Day 3 – A treasure buried in black sticky stuff

29/30 July 2012

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

On Sunday morning I enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Tart Restaurant next to the hotel having a ‘Californian Scrumble’ which I can highly recommend. The waiter also seemed to be very happy about my choice. After check-out and picking up my rental car from valet parking I went to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels which I visited first time in 2010. For attendance at Sunday mass a public parking garage offers 3 hours free parking – what a service for the service. 🙂 This time, after mass, I had a look at the Crypt Mausoleum and St. Vibiana’s Chapel below the Cathedral church. According to the cathedral’s website the mausoleum is the only one worldwide offering to not just a “privileged few” 1275 full casket and 4794 urn spaces for burials.

Grand Park of Downtown Los Angeles

I also made a small walk around the block to have a look at the new Grand Park of Downtown Los Angeles the first part of which was opened just a few days ago. On Sunday the opening was celebrated with live music in the Park.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Located north above of the park is the Los Angeles Music Center with the fancy-looking Walt Disney Concert Hall. The large (72 stops, 109 ranks) concert organ inside (I haven’t seen, unfortunately) looks like an exploded bunch of french fries.

For the afternoon I decided to see some science stuff including a museum at the Miracle Mile of Wilshire Boulevard: the La Brea Tar Pits with the George C. Page Museum located within Hancock Park (just next to the previously announced screening location). On my way there, not far from downtown Wilshire Blvd crosses MacArthur Park – regarding the weather conditions the chances of someone leaving cake out in the rain were very little. 😉

Besides physics, I am very much interested in geology and the aforementioned Lahn Marble of my home region is an outstanding sample of a 380 Million year old fossil reef. The tar pits are natural sources of liquid asphalt which emerges from crude oil of Salt Lake Oil Field seeping up through the 6th Street Fault while the lighter petroleum fractions evaporate and biodegrade.

Methane bubble emerging from sticky asphalt of La Brea Tar Pits

The latter is also responsible for the formation of methane bubbling out of the tar pits. Though the bubbles make the asphalt appear boiling it is in fact cold (and there’s no volcano underneath).

Huge methane bubble at Lake Pit (La Brea Tar Pits)

Huge methane bubbles come out the water-filled Lake Pit. La Brea is one of the richest fossil sites of the late Pleistocene epoch (last glacial period) preserving extinct species of mammals and birds as well as plants. Excavations started at the beginning of the 20th century and are still active up to now.

Inside Page Museum at La Brea Tar Pits

Next to the tar pits in Hancock Park is The George C. Page Museum, part of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. It includes a rich exhibition of fossils from the site and provides information about fauna and flora of the late Pleistocene and the history of La Brea. The most prominent species are the Columbian mammoth and the Smilodon, a sabre-toothed cat. A unique feature of the Page Museum is the glass-walled Fishbowl Lab where visitors can witness paleontologists working on the fossils. Outside the museum are life-size models of prehistoric animals at the tar pits.

George C. Page Museum

Atrium of George C. Page Museum

I also liked the architecture of this museum which opened in 1977. The exhibition area is half underground surrounded by a square frustum covered with lawn. It is illuminated from inside by a nice atrium square with tropical plants and water features. The atrium is open to the sky with a ‘floating’ steel construction aloft which supports a circumferential bas-relief depicting Pleistocene flora and fauna.

The ‘Jumbo Jet’ 747

At about 3 p.m. it was time to leave La Brea heading to the airport area: return of the rental car, check-in and waiting for boarding (while writing parts of this blog). LAX offers free internet access – something other airports should consider as well! Eventually, at 7 p.m. the airplane was ready for take-off and the 10-hour direct flight to Frankfurt. Boeing 747 is a messy sardine can compared to the A380 but that comparison may be a little unfair. At least, I survived and Lufthansa’s service was similarly good as on Friday. “Chicken or pasta?” “Pasta!” Wine was for free (I had a German Riesling – they know about good wines).

Ac cloud layer with sunset ‘underglow’

I had a last look from my window place over the widespread moloch L.A. Sunset was beautiful with an interesting effect on a medium-low cloud layer. Usually, one can enjoy the colourful illumination of the cloud basis by the setting sun from below. Now, I had a look from above, where the clouds appeared in a bluish grey but with orange glow through some gaps looking like a lava flow.

Highway A3 and ICE trail in the ‘Goldener Grund’ area

Despite of the noise I found some sleep (before I tried to figure out how to with the jet lag – but it worked better than expected). For entertainment, I watched ‘Russendisko’, a nice rather new film comedy after the autobiographic novel by Wladimir Kaminer. In the early afternoon (local time) ‘Good Old Germany’ came into sight and I took some final photos of my home region. The route from L.A. to Frankfurt was not following a great circle but rather the jet stream heading eastwards. Thanks to tailwind (ground speed up to 1000 km/h) we arrived ahead of time:

Wachtturm-Gesellschaft, Selters/Taunus

Limburg Süd ICE station

Deboarding and baggage claim went fast enough that I caught an ICE train back to Limburg one hour earlier. During the 17-minute ride I spotted the German headquarter of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Selters/Taunus.

This was my 2012 three-day coast-to-coast USA adventure. I enjoyed it pretty much and I’m looking forward seeing ‘I Am I’ in a German movie theatre some time and of course I’m curious about the new TBBT episodes of the 6th season starting in September. 🙂

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