The main thing Papa P and I have always said about holidays with the littles is that we just wanted it to be the same as before. I realise this might sound crazy and if anything the opposite of what a post-kid holiday would be.
And this, of course, depends on who you are, what you need and what you did before the kiddos burst on to the scene. We have always been a pair of fairly anti-social butterflies with a deep love for each other’s company, great coffee and a conveyor belt of good food. So throw two tiny redheads into the mix and nothing much changes except a lot more coffee and a higher factor sunscreen.
There are, of course, like I mentioned in the last post a few changes along the way. The flight isn’t what it used to be, you mightn’t hit up every single store you wanted to visit and you will, first and foremost, have to be considerate of someone else’s needs.
But as with a lot of other things in life I believe your experience is largely influenced by your mindset. If you approach the journey anxiously you’re going to be on edge and more easily annoyed. If you think it’s going to be a nightmare trying to work around naps it may well be. Certainly, you’re going to be more inclined to see the negative and react accordingly.
As adults we’re lucky to be have the wherewithal to choose our approach and set our intention from the offset. Marky and I aren’t the proud owners of two little earth angels who trot around behind us, sleep to a schedule and eat veggies without complaint. But we also haven’t just met them on a night out and drunk-booked a holiday with them. They’re our kids. We know them pretty well by now and we booked this particular trip knowing full well that they’re erratic nappers, moany McNugget-munchers and that epic meltdowns were inevitable when tired or snackless.
We just figured if that’s what we do here at home under grey skies and drizzle why not transport the whole crew to more sunnier climates and do it there?
So these recommendations are not just for those of you with littles. This is what we did before kiddos and this is what we’ll continue to do long after. The benefit of having both lived in and visited California so many times is that we now know this part of the world as well as we know our own. Over the years we’ve started to focus our time on just a few areas. This post concentrates on the Venice and Santa Monica area while next time we’ll be looking at Huntington and Costa Mesa.
Set under the arches right on the corner of Main and Pacific, this place is not new or painstakingly cool, but it’s amazing and we love it. While you’re waiting for your order you can watch camera-toting tourists take on the traffic in an attempt to get the ultimate photo under those infamous carnival lights. Or you can be one of them. Your choice
Grab a breakfast burrito and smoothie to go, embarrass yourself by not knowing how to pronounce açaí and head to the beach front. Here you have the option of heading on to the beach itself or plonking yourself on a bench and watching the plentiful cast of characters Venice has to offer.
There is also an amazing sandy play park right around the corner so we finished off a super fun morning letting Lucas run his legs off so he’d be nap ready before we headed for our afternoon walk.
Venice Beach Canals
When you’re travelling with younger kids, it’s good to pre-plan some down time. Especially after subjecting them to a long haul flight and an eight hour time difference. The question is how to merge their down time into the rest of your day so you don’t feel like you’re wasting any precious holiday time or compromising on what you want to do.
We’re not ones for an itinerary. We usually decide on the day what we’ll get up to, but the one thing we tried to stick to was the breakdown of times. Our morning and afternoon was generally bundled together as one activity. So we’d pack it all in early, focus on the boys and wearing out their little legs and wandering eyes. Fill their bellies, throw them in the pram and walk. Round shops, on the boardwalk, whatever you want.
This is what finally led us to the canals and immediately questioning why we’d never done it before. It’s the ultimate bohemian haven and the perfect place to play Fantasy Real Estate. What is it about having fake millions that makes you suddenly so fussy about what you’d buy?! Let’s be honest, I’d take a tin shed here if it meant I could stay.
Although narrow, the pathways on either side comfortably accommodated our double stroller and the beautiful bridges were easy to manouevure. There are plenty of points you can slip on and off of the walkways to allow for a shorter or longer adventure. If you’re not sure of the area I’d probably advise you to take a couple of screenshots of local street maps so you don’t end up wandering aimlessly around residential Venice.
All in all we spent two blissful afternoons fawning over succulents and fences and the collection of boats and pedalos strewn along the edges of the water. FYI, Papa P got caught out by canal security trying to get a picture in one of the canoes here. Memory banked.
One of my favourite streets in the whole world. You can’t throw a stone here without hitting some incredible wall mural. Set a few streets away from downtown Venice it’s like a secret little society. An expensive little secret at that so either pack your credit card, start stashing those pennies or zip your purse tight.
It looks great (hello street art and sidewalk succulents), it smells great (hello Aesop, le Labo and Caudalie) and it tastes great (see below). Do I need to say anymore? If you can, grab breakfast, lunch and dinner here with a few coffees thrown in along the way.
TOM’s is a tardis of a coffee shop/retail space combo with a boho backyard nestled behind the main counter area, cleverly merchandised with espadrilles and sunnies. I told you, zip that purse up.
The Butcher’s Daughter
I’ve been following this dreamboat of a vegetarian venue on Instagram for a while and was pretty determined to grab a coffee and drool over their interior for a few minutes at the very least. But after a few laps of Abbot Kinney, we (read : me, always) were hungry so lunch it was.
I’m always a little apprehensive when taking the boys to a new restaurant I’ve never been to myself. You don’t know the vibe, whether they’re tolerant of young families and if you’ll have enough space to spread out the way two toddlers tend to.
Turns out I’d no need to even give it a thought as from the second we strolled in we were put at complete ease. The servers were sweet, the service itself was fast – although you could quite contentedly wile away an afternoon here without the whippers in tow – and most importantly the food was epic.
Although I don’t really think you can go wrong here and you’re going to nail it no matter what you order, I’d recommend the Mediterranean Butcher Bowl and the Brazilian Blast smoothie.
We never actually managed a coffee after we ate as the boys were starting to get ansty so we packed up and instead grabbed a flattie from Bluebottle. Amazingly fresh coffee in yet another amazingly tiny storefront.
Santa Monica Pier
We don’t actually tend to spend too much time this far up any more but like to make a point of visiting at least once. Getting food on the pier is like getting food at Disneyland, so we always grab a couple of pizza slices from Stefano’s on 3rd and then head towards the ocean. There are arcade games and rides galore that will cost you a small fortune if you’re willing but even one or two is sort of a must if you’re in the area. The view is incredible and there is so much to see, the kiddos will be in their nosy little elements.
Kiddos do have the knack of knocking the casual shopper out of you, at this early stage anyway, but if you’re like me and you love a good thrift it’s worth a detour to 4th Street for a nip into Wasteland. I always manage to find at least one excellent bargain per visit and Lucas loved playing ‘dress up’ with all the hats and 70’s mules.
On our list was a visit to Lincoln Blvd which is home to, among others, the heart-stoppingly beautiful General Store, Christy Dawn and an emerging restaurant scene but we made the mistake of hitting it at rush hour and we spent a casual hour and a half watching the time to our hotel creep up on the Sat Nav while two tiny people lost their minds in the back seat. Needless to say, it’s still on the list but we’ll make sure to get the timing right next trip.
In the meantime, you can find me over on Instagram and feel free to hit me up for any more recommendations.