Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Santa Monica - it started at Swingers

Outside Swingers diner 
I started the morning by heading out for the run. I thought it would be nice to run along the beach but it turns out that the Palisade Park runs out after a couple of kilometers. I spotted quite a few runners from a local club who were all heading north east along San Vincente Boulevard so I decided to tag along with them. The run was along a ten meter wide strip of grass that served as the divider between the lanes of traffic. To say you were running along a strip of grass in the middle of the road doesn't sound very exciting, but it was actually a pretty nice run as there was virtually no traffic and the houses on either side of the road were pretty attractive. The only downsides were the lack of water fountains and bathroom facilities.

After a shower back in the hotel, we thought we'd start our final full day in Santa Monica with a visit to the farmers market and hope to pick up some breakfast while we were there. Californian farmers markets have a reputation for being amazing but I was struggling to see what all the fuss was about. Perhaps I was in the wrong frame of mind as I was looking for stalls to sell be breakfast rather than fresh produce to take home and cook with, but it all seemed very expensive and a bit niche.

Turning in land we started drifting a few backstreets looking for somewhere to have breakfast and we ended up close to Pono burger, where we'd eaten on the first day, and couldn't resist the colourful Swingers diner.
Inside the diner
The diner had quite a retro feel inside and we ordered the classic mix of pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon. In a desperate attempt to increase our intake of fresh fruit and vegetables we ordered a fruit cup on the side. It felt like a good idea at the time, but simply added to the enormous volume of food we consumed!
After breakfast we headed back towards the beach and our first stop was the camera obscura. The camera clearly isn't a major tourist attraction and we eventually work out that you have to go into the attached Art Hub and ask at reception to borrow the key and then you get let yourself into the camera which is located at the top of the building. We only stayed inside the camera for a few minutes, but it was fun to look at the view from the 1950s camera.

On leaving the camera we headed south along the beach. Just beyond the pier was a sign for "The original muscle beach" and we sat on the wall for a while mesmerised by people 'slack lining'. The attached bungee cords between two metal posts and proceeded to perform all manner of tricks on them.
Slack lining
Watching the beginners who couldn't even balance on the bungee cord gave me an even greater appreciated for those people that could pull of tricks as they flew up into the air and back down again.

Breaking free from the hypnotic slack lining (and because I was a bit worried the back of my neck might burn if we sat there too long) we continued our walk south along the beach. It was an area with more hotels, than where we were staying north of the beach, and there were a lot more tourists like us milling about and enjoying the sunshine.

After a while we turned away from the beach and headed back into Santa Monica along Main St. Not quite the main artery that the name would suggest, but instead we passed allotments and small independent shops and cafés.
Santa Monica City Hall
Close to the pier we walked past the Art Deco City Hall and had a walk through Tongva Park. The park felt like it had been newly renovated and had a lovely series of little walks, attractive planting and even a lookout over the sea. It has been pretty well done for such a small space. We saw a wedding party having some photos taken in the park and I can see why you'd choose it as a location.

Back in the city we visited the mall for a look round a few of the shops / department stores. Our wallets were grateful that we bought very little.
On our way back to the hotel we stopped for a couple of sun downers on the roof of the Shangri La hotel which we'd head had great views of the sunset over the ocean. The bar was quite busy, but after a bit of loitering we managed to grab ourselves two seats on one of the sofas where we could enjoy our drinks and the view. As well as listen in to two couples nearby telling each other how they'd met.

For dinner we visited we visited Father's Office which is a burger joint (the third in three days, I'm liking the average) close to the restaurant we'd visited on the first night. The chef is apparently a celebrity having appeared on TV, although I'm suspecting it was an obscure cable show. The bar operates no reservations policy and you have to order and hope that a seat becomes available before your food arrived. It was feeling like more effort than it should be and I was tempted to go somewhere else, but we ordered a couple of beers and were able to get a couple seats. The bar was incredibly dark so I didn't even attempt to take any photos. I think I remember it being a pretty decent burger? (As reviews go, I'm sure you'll all agree they don't get much better than that.)

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