It was honestly quite hard to get stirring the following morning on day two of the trip – jet lag had well and truly set in and the lack of sleep on our plane over had begun to hit both of us. After a slow morning and a quick hostel breakfast, we set off on the subway to get to Santa Monica and see what the shoreline had to offer us. Although it took us one hour each way on the subway, it was a truly inexpensive and easy way to travel to the coast.
I remember being in Santa Monica earlier in 2011 with my family on a trip in January – but what I did not remember was how cold it was! Here I was, telling Blake that we wore jumpers and shorts last time around and it was bearable, like a Sydney-side winter’s day. Although the sun was shining, creating picturesque scenes to be captured from our camera the winds were truly cold and icy off the water.
It had always been a dream of mine to hire a bike and ride to Venice Beach along the sand and shore and Blake also agreed that it seemed like a good plan. After some time exploring Santa Monica Pier, the end point of Route 66, and the small theme park that is situated on the wharf itself (Paradise Park), we decided now was the time to get bike riding and make our way to the crazy strip that is Venice Beach. Blake is definitely a skilled bike rider, growing up riding bikes and motorbikes throughout his childhood. Myself on the other hand, not as talented and it took me a while to get going and keep up with him, that’s for sure!
Along the way, we saw the original Muscle Beach situated near Santa Monica end, featuring a few tanned muscly characters doing their best to impress onlookers and people passing by with gymnastic style work on the rings. The original Muscle Beach boasts the birthplace of the physical fitness craze that took over USA in the 20th century and features predominantly gymnastic training areas amongst the sand – not exactly the same weightlifting and bodybuilding arena we expected and later found at Muscle Beach Venice!
Venice Beach in itself is an experience not to be missed. Colourful, crazy characters walk the strip, singing songs to themselves, talking to seemingly any passer-by or setting up to busk and show off their weird or wonderful (sometimes, both!) talents for a cheap dollar. There are a huge percentage of homeless amongst the population strolling the strip, however they seem to be much less in your face and more content to sit and people watch or entertain themselves along the sidewalk. The smell of weed is nearly everywhere you turn and medical marijuana ‘Doctors’ offering prescriptions for a ‘cheap’ $40 are along every block or so – the list of medical conditions that qualify for a weed script is insanely long and seems to cover just about every ailment! Street vendors and performers line the entire boardwalk and there was truly never a dull moment when we visited. The amount of hopeful rappers and producers that peruse the street is actually ridiculous. These guys attempt to convince you (after they hear your Australian accent, might I add) that you know of them from Triple J radio station back home and offer you ‘free’ music – only then to turn around and ask for a hefty tip; as my dad always says ‘Nothing is truly for free in the US’.
We also had a chance to admire the Venice Canals – a literal series of canals designed in the 1900’s to replicate the look and feel of Venice in Italy. Situated amongst multi-million dollar houses, these canals feature cute pedestrian bridges along with one-way bridges for cars and are a place to escape the noise and commotion of the boardwalk. The sun had begun to set on our ride back and that wind blowing off the ocean was truly icy – by the time we returned our bikes, we could no longer feel our faces.
Los Angeles so far had been truly exhausting – long days sightseeing, huge kilometres covered either on foot or by bike and poor sleep (at least for me, first time in dorm accommodation!) and we were glad to get our Uber to Anaheim that night, to take a break in our little room at an inn and prep for the next huge two days in store – Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks!