California sun. The powerful Pacific Ocean. The L.A. way of life. Los Angeles is a city that is normally best explored by car. But there are some places that are much more fun to visit by bike. Like Venice Beach.
It had been more than two years since I have last visited the City of Angels and so it was more than time to refresh my memories of the O.C. sun, sand and ocean breeze. As I had the pleasure to have one of my dearest colleagues along who I worked closely with in our service training academy a few years ago, it was clear that we would spend our day off together. And since we both are some sort of fitness nerds, we quickly agreed to spend the day actively.
I had never done Standup Paddling before. When Anne suggested that we should start the day with a tour inside the Redondo Beach harbor marina, I was thrilled to try something out again that was completely new to me.
So while Anne had already been an early bird in order to participate in a Yoga class that she had been to many times before, I spend my morning with sleeping in and completing a little workout in the hotel´s fitness center before renting one of the hotel´s bikes and riding down the blocks towards Paddle House in Redondo Beach (they offer Airline discounts and also do nightly LED tours!).
We met at 11 am, decided on an hour and a half paddling and after a few moments I was quickly guided into the secrets and safety precautions of standup paddling. After a few tryouts on the board inside the shop, it was time to try my luck on the natural surface, the water.
Thinking the first half an hour that silly me would make the perfect shark snack on that board with my shaky legs (I really watched the JAWS movies way too many times), there was no way that I could relax enough to stand straight and still. But after a while, I finally managed to change my position from kneeling to standing without falling into the water. And boy was that more comfortable!
We paddled over to the marina barge where a whole horde of sea lions were relaxing (and stinking like hell) in the warm summer sun. Those fellas look so cute and you simply want to pet them behind the ears, but those mammals can actually be quite dangerous. And so we enjoyed the scene from a save distance while trying to suppress that strong odor that was constantly trying to find its way into our noses.
When I finally managed to stand safe and sound on the board, it seemed like the most natural thing to do and all my fears of dark and lurky waters and sharks were gone. It is almost like being Jesus walking over the water, lol. Only that I am sure that he did not have to work as hard with his upper body as I did!
We took a few more pictures and then paddled back to the shop since we still had quite a way ahead of us to Venice Beach. Protected with lots of sun screen and a hat, we were perfectly prepared for the 14 miles that lied ahead of us.
The bike ride right next to the ocean is such a wonderful and meditating thing to do. This is where L.A. is the most prettiest! And while we cycled past gorgeous seaside houses with homely decorated outdoor terraces and porches, a feeling of freedom and pure happiness spread through my stomach as the warm ocean breeze played with my hair. Why don´t I come here more often, I asked myself. But then I knew again. It is the hard work and the nine hours time difference that cast their shadows over it. But all these thoughts seemed so distant in this perfect moment. Anne was really putting on some decent speed and I really had to concentrate in order to keep up with her.
As we passed LAX International airport, the planes shot like bullets over our heads into the sky. Small ones, large ones. They all with a certain destination. And with every roaring sound their engines made, I could enjoy this one day of vacation even more. And that was what it really felt like. One day of vacation.
As we reached Marina del Rey, it was time for a little snack. We quickly hopped inside the Ralph´s supermarket and after a bowl of fresh berries and an ice-cold coconut water we felt re-energized to continue the road.
We reached Venice around 2pm. After all this hard work we really deserved a proper meal. But apart from lunching right at the Venice Boardwalk like most tourists would do, Anne suggested to check out the restaurants lined up on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a few blocks inland from the ocean promenade. And that was an awesome idea. This hip and trendy block is full of artesian shops, cafés and restaurants and a great counterpart to the a little shabby atmosphere on the Venice Boardwalk.
We enjoyed a wonderful salad (I had the Cobb) and a little bubbly at the Greenleaf Gourmet ChopShop before we window shopped the cool shops and took a few snapshots with some of the really gorgeous spray artworks covering most of the backstreet side walls.
As time flew by and we still had a long way to go back home, we continued over to the boardwalk, parked our bikes and dipped our feet into the ice-cold Pacific Ocean before we took a moment to watch the skateboarders perform their stunts inside the beachside half-pipes.
The sun already stood low and the long shadows of the palm trees and the people casted over the sand created this mystical L.A. atmosphere. The air was filled with the smells of hemp, buttery popcorn and sunscreen with coconut odor, people were hanging out in groups on the grass enjoying this beautiful day and you could almost hear the guys lifting weights down at Muscle Beach.
It´s a strange place this Venice Beach. One of these spots where you will see things that you have not seen before. But it is the other side of L.A. away from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Street artists, fortune tellers or simply flipped-out individuals, life at the beach seems the only right way. And maybe it is this down-to-earth craziness that casts the spell on everyone and that makes Venice a place to revisit ever since.
And by the end of the day as we finally managed to reach the hotel again with sore feet and a sore butt, I did not feel like I was spending a day visiting. It felt like I was able to live a piece of the Southern Californian lifestyle. And I decided that I shall come back for more … . Thank you, Anne, for this magical day!