Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Viva Las Vegas!

As one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, The Grand Canyon's powerful and inspiring landscape, immensity and stunning beauty was undoubtedly one of the highlights of my USA trip. 

Leaving the serene and peaceful setting behind, it was time to hit the road once again and head to the bright lights and late nights of Las Vegas! 

The bright lights of Vegas photo cred:
In all honesty, Vegas was the destination I was least excited about as it's status of being the 'best gambling city' in the world wasn't really something that appealed to me. Initially I was pleased we were only spending two days there... but how quickly that viewed changed!

Yes there is gambling in Las Vegas- plenty! However I was pleasantly surprised by how much more the city had to offer. Firstly, the architecture of the famous hotels is extremely clever and in all truthfulness, simply stunning. In which other city in the world can you visit Venice, Paris and New York all within a few hours? 

New York, New York

Unfortunately, only having two days (yes I wish we'd had more) meant that I had to whiz around the hotels. sadly missing out on a couple. Had there been the time I would've loved to have explored them all in more depth, to fully immerse myself into each 'city.' Nevertheless, I guess it gives me a reason (just one of them) to return one day.

Mini Eiffel Tower
Spending the day racing around the hotels, I had made sure I scheduled in a visit to the Bellagio to witness the infamous fountain show. Fountains are one of my favourite things about a city and with it's powerful jets, flashing lights and water dancing into the air, the fountain show was mesmerising! 

World famous Bellagio Fountain Show

If you love to shop then Vegas has a lot to offer. On the second day a couple of friends and I headed out to the Las Vegas South Outlet   and with over a hundred shops there was plenty to choose from. After splashing the cash on two pairs of jeans and some presents for family and friends, it was back to the hotel for a quick nap and then to get our 'glam on' for a Vegas night out!

In true Vegas style our tour leader arranged for us to travel in a limousine to Palms nightclub. There was only one thing on the agenda- to Party until the early hours!

The view from Palms
Departing our hotel (Harrahs- great value for money) early the next morning, I was forced to eat my words and admit that yes, I had fallen a little bit in love with Las Vegas!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Great Grand Canyon- a place like no other

Back on the Contiki road...

After spending the day in beautiful Sedona, where I met a very interesting character (The Most Interesting Character I've Met While Travelling) it was time to venture onto Arizona and to one of the seven wonders of the natural world- The Grand Canyon!

Yes, I had seen plenty of pictures of the Canyon before, but nothing could prepare me for how overwhelming it was going to be! As we pulled up to the entrance of the national park I was totally taken aback by the view and the beauty in front of me.

Standing on the rim of the Canyon
Seeing as the Canyon was such a vast wonder I was determined to see as much of it as I could. So when the Contiki extra option of a helicopter ride was offered I dug deep into my pockets as this was one opportunity I was not going to miss!

The Colorado River
A view from the air
Seeing the Canyon from the air was without doubt one of the most exhilarating experiences I've had while travelling- if you get the chance it is an absolute must!

Once I had fully taken in the incredible sight, it was time for the group to chill out and watch the sunset.

My Contiki crew

A memory that will last a lifetime

There is a reason that the Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and as much as photos can show an insight into why, they only show a fraction of the Canyon's beauty. It has to be seen to truly be believed...

D! x

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Falling in love with San Diego

Waking early in LA, (see post The Time I went to Hollywood) it was time to meet my Contiki group and head for our first stop- San Diego!

Arriving early afternoon to Seaport Village, I headed to the San Diego Mall to do a little shopping (buying all things American Eagle) and decided to treat myself to a mani/ pedi. 

We then drove over the incredible Coronado bridge with stunning views over San Diego.

Coronado Bridge
Once we had checked into our accommodation, Days Inn Motel, it was time to head out for our first group meal. Arriving in San Diego Old Town, not far from the border of Mexico, we dined at a cute Mexican restaurant and feasted on huge portions of nachos, tacos and burritos! The night ended at a bar in the Gaslamp quarter- making new friends over shots of tequila!

San Diego zoo was my choice for the next day. Housing over 3,700 animals and covering over 40 hectares of land, the animals had plenty of room to roam around and was by far the best zoo I've ever been to.

Admiring my favourite aninal

Sleepy bear

Shy panda
The afternoon was then spent soaking up the sun on Mission Beach, eating huge ice creams and enjoying the laid-back Californian lifestyle.

Yes, I did get messy!
Despite only spending two days in San Diego, I completely fell in love with it! With the history of the old and new towns, the nightlife and entertainment hub of the Gaslamp quarter and the chilled out vibes on the beaches- San Diego really was my Californian dream!

D! x 

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The time I went to Hollywood

Last week I received a selection of Contiki travel brochures (the universe is clearly trying to tell me something) and yes, as much as I began to plan my next adventure and get rather excited, I also began to reminisce about a previous Contiki tour that I embarked upon a couple of summers ago. One that has filled me with great experiences, memories and lasting friendships!

The next few posts will take you on a road trip from LA all the way to San Francisco Bay!

First, off to LA LA Land...

As my tour was kicking off in LA, I decided to fly out a couple of days early to fit in some LA sightseeing- Hollywood sign, Walk of Fame and Universal Studios all high on my list of things to see and do!

After arriving in the early hours of the morning, and a slightly unnerving transfer through LA to Hollywood (where I was staying), I had a good sleep, fought off jet-lag and was ready to explore!

Meeting up with my good friend Sara and her partner, we fueled ourselves at Johnny Rockets and began our LA tourist trail.

Up first- The Walk of Fame:

My favourite director
I didn't realise just how long the walk was! From Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson, it was a Hollywood dream come true!

The next day, as three film buffs, we headed to Universal Studios! Full of fun rides, film history and my favourite (an absolute must) the Universal Studios set tour, including coming face-to-face with the rather frightening Norman Bates of Psycho!

Stunning LA sunset over Universal Studios
Continuing with the LA 'Movie Theme', the following morning we decided to try and get as close to the Hollywood sign as we could.

Starting the day properly
After an eggs and mimosa breakfast (we were in Hollywood after all) we found ourselves a willing taxi driver, paid him $40 and he got as close as he possibly could to the sign. Providing us with a history lesson, taking a number of photographs for us and showing us some celeb homes on the drive up, all added to the impressive sight!

From the Hollywood sign to seeing how the rich and famous live, Rodeo Drive was of course our next stop. As a fan of Beverley Hills 90210 (I still watch re-runs) :-)  it was fascinating to stroll along the parade of designer shops, to people-watch and to try and spot a celeb or too ( Kevin Connolly of Entourage fame being our spot).

Just look at that sparkle!

A visit to the renowned Beverley Hills sign , topped off what was a real LA LA land experience!

Sitting on Beverley Hills
Until my next stop...

D! x

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Most Interesting Character I've Met While Travelling!

EmmaKelly and Rebecca have come up with a great Travel Link Up this month- The most interesting character you've met while travelling. The people you meet on your travels are undoubtedly fundamental to the experience that you have and can provide you with memories that life a last time!

So... I go back to August 2012, to the red-rock, Native American town of Sedona. It was here I met Terrance, a real-life cowboy and wrangler! 

Yee ha! Posing with Terrance
Having grown up in the Sedona wildernees, Terrance had spent his youth on his parent's ranch and immersed himself in the cowboy way of life. With a wealth of knowledge about the area, he decided to put it to good use and become a Sedona tour guide- something for which I am grateful!

Red-rocks of beautiful Sedona
Taking a group of us for a tour in his jeep, (I rode upfront), Terrance drove us into the majestic canyons and into history! Riding over rocks and bumpy paths, he shared stories of early cowboy days with tales of Moonshine and Murder! His storytelling ability was mesmerising and he most definitely made a lasting impression on me!

We all had a lotta love for Terrance! 

Having the opportunity to meet such quirky characters, with such unique stories to tell, will always be one of the reasons why I shall continue to travel! 

Until next time!

D! x