A Travellerspoint blog

USA

US favourites, incl. Hawaii

Top ‘10’ of the US of A

Since we did it for the New Zealand section, we thought we’d also do a ‘favourite things of the US’ too. In no particular order

Favourite view = a comfortable first place for the Grand Canyon. 2nd place is a hotter contest but is edged by Pebble Beach in Monterey, CA
Favourite ‘refreshment’ = Tapas at Julian Serrano’s at the Aria in Vegas. 2nd place is the seafood we had the first night in Monterey (we think it was Fishhopper)
Favourite accommodation = Vdara in Vegas. 2nd is Cliff’s Edge at Huelo Point on Maui
Favourite trip = Hands down, ‘O’ by Cirque du Soleil at the Bellagio in Vegas. 2nd is The Blue Man Group at the Venetian in Vegas (yes, they were that good!!)
Favourite Drive = Has to be Pacific Coast Highway 1 (or the bits we could do), followed by the road to Hana on Maui

Some things we found to be better than expected…Zion National Park (in fact, the National Parks in general), the Monterey area, driving around in general
Some things we found disappointing… not getting to Yosemite due to snow, not being able to drive the full Pacific Coast Highway 1, San Francisco (it didn’t grab us as we hoped it would, perhaps because it rained), having to go home…

Posted by neilthelr 15:33 Archived in USA Tagged sightseeing Comments (0)

Our Baywatch impression in Santa Monica

Well, we saw the jeep!

sunny 22 °C
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The last location on our trip (excluding the airport) was Santa Monica. Sadly, we write this with nothing more to look forward to on this trip other than the flight home, which, if the outbound with Air New Zealand is anything to go by, should be good. Anyway, we took a convoluted route to Santa Monica going via the Santa Ynez mountains and down to Malibu and along. It yielded some lovely views though (see the photo already posted) and a lot of bikers. We had a small scare on the way though. The target was to return our rental car running on fumes so that we gave the rental company no free petrol. Well, we slightly mis-calculated how far we’d get on what we had so part way through the mountains, and with no idea where the next petrol station was, the fuel light came on, which caused a great deal of heart palpitations as we didn’t know how far we could get. After getting directions we drove (with a very light right foot) to the fuel station praying that we’d get there. Thankfully we did and that amount of petrol proved to be about perfect when we dumped the car back with Dollar. Anyway, the stretch of beach from Malibu all the way to Santa Monica is wide, clean and just about perfect. We were there Sunday to Wednesday so the traffic leaving the beach on Sunday was heavy but the beach was deserted for the other days. Monday we hired bikes and cycled part of the 27 mile route linking Malibu all the way to Venice Beach and beyond. We went a bit beyond Marina Del Rey and then headed back with our final total being 16 miles of cycling. And very pleasant they were too. It meant we felt better about sitting in the deck chairs in the sunshine, enjoying a frappe and watching the beach volleyball players when we got back to Santa Monica. Venice Beach canals were rather pretty but we expected more of Venice Beach itself. If you want to buy some stuff you don’t need or want / a crack pipe / marijuana or hang out with hippies then go there! The middle day was a bit cloudy so we weren’t disappointed that we needed to stay in and pack before squeezing in a bit of shopping (in order to ensure we were over our weight allowance coming home) but the day ended pretty well with us (along with David Beckham and Amy Adams – whom we’d seen dancing in the Hollywood streets whilst filming the Muppet Show nearly 3 months ago) watching the LA Lakers play Utah Jazz at the Staples Center (sic.). It was a great atmosphere, especially in the last couple of minutes when Kobe Bryant woke up and landed a 3-pointer, making them all square with about 30 seconds left to play. The Jazz got one free-throw at the other end taking them a point ahead with 6 seconds to play but, unfortunately Kobe fluffed his lines and dropped the ball (literally) when driving for the basket in the final play of the game. The final result was Utah 86-85 Lakers. We got a little lost heading out of downtown due to America’s habit of telling you that you needed the right turn you’ve just gone past because they don’t put the sign up in advance of the turn. Still, once we’d located the Freeway it was 15 mins home compared with the 1hr 10 on the way there. And then, to cap it all, we saw on the news this morning that there had been a drive-by shooting on the same Freeway shortly after we passed along it, which caused the Freeway to be closed for much of the night! Today we managed to fit in a good hearty American-style breakfast of pancakes (with syrup), some eggs, bacon and fruit before heading to the airport. Next stop home 

Posted by neilthelr 15:31 Archived in USA Tagged sightseeing Comments (0)

Monterey to Santa Barbara

And all that’s in between

sunny 20 °C
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The last week of our trip () sees us travelling at a slower pace down the west coast of the US back to LA. The fact Highway 1 is still closed meant we had to go a duller route to Cambria however, we chose to go the Carmel Valley road, which, whilst not Highway 1, is a beautiful route and a much more preferable route to the 101. We chose to stay an extra night in Cambria so that we could drive a little up Highway 1 (to compensate for the fact we could only see 12 miles at the top end) as well as visit Hearst Castle. Hearst was the morning – and we can both honestly say that neither of us has seen a home quite like it, and we’ve seen a lot of English ancestral homes – and Highway 1 was the afternoon. As luck would have it all of the mud slides that had made around 50 miles of the 1 inaccessible for a few days had been cleared so we were able to drive around 35 miles up from Cambria. We could have gone all the way back to the land-slip closure south of Carmel if we’d chosen but we didn’t fancy doing a 100 mile round trip starting at 2pm going back to where we’d left the day before! That said, the 35 miles we did do was beautiful; the most rugged, scenic and alive coastline you could imagine. Then it was on to Santa Barbara via Solvang – a quant, Danish style town – through the mountains (and the worst driving conditions we’ve ever experienced due to the mist) and down to the coastline via a scenic drive. It was drizzling when we arrived in Santa Barbara so it was hard to get a good impression but the next day was bright and sunny so we were able to walk along the beach, down the pier, taking in the Sunday morning feeling and ended up wishing we lived somewhere like this. Next, and final, stop is Santa Monica and it should be sunny.

Posted by neilthelr 23:11 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Pebble Beach is where I need to retire to

Now I just need the money and to learn to play golf

sunny 23 °C
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A glorious day met us in Monterey for our intended drive round the ‘17 mile drive’, lunch in Carmel-by-the-sea (where Clint Eastwood was once mayor) and then drive as much south on Highway 1 as we could until the road closed signs kicked in. It’s a shocker that you have to pay nearly 10 bucks to get on to the 17 mile drive but it’s worth every ‘penny’; it’s stunning. Just stunning. The Pebble Beach area (famed for it’s PGA golf course) is the centre for the drive. The coastline is beautiful, the houses are (too) expensive but large and the whole area is just set in the most glorious place; facing out to the ocean and heavily wooded. You can understand why people live there and it got us thinking about a life plan so that we ended up with enough money to move there. The only problem would be getting residency! We nipped out of Pebble Beach and in to quant Carmel for lunch. How a place can sustain so many art galleries is beyond comprehension. There were at least 3 on every street we walked down and nobody in them. We had lunch in a ‘genuine’ English Tea shop with neither the food nor the drink being anything like an English lunch! The second bit of the 17 mile drive was less interesting than the first as it was the wooded part so I’ll skip to the section of Pacific Coast Highway 1 (the ‘Big Sur’) that we could drive…wow! Sometimes the road is straight and wide, sometimes it’s narrow and twisty but the one thing you can rely on is the Ocean is always on the right (if heading south) and the views are just amazing. You simply have to drive this route if you come to this part of the world. It’s a shame we won’t be able to drive all the way down it to Cambria but it’s the second time this trip that nature has conspired against us. That said, the bit we could do was worth the effort.

Posted by neilthelr 22:59 Archived in USA Tagged sightseeing Comments (0)

We didn’t quite leave our hearts in San Francisco

But we could have done if it was sunny

all seasons in one day
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Our lengthy stay in San Francisco gave us a few days off the blog but we’ve seen and done plenty in that time. So, what did we do? We did most of the 49 mile drive, wandered around Sausilito, visited the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building, took in some cable car rides, walked up the twisty bit of Lombard Street, hiked up the several hundred steps to the Coit Tower, got drunk and had dinner with some random strangers, wandered along Fisherman’s Wharf, drove across the Golden Gate (and took photos of it), watched a baseball game (the Giants won) and got a boat across to Alcatraz. We stayed the first couple of nights with Helen’s uncle – who acted as a tour guide on the first night and took us to a damn fine ice cream parlour on the way home – and then centrally in the city for the next 4 nights. The down side of San Fran was it wasn’t sunny every day. In fact, it rained heavily on one day and was dreary for a couple of days. We did get the last 2 days as non-rainy days though and that just made the time there a whole lot more pleasant. That said I can still feel the cold rain that dripped off the roof of a cable car and dripped right down my neck as I was clinging on to the side. It’s all good fun though. We pretty much ticked off the big ticket items for San Fran and now it’s on to Monterey and an altered route back to LA as the Pacific Coast Highway 1 is still closed. Oh well, the forecast is sun all week!

Posted by neilthelr 23:01 Archived in USA Tagged sightseeing Comments (0)

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