I have been to the Korean Friendship Bell multiple times, yet I have never viewed it with as much excitement and allure as I did during my most recent visit. The trek was spur of the moment; only an hour earlier I was sitting in my house deciding whether or not leaving was going to be an option. But I did know I was in the mood to drive, so I decided San Pedro it was.
Driving over terminal island on the Vincent Thomas Bridge is both thrilling and terrifying. It is the fourth longest suspension bridge in California, which is pretty impressive, despite the fact that huge big-rig-trucks will try to push right on past you. But like me, you will just bravely continue on into South Bay. Seeing downtown Long Beach and the Queen Mary in your rear-view-mirror is worth every minute.
The port itself always seems like this huge project that I have the least knowledge of. I don’t understand how it manages to stay organized, so I entertain myself by wondering what is hiding inside the thousands of crates piled on top of each other.
Getting to the other side always feels like an accomplishment and knowing the beauty of the San Pedro and Palos Verdes cliffs excites me even more. Making the left turn onto Gaffey Street it is a straight shot through the city streets and up the huge San Francisco like hills to the Friendship Bell.
The view from the top is extensive. You can see Catalina and Los Angeles on a clear day, with the coastline splayed out clearly as far as the eye can see. A vast green field serves as the perfect place setting for this landmark whose beauty grows even more when you learn the meaning behind it.
Troves of families were peppered on the lawn, lying on blankets with their children running freely. A group of young men were playing basketball on the single court, and a playground just to the left of the bell was entertaining more children whose attention span only allowed them to take in the massive bell for a short amount of time.
I learned from the plaque at the mouth of the walkway that the bell was given as a gift from the Republic of Korea to the people of Los Angeles in 1976 as a peace-offering. It was also a way to celebrate a lasting friendship between the two nations, and to honor the veterans from the Korean War.
Once getting closer to the Bell Pavilion, the craftsmanship that went into creating the gift is immediately apparent. The twelve columns are painted a deep burgundy color and the top of the structure is intricately painted in vibrant green, black, blue, red, and peach colors. The bell itself even has intricate etchings on it.
I was blown away by how calming it was to stand at the bell pavilion taking in the great architecture all while truly understanding the purpose behind it; a beautiful representation of peace between two nations. Seeing the cultural gem with new eyes and an open-mind made the experience even more enjoyable as culture and history melded.
I was surprised that day, driving over the bridge, I didn’t expect to develop a new appreciation for a place I had been to before. I didn’t expect to leave feeling calm, but it was enough to get me through to the next phase of my unexpected adventure.
I turned back onto Gaffey Street and made my way to 25th, which turns into Palos Verdes Drive, along which the cliffs grow steeper, and the houses grow larger. Eventually, I came to La Rotonda Drive which took me down a winding road through houses with more rooms than I can imagine. At there is a black gate that looks like you are entering a restricted area (don’t worry, you aren’t) that leads to the parking lot where the trails at the golf club begin.
There were only a handful of cars when I arrived late in the afternoon and about the same when I made it back. The trail starts along the golf course and snakes alongside it until splitting near the cliffs on the ocean and from there the choice of direction is yours. It was my boyfriend who first introduced me to this semi-hidden hiking trail, and this time I decided to venture down into a new area.
It was a beautiful day and the warm ocean breeze felt great. Only a few people passed me along the trail, one man running with his dog, and another a couple walking their dog (animal friendly trails are always great).
I decided to take a dirt track that lead right down to the water where I was able to enjoy calming moments close enough to the rocks that I could feel the sea mist every time the waves crashed over.
When I did decided to make the climb back to the top it was definitely a good workout. I was sweating by the time I made it, but it still felt like a great accomplishment (a few days later and I am still feel it in my calves haha).
I wanted to take a few last moments before I headed to my car, so I found one of the view areas that consisted of two large boulders placed next to each other and got into the most comfortable position I could. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to relax. It was so rewarding! I felt removed from the busyness of life, and was able to take time to a hear my thoughts, ground myself, and re group. It was the best decision ever.
Lately I have felt the urge to push myself further out of my comfort zone. I used to think I could only go on travel adventures if I had someone along with me, but what made this day even more special was the fact that I was alone. I didn’t have to worry about anyone else. I was able to fly by the seam of my pants and was able to explore whatever I desired. I realized I am completely fine doing things on my own.
Old places can easily be rediscovered if we simply change just a few things: the way we approach the places we go, the care and time that we take while visiting them, and the company we choose to bring or not to bring with us. I challenge you to take a “you” day and explore the places you have always wanted to. Don’t let the fear of being alone scare you. I think you might find the thrill or traveling even more captivating. However you choose to adventure, I hope you always choose to be present, that is the least you deserve. I promise it will change everything.
Take a Visit:
Angels Gate park
3601 S Gaffey Street
San Pedro, CA 90731
1 Ocean Trails Drive
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275