We're the kids in America!
Trip Start May 29, 2010
31Trip End Aug 30, 2010
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Whilst we were waiting in line at the theatre we saw a sight that we would continue to see all over San Francisco. There seems to be a huge problem with homelessness and there were several people quite obviously high on drugs or alcohol. It makes you feel pretty helpless as you cannot complete your Christian duty very easily when there are so many people in need!
Whilst we were trying to work out what to do for the rest of the day we wandered passed the civic hall, which is rather spectacular and looks a lot like St Paul's Cathedral in London and we also went into the library to try and get some information about the area as our hotel had barely any.
After some deliberation we walked up to the area known as Fisherman's Wharf where our next failed attempt at sightseeing in SF occured! Many people had told us to visit Alcatraz but none of them advised us to book it atleast a week in advance! Andrew was particularly frustrated by this point and I had the joys of dealing with a tired, frustrated Andrew, which in itself is pretty frustrating!!!!
We continued our walk around the wharf to Pier 39 which is the hub of the wharf. It has two levels and is landscaped around SF’s historic waterfront; full of shops and places to eat. We wandered around many of the little shops and had lunch at the Sea Lion Cafe. This isn't your avergae cafe mind...the Sea Lion Cafe is located directly next to the world-famous California sea lions that have taken up lodgings in the harbour! There are actually hundreds of them!!! Andrew and I were entertained by two that kept fighting and pushing eachother into the water! There were also views of Alcatraz from the other side of the restaurant.
After lunch we finally managed to book a habour cruise for the next day which would take us under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz. Hurrah something to do finally!
We were pretty tired by this point so decided to head back to the hotel. We planned on hopping on the tram but there was over an hours wait as one of the ways home took us via a place known as Nob Hill. We decided to walk instead of wait, and realised quite quickly why people were prepared to wait. There is an enormous mountain in the middle of SF which cannot be seen until you are walking it! Once you reach the peak, there is a street called 'Crookedest Street' which takes you back down to the wharf. Think Isle of Wight hills and then times it by ten. They had police guiding the traffic as it is so steep!
On the Sunday, we were very grateful to find that nothing opened until 11am so we had a major lie in! We headed up to the wharf again and had lunch in the Rainforest Cafe. (There is one in London but we have never had chance to go so I begged Andrew to let us go to this one!!) We sat in the Ocean area surrounded by huge fish tanks filled with tropical fish. They also do a very tasty raspberry lemonade!
We then set off on our harbour cruise. Before getting onto the boat, we had our photo taken in front of a green screen which they later superimposed an image of the Golden Gate Bridge on to. We sailed out to the Golden Gate Bridge first, a seagull decided he was going to tail us on this part of our journey! Luckily he didn't drop a present on anyone! The bridge is pretty spectacular and apparently takes over an hour to walk so it is pretty big. But it isn't very gold as the name suggests, more a rusty red colour! We then sailed to the entrance of Alcatraz and did an 180 degree tour around the island. The tour guides told us many a tale about the criminals that spent time in Alcatraz and those that tried to escape...I was pretty grateful that we were unable to go into the prison as it was pretty creepy just being close to it!
After the cruise we jumped on a tram that took us to Union Square where we had a wander and bought cheesecake!!!! We then spent the evening updating the blog.
Before leaving San Francisco we went and picked up the hire car. We were already later than we'd told the hire car company so we thought the car would be all ready for us - WRONG! Andrew also nearly got into a fight with a guy that had stood behind him moaning about the queue and about people pushing in, who then also proceeded to push in front of Andrew!
Eventually we set off in our Toyota Camry, and headed for Mariposa to an outlet shopping centre. Andrew had seen some things in Gap that he liked so we thought we'd go and see if we could get them any cheaper and I do not need an excuse to go shopping! It's probably a good thing that our shopping trip was pretty unsuccessful, as both Andrew and my wardrobes are both bursting full of clothes! After we'd wandered around the centre we jumped back into the car and headed for our first stop between SF and Las Vegas. Our hotel was on the outskirts of the town, which used to be a gold rush town and still very much looks like it is the 1800's!
For the first time in several weeks, breakfast was included in the room rate. I thought I would be brave and try the American breakfast cereals, (plus I don't like museli so it was Fruit Loops or nothing!) I tried them dry to start with and they tasted like the rainbow popcorn type sweets we have here so i thought they'd be ok. But as soon as you pour milk on them they take on their fruity flavour which is one of the most foul things I have ever tasted! (I guess the clue is in the name!) From this point my love for bagels and cream cheese began and I avoided cereal!
The first national park that we visited in America, was Yosemite Valley, home to Yosemite Sam in the Looney Tunes cartoons. This has to be my favourite national park out of the ones we have visited, it is unbelievably beautiful and beats sitting on a motorway starring at the road and other cars!! The drive was filled with mountains, waterfalls, rivers, forests and for every corner we turned the more stunning the views became. Our first stop was at Bridevale Creek which had a huge natural waterfall that cascaded down three moutain faces. If we'd had more time we would have parked the car and hiked up to the Glacier point where you can see a granite mountain known as half dome that has taken the form of a round dome but gives the illusion that it has lost its northwest half. It is recommended to see this at sunset as the sun reflects on the rock and shows a whole range of colours!
We then drove into the valley itself, stopping at various points to take photographs, we also made a visit to the gift shop and picked up several sovenirs!! We saw several signs warning us of bears but we didn't actually see any (probably a good thing!) Tioga Pass and Mono lake were our next stop. In parts of Mono Lake there are 28, 8-million-year-old lavas randomly sticking out of the water. The lake itself is believed to have formed around 760,000 years ago and there is evidence that the lake could be a remnant of an older lake that once covered a large part of Nevada and Utah. It is very beautiful.
The highest point that we reached in Yosemite Valley was 13000 feet. We definately want to go back and camp in Yosemite so we can see more of it as it is truely beautiful!
That evening we rested in a place known as Lone Pines which is a small town between Yosemite and Death Valley. After arriving at the hotel we had a nice sit down in the 100 degree heat!
Before we set off to Death Valley the following day we popped into the visitors centre to get advice on the route we should take. With our huge highlighted map in hand we got underway. The first stop was at Stovepipe Wells village where you have to pay your park entrance fee. The village is also at sea level so we took a picture of our first elevation sign!
We then headed off to a place known as 'Ghost Town'. It is literally ruins of a village that existed before the people fled as a result of the heat. The buildings included a casino, a couple of banks, the general store and some houses. All of the derelict buildings had signs on them telling tourists to beware of rattlesnakes! Eeekkk!
Badwater was the next stop. This is the third lowest point below sea level in the world at -282 feet. (I think the sign said that the Dead Sea in Egypt is the lowest.) The area itself is a big salt trail surrounded by more mountains! Walking on the salt was very similar to walking on ice and also looked like snow! The temperature had reached 118 degrees by this point and we found it very difficult to stay out in the heat. Despite the temperatures there was a small stream flowing in the salt pools which surprised us a little. The journey had been particularly difficult through Death Valley as we'd been told to turn the air con off so that we didnt break down. We've probably never drunk so much water!
On our way back up the road from Badwater, we drove through a place known as 'Artisits Palette'. This is an area that has multiple coloured rocks from red to purple to green. The colours are formed by the minerals in the rocks. (thats the extent of my geology knowledge!) The rocks had been cut through to make the road that we drove on through the palette, we were so close to the rocks the views were simply immense!
We then drove to Zabriske point which is a lookout point over an area that has in the past experienced volcanic activity. The rocks that have formed as a result are really smooth and rest in sweeping motions.
Our last stop was at Dantes View, which is a viewpoint at 5475 feet above sea level. You could see for miles over the valley. The road up to the point was very steep and 's' shaped. I have to say I pretty much held my breath on the way up and down as you could see right over the edge! (I'm glad I wasn't driving!) It was at the bottom of this point that I had my first horrific toilet moment! (I knew you'd all like to hear about this!) Now i've been bought up on camping holidays where toilets can be pretty nasty but NEVER in my whole 22 years have i seen anything as disgusting than the toilet at this point! Don't worry I won't give full details!
6703 feet was the highest point that we reached in Death Valley.
We then set off to Las Vegas (a very excited me sat in the passenger seat!) We got a little lost trying to get to our hotel but it was around 6pm when we got into our room. We ate dinner in the hotel's American diner (See we did sample the country's cusine!!!) and spent the evening walking most of Las Vegas Boulevard. At around 10.20pm we watched the musical fountains at the Bellagio Hotel (We stayed for an hour to watch them as they are pretty cool!) Andrew got a little stressed as Vegas is very busy (compared to where we'd spent the last few days) and the humidity was intense!