Los Angeles was to be our last stop on the US mainland.
We had originally planned to hire a car and drive the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles (LA) but realising how it might be driving on the right hand side and braving the traffic of these 2 large cities we decided to take the bus. This did mean travelling inland but it also meant we saw a different landscape. When travelling flexibility must always be the way to go. We had managed to book on Flixbus for the princely sum of $10 each!!
One of the farms we passed
The hotel staff kindly called for an Uber taxi for us and we gave him the address of the stop to catch the bus. He knew the street but did not know of a bus station or stop there. We arrived at the point where we thought that the stop was supposed to be but there was no sign of a bus stop, only railyards on that side of the street. I checked with a local office on the other side of the road and they had no idea either. Then we saw another couple arrive with suitcases and stand next to a pole so we asked them and they said that the Flixbus did stop there and showed us a tiny sign high up on the pole. Ridiculous! The bus arrived on time, was very comfortable and the driver very good.
One of the lakes we passed
We passed lakes, small mountains and farms as expected. It was a road with more hills and corners than I expected. We stopped at a roadside centre called Bravo Land where there were a number of shops and 2 burger places – McDonalds and another I had not heard of before and cannot remember. We had brought lunch as we were unaware of any stopping. Although we had been given a time to be back on the bus, as usual, there was 1 person missing and someone went to look for her to find her shopping.
Entrance to Bravo Land
Horses and carriage at Bravo Land
Shops at Bravo Land
We arrived at the station in LA early evening just as it was getting dark and were fortunate to find an available taxi. The bus cost $10 for 620kms (380mi) and the taxi $44 for 30kms (19mi). That equates to 62kms/$ on the bus and 1.4kms/$ for the taxi.
Our hotel was in the upmarket area of Bel Air in LA and it was fabulous. It was a circular building and the staff were extremely and efficient. Also the wifi connection was one of the best we have ever experienced. Meals were not included but we ate in the restaurant on both days we were there and a note on the menu said that it was not expected to pay a tip as the staff are paid competitive salaries.
There was a bus stop outside the hotel and we caught that to a station from where we could get another bus to Santa Monica. It was a great place to visit. We wandered around and found a pedestrian mall with fountains at each of which was an extinct animal sculpture.
From there we walked down to the Santa Monica Pier which was built in 1909 and has an interesting history. (Go to the link for the rest of the story). We had heard both that it was in poor repair and that it was a beautiful so we had to see for ourselves. It is a reasonably long but pleasant and easy walk down from where the bus dropped us off.
The entrance arch to the Pier
Access to the pier itself is also very accessible to anyone. The only problem we encountered is it seemed that skateboards and roller skates are permitted on the pier and the riders of these were usually oblivious of people walking on the pier. Dozens of shops lined the one side of the pier and food takeaways were down the other. Always a temptation to shop! At the end was a lookout point which had a large Santa Monica Pier sign painted on the floor of this deck. As one entered this viewing deck there were a number of newspaper cuttings detailing the history of the Pier and the mishaps it had experienced especially with regard to high seas over the years.
A view of the pier from the top road
A cannon on the beach road
Result of heavy rains some years ago
As we walked back along the quay we passed a War Memorial with standing pillars, 1 for each of the different forces. We also saw a very twisted and gnarled tree.
A diferent war memorial – a separate column for each branch of the forces
A twisted and gnarled tree
After an hour or so of looking in shop windows and stopping for a pizza, we slowly made our way back to the bus stop making a few stops on the way. We had been told that we needed to go to a small property rental shop where we could buy tickets for the Hop on/hop off bus the next day. A very pleasant young man assisted us and was very interested in the fact that we were from South Africa.
Formerly an information office and now a restaurant
Another very quick stop was the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market for which we had seen many signs but no sign of activity. As we went up one street we saw some people at vehicles with vegetables in the back of their vehicles. Sadly, they were packing up but one kind fellow gave us 2 tomatoes.
We caught the bus back into town and there we were sent to 2 different places to catch the bus back to the hotel. A quick note about catching buses in both Europe and the US and, probably elsewhere, is that the drivers do not carry cash. A top-up card has to be purchased at a price of more than a single ride. As we had not bought a card for 1 day the driver of the first bus was very helpful and told us where at the station we could get a day pass.
We found the visit to Santa Monica and the Pier a wonderful experience. The Pier was in good condition and the paths all around the parklike surroundings in good repair and accessible to everyone.