After Riverside, we spent some time hanging out in California, including some Californian beaches.
As the Beach Boys sang – ”Lets go surfing now, everybody’s learning how, come on and safari with me…”
Long Beach: We spent 3 great days with Melinda and Jeff, two friends from the Carnival Splendor. They live in a great area where house prices have gone up a lot because of its proximity to LA and of course the beach. As is the case with many of the beach areas, a lot of the 50′s, 60’s and 70’s architecture has been preserved. You also see many cool cars from that era. eg. Jeff owned an original Woody from the 1950′s and a Kombi. Strict building regulations play a part in this.
Long beach is massive and has a bike track, volleyball courts, kite surfing & cafes. There is the port where the cruise ships leave from and where the historic Queen Mary is mored.
Naples area, with its wonderful canals, is particularly stunning. It’s a pleasing area to wander around, checking out the homes, kayakers and people on stand-up paddle boards. We were also able to hear the Long Beach Municipal Band playing swing music in a local park and get a sense of Long Beach’s ‘community’ feel.
Redondo Beach: One of the highlights of Redondo is its great pier. In spite of a greater risk of storm damage, beach piers in America have shops and restaurants built on them. We enjoyed hearing a couple of bands at the end of the pier (Thursdays and Saturdays) including a brilliant Woodstock cover band. Long walks along the beach in excellent weather were fun too. Plenty of seafood was on sale, on and near the pier and there were lots of restaurants and pubs to tempt visitors and residents.
Santa Monica: Judging by the crowds, Santa Monica has to be the most popular of the California beaches for hanging out. My niece Summer lives here. The immense beach car park is filled to overflowing. The pier is the centre point of all activities and a steady stream of people flows along it from dawn to dusk. There is a famous carousel, shops, stalls, restaurants, people from all over the world and junk food in abundance. There is also a thriving downtown area. It is also claims to be the very end of Route 66, which comes all the way from Chicago (see separate report.)
Marina del Rey: We spent a week in a great apartment that we booked through Airbnb. Airbnb is an excellent site to book accommodation, especially if hotels are more expensive in an area, or you are planning on staying more than a few days. Our apartment was in a top location, near to the marina and all its features, and also close to Venice Beach. We hired bikes one day and rode along the coast as far as Malibu, home of the rich and famous. Highly recommended! The pool and jacuzzi where we stayed were fun too.
Venice Beach: Venice Beach is world famous. It epitomizes the extremes of American culture. There are stalls, shops, cafes, bars, buskers, exhibitionists and panhandlers all along the boardwalk. It stretches for miles and you can combine your daily exercise with some excellent people watching.
Muscle Beach can be found at Venice. This too is well known and you can gawk at the guys and gals working out. We even saw Lou Ferrigno, aka The Incredible Hulk, at a body building show. There is a skateboard/BMX park where you can check out some very talented locals showing off their skills. On Sunday nights, the ‘drum circle’ on the beach plays until dark and is a must see.
Santa Barbara: A couple of hours up the coast is the amazing city of Santa Barbara. Real estate prices are very high because it is such a highly sought after area. We stayed with our friends Richard and Jane from the South America cruise, who showed us why it’s such a desirable place. It has a nice ambience and is a good size after the vastness of LA. A pristine beach, pleasant climate year round, huge selection of cafes, restaurants, interesting shops, a marina and an historic Spanish Mission all contribute to its popularity among tourists and locals.