Venice Beach

Today was the last day of my holiday. My flight out of LAX was 11.30pm so I still had the full day to explore a bit more of Los Angeles. I packed up my bags and left them at the apartment, then sent a message to Molly to say I’d be back about 8.30pm to collect them. I still hadn’t seen either her or Josh since my first day. Fortunately their next guest wasn’t arriving until 10pm, so I could keep the key for the day and grab my bags later on.

I wasn’t in much of a hurry today because I wasn’t planning on going very far. Rather than wasting time travelling up north towards Downtown or Hollywood, I decided to visit Venice Beach and head to Marina del Rey if there was time. My Hop On Hop Off ticket was valid to there, so it was going to be easy to get to. I had breakfast in Santa Monica main street again, then walked down to the beach.

Venice Beach
Venice Beach

It was about 11am, and it seemed like that was a bit early for everyone else at Venice Beach. There were people out and about, but it wasn’t as busy as I was expecting. There were a few market stalls on the side of the boardwalk, but they were still setting up. I wandered along without really stopping at any of the shops, hoping that there’d be more action on my way back and I’d take a closer look then.

Shops along the side of Venice Boardwalk
Shops along the side of Venice Boardwalk

It was also quite overcast which was disappointing, because I’d been hoping for a swim. I had my boardshorts packed in my backpack just in case. The walk from Santa Monica to Venice Beach is a reasonable distance. It took me a bit over half an hour, stopping along the way to take photos and look at some of the street art and murals. I stopped at a bar and had an orange juice, then made my way back from the beach to the Canals.

Bright houses line the footpaths along the canals
Bright houses line the footpaths along the canals

The canals are a really pretty part of Venice Beach. They were built at the start of the 1900’s as part of a new residential development. The developer was trying to recreate the feel of Venice in Italy and used the canals as a way to attract residents. The development was initially a success, but by the 1940’s the canals were starting to fall into disrepair and became neglected. A lot of them were filled in and turned into roads, but a small section remained. The area has since been redeveloped and the canals are now a registered historic site. It looked like quite an expensive area to live.

Arched bridges cross the canals
Arched bridges cross the canals

There are simple, white bridges crossing the canals, and it seemed like the houses all have street access from the rear. Facing on to the canals it’s a really pretty. Some of the houses are quite old, while others are fresh and modern. They all had well cared for gardens, although I’m not sure if the residents themselves tend to them or they hire gardeners – I passed a couple of houses where there were gardeners working out the front.

Gondolas tied up in the canals
Gondolas tied up in the canals

I spent about 45 minutes just walking around enjoying the area. It felt like the sort of place you’d have a holiday house, but I’m sure some people live there full time. There were a few other people walking around, but they looked like tourists too.

After that, I went back out to the main road to get the Hop On Hop Off bus to Marina del Rey. I only had to wait about 10 minutes which was good. I wasn’t sure what to expect at the Marina, but I’d finished seeing Venice Beach a lot quicker than I was expecting and it was only a short bus ride away so I figured I might as well check it out. It turned out to be only a 15 minute drive.

Fisherman's Village
Fisherman’s Village

The Marina’s really big. The bus went right around to the far side, and stopped at Fisherman’s Village. It was a pretty area, with a few restaurants, a couple of shops and a bike track that went followed the coast further south through parklands.

I ordered a sandwich and a mango smoothie, and sat under the trees looking out over the water. The buildings along the water were painted in bright beach colours, and had neat garden beds. There were boats tied up along the wharf, some of them fishing boats and others small cruise boats.

Looking along the strip of shops
Looking along the strip of shops

There were a couple of seals lounging on the wharf by the boats, and a few pelicans hovering around the fishing boats. There were heaps of sail boats moored around the marina, and what looked like apartments across the bay. By now the sun had come out, and it was shaping up to be a very nice day.

A seal snoozing on the wharf
A seal snoozing on the wharf

I spent a while walking along the wharf, enjoying the sun and sea air. I had some fun hanging the camera from a tree trying to take some photos as well. I probably spent about an hour and a half at the marina, then went to the bike hire shop to find out if I could hire a bike to ride back to Venice Beach without returning it to this particular shop. A lot of the shops in Santa Monica allowed this because they were part of the same network, but this one was an independent bike hire shop and the unfriendly man there told me ‘no’.

Instead, I made my way back to the bus. Unfortunately I’d just missed one, so had to wait half an hour for the next one. It was the same driver that drove me out, and he told me to come back in about 20 minutes and he’d be ready to go. Overall the buses had been great – I think that was the longest I’d had to wait during the two days.

Looking out at the Marina
Looking out at the Marina

I went for another walk, this time heading towards the bike track that followed the coast. There was an Asian restaurant there and some nice looking accommodation. Behind that was a rather bare grassy paddock, which the bike track followed for a bit before heading closer to the water. I walked along for a little while, but there wasn’t a lot to see so I turned back not wanting to miss the bus again.

A short ride later I was back at Venice Beach, where the crowds had finally come out. I walked along the boardwalk for a bit, taking a look at the shops. They were mostly selling cheap tshirts and caps, along with other souvenirs. There were some stalls on the other side of the path where artists were painting and selling crafts.

Amongst the souvenir shops were a few smaller shops calling themselves ‘Green Doctors’. They were tiny little rooms where, for $30, you could have a consultation with a doctor wearing green shorts and a tshirt to be assessed on whether or not you would benefit from medicinal marijuana. They didn’t seem very official, but I’m assuming they were legal because they were so well sign posted. Looks like the government needs to revisit the laws because I don’t think it would be very difficult to have one of these doctors sign a prescription.

A busy Venice Beach Boardwalk
A busy Venice Beach Boardwalk

After browsing the shops, I headed towards the beach and checked out the art walls. There is a set of concrete walls on the sand where people had painted murals and other art. I’m not sure if you need to get permission from the council, or if they have a rotating schedule or something, but there were some ok paintings there.

Venice Beach art wall
Venice Beach art wall

Overall the beach was really cool, with a winding path being used by skate boarders, roller bladers, cyclists and joggers, and tall palm trees against the blue sky. It was just how I’d imagined a Californian beach to be, and I was really glad the sun had come out.

A skateboard park on the beach
A skateboard park on the beach

I found a grassy hill on the side of the beach and just sat there for a while, enjoying the sun and watching the unusual crowd of people walking past. There were buskers and artsy people, along with tourists and locals out to get some exercise. It was a really mixed crowd. I moved from there to a pub with an outdoor area where I enjoyed a beer and some chips on the edge of the boardwalk. It was very relaxing.

As it came closer to 4pm I decided it was time to start making my way back to Santa Monica. I slipped into the toilets and put on my boardshorts, then walked back along the beach in the water. It wasn’t quite warm enough for a swim, and I didn’t have a towel to dry myself, but it was good to at least get up to my knees.

A parasailor above the beach
A parasailer above the beach

There were some people in the water, but most were just enjoying the sun and the sand. I slowly made my way back along the beach and stopped halfway just to chill on the beach. As I walked through the shallows, tiny little crabs were scurrying across the sand and disappeared down holes in between waves. I tried to dig a couple up, but they managed to burrow back down very quickly.

Life guard station
Life guard station

Every few hundred metres along the beach there was a life guard station. Not all of them were manned, but given the cooler temperatures and the fact that it was about 4.30pm on a Monday afternoon that wasn’t really surprising. Interestingly the buildings had ‘Navy’ written on the side, so it looks like they’re managed by the navy rather than a separate life saving service. Compared to our life guard tents and flags that are put up just for summer, it was interesting to see such a permanent structure here. Also, the tide mustn’t come up very high because the beach is very wide and flat and the boardwalk and life guard stations would all end up under water.

Big drums along the beach act as rubbish bins
Big drums along the beach act as rubbish bins

Forgetting that my walk to Venice Beach was from Main Street rather than the middle of Santa Monica, it was actually a very long walk back. Being in the water it went quite quickly, and I didn’t really notice how far I’d come. Once I was back at the Pier I walked up to the path that runs under it and came out the other side. There were quite a few young families enjoying the water before the day ended. I sat on a bench for my feet to dry before changing back into my jeans and shoes.

Back at the Santa Monica Pier
Back at the Santa Monica Pier

I found a restaurant on the pier with a nice outdoor area, and enjoyed Mexican while the sun started to set. It was a good way to wrap up the day before heading back to the apartment and on to the airport. Wanting to prolong my visit, I walked back to the apartment rather than getting a cab, past some of the places I’d visited in Santa Monica the last couple of days.

Sunset over Santa Monica beach
Sunset over Santa Monica beach

Back at the apartment the house seemed deserted and unchanged, except that my room had been cleaned and my bags moved out of the way. I was hoping to freshen up before I left, but the door to my room was shut so I didn’t want to go in and mess up the bathroom. Instead I opened up my suitcase to swap out some things from my backpack, putting my toothbrush on top, then zipped it up and made my way downstairs to wait for the taxi.

The taxi pulled up just as I came downstairs. I walked over and the driver got out and opened the boot. It turned out it was a different driver because the guy who was going to pick me up wasn’t feeling well and sent his friend instead. His English wasn’t great, and he wasn’t as talkative. It was about 20 minutes to the airport, which was so much better than the 2 hours I’d spent in the shuttle bus when I arrived!

At the airport there was hardly a queue for check in, so I brushed my teeth and freshened up, stashed my toothbrush back in my suitcase and locked it. Then I checked in and browsed the Duty Free shops to see what I could find. I managed to get a litre of Canadian Club and a litre of Maker’s Mark for $55! Without tax, and at American prices, it was a bargain.

The Qantas lady had told me there was more to do on the US side of security, but there was nothing else I wanted to buy and I’d already eaten dinner so I made my way to security and went through to the gate. It took about half an hour to get through security, then there was a bit of a walk to the gate. I found a seat nearby and settled down to enjoy an episode of Parks and Recreation while I waited. The flight was on time, and I collected my Duty Free as I boarded the plane. I had a window seat, and there was an older couple sitting next to me. They were looking forward to a sleep on the flight which was exactly what I was planning.

After we took off they informed us they would be serving dinner shortly! So an hour into the flight we had dinner, follow by coffee (which I declined). At about 3am they were done and dimmed the lights, so I put in my headphones, put on my sleeping mask and dozed on and off for 6 hours or so. It was much better flying at night because it made it possible to sleep for a bit, compared with my flight there where I was wide awake the whole way.

When I got to Melbourne I was feeling fine. I waited for my suitcase, then went through immigration. I had to use the electronic passport check twice before it would let me through, but it was still quicker than the manual queue. I went through customs which was surprisingly quick and simple. Since I didn’t have any wood or food products there was nothing to check – quite a change from previous trips to Asia!

Mum was waiting for me on the other side of the big metal doors to drive me back home. I managed to stay awake all day, but by 3pm my brain was feeling a bit sleepy. Fortunately I had my laptop at home, so I worked from home on the Thursday and was back in the office on Friday. After a long weekend (Queen’s Birthday) I was back in sync for work the following Tuesday.

It had been a great trip, and now just over a month later I’m well and truly back into routine. It’s hard to believe it was only just over 5 weeks ago that I was walking along the beach in Venice! I had an awesome time, and now I have 3,500 photos to sort through and print in a photo book. I’m really glad I had the chance to go, and can’t wait to go back and explore more of America.

Posted from Los Angeles, California, United States.

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