With LA’s notoriously bad traffic, and my desire to keep things simple on our recent three-day minivaction to Santa Monica, I decided not to rent a car, but instead walk or bike as much as possible during our stay. Most hotels offer bikes to their guests to borrow (check the brakes before you head out!) and the paved cycle path along the beach is perfect for covering a bit more ground than you would on Shank’s pony.
We spent one night at the brand new Santa Monica Proper Hotel which is stunning, but also not quite finished. It’s a bit odd to be lazing at the pool surrounded by electricians, landscapers and building inspectors and they had yet to install signs directing you around the maze-like layout of the hotel. Apparently, the entire building was designed to mimic the undulating nature of a wave, which can be a bit disorienting initially. Don’t get me wrong though, the hotel is stunning and once the initial price promotions are over, I’m afraid it will be way out of my price range.
Anyway. As we hopped on sparkly new hotel bikes, the concierge directed us to a quieter road that would take us down the steep ramp to the beach and across the freeway. From there we headed south past Santa Monica pier, bowling along past a number of kids’ summer camps which were set up along the beach.
As we got closer to Venice, sadly, the number of homeless people living at the beach exploded and a grittier type of coastal living became evident. The encampments and colorful graffiti on the concrete and palm trees, remind you that you’re at the edge of one the country’s largest cities.
We had two destinations in mind: Gjusta and The Rose Venice. We hit The Rose first, and sat down to enjoy a coffee and matcha in the sunny back patio. A large, airy warehouse space, that includes a restaurant, cafe and bar, it was quiet and sedate at 10am. The pretty bar, while closed, caught my eye, or at least my camera lens.
Having worked up an appetite sitting sipping my latte, we soon hopped back on our bikes, took a few wrong turns (it’s hard to follow Google maps while wobbling around on a beach cruiser) and finally followed our noses to Gjusta.
The smell of baking bread literally envelopes the entire neighborhood. In a small-fronted, whitewashed building, we spied some floury bakers taking a break. We locked up our bikes and wandered inside the cavernous, dimly-lit brick building to find a gluten-laden treasure trove that set the senses alight.
I felt like I had stepped back in time. Here was a place bustling with men and women working at baking, making and cooking, and wanting to serve you a hundred kinds of delicious.
In addition to all the baked goods, including multiple types of bread, cake and pastries, there are fresh preserves, canned fish and more. There’s a full menu of dishes made to order: I ordered the quiche (a superb custard and crunchy pastry) and Monkey ordered the lox atop a potato latke with a poached egg. So much goodness.