Our bike ride from Manhattan Beach had taken us around Marina del Rey and deposited us into the midst of the action on Venice Beach. Possibly LA’s best known beach area, I had expected to see all types of bizarre characters but in fact things seemed fairly tame. Perhaps the most striking sight was that of the medical marijuana shops. Bright green eye catching stalls with a couple of girls out front dressed not unlike cheerleaders.
The famed muscle beach body builders must have been taking a day off, as we didn’t see them. The skateboard park was busy though and had attracted a decent number of spectators.
We took our bikes off the bike paths and walked along the boardwalk, admiring the colourful mix of shops, fortune-tellers, souvenirs and artwork. To me, most was pretty bad. Even the majority of the clothing shops were pretty tacky, but the walkway certainly didn’t lack character. We took our bikes off the boardwalk and wheeled them into a long narrow courtyard with a cafe at the end. We stopped for a frozen yogurt and enjoyed being away from the crowds for a short while.
We then continued on towards Santa Monica. The Santa Monica pier was no less busy than Venice Beach. We were able to push our bikes onto the rough wooden boards of the pier and walk around the perimeter. The pier seems to have it all: restaurants, entertainers, a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, a trapeze school and an aquarium. It is even part of Route 66. We walked to the far end, where a row of anglers went about the serious business of casting lines out into the quiet swells of the Pacific. Their pursuit was a far cry from the noisy leisure pursuits of most people who visit the pier.
Back along the pier we observed an entertainer in puzzlement. He wore a shabby tracksuit with a gorilla mask and danced, not very well, to a string of old pop songs. He made us laugh if nothing else.
We passed the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant, apparently owned by the production company responsible for making ‘Forest Gump’ and continued towards the pier entrance. After over 100 years of operation, the pier shows no sign of losing its appeal.
We wanted to explore further but it was time to turn back. We cycled back along the winding Venice Beach path, competing with pedestrians and roller-bladers for space. The skate park and the boardwalk were still busy. It isn’t until you reach the edge of Marine del Rey that the crowds disappear and the quieter side of LA beach life returns.