Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Arboretum visit

After the Huntington Garden's presentation, I will now present the other well known garden in Pasadena : the Arboretum.

The Arboretum is a 126 acre garden which was opened to public in 1956. You were able to see it in the movie Jurassic Park or in the last Katty Perry's movie clip "Roar". As the Huntington Garden, plants are gathered depending on their geographic origins but this is less exotically organized. Nevertheless, you may find very beautiful plants, many peacocks and even an hunted house !!

Peacocks are the descendants of those introduced when the site was bought. In any event, they are omnipresent in the park and not shy...

"You talkin' to me ?"
"Who the fuck do you think you're talking to ??"
What a rude peacock !!
Few examples of flowers that you can see in the Arboretum

Once a month, there is a free entrance and we took the chance to spend time with the girls of the Caltech Spouseclub who usually are stuck at home withe their children. Here are some pictures of our group.

The Spouseclub's walk

Monday, April 28, 2014

A day in Universal Studios

Today, I present you the Universal Studios Hollywood ! A must-have if you like fairs and cinema !

Plan your visit !

How long should you stay ?

I advise to stay 1 entire day from the opening (or even 1 hour before, because some attractions open early)  to the closing (the hours change according to the day, you can find them here). We stayed from 11 am to 5:30 pm but without break and with the "Gate A" pass. And it was enough to see the main attractions, but not all.

What pass should I take ?

When we went the first time, my aunt offered us the "Gate A" pass which was great, but it allowed us to cut the line and to seat in the front row. It's quite expensive ($139-$159), but this is really a great deal if you're only here for one day.

If you're living here, it's better to take a 1 day pass ($84_If you're in Caltech, you can have discounts). Indeed, the 1 day pass allows you to return as much as you want during the year (except during certain days), so it might be a good idea to have time to see everything without spending too much money !

Take a tour in the park !

Universal Studios Hollywood are 20min away from Pasadena. There is a part only for the studios and a part for the attractions. 
Universal studios from above
The park itself is a classical, except that the decor and the characters are linked with Universal (Shrek, Simpsons, Transformers, Jurassik Park, etc.) and that the fun has more to do with movies and special effects than rides. This is perfect for me, but if you're more the 6 flags kind, pass your way.

Jibouille as a worker
Discussion between two actors
Here is what we've done during our day :
  • Studio Tour
We began our day with a visit of the studios, which is a is a ride in a bus between the sets.
The bus tour begins with the storehouses and the closed sets first, then goes into the open sets. We saw for example which sets were used for "Back to the Future !!".

Did you recognize the "Back To the Future" townhall ??
We arrived then in front of a cars collection, and watch a little show :

Then we arrive in a jungle forest and enter a tunnel where we see a fight between a T-Rex and Kingkong. This is really impressive !
Here is a video I found on youtube. It 'll give you on idea, but imagine that everything is in 3D and that you're completely surrendered by the screen. We even feel the T-Rex's slobber...:-)

After the thrill, we arrive in a quiet mexican town...until water comes !!

Mexican town and cowboy town side by side
After, we visit other sets including Jaws Lake and Wisteria Lane and we end in a subway station...

Jaws lake
Amity island
Wisteria lane (houses were only front before, but the shows worked so well, that real houses were built !)

After this frightening simulation, we visit other sets specially built for disaster movies. 
Crash plane

destroyed house
  • The Simpsons Ride
This attraction looks like a little to what can be done at the Futuroscope (Poitiers, France): you are in a moving seat with a 360 screen which give you the feeling to do roller coasters with the Simpsons. This is well made and thrill-seekers can enjoy it (i.e. those who do not close their eyes during the ride...).
  • Animals Actors
This show stages trained animals for movie purposes. It presents an overlook of work methods and what animals can do. Jibouille filmed the full show. So, if you enjoy that, here is the video below. Pictures are better than words!

  • Special effects stage
This show highlights the different technics to make old and new special effects. This is well done but there is not enough explanations in my point of view. In conclusion, you will have fun, but you will hardly learn something. 
  • Transformers : The Ride
This ride is very similar to the Simpson one except that doing roller coasters, you are in the middle of a battle with Optimus Prime instead!
  • Waterworld
Show mixing fire and water, fights and romance. The story is not very interesting but there are beautiful stunts and the show is performed to the "american way", i.e. set to the millimeter (among other things, the flight went straight in front of us, we really thought that they missed!)
Flight which went straight in front of us
  • Shrek 4-D
This ride is one of the most succeeded! To recap, you are like in a cinema and you follow the adventures of Shrek and Donkey who try to save the Princess Fiona. Except that it is a 4D experience, i.e. the movie is in 3D and both water and air are pulsed to you to think that something touches you. You really believe it! For instance, once lots of spiders are falling on you and thanks to the pulsed air you have really the feeling that they are slipping through your legs! In conclusion, we truly recommend this show!
  • Jurrassik Park : the ride
Short aquatic ballad into the Jurassic Park. This is little bit disappointing because there is not enough action! 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Downtown L.A.

Downtown L.A....Did you say Downtown L.A. ??

Downtown maps (I didn't find twice the same !)
Downtown L.A. is L.A. center, even if it has nothing to do with the French idea of a city center. Indeed, L.A. is not like Paris or most french cities and isn't organized around a center. Instead, L.A. is more a juxtaposition of neighborhoods (I will explain later in an other post how L.A. is organized). 
Downtown is the district you can easily recognize with its buildings and its central position. But don't wait for something like La Défense and its buildings along an axis. Downtown is once again a juxtaposition of districts, such as :
  •  Financial District, Industrial District, Jewelry District, Toy District and Wholesale District 
  •  Arts District : District with artists, 
  •  Bunker Hill : Tourist area with operas, parks and skycrapers, 
Wikipedia picture
  •  Skid Row : THE homeless area ; we went here once and honestly I was quite scared. Nevertheless, I saw a very good documentary about it (Skid Row, the Lost Angels of L.A.) which show this area with less prejudice. Even knowing that there are interesting people here, I won't be able to go in it without an organization. But if you're less yellow belly than I am and if you want to see another face of L.A., I think this is a good place to go. 
Skid row and demonstrations for the homeless rights
  •  Civic Center : administrative heart of L.A.
  •  Fashion District : Place similar to the Sentier in Paris where you can go either to designers or to wholesalers,
  •  Gallery Row : Museums and art galleries district.
  •  Historic core : Main district before the war, you can find here now many bars and nightclubs.
  •  Little Tokyo : Japanese district.
  •  South Park : Old industrial district henceforth housing the Staples Center and the Nokia Theater.
  •  El Pueblo : Old spanish Town

From the Pueblo to the City of Angels

The original town (El Pueblo) was founded by the Spanish. Then the city grew and met its golden age in the early XXth when its public transportation and its financial institution competed with NY. Back then, Downtown was a great place for culture and shopping with its numerous theaters and shops.

After the war, apparently because of the freeways construction which have impoverish the residential areas, Downtown became a paradise for homeless, gangs and junkies. Unfortunately, because of that, a lot of historic buildings and houses have been abandoned  and let without keep up. Some organizations are still today working to save them. 

For the last 15 years, Downtown is having a big make over (even if some people didn't like it and would like to keep the low class spirit). Many new buildings have been built, such as the Nokia Theater or the Walt Disney Center. Parks have been also updated or created like Grant Park. Downtown has become a nice place to walk, far from the ugly memory my grand mother had from the nineties !

Walk through Downtown

the path we took
A/ Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

Lady of the Angels is the catholic cathedral of L.A.. It has been built in 2002 to substitute to the old one, damaged by an earthquake.
If the building is a bit massive, the natural lightning inside has been well designed (We can't tell the same for the decoration though...). The cathedral is very bright and has a bewitching atmosphere. You can find outside a modern and nice garden. But let's see the pictures !

A building behind the cathedral that I like
the bell tower
a part of the garden
the cathedral
B/ Grand Park 

Grant Park reunited Bunker Hill and Civic Center districts.

Fountain and Civic Center
A Monarch !!
Coucou !
C/ Futur Broad Art Museum

I'm not a civil engineer for nothing and when I see a building site, I can't help : i want to know more ! So I went take a look on the future L.A. museum : the Broad Art Museum.
This museum will complete the museums of art and will allow the the visitors to enjoy for free Jeff Koon, Roy Lichtenstein or Jean-Michel Basquiat pieces of art. As for the building itself, it has been designed by Diller Scofidio+Renfro and will be delivered in early 2015. (I had another date, but if I understood everything, it has been postponed)
Oddly, the construction is more similar to the French one, than what I've seen before.

Broad Art Museum and Walt Disney Center
Broad Art Museum from de Hope st.
Apparently, the same technique as the one used for the new Opera Garnier restaurant
Des sprinklers, des sprinklers, toujours des sprinklers...


The Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the numerous art museum here. We didn't enter, but I disliked the building's architecture. On the other hand, I laughed a lot with the pieces of art exposed outside !

Narcisse revisit...and more realistic !
Something wrong  ??
Artwalk (Somebody told us that L.A. was a flat town ???)