Wednesday 12 March 2014

California: Day Nine - Santa Monica and Brentwood

Our initial plan for the day was to take the Hop On/Hop Off sightseeing bus around Marina Del Ray and Santa Monica, but when we looked at the map it didn’t seem like there was much to be seen in Marina Del Ray. Instead, we decided to drive into Santa Monica and catch the bus there. However our plans changed again when Brian realized how little traffic there was in the area and decided to just drive it himself.

We drove around the main streets of Santa Monica for a bit getting a feel for the area. A friend of mine from high school had lived there for a few years and told me how beautiful the area was – and he was right. It’s a cute city – right near the beach, with a lot of awesome shops and restaurants. Our first stop was Brentwood Country Mart – a place I had always heard great things about. It’s this cute marketplace designed in a barn type style and laid out like “a small community to provide a warm and family based shopping experience” (Wikipedia). I could definitely see why some celebrities with children are known to shop there, as it’s very quiet and had a great selection of shops. There is a small high-end grocer, a bakery, and an array of specialty shops such as a paper shop, bookstore, toy store, chocolate shop and a few salons and clothing stores. It’s also tucked away, and pretty private – everyone just goes about their own business. We looked in a few of the stores but didn’t need anything, so we stopped at the food courtyard for lunch. We ate at this little Mexican place, and it was amazing. Without a doubt the best shrimp tacos I have ever had, and delicious Mexican rice. 

We planned our next stop to be the Westwood Cemetery where Marilyn Monroe is buried, but we couldn’t find the entrance. We drove around in circles for a few minutes until I went online and learned they had closed it to the public. That was a bit disappointing, but we took a few minutes to drive around the residential streets and see some really impressive homes!
Afterward we moved on to our next stop – the 3rd Street Promenade, which was a lot of fun. I hadn’t actually heard of the Promenade, but Brian had and knew it was something I would want to see. So we found a parking garage a few blocks away and headed to it. It is this 3 block pedestrian street lined with stores and restaurants. There is a good mix of chain and independent stores, as well as higher end stores along with some reasonable-priced ones. Brian and I stopped a few times to listen to some of the street musicians which was fun. We wandered into a few shops, and Brian found an amazing Apple store. He’s not even an apple person, but this store was gorgeous and massive. While he was inside, I of course found a shoe store, and bought another pair of shoes I don’t really need!

Apple Store

There was a small gelato/cafĂ© in the center that we stopped at for a few minutes. Brian had a mocha and I had the most decadent Nutella hot chocolate – my enjoyment of Nutella is one of the rare ways I am a stereotypical Italian. As I was ordering I saw two girls about ten years old buying gelato on their credit cards… not something you would see back at home! While we were sitting, we met some fellow Canadians from Quebec and had a discussion about the upcoming election and proposed values charter. It was interesting hearing the opinions and thoughts of people whose lives would be impacted by it.

After leaving the Promenade, we walked back toward Santa Monica Pier and spent an hour there. The pier was a bit disappointing – from what you see on movies/TV it seems like a really cool and fun place but honestly, there wasn’t much there. All that was there was a small arcade, a handful of rides, a few tourist shops and a couple of restaurants. Brian challenged me to a game of Ski-Ball which I won, and we found a penny crushing machine so I could get my collectible penny with Santa Monica on it.

The sun was just starting to set when we made our way back to the car just in time to meet Chris after work. We weren’t too sure if we would be able to meet up with Brian’s brother while we were there as our time was limited and work has been busy for him, but fortunately we had heard from him that morning and it all worked out. We stopped by his apartment and hung out for a bit which was great. It was really nice to see where he lived, and have some time to hang out and catch up as we don’t see him too often. Chris and I share a love of Benihana so we teamed up on Brian and chose that for dinner. It was delicious! Seriously, no restaurant does teppanyaki like Benihana, it’s one of my favorite places. 

After dinner we said our goodbyes to Chris, and headed toward our next hotel which was a few blocks away from the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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