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WEEKEND ESCAPE

Playa del Rey, the natural way

Wetlands, the beach and a relaxing inn make a pleasing destination amid L.A.'s urban sprawl.

September 21, 2003|Laura Randall | Special to The Times

The path can be accessed from the west end of Culver Boulevard, and we followed it south along Dockweiler beach, then reversed course and continued northeast along Ballona Creek for a couple of miles to Centinela Avenue. We saw more crews picking up trash along the creek than we did wildlife, though John did spot a great blue heron.

Two environmental groups, Friends of Ballona and Wetlands Action Network, offer free guided tours several times a month. One covers the wetland habitat north of Culver Boulevard; the other takes visitors around the freshwater marsh created by the builders of Playa Vista. (The state is negotiating with Playa Vista to purchase the remaining undeveloped acres of wetland.)

No group tours were scheduled during our weekend visit, so we ventured on our own to the 1.2-mile trail that opened last spring along the restored freshwater marsh. We saw white egrets, ducks and one binocular-wielding bird-watcher on our walk, but the traffic noise from Lincoln and Jefferson boulevards was distracting.

In another odd juxtaposition of urbanism and nature, marsh visitors must park in the Playa Vista development and pass through a slick sales center that works harder to target potential customers than to aid visitors seeking a nature lesson. We weren't in the market for a South-of-France-inspired loft condominium, so we left quickly and returned to town to grab lunch before logging some final beach time.

Cafe Milan in Matilla Village Center was brimming with latte sippers and late breakfasters. We ordered iced tea and focaccia sandwiches to go and strolled toward the water. This time, we spread our towels closer to the splashing kids and volleyball players, savoring the sounds and sights of a Sunday at the beach. Who says summer has to end?

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Budget for two

Expenses for this trip:

Inn at Playa del Rey

One night, with tax $199.50

Lunch

Outlaws $24.50

Dinner

Chloe $105.00

Drinks

La Marina $15.00

Lunch

Cafe Milan $15.16

Other food, drink $10.50

Gas $9.35

Final tab $379.01

CONTACT:

Inn at Playa del Rey, 435 Culver Blvd., Playa del Rey, CA 90293; (310) 574-1920, fax (310) 574-9920, www.innatplayadelrey.com.

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