10,000-STEP TOUR: Downtown L.A.

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Walt Disney Concert Hall is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Opened in 2003, it was designed by Frank Gehry.

tourI wanted to see the Walt Disney Concert Hall. And the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. So I rushed up Bunker Hill to get there for the 10:15 tour.

Silly me. I had to pick the morning thousands of children of all ages descended on the place for an annual arts day. There would be no tour for me.

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The tent at the lower left isn’t usually there. On the day I visited, thousands of children were creating art, listening to music and watching plays—inside and outside of the Disney Hall.

But it was a staggeringly beautiful way to my 10,000-step tour of downtown Los Angeles. Designed by Frank Gehry, it’s a whirlwind of silvery curves, the stainless steel surface glinting in the hot Los Angeles sun. Downright sexy—can a building be sexy? I slipped inside for a peek of the lobby but couldn’t get a step farther inside. Want to see more of this curvaceous beauty? Check out my Instagram pix.

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Our Lady of the Angels, the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, opened in 2002.

I had been advised by a knowledgeable Angeleno to go see the new Catholic cathedral only a block or two away. Opened only a year before, it would provide a good contrast, he said. And it was. Both buildings are cathedrals, really. One celebrates the performing arts, the other faith.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels replaces St. Vibiana’s Cathedral which was seriously damaged in the 1994 earthquake. It is stunningly modern with cheeky little tributes to angels. I visit cathedrals and churches all the time. You can’t go to a big city without peeking into these marvels of faith and craftsmanship, can you? I always do, anyway.

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Try as I might I couldn’t find the name of the artist who created this wonderful piece.

I was taken by a wonderful sculpture of St. Joseph and the child Jesus in a light moment.  Step-father is looking right at the boy with a laugh on his face. In niches around the church are an altar to Our Lady of Guadalupe, a statue of Our Lady of the Angels and an ornate altar screen created in the 1600s. That last feature, an intricately carved panel that holds statutes and a tabernacle, seems almost out of place in this concrete-block church. In the lower level are a small church to St. Vibiana. (I had to look her up in Wikipedia: “Pope Pius IX chose the Cathedral’s name, choosing third-century Roman martyr Saint Vibiana. Cathedrals traditionally contained the relics of a saint, so the remains of St. Vibiana were removed from the Catacombs of Rome and moved to a gilt and plate glass sarcophagus located in a niche above the high altar.” That sarcophagus is now in the cathedral’s lower level. ) I posted lots of photos from this visit on my Instagram account.)

The rest is devoted to a mausoleum. Most of it is empty. But I found the resting place for Bishop Carl Fisher, SSJ. I last came to Los Angeles to cover his installation as auxiliary bishop here. He had been a Baltimore pastor and was a truly great man.

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This doorway, Dance Door by Robert Graham, frames City Hall, across Grand Park.

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This appealed to the writer in me. A display made from books at The Last Bookstore.

After that, I wandered through the Grand Park, took a look at the iconic City Hall (but didn’t see Sgt. Friday), and decided my last stop had to be The Last Bookstore. A whimsical place and a cathedral of a sort to books. Books are not only to be read here. They are turned into a tunnel you can walk through, a porthole you can look through. Even the check out counter is built of books. More pictures are on Instagram.

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A detail on the side of the Los Angeles Times building.

Downtown is a curious mix of gleaming new skyscrapers and historic buildings whose decoration will warm any art-loving heart. When my 10,000 steps were done, my feet were tired, but my soul was elated with all I had seen.

Ⓒ Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman

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