There’s nothing like hearing the rush of ocean waves slapping, and faint barkings of sea lions, on a gorgeous evening, as my entry to Redondo Beach. It is my first time visiting.
I’m here on a weekend media group tour of the city, and learning all that Redondo Beach has to offer to out of town visitors.
Right in the heart of Redondo, you’ll find the Crowne Plaza Hotel, conveniently located across the street from the pier. The hotel boasts a year-round high occupancy rate, which the keeps the friendly, helpful staff busy tending to guests from all over the world, including a number of airline attendants and pilots who stay here due to its relative proximity to LAX. It’s definitely far more pleasant than staying by the airport. Guest rooms are spacious, and the beds are extremely comfortable. In fact, they had me passing out, nearly the instant my head hit the pillow. There is a pool on the 3rd floor, a spa, and a full service restaurant, Splash Bistro, on premise. Guests also have access to the Fitness Revolution gym next door, open 24/7. The big perk for many is the group classes, included free in the gym pass. For me, over a weekend of eating wonderful fresh local cuisine to no end, it’s a bonus knowing that I can take a spin class or a glutes and ab class, taught by a very energetic Brazilian woman. For those who need to lug their technology around, be reassured knowing there is a technician available ‘round the clock to resolve any internet or tech issues. Undoubtedly, the level of service is high, and assistance is very prompt. These are the kind of touches that add to a guest’s positive experience, and have them returning.
They say there’s always room for improvement. As a Hotel Intercontinental Group (HIG) property, Crowne Plaza Hotels are about to receive some much needed attention, and are undergoing an overhaul. Next month, Crowne Plaza Redondo Beach begins its 8 month renovation that will breath some well deserved aesthetic life into the 339 room property. Having previewed a model room of the upcoming changes, I can tell you it is a beautiful, clean modern look, with a calm colour palette, that complements the beachfront surroundings. The hotel endeavours to incorporate as much eco conscious elements as possible, reduce room clutter, and improve energy efficiency. Once complete, this is going to be an even more desirable hotel of choice.
Let the touring begin.
Day 1 - A Pier With History
Did you know that for decades Redondo was the first and only port on the west coast, in the late 1800s, early 1900s? Railroad magnate Henry Huntington, and surf legend George Freeth once called it home. And, back then, tourists were drawn to the resort town’s many waterfront attractions like the luxurious Hotel Redondo and its 18-hole golf course, the largest indoor heated salt water plunge pool, and a roller coaster on the beach, with over 6,000 feet of dual parallel tracks, called “Lightning Racer.”
Today, there is the Seaside Lagoon, near to where the bath house once existed. Open to the public during the summer period, this salt water facility uses 1.5 million gallons of water, flowing through at a rate of 200,000 gallons per hour. The journey begins on the other side of the harbour’s breakwater at about 50 feet deep, then onto the steam generating plant where it is used to cool the turbines, before travelling under the street in large pipes to the lagoon where it is chlorinated, and finally de-chlorinated to its final destination back into the harbour.
Families can enjoy bringing their kids to swim and play in the sand with added comforts of having the Seaside Lagoon enclosed (there is an admission fee), separate from the general public, as well as knowing there is a dedicated lifeguard supervising.
We next visit the sports fishing pier, a short walk south of the lagoon. It’s mid morning, and the fisherman are long up and at it, checking their rods, awaiting that “tug.” There’s a lot of traffic for such a small pier. That’s because it’s also home to Polly’s On The Pier, a Redondo staple. When you want a hardy breakfast that comes with local flavour, check out Polly’s.
Talk about creating a spectacle, taking up our first activity, BarCyling. Yes, it’s a bit silly, yet it’s fun, and puts smiles on the faces of anyone who happens to catch sight of the odd looking mobile contraption. So what it is? Think of it as part vehicle, powered by good ‘ole manual labour (as in 16 of us on bicycle seats, pedalling away) and part bar. You can bring snacks and drinks, excluding alcohol, while on your guided tour, or enjoy a special or two at one of the bar and restaurant stops along the way. Thanks to Larry from Beach BarCycle for keeping us safe and entertained.
Back to food. Redondo is a town that knows how to prepare fish and seafood dishes, and a number of the independent restaurants, and small mom & pop shops, are artisans in their own right. A pleasant surprise came from lunch at H.T. Grill’s. Steve Mathis, who worked his way up the kitchen ranks to become chef, prepared a perfectly cooked pecan crusted orange roughy fish. Dessert was a molten chocolate cake with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. A comparable restaurant in LA would have likely served the artificial kind, and it’s these details that I notice. Keep in mind, H.T. has an awesome Monday special, 3 courses and 3 different wines all for $20.
At lunch, we are introduced to Bob Meistrell. You may not recognize the name, but you know his products. Bob happens to be a story all by himself. In fact it’s not adequate to say “story” when it would be “stories.” He, along with his twin brother, created Body Glove, the international surf, skateboard and watersports brand, back in 1953. Bob, now 84, took delight informing us that he’s been married for 60 years! In addition to the love for his wife, he is passionate about Redondo, and maintaining the health of the beach and its waters. Hmmm, I’m beginning to see a pattern from the residents‘ whom I’ve encountered, and it’s a good one.
At the onset of the beach revitalization, the problem of marina littering had been raised. The city was prepared to spend tens of thousands of dollars which, in the long run, would only have been a temporary fix. Bob proposed, and spearheaded a very simple system, costing next to nothing, essentially garbage cans and nets, installed throughout the harbour. The nets are used by boaters to scoop up any floating trash, and dispose of it in the cans. That whole “if you build it, they will come” expression applies here. In the first two years alone, 5,000 lbs of floating garbage had been removed. The project has been a huge success, and one that Bob hopes to see instituted in other coastal towns throughout the U.S. He ends our lunch, concluding with “Love what you do, and do what you love.”
Fridays’ Farmer’s Market in Riviera Village is open from 3 to 7 pm, and offers seasonal local produce, in addition to live musical performances to entertain customers. Shop With The Chefs is a great weekly series that gives shoppers an opportunity to be guided through the market with a local chef to learn tips and lessons on food and cooking. The market is small, and requires little time to cover it. Aside from fresh produce, there were a few vendors who caught my attention:
Seafood Market selling its fresh and cooked fish and shellfish. Company rep, Raul, was actually handing out full size jumbo shrimp for anyone to sample. Of course, I did, and practically licked up the homemade dipping sauces off my plate.
Organic Caramel. That’s right organic ingredients including raw blue agave to produce a caramel that tastes like caramel.
Pies For A Cause. Apple pie, peach pie, sweet potato cobbler, and red velvet cupcakes were on hand for the day. The big draw is knowing that a portion of the sales is donated to local causes.
La Fiesta Movil. They make extremely fresh made salsa and guacamole. So much so, that Craig, the owner, has turned away offers to be distributed in large retailers on the sheer principle of not wanting to compromise quality.
It has been a fun full day in the sun. I’m due for a repose. More to Sea tomorrow.