A Travellerspoint blog

San Francisco

Leaving ours hearts in San Fran

sunny 25 °C
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Well folks, it's been a while since we've have been able to get on a PC to update the blog.

We had a fantastic time in San Fran, and really had to tear ourselves away. The Pacific Tradewinds hostel was great in atmosphere, location .... So much so that we stayed an extra day.

I took Mark to some of my favourite places from my last trip including Fishermans Wharf, with the Sealions and the great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. The Sealions were quite a sight. Flexing their muscles making noises to show that this is their patch and don't try coming onto it. A bit of deodorant wouldn't go a miss! As cool as they thought they were, they gave off a strong whiff in the air!
We then headed to explore North Beach (little Italy), China Town, and up to the Coit Tower, the Crooked Street for views. The hills are really steep and we were quite pooped afterwards. The Gelato (ice cream) helped a lot.

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Mark enjoyed a solo trip to Alcatraz, whilst I explored the shops as I'd seen it before. Alcatraz had an eerie fell about it, especially as the audio guide was narrated by ex-guards and inmates. It only held about 130 prisoners, but they were probably some of America's worst. For example 'Al Capone' and 'The Birdman of Alcatraz'. The birdman was not this peaceful guy who likes birds in the films, he was more like Hannibal Lectar, everyone including the prison guards were afraid to go near his cell. It was a fascinating insight into what was considered an inescapable prison.

We had a relaxing evening in the hostel getting to know some of the people there.

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The next day we went to Napa Valley on a tour to 3 vineyards. 2 in Napa and 1 in Sonama Vally. We learned the correct way to smell and taste the wine so watch out Oz Clarke. We didn't get too drunk as they are pretty stingy with the samples. It was a fun day, through Super Sightseeing tours with a great tour driver called Don, he was a witty guide, not too dissimillar to Jack Nicholson.

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That evening we went for a few drinks with people from the hostel, missing the Oscar winner Sean Penn a few bars up by minutes! North Beach appears to be the place to be.

On our final day we headed to the Haight and looked around, this is the area that the summer of love hippy movement started. There is still the same feel to the area now. We also headed into Golden Gate Park for a few hours as there was a free Bluedgrass festival on that again had that same happy San Fransisco vibe.
In the evening it was onto Castro, the GLBT area. For those of you who are not down with the lingo, this is the Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transexual area. It has a great atmosphere, plus the odd Village People wannabies. This is the place if you want to get your pooch a little jacket or outfit for that special occasion.
We found a cheap Indian place for tea and then crashed at the hostel.

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On our final morning we headed over the golden gate bridge to the Marin headland for a view over the city. Wow, it was amazing. Hopefully we'll get some photos on soon. You could see the bridge, Alcatraz and the city skyline. A great way to say farewell to our favourite place so far!

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We set of in our rental car to Yosemite Park. Thanks to a lovely lady called Constance we got a free upgrade and have a convertible car for our travels through California. Not a sporty number, but a Chrysler PT cruiser. Ideal for later when we head down the Californian West Coast Highway 1 and the Big Sur.

Posted by blytonrtw 19:56 Archived in USA Comments (3)

Las Vegas

Visit the world in one afternoon! Why did we take seven months for it?

sunny 29 °C
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Welcome to 'Sin City', Las Vegas. A place full of high rollers, sharp shooters (Dice Rollers) and suckers. I suspect that you can get pretty much what you want there but it comes at a price. Very little is free or cheap. If it is, the chances are it is related to gambling of some kind. It is probably the largest man made extravagance on the planet and seems to grow at an exponential rate!

Day One
We arrived in the morning fom Cedar City, a good drive, in time to check into Circus Circus and pass back the car.
The place was huge, and the first thing that hit us was the constant hum of noise. This was the slot machines with people camped out in front, pressing the buttons over and over.

Our hotel was at one end of the strip, so it was a little bit of a walk to hit the main well known hotels. We soon came across Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, The Venetian and The Bellagio. We had a look inside and surprise surprise, there was the familiar low hum of slot machines. All with appropriate decoration according to the theme of the hotel. The most impressive, in a weird way was The Venetian, which has a mini Grand Canal, St Marks Square, Rialto Bridge and Gondola's going through the inside and outside of the hotel. At cost of course.
Even more weird was hearing some American's saying that they didn't need to visit the real thing anymore! Heathens!
We also found Paris complete with Eiffel tower, and Arc de Triomph.

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This was all thirsty work, so we had a couple of frozen Marguarita's before returning to the hotel to freshen up, ad find a cheap bite to eat. Lunch was really cheap, a $0.99 half pound (12") hot dog. We have become far less fussy about what we eat recently.

We then headed back down the strip on the Deuce bus system and watched the free Dancing Fountains at the Bellagio, the Erupting Volcano at the Mirage, and the Pirate show at Treasure Island. How exciting our lives have become!

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After this excitement we headed for some more frozen Marguarita's and to watch people gambling. We got a free go on a slot machine to see what is was like. I had another go with a couple of dollars, after which Mark was sure I had developed a gambling problem. We are now Members of "Casino Royale", which is not as exciting as it sounds. It did get us buy one get one free beers which were already at $1.00.

Several hours later we headed back to our hotel. It is very easy to lose track of time in the casino's.

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Day two
After we got up we went for a free craps lesson with a guy called Chris. He liked the ladies and took a shine to me. This lesson cleared up the confusion from the night before, I thought it was really complicated.
We got the bus to the bottom of the strip to see New York New York, complete with Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and much more. It was quite a fun place.
We weren't so impressed with Excaliber or the Luxor after the sights of the previous day.

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We headed up in to Fremont Street in the late afternoon to see old Vegas, with the Golden Gate and Golden Nugget.
It is now covered over and pedestrianised with a light canopy over it. Mark was most excited to see that the old Cowboy was still there, although his arm no longer waves. We stayed until dark to see the light show, a funny show with aliens of all things. (Area 51 is reported to be close to Vegas).
We then headed back to get some photos of the strip in the dark, before heading back to Circus Circus to try a bit of Gambling. Mark did not have lady luck on his side and lost his money quickly, much to his frustration.
I was put off craps after this and headed to the roulette table, which has lower bets. I actually doubled my money and quit whilst I was ahead. One bonus is that you get free drinks whilst playing so that made it a cheap night out. There were lots of English women at my table and there was a great atmosphere. So I had a lot of fun.

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Day three
We got up and checked out of the hotel and had one last look around. As the name suggests our hotel has a Circus theme, so they have acts on. We saw some acrobats to kill the time, which was quite good. We also joined Chris, who was as flirtatious as the day before, for a quick roulette lesson just to see whether I was doing it right.

Vegas leaves you loving it and hating it at the same time! The amount of money that changes hands is quite disturbing.

This all filled the time until we needed to go to the airport to head to our next destination. San Francisco.

Posted by blytonrtw 17:03 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Utah

Cedar City and Bryce Canyon National Park

semi-overcast 18 °C
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Day one
We arrived after a uneventful drive from Hurricaine, and got checked into our motel. This area is really messing with our time! This area of Utah is on "Mountain Time", which is an hour ahead of everywhere else in the area. We will drop back an hour again when we reach Las Vegas even though it is further west.

We explored the historic downtown, which was not that big and checked out the weather reports to decide when to go to Bryce Canyon. We found a Walmart and stocked up the fridge in our room with frozen "ding" meals. We can recommend Lean Cuisine if any one comes over here! Ironically these are much more nutritious, and a lot cheaper than anything else we have eaten recently.

Day two
The weather for the weekend was forecast to be better today than any other so we set off to Bryce Canyon, 79 miles away. Mark has really got used to driving over here. Empty roads, automatic car and cruise control, he'll get a shock when we return home.

The drive over to Bryce Canyon was lovely, the trees are starting to change to autumnal colours. We passed through red canyon on the way, which gave us a bit of a taste of what was to come.
We finally got to the Canyon at 1300 after several stops on the way for photos and a bit of shopping.
After taking some photos in the park at some viewing areas, we took the advice of a ranger and went on a hike.

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It was 3.5 miles, up and down in altitude from about 8500ft. We were a bit out of breath at times during the climb up, which we are putting down to the altitude changes. However it was worth it for the views. This park is full of structures called "Hoodoo's " created by the weather and erosion. When they catch the sun they are really red in colour, and are a bit eerie too. We walked down from sunrise point to the bottom across, and up to sunset point along the Queens Garden and Navajo trails.

Many photos later, we took a drive to Inspiration and Bryce points to get a view over Bryce amphitheatre, a great view over a large area of the park and hoodoo's. We really had to tear ourselves away, as we were going to be really late arriving back in Cedar City.

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Day three
After a busy day yesterday and fresh windy weather we are having a chill out day today. We have sorted out some mail, and hunted down some computer access that works. I don't know what it is going to be like elsewhere on our travels, but in the USA there is WIFI all over to use your own laptop. The PC facilities for those who haven't got laptops is not so good. Mark is having a real headache trying to upload the hundreds of photos we have taken.

Fingers crossed we may get somewhere today and some more of our piccies will appear on the blog.

Tomorrow we head to Las Vegas, to stay at Circus Circus. We are really looking forward to hitting a city again, and Vegas is certainly supposed to be unique.

Posted by blytonrtw 13:17 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Utah

Zion National Park

sunny 25 °C
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Hi all,

After leaving Page we have moved to another new American state, Utah. We are staying in a town called Hurricane and using it as a base to visit Zion, as it's only 20 minutes drive from here.

We divided the visit to Zion National Park into three parts|: -

The Riverside walk. A very leisurely walk along the Virgin river that eventually leads to a place called the 'Narrows'. The pathway comes to an end and then to see further into the canyon you've got to get wet! As I was the only one with appropriate wading shoes Diane chilled out while I did the getting wet bit. Although the weather warm the water was freezing! I also used a stick to keep balance and prevent the camera going for a swim. Worth getting cold feet for a while as the view was great.

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Next was the 'Weeping Rock'. A very short walk with a stream of miniature waterfalls dripping over a rock face. An ideal place to cool off from the sunshine and take in the background mountain scenery.

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The final walk of the day was along the mile long Kayenta trail up to the upper Emerald Pool, then the middle and finally the lower Emerald Pool the most impressive. Another mile later we caught the shuttle bus back to the Visitors centre and the car. The shuttle bus driver thought he was a bit of a comedian. Comments like "Now you know what a sardine feels like!" and "Can you breath back there!" seemed to give him some mild amusement and made us chuckle.

The combined walks made a total of approximately 5 miles, enough for one day.

Next stop Cedar City for Bryce Canyon then onto Las Vegas to see how many Elvis Presley's we can spot. Bye for now.

Posted by blytonrtw 10:23 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Northern Arizona around Page

Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley

sunny 17 °C
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Hello all.

Day 1
Our first stop after checking into Page was Horseshoe Bend. The weather was poor as rain and storms were predicted. We parked the car up and walked about 3/4 mile to see what Horseshoe Bend had in store. We were not disappointed by the amazing views down into the canyon, an almost 'U" bend down into the Colorado river. It was rather windy and as a result was quite hair raising near the edge. Battling up with the elements was well worth it.

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We also drove around some other areas around Lake Powell, however the weather took a turn for the worst so we retreated to the Motel.

Day 2
Monument Valley was a 2 1/2 hour drive away encroaching into the state of Utah. We were now entering the Navajo reservation. When we arrived it was like we had been transported into a western. Full of Mesa's and Butte's named after different things the structures resembled e.g. camel, totem pole. The drive round was a little bumpy and covered 17 miles, which took about 2 hours. The views were spectacular stopping at various intervals to appreciate what each section had to offer. One of the final sights was called 'Artists View' and was breathtaking. The long drive back meant it was too late to do anything else.

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Day 3
We had heard through various people that Antelope Canyon was worth a visit so we booked a tour with a Navajo guide and set off around 10:30. As it was getting late on in September the light was not as good as midsummer, however it was still a stunning place. Around every corner was a new wonder that nature created. This is a slot canyon formed by flood water pouring though. Beams of light come through the top at various times of the day, lighting the chambers inside. Showing off rich amber, reds and browns. Our tour guide gave a fabulous insight into the best areas of the canyon.

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We arrived back to Page at around 1pm, had a quick bite to eat and then set off to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon as we already had a ticket from the South Rim a few days ago. 2 1/2 hours, a long drive later we made it. A total contrast from the more commonly visited south rim. The north rim is 1000 ft higher and in our opinion gave better views across the canyon. We stayed for another sunset, which was colder than the south then made the long drive again back to Page. This took a little longer as we took a wrong turn in the dark. This is our last night in Page. Next stop Utah and Zion National Park.

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Posted by blytonrtw 17:30 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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