Los Angeles was hot. So I decided to head west from downtown to Venice and Santa Monica Beaches.
Unlike San Francisco, Los Angeles is not easily walkable. The points of interest are distributed around the city and you need something more than your legs to get around. Most people use cars. However, there are motorised scooters and bikes readily available as well as an improving public transport system.
Although I occasionally take taxis, I prefer to use public transport. Not only is it cheaper but all life is there to be discovered. Given the potential for unexpected surprises on public transport, the journeys can be as eventful as the destination.
Google Maps makes it easy to use public transport in the US. It tells you where, when and how to go. Just like London, it has real-time information about the service.
Whilst waiting for the bus to Venice Beach, I talked to someone carrying a load of plants. He was a florist taking his newly acquired plants back to his shop. When the bus came, it didn’t stop. Instead the bus driver said the stop was closed and we should go to the next one. The florist got angry because the next stop was quite a distance. He said the driver, knowing this, could easily have stopped and I had to agree that he could have let us on.
The florist’s anger turned to rage when the next bus stop was also closed and we had to walk another stop! He was calling the bus driver every name under the sun and repeatedly questioning his parentage whilst shaking his head in disgust.
After the florist calmed down, he told me his history (he was from Columbia and came to the US many years ago). He was the one who mentioned that his wife referred to Runyon Canyon Park as “boob park” when I told him I’d be going there the following day. Today, I was going to the beach.
Venice beach is called “muscle beach” because of the number of people working out in the outdoor gym. Near the gym is a skateboard park with people doing incredible stunts. I watched for quite a while mesmerised by their balance and skills. One skateboarder was so good that he carried a child on his back whilst navigating a course in the park.
Once I’d seen enough of Venice Beach, I headed north along the Pacific Coast to the famous Santa Monica Beach. During the 45-minute walk there, I saw a “Try Vegan” sign on the beach. The person promoting veganism turned out to be homeless. I asked how he managed and he said that it’s amazing how generous people are. He also said he preferred to live the way he did rather than return to normal life and be consumed by “the system”.
As I reached Santa Monica, the first thing I saw was the pier. I took the stairs up to it and walked its length, listening to some buskers along the way. One such busker was especially good, playing the ukulele whilst singing Hawaiian songs. I sat, looked at the Pacific Ocean and listened to him. When I gave him a tip, I saw a sign saying his name was Troy Fernandez and that he had won three Hawaiian Grammy awards! I later checked this and learnt from Wikipedia that he was part of a duo (Kaʻau Crater Boys), who did indeed win three awards from the Hawaiʻi Academy of Recording Arts.
So much of the USA is familiar to me through films and TV. So before I got to Venice and Santa Monica Beaches, I was expecting to be dazzled. I’m not sure how. Instead what I saw were two pleasant beach resorts with sand, a pier, fairground rides, people working out and entertaining buskers. It was a pretty good way to spend a day.