Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Day on the Gold Line, From South Pasadena to Union Station

Some weekends, you just want to break the rut. Even if that means simply choosing another Target ("Hmm, we hit the Empire Center Target last week, so let's drive over to the Pasadena one!")

But lately, Maria and I have been trying to mix things up even more -- while at the same time making sure Evan is properly entertained.

Enter the Gold Line. After a morning at our usual weekend haunt, the kid-friendly Swork coffeehouse in Eagle Rock, we drove on to the Mission St. collection of stores in South Pasadena. As Evan fell asleep in the stroller, Maria and I checked out a few of the shops -- including a collectibles shop that specialized in old magazines, trinkets and books (I bought a 1981 3rd grade history textbook on Los Angeles -- including some cool shots of the Civic Center circa 1940s -- for $1!).

Then, after we exhausted the Mission St. stores, we parked the car for good (free 3-hour parking) and jumped on the Gold Line, headed toward Union Station. At just $1.25, the Gold Line was worth its weight in... er, gold. Evan loved riding the choo-choo (he hasn't yet learned the term "light rail rapid transit") and smiled from ear to ear for the entire journey. (Yes, this is the effect Thomas the Tank Engine is having on our nation's youth.)

We arrived at Union Station, where Evan had no interest in seeing where Mommy and Daddy got married (the old Fred Harvey restaurant). So we crossed to Olvera Street, where the colors, sights and sounds kept Evan enthralled. After waiting for 15 minutes at La Golondrina Cafe for a table, we left (trust me, the food isn't worth the price there anyway -- and the margaritas aren't cheap. We dodged a bullet) and headed down to La Luz del Dia (West 1 Olvera).

Above, both Maria and I ordered the #6 platter -- coincidentally, a favorite of Charles Phoenix's. (A few months ago, on another adventurous Saturday, we hit downtown's Clifton's Cafeteria -- another kitschy favorite of pop culture enthusiast Phoenix.)

La Luz del Dia offers some of the more authentic food on Olvera Street, which admittedly is a tourist trap. But I've always thought that Olvera was at least a tastefully managed tourist trap. And it still boasts a ton of history, including the Avila Adobe -- L.A.'s oldest existing structure, and one we finally stepped inside for the first time on Saturday.

But back to La Luz del Dia. Our #6 platter came with carnitas, guacamole and salsa, rice and beans, and two fresh tortillas. ($6.24 -- quite a good deal). The real bargain, however, are the tamales. We got Evan a pork tamale for $1 -- and were impressed by both the size and by the taste. We also purchased a sweet corn tamale, also for just a $1.

Later, we couldn't resist stopping by Mr. Churro for a fresh, just deep-fried cinnamon and sugar churro. We also walked around the plaza, where dancers were performing, and stuck our head inside the Pico House.

Eventually it was time to jump back to Union Station and take the Gold Line back to our car. Once back in South Pasadena, we did a bit more exploring (above, a statue at the Mission St. stop dwarfs everyone -- especially Evan). We checked out South Pasadena's main library (impressive and beautiful on the outside, but tragically sporting a 1970s-era renovation on the inside).

After that, we made it home (eventually -- after passing through Hermon). Evan's still talking about the train -- I'm sure we'll be taking another Gold Line ride soon.

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