Long Beach Harbor is a treasure hiding in plain site. I had done business in Long Beach, gone to its convention center, been through its airport and seen its container shipping port from above. But who knew that beyond the commercial façade is a redeveloped harborside rivalling Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, with a miles-long bike/pedestrian path rivalling that of Venice Beach?
We stayed at the harbor by accident. We were on our way to Catalina and stopped over in Long Beach the night before. My Personal Travel Agent had done his usual excellent research, and we ended up at the Hotel Maya (part of the xxx chain, but don’t let that put you off.) The Maya is an unusual collection of buildings, creatively architected so as to faintly evoke Mayan pyramids, while offering each room a view of the harbor from its balcony. It is a bit of a maze to negotiate, but the views are great. If you don’t like your balcony, you can take your evening glass of wine down to the beach, where a staff member is charged with lighting the fire pits in the evening.
A stroll along the beach front promenade gave us a good view of the parties going on – a wedding where the bride and her maids were flaunting shapely gams through slit skirts, a black and white ball where the person we mistook for the bride was most likely neither getting married nor even female, as the ball was sponsored by the LBTG alliance.
The next morning we ate a leisurely breakfast and headed over to take a look at the Queen Mary docked just down the beach. This proud lady of the seas is now reduced to being a tourist museum featuring Princess Diana, but she still looks a lot more elegant with her rakishly slanted smokestacks than the clunky Carnival cruiser parked next to her, a floating hotel complete with water slide.
Our last look at Long Beach Harbor took us to the ferry boat dock past a shopping arcade arfully crafted to evoke an old-style Playland-at-the-Beach. The ferris wheel was real, the roller coaster was really a pedestrian bridge leading into the arcade. Sadly, our ferry beckoned. I can hardly wait to go back to Long Beach to find out what is at the other end of that roller coaster bridge.