There is always a moment – usually when I exit the freeway – that I take a deep breath of relief and say “ahhh.”
Suddenly, the agony of the past hour (or more) has become a fading memory. It was something I had to endure to get back to what I adore.
It happens each and every time I drive through L.A. traffic and return to the Beach Cities.
When I exit the freeway – usually the 405 – and hit the coast, I roll down the windows to feel the ocean breeze, It’s as calming as it is cooling.
The contrast between being inching along in traffic along clogged surface streets with ill-timed lights and sitting bumper-to-bumper on poorly designed freeways “up there in L.A.,” and the relaxed attitude of the beaches is so dramatic it’s hard to believe you’re still in the same city.
Arriving along the coast in of Hermosa, Manhattan or Redondo Beach is like arriving on vacation.
And that traffic back up in L.A., suddenly seems million miles away from my mind. The beach has that kind of calming effect on people, and especially on me.
Besides the weather, the attire, the people and and the accent, there’s one more difference between beaches in California and those of the East Coast and the Jersey Shore in particular.
And that is the name of the sidewalk that runs parallel to the beach.
On the East Coast, it’s a boardwalk.
In California, it’s The Strand.
This is in large part because there are no boards on the walk path; it’s concrete. And it doubles as a running area and bike path and in Los Angeles, runs for close to 20 miles from Santa Monica south to Palos Verdes.
There are also bike paths and The Strand in Long Beach, Newport Beach and San Diego’s Pacific and Ocean beaches.
Californians do get a little prickly when some outsider calls it the boardwalk. Myself included, and I’m not even a native.
“Do you see any boards,” I say. “Here,” – and this is when I smile and lower my voice to a more friendly tone – “we call it The Strand.”
The Strand is where all life at the beach begins. It is between the sand and ocean on one side and houses on the other. This is broken up on occasion by piers in different beach cities.
Oh, and there’s one other difference between California and the East Coast beach paths, and this also applies to Florida: Most of the buildings along the path are houses that are either owned or are rentals.
In the other places, the beach is dominated by hotels and condos.
Come out and visit our California beaches and see for yourself. Just be sure and call the beach path The Strand.
Bicycles Cruise Along Harbor Drive From HB To King Harbor
It’s green and as smooth as a putting green.
Lined on both sides by palm trees, it’s a picturesque beach scene.
The new Redondo Beach bike path is open, and it’s Southern California scenic. Especially the part on the Hermosa Beach/Redondo border; it looks like something from an idyllic postcard about a fantasy destination.
The path goes along Harbor Drive from Hermosa Beach to the Redondo Beach Pier and King Harbor. It passes the Bluewater Grill, the Cheesecake Factory, an SUP shop and the under-construction Shade Hotel.
The newly-opened Redondo Beach Hotel is at the Harbor/Beryl Drive intersection, as is the Crowne Plaza. The Portofino and its BALEENKitchen bar and restaurant and Joe’s Crabshack are on Portofino Way.
And if you need a bike, get one from Marina Bike Rentals at the corner of Harbor Drive and Beryl/Portofino Way.
So that’s it for your bike path tour guide for food, drinks and accommodations.
Now if you’re on a bike, the path is really nice. If you’re in a car trying to get into any of those businesses, then you may not like the bike path.
Or at least its design.
That’s because for some reason, it contains no southbound turn lane at the Cheesecake Factory, by far the most popular weekend restaurant. Traffic is going to back up on Harbor Drive into Hermosa Beach, and also up 190th Street (which there is actually Herondo Street) as people have to wait to turn onto Harbor Drive.
There is a center turn lane, so if you’re going to the Cheesecake and the King Harbor parking lot for that matter, you’re better off taking Beryl to Harbor Drive.
You can see it on TV specials and documentaries but nothing can actually prepare you emotionally for visiting Pearl Harbor.
The tour is free but the memories are a treasure. (There are paid van tours which can be set up and leave from every hotel in Waikiki Beach. They are as easy to find as sand. And at the venue, donations are accepted.)
First, you go to a waiting room of sorts, which is really a mini museum. Then you board a small boat and ride out to the USS Arizona Memorial.
When you step from the boat onto the white open-air structure, which is over the sunken ship, the mood of everyone changes. You go from chatting with friends and others to complete silence.
You move around the structure – which is small, only capable of holding a few dozen people –with a quiet respect. The monument is like a T-bone over the ship and on a wall are the names of those who died during the attack on that day of infamy.
It’s easy to spend several minutes just staring at the wall, slowly reading the names. But there are so many of them, 1,177. This is when the reality of the attack really starts to take hold of the mind. The list is so long it’s impossible to read all the names.
All around you there is silence. It’s like being at a funeral, but a funeral for people you don’t know and never knew, but respect.
This is a good time to peer over the side. Droplets of oil rise to the surface out of the ship. It’s said they are actually the tears of those who lost their lives.
You can stay as long as you like, but somewhere around 20 minutes is enough time. Then you board another boat and return to shore.
No matter what else you do in Hawaii, and how much you whoop it up in the bars of Waikiki Beach, those moments at Pearl Harbor will stay with you for a long time.
VISITING PEARL HARBOR
• 1,300 walk-in tickets are available daily at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, which opens at 7:00 a.m. Tickets are free and available on a first come, first serve basis.
• You can also get tickets in advance by calling 1-877-444-6777 or on-line at: www.recreation.gov
• Hours: Daily, 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
• Address: 1 Arizona Memorial Place, Honolulu, HI 96818
There is a saying – even a song – that talks about the “Key West state of mind.”
But what is that exactly and how does it apply to those living in and visiting the Conch Republic?
The answer is as simple as Key West itself.
It means taking things at the slow, patient Key West pace.
It means walking slowly through the town, popping into “Papa’s place” (Sloppy Joe’s) for an afternoon drink or two, wandering through any of Key Wests’ 200 or so t-shirt shops and listening to the local musicians at the bars such as the Schooner Wharf on the water.
Making the obligatory stop at Captain Tony’s Saloon.
It means taking the sunsets at Mallory Square, a nightly ritual that is both spiritual for the soul and entertaining.
Basically, it means living the way locals live, and that’s keeping things simple, slow and doing what you like to do by letting your free spirit flow as freely as the drinks.
You know you have achieved it, by the way, when you quit trying to stick to a rigid schedule. When you start accepting people who initially seemed a bit off kilter. When you run into one of Key West’s many creative festivals and embrace it.
And when you quit slapping your legs while worrying about mosquito bites.
Other places have this, too. In Hawaii, for example, there is what locals call the “Aloha spirit.”
And that means being laid-back and saying “aloha” to people you meet and even strangers you pass on the street, and giving a “mahalo” for any service performed or friendly gesture.
So having a state of mind in a destination certainly not exclusive to Key West. But the Key West state of mind certainly is unique.
The Belmont Shore area of Long Beach is long on restaurants and each month during the summer it hosts a “Stroll & Savor” event in which food is served curbside to people, well, strolling down the street.
It takes place Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 5:30-9 p.m.
You buy a book of tickets for $10 and sample food from the restaurants. It takes place on 2nd Street. And there’s plenty of choices.
A Quick Guide To Coronado, Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach & Oh, The Gaslamp
There are beaches, a vibrant nightlife scene and the weather is perfect.
If you’re looking for a place to spend Memorial Day Weekend, then I highly recommend San Diego.
You can spend three days in San Diego and be doing something different the entire time. In fact, you would be hard pressed to see and do everything.
So here’s my quick guide:
• The Gaslamp. Stay here and play here at night. The bars are fantastic and give you surprises beyond what you see when you walk in the door. But that’s at night; in the daytime use it as your launching pad for these other areas.
• Little Italy. About a 15-minute walk from the Gaslamp, this is worth a visit for the fantastic pizza at Filippi’s and drinks at the oldest tavern in San Diego, the Waterfront Tavern (one block over toward the water).
• Coronado. You can take a bus – San Diego has excellent public transportation – but take the ferry instead. It leaves from behind the Convention Center every 20 minutes. It’s about a mile to the Hotel del Coronado and the town, so you’ll need to catch a bus or, better yet, rent a bike in the Gaslamp and ride around the island. Be sure and visit the Hotel Del.
• Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach & La Jolla. It’s Memorial Day and you want to be at the beach, right? Well then go here, for this is where the beach lifestyle is in San Diego.
Rent a bike and cruise The Strand, and go just a bit inland from the rollercoaster to Mission Bay. Walk the cliffs of La Jolla and go snorkeling in La Jolla Cove and have a margarita at Jose’s in town.
• Seaport Village. This is an easy walk from the Gaslamp; just to the right of the Convention Center. There’s a small park and Seaport Village has a few semi-interesting shops and restaurants. There are also street performers. If you want a drink I recommend the margaritas inside the bar at Edgewater Cafe.
• Kansas City BBQ, The “Top Gun Bar.” On your way back to the Gaslamp, stop in here for a couple of beers. It’s a total dive with a funk vibe. And it’s way cool. You can see the juke box that was in the movie and even sit where Tom Cruise sat at the bar. The bartender will point all this out to you in a brief but highly entertaining routine.