eyes to the sky – not that Sarah is talking nonsense, just to look at the sun – I notice that a halo has formed around the sun. Thinking at first that I’d imagined the scene, I look again and it’s a bit like a rainbow going around the sun. Another thing I find very surprising and powerful. After querying Google on my smartphone, I understand that this is in fact a rare meteorological phenomenon that appears under certain conditions. Luck definitely seems to be on our side today! 

We’re taking our time to experience this moment as much as we can, feeling the warmth of the sand beneath our feet, getting as close as we can to the dolphins in the cold water and, quite simply, experiencing simple but powerful emotions in this magical place. The ideal spot to propose marriage, I think about it for a moment… but I’m not sufficiently prepared and don’t dare take the plunge. What a shame!

Visiting San Pedro Park

Moments later, we return to the car to find Angels Gate Park near the tip of San Pedro, which I had also explored on my previous trip. We park our rental car a little way out of the way, allowing us to explore the surrounding streets. Then, we enter the park and immediately observe the sublime ocean view, with cargo ships frequently passing in the distance. 

We take a series of shots and find our dolphins – the same group we had spotted at Cabrillo Beach earlier is here, showing off their fins and making a few leaps out of the water. 

A touch of Asia in San Pedro

Then, after taking a very unusual dirt road, we (re)discover the Korean Friendship Bell. This is a $500,000 bronze gift from the Republic of Korea to the Americans in 1967. It symbolize the friendship between the two countries. Next to us, parents wave kites with their children – it’s fun. We make our way back down to the car, get some gas and head back to Los Angeles.

Elysian Park

Our next stop is another park, one of the largest in Los Angeles: Elysian Park. Part of it was used to build Dodger’s Stadium, the home team’s baseball stadium. Today, the vast park is a popular place for children to celebrate their birthdays with friends and family.

Indeed, it’s common here to celebrate an event in a public park. By the way, we’d already seen it a few minutes earlier in San Pedro Park. On this occasion, the family brings along some of those red cups you often see in American TV series, balloons, etc. Sometimes there are even ephemeral shelters in case of bad weather. Some even bring a bouncy castle. Parents of invited children usually stay behind to help out. One of the children celebrating his birthday is 4 years old, and the tablecloths and decorations are about Spiderman. We spot an ice-cream vendor’s vehicle, which seems to be in the right place at the right time.

In the end, we don’t stay long in Elysian Park, even though it’s an interesting park. We are indeed getting tired. We head back to our AirBnB for a 15-minute rest before setting off again, this time on foot, for the city center.

Visiting downtown Los Angeles

We cross Grand Park, an area located in the Civic Center district, with a bit of greenery amidst the skyscrapers. There is also a large fountain and a breathtaking view of City Hall. Here, many graduating seniors, those students who are about to celebrate the end of their studies, prepare for their prom. 

Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles

We head off to the Walt Disney Concert Hall to take a few shots. The building, valued at $100 million, lends itself particularly well to photography. Students come here accompanied by professional photographers. As we look down from a balcony of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, we can admire flowering trees with green and purple leaves. There are almost as beautiful as those on the terraces where we are standing. Then, we pass the tall buildings that make up this world-famous skyline. We spend some time appreciating the grandeur of the buildings around us, feeling infinitely small.

A stroll through downtown Los Angeles

We linger at the California Plaza. Then, a little later come upon the Angels Flight Railway, the historic funicular railway I recently spotted in the Bosch series. Continuing our stroll, we witness a film shoot. An intersection is completely closed to traffic. We stop at Buddie’s, an address recommended by the LA Weekly. We’ll take a burger with fries, a Key Lime Pie for Sarah and a chocolate milkshake for me. The quantities seem small (especially for American meals), but it does the trick.

On the way back, as the sun is slowly setting and the artificial lights are about to take over, we pass through Grand Park again, admire City Hall, enjoy the colors of the lights just starting to come on in the pond next to Starbucks Coffee, then walk back to our AirBnB room. We finally arrive, tired but happy from the day’s hiking. It’s time to admire the view of the skyline from the apartment’s pool. The view is sumptuous!

Today, we walked 25,704 steps (13.3 miles) and drove 78 miles.