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Michael Portillo crosses the Atlantic to ride the railroads of America, armed with Appleton's General Guide to the United States, published in 1879.

Genres: Adventure | Travel
Station: BBC Two (GB)
Rating: 10/10 from 1 users
Status: Running
Start: 2016-02-01

Great American Railroad Journeys Air Dates

S03E17 - Monterey to Santa Barbara Air Date: 13 February 2018 18:30 -

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Steered by his late-19th-century Appleton's guidebook, Michael Portillo continues his railroad travels through southern California aboard the Coast Starlight service. In the historic port of Monterey, Michael raises the Bear Flag of the one-time Republic of California and above it, the Stars and Stripes. He discovers the city's Spanish and Mexican heritage and traces how the former fishing port described as 'stinking and decrepit' in John Steinbeck's novel Cannery Row has become a beacon for tourists. And how, in place of fish-processing canneries, there now stands a gleaming, state-of-the art aquarium, where Michael is invited to feed the fish.

Michael's next stop is Paso de Robles, where he tours the magnificent Hearst Castle, dream home of the newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, to hear the tale of its creation. Onward to San Luis Obispo and the hills of Morro Bay and Michael joins avocado farmer Jim Shanley, amid his 4,000 avocado trees to harvest the pears and then learn how to make guacamole. Michael's last stop on this leg is outside Santa Barbara at Rancho Camulos, a former cattle ranch owned by a prominent Hispanic family and the setting for a best-selling romantic novel of the 19th century.

S03E18 - Los Angeles Air Date: 14 February 2018 18:30 -

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Armed with his Appleton's guide to the United States, Michael Portillo arrives in Los Angeles to delight in the 'city of dreams', from its glorious Union Station to its golden beaches and palm-lined boulevards. Like many a Hollywood hopeful before him, Michael heads for the Warner Brothers studio, founded on Sunset Boulevard at the time of his Appleton's, with dreams of stardom ahead. His role as a fearless all-action hero is assured. For the view from the top he takes the Skyslide from the 70th floor of one of LA's tallest buildings before striding out on the Walk of Fame.

At the pioneering 19th-century Union Ice company, Michael discovers how Californians have kept their cool. He sees how ice blocks of titanic proportions are made and brings Christmas to LA with a giant snowmaker. Outside the city, Michael heads for San Marino to visit The Huntington, a cultural and research centre with fine libraries, art galleries and more than a dozen botanical gardens. In the cactus garden, Michael discovers more about the founder, nephew of a railroad baron and himself a pioneer of street cars and trolleys. Michael explores the city's latest initiative to break the legendary rush hour gridlock on Los Angeles freeways - a rail link with seven new stations on the LA metro.

S03E19 - Los Angeles to Laguna Beach Air Date: 15 February 2018 18:30 -

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Michael Portillo strikes oil in the suburbs of Los Angeles, contemplates his navel in the orange groves of Riverside, makes a California Roll and paints a pretty picture in Laguna Beach.

It is Mexican Independence Day and the locals are celebrating the country's hard-won independence from Spain in the early 19th century. There is dancing, singing and feasting in the streets and Michael is up for joining the party. He learns that one in two of the population of LA is Latino, mainly of Mexican descent, and hears after only a few decades, Mexico lost half its territory and California became part of the United States. Michael learns the secrets of backyard oil drilling in Los Angeles, home to the largest urban oil field in the United States. Nodding donkeys are everywhere - in residential neighbourhoods, parking lots and burger joints.

Michael sports a zesty orange jacket to visit the Citrus Variety Collection and learns the difference between a pummelo and a papeda. Alongside oil, the citrus fruit industry, he discovers, is one of the bedrocks of the state's economy. At Laguna Beach, Michael learns how artists from the east coast travelled west on the Transcontinental Railroad to found a colony of 'plein air' painters attracted by the beautiful coastline and glorious light to paint outside.

S03E20 - La Jolla to San Diego Air Date: 16 February 2018 18:30 -

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Michael Portillo is nearing the end of his thousand-mile rail journey from Reno, Nevada, to San Diego in southern California. In this final leg, clad in khaki boiler suit and sporting dark glasses, he joins the US Navy Pacific Fleet, birthplace of the elite flying academy Top Gun. Aboard the Pacific Surfliner, he arrives first in the coastal town of La Jolla, where he takes to the water in a kayak to explore the extraordinary 75-million-year-old caves.

In San Diego, he picks up the trail of the industrialist and property speculator John D Spreckels, who made the city boom in the 19th century and built a pavilion to house the largest outdoor pipe organ in the world. Michael is offered the chance to play it. Appleton's recommends a trip to a huge structure, completed in 1888, on which San Diegans have depended for water for 130 years - the
Sweetwater Dam.

Great American Railroad Journeys Actors

Michael Portillo(Presenter)

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