04.09.2013 - 07.09.2013 29 °C
Todays 14 hour stint on the Coast Starlight will be the final leg of our Amtrak journey. By the end of today, nearly 5000 miles and 4 days will have been spent on these beastly trains. This is the last and best route, and the one we've been waiting for. For hours we passed through beautiful vineyards inland until we finally turned coastal for the main event. Closer to the ocean than the cars, our train chugged along the stunning coastline giving us a final treat of spectacular scenery, as we saw dolphins, crashing waves, secluded coves and finally dusk set in as the Los Angeles palms swayed in the typical Californian sunset.
Not our photo... but our route!
A sad goodbye to the trains which (bar the one set back) served us so well. We would recommend it for sure, if you have plenty of time to spare. We got the USA rail pass and it cost $350 for 14 days and 8 stops. Thank you Amtrak.
We were only in downtown LA for about 5 minutes before we departed for the coast on an hour bus. We opted for the huge sandy stretches and the Venice Beach freakshow over the city's sight-seeing landmark checklist. Skyscrapers Vs Sand in the toes... Easy choice to make for Londoners, plus we've both done the sights before.
Arriving at our AirBnB minutes from the beach, but late at night, we tracked down our temporary abode. Only to be greeted by, nothing. No one home. Slumped on the stoop, we called our host (cost about £5!) and were told the housemate was returning from the store soon. Ratty after 20 hours travelling, when we were finally in, Chiara's impression changed after discovering our fresh towels, a huge lit scented candle, impressive flowers and red wine with two glasses on our dresser. Not so bad, although the red wine would wait as we dropped and and slept for hours.
BEACH DAY! After all the subways, bus stops, walk, don't walk, briefcases, flat whites, horn beeping, cell phone city life we were ready for sea, sand and the warm Californian sun. Heaven.
The next 3 days were spent horizontal, Chiara dozing and reading whilst I was pumping iron on Muscle Beach. Not really I was just getting boshed around by waves and lamenting Yorkshire for having no surf. I would have made a great surfer, had the Pennines been waves. The sunsets in Venice Beach are out of this world, we caught them from rooftop bars, beachside, or sat watching the varying levels of skateboarders on the boardwalk. The palm trees and gentle waves make the perfect setting, as the hues of orange and burnt pink turned deep dark blue as the sun dropped behind the ocean. Really magnificent.
Heck I don't even think it was on sunset mode!
At nightfall the boardwalk and all the markets pack up, which did disappoint us, as we would have loved to sit beachside into the evening, soaking up the quirky atmosphere. The many stories of dodgy characters on the boardwalk after dark must surely be dispelled, or perhaps its just similar to East London and were immune to it.
As luck would have it, it was First Friday during our stay, and whilst our first evening consisted of mexican food, margheritas and a late night canal visit (more on these later), we were treated to another celebration of art and design on Abbot Kinney Boulevard the next evening. Our hosts 'yard' was a total bonus. When Chiara said garden they looked blankly as apparently this term is mostly applied to rolling green lawns and flower beds. We made use of it a few nights - pool table, bbq, huge sofas and strung with fairy lights... It was hard not to.
The First Friday was a big deal, with apparently all of Venice turning up - you couldn't move on the 'sidewalks' and there were many, many food vans. We stopped counting at 37. And it took us a very long time to choose what to eat. We settled on incredible burgers and Michael got hassled with people asking him for his autograph, he even posed for a photo (honestly). They thought he was Frodo, and I think they were being serious.
Make your own minds up...
The event offered late night openings from galleries, jewellery and clothes shops, and Chiara hit lots of inspiration from the many craft stores and markets. Every shop here is very design conscious, stylish, trendy and pretty pricey. Again a stark contrast to London's events, people were out on show here, but I guess it's LA.
So these canals, wow! Yes it's called Venice Beach, but we didn't realise it had canals. Like Venice... A complete network and what looked like million dollar properties lining them, with paths and little walking bridges, we even saw people floating around on gondolas and boats. When we passed at night we caught a glimpse of the local life - young professionals drinking in designer back yards, straight out of high end interior magazines, the low trees adorned with lanterns, candles and lights reflecting in the still waters. How the other half live.
On our last night we tried the Italian with an open air roof over on Washington. With our almost hysterically enthusiastic waitress, its free and endless supply of Killer Garlic Rolls, wine by caraffe and pretty good "gargantuan"?! pasta all was well until we "jointly" dropped the camera into a full glass of water. When the battery socket was opened water poured out. Our only proper camera, (and a bloody expensive one) this was a huge problem. It was assigned to a rice bag tomb for the next 2 days, and in the morning we were off to pick up our hire car, for our road trip to Las Vegas.
Did a little prayer for camera that night, when was thanking god for Venice Beach.