Last week, I went into detail about my sister's wedding in California. It was a beautiful ceremony and an amazing time I'll never forget. But we also had about five other days in The Golden State where we got to do some vacationing and sightseeing.
I'll talk more about our time in San Diego next week, but this week I want to share all about our day in L.A.
The Tuesday before the wedding is when my wife, Carmen, and I first landed in California as our plane arrived at the Los Angeles International Airport aka LAX.
My brother, Jordan, actually lives out there and so he was able to pick us up and then give us a tour of the must-see hot spots around town.
We first made our way to the famous Hollywood Boulevard that featured a few different iconic sites.
We got to see the TCL Chinese Theatre which you might know better by its former name of the Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Right in front of the theater are the concrete handprints and footprints left by many famous movie stars over the years. As a big fan of movies, it was neat to see which ones were on display.
If that wasn't enough, Hollywood Boulevard also featured the Walk of Fame which ran all up and down the boulevard for several blocks. Entertainers from the worlds of theater, the movies, radio, TV and music all had their star somewhere along the walk. Many celebrities had more than one star if they were famous in different categories. Gene Autry is noted as being the only celebrity to have a star for all five of those categories.
There were several other neat things to see when you looked all around the boulevard such as the Dolby Theatre, Hollywood Wax Museum, The Egyptian Theatre, Jimmy Kimmel Live and the El Capitan Theatre.
Speaking of the El Capitan Theatre, we actually ended up picking a special day to visit Hollywood. The new live-action version of the movie "Aladdin" was setting up to make its world premiere that night at the El Capitan Theatre.
While we weren't able to make it to the premiere itself, we did get to see the red carpet being rolled out and all of the backdrops being arranged as they prepared for Will Smith and the other stars to make their grand entrances later that evening.
From there, we drove a few miles and walked up a hill to reach another tourist spot in Los Angeles called the Griffith Observatory.
The observatory featured a little museum inside the building where you could learn many things about the sun and the solar system. But the really cool part of the observatory is the view.
When you walk around to the back, you can look out and see the entire Los Angeles area.
You can see everything from the coast to downtown, and yes, like Miley Cyrus, you can look to your right and see the Hollywood sign.
It was breathtaking and certainly a highlight of our whole trip.
After the Griffith Observatory, we were ready for a bit of a break. We were still a bit sleepy and jet-lagged from our flight, and also really hungry.
So Jordan took us back across town toward his neighborhood where we had lunch at the west coast staple, In-&-Out Burger. We each had a juicy burger and loads of french fries which really hit the spot.
With our bellies full, we made a pit stop at Jordan's apartment so we could rest for a little bit and get a nap in before we finished our day in L.A.
The relaxation and food certainly helped as I felt like a brand new person after that.
Finally, we drove out to the Santa Monica area to walk around for a couple of hours.
We arrived there just in time to see the sun as it was setting over the Pacific Ocean. Like many others, we were walking around trying to find the perfect spot to snap the perfect photo.
After the sun had set, we walked to the famous Santa Monica Pier to take a stroll. It had several restaurants, carnival rides and shops, and yes, gorgeous views of the water as well as the city itself.
On our way back to the car, we walked through the Santa Monica Promenade which was an area of several blocked off streets. In the Promenade you could find several more shops and restaurants, as well as pretty water fountains, topiary trees and several street performers trying to help give you the right ambience.
We capped off our night by getting some ice cream at a place called Salt & Straw. I had two scoops of their strawberry and white chocolate ice cream, but they were known for having unconventional flavors that combined sweet and salty. Some of their other offerings included honey lavender, black olive brittle and goat cheese, and James Coffee and bourbon. Those sounded a little too crazy for me and so I stuck with my strawberry and white chocolate. I didn't regret it though as it was delicious.
We tried to take in as much of the city as we could as it was going to be our only full day there before we spent the rest of our time in San Diego. But we had a lot of fun from morning until night seeing some of the top tourist attractions Los Angeles had to offer.
This was also a great example of how I tend to look at vacations. If I happen to find myself at a beach or at a place like the Smoky Mountains, I prefer to just sit back, relax and get away from it all. But if I get the chance to visit a big city like Los Angeles, I do want to relax but I also want to take advantage of my time and try to see as many unique sites as possible.
Our Tuesday in L.A. was one of those times as I wanted to squeeze in as many places of interest as I could. I knew we probably had about 12 hours before the earlier plane ride and the sightseeing would catch up to us, and so I wanted to make the most of it.
However, when you rush to see a city like that, you really only scratch the surface. You don't see a city how I believe God sees a city.
God looks at more than just the fun things to do. He looks much closer.
God looks at the people who make up the city. He looks at how they are doing and what they are doing.
Is the town full of joy and spirit, or are many people broken down and suffering? Is the town full of people who know God? Is the town full of people who have ever even heard of God?
Sure it could be a thriving area full of industry and entertainment, but is all of that a good influence or a bad influence on the children who might be growing up there?
Jeremiah 29:7 says, "And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace."
As Christians, we have to start looking at our community and other communities the same way God does.
At home, are we taking the time to really find out how our neighbors are doing? Are they lost? Are they suffering? Could they use our help?
When we make plans to go out of town, will we worry more about its people or how big their shopping mall is?
Whether we're on vacation or whether we're back home in our daily grind, we have to slow down and really see what's going on all around us. We have to dive deeper and look at things how God looks at them.
Brad Hall is the nighttime editor at the Times-Tribune. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.