So we thought we’d leave the crazy side of LA behind and spend a quiet few days at the beach instead. We started in the lovely quiet spot of Marina del Rey which has some spectacular beachfront properties (which I prefer to the ones in Malibu, just in case you’re wondering which one to buy me). The only drawback is the gazillions of annoying tourists staring up at them at taking photos all the time. However it’s still a really quiet and laidback spot compared to the insanity just a little further along at Muscle Beach. This is where you find the open air gym where people go to show off (because why else would you choose to exercise outside in the blazing hot sunshine when you could be inside a climate controlled gym where you won’t get sunburn or heatstroke and you can concentrate on your technique instead?). The first rule posted on the wall of the gym at Muscle Beach is “Shirts must be worn at all times”. So obviously absolutely nobody wears a shirt there at all. Aside from the gym, there are all sorts of other basketball courts, volleyball nets etc. set up which makes it a nice social spot for people watching. Just a little bit further on, the madness really begins. Venice Beach is proud of its status as a freakshow, although I have to say there weren’t as many weirdos as I was expecting. Perhaps my definition of “odd” has been stretched way out of proportion after living in this country for a while. Or, as the husband said, perhaps we’re the weird ones and everyone else is very normal, who’s to say? Anyway, I would say that the highlight of all the oddities had to be the dog (quite a large one), dressed in a bikini and sunglasses, laid out on a small sun lounger and totally working it for tips. Which it was earning by the bucketload. And having them tucked into its bikini.
A little further along the oceanfront we returned to some semblance of normality as we strolled into Santa Monica and went for a nice amble along its pier. It has lots of fairground rides including its original carousel which is rather quaint. The pier is also the start (or end, depending on your point of view) of Route 66 which we will be picking up in Arizona later on in this road trip. We stopped for a while in a nice little place on the pier where I ordered a kid’s meal because that’s usually the only way to get a decent veggie meal in this country. Well, it did not disappoint. I had a grilled cheese (with proper cheese in it, not the rubber stuff) and corn on the cob. All washed down with a beer that I don’t think was on the kids menu. It was the biggest kid’s meal I have ever seen. We ended the day walking back through Venice and it seemed that the afternoon sun had brought out the special people in full force.
The next day we decided to get ourselves a little culture by visiting the Getty Center which is at the top of the hills in LA. Unfortunately my lasting impression will simply be that it needs more signposts!! Not only along the route, but also in the place itself, as it is very good at telling you things about two floors or one long tramride later than would be really useful. Anyway, the building itself is simply stunning, both in terms of the architecture and also its position, nestled high up in the hills with a spectacular view across the city, looking down onto the madness of the LA freeways. The Center houses lots of art and it’s not really my thing, being mainly French Renaissance, but it was a lovely experience and nice to get away from the heat of the beaches for a while. However, after a morning of being highbrow we redressed the balance and had an afternoon of $2 beers in the sunshine. We did have some poshed up bar snacks though, in the shape of demi-glace fries. I might well have passed them up but on reading the description I realized they were just chips and gravy, something I have been sorely missing for two years and which is readily available in any decent chippy up north in the UK. This is the first time I’ve seen it in the US, where it’s clearly a rarity and only available in the finest establishments. Highlight of my day. Even better than the bottomless complimentary garlic knots from the previous night that I’d forgotten about until right now.
Our third day of pottering took us around the marina and the canals of Venice Beach (which are where it gets its name from). This is a much quieter and lovelier area than the rest of Santa Monica and Venice, with thousands of boats moored along its length. The highlight for me, however, was our visit to the Marina del Rey branch of the LA Fire Department, which surely has the best view of any fire station in the world, looking directly out across the water. In addition to two fire engines, it also has a fire boat to respond to emergencies at sea. I was lucky enough to get onboard. I was even luckier to be able to meet one of the firefighters who used to be a coastguard and was David Hasselhoff’s body double on Baywatch and also had a few tales to tell about the celebrities he’s met in the course of his work. My top tip – always hang around fire stations, cos you never know who you might meet!
We finished our visit by taking a stroll along the canals which were absolutely charming. I have no idea what the canals of Venice, Italy, look like but these ones are picturesque and adorable. I think I might consider living in one of these waterside residences rather than those directly on the ocean. Only $2.6 million or thereabouts. Again, just if you’re thinking of buying me one.