Grand view over LA – I’m curious if we got lucky, or if the skies are clearer?
Sunday we woke up, barely.
After breakfast we went to Venice Beach – Ling and Tim weren’t sure about going to a beach, but I insisted. This is *the* crazy beach in LA. The one you see in the movies that want to show the young innocent person arriving in LA shocked by how decadent and weird it is. I was really curious – I had looked it up on Trip Adivsor and the reviews were split between “Must see” and something along the lines of “I’m from the mid-west, and while I think I’m relatively forward thinking, this was disgusting and a display of everything that we teach our kids not to do. Nobody should go there”.
How could I resist?
It didn’t disappoint.
First there was the fat guy, chomping on the stogie, riding the upright go-cart, leaning on the horn as he drove around all the cyclists and rollerbladers on the bike trail. There were the “Medical Marijuana Evaluation Clinics” – one right next to the “Botox on the Beach” – I have the picture to prove it! There was the bikini lady wrapped in a boa constrictor. The hippies playing the bongoes. The girls doing weird dances on and off the sculpture while the guy with the video camera gave them directions. The classic California beach-house with the ground floor dedicated to surfboards. The iron-pumping area with the steroid-addled meatheads. It had everything – in fact I just discovered we missed the Women’s go topless day march by mere hours. Tim bought an amazing Cookie Monster T-shirt – looking at it, I’m jealous now that I didn’t get one first.
There were even pigeon gangs.
Although my instinct is to say that as we wandered the beach we spent enough time that Tim started to get hungry and we needed to look for lunch, I think it would be more correct to say Tim’s constant state of hunger approached a level where he couldn’t deal with it anymore. So we needed to decide what to do next – the other items on the list (Long Beach, Rodeo Drive, Mulholland Drive) weren’t piquing our interest – so it was LIng’s idea that we should try the Canyon the waitress told us about yesterday, and see what the view was like. On the way we could stop for lunch.
Going from Venice Beach to the Canyon at Hollywood Drive and Fuller Avenue took us through Santa Monica. So we stopped at a Japanese fast food restaurant, that showed just how health conscious the area was (this being California and all), by describing just how filling their meals were. Ling & Tim opted for the 900 calorie meal while I, being bigger, opted for the 1,100 calorie meal. It’s Japanese food so it must be good for us!
Lightly sated from our tiny lunches, we continued on to the Canyon. As luck would have it (and after two days of LA driving I know how lucky this was) we found parking right outside the gates. We walked in, trepidatious – Ling and Tim each had a bottle of water, I had none, and we had been told we might not want to do this during the day, we could start at 7, hike up the canyon, and come back down as it was getting dark. With only 2 hours before we had to return the car, I had no idea how far we would get, or if I would have to turn around rather than risk head exhaustion / dehydration – the signs warning us about rattlesnakes didn’t help much!
When we walked in, we were immediately struck by the terrain – I think we were hitting the true southern California landscape – red sand, scraggly bushes, and cacti. In addition to a dog park, this was obviously an LA version of the grouse grind, judging by the extremely fit people jogging by us carrying litres of water (not settling my concerns any)
As it turned out, the hike was not that arduous – maybe a 3 km loop with at most 150m elevation gain. Now don’t get me wrong, in 30+ heat, in a desert environment, this was not a walk in the park (except for the fact that it was literally a walk in the park). Getting to the top was well worth it – we had a 360 panorama of Los Angeles, with a clear view over the hills to the famous sign, a view downtown, and everything in-between. I’m still not sure why, but even the famous smog seemed to be absent – the view was clearer than your average Vancouver day!
We hung around there glad that we had taken the time to do this, then hiked back out. By this time I was definitely feeling thirsty, and remembered a concession stand at the front gate (it turns out the other gate, the one we walked by, was the start of the famous “Mulholland Drive”). I went there ready to pay whatever exorbitant fee they wanted – and was presented with a water bottles on top of a pile of ice, and a sign saying “Ice water $1, honor system.” – this, 1 block off Hollywod Boulevard – completely blowing away every LA stereotype I had as I watched people walk buy, drop their bills in the slot, and grab a bottle of water.
I did the same, reflecting that LA had not been what I expected – it was nicer, friendlier, and more enjoyable .
 Although the people using the movie camera and boom mike filming their room for rent sign certainly helped re-establish where I was!
“You looking at me? Well I don’t see anyone else in this water fountain”