Pick Your Poison in Palos Verdes

img_15921Driving to Palos Verdes for an impromptu excursion yesterday, my traveling companion and I were surprised at the lack of traffic on PCH/Route 1 at mid-day.  Armed only with this article from Wiki Travel, we turned right onto Palos Verdes Drive (I’ll leave out the directionals since they’re confusing), and within moments, were greeted by the stunning views of the Paseo Del Mar bluffs.  Walking along the steep cliffs, we could see the entire Santa Monica Bay, as well as boats and kayakers in the green water below.

Pretty homes, Spanish tile roofs, gorgeous views
Pretty homes, Spanish tile roofs, gorgeous views

Then we doubled back to the historic Malaga Cove Plaza, distinguished by its archways and statue of Neptune, for a bite at the Malaga Cove Ranch Market.  Although the place was quaint, the family that runs it was very nice, and the food was cheap, our grilled chicken sandwich and fritata were literally nausea-inducing.  The Plaza has beautiful, peaceful spaces, including one alcove where four gentlemen were playing chess.  Just up the hill and across the street is the very quaint Malaga Cove Library, with its own pretty green park.

Malaga Cove Plaza's distinctly European feel
Malaga Cove Plaza's distinctly European feel
Sunday afternoon chess matches
Sunday afternoon chess matches
Apparently, Neptune has no junk
Apparently, Neptune has no junk
Malaga Cove Library
Malaga Cove Library
I've seen those lips in L.A.; unfortunately, not on fish.
I've seen those lips in L.A.; unfortunately, not on fish.

Once we got back in the car, neither of the two maps I had showed enough detail of the local roads to point us in the right direction.  Palos Verdes Drive, which runs around the perimeter of the PV peninsula, changes directions every so often, and we found it impossible to stay on the right path.  Just a few minutes past the horse farms with their distinctive white fences, it was quite jarring accidentally to exit the Peninsula and end up in the industrial district of San Pedro.  However, we backtracked and soon found ourselves back in the gorgeous surroundings of Palos Verdes, with Spanish tile roofs and hikers wandering the numerous walking paths.

Our next stop was the Wayfarer’s Chapel, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son Lloyd (note to newbs: the structure you see at the end of the parking lot isn’t the Chapel; it’s the Visitor’s Center).  The glass Chapel, a very short walk up from the parking lot, really is a stunning piece of architecture, looking almost like it isn’t there.  Nestled in its surroundings, on a cloudless, breezy day with temperatures in the 70s, the Chapel is a nearly perfect experience, regardless of one’s religion or lack thereof.

Fooled ya!  It's just the Visitor's Center.
Fooled ya! It's just the Visitor's Center.
Now that's more like it
Now that's more like it
One of the frequent weddings at the Wayfarer's Chapel
One of the frequent weddings at the Wayfarer's Chapel

By then, however, we were starting to experience tourist burnout.  We drove over a roller-coaster stretch of road (with a remarkable sign warning of “Constant Land Movement”) and made a quick stop at the Point Vicente Lighthouse.  It was inaccessible due to a locked gate, but that was fine with us.  A few minutes later, we were off the PVP and back onto the PCH.  Then it was a  Peet’s pick-me-up for me, followed by a Pomegranate Pinkberry for her.

We were both extremely grateful that such an unusual place as the Palos Verdes peninsula, with views to rival many of those around the world, is practically in L.A.’s backyard.