Being an international student in America can be as unnerving as it is exciting. Amidst all the initial chaos and anxiety of settling in, most of us are bitten by the “Explore L.A.” bug.
One leisurely afternoon, a group of friends and I hopped onto a bus and ended up in the Venice Canal Historic District. Downtown L.A., Santa Monica Pier, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame are full of the usual beachy and affluent allure that you can expect from a sprawling metropolis and a bustling coastal city. Venice Beach does offer all that, but in Canal Walkway, we had stumbled upon a slice of L.A. quite different from the expected.
Nestled away from the usual hustle and bustle of the beach traffic is a pretty neighborhood with a network of canals enclaved by lovely landscaped gardens and what I can only describe as L.A.’s most eclectic residential architecture. There is something arrestingly beautiful about the pretty houses that flank the canals. Tiny bohemian-style cottages to million-dollar ultra-modern houses – each one is so unique; it’s a pretty envious sight!
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this fixation with imagining what a casual household day of the residents would look like just from glimpsing at the houses as I passed by. And each one that caught my attention here wove a different story in my mind. I could picture an elderly couple spending leisurely mornings tending to their garden of beautiful potted flowers at the entrance of their pretty cottage; A bunch of cousins spending their vacation frolicking in the pool and sunbathing in the patio at their upscale vacation retreat; A large family gathered at the ornate table in the front yard, making small talk and catching up over a mug of beer!
The canals themselves, with their still, shimmering waters, connected by quaint little bridges and rowboats and kayaks moored to the docks in front of the houses, complete the picture of a perfect landscape in your mind. We were lucky we ended up there on a weekday; There was less foot traffic than usual, so we got a better look into the pure, untouched beauty of the place.
If you move on to the more happening streets towards the beach, you are in for an artsy surprise. Lovely murals adorn the walls around the beach boardwalk. From an impressive tribute to Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night to contemporary and controversial public art, the boardwalk has it all.
Further along, Venice Beach houses an open skate park with ramps and curves for every level right by the shore. A favorite hangout spot among the local skateboarders, you can watch some really talented ones glide along, segueing into one trick after another effortlessly and leaving you mesmerized and wanting for more.
I went in as a tourist, enchanted by the novelty of it all, but came back with the smug satisfaction of having explored the nuances of a part of the place that will be my home for the next two years.