The conference finished on Sunday which meant I had Monday all to myself. I rented a car and took off to see as much of LA as I possibly could before I had to return the rental. It was a gorgeous day. I decided to head towards Santa Monica first. I’ve heard about the traffic in LA, but it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I had been on the roads at various times of day and there always seems to be a very slow moving back up of traffic on the highways. I probably could have seen much more if had been drive faster than 20 miles an hour!
First stop Hollywood and a quick walk down part of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There is only one star I wanted to see…Marilyn Monroe’s. I was obsessed with her when I was a teen.
I couldn’t let my first trip to California pass without catching a glimpse of the Hollywood sign. I drove part way up the road to the Griffith Observatory and then walked the rest of the way up. Despite the fact that the observatory was closed on Monday, there were bus loads of tourists, hikers, runners, and about as many selfie sticks as people. The views of LA from where the Observatory sits are spectacular. The city seems to go on forever. The iconic Hollywood sign appears dwarfed as it sits nestled in the jutting landforms that surround it. It’s remarkable nonetheless because it represents the hopes of so many who have come from far and wide to pursue their dreams.
Back on the freeway I went in search of the beach. The Santa Monica boardwalk is exactly as I had imagined, the Coney Island of the west perhaps? It’s bright and colorful, noisy, lively and whirring with energy. The beach sits off to the side of the mountains and it is the mountains I truly love. Having been to the coast in Mozambique, I’m not sure anything here in the U.S. can rival the pristine untouched Indian Ocean beaches, but the further you get from the boardwalk on either side the nicer the beach. I stuck my toes in the Pacific Ocean, checked out the boardwalk, and then walked into town. I had a delicious, but rather expensive raw foods lunch at Rawvolution complete with spirulina pie for dessert. Despite how unappealing that may sound I can assure you it was delicious. I try to sample new things whenever possible and this definitely fit the bill as new and different.
After lunch I walked about 2 miles from Santa Monica beach to Venice Beach. There is a large bike and walking path that links the beaches. It was a gorgeous day and I welcomed the opportunity to people watch while strolling along at my own pace. Venice is also as I had imagined. Lots of street vendors, performers, and other interesting characters along the way. There are restaurants, shops, and a beach that stretches on for as long as the eye can see.
I decided to drive up the coast towards Malibu instead of returning to Valencia the way I came. I drove through Santa Monica on Ocean Boulevard for a while before getting on the Pacific Coast Highway. This may have been my first trip to California, but I was no stranger to the PCH. CHIPS anyone?! In more recent years this highway is more significant to me as part of the Big Sur marathon course which I hope to run someday. I sat in bumper to bumper traffic for ages. Sure the views are beautiful, but after a while I became so disillusioned I started researching other routes I could take and other attractions on my way back to the hotel. Using my phone was of no danger because I wasn’t moving more than a few hundred feet every 5 minutes or so.
The map showed I was close to Topanga Canyon. I excused myself from the PCH and took a right onto Topanga Canyon Road. Within minutes I knew I had made a wonderful decision. There was no traffic despite the slow speed limit. I found myself winding through the canyon with massive rock formations on either side. It was frightening and exhilarating at the same time. I love to witness varying landscapes and this was incredible. I tried to keep my eye on the road while soaking up all of the views. I saw a sign for Topanga State Park and in a split second my plan to head back to the hotel changed. I took a quick right and drove up to the park. I parked and hiked for about an hour. It was the absolute best part of the entire day. No photo could do the views justice. Had I not been alone and on a time limit to return the car I would have liked to explore more trails and stay to watch the sunset.
Talk about seizing the day! I saw Hollywood, the Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, drove along the PCH and hiked in Topanga Canyon. It was an amazing day. I miss my family, and I adore traveling with them, but I want to say something to people, women in particular, who have never traveled alone. Do it sometime. It’s empowering. I started traveling on my own in college when I lived in Mexico. I learned to dine alone, find my way around, ask questions, and find solace in being by myself. I always meet the most interesting people along the way. I love being able to do exactly what I feel like without having to please another person, hear someone complain, worry about someone else’s needs or make a compromise. That sounds awfully selfish, I know, but it’s more about self-care. I started each day on this trip at about 4:30 with meditation and yoga. I ate when I was hungry. I walked a lot. I ran a couple of times. I talked to people who were like-minded, but had different experiences. I heard things that made me really think about how I want to go forward with my life. My batteries are recharged and I feel rejuvenated.