Memorial Day in Santa Monica and Venice
May 28, 2019
Author: Bianca Yang
I spent Memorial Day in Santa Monica and Venice with a good friend. We left Caltech around 10am and headed straight for Santa Monica pier. The past couple of times I’ve come to the pier were around midnight, so I was definitely surprised by the daytime activity. We immediately headed up from sea level to the surface streets. We did a loop around the 3rd Street Promenade then grabbed morning drinks at Espresso Cielo. I got a hot chocolate, and he got some kind of cold latte. The cafe has a very nice vibe to it and has massive pastries (croissant, cheese danish, etc). After drinks, we did another lap and a half around the promenade (up to 4th then back down Santa Monica Blvd) before stopping for lunch at Cava. I’d seen a bunch of people at the Pasadena Cava on Lake but had not tried it, so I was ready to be surprised. The food is expensive, at $12 for a bowl, but it’s super tasty. Of course, the more you eat, the better the deal is. I saw some guy pack his bowl almost twice as high as the container with vegetables and (unlimited) toppings. I got falafel and chicken on a bed of arugula. Would highly recommend if you’re into these kind of health food dishes.
After lunch, we walked Ocean Ave towards the Palisades Park. We saw a guy flying a kite down at the water front and some plane dragging around a Pepsi advertisement. We stopped once we got to 101 Ocean Avenue. We stopped to take a gander at the ocean view from 101 Ocean Avenue (condo residences) and watched some pickle ball players down on at sea level. On our way back, we each snagged a Bird scooter and zipped down to Venice Beach. I initially felt pretty unstable on the Bird scooter. The fear vanished within a minute or two of using the scooter, though. We happily zoomed along the bike lane, melding in seamlessly with car and pedestrian bike traffic.
We stopped zooming along once we got to Market Street x Pacific Avenue. We ended our Bird rides then walked onto the famous Venice speedway. Our first sight? A man trying to ride a 7’ unicycle and juggle knives. Apparently that guy is out on the speedway every day. We walked along the speedway for a while, simply soaking in the activity and vibrancy of the road. We saw some police on horses. We also made it to muscle beach! Our last sight before we headed off to see the canals was this mural.
The canals of Venice were originally built to drain the marshland. Now they serve as a beautiful neighborhood in which to take some photos and peek into other people’s expensive backyards. One lady was very upset that someone had stolen her decorative bird feeder and posted a pointed sign saying that the thief could “rot in hell”. The woman who presumably wrote the sign was standing outside, watering her plants, so I would have brought some serious fire and brimstone upon myself by taking a photo of it. Here is a picture of the canal.
We were super thirsty at this point, having not taken water since lunch. We decided to stop at the Thai restaurant at the south end of the canals for some Thai iced tea. This was way too sweet for me, so I drank less than half of it. After the drink, we went to check out the Venice skate park. This was a super cool place. I really dig people who can throw their weight around on a board. I’ve been tempted to buy a board since 5th grade, when I convinced a friend to “teach” me how to ride. That was a scary experience that basically was as aggressive as teaching someone to swim by pushing them into the deep end. I’ve messed around with long boards since but have not pulled the trigger for my own board yet.
Boards are cool, but you’ll really be surprised when you turn around and see the people rollerskating in a coned off area behind the skate park. These guys are brilliant. Somebody’s doing pirouettes in a corner. Another couple is executing some tight choreography to whatever is blasting out of the boom box. Some other guys are just messing around. Rollerskating is basically ice skating on concrete.
At this point, I needed to find a quite place to take my coffeechat.app call. This is an app that matches information seekers with information givers. Today, I was seeking information on street design from Daniel, an Australian transport engineer. We had an enjoyable 10 minute call about Jan Gehl and new urbanism and walkability in cities. The app automatically connects you and your partner and automatically cuts you off at 10 minutes, no warning. You can always schedule another call or chat with them in the app, but perhaps 10 minutes was really enough time.
After the chat, we talked about travel. He wants to travel to all countries in the world, going at least to the capital city and to one or two suburbs to get food. I have technically been to quite a few countries in the world, but I wouldn’t really say I’ve actually been there. I don’t know how to properly travel, but I think I’m looking forward to a bunch of good years of traveling with friends (once I find the right ones).
A side note. I think travelling between places is inhuman. Sitting in a metal can that is dry and full of recirculated germ air for hours on end is physically stressful. Time changes are physically stressful. Waiting in the airport is physically stressful. All these things make travel hard, not to mention how stressful it is to get a good itinerary set up and actually do the things on the itinerary. But, if you’re a good control freak or if you’re willing to listen to a good control freak, the itinerary part can be made much easier. As to making the actual sitting in a metal can part easier, buy a lounge pass, get first class seats, do all those things to make it more palatable. It’s sad that affordable travel is so expensive, but you do what you need to do to get the experiences you need to grow.
After chatting about travel, we decided to get dinner at Hotel Erwin, next to Eggslut. Our first attempt to get to the restaurant led us to the rooftop bar. I got a nice photo out of it, but it wasn’t where we wanted to be. The bar was super popular that day, too, so seats were exceedingly hard to come by. We headed back downstairs to the actual restaurant and each had their OG burger. My friend has been vegetarian his whole life, and this was his second time having a burger. There were no surprises with his burger, but it’s not like I was expecting anything. I don’t think switching to meat or switching to vegetarianism is that life-changing. Food is still food. The changes are all biochemical and internal.
I think I’m going to cut back on meat consumption. I need to eat more plants and don’t need that much protein in my diet.
After dinner, we headed back home. It was a fun (not exhausting, actually) day and we’re looking forward to round 2 before I graduate.
Yesterday was honestly the kind of day where I realize that I don’t actually hate LA. I just hate Pasadena and its lack of variety and options and suburban-ness. Pasadena is a bike-friendly city, but the lack of other activity seriously dampens the bike-ability benefit. I love the craziness of Venice and the beach vibe of Santa Monica because where else are you going to find such great weather and such insane culture? San Diego beaches are way too laid back. Most beaches in SD don’t have the kind of infrastructure Santa Monica has. There are definitely no beaches that I can think of that have Venice-style madness. SF Bay Area? Do they even have beaches? Maybe Santa Cruz is their one saving grace. But I’m pretty sure Malibu has Santa Cruz handily beat for surfing. I think LA is still the place to be if you love this blend of individual expression and good weather and awesome food. You’ve just got to live near the coast.
That’s it for now. Questions and comments can go to my email.