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Sunset Stroll

Star ting out on foot to explore LA’s famed Sunset Boulevard, a local reconnects with his city’s histor y while discovering a melting pot of neighbourhoods along the way


At 6.27am, I stood in the shadow of LA's Union Station.

Framed by slender Mexican fan palms and stylishly illuminated, its Spanish arches and bell tower glowed a deep blue. 'I'm walking to the beach,' I mentioned to a security guard nearby. My destination was 26 miles away down a single street.

Sunset Boulevard.

'Good luck with that,' she said dismissively. I shrugged, turned toward the Terminal Annex post office across the street, where drunken laureate, Charles Bukowski, worked for 12 years and where his classic novel, Post Office, takes place, and thought about my town.

I'm a rare third-generation Angeleno, and when people ask what I love about LA, I say it's the most open-minded city in America. That's both a blessing and a curse. In Los Angeles you can do anything, become anyone. Industries, religions, cults and fads have been invented and re-invented here, along with countless faces, bodies, lives and careers. Yet, it lacks cohesion. It's a city of distinct neighbourhoods quilted together, which makes it daunting for a visitor. Our gifts are often cloaked and overlooked.

Sunset Boulevard bridges many of those barrios and operates as a portal to the city's soul. It's teeming with artists and immigrants, rebels and renegades, dreamers and superstars. I know because I've walked it before, back in March 1999, when I had a day job and fantasised of writing my way around the world. Since then I've enjoyed a few successes, earned some battle scars, and now that LA has hit a millennial-driven cultural renaissance, I was interested in what had changed.

An Art Deco portal at Union Station. Right: Dodger Stadium seats 56,000 - the most of any ballpark


I stepped past the taquerias of Olvera Street - where the scent of smouldering chillis filtered through the original Mexican settlement, Pueblo de Los Angeles, and pressed on to LA's neighbourhood of the moment: Echo Park. South of Sunset were the wonderful Victorian houses ofAngelino Heights and enticing lotus blossoms of Echo Park Lake. On street level, tasteful small businesses stood shoulder to shoulder near the turn-off to the mid-century gem that is Dodger Stadium. Here Brooklyn's baseball team moved in 1958, bringing UCLA star Jackie Robinson back home.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - July 2018
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