Monday, October 16, 2006

Long Beach Travelog

Long Beach has long been denigrated as an industrial center, with a busy harbor and several drilling platforms right offshore. However, you can really tell that the city has worked at sprucing up downtown and attracting tourists.

The Convention Center seems like a nice location for a smaller conference, but it was waaaay too small for the Women’s Conference.

The Pike, a shopping center with several restaurants and a movie theater sits across the street from the convention center. Continuing toward the beach, we found Shoreline Village, a faux New England fishing village-themed shopping center. We enjoyed a nice harborside lunch, but the shopping was dismal.

The Queen Mary is a must-see, but I was disappointed that the engine room was closed when I was there. They were preparing for the haunted shipwreck display they host during the month of October. The engines were the main thing I wanted to see…this ship is 150% the size of the Titanic and must have required massive machinery to move and steer. It was enjoyable to see the perfect Art Deco decorations and art in the ballrooms, theater, library, and other rooms used exclusively by first-class passengers. We toured one of the suites you can rent at the Queen Mary Hotel and Spa. Evidently, weddings are a big business here. There’s a beautiful chapel and several nice rooms for a reception and, of course, your entire wedding party can spend the night onboard.

We enjoyed some wonderful seafood at Rock Bottom Brewery and at Pine Avenue Fishhouse. Polly’s Gourmet Coffee in the 2nd Avenue shopping district has an outstanding selection of scrumptious pastries and, of course, primo coffee!

Speaking of the 2nd Avenue shopping district (AKA the Belmont Shore), it was excellent. Lots of cafes, great shops, and spas on a pretty, tree-lined street. Sally and I both wished we had our teenage daughters with us to enjoy the fashionable, reasonably prices boutiques.

The East Village Arts District was another fun place to walk around. There are many interesting looking restaurants and shops and the atmosphere is a little funky.

And the city of Long Beach has made it easy to get around to these spots. Free buses run to the convention center, the East Village Arts District, and the Queen Mary. If you are going as far as the 2nd Street shopping district, Belmont Shore, and Naples, there is a $1 charge.

Friday is Farmer’s Market day at City Center. It’s not a huge market, but fun and is right next to Nordstrom Rack! I was a happy shopper.

I enjoyed a long walk along the beach on the bike/ped path. It’s not a very pretty beach, but fine for a great walk. I returned along Ocean Blvd. and enjoyed ogling the beautiful homes and B&Bs.

Due to booking problems with the conference, we stayed at the Marriott Courtyard. It was fine: basic and clean. However, the surrounding neighborhood was dicey and it would not be the place for a solo woman to walk after dark.

I didn’t make it to a few places I plant to see if I return:
*The Long Beach Art Museum
*The Aquarium of the Pacific (I went to the Shedd in Chicago in July and wasn’t ready for another aquarium yet.)
*Cruise to Catalina Island
*Naples Island/Mother’s Beach
*Retro Row
*Casa Vino
*Sevilla Tapas Bar
*Alegria Cucina Latina

The perfect California moment was watching a young businessman, in suit and tie, with Starbucks in hand skateboarding down the street. Adios, dude.

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