Text and photos: Producciones Puente
The first quarter of the new year has come and gone, but the virus that changed human history is still with us. It didn’t disappear, as many of us dreamed, with the twelve chimes that marked the start of 2021, nor is there any apparent sign of a truce. New closures are announced every day and security measures change with the capricious behavior of our common enemy. But if we learned one thing during 2020, it was to value outdoor fun. When we are stuck indoors, we desperately miss the feeling of freedom we get when the wind is in our faces.
Copa Airlines continues to connect Panama with the rest of the continent, offering thousands of travelers a change of scenery and –why not?– a chance to take their home office on the road for a physical and spiritual retreat. Destinations like sunny California may be the perfect option for digital nomads and those working from home. And while gatherings are banned and the theme parks, Hollywood studios, museums, and attractions like Pacific Park are closed for now, Los Angeles offers a surprising variety of ways to enjoy the great outdoors. Here are a few suggestions:
Santa Monica Beach
The famous pier where Forrest Gump jogged during his thoughtful shoreline run looks rather unexciting now, with the shop windows shuttered and none of the usual activity, but the wind continues to blow and the pier is still an inviting place for a walk.
Opened in 1909, the pier is considered the driving force behind the development of the city of Santa Monica. It attracted the attention of Charles Looff, renowned designer and carousel maker, who in 1916 began construction on his own dock. By the 1920s, Looff’s project included a “hippodrome” to house his carousels and roller coasters. The pier’s glory days didn’t last long, however, and it fell into disuse in the 1930s. By the 1970s it was nearly demolished. Then, the Save Our Pier Forever movement secured the pier’s restoration, which included a renovation of the Looff hippodrome building. It is now an ideal place to admire California’s colorful sunsets.
Next to the pier, you’ll find picturesque wooden lifeguard towers that now once again watch over lovers of sun and surf on the beach. It’s a perfect spot to reconnect with the sand and sea, or let the wind cool you off as you stroll this highly recommended stretch of shore.
Dreamer, traveler, conservationist, and real estate developer Abbot Kinney was born in 1850. After accumulating a great fortune, he began work on his lifelong dream of creating the “American Venice.” The canals he visited in Italy fascinated him so much that he decided to bring them to his new home in California.
Venice Beach, where a series of salt water canals encircle luxurious homes in imitation of the famous Italian city, was inaugurated on July 4, 1905. Unfortunately, in 1929 — nine years after Kinney’s death — most of the canals were filled in and paved over due to the public health problems they caused.
In recent years, Venice Beach has drawn visitors to its active cultural, musical, and sports scenes. Today, its outdoor areas are open for hiking, water sports, and quiet socially-distanced activities. Take a picturesque stroll through the historic district, visit the remaining peaceful canals, or enjoy one of the open-air dining restaurants in the area. Come here to remember what it feels like to be a social creature –while still respecting all the necessary safety protocols, of course. A new drive-in theater now operating in the marina creates a novel venue for safe and healthy family fun.
The Hollywood Sign
The desert mountains surrounding the city of Los Angeles provide a relaxing escape from the chaos of the city. Hollywood stars, neighborhood residents, and tourists from all over the world take advantage of the landscape to stretch their legs and, now more than ever, breathe in the nature that waits just minutes from the city.
The famous Hollywood sign is a favorite hiking destination. This pop icon, built in 1923, was never intended to be a symbol of the land of movie stars. At the time it was built, the sign actually read “Hollywoodland.” It was created to draw attention to real estate developments in the area. As Los Angeles grew, Hollywoodland was touted as a luxurious suburban oasis where homeowners could fulfill the American dream. The popular landmark sign was eventually restored and, without the last four letters, now welcomes a continuous stream of tourists hoping to feel part of the great films and TV shows that made Hollywood an entertainment icon.
The safe walking paths leading up to the sign are designated recreation areas. The trails are marked and the one leading to the top ends with a beautiful view of Burbank (home to major studios) on one side and a panoramic view of Los Angeles on the other.
For safety reasons, the observatory is temporarily closed to the public, but the beautiful surrounding gardens still offer an opportunity for a romantic afternoon followed by a spectacular sunset. The California sky has a unique magic, which explains why the seventh art made its home there.
So, if you’re looking for a place to alleviate the stress left by 2020, which 2021 has yet to cure, take a quiet hike up to Griffith Park with a cool beverage while you watch the sun go down over the city of the stars. Quarantine is no reason to stop enjoying the little moments life offers! Stretch your legs and remember that sports and the outdoors are your mental health’s greatest allies.