West Coast USA

From the beginning…

I had come to a point in my life where I was ready for some changes. I was ready to commit to moving to the other side of the world, London. I was working at a Sun Tanning Clinic (which has since been liquidated), sole charge and for long full time hours. Now, for some people having a part time job where you don’t really do all that much aside from wiping down a sunbed bed and some minimal daily cleaning tasks, this would have been bliss. For me, though the clinic was my baby and I proudly represented it wherever possible that I could; I was at a stand still. I was ready to do something. My partner, Jordan and I made plans, set goals and had this idea to move to London in April 2015.

Like everything, this trip all started with an Idea and a dream…

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My Baby sister, Clarice or better known by me as Rick (and post our USA trip “Panchita”) was coming close to her 21st birthday and was in the early days of planning for it, the ‘dreaming’ phase. Rick had decided very early on that she did not want to have a typical Kiwi 21st shindig, with a yard glass (or 21 shots for the girls) and a big key that everyone at the party is to sign. No, Rick wanted something more memorable, less about her and more about experience; she wanted to go to Las Vegas! Now of course knowing my sister and the way she handles money (buying new dresses/makeup every pay day), you can see why our family thought this to be “nothing but a dream”. She then approached me one afternoon at the clinic, asking if I would come with her because I was already saving to move to Europe and she didn’t trust that anyone else could quite commit to such a trip – she took this dream very seriously from the get go, which was something I admired about my baby sister, because she did in fact prove us all wrong, we did go!

From there the idea that Jordan and I would do a little travel before finding jobs in London arose. We would fly with Rick to America, do a tour around there and head to our new potential home in London, after Rick’s 21st trip in Las Vegas.

It is funny, when you are ready to accept and experience change, what the universe throws at you. I still have not moved to London yet and I still live here in Wellington, visiting my family out in Kapiti every week or two…

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Why? Because I got a job that pays more than minimum wage, for a big well known company. I am a travel agent at Flight Centre. I started this role thinking that I would still move to London in six months, thinking that it would be as easy as booking travel online… which is a different blog post all together, so I will try not to get into it in great detail. In this role I work with a team instead of alone with my thoughts, I get paid more so I can save more and I get to talk about holidays all day! Since working here my bucket list has increased to literally the entire world and I have access to all of these places at my finger tips. I decided about two months in (after some intense and still ongoing training!) that I wanted to be in it for the long haul. I want to be a damn good travel agent!

So that changed the plan a little and with only just over six months time it was save save SAVE! In the end, Jordan opted out of coming due to Visa issues and through some discussions at the dinner table, my Mum somehow convinced my Dad to join us instead of Rick and I doing a tour on our own. At first the three of us all thought my Mum was crazy because 1) she had not included herself in this trip and 2) what would Dad want to do in Las Vegas with us?! Then it dawned on us… Dad had done the Western American Road Trip multiple times, he knew where all the great sights were, he could chauffeur us around/drive in another country AND we were certain we would get a couple dinner shouts thrown in also! DONE DEAL! so from there it was all go. Naturally I booked the trip for us through work and on the 30th of May, Rick’s 21st birthday we were headed for Wellington Airport with Mum and Uncle Tony to farewell us, (Mum with her tablet out to taking photos as we lined up at the gate), Los Angeles bound…

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Now from my comments about Rick above, I am sure many of you will have gathered that there would have been many “Rick Moments” on the trip. The first starting at Auckland Airport in the Koru Lounge… “Guys, I’m so embarrassed, I accidentally went into the Men’s toilets”.

Not long after, we were off! I had forgotten how hard it was to sleep on a plane and instead watched three films: Cinderella – which was very close to the Disney cartoon, I was impressed, Still Alice – which made me realize that I could have Alzheimers because I too forgot the address the psychiatrist gave to Alice in a consult and Big Eyes – my favorite director Tim Burton and his take on a true story about a female painter and her big eyed children, amazing.

We arrived in LAX late morning on the same day, the 30th of May. We went back in time. We all had a little snooze in the shuttle and then again at the Holiday Inn Anaheim, where I gave us only a one hour power nap – for there were things to do and sights to see!

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LA Palm Tress! WE MADE IT!

We decided to head out to Downtown Disney to check out the shops. Did I mention how Rick’s eyes lit up like a small child at Christmas? This was when she walked into Sephora… I don’t think I saw her for another hour after she set food inside! All my travel journal says “Rick went nuts in there”. We had a late lunch at Rain Forrest Cafe where we each had a giant drink called a “Rain Forrest Ricky” and a giant burger (that came with a giant pickle!!!) each. We also had to make our dinner reservation at Tortilla Joes – Rick’s favorite… Mexican food!

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GIANT PICKLE!

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We arrived at Tortilla Joe’s on time and in celebration of Rick’s 21st we ordered a jug of Margarita. I don’t think I mentioned that Rick, unlike her sister and father, is not a big drinker; which lead to the next classic Rick moment…

Rick was not too happy with the drink choice of Margarita as she is not very fond of tequila. There was a big song and dance about how she could not finish anymore, whilst Dad and I were on our second going on third glasses as she sat on her first. “I’m seriously going to be sick guys…” when all of a sudden as if our peer pressure to finish her one glass of margarita was not enough, Enrique the restaurant manager walked past with “who wants more tequila!?” and fills only Rick’s glass with the last of the jug! This still makes me literally laugh out loud. Rick usually cannot say no in a situation like that, I wish everyone we know could have seen her face.

Later, our waiter caught on that it was Rick’s Birthday dinner, so in typical American style Rick was serenaded with dessert with an encore of Mexican waiters and waitresses singing “Happy Birthday Panchita”. Thus her new nick name was born.

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Panchita, after having her Margarita unwillingly refilled and her birthday dessert brought out in song!

Day two: Sunday May 31st 2015 we decided to use one of our 2 day passes at one of the Disney Land parks. We had a buffet breakfast at the Holiday Inn and took the bus to Disneyland.

On the bus to Disney Land
On the bus to Disney Land

We decided to go for Disney Land “California” instead of the original park for the first day. We thought, since we had done the original when we were younger, to go for the newer park instead. In hindsight, I wish I had done the original first, as there were more things there that I remember from my childhood. Although, Disney California was so much fun none the less, aside from the long lines which we grew accustom to by the end of our stay. I remember the Cars ride had a 90 minute wait!!! The best part was the roller coaster and a quick slushy break to quench our thirst in such heat. I have to say it was wonderful to be getting sun burnt (not that I condone getting sun burnt on purpose in any way!), knowing that if I was at home in Wellington I would be getting rained on and freezing.

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Later we headed back to the hotel for a refreshing dip in the pool while Dad had a rest. We later decided to go for a walk back to Downtown Disney, which was about a 15 minute walk, to return some faulty makeup that Rick had purchased.

Day 3: Monday June 1st – Dad’s 57th Birthday! Universal Studios was on the agenda! Dad stayed with us for two of the rides we remembered from our first time there around 10 years ago: The Jurassic Park ride and The Mummy. The rides were shorter than I remembered them but still just as fun! We had Front of the Line passes for Universal which was very handy, especially if you do the rides first thing. I would totally recommend to get Front of the Line for any theme park you go to especially if it is nearing peak season!

On our transfer bus to Universal Studios a good 40min out of Anaheim
On our transfer bus to Universal Studios a good 40 min out of Anaheim
Dad leaving us to get the car
Dad leaving us to get the car

Dad left shortly after that to pick up our car from the Avis depot in Anaheim for the road trip ahead!

This left Rick and I to get on with the rest of the rides a studio tour and…shopping! along the strip just outside of the park.

I went crazy taking photos at the studio tour, the highlight for me was seeing Norman Bates outside the Bate Motel. Being a filmie, everything about sets and movies intrigues me!

The last ride we went on was the Simpsons one and unfortunately it made me feel really sick so we did not get to try the new Transformers ride. I felt terrible about this! I should have been as prepared as Rick and taken some motion sickness pills as she did before we left. I instead just laughed thinking I wouldn’t need them – how is that for Karma!

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Studio Tour
Studio Tour
Norman Bates with his latest victim!
Norman Bates with his latest victim!

Thinking that we could get back inside, because we had our passes Panchita and I decided to check out the shopping outside of the park and grab some lunch. Again I went a little crazy because we had lunch at Hard Rock Cafe where they had a car hanging from the roof and guitars and records of all the greats all over the walls. Lucky we had seen majority of the park because we actually did not get let back in! On the bus ride home we also drove past Knotts Berry Farm, where are the thrill seekers go. Unfortunately we had no time to check the park out, but when I come back I will definitely pay a visit here. It started as a berry farm with a merry go round to entertain the children and from there it turned into the massive adventure park that it is today, truly amazing!

My names Forrest, Forrest Gump
My names Forrest, Forrest Gump (with lots of shopping)
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Hard Rock Cafe
Knotts Berry Farm
A glimpse of the roller coaster at Knotts Berry Farm

Day 3: Tuesday June 2nd my favorite day! ROAD TRIP! to Arizona. This was my favorite day for so many reasons, looking out the window of the car on the drive was fantastic. We had breakfast at a wicked 50’s style diner called Peggy Sue’s where I had pancakes, sausages, eggs etc it was so authentic right down to the plates and cutlery all looking 50’s themed. this was definitely something I would not have experienced had I been on a tour as well as Calico Ghost town… take me back!

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Peggy Sue’s
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The menu. MASSIVE Pancakes!
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Calico!

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The drive through Arizona alone was awesome I loved the colours of the desert and some of the scenery even looked like Breaking Bad! (even though that was in a different area).

Hello Arizona!
Hello Arizona!

In the afternoon we arrived at the Wupatki National Monument, the beginning of all the beautiful sights we would see later in the trip. Located within the heat of the desert where food and water would have been very hard to find; are ruins of the Ancient Pueblo People and their city. In some aspects it was similar to the Ancient Greek structures in Pompeii; by that I mean there was an area, assumed where the children played sports and the like, which looked similar to the Greek amphitheater. I was in complete awe off this which was intensified by the beautiful desert heat that consumed me as soon as I stepped out of the air conditioned car. I will try and let the pictures do the talking… but I do not think pictures nor my words do this monument and these structures any justice!

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On our way back to our new beds for the night we drove in/through the area of the Sunset Crater National Monument. This Volcano erupted sometime A.D. and today the layers and miles of hardened ash still remain. A real sight to see, especially how the trees now grow out of it. Many people can hike around some areas or like us, drive though and past it.

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Arrival at Twin Arrows
Arrival at Twin Arrows

We arrived shortly before dinner time at Twin Arrows Navajo Resort in Flagstaff Arizona. This hotel was absolutely fantastic and probably one of the nicest reasonable priced places we stayed in on this trip. Lumped pretty much in the middle of nowhere with not much else around Twin Arrows has a giant casino, plenty of rooms and two or more restaurants on site. Dinner was accompanied by some alcoholic beverages naturally I wanted to try something new so I ordered a “dirty” martini and boy was it dirty! For someone who doesn’t like olives drinking that martini was like drinking sewage mixed with gin and vodka! After one drink Rick had to go back to the room because she felt sick whereas Dad and I stayed for one more. I finished the Dirty martini in the end and ordered myself a second, fruity this time. Low and behold I was happily sloshed at this point after sculling alcoholic sewage and then a second fruit tasting one to mask the taste… the casino would have to wait until tomorrow…

Day 4: Wednesday 3rd of June Utah bound and again, so many awe inspiring things that I cannot compare with one another. First stop was the Meteor Crater which was formed around 50,000 years ago by an asteroid travelling at 26,000 miles per hour! The crater is more than 550 feet deep and 2.4 miles round.

Meteor Crater Panoramic
Meteor Crater Panoramic

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Next stop, Canyon De Chelley, said “Canyon-Du- Shay”. For some reason, I could never, not ever remember how to say it and I would forget every time Dad corrected me. I called it Canyon Duplumo, Canyon Cirque De Sole and many other strange names. Before we got to the best lookout point of the canyon, I got a sign… A COW! right on the road with no fence in sight! I named her ‘Capatchi’ the cow because she was on Apatchi land. Anyone who knows me, knows I am crazy about cows. I have cow coffee Jars, cow masks, cow onsie, cow door stop, cow chalk board, cow cookie jar, cow egg cups, the list goes on – my goal in life is to find a cow kettle and ultimately have a real life cow with real life milk! After seeing Capatchi I knew, today would be another good day!

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Canyon De Chelley was truly a sight! I actually got vertigo looking down at one point. I cannot think of any more adjectives to describe how very beautiful this canyon is. I will never forget how I felt being up on those rocks looking down at something so breath taking. At one lookout you could even see a lost city, which Rick’s awesome camera’s zoom picked up really clearly.

Vertigo
Vertigo
Forgotten City
Forgotten City

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For the last part of Day 4 we jumped over the boarder to Utah to take a drive through Monument Valley. Many famous western films were shot there a swell as the more recent Vertical Limit (2000) and Dad has said that every time he has driven through here it has been a different experience than the last. Spectacular, spectakular, spectaculaire, espectacular in four different languages because I really have run out of describing words…

Welcome to Utah
Welcome to Utah
Monument Valley Panoramic
Monument Valley Panoramic

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The Three Sisters
The Three Sisters

The big ol’ Buick really did collect some dust on this drive, being white didn’t particularly help either. The drive through this striking valley in the late afternoon where shadows hit the rocks at such fantastic angles was something I will always remember; to be surrounded by, drive through and around magnificent giants that are the rock formations is an experience that will change your perspective on ‘the little things’ completely.

Naturally by this stage Rick was having a terrible craving for chicken tenders from Burger King that needed to be sorted out, pronto! So we headed over the boarder again back in Arizona for our journey back to Twin Arrows with a stop at Burger King on the way. Typically Dad and I ordered burgers, only to find they would be larger than our heads! Upon arriving back at Twin Arrows, we thought we would give the Casino a go (loosing $20 of good burger money!), with Rick getting asked for ID she smiled when she just scraped through at age 21.

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Day 5: Thursday the 4th of June. One of the Seven Wonders of the World – The Grand Canyon! Rick and I were lucky enough to have our first ever view of the Canyon from the air. Before entering the National Park we stopped in at the Grand Canyon Airport for chance that Dad could get us in a helicopter without booking in advance. The first place was fully booked, however the second place we were directed to (that had slight;y older helicopters) had a spot for us departing very soon! Rick and I flew for 30 minutes over the south rim of the Grand Canyon with the old classic “come fly with me” playing through the head phones. Again, an emotional breathtaking experience I will cherish for the rest of my life and who better to experience it with than my baby sister. How funny that when we got out and headed back to the car Panchita could not stop crying tears of happiness. Dad and I laughed but I decided not to mention that I too shed a silent happy tear behind my sunglasses when we were in the air – that is how beautiful it really was.

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Awaiting departure!

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The Grand Canyon from the air
The Grand Canyon from the air

After our flight we drove into the Grand Canyon National Park and again we had multiple stops along until the final a best view by the tower as the last stop. There was a little cafe style joint there, where we had something to eat and I found my new fascination of ravens. They are basically big giant seagull scavengers that hang around food. I loved everything about the way they looked, their jet black eyes and jet black feathers; two in particular were hanging around the benches out side. There was also a giant tower which you could climb right up, which Panchita and I did, and get a great view of the canyon through all the windows on the way. There were some really cool ancient looking paintings all through the inside and on the ceiling. From the Grand Canyon we headed into Kanab where we spent the night at another Holiday Inn before head to the destination the birthday girl had dreamed about… Las Vegas.

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Friday the 5th of June day 6… the drive to Las Vegas. Again, some more beautiful landscapes along the way. Breakfast was included at our stay at the Holiday Inn Kanab, so we took advantage by making the most of our mediocre meal to begin our day (it was only an express Holiday Inn after all). We hit the road again for Bryce Canyon in Utah. What made this part of the drive so memorable for me was the fact that we were driving right into a thunderstorm! Fork lightning and all. The skies turned grey the temperature dropped and every time I saw some fork lighting I was squealing like a little girl in the back seat. We drove with the storm all the way up to the highest point of Bryce Canyon, which meant we missed out on seeing anything but cloud and rain at the look outs. However, when we reached the highest point at 9000 feet, the weather started to clear. While we did not get to see the view completely from 9000 feet, we saw something much greater a little further down. The colours, the view, the slight inability to breathe due to being so high… bellissimo!

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“the crocodile”

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Zion, in biblical terms is the city of Jerusalem, or a mountain near the city; a place sacred and holy and man, do you drive through there feeling humbled. Driving through Mt. Zion was again, something that I will remember always. There were some parts where we would have to drive through dark tunnels that at first were scary and suffocating until you I realized there were regularly large peep holes that looked out at the sights you were to drive through next.

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In the late afternoon we arrived… Nevada.

Stop for lunch at a German Cafe: with the German Bread God
Stop for lunch at a German Cafe: with the German Bread God
Did Caesar actually live here?
Did Caesar actually live here?

After getting lost and having to drive around in peak hour traffic we finally made it to Caesar’s Palace! Yup, just like The Hangover. This place was MASSIVE, I have also never seen so many slot machines in my life. Before Panchita and I could explore properly, we had one quick errand to run – to pick up Miss Allanah from the Las Vegas airport, who was flying in from Canada. Now, for a quick background story… my sister and Allanah met online when they were both eight years old, I don’t know if you are familiar with Neopets? (I was so good at the games!) Well, they met through that website, the website where you create your own virtual pets and grow them, and by playing games you win ‘money’ to buy them things such as houses – the met in a guild or something. So for all these years, they had written to each other, Skyped and soon became the closest of friends. Being the same age Allanah too, was only just 21; so when Rick pitched the idea to her Allanah agreed to meet up in Vegas. What a weekend…

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PATRONE!
PATRONE!

We had dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s Grill at Caesars Palace and spent the night there. Why would we need to go anywhere else? They had a mall inside, a million restaurants, as stated before slot machines for miles and its own night club!

Not a bad view for a terrible hangover
Not a bad view for a terrible hangover

Our second day in Vegas, we ordered room service and I was so sick I could barely eat. I made it down to the pool thinking I a quick dip and some sun would make me feel better. Sadly, no… I had to go back into my giant bed on the 18th floor in the Octavious Tower and sleep it off, while the girls did some shopping as well as getting conned into buying some autographed burnt CD’s. After I woke up I thought Id check out what Dad was up to a few rooms down the hall and we decided to go get some lunch and meet up with the girls at Serendipity 3 where everything was GIANT (and for some things, so were the prices!)

A standard coffee
A standard coffee

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For the rest of the day Panchita, Allanah and I headed out to the North End Outlet mall (apparently way better than the South End) where, four hours later we stumbled back out of the taxi with sore feel and a few bags each – it was huge! After we got ready we went for dinner at Carmines, still within Caesar’s Palace. This was the BEST Italian restaurant I have ever eaten at. The portions were huge and the staff were amazing. The girls went out again and I thought I would stay in, instead of cramp their style and make use of the giant bath in the giant bathroom to relax.

Dinner at Carmines
Dinner at Carmines

Sunday 7th of June and Day 6. Our last day in Vegas. Naturally we ate our leftover Italian for breakfast before hitting the pool. After getting ready for our day we headed over to the New York New York hotel which has its own roller coaster inside. I wish I had the photo to insert of Rick’s face. I ended up sitting with Allanah in the two seats in front of Rick who was almost crying in behind us, on her own – particularly as we headed up and up and up before the massive drop. For only $14 and a line that was not too bad this was a pretty cool roller coaster, you could see a lot (in the moments you weren’t upside down and inside out!). After our stomachs had settled we headed back down the strip for something to eat. We spotted a pizza place called “800 Degrees” and thought it could be a winner – because lets face it, all Rick eats is pizza, fries and chicken tenders. It was, here you were able to create your own wood fire pizza, right down to the base and oils. We then got one last dip in the beautiful pool before having to take Allanah back to the airport where we made the most of the cocktails. The taxi to the airport was about $20 including tax. When we got back we met Dad at the buffet for dinner, the line for this was massive! This was apparently the best buffet in Vegas, and for $60USD per head one would most definitely hope so! I have to say, in terms of selection there was any type of dish you could thin of. We left feeling full and satisfied, though I do not think I would pay $60 for something like that again – there is simply too much food (and trust me the way I eat, I don’t say this lightly). On my list was to see a show in Vegas and because we had not booked in advance we did not get to see a Cirque Du Sole. However, we did get to see a Comedy Hypnosis show by Marc Savard down at Planet Hollywood – a hotel just across the road. This was hilarious! Timing wise our walk home was perfect, we secured a great spot in front of the Belagio Fountain (another one of the things on my list) to see it do its thing to “hey big spender!”. This was an awesome end to an awesome stay in Sin City with some awesome people.

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Monday 8 June and day 7. San Francisco bound! the big 12 hour drive from Nevada to San Fran and home of the next Rick moment “I might put hand sanitizer on my feet – I just walked in there with no shoes on” Dad: “you could also tattoo a bug on your arse” Rick: “when?”

We woke up at 5am for a 5.30am departure and surprisingly the GPS took us through Yosemite National park. Not before having breakfast at a very interesting diner on the way for breakfast… it had a “cat house” next door (aka a brothel) and pictures of the ladies all over the walls. I must say it was an interesting view eating my breakfast whilst staring at a totally legal brothel entry. Yosemite was one of the last of the natural sights we would see. Again, the elevation was so high at some points (at one point reaching over 10,000 feet) I found it hard to breathe – and so did Dad, who was driving. There was a point we were all very silent in the car when we were at high altitude, to which Dad explained when we later stopped for lunch at the bottom, that he was so dizzy and short of breath finding it hard to concentrate!

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The little red dot to the right is a person!
The little red dot to the right is a person!

We arrived in San Francisco at around 6pm and checked into yet another Holiday Inn, Fisherman’s Wharf this time. I have admit for the price we paid (though San Fran is definitely not the cheapest city to stay in! – I think the second most expensive place for accommodation in America!), the service here was appalling! Staff were rude, half by ignored you and everything was so robotic. I guess people already pay so much to stay there, why bother with the customer service? Anyway, we thought it best, since we only had one day in San Fran to check out what we could that night. San Fran was very real it reminded me a little bit of Wellington’s Cuba street crossed with Melbourne’s Chapel street with the typical American flare you see in the movies. If I am honest, Rick and I were at first a little scared to walk down Fisherman’s Wharf on our own as it was getting darker, so Dad decided to come with us in the end. I believe this was purely due to the fact that the cities we had stayed in prior, were all for the tourists – for example in both LA and Vegas, they had people paid to sweep cigarettes off of the streets and gardens, the roads immaculate and the people had a different look about them. In San Francisco, there were homeless people with the shopping carts with their belongings in them (like the movies), “indulgent” people rolling all over the footpath, shirtless screaming things about Jesus and people with real life tear drop tattoos passing you by. Now as I said, at first, due to the touristy areas we had been to, San Fran was at first intimidating, however once we settled in I grew very comfortable there and found it to be my favorite city of the entire trip. That night we visited Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum down Fisherman’s Wharf (another tick on the list).

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Tuesday the 9th of June: Day 8 our full day in San Fran. Unfortunately because of the restrictions on entry to Alcatraz we were unable to fit a tour in (they are only allowed a certain amount of people on the island at a time/per day); plus you have to book it as far in advance as you can as it does sell out quickly. However, we had a wicked day starting with breakfast at an I Hop, where we took a photo for our Mum; this was because when my Mum and Dad recently were in San Francisco Dad made them eat at I Hop every morning – and man, was it YUMMY! I had a egg white omelette with blueberry pancakes accompanied by a weak filter coffee (that you get everywhere) “with creamer”.

“guess where we are eating, Bab”

The three of us then jumped on a hop on/off bus tour of San Francisco, they have these in many different countries around the world and they are an awesome way to check out the sights around certain cities. The bus stopped at some great locations one of the first was the Palace of Fine Arts which was originally built to replicate a ‘fictional ruin from another time’, with the women on each of the top corners with their backs to the viewer; said to represent the ‘melancholy of life without art’, but also our tour guide told us something about the designer being mad about something (I can’t quite remember); followed by the famous Golden Gate Bridge. We also checked out the town of Sausolito, an arty little town quite similar to Eastbourne and very expensive to live in. Some of the houses we were shown were worth from 1 – 6 million dollars! After that, Dad went back to the room to relax while Panchita and I did took downtown hop on hop off tour… to get to Macy’s. I loved how proud San Fran was of all its achievements being a fairly new city, the tour guide harped on with things like “this is the fourth biggest building…” or “this is where XYZ was filmed in that scene” etc. Again, we ended up spending majority of our time at Macy’s – where Rick’s eyes widening like a cat on drugs… she was off before I could even ask what direction we could go in first. I have never seen a building so big with so many floors dedicated only to women’s clothing, makeup, perfume and shoes. The men’s building was somewhere else. I was truly lost in there so relied entirely on Panchita’s lead of make up what was “so good” because so and so on Youtube has used it. She was right, I do love everything I bought!
When we got back, we met up with Dad and had pizza at a place Dad ate at when he was there with Mum last and we did tried a new attraction that was next to Madame Tussaud’s, The San Francisco Dungeon where we took a “Scooby Doo scary” trip through San Fran’s ‘murky past’. This was a cleverly done attraction with about an hours worth of some awesome little scares and a little scoop on the history of San Francisco. Dad and Rick both got picked on, thankfully not me, nor was I “Sweaty Betty” to those who have done it!

Dad's beloved I Hop
Dad’s beloved I Hop

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San Fran's famous sea fog
San Fran’s famous sea fog
The most photographed spot in the world
The most photographed spot in the world
Downtown bus tour
Downtown bus tour

Wednesday the 10th of June and day 9 of our trip… the end was getting closer. We left at 8.30am from San Fran for the drive back to LA which is roughly about 5 hours, stopping at a Denny’s on the road for breakfast. The main topic of the morning was how disappointing we were with the service at the Holiday Inn at Fisherman’s Wharf especially for the fact that it cost us more than the most expensive room (which we stayed in) at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas! There was an accident on the main road just out of San Fran which set us back and left us arriving in LA during rush hour traffic! A bad time to need to pee right? Yeap I was BUSTING! and traffic was barely crawling. I was about two seconds away from peeing inside a plastic bag I had next to me when we managed to get a chance to pull over at a bathroom. It was around 6-7pm when we headed out to use our second day pass at Disney Land again, however it was even more crowded than the time a few days ago when we had gone in the morning, so we simply headed back to the Holiday Inn Anaheim and had dinner there.

Thursday the 11th of June and our last ever day on our West Coast USA trip. My travel diary says “Johnny Depp’s house is round and green” and “muscle beach where there is a gym on the beach – awkward”. We started the day with a Hollywood tour where we saw the walk of fame (another tick on the list), Sunset Blvd, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, lunch at the Farmer’s Market before checking out Santa Monica Pier and Venice/Muscle Beach. Our tour guide Johnny (said with the accent like ‘Jaa-nee’) from Brooklyn was spectacular, he kept it fun and interesting and because we were the youngest on the tour he seemed to always make sure we were alright which was very nice.

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As if she did not have enough lipstick from Sephora & Macy's already...
As if she did not have enough lipstick from Sephora & Macy’s already…
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier

When we arrived back in the early evening we had to pack up and await our shuttle which was to arrive at 7.30pm. The was so much traffic so it was lucky we left when we did. We boarded at 11.25pm after spending some time in the Koru Lounge at LAX, of the few lounges I have been in this lounge was very nice! The plane was slightly delayed in taking off which would effect us later, however it was then when we discovered that we had a Sky Couch! which we had not paid extra before. This meant we were on a slightly newer plane than on the way over. Sky Couch allows you to bring the foot rest right up to hip level on all three seats, so you can theoretically have your feet up,. It is really beneficial if you have children as that way they can stretch out and get a good sleep. In this case with 3 adults, it was certainly more comfortable to snuggle up in the corner and for Panchita to stretch her legs out onto mine. We arrived in Auckland at 9.15am  on Saturday the 13th of June and after facing a slight issue with our bags we got everything sorted in time to make our flight back down to Wellington, where we were greeted my our Mummy with her tablet out to take a photo and our Uncle Tony… from then it was back to reality…

This trip was such a special one for me in so many ways. Like finding companions that are good to live with, it is very important to have good travel companions to make the trip worthwhile and indeed, Rick and Dad were just that. We had many good and interesting chats about our family history, how Mum and Dad met, work, religion along the long stretch of roads we drove though, as well as a great routine in the mornings; we really were a good team on the trip. I also noticed at times how tired my Dad got after long days (even though I somewhat did too) and It really humbled me knowing that one day, my parents will not be here with me for advice and merely for comfort; this thought really enticed me to cherish every monument, every memory and every moment of this trip. I know Rick will remember her 21st birthday to be a whole collection of some of the most spectacular moments of her entire life, and I know that both my Dad and myself can feel content and comfort knowing we were a part of these moments with her. Family is forever and I am very fortunate for the Saxon blood that Panchita and I share with our parents and grand parents, we are so lucky. Thank you guys, for the memories in the USA that I will hold in my heart for the rest of my life. And thank you to the rest of you, if you have persevered reading through my adventure and made it all the way to the bottom! 🙂

Love you guys! (and Mummy too)
Love you guys! (and Mummy too)

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