Sunday 28 September 2014

America Cruisin'

We've just got back from our tour around America and I'm SO gutted to be home. We spent almost 2 weeks travelling around the West coast, a week of which was spent with a tour group and the rest was spent staying with friends. Seeing as we had such an amazing time I thought I'd share our experience with you guys! I'm planning on uploading a VLOG of our trip onto my YouTube channel too so keep an eye out for that next week, but in the mean time here's a picture rich post for you to get your teeth into! It's going to be a bit of a long one so grab yourself a cuppa and maybe a little snack before you start reading ;-)

We started our trip off in LA. After arriving into LAX airport we grabbed a free shuttle to our hotel and just about had enough time to check in and unpack before we were picked up by my friend Zac. He took us to the Griffith Observatory where you could see the Hollywood sign and the whole of LA city. Zac then drove us to Hollywood Boulevard where we saw the walk of fame and a shed load of Michael Jackson impersonators.... Some were better than others! We then finished our day meeting up with some of Zac's lovely friends, but unfortunately we had to cut our evening short and head back to our hotel as we were suffering with some serious jet lag... A total of 27 hours awake had pretty much wiped us out! We had a fab first day and we both loved LA!

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Day 2 was the start of our tour with G Adventures. We woke up nice and early and headed down to reception to meet the rest of our tour and also our tour guide, Leah. We all chose our seats in the mini van and then headed onto our first stop - Joshua Tree National Park! This place was crazy! Situated in the middle of the desert, the Joshua Trees that make this place famous are literally growing everywhere! We went on a mile long hike around the park and saw lots of trees and some huge rocks! For our first night we headed to a small town next to the Colorado river to camp. As soon as we got there we put our tents up and then jumped into the river to cool down as it was SO hot. The stars looked amazing at night as there was hardly any light pollution so we decided to watch them on the river bank before we went to bed.

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On day 3 we headed onto the Grand Canyon National Park. We did take a quick pit stop on the way though to have a look at a bridge. It was called the London Bridge and was apparently given to the US by England. At first glance it looked like any other bridge, but when we got up close you could really tell that it was made in England!

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We were camping about 10 minutes away from the Grand Canyon so when we arrived we dropped our trailer off before we headed onto the ridge. When we got there Leah told us all to close our eyes and hold onto each others shoulders while walking up to the viewing point... Sounds weird but it meant that we all opened our eyes to look at the same time. When we did we all gasped and were amazed at the view! It was stunning and probably the most amazing thing I've ever seen. If you ever get a chance to go see the Grand Canyon you've just got to do it! Before we headed back to the camp site we watched the sun set over the canyon which was beautiful.

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When we got to the camp site we made our dinner and then started a camp fire. We cooked s'mores (gram crackers with chocolate and toasted marsh mellows inside) and told ghost stories til late and then headed to bed, ready for our trip to Vegas the next day!

Day 4 was all about Route 66 and Las Vegas! But before we left we headed up for one final look at the Grand Canyon for sunrise, which was actually even more beautiful than sun set?! If that was even possible?! We also caught a glimpse of some Elk while packing up our tents...!

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On our way to Vegas we stopped in a small town called Seligman which is one of the last remaining stops on Route 66. We learnt a little history about the famous route from Leah, who told us that it was made famous when the film industry was based in Chicago. Film directors wanted beach scenes in their films so started heading to LA so they could film them. The move of the American film industry to Hollywood has now lead to the decline in traffic along the famous route and therefore lead to it's demise. The route has now been almost completely replaced by Route 40 which is the newer, more direct version.

We finished our visit with a burger lunch at an all American diner in Seligman and then took a walk down the main high street before jumping back in the van and heading to Vegas!

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We arrived in Vegas at about 4:30pm. We were staying in a hotel called The Stratosphere which is right at the end of the strip; it looks like a huge observation tower and has a ride and also a bungee jump right on the top! I swear anyone who decides to bungee off of the top of something that high is insane!

Everyone else in our tour had signed up to go on the Party Bus which headed out at around 9:30; we had decided against this and opted to go for dinner at the top of the tower instead. The view was amazing and the tower itself actually moved while we were eating! This meant we got a full view of the whole city which was awesome!


After dinner we headed out onto the strip and onto the Bellagio fountains... Except by the time we'd got there the show was over for the night! We did manage to place a bet though. Naturally we lost!

I think all in all, Vegas was a bit of a let down for us. I don't think that had anything to do with the place itself, more that we were on a budget and also because we didn't have much time to actually experience the whole of the strip. I think if we were to go back we'd do things differently and hopefully enjoy it more! Highlights were the dinner at the top of the Stratosphere and the views around the Bellagio.

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On day 5 we started travelling onto Death Valley. If you're not sure what this place is all about then let me just say it's HOT. And very dry! The higher point of Death Valley was created by two fault lines rubbing together, creating some crazy looking, almost mountain like rocks. The lower part, known as Badwater Basin, is the lowest point of Death Valley. A dried up salt lake 855 meters below sea level, this place was insanely vast. Oh and did I mention it was 117 degrees Fahrenheit?! I almost fainted I'm not even kidding! We could only spend a few minutes outside of the van, the rest of the time we were begging for air con and shade!

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After Death Valley we headed onto a town called Bishop to camp. I didn't actually take any pictures while I was there, mainly because we got there in the early hours of the evening so the light wasn't great. After dinner we went to some hot springs which was such a lovely end to the day! It was a completely clear night too so we were able to star gaze!

Day 6 was Yosemite day! I'd actually been to Yosemite once before when I was 11, but I didn't remember much of it so I was excited to go back. I definitely wasn't disappointed when I got there! We got to walk amongst the giant Sequoia trees, also known as Red Woods. They were almost 3000 years old and unbelievable tall. We saw Half Dome which is a rock formation which looks exactly like it sounds! And we also saw El Capitan, the famous ridge which looks almost impossible to climb; we were told it takes 3 days and people need to sleep on the side of the cliff during their ascent. We also stopped at a beautiful lake when we got there called Mono Lake; it was stunning and the perfect location for a good jump picture!

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After our day in Yosemite we camped at a site about 30 minutes from the park. It was our last night of camping which we were a little relieved about, but it meant that we had almost finished our tour! At this camp site we got the chance to swim in a freezing cold outdoor pool and also take a dip in the hottest ever hot tub!

Our next stop was San Francisco. On the way we stopped off in a really cute food market where we were able to sample loads of lovely fresh produce. I fell in love with some chilli dip and also some yummy wasabi peas! Essentially you can give me free samples of food all day and I'll pretty much be content...

When we got to SF we had to check into our hotel. Now I'm not going to lie... The hotel wasn't in the best part of the city. In fact it was in the worst part! But it was actually really lovely inside and relatively central. After unpacking we headed out for a walk through China Town and then onto the Italian district. We ended up in my favourite place in SF; Pier 39, which as some of you may or may not know is home to hundreds of Sea Lions! They were so cute but also a teeeeeny bit smelly. To end our last day of the tour we had dinner at a restaurant on Fisherman's Wharf, right by Pier 39 (no smelly Sea Lions in sight though) and said our final good byes after a spot of Karaoke, as you do! It was really sad having to leave the tour group as we'd had such a wonderful time together, but myself and my boyfriend were staying on in the city for a few days longer visiting friends, so our holiday was far from over!

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After leaving our tour we headed to Alcatraz, the old high security prison located on an island in the middle of SF bay. It was a really spooky tour not only because the prison is no longer in use, but also because of the kind of inmates that used to be housed there. If you want to know more about Alcatraz click HERE to see the Wiki page.

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We then moved onto meet a family friend for the rest of our trip. We stayed in San Jose for the first night and had an amazing dinner, then we headed to the coast to visit Big Sur for a few days. On the way to the beach we stopped at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (visit my Instagram page to see some awesome pics of jelly fish!) where we saw some cute Sea Otters being fed and trained! After this quick pit stop it was onto the coast for a picnic and some beach strolling!

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The end of our holiday was spent back in San Francisco where we visited the Golden Gate Bridge, The Palace of Fine Arts, Lombard Street (the famous wiggly street in the heart of the city), the 7 famous painted houses known as The Painted Ladies, and finally the Golden Gate park Botanical gardens.

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So that was the end of our holiday to America! We had a fantastic time and met some amazing people. I'm hoping we'll be back again soon!

If you've been away anywhere fun this year then let me know!

Lots of Love,
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