Letters to Liona: Hello from L.A.!

Liona is my 8-year-old niece. She lives in rural Wisconsin where I grew up, and like a lot of starry-eyed country kids, she's fascinated by cities and dreams about traveling and seeing the world. I wanted to find a way to share my journey with Liona and give her a little snapshot of what life is like in different places, so I've decided to write her a letter each month. Thought you might enjoy following along, too.

Dear Liona,

Hello from Los Angeles! This city is pretty fantastic: it's got mountains, and the ocean, and warm sun and super-tall palm trees. There are lots of cool people (including a bunch of movie stars...though I haven't seen any yet!) and lots of fun things to do. I think you would love it here. So...are you ready to come explore L.A. with me? Let's go!

Los Angeles means "the angels" in Spanish — it's out west in the state of California, on the Pacific Ocean. I drove here in my little blue car after Christmas, all the way from Wisconsin. The whole trip was 2,554 miles. Here's the route I took:

L.A. is a huge city with more than 18 million people (!), but it's not hard to get away from the city and into nature — because there are mountains, hills, and parks in every direction.

The weather is dry and kind of desert-like, and it doesn't rain here much. 

The day after I arrived, though, there were crazy thunderstorms and it rained a LOT, and people were really happy. The land was very thirsty. (The rainstorms made some stunningly beautiful sunsets, too.)

Here's name of the the neighborhood I'm living in...from here, we can catch a train for a quick trip downtown.

There's so much to do in L.A.! We could walk through Grand Park and dip our toes in the fountain...

Or pick fresh oranges and watch airplanes...

Or go to a live music show...

Or hike up and see the Hollywood sign up close.

In Hollywood (which is part of Los Angeles), there's a street that has stars all along the sidewalk, with the names of movie stars and other famous people. It's fun to try to find your favorite actors and actresses!

Here's something I thought was pretty awesome. Do you know what a Rubik's cube is? That little cube puzzle with different colors on each side? Well, here's an enormous Rubik's cube with people's faces that you can scramble up and then try to put back in the right order (if you can reach high enough!).

Many people who live in L.A. have come from other countries, and some of them decided to live in the same small neighborhoods with people who came from the same country they did. Because of this, there are now several areas in the city that have the same culture, food, and languages as those countries. (It's a little bit like traveling the world, but all in one city!)

There's a neighborhood called Chinatown, and another called Koreatown. There's also Little Tokyo (Japan), Thai Town (Thailand), Little Ethiopia, and Little Armenia. Here's a street in Little Tokyo — almost all of the signs are in Japanese:

In Little Toyko, we can eat lunch at a revolving sushi restaurant (this is the coolest thing)! The chefs make food and put it on little plates that go on a constantly-moving conveyor belt, which goes through the whole restaurant. You sit down and watch the plates going by, and when you see something that looks tasty, you just grab the plate off the belt and start eating. Then you keep watching, as the plates keep passing by, and grab something else whenever you want to!

Speaking of food, there's a kind of famous chain of fast-food burger restaurants here called In-N-Out. When you go inside, the menu looks very simple: hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, and drinks. But they also have a SECRET MENU (shhhhh!). If you know about the secret menu, you can order lots of other things that aren't on the regular menu (some of them even have code names, like "Animal Style").  

Finally: let's get midnight doughnuts! (Midnight is when the doughnut shops have the freshest, most delicious doughnuts, because they've just made them to have ready for the next morning.) Here I am with my friend Liz and our fresh, hot, amazing, midnight maple doughnuts.

Whew! After all that excitement, I think it's about time for a day of relaxing at the beach, don't you?

Santa Monica Beach is pretty sweet. 

Liona, I really hope sometime we can take a trip to L.A. together! What things would you want to do first??

Now, I'm off to do a little work and then make some lemonade with the lemons I picked from the backyard tree. Sending you hugs and California sunshine!