American Beauty & A Few More Wonders...
Trip Start Nov 15, 2012
25Trip End Jul 10, 2013
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We kicked off or west coast road tripping by picking up Marge (Chris mom and my new mom in law) from LAX Airport on 11th June. The excitement on Marge's face from the moment we saw her, until today, where we are sitting poolside enjoying the last bits of sunshine, have been a constant source of both entertainment and joy to both Chris and I. West coast road tripping has been her dream for years - I think we can safely say this dream has finally been fulfilled.
To Vegas we went, through Death Valley, checking out the Joshua Trees along the way. The drive was long and hot but beautiful. We arrived in Vegas around dusk, ready to gamble the last bits of our budget away...
Vegas is a world unto its own. It's just like the movies show it to be- no clocks, money money money everywhere and every now and then a poor fella who has clearly not won on the poker tables for a few years but continues to try his luck every which way he can. Speaking of poker tables - Chris's favourite were the ones at Hooters...go figure ;-). Luckily he had a bit of luck behind him, or perhaps it was the amount of alcohol he was feeding to the more than largely breasted female who was dealing the cards! Either way it didn't matter because it kept Marge and I entertained for a few hours at least.
We stayed at The Hard Rock Hotel, which is just off the strip but what a luxury after South America and the Inca Trail. The pool parties were a plenty, the alcohol flowed just at the right pace and the money...well the winnings were lost of course but hey ho ya only get one shot at Vegas right? Chris reckons he is going back there with the boys...over my dead body. Ok well he can go, but I'm keeping the credit cards!
On to The Grand Canyon. People do it as a day trip but really? It's a good five hour drive people! We stopped off at the famous Hoover Dam along the way, although not for long as the heat was killing us. We did however get to tick off another wonder: Hoover Dam, Man-Made Wonder of the World and both Chris and Marge were in their element knowing that Bond had once run down the side of the dam...whatever! James Bond fans would agree I know.
The Grand Canyon, another wonder, this time a Natural Wonder of the World, is ALL it's cracked up to be. It truly is an incredible sight. We were lucky enough to have some beautiful weather and loved every minute of our time there. The Americans definitely have it right when it comes to their national parks - so jacked, impressive indeed. We headed back to Vegas for one more night, just because we could, this time staying at Circus Circus. Not such a great place, though wonderful if you have kids as loads of entertainment for them. Saying that, I have no clue why anybody would want to bring children to Las Vegas. We of course went back to Hooters so Chris could try his luck again (figuratively and literally speaking) but alas to no avail. We did of course also check out The Bellagio, New York New York, The Venetian, The Cosmopolitan, Caesars Palace, to name a few. My favourite was The Venetian - just stunning!
A bit of a disappointment however was Yosemite National Park. I'm sorry for those of you who have been there and loved it but for us it just didn't quite get the juices flowing. Don't get me wrong, it's pretty and all, but there are far more beautiful places in the USA that we saw along the road trip. We did stay in a beautiful place called June Lakes which is about 15miles outside of the Yosemite National Park so that made up for it. As did the drive from Yosemite to San Francisco - wow!
San Fran...OMG It is just So AWESOME! (How American am I sounding right now)! We had gorgeous weather for the two days/three nights we were there - which was lucky as the rain kicked in and the typical June Gloom west coast weather settled on the day we left. It's so free, so chic, so nouveau riche darling, in some spots, and in others it's just damn right filthy, grotty, sleazy - love it. We did all the bits you are supposed to do like The Golden Gate Bridge, Fishermans Wharf, the classic cable car, the Marina, the ever hippie and wonderful Haight & Ashbury, the Presidio and of course one can not visit San Fran without checking out The Rock.
Alcatraz...what an experience. Jumped on the ferry over to the island and spent about three hours checking it all out. They give you a set of headphones that has ex prisoners and guards talking you through their time there and telling you all about each and every corner of the place. I have to say, it's the best self guided walking tour we've ever done. They even had a guy there who had been a prisoner signing copies of a book he had written - impressive.
San Fran ticked, it was off to do some wine tasting in the Napa Valley, and oh did we do it in style. One times stretched limo van, four wineries and one champagne farm, picnic a la French style, music of our choice and a few other peeps we got to know pretty well by the end of the tour. So well in fact that some of them ended up in our hotel room signing self karaoke until the wee hours of the morning, including Marge I might add ;-) The Napa Valley is well worth a visit. I guess it rivals places like Stellenbosch and the wine regions in France.
A little worse for wear but truly chuffed with our wine tasting, we made our way the next day from Napa along the famous Highway 1, or Pacific Coast Highway. The scenery all along Highway 1 is impressive, a lot like a much longer drive along Chapmen's Peak - I guess we are spoilt in South Africa :-). We shacked up for two nights in the quaint and beautiful Carmel-By-Sea. It's claim to fame: Clint Eastwood was major here from 1986 - 1988, and the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course. A links course which costs a mere $700 odd to play a round of golf - WTF! We wanted to visit but the gate guard wanted to charge us $10 just to drive in...feck that for a lark. Carmel is part of Monterrey county and pretty much where the Big Sur begins so its beauty is certainly something to write home about.
A surprise at Morro Bay - we literally picked a spot along the coast and booked a room for a night. Gorgeous fishing town, delicious oysters and the famous (though we didn't know it) Morro Bay Rock...ok not that famous but basically the places only claim to fame. It was a refresher stop before hitting the most fancy shmancy pants city we've ever seen - Santa Barbara.
There are so many famous and rich cities in California but this one, for us anyway, out ways them all. There isn't a single inch of litter, the streets are paved with beautiful palm trees, the houses are gigantic and money oozes from every inch of the place. We spent two nights here in awe, wishing we'd won big in Las Vegas so that we could partake in the luxuries it had to offer. The weather was perfect, the people are perfect - it actually makes you sick lol.
Feeling a little "one day we will be there", we ventured off to our next stop...LA! Hitting Venice & Muscle Beach (crazy), Santa Monica and Malibu along the way. Unfortunately these stars build such bloody big houses with such bloody big walls around them that you don't actually get to see them properly. However we were entertained along the way with the various sports cars and nouveau riche...again sickening.
Last stop - Los Angeles...city of Angels. We've spent the last two days of our trip visiting all the main spots and taking the necessary pics like the Hollywood sign hehe. We were very lucky to yesterday to stop at two houses in Beverly Hills that were open for viewing - hello! Again sickening ;-) Today we checked out Hollywood and Rodeo Drive, stopping in for a glass of bubbly at The Beverly Wilshire Hotel, as you do. For those of you who don't know, it's the hotel where Pretty Women was filmed..or some of it anyway.
Tonight it's our final dinner and drinks. We will then pack or bags one final time and tomorrow we fly back to London...I'm not finished blogging, we're not finished travelling...watch this space, one final blog entry will be made to sum it all up.