Independence Day on Santa Monica and Venice

Where in California would you find an Italophile? Venice Beach of course! I did the worst thing I could do which was discover other people’s opinions and they all said it was “the ‘hood”. I was sure that my choice of blue shorts and pink and white stripes would get me shot if I strayed onto the wrong streets. I know.

I took an Uber to my next hostel, PodVenice, which is friendly and open plan but not much in the way of organised events unlike Walk of Fame hostel. I pretty much dropped my bags and went out. First stop was Abbot Kinney Boulevard, where the name and colour of the store Lemonade naturally attracted me. I ordered a big Old Fashioned Lemonade which was a bit too big and sweet for me to sink quickly, and walked down the boulevard.

It was lovely. I am sure it’s gentrified left right and centre, with all the organic and healthy stores that the poor locals can’t afford, but there are a lot of public art and uplifting messages. 

It’s definitely a pretty street, and very photogenic and social media friendly like all gentrified enclaves.

Abbot Kinney takes you close to the boardwalk, where everything is like they say. There are so many characters. I thought the people watching comments were a bit absurd, but from the skaters in the park, the grown man sucking a dummy, the man and his scooby doo bike and the crack smokers, there is a lot to see.

 I watched the skaters, dipped my toes into the Pacific for the first time and then walked onwards to Santa Monica Beach.

You can tell you’re leaving Venice because the atmosphere becomes more polite and sanitised. Gone are the medical marijuana shops and in their place, cycle paths. Then you come upon the original muscle beach and it’s a sight to behold. There’s nothing like it. Asia has many public gyms but not like this, where the most physically competent Californians flip and glide and tightrope around to my awe.

 One such Californian approached me. He had been working out since January and wanted me to take pictures of him. I was more than happy to oblige. 

From there I visited the pier, where the rides and food are so expensive, but it’s a fun watch. I rested my aching legs on the beach before walking back and finding the smaller muscle beach on Venice. I’m sure it features in a movie, but the Venice muscle beach has just as impressive athletes and it’s great to watch them work out and train together. The food on the boardwalk seems to be variations of poke, pizza and tacos which I didn’t want, so I headed back to Abbot Kinney. My camera lens came apart in my hands at this point, but rather than cry, I went to get dinner at Lemonade. 

I’m not a big salad fan, but all the food looked so delicious that I took this leafy green salad (over a macaroni cheese!) and the people in the store were so nice! It was a nice salad, but I wanted something more so I tried the grocery store on the left around five minutes away. Everything was pricey organic food! I gave up and went back to my hostel to rest for the night.

The plan was to sleep, but I met two English girls and two American guys, and imposed myself on their plans to watch the 4th July fireworks from the beach! It was such a nice way to wind down, with fireworks going off in the nearby Marina Del Rey and Santa Monica pier as well as further away in Long Beach and Malibu. It was surreal!

I loved Venice Beach and Santa Monica. You can see there is poverty, and homelessness, but there is also a lovely, friendly atmosphere where everyone is laid back and there is no aggression. I felt so comfortable and welcomed, and I am glad to have put this on my itinerary

Favourite sights: Both muscle beaches, Abbot Kinney Boulevard

Safety: The area felt pretty safe, there are a lot of homeless people so you just have to keep your eyes open and be sensible with valuables

Hostel PodVenice

Positives: cheap, located right near Abbot Kinney and Venice beach, area seems safe, looks really beautiful, ping pong and basketball amongst other activities

Negatives: Very open plan and there are no real group activities like a hostel trip to see 4th July fireworks or anything like that

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