Get Out Of Town!
A Valentine's Day Surprise in Venice
February, 2018 - Issue #161
If you've been at this Valentine's Day thing for a while, sometimes a surprise is in order. Mix it up. Go somewhere new. Do something unexpected; out of character, even.

That's how we found ourselves headed for Venice Beach. April and I usually go north for a night away. Yes, we're predictable. We love the Central Coast and it's our go-to get-away.

But this time we headed south. And then, I really surprised my wife. I suggested we drive by the hotel before heading to dinner so we didn't have to find it later in the dark. She thought it was a sure sign that I was getting old. Since when did I care about when we arrived at a hotel?

Since some online reviewers of Venice Suites felt the grittier realities of the Venice experience magnified the inconvenience of off-site hotel parking.

After navigating one-way streets, driving down an alley and over-shooting our destination, my wife agreed with my old-man sensibilities. We doubled back and found the hotel on our second try.
"Ideally located on the boardwalk, you can walk down the front steps and sink your toes in the sand or peruse the ART from the stalls that line the boardwalk."

We also found the Venice Suites to be a charming and recently renovated beachfront property. Our third-floor room came with a partial ocean view and full kitchen. We opened the plentiful windows, which let in the ocean breeze and the reggae sounds of a band jamming on the boardwalk below.

Venice Suites is square in the middle of the Venice action. Ideally located on the boardwalk, you can walk down the front steps and sink your toes in the sand or peruse the art from the stalls that line the boardwalk. It's walking distance, or a short Uber ride, to Abbot Kinney Boulevard in one direction, and Santa Monica in the other.

We headed out on foot in search of dinner. There were options aplenty, but like Goldilocks, we had trouble deciding. After reviewing several menus over the course of 1.5 miles, we found ourselves standing in front of Jimmy's Famous American Tavern on Oceanfront Avenue. It was just right - hearty pub fare and healthy alternatives served in a casual outdoor atmosphere.

April opted for a lettuce-wrapped version of the Jimmy Burger, which is accessorized with bacon, pimento cheese and jalapeno jam. I dipped into a bowl of Sirloin & Black Bean Chili that came with cornbread, along with a plate of parmesan truffle fries. Our selections affirmed our decision to eat there.

We somehow saved room for dessert - a Spanish latte and pumpkin pound cake - which we picked up from Urth Caffe on the walk back to the hotel. We did encounter people sleeping on the sidewalks, but we never had any reason to be concerned about our safety.

In the morning, we headed out for another walk, this time along the boardwalk toward Santa Monica Pier. The sun was out, and so was a steady stream of Sunday walkers, joggers, cyclists and roller-bladers.

We ended our weekend in Venice browsing the shops on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the seeming epicenter of L.A. hipsterdom - a place where fashionable men wear work boots that will never set foot on a job site.

I managed to surprise my wife again. This time, it was my choice of restaurant. I stopped for a snack at The Butcher's Daughter, a juice bar and cafe known for vegan and gluten-free fare.

My order? Not a pastry, but the house-made coconut yogurt with maple granola and seasonal berries - which proved that even old guys can surprise you by learning heart-healthy new tricks.
Eric Harnish lives in Castaic, home to a romantic inn, or so the sign says.

See You There!
Venice Suites
Jimmy's Famous American Tavern
Urth Caffe
The Butcher's Daughter
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