Venice Beach, California is often known for its lively seaside scene with its trendy health-conscious people, and the many artists, vendors, mystics, and performers that pepper its boardwalk. All that aside, here’s how two people can take a trip to France and Venice in, well uh, Venice for $50 or less.
Explore the Historic Canal District
Imagine a Venice, Italy in America. It would have all the Italian charms of art, culture, canals, gondolas and gondoliers. That was the intent of tobacco millionaire and developer Abbot Kinney when, in 1905, he built “Venice in America” on a marshy area in what is now called Venice Beach. Venice in America was complete with a pier, Venetian architecture, a miniature railroad, and canals with, of course, gondolas.
Over time, bad politics, the Great Depression, and neglect soon infiltrated Kinney’s Italian wonderland but the canals are still there. Park at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Strongs Drive and look for a small sign that says “Venice Canals Walkway.”
Look just past the sidewalk, away from the street, and you’ll see the canals. Meander over the bridges and enjoy the varied architecture of the very expensive homes that now make up this community. Imagine the Venice in America that Abbot Kinney once created. Price: Free. Also, free parking on the street just pay attention to the restriction signs.
Now for a taste of France
After working up an appetite exploring the canals, head on over to the French Market Café where owner Agnes Martinez (originally from the French Riviera) has re-created the charm of Provence. The restaurant’s market sells specialty imports such as chestnut paste and truffle salt.
The wine cellar offers more than 100 different wines. Linger a while and you’ll hear the conversations of the many European ex-pats who frequent the market – most of them French. Step up to the register and order from the extensive menu of traditional French favorites including Chicken Basquaise and Beef Bourguignon.
The Croque-Monsieur is a cozy recipe of white bread with Gruyere and ham coated with a Bechamel sauce and served hot. All croque and Panini sandwiches are served with a side of baby greens and are no more than $10 each. Sit at the market’s outdoor patio where lanterns are festively strung overhead.
Price: $30 (including tip) one Croque-Monsier, one Panino Italiano, two blood orange Pellegrino sodas. Parking is free
The French Market Café is open for breakfast, lunch, and early dinner. Mondays – Fridays 7 a.m. – 5p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. | 2321 Abbot Kinney Blvd. Venice, CA 90291 | 310.577.9775
At least that’s what GQ magazine dubbed this street.
Its name? Abbot Kinney Boulevard (appropriately designated after Venice’s original developer). A stroll down this street will instantly remind you of Europe with its street art and many independently owned boutiques, restaurants, and coffee joints. Look for the alcoves along the way where locals lounge as they sip wine or lattes or eat take out food.
Browse European infused shops such as Bountiful where owner Sue Balmforth has curated a blend of items that encompass European elegance and American country (if this isn’t a store for Eurocanas, I don’t know what is!).
Bountiful | Mondays – Sundays 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. | 1335 Abbot Kinney Blvd. Venice, CA 90291 | 310.450.3620
Tip. Start your walk at the corner of Abbot Kinney Boulevard and Venice Boulevard and head toward the beach. You’ll have a better chance of finding free parking on Venice Boulevard but again, pay attention to the restriction signs.
Search for dessert
With plenty of choices on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, you won’t have to search long. Here are a few recommendations for that Eurocana feel.
GTA Take Away is the little sister to the neighboring much-raved-about Gjelina restaurant. As the name suggests, you order your food to take it away (much like the pâtisseries of Paris).
Don’t get distracted here by the pricey sandwiches and salads (save that for another time next door at big sister Gjelina where you can sit and enjoy your meal in a trendy industrial chic ambiance). Instead, order something sweet and “take it away” to the small outdoor alcove adjacent to GTA. Prices: a little on the high side so be prepared, but dessert for two should still keep you under the $50 budget. GTA is just to the left of Gjelina.
GTA | Sundays – Wednesdays 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Thursdays – Saturdays 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. Closes 7 p.m. Christmas Eve and Closed Christmas Day | 1427 Abbot Kinney Blvd. Venice, CA 90291 | 310.392.7575
Blue Star Donuts is not your everyday sweetened fried dough shop. With doughnuts such as Passion Fruit with Cocoa Nib, Chocolate Almond Ganache, and Real Maple with Bacon (seriously sprinkled with real bacon bits) you get the idea that you’re about to bite into something a little more crafted compared to that grocery store bought stuff or, dare I say, the other stuff that comes in a green and white box?
This place, I thought, could be the American part of our Eurocana adventure but lo and behold it turns out that these snazzy sweet treats are, according to the shop’s website, “made from a classic brioche recipe that originated in the south of France.”
The Blueberry Bourbon & Basil was a charming and chewy delight to eat. There’s no place to sit at Blue Star so you’ll have to take your doughnut to go. Eat it as you stroll Abbot Kinney or find a bench, alcove (like the one next to GTA), or coffee shop (coffee always goes with doughnuts). Prices at Blue Star Donuts range from about $3 to $5.
Blue Star Donuts | Open Every Day 8 a.m. until doughnuts run out | 1142 Abbot Kinney Blvd. Venice, CA 90291 | 310.450.5630
N’IceCream concocts gelatos and sorbets using organic milk and locally-produced fruit. While the offerings scream Italiano!
The Abbot Kinney shop is all Southern Californian with its casual indoor picnic tables and colorful logo. N’IceCream serves all the expected flavors and then some. There’s even a bench outside if you prefer to be outdoors and people watch as you enjoy your lemon sorbet (or whatever pleases your palate).
Prices: $5, $6, $7 for a small, medium, and large respectively.
N’IceCream | 1410 Abbot Kinney Blvd. Venice, CA 90291