Back to overcast skies today and a sightseeing drive to the south of Santa Monica felt like a good idea. We had been to Venice Beach some years previously on a drive through California, so we set off to see if we could find where we had gone on that occasion. Even just after breakfast, Venice Beach was crowded with cars and, for the first time on this trip, we did not find a parking spot anywhere near where we wanted to be. More map researching told us that Long Beach might be interesting and it wasn’t too far.
We thought we might deploy our usual trick of wandering off the main highway, but on this occasion I have to say that our wanderings were somewhat less successful than previously. With our destination still in the sat nav, we appeared to be stretching the time of arrival by several hours. More importantly, we were not really seeing much, apart from downmarket suburbs and confusing signposts. It seemed like a good idea to head back to the main road, swallow our pride and just get to our destination. Besides, it was time for coffee.
This time we diligently followed the main highway, plus the sat nav, as well as the road signs. I am sure we could be forgiven for the confusion when the equivalent of a motorway spur road took us to the heart of a working dock area of massive proportions. Ships’ containers were everywhere, as were signs to various parts of the port. Did we want cruise ships or commercial? The sat nav appeared unconcerned, so we followed on wondering if we might find ourselves being directed on board a ship. But no, the road forked and we were going downtown, apparently.
We certainly came to large buildings, very smart hotels and “normal” traffic. So, time to park, time to explore and definitely time for coffee. That was easy to achieve and in our refreshed state we still could see no sign of a beach, let alone a long one. So, it was back to the car, look at the picture on the sat nav, which showed a very long beach not far away, and try to find a side road which might take us there. From limited parking in what may, or may not, have been the town, now there was miles of it, all along the beachfront. The problem was… the overcast skies were not welcoming to beach people and, unless we fancied walking the miles of beach, the huge prices being charged to park there didn’t really seem worth it. We stayed long enough to look at the island just off the coast, see the extent of the beach and marvel at the hardy souls wandering into the ocean. Santa Monica felt like a whole lot more fun, so that was where we headed, taking a different route to avoid the docks but not to avoid the vast numbers of other cars heading in the same direction. They do have traffic jams here!
Once back in Santa Monica, we ditched the car at the hotel and headed off once more by bus. We noted that our already cheap tickets would take us to Venice Beach if we wanted, but thought that a wander through the town, a look at the shops and some late lunch might serve us well. We also planned to go back to the pier and finally (hopefully) see the sunset. We did shop, I bought winter boots of all things, and found food at Johnny Rockets. This was an amazing experience in itself. More wandering and watching street entertainers and we were back to the pier.
Sunset here draws the crowds and there was sufficient clear sky above the horizon to suggest we might see a good one. Meanwhile there was much pier entertainment to enjoy, to say nothing of the flashing lights and loud music which came from the funfair.
And suddenly, there it was. A ball of fire heading for the sea (sorry geographers – I do know what really takes place but your version isn’t quite so graphic) and every phone, every camera and every iPad came to life in an effort to capture those magical moments from every viewpoint. It was somewhat significant as this was our last night of the 2019 Road Trip odyssey. All those fabulous days and this felt like saying goodbye for another year.
But not quite. We are not flying home until late afternoon and tomorrow is another day (or at least half a day) to enjoy.