Santa Monica: chill out in an oasis of calm
Forty minutes down the road from Los Angeles International Airport is the seaside settlement of Santa Monica, and a charming spot it is too.
Very chilled out, but also modern, authentic not tacky, with great restaurants and cafes (always important for me), an interesting and historic pier, a thunderously good beach and no showoffs (go to Venice Beach for that).
I spent several hours there last week in between flights in and out of LAX. What a contrast to the hustle and hassle of a busy airport.
It’s dead easy to get there. Take a Flyaway bus from just outside the entrance to Tom Bradley (or any other terminal) on that great sweeping boulevard where buses are monsters. The Flyaway bus to Santa Monica comes past every hour at 45 minutes to the hour. $8 for a single journey. (It’s even cheaper if you take a shuttle to a carpark and catch the Big Blue Bus – then it’s only a $1.)
Remember the song…..”until the the sun comes up.on …” Sheryl Crowe. I lunched at a great seafood place – some oysters and a ceviche of shrimps, octopus and squid. (Actually the oysters were from the east coast, but they were good).
Down on the pier originally built as a sewerage outfall but extended and converted into a fun park in the 1930s, there is a history of gangsterism where Tony “The Hat” Cornero held out against the cops for eight days in 1938 and then gave himself up claiming he needed a haircut.
Forrest Gump fans will recall that on his cross country run he reached the end of the pier and then turned around and ran back east again. There’s nothing to mark the spot and no one could tell me the exact spot. (Surely it can be worked out from the movie and a plaque put up) but there is a Bubba Gump restaurant.
Amid the bustle of the pier it’s also the end of the legendary Route 66 which took settlers from Chicago to California and is still travelled nostalgically today.
Cyclists have their own lanes and even the police seem gentle – this is an electric car.
The architecture is interesting – this place has a Starbucks at the bottom and the second set of apartments has a beachfront sun lounge.
Cycling is the way to go but many travellers just relax in the park.
The beach is stunning, and the houses have that cute look that says Californian Mediterranean – could have been a movie set.
The realities of modern life are everywhere: don’t let the fries get cold!
I thought this place was a seaside charmer: in Australia what Bondi and Manly should be, but so clearly aren’t. In New Zealand what New Brighton and Napier could be, but don’t have the imagination or the resources to become.
Santa Monica is a short break destination for the LAX stopover traveller seeking sun and relief. Allow five hours to recharge; it’s great to just stroll, but allow more time if you want it to shop and ride bikes too. (Venice Beach is a nice ride) One note of caution: the area is not particularly compact, so walking everywhere (especially in heat) is not practical. Pick a couple of areas of interest and focus your attention on them. The very helpful Official Visitors Map for Santa Monica divides the area into eight distinctive neighbourhoods. It’s one of the best guides I have seen.
When you are ready catch the bus back (pick up at the drop off spot about two blocks back from the beach) and return to the madness sof LAX.