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Trip Report Santa Monica Weekend: Pacific Coast, Perfect Weather, Presidential Library

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After returning to LAX from a month-long trip to Sydney, Australia, South Island, New Zealand, and Fiji, we chose to spend four days around Santa Monica before returning to our home in the Midwest. This is the third year we’ve visited the area after returning from a longer trip out of the US.

Our 10-hour flight from Fiji arrived at LAX about 1:00 PM, and after a rather long wait at immigration and customs, we were happy to check in at our Renaissance Hotel, compliments of Marriott points, and use the convenient $5.00 roundtrip shuttle to Manhattan Beach. We had a great late lunch-early dinner at a fav restaurant, the “Rock and Fish“, and meandered down to the pier to enjoy our first of four fabulous sunsets. We returned to our hotel by about 8 PM, and enjoyed some dessert & coffee in the Executive Lounge at the Renaissance Hotel, an “extra” offered to us at check-in. Nice! The personnel at this hotel were very welcoming and super-friendly. We had no doubt but that our night would be extremely restful compared to the cramped seat on the “red-eye” Air Pacific flight.

The following morning, Friday, we picked up our rental car, conveniently located directly across the street from the Renaissance Hotel, and headed up to the Marriott Marina del Rey, our home for the next three evenings. Lunch was at another of our favs, "Tony P’s", located right on the marina. Having stayed at this location in the past, we felt comfortable finding our way around the area. So we headed down to Santa Monica, enjoyed the Third Street Promenade, the oceanfront walk, and an apple struddel dessert at the “Blue Oysterette” on Ocean Blvd. We were in for another outstanding sunset. Dinner was outdoors at “Café Crepe“, located on Third Street.

Each year we take advantage of a cultural opportunity. This year it was the "Reagan Library". Saturday dawned another beautiful day. We left our hotel about 9AM for a pleasant drive to Simi Valley. Traffic flowed smoothly. Although we’ve been in this area of LA several times, we had never been to Simi Valley, and were impressed with the beauty of the surroundings of the library. Arriving soon after the opening, we were able to get a convenient parking spot and begin our tour with a comfortable-sized crowd. We were told that seeing all parts of the library at a comfortable pace would take about three hours. But we found the whole experience to be extremely interesting and informative, with state of the art technology reflected throughout, highlighted by the opportunity to go through a retired Air Force One. We enjoyed talking to a few of the docents. Presidential libraries, of course, tend to portray that president’s most positive characteristics and accomplishments. But no matter what a person’s political persuasion, it seems that no one could leave this library without being impressed. The library emphasized Reagan’s communication skills, including his sense of humor, his expressions of hope and inspiration, and his relationship with Mikhail Gorbachov, emphasizing his belief in the necessity of communicating with one’s “enemies” in order to achieve the ends we want. We’ve visited a couple of other presidential libraries, and think that none could compare with this gorgeous natural setting. Outside of a break for lunch at the café, seated on the patio overlooking the valley, we found that taking in all the aspects of the library consumed the whole day. Before leaving the interior of the library, a refreshing break was a cold beer in the Reagan Pub on the ground floor. It was constructed with the interior of a pub in County Tipperary, the home of the Reagan family, when it was sold. A Reagan supporter had purchased the contents and had them shipped. And, of course, they had Guinness!

The library itself was closing, but we still wanted to pay a visit to President’s Reagan’s gravesite. Since his death was within recent years, remembering the funeral on TV, it felt like a “déjà vu”. The site itself, with the layers of mountains looking toward the Pacific, is very impressive.

Since we were leaving the library after 5:30, it was too late to follow our original plan of crossing one of the canyon roads off the freeway over to the coast to enjoy sunset. So we viewed our third beautiful sunset from afar. Spending the whole day at the library was tiring, and being Saturday evening, we knew we’d have to wait to eat in downtown Santa Monica. So we chose to return to Marina del Rey and have dinner at Tony P’s, where we were able to be seated rather quickly.

When we awoke on Sunday, a fog hung over the marina, and we thought that our anticipated day on the coast toward Malibu wouldn’t happen. But about 11 AM, the sun began to appear and the fog burned off. So it was off to one of fav drives along the coast to Malibu, which has turned into a must-do for us. We had a late lunch at the “Sunset Restaurant” facing Sunset Beach, and afterward enjoy a leisurely stroll. We envied the students at Pepperdine University, located nearby on a hill along the Pacific Coast Highway. En route back to Santa Monica, we stopped at a familiar location for cappuccinos. We made it back to Santa Monica just in time to park, walk down to the ocean for our last beautiful sunset, and have dinner at Il Fornaio on Ocean Ave. Unfortunately, the time had come to return to Marina del Rey and get packed for our morning flight home.

As we prepared to leave, we felt lucky to have had 3 ½ gorgeous days. The morning of our flight, the temperatures were chillier, and the skies were overcast. As we made our way to LAX we felt grateful that during our brief stay in the area the weather was near perfect. It made it a bit easier to return home to the Midwest, where, oddly, the temperature was higher than in LA.

After two non-descript flights, we were greeted with “early spring” as the daffodils and forsythia were in full bloom. However, no matter, there were no palm trees, and no ocean coast.

We got our “fix” of ocean coast and Southern California in Santa Monica and were ready to delve into the myriad of things waiting for us at home, having wonderful memories of our month-long trip.

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