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Exploring Los Angeles history with an Alhambran at work

"Alhambrans at Work" is a new column featuring Alhambra residents describing their jobs in the region.

I’m Damien Blackshaw, an Alhambra resident who runs Free LA Tour. We offer guided walking tours of nearby downtown Los Angeles.

Tour guide Grant Jossi shows tourists the Pope of Broadway, a mural with Oscar-winning actor Anthony Quinn

I’m originally from London, where I left in 2002 to travel for a year. I then lived in Sydney for several years before moving to Alhambra—my wife teaches high school at Mark Keppel—six years ago.

Grand Central Market

I started my tour business in 2013 to explore my new home in the Los Angeles area. I participated in walking tours in Eastern Europe and thought they were a great way to learn more about the city. There are many free tours around the world; most major cities offer them and many smaller ones too. I’m very pleased to have created one for L.A. My free tours are enjoyable, irreverent, and humorous introductions to the city. Participants, if they want to, can make a contribution at the end to help keep the tour running.

I also realized there were no historic or architecture tours of the downtown area that included El Pueblo, L.A. City Hall, and the Historic Core. The vast majority of tours in L.A. focus on Hollywood and few affordable tours feature the history of the city and how it developed.

Union Station

I love downtown’s history. It’s where L.A. started, and it has an enormous number of historic buildings. Many people don’t know this, but it is the best-preserved, pre-1950 downtown of any major city in the United States. A lot of people have told me they love to visit Europe because of it’s history and old buildings—they don’t realize that in L.A. they have it all under their nose!

The Bradbury

More than 1,500 people have come on our tours, with at least half from Southern California. It’s very rewarding to hear people admit that they’ve either never been to downtown or haven’t visited it for years—one local lady hadn’t been since she was a child in the 1950s! And it’s hugely satisfying to show tourists that L.A. is about more than just Hollywood, beaches, and Beverly Hills.

We love Alhambra, both for the friendly, unpretentious vibe here and for the great bars and restaurants. In fact, we are planning to expand Free LA Tour to include a food tour locally, starting in Pasadena. We love all the Asian food in this area: Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, even British Indian! We love it all!

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