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Trip to Santa Monica, California

The Pacific Park Pier and its Ferris Wheel - a Memory of a Childhood That Comes Alive

girl standing on Santa Monica Pier looking at the roller coaster

The Ferris Wheel stands tall on the pier, flashing vibrant lights. All around, I feel a sense of magic. Why did we come here? In the blink of an eye, I am forty-five inches tall. The ocean has transformed into a desert, and the pier is the oasis on the edge of my childhood. That is why we are here in Santa Monica, along with many more visitors like us. We came to travel in time to the fond memories of our past, when we were children and life was simple. We are here for a ride on the Ferris Wheel, to eat pink cotton candy, and take a picture with a clown wearing a stars-and-stripes cylinder hat. Santa Monica Pier is a memory of a childhood that comes alive. 

Glass Chapel at Palos Verdes

Our escape from San Diego had begun in the morning with a stop at Palos Verdes to visit the Wayfarer Chapel. The structure, surrounded by landscaping gardens and redwood trees, is famous for its organic architecture and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. It is also a popular wedding destination. At the Point Vicente Lighthouse, right below the Wayfarer Chapel, we took pictures for our family and friends back in Europe, who were glued to our Instagram account to get the latest scoop on never-out-of-style California.

Why Is It Called Santa Monica?

"Why is it called Santa Monica?" I ask Sam while driving the last stretch to the Shore Hotel. Monica was the mother of a reckless man. She prayed so much to God that, eventually, her son converted and became the renowned Saint Augustine. Many centuries later, while looking into the clear water of the Pacific, a Spanish missionary saw the tears of that mother, whom the Church had made a saint for her enduring faith. From the northern shores of Africa, Monica became a name and a symbol of a coastal city in California. "She could have been my mom," concluded Sam as we parked in the hotel's basement. "Yes, and maybe one day they will make you a saint," I responded with a chuckle and a teasing look.

Staying at the Shore Hotel, Santa Monica

The Shore Hotel in Santa Monica was centrally located and had all the essentials. Once in the room, it was a matter of changing our clothes for the cooler evening weather, and then we were ready to explore. We headed towards the Santa Monica Pier Park, where its crown jewel, the Ferris Wheel, demanded our attention. Walking in the early evening dusk among thousands of tourists, we laughed and remembered our times as children, mine in Slovakia and Sam's in Italy. We had many memories from visiting the carnival in a similar park, although none we had previously seen matched the Pacific Park on the Santa Monica pier. 

Shore Hotel Santa Monica California

After a short stroll on the beach, we made our triumphant entrance into the promenade, meeting Hollywood potential future stars as most local artists were displaying their talent in hopes of an Oscar or Emmy Award. A teenage drummer was giving a good show, but the lady singing holiday tunes… not so much. Even more pitiful was the guy in the corner strumming the electric guitar with Pink Floyd's loosely revisited tracks. By the time we reached the end of the promenade, Sam and I looked each other in the eyes, and we headed back toward the beach as if drawn by an invisible magnet to the magic pier. I say magic because, by then, all the evening lights of the park were turned on, and we could see the spectacle of a childhood icon. We both had that smiling twinkle in our eyes. With so many lights and attractions, you can't help being transported somewhere in your carefree past.

Early Morning Walk on the Pacific Park Pier in Santa Monica

The following day, Mrs. Monica had a fantastic surprise for us. Since Sam and I were both early risers and eager to walk off the previous night's pasta, pizza, and gelato, we headed for a 7:00 am walk. As the sun was swirling pink cotton candy across the horizon, the pigeons and seagulls were taking the first-morning cruise across the shores. We again found ourselves drawn to the pier. But now, the two of us were surrounded by the still-sleeping carnival rides. In front, the Pacific Coast beach stretched to infinity. The sun was playing peek-a-boo through the morning clouds. Romance was in the air.

The Ferris Wheel Powered by Solar Energy

The Pacific Park of Santa Monica is not the biggest, highest, or the most sophisticated, but certainly the most photogenic. Sam and I had a long session of photo shooting from all different corners of the pier. You are surrounded by metallic giants, yet it feels as if you are immersed in the purest elements. Kudos to the city of Santa Monica, which has done a great job, even from an environmental standpoint. The Ferris Wheel is the world's first and only one powered by solar energy. 

We finished our morning walk, following along the beach bike trail to the volleyball courts and skateboarding Dogtown. We heard that beach volleyball and skateboarding were "invented" here in Santa Monica. I believe it. If you live by this beautiful stretch of sand, you concentrate all your activities on and around the beach, barefoot and with as little clothing as possible. On that note, how about surfing, paddle boarding, and flyboard flying? I am surprised we can't add them to Santa Monica's inventions list.


The sun was rising, promising a lovely December day ahead, and it was time for us to continue to the next adventure. Reluctantly but with a smile, we said goodbye to this charismatic place. It made Sam and I rediscover carefree childhood joys. Till next time, Mrs. Santa Monica.

~ Written by:

 Viktoria Rusnakova & Samuele Bagnai, authors of Enthusiastic All the Way & Tuscan Who Sold His Fiat to the Pope, respectively.

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