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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 65: 28 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysUp at 7.30. Call my mother in Suffolk. There's been thick fog there for days. Today the fog's gone but the rain's begun. Outside in Los Angeles the sun shines once again on the walls of London Towne, and the TV weatherperson forecasts 75 degrees in downtown Los Angeles, but heavy snowfalls in the Rockies, with 40 inches at Alta Lake. It's the latter part of the forecast that gives me pause, for our train will be crossing the Rockies this time tomorrow morning. Switch channels to a discussion of why families quarrel more at Thanksgiving than any other time of the year. Switch off. Farewell to the shackled Queen Mary. Leave with mixed feelings, as if having visited a good friend in prison.

Drive downtown to another great relic of the thirties. Completed three years after the Queen Mary, in 1939, Los Angeles Union Station had an even shorter life in the style for which she was intended. The last of the great American railway terminals, her moment of glory was cut short by the Second World War and pre-empted by the rise of air travel immediately afterwards. But at least she's not completely retired, and trains still run from beneath the slender and graceful tower of the Spanish-style building. A belittling sticker, 'Shoes and Shirts Required', is pasted on the grubby glass of the door, beyond which is a magnificent interior of marbled floors and colourfully-tiled walls, soaring 52 feet, to a timbered roof, intricately beamed, from which hang massive wrought-iron chandeliers. The atmosphere of the interior is dark and comforting like the wood of which so much of it is composed. Shafts of sunlight pierce the gloom from windows high up. The seats in the waiting room area are big and comfortable with thick wooden arms. Outside there are two cloistered gardens full of bougainvillea and frangipani - the only self-contained gardens I've ever seen at a station.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 65
  • Date: 28 November
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: Los Angeles - California
  • Book page no: 205

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