Easin’ Along has been spending time in the area just south of Los Angeles, California for about ten years now. Our son visited there after he was discharged from the Army, and soon discovered that there was just too much to like, and stayed a little longer. His interest in the area was enhanced greatly when he met a young lady who had grown up there, and the move became permanent. A wedding followed. Within a few years, two beautiful children entered the picture and there was no keeping the grandparents away, so we fell in love with the area also.
South Bay is an area composed of the cities of Manhattan, Hermosa, and Redondo Beach in Los Angeles County, California. I always position it for people by telling them it lies about 15 minutes south of the airport (LAX) with Manhattan Beach the northernmost of the three. The area has increased its population significantly in the last few decades, but prior to that it was primarily the home for people who worked in the airline industry and needed to be close to the airport. Once the area was discovered as a place for great weather and outdoor activities, it boomed. Real estate values have skyrocketed, and many of the small “surfer shacks” have been torn down and replaced with luxurious homes, particularly in the area adjacent to the shoreline.
With the real estate boom came a plethora of shops, restaurants, and night spots that attract young and old alike. These activities are centered principally near the piers of the three cities, but there is plenty to do in the areas away from the shore.
On our recent visit, we left our home in temperatures just slightly below 20°. We made a connecting flight in Dallas, Texas and landed in Los Angeles where the temperature was 86°. It was difficult to convince me that it was the middle of February. Everyone around me was dressed in t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops. I couldn’t get the sweater off fast enough. We took the shuttle to the rental car business, got our van that Helen had reserved, and threw our luggage in. I was a little frustrated because I already knew I had packed too many clothes, but who doesn’t bring jackets and sweaters along in February? I hope that I brought some shorts…
Our son and his family live in Redondo Beach in a lovely neighborhood composed of young adults and children and within walking distance of both the beach and the school where our granddaughter is in the first grade. We had the distinct honor and privilege of walking her to school on our first morning there. The school is only two blocks away and you could hear the buzz of busy little ones almost immediately as we stepped on the sidewalk to join other parents walking their children.
Before the school bell rings, the students are gathered on the playground and are directed to run around the track as a way to energize themselves for the school day and burn off a little excess energy at the same time. Children everywhere were walking or running, mostly in small groups. It was another warm day, so no jacket needed. Our granddaughter gave us a quick hug then ran to join the others in time for the morning round of jumping jacks. Big fun!
Our next day was spent on the beach next to the pier in Redondo Beach with our daughter in law and grandchildren, her sister, and her two small children. Friday was the start of a weekend holiday so there was no school. The weather was absolutely perfect, and the water was even warm enough for the kids to play in the ocean. I stayed clear, having not been convinced that this was even possible in February. Everyone else seemed to have a large amount of fun, however. I went to the pier to grab a quick lunch while everyone else played and treated myself to a Redondo Beach staple known as a “Hot Dog on a Stick”.
I enjoyed it immensely.
That night the whole family went down to the pier at Hermosa Beach for dinner at my “go to” place whenever I’m in South Bay – Hennessey’s Tavern. I have to admit, the food is just okay, mostly better than average pub fare, but the service is always good, and that is critical when travelling with young children. Nevertheless, the location is terrific. Hennessey’s is located on the Strand adjacent to the Hermosa Pier.
It has a great view of the ocean and is the best spot for watching all of the volleyball games on the beach and for just people watchin’ in particular. On this evening, there were a lot of folks out and about for a casual stroll on the Strand and to take in the sunset from the pier.
Prior to entering Hennessey’s, we walked out to the end of the pier. I wanted to see if anyone was catching fish and I also wanted a picture of the setting sun. There were a few people fishing, but none with any luck, but we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset. I was able to capture a few shots with silhouettes of pier walkers and gulls in the foreground that I thought turned out well. I have shared it with you here. We let our grandchildren play in the sand at the pier while we ordered dinner and waited for it to arrive at our table beside the Strand. The weather was delightful. Catalina Island was visible off the coast.
On Saturday we decided to travel a short distance to Palos Verdes where the original Marineland of the Pacific had been converted to a natural area and a spot for whale watching and named the Palos Verdes Interpretive Center. This day turned out to be a little cooler that the previous days and jackets were needed. Nevertheless, the park was crowded and there were some eager whale watchers out on the viewing deck with their binoculars at the ready. We saw no whales, nor had anyone else, but we did enjoy walking through the small museum that depicted the area as it was in the early 1900’s when the land was used primarily for cattle ranching. Today there are mansions everywhere overlooking the Pacific.
That evening we ordered a take-out meal from another one of our local faves called Poulet du Jour. It is a small restaurant run by an Indian family that features Mediterranean roast chicken that is out of this world. We devoured it as soon as it hit the table.
Sunday was a day for Helen and me to participate in our favorite activity in this area and go bicycle riding along the strand.
Normally, we ride to the Strand from our son’s house, but we had been moving a little slow that morning, so we loaded the bicycles on the back of his car and drove to the Hermosa pier where we would start the trip. A mist (marine layer) had settled in at the shoreline and the air had turned cool. Because it was clear and warm at the house a mile away, neither of us had brought jackets along. We were having second thoughts, but hung in there and mounted our bikes.
We headed south toward Manhattan Beach. There is a lot about biking along the Strand that makes this trip fun. Volleyball games are underway everywhere, and some of them are quite competitive. Usually there are a few surfers in the water, but the water was a little flat today, so there were not many takers in the waves. Nevertheless, the objects that always draw my attention are the seemingly endless number of beautiful homes that line the strand. I am always looking toward them instead of toward the water. Today was no different. I can only imagine the views of the water at sunset.
We rode past the Manhattan pier toward El Segundo where the bike traffic thins out a little, but there are always runners and outdoor enthusiasts committed to fitness taking advantage of the Strand. After a bit, we turned around and headed toward Hermosa and Redondo with just a short pause at Manhattan pier to ask a young couple to take our picture. Next, it was on to Redondo and a ride through the marina to marvel at the huge sailboats in the harbor then call it a day. It was a great trip and it felt wonderful to be outdoors doing something fun. Still asking myself if this was really February…
Monday was a holiday. Our son had the day off, the weather was again perfect, and so, it was back to the beach, this time to Manhattan. I think that everyone else had the same idea, and we were fortunate to find a parking space near the pier. After unloading the car, we walked down the road leading to the pier. This is a busy area and the bars, restaurants, and shops were doing a landslide business even in the middle of the day. I resisted the temptation to climb aboard a bar stool in one of the open air taverns by taking my grandsons hand and marched on toward the sand and shore. I was rather proud of myself for staying focused on the matter at hand.
The beach was alive with people playing volleyball and building sand castles. Near the pier were about ten surfers catching some huge waves. The waves were cresting out beyond the pier and some of the boarders were able to ride them all the way to within a few feet of the shoreline…a skill I can only envy. One surfer came to rest near us and was admonished by a lifeguard who told him to stay closer to the pier and away from the swimmers. The surfer was not happy. The lifeguard was a well tanned Adonis type with perfectly coiffed blond hair and aviator sunglasses. I couldn’t help but wonder if he ever got that hair wet.
In addition to the entertainment provided by the surfers, we were treated to a flyover by the Goodyear Blimp making a pass above South Bay. I understand that one of the four Blimps is based at LAX so this was probably a day to exercise along with the rest of us. The Blimp moved along very slowly, but with such a clear sky, it could be seen all the way out to Catalina Island where it became just a small dot above the horizon. I bet the view was incredible from up there.
It was nearing the end of our beach day when I decided I HAD to try the water just to say I was brave enough to go into the ocean in winter. To my amazement, the water was not as cold as I thought it would be. Mind you, I only went in knee deep, but it was definitely survivable and it forced me to reconsider the sanity of the hundreds of swimmers to my left and right. I toweled off and went to stand next to the buffed lifeguard with an air of confidence in my inner toughness. Helen said it was time to go.
Tuesday was our last day in South Bay. I had arranged to meet up with an old friend from high school and college who was now living in Mission Viejo. I had not seen him since our college days and that was a long…time…ago so I was looking forward to it very much.
We met at Baja Sharkeez on the plaza at Hermosa Pier. I arrived early and grabbed a seat outside…another bluebird day. When he arrived, I was amazed at how little he had changed and how healthy he looked. It really sinks in at how the awesome weather and the healthy outdoor lifestyle of this area can manifest itself in the way people look and feel. My friend was just another beneficiary. We lingered long and had a great time just catching up on the past few decades. We agreed to try it again soon.
On Wednesday we were up early for the trip to the airport. We said goodbye to the grandkids and hugged them as many times as time would allow, then hugged everyone again before jumping into a new Kia owned by Dominic, an engaging young man of about 22 with a big smile, who answered our hit on the Uber app. Dominic knew the back roads to LAX and got us there in plenty of time to go through the always busy airport security in Los Angeles. We boarded our flight for a rather uneventful trip home, but refreshed from our Play Days in South Bay.
Until next time, we’ll be Easin’ Along.