California & Nevada Road Trip!

By em7070

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What a tiring but fun first day! The flight was just under 11 hours to San Francisco and was mighty boring despite some good films to watch, I did some crochet and I read a book. We eventually got here though and got rather frustrated with the amount of queuing to get through US customs. We went to collect our hire car and we were very lucky to have the option of a normal Mustang as we had booked or a brand new Mustang GT convertible - guess which one Jack picked?! I think Jack quite enjoyed our speedy red all American car even though driving into San Francisco is a bit of a nightmare (so many lanes!). I think we were very glad to get to our hotel, Pier 2630 Hotel, in the Fisherman's Wharf area of San Francisco. Our hotel is lovely, everywhere looks brand new and on arrival we were very surprised and grateful to hear they had upgraded us for free to one of their superior King rooms. The room is huge and I love the decor. We're a very short walk to the piers including the bustling Pier 39 where we spent this evening. We planned on a drink at the Hard Rock Cafe but we were so tired and hungry that we decided to eat there too. The food was great but my word we forgot how gigantic American portions are! My banana berry colada cocktail went down very nicely and Jack enjoyed a beer. After some food and drink we wandered around pier 39 for a while enjoying the shops and the music. We saw the Californian Sea Lions too, noisy things! There was a gorgeous sunset this evening and you could just about make out the Golden Gate Bridge as the fog started to roll in. We're heading to bed soon as we're totally defeated. Tomorrow we have a busy day of site seeing ahead! Night night xx

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It's been a day of site seeing in San Francisco today. The weather has been fab; it's sunny with clear blue skies so there's uninterrupted views out across the water. We started the day with breakfast at the iHop cafe and then walked to the Ferry Building to look around the market-style shops. After that, we made our way to pier 33 to begin our Alcatraz island tour by boarding the ferry. It took ten minutes to reach Alcatraz and once there we did the jailhouse tour and wandered around part of the island which is now a national park. To be honest it wasn't really my thing and we only went as we'd been told by everyone that we must do it. The jailhouse tour was sort of interesting but wandering around a prison isn't really my cup of tea! I much preferred the views across to the Golden Gate Bridge and towards San Francisco. After we got back to Fisherman's Wharf we went and hired bikes in order to cycle over the Golden Gate Bridge. The journey to the bridge was mostly flat but hard work in the San Francisco breeze and sun beating down on us. We made it eventually and the views from the bridge were stunning. We spent a couple of hours cycling in total before returning the bikes to the shop. After that we decided to walk all the way to Union Square - extremely hard work after around 13 miles on a bike; according to my Fitbit we've done 30k steps today! The tall buildings were impressive around the financial district and we had a wander around the shops once we reached Union Square. We then went for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. The food was ok but the service was terrible!
After dinner we got the cable car all the way back to Fisherman's Wharf. It was great riding on one of the famous cable cars, night time views of the city were fantastic!
We've finally got back to the hotel room and realised that we perhaps underestimated the power of the sun and wind today - pink faces! We've had a brilliant day anyway and we've achieved just about everything we had written out on our itinerary.
Tomorrow we check out of Pier 2620 hotel and will be making our way to the next stage of our road trip, Monterey. We've got a couple of stops planned along the way too. Night night x

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The next stage of our road trip began this morning once we had checked out of the Pier 2620 hotel. We got on the road out of San Francisco and climbed up through the hills and forests to get to the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The drive was very scenic and good fun with the roof down in the car. Once at the park we followed one of the trails around the gigantic Redwood trees, some over 60 feet in circumference and over 300 feet tall. We got back on the road again and headed back down from the hills and forests and back towards the coast. We stopped at Santa Cruz for lunch and enjoyed a sandwich while sat on the beach boardwalk. We then did the final driving stint of the day to Monterey Bay where we checked into our second hotel of the holiday, Monterey Bay Inn Hotel. The hotel is nice and we have a harbour/sea view room with balcony. Binoculars are supplied in our hotel room so we can look for otters and other wildlife from our balcony. We're located on Cannery Row (so named after the sardine canning factories that used to line this area of Monterey) which is full of little boutique/souvenir shops and lots of seafood restaurants. It's incredibly quiet here compared with San Francisco but we don't mind that and the views out onto the bay are beautiful. We spent the afternoon visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium which was brilliant; so much to see and Jack bought me a blue whale teddy too!
We went for dinner at Bubba Gumps tonight and then headed back to the hotel a short while ago and are having an early night ready for our whale watching trip tomorrow morning, I can't wait! More updates soon! Xx

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Today is my birthday and was the day of our whale watching trip. Today was very sunny and not too windy but we were warned that the trip could be bumpy on the water and it was! Poor Jack was very seasick and so I feel guilty for dragging him on the whale watching trip. It was great though for all the marine life we saw; sea otters, sea lions, harbour seals, pelicans, albatross and most importantly the whales! We came across a feeding frenzy of sea lions, Cormorants and Humpback Whales feeding on anchovies. We then carried on further towards the submarine canyon just outside of the bay and we watched a leaping session by a Humpback Whale! Watching it breaching was amazing! At this stage we had seen about 4-6 Humpback whales. We then spent quite a long while travelling around trying to find any Blue Whales and eventually we got a glimpse of these gigantic animals. It was amazing to see them and something I've always always wanted to do so I was very happy. Jack felt much better on the journey back to the harbour and has felt fine ever since, there were a lot of people on our trip feeling very sea sick.
We popped for a light lunch (no such thing in America but you catch my drift) at the Lalla Beachside Grill with great views out onto the bay, they had the best music playing too. The tide was on the turn and has washed in lots of little red shrimp/crabs. We spent the afternoon relaxing on San Carlos Beach right outside our hotel; I read my book and Jack played games on the iPad. It was lovely sitting in the sunshine on the beach and I paddled my toes in the water.
Jack took me for a birthday dinner tonight at Chart House on Cannery Row, not too far from our hotel. It's a nicer type of restaurant and the food was delicious; Jack had a New York strip steak with mash and asparagus and I had lobster and baked potato. It was so yummy and I had a nice margarita cocktail too. We leave Monterey tomorrow morning and have a day of driving ahead of us as we drive the 'Big Sur' along the Pacific coast highway and head to San Luis Obispo for our overnight stay. Night xx

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Today was an amazing day and by far my favourite day of the holiday (so far, though I'm not sure we'll top it).
Today we left Monterey, headed out to Pacific Grove and onto the '17 mile drive' through private property and Pebble Beach Golf Course. The views were amazing and we stopped at The Lodge to look at the views and golf trophies too. We saw more wildlife along the way and exited the 17 mile drive stretch at Carmel beach. The beach is very popular with it's pretty white sand and the houses that line the front are very pretty too.
We then joined the famous Pacific coast highway and headed into 'the Big Sur' - one of the best drives in the world apparently and we can see why. The views out to the Pacific Ocean as we drove along the coastline were stunning and there are plenty of places to stop and get photos. We even saw a group of Humpback Whales feeding not far off of the coast and saw the huge Elephant Seals sleeping on a beach. Our longer stop was at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park where we parked up and made the short walk to McWay Falls; this beautiful waterfall falls straight onto the beach below and it's the gorgeous blue water. It was beautiful standing there and it was at this precise moment that Jack decided to leave me completely speechless by asking me to marry him! I was a crying mess and extremely happy! It was so romantic and the perfect setting and there wasn't too many people around as Jack knows I hate an audience! I'm over the moon and can't stop smiling, Jack is very happy too! So this has easily been the best day of our holiday!
We travelled along the remainder of the Pacific coast highway and headed to Morro Bay for a bite to eat. It's a pretty seaside town with a gigantic rock, actually a volcanic plug, sitting just off of the beach area. After spending an hour there we drove past San Luis Obispo and drove into Edna Valley, the wine region located close by. The views of the vineyards were amazing. We then headed back into San Luis Obispo and to our motel where we were staying for the night. We went for dinner at a local sports bar & grill and enjoyed a tasty tri-tip sandwich while watching every kind of sport on the TVs (happy Jack!). San Luis Obispo is a nice town and our hotel is typically American but nice and clean. Our car is even parked right outside the door! It's been a long day of travelling but a very exciting day and I can't stop smiling! Off to bed now before another long day of driving to Los Angeles! Night xx

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We got up early and left San Luis Obispo in the sunshine and headed south along highway 101. We had a couple of hours driving through mountains and gorges and we arrived in Santa Barbara in time to have some brunch in Joe's Cafe. Santa Barbara was a really pretty place and had a busy sandy white beach and promenade. After spending a couple of hours there we got back on the road and headed to Malibu; 27 miles of beautiful sandy surf beaches. We parked up amongst some gigantic fancy holiday houses and walked to El Matador beach, which is said to be the most photogenic of the Malibu beaches. It was popular too but I still managed to get some photos of the beach without people in the photo. It's Labor Day weekend at the moment so everyone is enjoying a long weekend by the beach. We stayed on El Matador beach for a while sunbathing which was nice and then we made the final drive into LA which took almost two hours! Los Angeles is huge, I didn't realise just how far apart everywhere is! Our hotel, Crescent Hotel, is in swanky Beverly Hills not too far from Rodeo Drive (hide your wallet Jack!!). I just want to skip around singing "pretty woman". I've asked Jack to buy me a red dress, hire a million dollar necklace and private jet and take me to the opera but he's having none of it - spoilsport! We got freshened up and headed out for the evening to explore Hollywood. We got a taxi to the walk of fame and did the length both sides of the sidewalk. Jack had requested dinner in Hooters, absolutely no idea why he chose there the wings were really good anyway! We then went for a celebratory drink in Hard Rock Cafe having not actually celebrated Saturday yet. I think I chose the strongest cocktail possible and felt rather tipsy after only one (what's new there!). We then did a little more site-seeing before getting a taxi back to the hotel. Our hotel is full of great artwork, sadly I can't afford to buy any! Tomorrow we're doing lots more site seeing around LA but hopefully taking a bit of an easier pace as we're both feeling pretty tired after the first 5 days! Weather is still beautiful, it has been clear blue skies and sunshine every day on our holiday so far and it's definitely a lot warmer here in LA, which will accustom us ready for 40 degree heat in Vegas!

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Today has been a site seeing day in a hot and sunny LA. It's a huge place and I completely underestimated just how spaced out the different areas of LA are, I thought we'd be able to walk from our hotel in Beverly Hills to Hollywood and to Santa Monica but they're over 5 miles away! There are tour buses around but we found it much easier to get around by Uber taxis. It's my first time using Uber and it's brilliant and so easy. We left the hotel this morning and headed on foot to nearby Rodeo Drive for some window shopping. Jack enjoyed watching the Lamborghini, Rolls Royce and Bentley cars driving past while I hummed Pretty woman and kept annoying Jack by quoting the film! The shops are very impressive along here anyway and after that we grabbed a quick Starbucks before taking our first Uber journey from Wilshire Blvd to Santa Monica Pier. We had the most lovely Uber driver called Frederick and he's lived in LA for over 50 years and was very happy to point lots out to us as we made our way to Santa Monica.
We walked the length of Santa Monica Pier and got lots of photos, watched some performers and browsed the street art. Santa Monica beach was packed as its Labor Day here in USA so the last day of summer vacation to Americans before they return to school/work. We then walked along the oceanfront promenade and spent a while watching crazy people doing exercises in the blazing heat at Muscle Beach before continuing along to Venice Beach. I loved Venice beach, it was so busy, full of so many different 'characters' and the street art people were selling was very interesting and clever. We even watched the 5-0 (police) arresting some people, it all happens there!
We then went to Hollywood again to see it in the daylight, did some browsing in the souvenir shops and saw the Hollywood sign on the distant hills before going back to Beverly Hills, having a quick freshen up in the hotel and then heading out for an early dinner locally. We found a posh French bistro just off of Rodeo Drive and they had a table for us so we enjoyed some nice French food which was a welcome break from the American food which can be a bit overwhelming after a while. We both had French onion soup to start followed by steak frites. I had a lovely Sauvignon Blanc too and this time didn't feel tipsy, just nice! We wandered back along the rich streets. I really like Beverly Hills and it's so much cleaner than Hollywood which I'm afraid to say is a great tourist place to visit but I'm glad my brother told us not to stay in a hotel near there! Tonight we are checking off things on the itinerary and are pleased to report that we've managed to do just about everything that we wanted to do in each place which is good (and probably why we feel quite weary even though we're having so much fun - averaging 25,000 steps a day even on the days were driving!). Tomorrow we leave LA pretty early to get on the road for the longest drive of the whole road trip as we make the 250+ mile journey through the Nevada desert to Las Vegas. We plan on a couple of pit stops along the way to refuel our tummies and the car, the main stop planned being Barstow. We've got about 5 hours of driving to do tomorrow, but it will be worth it and that's the final drive of the holiday done. Night xxx

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We made it to Vegas! It was a 5 hour drive through the Mojave desert from LA and it was a pretty boring drive although the views of the desert and canyon country was nice. We only stopped once to refuel and to grab a quick McDonald's in Barstow. We drove straight into Las Vegas and heads straight for the Bellagio where we are staying for the next two nights. Parking was easy enough and we checked in by the casino floor, in the impressive lobby. Staying in Vegas is so cheap (they want you to spend all your money in the casinos) so we had booked a Bellagio Suite room. It's amazing! 1060ft hotel room on the 36th (top) floor. We have a big entrance hallway, toilet, living room with views across to Caesar's Palace, separate huge bedroom with a bed I need a ladder to get into! We then have his and hers bathrooms; Jack's has a steam room shower and mine has a whirlpool bath. They even have TVs in the bathroom mirrors! It's very cool anyway and speaking of cool, thank god for air conditioning! It's incredibly hot here. I thought I'd like the heat as we've only had temperatures up to about 27 degrees at the other places we've been but it was 38 degrees when we arrived in Vegas and it's sweltering. We headed out of our hotel room, explored the Bellagio a little bit - it's very easy to get lost! We then headed outside into the heat and walked part of the Las Vegas strip to look at the other casinos. We went past Caeser's Palace with its waterfalls and statues, The Mirage, Paris with a huge Eiffel Tower, Treasure Island, The Venetian with its replica San Marco Square and canals (we've been to the real thing but this is still impressive!) and finally we ended up at The Wynn. We toured the casino and shopping areas before heading to their renowned buffet restaurant, voted one of the best buffet restaurants. It's $43 per person for all you can eat and the food was amazing, not like a buffet you imagine in England! There were fresh Alaskan King Crab claws, Peking duck buns, Korean street food, tacos, freshly carved roasted meats, huge salad and bread bar, pastas, pizza and more, not forgetting the amazing Patisserie and dessert area that did freshly cooked crepes, ice cream, fruit dipped in chocolate fountains and all other manner of desserts. It was goooood and definitely worth every penny. We then waddled back out into the heat and to a nearby shopping mall. There are shops everywhere and shopping centres in most of the casinos. Our shops in the Bellagio are more upmarket (I don't think I can ask Jack to buy me anything from Tiffany & Co now he's given me the most beautiful ring!) but there are shops dotted around everywhere so we had a good wander ready for a shopping trip tomorrow. By then it was dark outside so we walked back to the Bellagio and got a prime position outside the 8 acre lake ready for the first evening fountain light display. They were amazing! We watched two performances (they're every 15 minutes) and it was brilliant!
Finally we got back into the Bellagio and headed to the casino floor to win (more like lose) some money! We played a variety of slots and it was good fun. At one stage I was $70 up but then lost it, oh well that's part of the fun and the house always wins remember! Better luck tomorrow night!
Tomorrow we have our RZR desert tour in these speedy suspension dune buggy things. I'm excited for that! It should be good!
Night all, I might just make it past midnight tonight!

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Today was good fun. We got up early and went to Paris casino across the road and to one of their French cafes for a light breakfast before we were picked up and driven out to the Mojave Desert for our RZR off-road desert tour. I booked this as a present for Jack and he certainly enjoyed it even if I didn't much! Well, I did enjoy it but let's just say I'm not an adrenalin junkie so I just held on for dear life while Jack drove our RZR over the rocky and sandy desert terrain. There was a group of 5 cars in convoy and we covered about 20 miles in total with one stop halfway through for a drink of water (it was approaching 40 degrees in the desert) and to observe the remnants of an old sandstone mine.
We got dropped back to the hotel after our desert tour and couldn't wait to have a shower. We were covered in dust! Once freshened up we headed for a drink and bite to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe on the strip and then wandered around some of the shopping areas including the shopping mall in Caesars Palace with its impressive ceiling. We then headed back to the Bellagio early evening, played in the casino a little more and then went up to the room to get ready for dinner. We dressed smartly for dinner as we went to Jasmine restaurant, a Cantonese fine dining restaurant with views of the fountains (amazing while you're eating your dinner). The food was so delicious; I had chicken and sweetcorn soup to start while Jack had spring rolls. We then had flank steak wok-fried in garlic and shallots with noodles and jasmine rice. We almost ordered another meat dish but I'm glad we didn't as there was tonnes of steak and oodles of noodles. They brought us a chocolate and raspberry cake with a candle in for us to celebrate my birthday and our engagement which was very nice of them. Once we had paid the bill we spent a little more time in the casino while we waited for 9.30pm when Cirque Du Soleil would start. Jack managed to get tickets as he knew how much I wanted to see one of the shows while we were here in Vegas, I was just reluctant to as they're so expensive ($120 a ticket!!) but wow was it worth every penny, it was incredible!!! We saw Cirque Du Soleil's "O" performance which is held at the theatre in the Bellagio (all the casinos are so huge they even have gigantic theatres in them too) and is a water-based performance. It was absolutely amazing; instead of the stage there's a pool of water which changed shape, changed depths of water, sometimes the water disappeared entirely and a stage was there etc. The performers were impressive, especially the contortionists. Even the clowns were funny. One of my favourite parts was when a giant ship was suspended from the ceiling and was swinging back and forth above the water while acrobats threw each other around high above, amazing! Sadly I didn't get any photos as they're quite strict about it. I bought a book though after the performance and it has photos in. I would definitely definitely like to see another Cirque Su Soleil now! We got out of the theatre just after 11pm, had a final play in the casinos (I managed win us $100) and then we went to bed. Tomorrow is flying home day but we don't fly home until 9.30pm and we don't have to check out of the hotel until lunchtime so a bit of a lie-in is in order! I think we will sleep for weeks when we get home!

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Well we finally come to the end of our amazing holiday and I'm not sure we'll ever manage to top this! It's been fantastic and we have enjoyed every minute of it. It's hard to choose favourite places and favourite moments as we have done and seen so much! I'd have to say my favourite moment is very predictably getting engaged! That was AMAZING! Choosing a favourite place is really hard though and we both can't decide; San Francisco was really nice and I'd like to go back there again one day, there was lots to see. Monterey was beautiful, you can tell that it is growing ever more popular as there was a lot of developments popping up and whale watching was a dream come true. The drive along the Big Sur was yet another amazing place, easily the best drive we will probably ever do. Los Angeles was probably my least favourite even though I still really enjoyed it; I loved the Santa Monica and beach areas and Beverly Hills was beautiful but Hollywood was rather dirty if I'm honest! A great tourist visit you must do but there were much nicer areas of LA to explore. We enjoyed our stops along route at places like San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara too. Then finally that brings us to Las Vegas... Wow! We loved Vegas! We would definitely like to do a holiday solely to Vegas again, I'll drag Mum and Dad as they've talked about going for years and really should. There was so much to see and do in Vegas and if we had more time I'd have loved to do trips out to the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon.
In terms of meals out, we've eaten really well everywhere. We've done the all-American dinners, lovely fresh seafood and more finer dining when we were getting bored of burgers and fries. Eating out is expensive wherever you go in America but I'd say San Francisco was probably the most expensive. San Francisco in general is an expensive city, even to park our car at the hotel cost $50 per day and that was a very good price compared with other hotels.
All five of the hotels we stayed in were really nice. I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to hotels and although it's "just somewhere to sleep" it's important you get a good night's sleep so location and quality is important. Most impressive hotel rooms has to be our suite at the Bellagio, when else will we stay in a 1060 sq. ft hotel room?! It was probably larger than the whole downstairs of our house! I was mighty impressed with Pier 2620 hotel in San Francisco though, very nicely decorated and comfy room. Crescent Hotel in LA was nice and clean but incredibly small, but that's what you get for a boutique hotel in Beverly Hills as they don't have a lot of space compared to the big Hilton hotels. Everywhere was very clean though and we've not been disappointed with anything and not had any bad experiences (except poor Jack with his sea sickness on the whale watching trip - sorry Jack!).
Thank you everyone for reading my travel journal, apologies if I've babbled. Jack's always telling me that I write essays! I can't wait to make it into a photo book when we get home though to look back on all of our memories.
Em xxxxx

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