Review of Casa del Schatz, Santa Monica, LA
My 9 day visit to Casa del Schatz began with an airport pick up by no less than the proprietor himself, Mr Martin Schatz. Although his omission to give me his address led to immigration almost not letting me into the US of A, he did manage to get me out of this pickle by answering his phone when the immigration lady rang him. Anyway, problem solved and I was on my way to Casa del Schatz in a lovely BMW (even if I couldn't open the doors myself) with my genial host doing his best to make conversation with a rather travel worn and incoherent me - so far, so good.
Accommodation & amenities
Casa del Schatz is a clean, well appointed 2 bedroom flat in Santa Monica barely 8 blocks (meaning 5mins) from the beach. I was shown to my room where I promptly ditched the giant hoodie I was wearing and cursed the fact that my entire bag was filled with the finest Peruvian alpaca woollen garments - and LA was getting bloody hot by 8am already. The flat comes with free wifi, a bathroom big enough for a sea lion, an anglo-proof blender and if you're lucky then entertainment may be provided by gun fights and attempted murders in the nearby alley. Sadly I had to make do with DVD nights and gin rummy, where you would be advised to follow my example and let the host win, if you ever want to see your bed anyway.
These are numerous and varied. During the course of my stay I mastered surfing on the straight-out-of-Baywatch beaches (well I stood up anyway), stroked sharks at the Long Beach aquarium, hiked in the Pacific Palisades, explored Santa Monica pier and people-watched extensively at Venice Beach (personal favourite being the middle aged man in a string thong who popped into the bar I was at for a quick pint on his way home from work). In addition many a day can be whiled away popping seaweed on the beach - though a word of advice to those visiting from cooler climes: WEAR SHOES ON THE SAND. Yes, you might look a bit of a lemon, but not as daft as when you do limping about for 2 days afterwards thanks to the actual burn blisters underneath your toes courtesy of the scorching sand. Oh and try not to coincide your visit with a heatwave. Also my host was kind enough to lend me his bike. There is a cracking bike path all the way along the beach, give or take, for you to explore. I recommend south though someone left a sodding great marina in the way so you have to navigate round that by road and they do insist on driving on the wrong side. Further portions of my time was spent drinking margaritas and some small amount of time may have been spent eating.
Casa del Schatz offers a mean line of meat products cooked on the BBQ. The steak and burgers are particularly recommended. Be warned though, the host considers meat to be a complete meal so count yourself lucky if you are offered guacamole on the side. However Mr Schatz is also an excellent source of knowledge on local food outlets and in 9 days I managed to sample sushi, Caribbean, Thai (x2), a steak house, Mexican (restaurant and street food), diner food, American pancakes (just called pancakes there), fast food, Brasilian and fish and chips to name nothing like all of them. Not bad going I know. The host is happy to provide breakfast each morning as long as you don't come between him and his first coffee and in return make him desserts all week. Anything custard related goes down well, as does English cheesecake, and proper scones ("skons"). Following extensive research clotted cream can, and should, be obtained in LA.
Unfortunately I really don't think words can do this gentleman justice - I mean, how am I supposed to capture his frighteningly realistic sea lion impression? Just don't ask for the mating call of a killer cow, you'll be in counselling for years. He even sat through my Peru photos and accompanying babbling on the first morning.
Despite addictions to coffee, beer and whiskey, (and a worrying fixation with his neighbour's English bulldog) he is surprisingly adept at holding a conversation, though more often than not he has no idea what he's talking about. He speaks fluent Americanese and passable English, but is looking to learn from guests to improve in this area. Don't be put off if he repeats pretty much everything you say back at you, he is a slow learner. But check your travel insurance before you set foot in a car with him, I have never had my life endangered quite so many times in a 6 hour journey. Perhaps best of all, when his hermit tendencies get the better of him and he has had enough of a house guest, instead of ditching you he generously shares you with his lovely family and the verbally abusive women he is lucky to call his friends.
Overall Casa del Schatz is a great place to stay complete with a "quite good" host and comes highly recommended. Five stars *****