The Festival of Books lured us to downtown LA on April 13-14. We stayed at The Biltmore (courtesy of my wonderful son). Although old (1923), it’s a lovely hotel, and walking distance to everything we wanted to do and see and eat. Festival of Books was on the USC campus so to that we had to drive.
An author/artist friend was exhibiting at the Festival so his booth was our first stop. We attended a couple of crime writing panels, a cooking demonstration by the Lee Brothers, drank $6.00 lemonades, ate some food truck sandwiches, wandered through hundreds of booths, listened to the USC Marching Band, and did a lot of people watching.
This Festival of Books is quite a big deal. I have been wanting to go for years, but it took a friend’s involvement to get me off my butt for the drive to LA. Jennifer had never been as well, so she was my partner in crime for the weekend.
We ate at Baco Mercat on Saturday night. It came highly recommended. We had no reservations so we sat at the bar. Service and food (listed as Mediterranean) were very good. We started with Ricotta Fritters with saffron honey, cacique, and pine nuts. Entrée for Jennifer was Skirt Steak with creamy cauliflower, fennel, watercress and horseradish. I enjoyed a very tasty Fried Chicken Schnitzel Sandwich with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and garlic aioli. Jennifer’s steak was wonderfully tender and flavorful.
Our only tickets on Sunday at the Festival of Books was to see Walter Mosley – one of my all-time favorite crime writers. He was ill, so I missed out of what would have been the highlight of the Festival for me. So, back at the hotel we had plenty of time to go on an architectural and art tour of the LA Central Library. After reading Susan Orleans’ “The Library Book” about the library’s history and the devastating fire in 1986, I was anxious for a tour. Located across from the Biltmore, it was well worth the price of admission (free!!). The place is huge and amazing! There are murals on most of the walls, and the ceilings are a marvel of color and design. The walls of the elevators were lined with cards from the old card catalogs. A bank of those old file cabinets is on display in the lobby. There is a bronze of Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) in the Social Science and Philosophy section. I don’t think I ever knew what he looked like.
A surprise addition to our weekend was the High Tea in the Biltmore lobby on Sunday. Our experience here was quite interesting and worth its own separate blog for a later date. We sat down for Prosecco and an amuse bouche at 4pm. Four bottles of Prosecco and 3 refills on the tea sandwiches and scones later, we left the table and staggered to our room at 8:30pm — happy and too full for dinner!!
We actually felt great on Monday morning, so we walked the Bunker Hill steps, ate breakfast at Jose Chiquito in Grand Central Market (open since 1917), had iced tea at the Blue Bottle, took photos in the iconic Bradbury Building, rode Angels Flight ($1.00), and walked through California Plaza. We checked out of the Biltmore at 12:30 with smiles on our faces. We had a great time.
There was a lot of reminiscing for me as I spent many a time visiting my grandmother when I was young, riding the Angels Flight and walking to Pershing Square. She lived in an apartment on Irolo Street in the late 1940s . According to the internet, that street is in Koreatown. I took pictures of the Felix Chevrolet sign which has been a landmark at Jefferson and Flower for decades. The Shrine Auditorium near the USC campus is where I saw Elvis Presley in 1956! Clifton’s Cafeteria is on the old Route 66. An early family abode on 126th Street is in the area now known as Watts. Parts of 88th and 60th Streets are still residential areas, but the blocks on which lived are now part of the 110 Freeway. We also lived on Figueroa behind my daddy’s hotdog stand in 1949. I went to Manchester Avenue Elementary School (it’s still there), and I walked the 6 blocks or so home every day.
The Other Thing – Downtown LA to me is charming, eclectic, architecturally unique and full of history. So many OC residents in my acquaintance turn up their noses at the very thought of going there. Not me – every visit is an adventure!