Season 03, Episode 19 LA to Laguna Beach
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 countrys 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 states 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.
Season 03, Episode 18 Los Angeles
Armed with his Appletons 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 Appletons, 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 LAs 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 citys latest initiative to break the legendary rush hour gridlock on Los Angeles freeways a rail link with seven new stations on the LA metro.
Season 03, Episode 17 Monterey to Santa Barbara
Steered by his late-19th-century Appletons 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 citys Spanish and Mexican heritage and traces how the former fishing port described as stinking and decrepit in John Steinbecks 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.Michaels 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. Michaels 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.
Season 03, Episode 16 Santa Clara to Santa Cruz
Michael Portillos thousand-mile rail journey through California continues south toward Santa Clara in the heart of Silicon Valley and ends in the surf of Santa Cruz. In a high-tech bar, where robots wait on the customers, Michael traces the origins of modern-day search engines and social media to an institution founded by a railroad baron. At tech giant Intel, Michael glimpses the future on a test drive in an autonomous car.At San Jose, the biggest city in the valley, Michael visits Japantown to meet members of a far eastern community who settled here peacefully during the 19th century but faced hostility during the mid-20th. He is then beaten over the head and body by youngsters a third of his age as he attempts to learn the martial art of kendo. A ride aboard the Roaring Camp and Big Trees Railroad takes Michael through groves of mammoth trees the magnificent California Redwoods. Emerging from the forest on a second vintage railroad, Michael hits the beach and like a true beach boy, he takes to the waves on a surfboard.
Season 03, Episode 15 Berkeley to Yosemite
Michael Portillos rail voyage continues through northern California, moving east in search of the states greatest national treasures. To unearth the regions dangers deep underground, Michael visits the seismology department at UC Berkeley and hears the story of the catastrophic 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Experiencing the countrys largest multidirectional shaking table in action, he learns how engineers today strive to prepare for the high risk of an earthquake.
Alighting at Stockton, Michael delves into Californias pioneering agricultural technology and buckles up on a caterpillar tractor the likes of which revolutionised farming and construction equipment around the world. And following the advice of his Appletons, Michael immerses himself in the sublime beauty of Yosemite National Park, learning about the committed 19th-century conservationists who campaigned for federal protection. He gets up close to the magnificent fauna and flora, attempts a rock climb and comes across a Buffalo Soldier patrolling the wilderness.
Season 03, Episode 14 San Francisco
Michael Portillo resumes his exhilarating tour of San Francisco to find that diversity has been at the heart of the city since the days of the gold rush, though not always harmoniously so. Following his Appletons guide, Michael heads to Chinatown to hear of the huge contribution Chinese immigrants made to the economy, working as miners and building the transcontinental railroad. He discovers an entrepreneurial community who overcame discrimination laid down by the law, and finds that fortune favours the brave with iconic Chinese treats created in America!
Season 03, Episode 10 Toronto
Michael Portillos railway journey across eastern Canada concludes in the nations largest metropolis, Toronto. He begins his Toronto tour at Union Station. Now busier than the citys international airport, Michael is shown the ambitious engineering works underground to support the growing number of commuters. From the dig down, he boldly goes to the dizzying heights at the CN Tower for an extreme outdoor experience at the top of the structure. Nerves are calmed at the Royal York Hotel, one of a network of luxury hotels built by the railway known as the castles of the north. Catching the street car, Michael finds out how Toronto made itself a magnet for money after it set up its own stock exchange, but not before he presses the button to open the days trading. Ending his time in the citys High Park, he seeks out the origins of a celebrated Canadian song that helped to shape the maple leaf as the countrys national symbol.
Using his 1899 Appletons guide, Michael Portillos rail odyssey through eastern Canada continues along the Grand Trunk railway, following the route of the St Lawrence River.
At Brockville, he leaves the tracks for a nautical pilgrimage through the beautiful Thousand Islands. In the port city of Kingston, Ontario, Michael visits Fort Henry and, dressed for the occasion, is entrusted to fire the naval guns that protected the nations southern border during the 19th century.
Travelling west to Port Hope, he learns of the antics of a celebrated 19th-century high-wire walker known as The Great Farini. And, in the spirit of showmanship, Michael tests his balance with the modern sport of slack lining.
This leg of the journey ends in Oshawa at the opulent home of the McLaughlin family, who helped build a new economy for Canada when they switched from manufacturing carriages to motor cars.
Season 03, Episode 05 New Haven CT to Mount Washington
Armed with his Appletons guide, Michael Portillos rail voyage goes river deep and mountain high as he continues his journey through Connecticut and heads north through the scenic New England states. In New Haven, a crash course in rowing takes place on a stretch of water where college teams from Yale and Harvard have battled for victory since 1852.Making tracks north to Vermont, Michael experiences 19th-century rural farm life, when its green pastures were grazed by imported dairy herds from the Isle of Jersey and made it the butter capital of the world. Journeys end is in New Hampshire, where Michael ascends the steep slopes of Mount Washington aboard the worlds first mountain climbing cog railway, at whose summit an extraordinary weather station has been recording the mountains famously extreme weather since 1870.
Led by his 19th-century Appletons guidebook, Michael Portillos railway journey continues through New England. On the banks of the Providence River, he discovers a club that traces its roots and culinarytraditions back to the 1840s. Michael joins in with one of its legendary open-air clambakes.
In the Rhode Island capital, Providence, Michael is on the trail of an historic company that counts US presidents among its customers. Portillo practises the art of penmanship at AT Cross, Americas oldest manufacturer of writing instruments. Travelling west to New London, Connecticut, Michael visits the elite US Coast Guard Academy. Established around the time of his guidebook in 1876, 300 cadets enrol every year and train to defend more than one hundred thousand miles of American coastline.
On the literary trail, Michael visits the childhood summer home of an American dramatist who won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Eugene ONeills deeply personal and ground-breaking work dealt with human frailty and the struggles of modern life and transformed American theatre.
Season 03, Episode 03 Plymouth to Nantucket
Led by his Appletons guidebook and tracing the footsteps of the Pilgrim Fathers, Michael Portillo heads for Plymouth, the home town of America. He learns how indigenous tribes of Wamponoag people taught the newly arrived settlers to live off the land, the inspiration for one of the biggest holidays in the American calendar.Michael boards the vibrant Cape Cod Central heritage railway bound for Hyannis, a favourite spot for vacationing presidents. Catching a ferry to Marthas Vineyard, Portillo discovers that ardent Methodists put the island on the map by establishing the countrys first religious summer camp in the early 19th century.Moving on to the island of Nantucket, Michael discovers how hardy New Englanders made vast fortunes from whale oil at a time when Nantucket was the whaling capital of the world. Out at sea, he joins conservationists and whale spotters hoping for a glimpse these magnificent creatures.
Season 03, Episode 02 Boston to Concord MA
Michael Portillos 19th-century Appletons guidebook leads him to the Parker House Hotel, where in his best pinny, he whisks up a Boston cream pie.In the fine dome atop Massachusetts General Hospital, where no-one could hear the screaming, Michael discovers the scene of grisly surgery, first made bearable in 1846 by a miraculous new substance. North of Boston, in Salem, Michael is caught up in a witch hunt. He gets a taste of the hysteria which gripped the town in the 17th century and how events were re-interpreted at the time of his guide.And in Concord, where the first shots of the American Revolution were fired, Michael discovers the home of the celebrated author of the coming of age classic Little Women and hears the story behind the novel.
Armed with his 19th-century Appletons guidebook to the United States and Canada, Michael Portillo embarks on a 1,100-mile railroad journey from Boston, Massachusetts, across the border to Toronto in theCanadian province of Ontario. Along the way, he encounters revolutionaries and feminists, pilgrims and witches and rides some of the oldest and most breathtaking railroads in the world.At risk of being uncovered as a Tory spy, Michael joins the Sons of Liberty aboard ship in Boston harbour. Will he help rebels jettison 112 crates of East India Company teaMichael rides Americas first subway and sups oysters in Bostons oldest restaurant. Heading out of the city along the route of one of the earliest railroads in the United States, Michael reaches Lowell, renowned as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. An historic streetcar conveys him to the Boott Cotton Mills, where he discovers a flagrant act of industrial espionage and militancy among the thousands of women and girls who worked there.Michaels guide sets him on the trail of the second largest organ in the world, located now in Haverhill. He is rewarded with a rousing rendition of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, courtesy of the 19th-century Handel and Haydn Choir.