Day 62 – Los Angeles – Venice Beach & Santa Monica

We decided to use Sunday to go and see the famous beaches of LA. As it was the day after 4th July we expected the roads to be busy so set of early-ish. The roads were once again fine, and we went to a place called 3 Square Cafe in Abbot Kinney Boulevard that’d I’d read about for some brunch. They are famous for their Röckenwagner Pretzel Burger, which claims to be the original pretzel burger, so of course I had to order it even though it was only 10:30. Brian was more sensible and ordered an apple soufflé/pancake which was huge and quite nice. We even got some pretzel bites and mini muffins before our food, maybe as an amuse bouche?! My burger was good, and had Swiss cheese, caramelised onions and an egg on a very good pretzel bun. It was rather underseasoned though, and tasted a lot better with some more salt on it! The chips were good as well but I didn’t do too well on the whole meal – it was probably a bit too early for a burger!
Abbot Kinney Boulevard is really cool, with lots of little boutiques, cafes, murals and coffee shops and I could probably quite easily live there. Tummies sufficiently filled, we tried to find parking a bit closer to Venice Beach, but balked at having to pay $15/hour and eventually found free parking right next to 3 Square Café and walked to the beach! By this point the area was starting to get a bit busier though it was still quite grey and foggy. We walked south first, past the skate park, basketball courts and graffiti area. There was a heavy police presence and I’m not sure whether this is always the case or had something to do with it being 4th July weekend; though there is a police station right on the beach so I assume this is normal. There are quite a lot of homeless people in the area and we saw police chatting to a lot of them as we walked past, and even saw 3 policemen on horseback at some point!
We had to stop by Muscle Beach of course, though I was very disappointed in the lack of muscle on display! There are a lot of things to see along Venice Beach and it is quite busy and interesting to walk around the place. We turned back and walked north for quite a bit, until the pedestrian area petered out, with people painting, singing, lobbying etc all along the walkway, and with shops selling tat on the other side. There’s also a few bars and cafes but we didn’t stop as we still had some more beaches to do! One of the more interesting things for me was the skate park with ‘kids’ of all ages enjoying themselves and some showing amazing skills! There was also a couple of shops called Green Doctors offering ‘Free Medical Marijuana Screening’ – I’m not sure how or if this works, but it was quite strange to see.
After we had our fill of Venice Beach we drove to Santa Monica where we eventually managed to find parking for free again! The beach and boardwalk were really busy and we walked along the promenade but didn’t go on the beach. We found a lovely park called Tongva Park where I saw an amazing dark purple agapanthus – in fact, there’s agapanthi (?) everywhere, reminding me a lot of South Africa! We had an hour and a half of free parking, so walked around for that time and then made our way back to our car via Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade, which is the famous pedestrianised shopping street in Santa Monica. SM is quite different from Venice Beach but both have their own charm and I’m really glad we went to see both.
By this point we decided that we’d had enough of beaches and crowds so plugged our motel’s address into the satnav and made our way over to the Bevonshire Lodge Motel, which is kind of between West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, and was the most affordable option I could find. Brian was very nervous when I mentioned it is close to West Hollywood, and as we drove into the area it didn’t look great! The motel was actually really good though, and on the way there we saw a shopping centre and a Trader Joe’s so we decided to walk there after resting for a bit. We found The Grove shopping centre, and it turns out it is very posh indeed, with lots of shops and restaurants and actually really nice. There was also a shop called Erewhon just across the road from our hotel, that sells only organic and natural products, which probably should have tipped us off that the area is actually very ladidah!
Next to The Grove is the Farmer’s Market which is a bit more middle of the road and has loads of food outlets and is essentially a big food court, but with really nice shops and food and drink (my favourite was the shop selling every type of hot sauce you can imagine!). We found a bar, EBs Bar that sells cheap-ish beer, so we had a couple of drinks and I had what is probably my first healthy meal of the trip, a rice bowl with tofu and lots of veggies! I thoroughly enjoyed it! On the way back to our motel we popped into Trader Joe’s which massively excited me as I’ve been reading about the chain for ages! We got some food and a bottle of cheap wine for me and dark chocolate covered raisins for Brian – I think he is in love!
Surprise of the day: I never thought I’d like LA this much – I didn’t have too many expectations but I really, really like it! Might have something to do with the neighbourhood we are staying in though.

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