San Francisco, LA and Vegas

Trip Start Sep 14, 2009
Trip End Aug 16, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Nevada
Wednesday, July 28, 2010

We took the coast road from Mendocino to San Francisco and despite it being a longer route it was worth it as it was so spectacular! For us, probably more scenic even than the famous Big Sur drive towards Los Angeles that we would do a few days later.

We had booked a room at a motel near Chinatown and so had to go for a quick Chinese meal nearby. It was on Broadway that is a pretty lively area so ear plugs were the perfect sleeping partner to muffle the cars and excitable blokes on their way home from the local night entertainment. This local activity was dominated by the local bars on the next block that were appealing to men to see live dancing girls and topless barmaids. This provided the chance to give a small lesson on life to Aidan in response to his questions on what went on inside. I kept it brief to say the least as we both decided it would be best to go in and see it at first hand (joke Mum, Aidan went alone!)

The next day we took the ferry to visit Alcatraz that we had been tipped off to book earlier on. It was a great few hours walking around and listening to the audio tour and Ranger talks on Al Capone and life in the jail. The visit exceeded our expectations and we loved the stories and tried to imagine life for the inmates in the strictly controlled system.

Ady and I had our first taste of a true American hamburger in all its humungous glory at a local diner and it was mouth-wateringly delicious. The diner itself was great and very lively and a true immersion into our San Francisco dining experience. We spent a lot of time walking around the piers and downtown area and were blown away by the size of the cheesecakes in The Cheesecake Factory – literally!

We also took the car down the famously twisting and steep Lombard Street and were amazed when a Fire Engine followed us down, lights and sirens blazing amongst the long line of tourist cars. It struggled a bit to make it but then surprised us by stopping at the bottom only for the Fire Fighters to get out and pose for photos to the massed tourists– tough job if you can get it!

Leaving  the mist and cold weather of San Francisco, we were lucky to get some sunshine for our drive down the ocean road through the Big Sur to Los Angeles. Liz had to give a biology question to the kids after shouting out that one of the rock formations in the ocean looked just like the Egyptian Sphincter. The kids corrected her to Sphinx but then needed to be explained the functioning of the sphincter. It had us all crying with laughter! We spent a couple of nights in LA which gave us the chance to do a whistle stop tour of Venice Beach, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and of course Hollywood Boulevard where we walked along the line of the stars and put our hands and feet in the pavement in front of the Chinese Temple. We decided to vote for a day trip around Universal Studios as opposed to seeing Mickey Mouse. It was a good choice as it mixed interesting info around the film sets, live action shows and 4D films and of course the ubiquitous roller coaster rides. The big hit for Issy and Ady was a virtual reality ride with The Simpsons. I think this was enhanced by the fact that they have watched every episode of the TV show during our trip 20 times over.

The drive from LA to Las Vegas took around 5 hours and as we entered The Strip, we were all gobsmacked by the over-the-top hotels of the Luxor, New York, New York and Excalibur hotels. Our awe increased as we carried on down passing signs and hotels that we had seen on TV and in films over the years such as Caesars Palace, Bellagio, The Mirage etc. We had booked a bargain room at The Stratosphere for only 20 per night for all of us. They obviously bank on getting their money through gambling but hadn't reckoned on the tight budget Cawley’s walking through the casino each time without spending a dime. Actually Liz and I did risk $60 on the roulette wheel on the last night but came away with $100. The kids wanted us to gamble everything we had spent during our year to get our money back. I don’t think they quite understand the pain of losing yet!

We had good fun living a surreal few days in Vegas although the contrast to other places we have stayed in during our trip is stark and thought provoking when you consider the over-excess of Vegas and poverty elsewhere.

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Sonrisa on

Welcome to my country. It's a bit messed up the way everything is in excess from food to buildings to traffic.

Hopefully you walk out of there thinking the best of Yankees and our land :)
Continued happy and safe travels for a magnificent trip almost over :-(

Jane Fox on

Glad to hear you now know your sphinx form your sphincter! Could have been a really messy use of prep H in Egypt! How are you ever going to be happy again after this amazing year?! What a great bonding experience for you as a family, Its going to be the cement that has you brave the storm of adolescence when it hits , believe me! NOt to mention what persepective the kids are getting .... the best education is experience! More power to you Liz and Rick! Lots of love, Jane.

lisa duncan on

Can't believe it's one year. Think of you lots and can't wait to see you. xxx

Sally and Lily on

Back from France and just caught up with your last month!! All amazing! Now I see why people want to go to NZ - stunning place. Lily LOVED all her pressies from Issy and is counting the days til she sees her again! Enjoy your last couple of weeks then maybe we could get started on that co-operative living idea in France!! Sxxxx

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