Los Angeles 2: Electric Boogaloo

While my first Los Angeles post was about Saturday night, most of what I’m including in this post took place on Friday.  We had arrived on Thursday night, and after a bit of sleep, we were ready to go see Los Angeles like proper tourists.

This awesome little Starbucks had just opened next to the hotel, and after briefly caffeinating, we were ready to go see the city.  (We sat on that deck once or twice, later in the weekend.  It’s really very nice.)

We started out a little before lunch, and Amelie’s friend Wendy met us at the metro station closest to the hotel.  We had a short list of things we wanted to see, so we set out on foot.  Halfway to our first destination, I realized that we were in front of the Webhosting company I’ve been using since about 2003.   Hi, Dreamhost!

We also walked right past The Bradbury Building, a lovely old built in 1893.

If this looks familiar to you, it’s probably because it’s used often in television, movies, literature, and even comics.  The Bradbury is where Sebastian’s apartment was located in Blade Runner, and there’s a Blade Runner sign posted near the stairwell detailing the movie’s production at the Bradbury Building.

Later in the day, we went to City Hall to take advantage of the free observation deck on the 27th floor.  I wish we had known that the night before this, they were shining the Bat Signal on City Hall in memory of the recently departed Adam West.  I would have liked to have seen that. Our visit was mid-afternoon on Friday, so no Bat Signal.

Across the street from City Hall is a signpost showing all of the sister cities of Los Angeles.

Once we went inside the Main Street entrance to City Hall, we went through metal detectors and checked in with the security desk.  First we took an express elevator to the 22nd floor, followed by another elevator to go up to 26.  On our way up, we saw the Mayor’s office, which in no way tempted us to knock.

After the elevator to floor 26,there’s one flight of stairs up to the observation level.  Inside, there’s a lectern set up, which leads to mugging for the camera, of course.  The first two are Amelie and her friend Wendy, and the third is me doing my best Shatner.  I’m not sure why podiums make me go full-Shat, but there it is.

Once we were done playing with the lectern, we went out to the observation part of the observation deck.  While City Hall isn’t the tallest building in LA, the observation deck goes all the way around the building for 360 degree views of Los Angeles.  You can even see all the wonderful LA traffic!

City Hall is just a block or two away from the Los Angeles Times, which gave us a pretty great view of that building.

This is the Walt Disney Concert Hall, a Frank Gehry building with a pretty interesting face.

Union Station is the main train station for Los Angeles.  We walked through it when we first reached LA the night before, and it’s a very pretty station.  It’s also much larger than I realized-  the red roof here is all part of the station, along with the many tracks behind it.

Here’s part of the Los Angeles skyline, as seen from City Hall.

The Hollywood sign and Griffith Park observatory are both visible from City Hall, but it was kind of hazy so this was the best shot I got on Friday.

I took a few dozen photos from the observation deck, but mostly it just looks like rambling cityscape.  Here’s a nice picture of tall LA buildings from sidewalk level.

During our walk on Friday, we also walked right past  the Angel’s Flight funicular.  It was originally opened in 1901 about a block away, and was moved to its current location in the mid-1990s. It’s been closed since 2013, but is currently being restored with some safety enhancements and should re-open later this year.  I’m sad it wasn’t open- I love a good funicular.

This next picture was not taken on the same day- this was a different part of our visit, where we were at a Hollywood metro station which was closer to the Griffith Observatory.  There’s a Dash bus line which runs between this metro station and the Observatory on a regular schedule.   You can actually see the very top of the Dash bus in the bottom edge of this photo.  Not pictured:  A tiny Rocketeer taking off from the Observatory to fight a Nazi zeppelin.

You can always tell where you are in LA by the decorations in the Metro.   Not sure you’re in the station closest to the Griffith Observatory?  Just look for starfields in the station’s rafters.

The last picture in this post is not related to anything else in the photo- it’s just a Korean restaurant where we had dinner on Sunday night.  We all thought the name of the place was pretty entertaining.  The food was delicious, if a bit zippy for my tastes.  I had Kimchi pancakes, and tried Soju, a clear Korean liquor that was similar to vodka.  Tasty stuff.

Have you been to Los Angeles City Hall? 

Tokyo’s Tallest, or Getting High In Japan

Given my well established love of very tall places, it is probably no surprise to anyone that I pointed out the view from Mori Tower in my Star Wars Visions post and the view from Granpark.  Mori Tower is the 12th tallest structure in Japan, and Granpark is the 25th tallest.

In Tokyo, there are many, many tall buildings.  During my time in Japan, I made certain to stop at as many tall places as possible.  Three of the tallest in Tokyo are Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree, and the twin observation decks of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Center.    This post is about my visits to these three.

I started with Tokyo Tower.  Tokyo Tower is painted white and international orange, the same color as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  This Eiffel Tower inspired structure was built in 1958, with a total height of 333 meters.  I visited the tower on an overcast day, approaching from the Akabanebashi station of the Metro.

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The Tokyo Tower has two mascots.  Older Brother is wearing the blue outfit, and Younger Brother is in the red.  They were introduced on December 23, 1998 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Tokyo Tower.

It is not at all clear to me why Older Brother has a bandaid on his head.

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Inside the tower, there are many shopping and tourism opportunities.

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A thick glass floor is set into one area of the tower so that you can reach the parking lot in a hurry if you need to.

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From the observation level of Tokyo Tower, I had a clear view of the Zojo-ji temple, less than a kilometer away.   I visited Zojo-ji on the same day, but I’ll be putting those photos in a separate post.

Anything further out than this was too hard to see, because of the very hazy air.

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Fans of the popular anime “One Piece” have a special exhibit to see on one of the lower levels of the tower.

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Distant viewing was useless during my visit because of the haze, but that didn’t stop other people from visiting.  The sign over this man’s head is pointing to Tokyo Disneyland, which I will also cover in a later post.

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Tokyo Tower shaped water bottles- pure marketing genius.

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The next tower in this post is Tokyo Skytree.  To go there, you will most likely see the Tokyo Skytree station, which has an advertisement for a Moomin Hosue Cafe.  I never had a chance to find the Moomins, but I wish I had.

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Tokyo Skytree is the tallest structure in Japan.  At 634 meters, it’s the tallest tower in the world, and the second tallest structure.  (Burj Khalifa is the tallest structure in the world, with nearly 200 meters of height over Skytree.  Still, this is damned impressive, don’t you think?)

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I waited for a sunny and clear day for my first three attempts to get into Skytree.

On the first try, I arrived later than I had planned and the line was insanely long.  I parsed several hours of waiting, so I opted to try again on a day that wasn’t a weekend.

On my second attempt, the line was also too long.  I needed to get to work, so couldn’t stay.  I decided to try to get there much earlier in the morning, closer to the tower’s opening time.

The third attempt was closer to successful-  I arrived much earlier in the day, and the lines were not so long.  However, the tower’s elevators had been closed due to high wind.  Strike three.

After my first three failed attempts to get into Skytree, my manager told me about the special foreigner line which is designed to allow tourists to bypass the longer lines by paying a slightly higher rate and showing their non-Japanese passport.  This turned out to be moot, though-  on my fourth and final attempt to see Skytree two days before leaving Japan, the weather was overcast and hazy so the lines weren’t very long anyway.

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Skytree has mascots, of course.  The girl is called Sorakara-chan.  I’m not sure about the dog or penguin.

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Tokyo Skytree has a glass floor panel as well.  This is definitely not for people with acrophobia.

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Despite the haze, you can still see Tokyo Tower in the distance, nesteled in amongst some other very tall buildings.

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The view was great, but I wish I’d managed to get up here on a clear day.

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My third and final tall building for this post is the ninth tallest structure in Japan.  The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku is split into two separate towers above the 33rd floor.  The elevators to the observation level are free, which was a nice change after spending money at Tokyo Tower and Skytree.

The day before I visited this building, it had rained a great deal.   There were moderately high winds, which blew out much of the haze from my other tower visits.

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In fact, the air was so clear over Tokyo that I was able to catch sight of Mt. Fuji!

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Don’t be deceived by my amazing camera zoom, though-  Fuji-san is still a long way from the center of Tokyo.  This is the same view as the previous picture, with significantly less zoom.

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The Kanda river.

 

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A longer view of the river.

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Tokyo is a very dense city, with many very tall buildings.

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They still manage to squeeze a lot of green spaces in,though.  I think this is Shinjuku Central Park.

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What’s the tallest building you’ve ever visited?

The Tokyo Robot Evening Cabaret Show

Perhaps one of the single most touristy things that I did in Japan was to go to the Tokyo Robot Evening Cabaret Show in the Kabukicho entertainment district of Shinjuku. This was the single most over-the-top show I’ve ever seen, without exaggeration.

It was on my walk to find this attraction that I spotted Godzilla on the Toho building.   I also liked the Taito Station building’s lights.

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I think that the people behind the Robot Cabaret Show had a brainstorming session to figure out what Americans would like, and then they put all of it into the show.  All of it.  Very colorful signs?  Check.

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A Daft Punk knockoff band in the waiting lounge before the show?  Check!

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A waiting room that looks like Las Vegas drank too much Absinthe and threw up all over the ceiling?  That’s a big check!

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Each admission to the show includes a ticket for a single drink.  I chose Ninja Lager, because it had ninjas on the bottle.

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After a little while, you are seated for the 90 minute show.  First up, Taiko drums!

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…with lots of led lights, naturally.

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It wouldn’t be Japan without a dragon, right?

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I think these guys were supposed to represent samurai warriors, but it wasn’t ever clear to me.

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Vaguely geisha-like dancing girls and punk-looking dancing girls on the same stage?  Check again!

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Kung-Fu Panda riding a giant Cow to fight the evil robots?  That’s a ridiculous check!

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Elemental girl riding a dragon…. because why not.

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She dismounts the dragon and fights the bad guy with a giant hammer thingie.

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Next up, a spider queen, I think.  You can tell because of all the extra arms.  And the giant spider.

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We can’t leave the giant sharks out of it.   They do their part in chomping the bad guys.

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Plus giant snakes.  I think the point was supposed to be that nature defended itself.

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Next, for some inexplicable reason, extremely creepy clowns!  Check!

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The Taiko drummers have returned with a regular drum set.

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In the second half of the show, we get more robots.  Lots more.

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Plus neon dancers.  These were pretty cool, actually.

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Just when you think it can’t possibly get more ridiculous, the Superman logos start to appear.  On the dancing girls.

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On the robot with the clown afro wig.

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It’s time for the big neon Superman robot finale!

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The robots and the Superman dancing girls are living in harmony now!

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The screens on the robots all have the Superman logo showing up on a field of stars now.

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Robot Superman himself does a fly-by, to shower his blessings of superness on the dancing girls and robots below.

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…and suddenly, it’s Superman logos everywhere!  Even on the walls behind the audience!

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Would Robot Superman win in a fight against Kung-Fu Panda riding a Giant Cow?

Berlin’s Number Two!

Well, not quite yet.  Paris is still number two, right behind London.  According to European Cities Marketing, however, Berlin’s popularity is growing faster than any other city based on the number of overnight stays recorded in the city.   The number of overnight stays in Berlin in 2013 is chomping at the heels of Paris for that number two spot:

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There is a more important reason that I’m looking at this chart though-  it’s a list!  Another checklist!  I’ve been to eight out of ten of these cities!  All I need is Madrid and Istanbul and I’ll have visited all ten!

Have you been to all ten of Europe’s most visited cities?

 

 

Nordic Adventure, Part 9: The Blue Lagoon

One of Iceland’s premiere tourist attactions is The Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa in a lava field.

It’s not far from the airport, and many people choose to stop there either on their way to or from the airport.  I chose to go there from the city, but I can see the appeal of combining this with your flight.   Once you arrive, there’s a small building where you can store your luggage if you’re in transit, then you walk through a path carved into the volcanic rock.

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Once you arrive, you pay your admission, then go change into a swimsuit.  If you didn’t bring one, don’t worry-  they’ll rent you one for a small fee.  Also on offer: Bathrobes, spa treatments, and massages.  The building in this photo is one of two or three places to get food and drink in the Blue Lagoon.

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The lagoon is man-made, and is fed from a nearby geothermal power plant.  The entire body of water is renewed roughly every two days.   The water is heated to around 98–102 °F, so there’s always steam coming off of the water.

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There’s a swim-up bar where you can get a beverage.  I had a rather tasty smoothie.

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The water is rich in minerals such as silica and sulfur, and has been shown to have positive effects for skin problems like psoriasis.  Lots of the people in the water had used the silica mud from special pots around the bathing area to make little clay masks.  It’s supposedly very good for your skin.

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Once you’re thoroughly prune-fingered, it’s time to get out and get something to eat.   I had a nice panini sandwich at the Blue Cafe.

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As you’re leaving, you have one last chance to look at the crystal blue waters of the Blue Lagoon.

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Have you ever been to a geothermal spa?