On a short weekend trip to Los Angeles, my friends and I spend a memorable afternoon in Venice Beach.
From LAX airport, we pile into an Uber going to Fig Tree; a restaurant overlooking the Venice Beach boardwalk.
An older Black woman serenades the boardwalk, lending her melodic voice to covers of well-known songs. We join in for the chorus of Peggy Lee’s Fever, singing and snapping to the soulful jazz beat. But we’re only confident enough to sing to each other, because when she invites each one of us over for a duet, we quickly (and politely) decline. She laughs off our timid refusal and walks over to chat with us as intermission, before resuming her smooth one-woman show.
After brunch, we head to the Marriott in Marina del Rey to check-in and rest before we visit the Venice Canals.
Here I’m instantly reminded of Venice, Italy.
Ivory-colored bridges cross over a narrow waterway lined with rows of lush greenery. Small wooden boats sit anchored to the canal’s edge. Our path through the canals leads to Venice Beach Boardwalk: a heavily-visited strip teeming with kitschy souvenir stores and energetic beach-goers.
We stop at Rico’s Empanadas for “the best empanadas in Venice Beach”. The owner is advertising loudly as we approach: telling passers-by that they can get a refund if they don’t like his empanadas. I ask him if he has ever had to give a refund. “Once,” he says.
The empanadas (made Argentinian style) are baked to golden brown, well-seasoned, and stuffed with delicious cooked meats; a bite that ranks highly as the best I’ve ever had.
After finger food, we rent motorized scooters to ride towards Santa Monica Pier as the sun sets over the beach.
Santa Monica’s sunsets are beautifully slow. As if the sun is reluctant to leave its place. Minute by minute, for at least an hour, the sky shifts from soft blue to a gradient of purply lavender, finally ending in a bright orange flame on the horizon.
By the time sunset colors melt to black, we’re eating tasty appetizer plates of sushi and popcorn shrimp at a Hawaiian fusion restaurant near the boardwalk.
I’ve visited L.A a number of times but never visited Venice Beach. No doubt it gets rowdy in the warmer months, but on this day in January, it was a lovely place to spend the afternoon.
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Same Footprints, Different Sands