Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Strangers in a Strange Land

I’m a huge fan of mass transportation when I’m not in Southern California, so when my good friend/neighbor suggested we take a Sunday day trip to Los Angeles via the Metrolink, the wannabe New Yorker inside of me jumped for joy.

Even though downtown Los Angeles is only 35 miles away from the Santiago Lofts; I personally can count the times I’ve been there on one hand.

Perhaps it’s been the dreaded (potential) 2-hour crawl up the 5 freeway that makes me turn the other way and drive to my hometown of sunny San Diego.

But, with a train station in our backyard, and gas prices running at an all time high, it would be foolish to not take advantage of the Metrolink.

A weekend roundtrip ticket to Union Station and back runs you $11.50. Being that most cars average around 25mpg, not to mention the reduced stress of not having to drive on California’s dangerous cell phone-plagued freeways, this price is a steal.

Our trip began with the 10:49AM train departing the Santa Ana station–which if you don’t know, is a Nerf football’s throw from the loft sales office on Santiago Street.

The hour-long trip passed quickly and in no time our train arrived on time at Union Station at 11:50AM. From there we stopped for lunch at Philippe’s for some delicious sandwiches (you can read Elmo Monster’s wonderful review of the restaurant/adventure here) just a few minutes walk from the train depot.

Are you taking notes here City of Santa Ana?

After lunch, we headed back to Union Station and took the Red Line Subway (free with the Metrolink ticket, though no one ever stopped to check us) to 7th Street and walked a few blocks until we arrived at the South Park Flea Market.

Unfortunately, the flea market was just a small showing of vendors so what we thought would be an all-day event ended up being thirty minutes, at most.

So we headed back to the 7th Street Station where we reversed course and took the Red Line back to Union Station where we walked across the street to check out historic Olvera Street.

The piazza had live music that packed in many spectators and the street (cart) vendors were out in full force. It seemed like this was business as usual and weekend events held at Olvera Street are wonderful tourist traps–something our own Fiesta Marketplace could learn a lot from.

After some quick shopping, the Santiago gang ventured up Cesar E Chavez Avenue where we eventually found ourselves in Chinatown.

Our group ventured into the middle building pictured above to pick up some delicious "snackies" while escaping the 90-degree weather.

Afterward, we decided it was time to head back to Union Station where we caught the 4:30PM train back home, arriving promptly in Santa Ana at 5:20PM.

The simplicity, comfort and convenience or the Metrolink is one of those luxuries I’m hoping to take advantage of more often. Though I don’t think I’ll ever be able to 100% do away with my car in California, it’s definitely a goal worth trying.

California’s car-culture has a tendency to make us forget that some of life’s best adventures aren’t always the destination, but the journey itself.

If you're thinking of planning a car-free weekend trip, check out the Metrolink schedule here.


Stephen Manning said...


Anonymous said...

This past Saturday we also took the train up to LA from the Laguna Niguel station. Our destination: Thai Town, which is just a couple of hops up the Red Line once you get to Union Station.

A word of advice for would-be foodie travelers would be to bring a couple backpacks (one per person works well) or some extra grocery bags so you can haul your goodies back home and keep your environmental impact to a minimum. Pack some sun screen, a refillable bottle of water (stop buying single-use bottles of water, friend), a book, and some tunes and you're ready to go.

We are in absolute agreement in the convenience, cheap cost, and numerous food and shopping options you have when you ride the train and Metro. With a little planning you can fill an entire day with new experiences--and fill your stomach with great food!

DG said...

Ive done this a couple times, and its great. I took the train to Downtown LA once for Charles Phoenix's "Disneyland" tour (CharlesPhoenix.com) and the train schedule synced up perfectly. Another time, me and my girl went up and barhopped all over Downtown, went to a club in Hollywood, spent the night at The Standard, and took the train back to SA the next morning. Go Amtrak!!

Anonymous said...

I am so jealous.

You are all buttholes.

Anonymous said...

Another trip that my wife and I have made is to take the Red Line to universal city, pop-up to ground level, walk across the street and take the free shuttle up to City Walk.