So despite the early start, the 11 hour flight and the -8 hour time difference we were pretty refreshed and raring to go when we arrived. We collected our hire car from the Thrifty unit just outside of LAX airport (there is a shuttle bus from the main terminal to take you there). Tom just loves the car hire system in the USA as you get to pick your own car unlike Europe where your car is assigned to you. We had booked a mid size SUV and there were plenty to choose from, in fact himself was like a kid in a candy store walking up and down the line of vehicles debating which one he liked the best in the end I do believe the car he eventually chose was a Nissan Rogue....as a non driver I don't take too much notice of these things. My opinion was requested but I was too busy taking in the gorgeous LA day and the beautiful blue skies, oh it was so good to finally feel some sun on my skin.
We had borrowed a satnav from a friend and was pleased to find that our first destination was no more than 20/30 mins away. There was hardly any traffic on our drive so it wasn't too long before we were pulling up at the valet station of the Jamaica Bay Inn in Marina del Rey. I found this hotel simply by doing some online research and by checking out reviews etc on Trip Advisor, turns out that all paid off as it was a great place to base ourselves. The JBI is a gorgeous beach themed hotel right on a little bay overlooking Mothers Beach and a marina filled with fabulous boats. We had a city view room and overlooked the front of the hotel but for an extra fee you can request a room with a marina/beach view. The hotel has a restaurant and bar and offers in-room dining but there are also plenty of other places nearby including a Cheesecake Factory! The room itself was lovely, it was spacious, clean and comfortable with loads of storage for your clothes and very importantly it had a coffee maker - perfect for all those early morning starts. The bathroom had a shower, a tub and a separate toilet plus there were plenty of soft, fluffy towels, a hairdryer and some Molten Brown bath/body products to use. If I have one negative thing to say about the room it would be that it was a little on the dark side as it only had two small windows and they were covered with dark wood shutters but it honestly wasn't a problem for us at all. One other thing to point out is that the room also had a fireplace which was a godsend on the first night. It wasn't cold at all but the room AC had been on while we were out, that together with jet-lag and tiredness made us feel a little chilly so we put the fire on low for a little while and we were soon toasty warm. All in all we had a lovely 4 night stay, all the staff we encountered were friendly and helpful and I would have no hesitation in either staying here again or recommending it to friends and family. Probably next time though we would book a marina view room, especially one of the ones that comes with a balcony.
The View from the Restaurant/Bar Terrace over Mothers Beach
We unpacked quickly and then headed straight out to get some fresh air and to have a walk about and explore a little. As it was Memorial Day weekend the beachfront was packed, at points there were so many people it was hard to get through especially where the street performers were doing their thing but this didnt bother us too much as we were in no rush. We walked past Muscle Beach and luckily for us there were a couple of guys working out on the equipment there.....
The beach itself was gorgeous, huge and wide with soft golden sands and with all the little lifeguard huts dotted along it looked just like something from Baywatch. There were loads of people on the beach too, some just enjoying the day and some partaking in water sports, volleyball, dancing - you name it and it was going on. The path that takes you from Marina del Rey down to Santa Monica also goes through Venice Beach which was full of colorful, unusual and some downright crazy looking characters, it really was a place to people watch!! The beachfront is a wide palm tree lined avenue that is full of shops, restaurants and bars. There are also parks, public toilets and a cycle path, basically there is something for everyone. The walk took us a lot longer than we thought it would and for a while we wondered if we would ever reach Santa Monica as we couldn't see the pier at all, however as we rounded a bend it suddenly appeared bathed in a haze of sunshine. Before long we were standing on the pier right by the famous end of Route 66 sign - another American icon ticked off our list of places to visit (we do have plans to one day travel from the start to the end of Route 66).
The sun was now starting to set and the pier was a little packed for our liking, also by now jet-lag and hunger were kicking in so we decided that now would be a good time to eat and think about making our way back to our hotel. We had wanted to go to Bubba Gump's on the pier but the queue was awful so we set about decided to just go straight back to the hotel but as neither of us wanted to walk we needed to try and find a taxi. We couldn't find one along the seafront for love nor money so we kind of just wandered into Santa Monica central to see if we could find one there. Hot, hungry and jaded we turned into a shopping area and as we glanced up there in front of us was the most wonderful sight - a great big sign for the Cheesecake Factory!! Yay food had found us, it was going to be ok after all. At first we were a little put off by another big queue but the host assured us it would only be a short wait and it was - 15 mins later we were in our booth and deciding what we wanted to eat. I cant quite remember but I think I had a turkey burger from the Skinny-licious menu and Tom had some kind of club sandwich. After our meal and after declining cheesecake (on this occasion) we finally found a taxi and made it back to our hotel. We ended our night with a couple of drinks on the outside bar/terrace, being right by the sea it was a little chilly but the patio heaters and fire pits dotted about helped keep the cold out. Arrival day had gone well, we were both truly relaxed, happy and feeling the SoCal vibe.
The first full day saw us awake pretty early but as we had both slept well and felt fine we were none too bothered. After showering and enjoying a in-room coffee we had breakfast on terrace of the hotel restaurant before we set off to the center of LA to go on a guided sightseeing tour. We did a Grand City Tour which I booked online through Viator. Our guide Paul was super friendly and informative and our stops included the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Griffith Observatory, Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Grove Farmers Market where we had time to shop and get some lunch. We whizzed past a few celeb homes, Paramount studios and the Beverley Hills sign before we were dropped back off. The whole thing took a little over 4 hours so it was a bit of a whistle-stop tour but it took us to the few places in LA that we wanted to see so was perfect for us. It was a small group too, just us and some lovely folks from Texas. It was quite a hazy day so we didn't get to clearly see the Hollywood sign, but we saw it in the distance and I managed to get a pic by zooming right in. So that's LA now done, been there, seen it and bought a hoodie.
We took a taxi back to our hotel as we had plans to meet up with an old school friend of Toms later that afternoon. It was still fairly early so we had a little nap before we went down to meet Chris. It had been almost 30 years since the guys had seen each other and I was a little concerned that it might be a bit of an awkward situation but I needn't have worried the guys spent the evening chatting and reminiscing. Chris's girlfriend Heather joined us too and we all strolled along the pier taking in the beautiful clean evening air, it was perfect and was just like we had all known each other forever. We took a walk into the 3rd Street shopping area of Santa Monica which was lovely, so pretty and clean and with a ton of wonderful shops (not that I did any shopping at this point I would like to add). We went for dinner at a place called 1212, it was a lovely meal, great food and wine and lots more chatting. Nobody looking at us would have known that we had just all met up for the first time. Chris and Heather were keen to show us more of SM so after dinner we went to the Hotel Shangri-La for drinks in the roof top terrace bar. The night time views over Santa Monica and the Californian coast were amazing and it was the perfect place to finish off our night.
Time to hit our bed and get some sleep.....we had an early started planned for the next day as we were off to Disney!!!!!!!
Thanks for stopping by and reading, I hope you are enjoying hearing about our trip. Stayed tuned, Part 3 will be up soon.
Love and hugs, Jane xx