"Pedal or Not" electric bike tours: a great way to see Santa Monica and Venice
There's been some stuff written lately about the veracity of reviews on Trip Advisor. I can't speak for the hotel reviews at the Cleveland Airport, but I can say that the high rating the site gives to the Pedal or Not bike tours in Santa Monica is richly deserved.
For $59 you get a three-hour tour of lovely Santa Monica and the beach and down to Venice and back again on bikes that are both "regular" and electric. Which means you can get a bit of exercise or zoom (relatively) around town with a small motor. Top speed is maybe 20 mph but it's amazing how quickly you can get from the Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach.
They also throw in a granola bar, chocolate lollipop, a stick of lip balm and a bottle of water.
Barbara, our tour guide, was a delight; an Ohio-born woman who lived for a couple years in London, Ontario and showed no sign of L.A. attitude, not that many folks here really have it in my humble opinion.
She showed us Saint Monica's Church, which was featured in Going My Way as a pretend Manhattan church and is where NFL star Tom Brady got married. Attendees include Martin Sheen, Brooke Shields and, when they were together, Mr and Mrs. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
You pass some beautiful parks, where you can inhale the fragrance of pungent eucalyptus trees and towering pines and fresh-cut grass and ride past a variety of homes; old wooden, grey bungalows next to brightly painted stucco buildings next to steel and glass architectural designs. Then it's on to the Palisades along the bluffs above Santa Monica Beach, where you get fabulous views out to the pier and northwest to fabled Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains (see photo at left).
Across Pacific Coast Highway you'll get a look at Marion Davies' Beach House, or what's left of what used to be an enormous beachfront property. Davies was the long-time lover of William Randolph Hearst, who was married but spent most of his time in L.A. while his wife was in New York. Davies' apparently loved the high life, with huge parties featuring the likes of Charlie Charplin and nameds like Goldwyn and Mayer and Gable, not to mention Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.
Apparently she once decided to have a circus-theme and asked to borrow a carousel from MGM Studios. They had to tear down a wall of the place to get the carousel onto the property . Once she decided to have a circus party so she wanted to borrow a carousel from MGM. They had to tear down a wall of the place to get the carousel in. A few months later she decided she wanted another circus party. Down came the wall once again.
The property suffered earthquake damage in 1994 but the Annenberg family recently donated $25 million and it's now a community centre/event space. The old Davies' pool is still there, surrounded by marble finishes and with a fish mosaic in the bottom. It's a public pool and worth a swim if you can find the time.
There are beautiful beachfront homes along the way, some brightly coloured and one that was designed by Ontario's own Frank Gehry to look like a lifeguard tower, and then head down to Venice Beach. There's a park on the beach called Tagger Park, where folks can practice their spray-painting. You then ride past the tattoo parlours and pizza joints and bars and Muscle Beach, whre Schwarzenegger used to hang out.
From there it's down to buzzing Washington Ave. with its buzzing cafes and chic restaurants, and then on to Dell Avenue to check out the fabulous canals. They were smelly and gross in the 1970's when I loved here but they're now clean and bright and lined with colourful homes with small boats. There are some small fish and ducks about and pelicans fly in and dive for lunch, making a huge splash.
On the way back Barbara points out a medicinal marijuana shop next to a sign that says "Botox on the Beach."
Only in California.