Sunday, 31 May 2015

MY TREK AMERICA EXPERIENCE | PART TWO


So, erm... since my last post, something AMAZING happened! I won a 2 week Trek America tour! I SERIOUSLY JUST CANNOT BELIEVE IT! Absolutely nothing to do with my part one post, but coinciding with their blogger's and youtuber's tour, they had a competition to win a place on the Westerner 2 trip - and I bloody well won it, didn't I!! Literally, one of the best things that's ever happened to me! I am especially excited to be seeing San Francisco and Yosemite National Park, as they were two places I didn't get to visit on my last tour but had really wanted to! BEST DAY EVERRR! Anyway, continuing on from my last post, I give you part two of my Trek America experience!...

Day 17 to 22: Carlsbad Caverns NP, San Antonio and New Orleans










So the first stop of part two was Carlsbad Caverns National Park. This was actually my favourite hike of the whole trek - probably because it was the shortest and least hot, being under ground we were sheltered from the sun for this one! I hadn't realised this hike was going to be under ground, but as we trailed down this walkway, an amazing, surreal opening was revealed. My pictures above really do no justice, so you'll just have to go take a visit for yourself to see it's true beauty!
Next was our first stop in Texas - San Antonio! It was good to be in a city after the many days of National Parks. We got to see the Alamo and then had a walk by the river past all the amazing looking restaurants. Daley was missing his cider (there was barely any available in America!) so we stopped off at a British inspired pub to get his fix haha!
On to Austin next, which was thankfully only a short trip! The journey's were starting to get a bit long by this time in the trip, so 2 hours on the road passed so quickly! Had an amazing meal and then spent time by Lake Austin, before heading back to our cabin for pre-drinks before out to central Austin! Lots of crazy, drunk people everywhere!! Unfortunately, it felt a bit like a night out back in the UK so hopefully our next stop will be a better one! Before making our way to New Orleans, we made a quick stop at Lafayette and watched a high school American football game - just like in the movies! Massive crowds, cheerleaders and mascots! Although I didn't really get the actual game, the atmosphere was amazing, making me completely wish I grew up in America...!
The next morning, we made the trip to New Orleans, a place I'd been really excited to go to! We got here quite early compared to some places so it was nice to be able to explore all day as well as being able to stay in a Hotel for the first time since Telluride. For the prices of the hotels so far, they were all super amazing and clean with two double beds in each room, TVs, and lovely pools! Anyway, we explored the vibrant French Quarter, saw parts of the Mississippi and had a deliciously fresh shrimp, crab and avocado salad - one of the best things I ate on the whole trip! Also, if you're in to spicy food make sure you take a trip to Pepper Palace. Hundreds of spicy sauces and all the chilli related souvenirs you could ever hope for! That night, we then had the much anticipated night out to Bourbon Street! Such a fun night of too many cocktails, a live jazz band, and lots of dancing (even by Daley!). Another beautiful place, with lots to do and see, and would definitely love to come back here again one day!

Day 23 to 29: Panama City Beach, Orlando, Florida Keys and Miami










The next morning on our way to Panama City Beach, we stopped for a swamp tour to see some alligators! I thought I would be much more scared than I was, but the high sides of the boat made me feel very safe - in fact the hundreds of flies is what bothered me more! Once at Panama, the heat was pretty unbearable, which made sleeping that night near impossible so was happy to have a lazy day sun bathing on the beautiful beach! The sand was super soft and the sea was beautifully clean!
YES! NEXT STOP DISNEY WORLD! I know Universal would have been better in terms of rides, but I'd never been to either Disney World or Disney Land before, so this was a place I was super excited to visit! We woke up the morning of Disney World to find our tent had been infested with ants meaning my morning was not the best but once we approached the Disney Cinderella Castle all the morning was forgotten! I can see why people bring not just their kids here but the whole family, it is truly magical for everyone! The best rides were definitely space mountain and splash mountain, and make sure you take time out the see the parade and fireworks at the end of the night!
On to Florida Keys next, with the most beautiful drive across the ocean roads all the way to the very end island of Key West. I wish I had managed to get more photos to show you all! We went on a lovely morning of snorkeling in the world's third largest reef seeing amazing sea life before unfortunately dashing out of the water when we got surrounded by jelly fish! But with free alcohol on the boat, we weren't really complaining. I also tried the local cuisine of Gumbo which was spot on, but sadly the Key Lime Pie was a bit of a let down. The area, though, had a great chilled vibe, even in the famous Green Parrot bar, which I must say had the best frozen Strawberry Margaritas everrr!
I wasn't so keen on our next stop, Miami. I'm sure there are parts to the city which aren't as bad, but what I saw there were lots posers in their thong bikinis and... just strange people! The beach was lovely, weather was super sunny with a breeze, but I just felt kinda uncomfortable the whole time! Daley had an amazing day though - he went to an NFL game and saw the Miami Dolphins play!

Day 30 to 39 (including 4 days post Trek America tour in NYC): St. Augustine, Charleston, Carolinas, Washington DC and New York City














To be honest, St. Augustine was more of a stop off between Miami and Charleston so we didn't do much at all here but have a good chat with the rest of the group before an early night as everyone was getting quite tired by this point in the trip! The next day we headed in to the quaint city of Charleston where we got to see Rainbow Row, a gorgeous indoor market and a very scenic pier. The Georgian style houses made it feel a bit British, and the slightly cooler temperatures definitely made it feel more like home than anywhere else on the trip!
Next we headed to the Carolinas. After a very quick stop a Myrtle Beach, we headed up the east coast to North Carolina. We decided to have our last camp party tonight and a Birthday Bash for two of the girls. Lots of flip cup and ring of fire games later, we were all suitably merry to the point that the trek leader and one of the girls swapped clothes - quite the funny sight to see! Was really a fun last night partying at camp!
Our second last stop on the trip (noooo!) was Washington DC! As we got here quite late we went straight out for dinner to a place very aptly called Capitol City where I had the best crab cakes I think I'll ever eat! Seriously good food! Afterwards we got to experience the illumination tour of the city, where you view all the memorials and monuments lit up at night. Compared to what I would experience touring the next day, the illumination gave much more atmosphere and meaning to the sights. However I still had a really great time touring in the day light, especially the quotes of the Jefferson Memorial and getting to see The White House, as well as the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum!
And last but by no means least... New York City! I don't even know where to start with this amazing city so firstly I just need to tell you that you DEFINITELY need to stop off in Philadelphia for a Philly Cheese Steak! There are two rival restaurants specialising in these cheese steaks - Pat's King of Steaks and Geno's Steaks - and solely down to the slightly smaller line we went for Geno's and OH MY GAAHHD it was so amazing! Meat and cheese, what could be better? Right, now on to the Big Apple! Our final stop of the tour was in outer New York, where our tour leader made a lovely speech and we said our goodbyes! You don't get to tour the city with the group as part of the trek so Daley and I made reservations and plans to tour by ourselves. As this wasn't part of the tour I won't talk you through it, but definitely consider booking extra days if you want any time at the end of the trek to spend in New york City. For just a few ideas of what to do, I've left a some photos above of just a couple of the things we got up to!

Now, if you're feeling inspired to travel the USA, follow the link to the Trek America Website here, to research the different trips they have available to book on to (again, this post is NOT sponsored by Trek America I just loved my experience so much)! I booked on to the Coast to Coast South, but I have noticed they have cut a couple of places out of the route since I took my trip, so do bear this in mind if you really wanted to go to every place I visited in the post above and my previous Trek America post... although I'm sure the current trip is still just as amazing! Anyway, out of all the places I visited, where would you like to visit most? Or is there anywhere else in the USA you can recommend to go, as I would love to go back in the next few years with Daley and see even more new places! Let me know in the comments!

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Friday, 29 May 2015

MY TREK AMERICA EXPERIENCE | PART ONE


Anyone else seen and become extremely jealous of Lily Melrose's and the other Youtuber's trip with Trek America? Well, if not, you should be! Just under two years ago, Daley and I had saved all our pennies (and in my case, my Student Loan!) and spent it all on a once in a life time trip across the USA with Trek America. Completely worth spending half of a house deposit on this trip and would definitely do it all again in an instant!
Although the pictures and Instagram snaps took during the trip will probably say it all (and sorry in advance for this picture heavy post!), I thought I'd talk through briefly every few days of what we got up to and what I thought of my Trek America experience - and hopefully show why you should bite the bullet and book your own trip of a lifetime! In no way is this sponsored by Trek America, I just bloody loved my experience and wanted to share it! So, here we go...

Day 1 to 5: Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Zion NP













The first few days went like a flash. We went to some of the top places to visit in the USA including Las Vegas and LA, but I have to say I actually found my time in San Diego and Zion National Park a lot more fun! So, we started by meeting in outer LA, before doing a pit stop tour of Hollywood. It seemed a lot less glamourous than what you see on TV, and there were ALOT more crazy tourists than you could ever imagine, but it was still good to have a quick tour along The Walk of Fame and see the Hollywood Hills sign. I'm sure there are amazing places to visit in central LA but what I saw just didn't really excite me!
...But then we went to beautiful San Diego! The beaches, buildings and weather were just amazing! We had quite a chilled time here, and decided against going to Sea World, opting for time on the beach where I got very burnt but still utterly fell in love with the place and atmosphere. I will definitely take a trip back here one day!
Las Vegas was the next stop on our trip, and we were all very excited for this! We started with one of the best meals I had of the whole trip, before getting on the cocktails and then on to the PARTY BUS! We made a pit stop at the infamous Las Vegas sign and a street party on Vermont Street before heading in to a casino. Of course, every one spent a bit too much money here but I did manage to end of a small plus - although I could have won about $800 if I had listened to Daley and put a chip on 30. DAMMIT! The next day was pretty unbearably hot, but we took a walk all the way along the strip to see the World's best known casinos. With the heat, I was very grateful for the pool when we got back to the hotel.
Next morning we headed to Zion NP, which I'd never actually heard of but should be somewhere everyone who heads to western USA takes a trip to! We took a beautiful river walk up the narrows in the evening (I definitely didn't fall in, ahem!) and then had a very early morning rise with a hike towards Angels Landing! The views on the way were absolutely amazing, but my fear of heights stopped me going completely to the top but I sat happily with some wild chipmunks while the rest of the group made their way up the rest of the chains!

Day 6 to 10: Bryce Canyon NP, Lake Powell, Grand Canyon and Monument Valley

















We headed towards the mighty Canyons next, with the first stop being Bryce Canyon. The burnt orange colour of the rocks and the shapes made over the hundreds of thousands of years were just stunning! This place isn't as well known as the Grand Canyon, but definitely worth the trip here! We stopped next near Lake Powell, not really for looking around the area but for a party at a Cowboy Ranch - which was super fun, but I can't really comment on the place!
...But next came THE GRAND CANYON! We were blind folded before we knew where we were and slowly walked along a path before being told to take them off, and in front of us - one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World - The Grand Canyon! It almost didn't look real, just so so amazing. Breathtaking, even! I know that sounds cheesy but it really was probably the most beautiful view I had ever seen! We then took a trip further around the Canyon before ordering Pizza to watch the sun set over the far side of it! Again, another amazing sight to see! But the best was yet to come the next morning, with a hike down in to and then a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon!... Do I really need to say again how good the views were?
Our next journey took us to Monument Valley, made famous by various Hollywood films! We took a Navajo Guided Jeep Tour around the rock formations, stopping along the way to be told some amazing stories by the tribes people! It was really great to learn about the culture and their way of life, as well as being cooked by them in the middle of the valley. To finish off the day, we slept under the open stars, and then were up the next day super early to see a sun rise over the monuments, definitely worth the lack of sleep!

Day 11 to 16: Arches NP, Colorado Rockies, Mesa Verde NP, Santa Fe and Roswell










Heading away from Monument Valley we headed towards Moab, the nearest town to Arches National Park. Along the way, we stopped at the infamous road known from the film Forrest Gump, where we of course reenacted the scene! Once in Moab after a long drive, we headed out on a hike to the Delicate Arch to see the sun set behind to rocks. Other than our hike, we had quite a chilled time while we were here, which was quite a relief after the previous busy days. We did make one trip out while we were here to visit a classic styled American Diner which I really loved and of course had typically HUUUGE American portions!
Next we headed away from the heat towards the Colorado Rockies to a place called Telluride. It was really the prettiest, most quaint American town I could ever imagine visiting! The streets were like you would see in a movie, and were surrounded by beautiful snow topped mountains. If I were to move to America, this is definitely at the top of my list of places I'd like to live! BEAUTIFUL! We had another chilled day while we were here, with a little BBQ, time in the hot tub, and not much else!
Mesa Verde and Santa Fe were our next pit stops, firstly taking a quick trip to see dwellings that had been carved in to the cliff fronts. How they were built all them years ago baffles me! Then in to central Santa Fe, which felt a bit like an eastern European town - nothing too exciting, hence why I didn't take a single photo!
I was quite intrigued for our next stop, Roswell! The New Mexico city known for its links to aliens and UFOs. The place did seem to have an eeriness to it, but that could have just been because of the weird looks we got as we pulled up in our tin foil hats! We took a visit in to the International UFO Museum And Research Center, which other than the alien figures, had loads of detailed documents and news articles coating the walls about sightings and consequent cover ups by the government. Although I don't believe, the center did give me slight doubt in the matter aha!

So, that's the first half of my trip done, I hope you've enjoyed it so far - look out for the second half of the post coming in the next couple of days! But in the mean time, take a visit over on to the Trek America website to look through all the amazing trips they have to offer! What do you think would be your favourite place to visit from the trek so far? Let me know in the comments!

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