After spending a sleepless night in a stuffy, stinky, small co-ed dorm room, we had a quick free breakfast in the hostel kitchen, locked up our bags, hired bikes (I got a great "cruiser" - wouldn't mind something like that back in London!) and went cycling from Santa Monica down to Venice Beach. The morning started off misty and cool but later the clouds dissipated and the California sunshine smiled down on us. It was great to feel the cool Pacific breeze once again. Oh, I do love to be by the sea!
The vibe down in Venice Beach couldn't be more different: homeless people camping out under the palm trees (even right in front of the police station), stallholders selling quirky pieces of art (I bought a small reminder), multi-million dollar designer houses lining the beachfront (took a photo of Frank Gehry's lifeguard-tower-inspired design), guys pumping iron at Muscle Beach (including a rather short but incredibly handsome Latino bodybuilder wearing nothing else except a very revealing budgie-smuggler speedo) and eccentric buskers playing music (we even met the turbanwearing-rollerblading-guitarplaying-wandering-Sikh!). It was like being in Camden-by-the-Pacific!
The cycling lanes along the beach stretch for several miles but all that exercise and "talent-spotting" made us incredibly hungry, so we stopped for a bite to eat and some refreshments at a side street cafe. It was great to continue to watch people. We were certainly not disappointed. Soon enough, a traffic warden walked by and was spotted by someone eating who called out to her about her being in a popular reality TV show. I can't remember the name of the show but she sure was a character and loving all the attention and posing for photos. It was fun to watch her interacting with her audience and acting up for her fans!
Attempted to cycle to the Farmer's Market, but after an hour of cycling and not even getting to the halfway mark (yet again, travelling without a proper map), we decided to abandon our quest and head back to the hostel to get to our next accommodation. Cycling back, we went through the side streets and past quirky suburban Santa Monic homes. I can understand the appeal!
En route, we stopped by Real Food Daily (organic vegan cuisine) for a very late lunch - by that time is was 4pm - time flies by when you're havin fun! I had the El Bandito Rojo: corn enchiladas, seasoned tempeh, salsa Roja, Spanish rice, lack beans, pico de gallo, tofu sour cream and guacamole! It was seasoned to perfection and reminded me of the tangy flavours of the Pacific part of Mexico. The food was unpretentiously, wholesomely, decadently good - especially for a vegan place! And yet again, the dessert was amazing! We shared the chocolate cake and, I must say, both Wendy and I agreed that it was one of the best chocolate cakes we have ever had: pure creamy, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness!
We then went to the hostel to collect our bags and take public transport to our accommodation in Korea Town where we managed to find the last room at the "Stay On Beverly" on Beverly Boulevard. 2 buses and 90minutes later, we finally reached the place - an oasis in the middle of a strange area - an uneasy mix of Asian and Hispanic immigrants. Fortunately, it was a quiet spot and the Danish owner did a wonderful job of decorating and running the place. It was absolutely spotless and had the best bathroom I have seen anywhere! Well worth the $50 we paid per night. That's right folks - only 50 bucks for the room! We loved staying here: it was central, clean, contemporary and cheap and a perfect base for the rest of our stay in L.A.