This post has been a long time coming for a few reasons:
- I have been busy with uni, and this was a bit of a pain to work out
- Seasonal blog post planning is in full swing and I had personal deadlines to get sorted (this is my only free post slot for about a month now)
- I had so many thoughts on how to write this post – city by city, state by state, based on my shopping etc
- I’ve had post-holiday blues but now it’s 5 weeks after the holiday ended, I think I’m over them
- I’ve been waiting for my dad to send me his beautiful photos but he still hasn’t so I’ve given up on waiting (if he ever sends them to me, I may to do an extra post)
I was planning on doing an America Haul, but it never came to light. However, I have mentioned many a product in other posts, and if you’d like me to do a separate post on my shopping thoughts in American stores, just let me know in the comment section below this post or on twitter. Also feel free to ask me about more specific holiday things because I’ll definitely answer them, this is literally a brief overview. I’m aware that there aren’t many photos with people in them, but as my family don’t know about this blog, I’m not sure I’m comfortable uploading photos of them (which is a shame because my family and my dad’s sister’s family took the cutest selfie).
I’ve also included some links if you’d like to read further on some of the places I visited which you may not have heard of before.
Colorado: 26th August – 1st September
Our first stop in the USA was my dad’s sister’s in Colorado. She moved to New Jersey to work over 15 years ago and just shy of a decade ago, she moved to a little town called Larkspur which is halfway between Denver and Colorado Springs. We flew in on Wedsnesday 26th August, had a milkshake from Sonic (as per my little cousins’ request – they’re 11 and 6) and then just headed straight to bed. On the Thursday, we had an easy day. They live over a mile up, so it’s important to let your body adjust to the altitude, so in proper Mills women fashion, we went shopping at an Outlet Mall. Friday brought a bike ride in a ski resort called Frisco. I hate riding bikes, but it was a 14 mile bike ride over a 1500 foot drop down a mountain, so it was more of a sitting on the bike and rolling down. The views were incredible and the ride was worth it for that alone. We stopped in a gorgeous little skiing village called Vail for lunch, and I can only imagine how lovely that would be in ski season. On the Saturday, my youngest cousin had a Flag Football game, which I went to with my dad, brother, uncle and other cousin. After that, we headed onto Sports Authority Field at Mile High (for those who don’t know, it’s where the Denver Broncos play) to watch the Broncos defeat the San Francisco 49ers at a home game. I really enjoy American football and I loved that evening. Plus, the look on my cousins’ faces when we told them we were going was priceless; they’d never been to a game before and we so excited. Sunday was a drive up a mountain called Pike’s Peak. This had a summit of 14000 feet and was pretty terrifying to drive up (a 7000 foot climb over 19 miles isn’t for the faint hearted) but also had amazing views, especially at the resevoir. Then on the way back to the house, we visited a beautiful area full of sandstone rocks known as Garden of the Gods. The rock formations all have different names based on what they look like, and they’re really impressive. Monday was our last full day in Colorado, and that’s when I got to take my first Sephora trip of the visit, and also a trip to the promised land of Target, as well as getting lost in Costco. We also had a quick dip in the Jacuzzi that evening, which was a really nice end to the stay.
Utah & Arizona: 1st-3rd September
One thing that needs to be on everyone’s bucket list is northern Arizona for the two places that we visited in this section, but they are so difficult to explain. On the Tuesday, we left Colorado. We picked up a car from Denver Airport and drove all day, passing back through Frisco (seriously someone let me move there it’s so beautiful) and over the Rocky Mountains, through Glenwood Springs and through Grand Junction until we hit the CO/UT border. At this point, I will put it out there than Utah hasn’t got much going for it, but we did only see the North-East, and I’m sure it’s much nicer around Salt Lake City. We stayed in a place called the Kokopelli Inn in Bluff (close to the border between UT/AZ), and after learning about the symbol of the Kokopelli, it’s a weird thing to called a hotel. It was a very basic hotel, but we were only staying for one night so on the Tuesday, we headed down into Arizona to Monument Valley. Monument Valley is the typical backdrop of a number of Western films, and is part of Navajo tribal land (we did see a lot of tribes on the drive down to the Grand Canyon after we visited here). This is another rock garden, but in a desert setting as opposed to mountain setting. It’s so beautiful and you can just drive around and view them at your own leisure. This place is a landscape photographer’s dream. After leaving Monument Valley, we head South-West to the Grand Canyon. We actually viewed the Grand Canyon over two days (straight after Monument Valley, and for a good 5 days the following day) and stayed at a Holiday Inn Express in Grand Canyon Village. It’s so difficult to photograph and comprehend the sheer size of the Grand Canyon, simply because there is nothing to compare it to. You’d look down at the Colorado River at the bottom and you’re told that it’s 100m wide, but it looks like a little stream from where you’re stood. No photograph or words will ever do the Grand Canyon justice, and it’s a definitely must-see. I want to go again and do the mule ride down to the bottom, as well as seeing the North Ridge (we saw the South Ridge as it’s easier to get around and you could see more in the short time we had).
Las Vegas: 3rd-5th September
After our very limited time at the Grand Canyon, we drove to Las Vegas. On the way, we drove for a few miles on historic Route 66. The original Route 66 doesn’t exist anymore and has been replaced by highways but we got to experience a small part of the east-to-west drive. By the time we arrived in Vegas, it was dark, but I wouldn’t want to arrive any other way. The lights were bright and you could spot Vegas from 10 miles away. We stayed at The Venetian hotel on the strip, and it’s all set out like Venice. There is a shopping mall in the hotel which runs along a canal which has gondolas going up and down. Let’s just say ‘Only In America’ sprung to mind a lot when we were in Vegas. When we arrived, we freshened up, grabbed some food and walked along the strip, making it as far as the MGM. I couldn’t get over how many hotels there were and places to shop, which were still open until 11 or 12 at night. The next day, we drove back to the Arizona/Nevada border to Hoover Dam. This is another place which is hard to explain the scale of, because it’s so big! When you’re stood on top of the dam, at certain points on the year, you can stretch yourself across two timezones, since Arizona and Nevada are on different timezones for half of the year, and you can put your feet either side of the state border. On the Friday evening, we went to a show called Human Nature, which was a Motown Tribute Act with a twist (it was an all-white, male group). Mum and I had a great time, but I can’t say I’m sure my dad and brother did. After that, we headed down the North Strip which is the opposite way to the way we went the day before. I was terrified. Once you get passed the Wynn, there is nothing apart from homeless people, run down hotels, and they occasional wedding chapel. Mum and I were too scared to walk back and got a taxi back to the main strip. Due to my 21st birthday being yesterday, I wasn’t yet 21 so I couldn’t drink or gamble but it doesn’t actually limit you to what you can do in Vegas (I would just never take a small child like some people did, but I think teenagers would definitely appreciate it). The only thing I’m sad to have missed out on is Calvin Harris playing at Caeser’s Palace as it was in a club and I couldn’t get in. The morning of us leaving, my mum, brother and I went to Madame Tussauds which was conveniently in our hotel, and I was so excited to see the Sue Sylvester wax work (die-hard gleek over here).
Los Angeles & San Francisco: 5th-10th September
We left Las Vegas around midday on the Saturday and drove to my mum’s friend in Pasadena. The traffic was awful since it was labour day weekend, and California is not a fun place to be on the road. My dad said something along the lines of ‘Oh, I must’ve missed the sign where it said ‘drive however you want with no regard for other drivers”. We stayed for two nights in Pasadena, and made smores over the fire pit, had a cook out and got drunk on vodka-watermelon slushes with my mum’s friend’s daughter. On the Sunday, we had the whistle-stop tour of LA, We had brunch in Malibu, drove around Santa Monica, walked down Rodeo Drive, saw the Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, went to City Walk then topped it all off with dinner at an Italian restaurant where the waiters and waitresses sang Theatre, Opera and Disney for us. It was an intense day, but I honestly don’t feel like I need to go back to LA now. It was definitely the only place on our trip which I wouldn’t rush to return to. On the Monday, we hit the Pacific Coast Highway and did in a day what most tourists do over a week. We drove from LA to San Francisco. From leaving Pasadena to arriving at our hotel in Union Square, it took 13 hours. However, we stopped at a beautiful little town called Solvang which was laid out like a Dutch town (very bizarre in the middle of California), spent approximately 3 minutes whale watching on a beach, and we also stopped for dinner in a place called Carmel, and it was my favourite meal of the whole holiday. When we arrived in San Francisco, we headed straight to bed, but the next day was jammed packed. We visited the cable car museum, went on a cable car, and visited Alcatraz. Alcatraz is another must-see for me, even if just for the beautiful views of San Francisco and the tales of what it was like to be a prisoner there. The day we were there, there was an old prisoner signing a book that he wrote about his time on The Rock and apparently there is always things like that going on. After Alcatraz, we walked around Fisherman’s Wharf, had an ice cream at the world famous Ghirardelli‘s, then went to Pier 39. At Pier 39 there were hundreds of sealions, and hundreds of people just watching them. They looked so at peace and it was so nice to look at. Then we had dinner with the best view I have ever had whilst eating at a seafood restaurant, looking out onto the Golden Gate Bridge which I had a photo of and now can’t find. On the Wednesday, we visited Lombard Street, followed by the Golden Gate Bridge. We walked about halfway along the bridge before we decided there wasn’t enough time for us to walk all the way along because this was our last day in San Francisco and we still had so much to do. In the afternoon, we saw the Painted Ladies (after the worst bus journey of my life), had cheesecake on the balcony off the 8th floor of Macy’s in Union Square, then mum and I headed to Berkeley on the other side of the Bay using the BART (their version of the underground) to see a show. Samantha Barks and Adam Chanler-Berat (might just be the love of my life if he was attracted to women) were in previews for an out of town run of Amelie, based on the French film. It was incredible, and I’m not just saying that because of who was in it.
Houston & Dallas: 10th-15th September
Surprisingly, we didn’t drive to Texas, although after a two hour delay I wish we had. I get so agitated when I get a flight delay, and it always happens in tiny airports where the is nothing to do. The plane was worse than flying Ryanair, but you did get free refills on coffees so swings and roundabouts. Due to this delay, we got to Houston late which meant we didn’t get to Galveston where we were staying for the night until it was dark, so it was a bit of a waste of a drive. This was probably the worst hotel we stayed in on the trip, but it was fine for the night. On the Friday, we did the part of my trip my dad was most looking forward to – the Space Centre. This was actually really interesting, and we had a talk with a NASA astronaut (every Friday a different astronaut comes in to do a talk and then you can pay to have lunch with them too). The weather was so bad this day, and we got soaked going on a tram tour of the facilities, including the actual room where Apollo 11 was controlled from. After the Space Centre, we drove to stay with more of my mum’s friends, but this time in Aledo (about 30 minutes outside of Fort-Worth). After a really nice barbecue, we headed to bed. The following day, we headed into Dallas to see where JFK got shot. I’m even less convinced about what happened than I was before visiting, and there is definitely a cover up going on because the museum doesn’t make sense (but it’s another must-see from me). After that, myself and the ‘men’ went to see FC Dallas vs New York City FC play ‘soccer’ which was like watching a league one game. Definitely not worth the hype, but I did see Frank Lampard, David Villa and Andrea Pirlo which not everybody can say. On the Sunday, we went to the cutest town ever called Granbury and had a tour of their old prison cells then went for ice cream in Downtown Fort Worth where there were the most gorgeous fountains. The Monday was a last minute shopping day and we also saw Cowboy country. Until then, I didn’t realise people actually dressed like stereotypical cowboys, but in Fort Worth they do. Then Tuesday was home time and apart from some drama with a vodka bottle, it was an easy flight home.
And now the post-holiday blues have returned and I’m going to have a cry under the pillow. If you have read this post in its entirety, you deserve a gold star. Have you visited any of these places? Or are there any you’d like to go to? Let me know in the comments below.
PS. Apologies for any spelling mistakes, I actually wrote this way later than I had intended and haven’t had time to triple-check for mistakes and it’s very late. Please forgive me, and I’ll sort them soon