California to New York in 6 Weeks.

I never thought I would travel. I never thought I would have enough money or time or courage to travel.

However, regular readers of my blog – if there are any – will know that my most recent posts have been short but sweet snippets centered around the six week trip my husband and I just spent travelling across America, with a quick stop off in Canada.

We’ve been home for a little while now, and the time has come for me to expand on those little blogs I was posting whilst we were out there.

Preperation

Where Did We Go?

Back To Reality

I will try to not to go into too much detail about the things we did whilst we were there, as I think that might spoil it for some people. However, keep an eye out for further blogs, where I’ll be talking about my favorite thing that I did in each place we went to!

Planning and Saving

A few years ago, we decided we wanted to travel together. We had each been on many holidays together both with and without each other, and my husband had actually spent some time travelling Asia. It was time for something other than a sun drenched beach holiday. Don’t get me wrong, we love those holidays too!

At some point we decided we wanted to go to America. I had been to Los Angeles twice and I had loved it, but he had never been. Of course, it’s such a huge country, it’s hard to decide where to go. I wanted to go back to L.A, but we wanted to see so much more!

So with that we had decided – we would travel America!

From there, we had to figure out when we would go. At first we thought the winter of 2014 would be a good idea, that way we would get to see America around the holiday season. I was worried that first of all we wouldn’t have enough time to save, but also that if the weather was bad we might get stuck somewhere.

2015 was the year for us! Except it wouldn’t be, but for a great reason! Christmas 2014, my husband proposed to me! I knew that we would never be able to save for a wedding and save to go travelling in 2015. His solution – let’s get married in 2015, and go to America in 2016 for our honeymoon! Perfect!

We wanted to go for six weeks, we thought that was the perfect amount of time for us to be away. The only problem would be getting time off work. My husband put in a special request in at work to take 3 weeks prior to the end of the holiday year, and 3 weeks straight after the start of the holiday year, meaning we would be gone 14th of March till the 21st of April. His request was granted. I would deal with work a bit closer to the time.

First things first – I bought a new notebook and a Lonely Planet Guide. The one I bought was the “USA and Canada on a Shoestring Budget” book. It was really cheap, but it’s a bit outdated, making a bit unreliable as far as prices go. However, it helped with some basic planning such as deciding where to go. Once we got a new copy – “USA Travel Guide” – as a wedding present, we found out just how handy these guides are.Some of the tips are really great, they offer prices and some of them have special sections that focus on different things such as National Parks, and some of them have pull out maps. I really recommend getting one. Of course there is the internet which is also really useful when doing research, but it can be hard to pinpoint specific things, and you end up with lots of conflicting opinions and information. It’s useful for cross referencing, getting reviews and double checking things like opening times.

There was a lot to do, so I set about making a list of things to do. I love a good list, and this one here is just one of many that I made! You don’t need to go off it, but there are definitely some things to consider here –

  • Confirm dates
  • Figure out a budget
  • Transport
  • Route
  • Confirm destinations
  • Make list of things to do in each place

Figuring out budgets can be difficult, especially when one of you works full time, and earns more than the one that works part time. However, we have a pretty good system, which we also used for our wedding. You figure out how much the lowest earner can put away each month, and the higher earner matches that. Then set up a couple of change pots – we have two for just loose change, and one for pound coins and up. This might seem a bit extreme, but every penny really does count! We didn’t have a definitive budget, because we also planned to ask for contributions to our honeymoon fund, instead of wedding gifts so we didn’t know exactly how much we would have, plus when you add in any birthday or Christmas money – I even canceled my Graze boxes – but we could figure out a base budget.

Really it depends on how lavish you want your trip to be, but we were planning on making it as shoestring as possible! Anyway, we feel the above method is an easy, fair way to save money.

Figuring out transport and route would come a bit at a time, but we needed to decide on our destinations first. This took months. In theory, we could have just chosen a start and end point, but I’m a bit too organised for that, and didn’t like that idea of trying to figure out where our next destination would be whilst we were already out there. I guess I’m not really that adventurous! Our original destination list had about 27 places on it, so it took a while to cut it down. Eventually, we had 7 confirmed places. (I know, there is more listed above, I’ll get to those later) We thought it best to narrow it down a bit!

Eventually, the time came for me to put my request in at work. I asked for three weeks holiday, and three weeks unpaid leave. The request was rejected on the grounds that they had no guarantee we would return from the States. I found this a bit ridiculous because I wouldn’t be allowed to stay longer than the 90 days on my visa. What choice did I have? I handed my notice in, and worked right up until two days before we left!

Just a quick note on transportation and activity planning. There are lots of different ways to get around a country – flights, trains, buses, cars, RVs… our original plan had been to drive but that was going to be way to expensive for us. We could have flown all the way round, internal flights aren’t that bad, but we would miss out on all of the scenery. Trains and buses can be expensive, but a great way to see the country. So in the end, we decided on a combination of flights, trains and buses. As for activity planning, we had a list a mile long of free stuff, but when it comes down to the pricey activities, we thought it best to try to limit those. It can be hard when there is more than one of you, but we seemed pretty agreeable on most things. We had maybe one main activity per place, then a few smaller ones. Again, it depends on how much you want to spend, but there is so much you can do for free or with special offers! As it turns out though, you can’t buy American Groupons without an American phone number, so don’t spend weeks looking for good deals like I did!

Flights Etc

We got married in October, which gave us five months to finish planning, saving, pack and book anything that needed book before we left.

My birthday is in November so my husband kindly bought me a Vango Freedom travel back pack -60 liter with a 20 liter day pack attached – and some new walking shoes. The backpack is brilliant, it has everything you need space wise! The little pack detaches and again, it fits loads in and has space for water bottle on it. You can clip things to them such a tote bags, and they have waist and back support on them. Perfect! Then when Christmas came, we decided to buy our flights as our Christmas present. For this we took the money out of our savings, but then paid it back in before we went.

My husband mostly dealt with flight buying and hotel booking, and those types of things. Not that I’m not capable, but I did the list making and research, he did the practical stuff. Also, that way if anything went wrong, it wasn’t my fault ;-). He will be writing a guest blog about our trip too, so I’ll post that when it’s done.

He found some pretty great flights on SkyScanner which were with British Airways. To book them through Expedia – instead of the unknown site that we had found previously – it would be about £20 extra, but the timing was better. Plus, we felt more comfortable doing this instead of on a site that we had never heard of, that had really bad reviews.

For around £850, we got a flight from Newcastle to London Heathrow first thing in the morning, then a flight from London into San Francisco. Then our return flights came out from JFK (New York) to London first thing in the morning, then London back to Newcastle. They were such great flights, that we checked and re-checked the terms and conditions before we booked. We couldn’t believe our luck! Also, British Airways is great because amongst other things, the baggage allowance is huge! We each had 23kg each for our checked bags, and we could each take two pieces of carry on, in my case a back pack and a handbag. So we booked them!

After that, we had to book our first hotel because we needed an address when we applied for our visas. Before leaving, we would also booked our last hotel but we would wait until just before we left to do that. For a lot of our hotels, we used Priceline. It’s just another hotel search site, but it’s supposed to show you the best deals. I do think that there are better sites out there, but this one served it’s purpose quite well!

For our first hotel, we actually booked a hostel. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but we were trying to be really frugal. It was more like a hotel crossed with a hostel. For our last one, we decided to go for luxury! I will go into this more later on in the post.

One really important thing that had to be done, was getting our visas! I was so worried about getting the wrong one, but for a trip like ours, you get an ESTA, which  allows you to travel for 90 days. There are so many websites out there with different bits of information, most of them are forums and they all conflict. I found it best to just follow the guidelines on the Gov Website. It was easier than I thought, and it was so cheap that it didn’t have to come out of our savings! Just make sure that your passport is up to date well in advance, and you’ll be fine!

Packing

I hate packing, so instead of preparing to do so, I wrote and rewrote lists of what things we could do and things we needed to buy before we left. Eventually, I had to ask my sister – who is really good at packing – to come round and help me do a run through, showing me how to save space and how to make a wardrobe for six weeks, out of just a few pieces of clothing.

Here is a rough idea of what to pack:

Big Pack –

Essentials that I packed and would take with me again –

  • 1 -2 pairs of shorts
  • Walking trousers – essential
  • 1 -2  dresses, one casual, one nicer
  • 3 t-shirts
  • 4 vests – 3 nice, 1 plain to go underneath
  • PJs – Lightweight, but suitable to be worn going to and from bathrooms, and might keep you warm if need be
  • Underwear – 9 pairs should do, more if you don’t think you will have regular access to washing facilities
  • Socks – I took too many pairs, thinking I might need some thicker pairs, but I didn’t, although it is always a good idea to have spare!
  • Plimsoles – Extremely comfortable, the brand is Dunlop
  • Sandals – Good for if you’re going out,  and they don’t take up much room
  • Perfume – take samples packs not a full big bottle
  • deodorant and body spray – I just took normal so I wouldn’t have to buy more whilst we were away
  • Shampoo and conditioner – even though some hotels provide it, I took my own because I have a certain hair type and I wanted to use what I knew would work
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste – we did actually receive travel packs on the plain, which we think might have been honeymoon freebies. This included toothbrushes and travel toothpaste. The toothpastes wouldn’t have last the six weeks, and we didn’t know about it either but hey-ho.
  • Face wipes – Baby wipes are the best, because you can also use them when you travelling long distance and don’t have access to a shower.
  • Face cream
  • Aloe vera gel – You can use it as aftersun and put it on cuts and grazes
  • Razor
  • Cotton buds, cold sore patches (just in case), plasters, vitamins and supplements (enough to take them every other day in my case, because I take a lot), and any other medicinal things you might need. If there is anything in particular that you are worried they won’t have over there, a quick google search will tell you if they do, or if they have an alternative.
  • Washing sack – It’s really lightweight but it’s also breathable so your clothes don’t start to stink when they need washing. Don’t use a plastic bag. Buy a specific one
  • Any chargers, plugs or adapters
  • Waterproof jacket – this seemed like a waste of space for a lot of the time but trust me, it was worth it!

What I took but wished I hadn’t –

  • 3 extra t-shirts – which I packed because I had the space to do so, but then I didn’t end up wearing them
  • Swim stuff – We never had to opportunity to swim
  • Black ballet pumps – I left these somewhere because I only wore them once, and they gave me a blister.
  • Mouthwash – With hindsight, we probably could have done without the mouthwash, but dental hygiene is important!
  • Toothbrush – obviously this is essential, but on the plane going we were given a travel kit that had a little toothbrush in. We didn’t know that this would happen, but I think it was because we were on our honeymoon because no one else got one.
  • Shower gel – Just about every hotel we went to supplied shower gel, shampoo, soap and some even have little grooming kits with cotton buds and shower caps in. I wouldn’t bother taking shower gel.
  • Body lotion – I took some samples which was great, but most hotels had some with the toiletries so I didn’t really need it.

Carry on (divided between a large handbag, and my day pack) –

  • Spare clothes – a vest, some socks and underwear just in case something happens to your checked baggage
  • Travel pillow
  • jewelry – I took more than I needed, and with hindsight, I should have just worn what I would wanted to take. I didn’t know what to expect though.
  • Hair brush
  • Tablet PC (As in electronic)
  • Notebook and Diary
  • Water bottle – empty. We bought Water to-GO bottles but they leaked. So don’t get those ones.
  • Kindle
  • Purse
  • Phone
  • Totebag
  • Ipod and headphones
  • Pen
  • Sunglasses
  • Scarf that doubles over as a blanket

I traveled in my jeans, walking shoes (which were essential) and comfortable t-shirt, and a hoody. I recommend wearing sports bra too. I didn’t going but I was so uncomfortable so I did for any long distance travelling and walking for the rest of the trip.

We didn’t take sun cream, thinking we would buy some as soon as we got there. We actually struggled to find anywhere until we were burnt. It took us a day or so to figure out where best to buy such things, but we actually discovered the likes of CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens Pharmacy sell just about everything!

Obviously this is just my list, you will have own ideas for what you want to take. I just feel that this is a good guide. My husbands packing list was very different and I think he left more as we made our way around the country. I didn’t take a hair dryer or anything like that. Most places had them, but it was hot enough for it to dry naturally. I also didn’t take a guidebook, because in most places you can use the internet or go to tourist information.

When packing, put heavier stuff in the bottom, like shoes, and stuff your socks and underwear into them. Roll your clothes tightly together – I learned on the trip to roll things together – and pack every thing in as close as possible!

So with that, we were planned, packed, and prepared, and we were on our way!

San Francisco, California

Arrived: 14/03/2016 Departed: 18/03/2016

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Golden Gate Bridge. Photo Credit – Sweet Silver Linings Blog.

Getting to America unfortunately wasn’t a breeze. The morning we left, we were up at 4.45am – early but worth it in the end – and picked up by my in-laws to be taken to the airport. It was foggy and cold, but we got there fine. After a quick sandwich at Gregg’s, we got through customs with enough time for a beer before boarding.

We were sitting on the plane for quite sometime before they announced it was too foggy to take off. Fair enough, the pilot needs to see. They waited about ten minutes or so to see if it cleared, when they discovered a steering fault! Another ten minutes or so, and the engineers arrived. That was also fine though, after all you want the plane to work properly!

We had originally boarded the plane at 7.40am, and we were meant to take of at 7.50am. We didn’t leave the airport till 9.15am. Despite being delayed, we weren’t worried because our connecting flight wasn’t until 11.05am, with the gate closing at 10.45am.  We would be cutting it fine, but we felt sure we would make it. It was also a short flight, but as we got the airport, we couldn’t land! It was at this point that I started to panic, although my other half managed to keep his cool. When we eventually landed, the plane couldn’t park in it’s spot! Whilst the cabin crew frantically tried to answer the many questions that were being thrown at them, I realized we were weren’t going to make it. We had just minutes till the gate would close. By the time we got off the plane, we had missed our flight by a minute.

I was furious. After planning for so long, things were going wrong before we’d even left the country! I quickly came round however. After all, it would have been worse if they had just taken off, unable to see and with faults on the plane!

Next, we waited in a long line full of annoyed people, trying to stay positive.We were told we could get on to a flight at 1.33pm, with American Airlines instead. This wasn’t too bad, the next flight after this one wasn’t till much later. After a lot of security questions, we were slowly issued new boarding passes, and some vouchers to be used in the terminal. With these we bought some plane snacks, and some prosecco!

Finally on the plane, my husband informed the stewardess that we were on our honeymoon. They were thrilled! We got A LOT of free champagne, not in plastic cups either. We also got a travel kit each.

It’s a long flight to California, about 13 hours but the flight was actually pretty good. It was smooth, we got a snack, lunch and dinner, all of which were very tasty. I particularly enjoyed the ginger and honey ice cream that came with dinner! 

I have no idea what time we actually landed, but it was sometime in the afternoon. It took a while to get through security. After a few quick questions about our visit to the US, and a stamp in our passports, we went to collect out bags. They were actually waiting for us, lying on the floor next the one of the luggage belts!

To get as close to the hotel as possible, without spending a fortune we got the BART system. It was a great choice, fast, easy to navigate and cheap!  We got it to the Union Square area, which cost around $8 each, and took about 20 minutes.

Of course from there we had to walk to the hotel. I discovered two things on that walk. One, the streets in America are considerably longer than in England. Two, San Francisco is HILLY. I already knew it was this of course, but I could never of imagined this. Hill after hill after hill. With our luggage. Although my husband carried the big bags!

Eventually, we clapped eyes on the Cable Car Hotel. This place is on California Street, just near the corner of California and Hyde Street.

Although it’s called a hotel, it’s really more of a hostel. I was a bit concerned about staying in a hostel, but it was exactly what we needed. Cheap, close to a lot of things we wanted to do and opposite a really great bar!

Different forms of public transport run up and down California street too. The bathroom was shared, but it was the exact right distance from our room. It was kept immaculate and even though it only had one shower and one loo in it, they were in great condition and we never had to wait to use it.

The bed was really comfortable, there was fridge and microwave in the room, it was spacious, we got free WiFi and there were free apples in the reception.

Of course there is a down side to every place you stay. The WiFi was really bad quality, we actually had better on Alcatraz Island. The TV didn’t work great, and the whole place smelled a bit of smoke.

I would recommend it, especially if you aren’t fussy, and you’re on a budget! For the low price we payed, it was really decent. I would take the stairs if you can though, the lift is really rickety and creepy.

San Francisco is a great place for sight seeing. There are lots of walking tours available, but we sort of made it up on our own. It’s not ideal if you struggle to get around, but there are some good buses that run frequently. We walked more here than we did anywhere else!

It was pretty quiet everywhere as we were out early on a Tuesday morning. We went to Ina Coolbirth Park first. It’s really beautiful, and well worth the uphill walk. It’s a must see in my opinion, the views are stunning. From there we briefly visited Russian Hill and North Beach. Take your time on Russian Hill. We didn’t see the best side of it. We did see more of the North Beach area later in the week, but for the time being we went to Washington Square Park. It was pretty disappointing but on the outskirts of the park you can stop by Saints Peter and  Paul Church. It’s really beautiful, although we didn’t go in.

A great stop off is Coit Tower. It can be seen all over the city! It’s a beautiful 210 foot memorial tower, and even from the little area that surrounds the base of it, you can see everything. The views are amazing. We didn’t go to the top of it though because it was one of more the expensive things to do, and at this point we were still being super careful with our money. Looking back, I’m not sure if I wish that we went up to the top of it. Because it’s such a hilly place, San Francisco offers some of the better views. Even when you’re low down, the towering hills and skylines are amazing. It would have been nice to go up, but I’m not sure it would have made much of a difference. Either way, another must see!

Fishermans Warf which is a pretty cool place to go, although it was quite a walk from Coit Tower. There’s a lot happening down there, it’s really vibrant and colourful. It’s really pricey though, but there are lots of different piers, and the view of the ocean is beautiful.

Everywhere has a Financial District, and San Francisco’s is one to see! We were fascinated, because that’s not really a thing here. I remember seeing our first skyscraper, and thinking wow! Of course the skyscraper’s just got bigger as we made our way around the country. Whilst you’re there, swing by  Justin Herman Plaza. Lots of people were gathered around it eating their lunches, and we just sat by what we thought was a big industrial sculpture. It turns out it was actually a fountain that was just switched off!

One worth while site in the financial district is  the Transamerica Pyramid. Don’t look for it in the financial district though, see it from afar! It’s a big part of the skyline, it looks fantastic.

The Union Square area is pretty cool, but on our little site-seeing walk we actually just went to Union Square Park, however there was a lot of construction going on. Unfortunately this is something you will find everywhere and there is no way to avoid it. It was on to China Town for us. It’s one of the best China Town’s I’ve ever seen. It’s filled with quirky, authentic shops, interesting looking fruits and veg, and the sights and smells are amazing!

China town wasn’t far from our hotel, so we started to head back. On the way we stopped off at the really lovely Huntington Park. It’s really relaxing place to sit and people watch. Plus just outside of it is Grace Cathedral which is really beautiful.

Of course that isn’t where our site seeing ended, but that was a main chunk of it!

Whilst in San Francisco, you have to stop off at Alcatraz, it is an absolute must see! I’m not actually going to tell much about this right now, it gets its own personal blog, that you can read here but I will give you a couple of tips for going.

  • Book at least two weeks in advance, but more if you can. We really wanted to do the night time tour, and we couldn’t book one. We ended up getting an early bird tour, which if you can’t get the night tour, I would highly recommend doing this. It means your group will be the first on the island, so it won’t be quite a busy!
  • Look out for sings in red paint – it’s really interesting and you’ll learn about it
  • Do the audio tour
  • Stand in a cell
  • Look closely at everything you can
  • Look out for bullet hole’s
  • If the weather is good, take a picnic and eat it on the picnic tables near the dock
  • Make sure you have full camera battery – not only is there some really cool stuff to take photos of, the island also offers one of the best views of the city skyline!
  • It was really hot the day we went, but I imagine it can be really cold, so dress weather appropriate
  • Wear comfy walking shoes

We really loved it there! Once you’re on the island, you can leave on any boat, you don’t have to stick with your tour.

Once we left the island, we walked to Golden Gate Bridge. We had already walked from our hotel to Pier 33 to get the boat to Alcatraz from our hotel, which was about half an hour or so. I don’t know if any of you know how far GGB is from Pier 33, but it’s REALLY far. I just checked it on the map, and it says 1 hour and 40 minutes. I took us longer than that though, for  a start I think we walked inward a bit because we didn’t walk along the water front all the way there. We also stopped off in a supermarket for ice cream, and spent some time in  Crissy Field, which is a really nice stop off area, we really liked it. From there we weren’t entirely sure how to get to the bridge. We kept getting closer to it, and we could see the road for cars but we were on foot! Once we got close enough to see San Francisco Bay –  with me gleefully pointing out that that was where Kim Novak jumped into the water in Vertigo – we could see how to get up there.

Once you get up to the bridge, you have to go across it. Some people cycle but of course we walked. We didn’t walk all the way over, just half way and stood and took in the amazing views. It really felt a sense of achievement standing on this beautiful bridge. After walked back across it. That was when we decided it was time to get the bus back to the hotel, I didn’t think I could face another walk! This was where we learnt that buses in America are better than in England. Easier to  use, cheaper and the drivers are friendlier.

On our last full day in San Francisco, we walked to Golden Gate Park! This was another long walk, an hour and a half according to Google, although it felt like much longer!

GGP is HUGE. It’s actually bigger than Central Park! We didn’t go in with a plan so we ended up missing a great deal of the park, if I were you I would go in with a map otherwise you’ll end up wandering around aimlessly like we did. We did manage to see the Bison paddock though, which was really cool, and we ate pretzels which were yummy!

The same day, we went to Union Square to have a proper look around. It’s a really nice shopping area! It’s also where you will find the cable car turning circle, where they turn the cars by hand. Getting a Cable Car is a must in San Francisco. It’s one of the many iconic features of the city. It is expensive at $7 for one very short journey, but it was fun! It’s a bit confusing when you’ve never been on one before, and everyone around seems to know what they are doing, but just do what everyone else is doing, and you’ll get there!

We loved San Francisco. It was a great place to start because it was the exact perfect mix of relaxed and busy. It’s a really beautiful place, there are great views everywhere. I would have liked to have explored further, particularly in the Mission district. We saw lots of really stunning streets and houses, but it would have been great to see some of the iconic streets. The weather was amazing the whole time we were there too! It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. I would definitely go back.

Our favorite places to eat and drink –

  • Lori’s Diner – I recommend the one in Ghirardelli Square for breakfast. The square is a really cool place for a start, but out of the two Lori’s Diner’s we ate in, this one was definitely better! I had buttermilk pancakes and coffee, and they were delicious! It was our first breakfast away, and we loved it. This particular restaurant offers amazing views, and the staff were really friendly. We loved so much that we went to the one on Sutter Street for dinner one night, but preferred our breakfast at the other one. I got a burger and fries with a root beer float. It was quite pricey, and I didn’t feel that the price matched the quality of the food. It was tasty but the fries were really dry and salty and the float was very basic.
  • Thai Thai Noodle – The food here was delicious, although very spicy! I ordered a chicken and cashew dish – don’t eat the chili’s – and a jasmine tea! The interior is really cool and it was right next to our hotel, which was handy. My husband wasn’t as impressed as I was but I highly recommend it.
  • Hyde Out – This is a really cool bar on the corner of Hyde Street and California Street (I don’t even know if I said that right! We don’t do directions like that in England) It was really nice inside and the staff were lovely, and it wasn’t too expensive. We went there every night actually!

The morning came when we had to pack and leave San Francisco. We walked about half an hour to the bus station with our heavy back packs, and boarded a Greyhound bus to L.A.

The bus from San Francisco to L.A was one of my favorite travel experiences of the whole journey, and you can read all about it here!

Los Angeles

Arrived: 18/03/2016 Departed: 25/03/2016

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Santa Monica Beach with the pier off in the distance. Photo Credit – Sweet Silver Linings Blog.

We ended up spending more time in L.A than we had intended, only by a day or so though. We knew roughly when we wanted to move on to our next destination, but we made the mistake of leaving it quite late to book our train which meant we couldn’t get the one we wanted. Even though L.A is so big and there is so much to see and do, by the time it go to our last day we, felt we had spent enough time there.

We didn’t walk as much here because everything is so far away, so we made a lot of use of  Uber. We hadn’t used this before, whilst it is in England we don’t live in a place where we ever need to use it. We thought it was great, it’s a cheaper than most taxi’s because they charge you before hand so you don’t get charged for being stuck in traffic. It feels safer because the drivers are registered with Uber, and most of them are a lot friendlier than a taxi. You can pay through Paypal so you don’t need to worry about having  money on you (although we did discover that most taxi’s have card machines in them in America!) and you can track where they are when they are en route to you, plus you can book it all through a handy app on your phone!

We arrived at the Downtown L.A bus station, and we had read that you had to be really careful around there at night. Thankfully our Uber driver was there to pick us up pretty much straight away!

Whilst we were in L.A, we stayed in three different places. The first was another hotel/hostel, which had actually been our plan for the majority of the trip, but this was the last one.

The Ocean Park Hotel is located in Santa Monica and it was wonderful! It’s about 10 minutes away from Santa Monica Pier on the bus, and it was really cheap! It’s got huge comfortable beds, nice light rooms, and the staff are super friendly. Like the Cable Car Hotel, it has shared bathrooms, but these are different. You need a key to get into the ladies, which makes you feel a bit safer (although I didn’t feel unsafe in the CCH) and there are two showers and two toilets. They were really clean, bright and spacious. You get free WiFi, a fridge, TV and sink in your bedroom and it’s got a really lovely cafe attached to it. We were running late getting there, and the staff left a key for us in a lock box so we could get in. We stayed there two nights.

From there, we used another handy app for the first time,  Air BnB. It’s great because other than having it on your phone, it usually works out cheaper than most hotels, and even when it’s around the same price you get more for your money. People rent out their spare rooms, an annex or even a whole apartment. We even saw a yacht on there once!

After Santa Monica, we moved to the West Hollywood area, in a spare room in a really cool house. The whole street was filled with these amazing houses, each one of them different. The couple we stayed with were absolutely lovely, and were happy for us to hang out in the garden with them. We had our own entrance through the kitchen, and our own bathroom. We loved it! We stayed there for three nights.

We didn’t actually move that far, although it felt like it was a lot further away. This time we were lucky enough that she was out of town but still willing to let us stay there, so had the whole apartment to ourselves! The bedroom was really big and comfortable, the bathroom was really nice, and it was great to be able to make use of the living room and the kitchen, including watching Netflix. This was particularly handy because we both came down with a cold, so we had a nice place to relax for a two nights.

We didn’t do too much in Santa Monica, it’s definitely a place to sight see! We actually only had one full day there, so we went down to Venice Beach and walked to one end of it, then back along to Santa Monica Beach and Pier.

Whilst you’re on Venice Beach, be sure to walk along the pier. It’s really different to SM Pier, it’s really peaceful and the views are better because it doesn’t actually have anything on it. This is where we thought we saw shark, but we aren’t sure, it could have been a dolphin. The surfers didn’t seem too bothered! A great deal of Venice Beach is made up of touristy shops selling fridge magnets and overpriced t-shirts, and people flogging everything from sunglasses to paintings. Keep an eye on your purse and don’t keep you wallet or phone in your back pockets – good tips for everywhere you go actually – and just enjoy people watching and check out some cool street art. If you stop to look at anything on VB, make sure it’s Muscle Beach! Whether or not your fitness inclined, it’s a pretty fascinating, iconic place. Once you get down to Santa Monica Beach, you can see the original location of Muscle Beach too.

Once you pass into Santa Monica beach, it’s a little more refined and little less interesting. There aren’t as many stores, no one is flogging anything and the street art is seriously limited. Here you’ll see Rollerbladers, skateboarders, cyclists and for those that are feeling a bit more adventurous, segways! It’s a bit more relaxed than Venice Beach, that’s for sure. The really attraction though is Santa Monica Pier. We didn’t spent too much time on it during the day but we went back to watch the sunset, have dinner and go on the Ferris wheel. I would highly recommend going to watch the sunset from the pier, make sure you stand at the very end of it for the best view. It’s really beautiful. I would also like to remind everyone that it will be cold, no matter how hot it has been during the day because it’s always cold on the coast! I didn’t think if this, and worse a dress and sandals. I was freezing. It was really busy, so if you’re wanting to eat on the pier, it might be a good idea to book a table. We had intended to eat at Bubba Gump Shrimp, but the wait was two hours. The Ferris wheel was the first one I have ever been on. I was bit nervous waiting in line – it was about a 10 minute wait – but I loved it. The views were stunning! Sadly we missed out on going on the carousel, it was closed when we went back on the night.

The best thing about visiting L.A, for me at least, is Universal Studios! I’m not going to talk to much about here, but for more detail on our trip, see this post! I will tell you that it is FANTASTIC. Well worth the money. Even if you aren’t really into the movie making side of things, the actual theme park rides are the best I’ve ever been on! Here are our tips for a great day at the film studio come theme park –

  • Buy your tickets online. You get them slightly cheaper and you guarantee your day.
  • Look out for any events going on i.e new rides opening
  • The park opens at 9am, but get there well before that. At least quarter to if not before. You want to be there when it opens, trust me!
  • Stay as late as you can. Once you’ve finished with the rides go and enjoy City Walk, but try to see it all lit up at night if you can!
  • Go on your favorite rides more than once! Unless you’re lucky enough to have a season pass that is, and can go back anytime you want!
  • Start with the studio tour – get there early enough and go on the first one, making sure you sit on the right hand of car, as close to the edge as possible. Once you’ve done the tour, go to the lower lot, work your way around, then do the top lot. There is no particular reason for this, we just felt that it worked better.
  • Make sure you know the ride times  – there are boards all over the place telling you. Some of the live action shows have 20-40 minute waits.
  • If like us you are on a budget, take a packed lunch, and then spend your money or 2-3 things that you think you’ll love and know you won’t see again. Smaller souvenirs are obviously cheaper too! If you want to be able to buy anything and everything, and eat the food too I would save for a little while first. It’s pretty expensive!
  • Wear sensible shoes and clothes – it will quite possibly be really warm, but there are also some chances of you getting wet!
  • Do everything – things change. I’ve been three times in my life now and in the past ten years a lot has changed.

Call in at  The Grove if you can. It’s really nice shopping area, quite different to a lot of other retail areas that I’ve seen. It has a really beautiful fountain and lots of places to eat and relax once you’ve finished shopping!

You can’t go to Hollywood without a stroll down Hollywood Walk of Fame! At least that’s what I thought, but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I visited L.A over 10 years ago, and I loved the HWOF! Today it isn’t quite the sparkling place of joy that I remember. Sadly, it’s a little underwhelming. The streets are lined with tourist shops (nothing new there, but I remember them being much nicer once upon a time) people flogging tours and wearing really bad super hero costumes. A lot of the squares are also cracked and faded. I don’t make it sound amazing, but you should still go. Even if it’s just to glimpse your favorite stars… star… and to visit  TCL Theater, formally known has Mann’s Chinese Theater. Here you’ll be able to put your hands in the prints of some the greatest film makers ever born! There are some fun museums and famous buildings all around the the the walk, so you might find something else to do. We didn’t do them, but I have during previous visits.

If you fancy doing something “un-Hollywood” whilst you’re there, I highly recommend Griffith Observatory. Hollywood is a strange place for an Observatory because of all the light pollution, but that doesn’t make it a bad place to go. It overlooks Griffith Park and has spectacular views of the city. There is a direct walk to the Hollywood sign – which we sadly did not do – and the building is gorgeous. It’s a really great place to go, although it was super busy when we went and we struggled to get up there.

Whilst we were there we went on a the free sunset hike, which is brilliant – this is only on once a month though – and then we went to the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, where we saw the “Centered In The Universe” show. My husband in particular was very impressed with this, he said it was the best planetarium he’s ever been to! It really was fantastic. There are also exhibits throughout the building, and lots of other things you can do! We were lucky enough to see them switch on the Tesla Coil, which is switched on at certain points in the day. The Griffith Observatory is a must see in my opinion!

There are lots of nice places to just walk about too in L.A so make sure you do that. It’s got a lot of fancy stores, art and it’s usually sunny – California is in the middle a really bad drought, so there you go! Just don’t waste water. – and near Union  Station, you’ll find Olvera Street. This is the old Spanish town, and it’s really pretty. The food is good, and there are some great market stalls! We happened to be there on Good Friday, so there were lots of celebrations going on. This is street is supposedly the oldest street in Los Angeles, so it’s well worth a visit to it and the surrounding areas. You can also see The Cathedral Of Our Lady of the Angels which is really beautiful and very big. It isn’t like the Cathedrals we are used to seeing because it’s a pretty new building but it is fantastic.

We saved this for our last day in L.A because we were actually at Union Station all day. We were booked onto the 10pm Amtrak Sunliner to Texas, so we had a lot of time to kill! We walked around Olvera Street and the surrounding area, did some reading, and enjoyed Union Station. All of the Union Stations are pretty impressive.

Our Favorite Places to Eat and Drink

  • The Sidewalk Cafe – This place is on Venice Beach and we stopped here for breakfast. It’s worth mentioning because other than the fact that it’s a nice setting, I ordered a fried egg sandwich, something that is not uncommon at home. Those pathetic excuses for  a sandwich are a thing of the past now! This was delicious. Tomato, lettuce, bacon, fried egg, mayo with a side of breakfast potatoes and coffee! Yum! It also overlooks Venice Beach!
  • Ristorante al Mare – Located on Santa Monica Pier, this was where we went when the wait for Bubba Gump Shrimp was two hours, and boy are we pleased we did! We still had to wait quite some time, but we could do so at a bar where I could drink Rose prosecco! For dinner, I had the best – and biggest – meatballs I’ve ever had. If you sit outside you overlook the pier too!
  • Ocean Park Cafe – This is attached the hotel we stayed in in Santa Monica. We came here for breakfast and I loved the decor and the hustle and bustle of the pace. I had a short stack of pancakes and coffee and it was so yummy, one of the best I had the whole time we were away!
  • The Kings Road Cafe – We loved this place! We came twice, both times for breakfast. The french toast is the best french toast I have ever had! And the savory I had – eggs Benedict that came on a croissant was also delicious!  A really great place!
  • Pinks – We don’t actually eat hot dogs that much but I would eat here regularly if we lived in L.A! Without a doubt the best hot dogs I’ve ever had, I had the polish dog, but it took me  a while to settle on that. Thankfully you can do that because the lines are long! Well worth the wait though!
  • Sweet Lady Jane – Okay so I haven’t actually mentioned any bars, but I’m going to make up for that by instead talking about bakery! My husband had read about it and said he wanted to go so one evening we went and got take-out cake in boxes! You can do that here but it’s not quite the same. Mostly because the cakes aren’t as big as my head! I got a slice of apple pie and it was gorgeous not only to eat but to look at, and my husband got chocolate cake! They were so big that we had to save some for breakfast. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! It is expensive, but it’s worth it!
  • Bubba Gump Shrimp – We went here when we went to Universal Studios. It’s on City Walk, and the wait wasn’t anywhere nearly as long as the one on Santa Monica Pier. I ordered fried shrimp and it was delicious! Although I did feel it was a bit overpriced because I had more fries than shrimp.

There isn’t much I would do different here, although I wouldn’t have minded going walking to the Hollywood sign, and possibly leaving a day earlier, because we could have used that extra day elsewhere.

I just want to talk quickly about travelling long distance on a train. First of all, it’s worth the discomfort because you see a lot of the country side and you pass through so many different places. We even saw the Mexican boarder! If you can, I would go for a sleeper car. We didn’t for our first journey, and we were pretty uncomfortable.

On this journey we went from L.A to San Antonio, Texas. We passed through and stopped at –

  • Pomona, CA
  • Ontario, CA
  • Palm Springs, CA
  • Yuma, AZ
  • Maricopa, AZ
  • Tuscon, AZ
  • Benson, AZ
  • Lordsburg, NM
  • Deming, NM
  • El Passo, TX (We actually got to get off and stretch our legs here)
  • Alpine, TX
  • Sanderson, TX
  • Del Rio, TX
  • Finally getting off at San Antonio, Texas

The trains have a restaurant, a snack bar and a viewing car. They have WiFi that doesn’t work, and very nice toilets. The seats are pretty cool, they recline and have foot rests. However, I couldn’t get comfy when it came to going to sleep.

You check your big luggage so I recommend the following in your carry on –

  • Spare undewear and socks
  • Deoderant, body spray, toothpase and toothbrush
  • Hair brush
  • Babywipes
  • Moisturisier
  • Snacks
  • Entertainemnt – we had our kindles, the tablet, writing materials, and the laptop
  • A good quality travel pillow, blanket, ear plugs and eye mask
  • Water

The train food is actually quite nice too, and not too pricey. I had a great burger for dinner, and eggs and sausage for breakfast.

You can read more about our journey to San Antonio here.

San Antonio

Arrived: 27/03/2016 Departed: 28/03/2016

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Gardens at the Alamo. Photo Credit – Sweet Silver Linings Blog.

San Antonio surprised us! We had absolutely no idea what Texas would be like, and we really loved it! Unfortunately we only stayed in San Antonio for one night.

We stayed at the Best Western Sunset Suites, which turned out to be a great choice. Other than the fact that it was a short walk from the train station, we received excellent service. Sleep deprived and in desperate need of showers, we walked into the hotel at 4.50am. We couldn’t check in till after 10 but we had no where else to go. The receptionist was extremely accommodating. Immediately she said she would check our room status. It was full, but she would check if there was a room we could just sleep in till it was ready. There wasn’t but as soon as the cleaners were in, we would be in the first available room, and in the mean time we could sit in their restaurant and help ourselves to breakfast. We actually only waiting an hour or so, when she came to us and said that our room was ready for us!

Now, we aren’t sure exactly how this happened, and we suspect that we were upgraded because we were on our honeymoon – something my husband had mentioned when he booked – or if she did it because she felt sorry for us – maybe it was a combination – but we were in a suite!

After the best shower and sleep, we woke up to find out we had missed breakfast so set off in search of some lunch and an explore. The hotel is walking distance of the Riverwalk, The Alamo and a great selection of shops and bars.

When you’re in San Antonio, you have to visit the Alamo. It was really fantastic, but I’m saving this particular activity for it’s own blog rather than going into detail about it here.

We had wander around the shopping center, stopping for some really yummy ice cream.

That night we to the Riverwalk for dinner and a wander. It’s really beautiful, especially at night. We didn’t go on the boat though.

I’m afraid that’s all I really have to say about San Antonio, what with us not being there for long. I will say this though – it is really lovely! I would love to go back and spend a couple of days there. It’s very different to anywhere else we went, we weren’t surrounded by towering skyscrapers for a start!

Our Favorite Places to Eat and Drink

  • Johnny Rockets – I don’t usually like chain restaurants, but there are some exceptions!  I have such fond memories of this one, and we struggled to find any in L.A – I know, how weird?! – but we just happened upon this one whilst walking around looking for some lunch! A chicken club sandwich and a root beer float later, and I was very happy!
  • Esquire – This is a really cool, romantic place on the Riverwalk. My husband had read about it and we loved it. I mean, really, wow. Good beer, great food, lovely atmosphere. If you eat anywhere in San Antonio, you need to go here. Order the big red empanada followed by the deep fried apple pie. It was one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had in my life.
  • Pat O’Brien’s – This was a great bar that we went into before going to Esquire. It has a gorgeous outdoor seating area and we were lucky enough to catch some live music! I was spoilt for choice when it came down to choosing a cocktail here, but eventually settled on the Fuzzy Leprechaun and I wasn’t disappointed! This was also where we discovered that the bottle caps of Lone Star have little riddles in them.
  • Marble Slab Creamery – This is located in the River Center Shopping Mall, on the Riverwalk. It sells amazing ice cream. I got my first ever Butter Pecan, with Reeces Pieces mixed into it.

That’s my short and sweet section on San Antonio. I would definitely stay at least an extra day if we could go back or if I could do it differently.

We had breakfast in the hotel the morning we left – free, and so much to choose from – then we got on another Greyhound bus and off we went to Dallas. This took  us five hours and was mostly uneventful. Our bus driver wasn’t quite as interesting as the one we had coming to Texas, but it was still a good journey!

Dallas

Arrived: 28/03/2015 Departed: 31/03/2015

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Pioneer Plaza. Photo Credit – Sweet Silver Linings Blog.

My desire to go to Dallas started when I read and then became possibly a little obsessed with Stephen Kings 22.11.36, a book a bout a man who goes back in time to stop the assassination of Kennedy. I could quite easily get distracted here and start talking about the book, but instead I will say that despite Jake Epping/George Amberson’s negative opinions about Dallas, I had to see it for myself. Of course a lot has changed since the 50’s and 60’s. Also we aren’t in Stephen King’s imagination.

We stayed in two places whilst in Dallas. First, we rented a loft style apartment from Air BnB. We were there for two nights, and it was brilliant. It was the right size, open plan, had gorgeous decor. We had full use of the whole apartment including a washer and dryer and once again, Netflix! It had good WiFi, a nice view and the owner was kind enough to leave us a nice welcome basket complete with red wine! It was pretty hot, probably because we were really high up and the air con was really loud.

For one night – thankfully – we stayed in a motel near Love Field AirportThe Knights Inn Market Center, was quite different. Of course staying in a motel is cheap and it ticks another box on the old travel list. This place was complete with signs on the door reminding you to keep it locked, and telling you not to answer to strangers. It was boiling by this point in the trip, the south had become rather muggy and humid, and this night it was quite stormy. Once we had wandered out for some tea and bought some vending machine snacks, we were safely in for the night – deadbolt engaged – and we were pleased to see that the room didn’t flood!

Anyway…

There are lots of things to see in Dallas, including the magnificent Pioneer Plaza. We had no idea what it was when we arrived, but obviously had to take a look when saw it! It consists of huge bronze statues of cattle and cowboys, and they are something! There is also a Giant Eyeball! I also enjoyed seeing The Adolphus hotel, which is mentioned in 11.22.63 and Dallas City Hall, even though the building itself isn’t that impressive, there are some interesting sculpture outside of it.

Dallas is nice place to walk around too, because it has a lot of really nice architecture.

A great thing you can do there is buy a City Pass booklet. You can buy these for a lot of a different places, but it isn’t always worth it. In this case, it definitely was!

You can buy your City Pass book online and pick it up at one of the attractions, or you can just buy it there and then. Usually the offer includes 5/6 (but sometimes more or less) of the cities top attractions, but you get them for around half price. In this case, it had the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, The 6th Floor Museum (or the Dallas Zoo), The Reunion Tower Geo Deck, and The Botanical Gardens (or The George W Bush Library).

We chose to do the Perot Museum, The 6th Floor Museum, and The Reunion Tower. We had also wanted to do the Botanical Gardens, but we didn’t get round to it. All of this cost us $46 instead of the $77.32 it would have cost to do them separately.

We picked it up at the Perot Museum, and the ticket also included a short film. We chose A Journey To Space, which was about how far we had come with space travel, and what the future holds. It was really interesting! The museum is really fun! It’s very interactive, one of the best museums I’ve been to. It was really busy though, I counted about 5 school buses in the car park.

After that, we walked to Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum. I want to write about this in it’s own separate blog, but I will say that the Plaza is really beautiful and the museum is very interesting, although it is still haunted by the tragedy that happened there in 1963.

We saved the Reunion Tower for evening, just before sunset. It was the first of many tall towers that we traveled up on our visit. The building itself is very interesting to look at, especially at night when it’s lit up. It’s definitely worth a visit. Once you’re up there, you can see for miles, and it also overlooks Dealey Plaza. The views are stunning.You can walk out onto the deck – it was very windy when we were there so keep a hold of those skirts! – and inside there are interactive computers which are pretty fun to play with.  The beers weren’t actually that expensive either.

I loved Dallas. If we were to go again, I wouldn’t mind exploring a bit further out, and I would really like to go to the Botanical Gardens too.

Our Favorite Places to Eat and Drink

  • Ellen’s Southern Kitchen – This place is wonderful! I’d read about it, but wasn’t too sure where it was. We weren’t looking for it, we just stumbled upon it whilst we were hungry. I’m so pleased we did! It was busy, and I had read that the wait could be a long one. We got a table straight away,but we did indeed have to wait while both to order food and for it to arrive. It was totally worth it though, I think the service is so slow because they are so busy. I ordered a fried chicken sandwich and it was perfect. I haven’t had one better since. It was the perfect combination of moist chicken with a thick crispy skin. I’d go back to Dallas just for that.
  • The Purple Onion – This was a great find! We were looking for somewhere to eat breakfast – and struggling – and just came across it. It was really busy and I think they were short of staff, but the food was great! I had a double stack of pancakes with strawberries. Yummy!

The time to leave Dallas unfortunately came, but it did mean that we were on our way to one of the most interesting places I’ve ever been! New Orleans.

To get there we got a plane from Love Field Airport. Our journey was quite literally, Planes, Trains and Automobiles!

You can read more about our trip to New Orleans here.

New Orleans

Arrived: 31/03/2015 Departed:04/04/2015

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Louis Armstrong Park. Photo Credit – Sweet Silver Linings Blog.

New Orleans, what can I say? If it’s possible to fall in love with a city, I think I might have done. What an amazing place!

We stayed in two places whilst in New Orleans. The first was another Air BnB find, a little two floor annex about 20 minutes outside of the French Quarter by car. It was really nice but it had really weird stairs in it, they were like jigsaw pieces that weren’t together, and the bedroom was downstairs but the bathroom was upstairs. There was no TV – although that wasn’t a big issue because we didn’t really need one – but we did have a full kitchen and a really comfy bed. There was a flooding issue at one point, when there was an almighty downpour, but the owner refunded some of our money. It was a bit annoying that it was so far from the French Quarter, because that’s where we spent most of our time but we didn’t realize it was so far. We stayed here for four nights.

We moved to the Hotel Royal in the French Quarter for our last night. It was one of more expensive ones but we thought it would be nice to treat ourselves to a fancy French Quarter hotel. It was nice, but not really what we were expecting. It was comfortable and it had this beautiful courtyard and there were loads of stairs leading in every direction, it made me think of that scene at the of the Labyrinth where Sarah has her final confrontation with the goblin king! The room was pretty small though, and the bathroom had a lot of wasted space, so we didn’t really understand that, and the plug sockets were in strange places. So if you’re looking for a fancy hotel, I would possibly have a good look around first, but this place was really nice.

We went to the French Quarter every day. I know there are other places to go in New Orleans, but it’s so interesting! There is so much to see, even just sitting people watching is wonderful. You can walk to the Mississippi, sit in Jackson Square Park, walk around the very beautiful Louis Armstrong Park, wait in line at Cafe Du Monde, and even walk around with beer in plastic cups!

We did venture away from the French Quarter one did, and did something I never thought I would – we went to a shooting range! It was my husbands birthday whilst we were away, and this is what he asked for. I personally went through a terrible moral conflict in deciding if I wanted to actually go and take part. I don’t really agree with guns, or other weapons for that matter, but I did go because it’s important to understand things you don’t agree with.

So on the most rainy day we saw – and one of the only days of bad weather – we set off to St Bernard Indoor Shooting Center. Not only were they really helpful when I was struggling to book, but they were so professional. The lady that tought our course was great. She knew how nervous I was and she was so patient with me. It wasn’t just a really educational day, but it was fun! They teach you safety before you even get to hold a real gun, using a fake, rubber gun. My husband really enjoyed it too! They even called us a cab when we had finished.

We did a lot in NOLA, I think we were busy pretty much every day. You should absolutely go on the  Natchez River Cruise! It’s a huge gorgeous steam boat, with big red paddles. It was $79 each – possibly a little pricey – and you get a buffet dinner with a jazz band, as well as your cruise down the Mississippi river. We told them that it was our honeymoon when we booked, so they even put a little sign on our table. Whilst your cruise down the river, taking in the beautiful views you will also learn a lot about New Orleans. The cocktails were a bit unpleasant, but the food was quite nice. It was really fun!

You can’t go to NOLA without doing a cemetery tour! We did one and it brilliant. I’m reserving this for it’s own blog, so I can go into a lot of detail! I will say this though – it might seem like a creepy idea, but it’s fun and really educational!  We used Ghost Adventures and did the Voodoo and cemetery tour, and I really recommend it!

Whatever you do in NOLA, you’ll have a great time. It’s a vibrant, beautiful place filled with lovely people, great music, good beer and delicious food! Catch some live music, a burlesque show or peruse some of the fantastic little stores, not forgetting a lovely food market.

Our favorite places to eat and drink

  • Cafe Du Monde – Once we were in the French Quarter, this was our first stop! Despite the fact that the line was SO long. Everyday this place is busy, even late at night. The only time we saw the line shortened was when it rained, and when after 11pm. You don’t need to worry about the lines though, because first of all you can only order one thing, and second of all, it’s totally worth it! They sell Beignets, decent sized fried doughnuts covered in powered sugar. They are like little pieces of heaven! You can sit in or take out – the line is long for both, but the take out takes longer. Once you get to the counter all you needed to do is order your drink, and tell them how many bags you want (each bag has three in them) and pay. To sit in, the line goes down quicker, but once you get a table it takes a while for someone to take your order, but similarly all you need to do is tell them your drink orders and how many orders you want. We went  three times, although we wanted to go more.
  • Naked Pizza – One stormy night, when we decided we wanted take out, we struggled to find anywhere that would deliver, but Naked Pizza saved us from eating milk duds for tea! We shared a BBQ pizza at 11.30pm and it was delicious!
  • Monty’s On the Square – We went here one morning for breakfast, it’s really nice! It was super busy – it was actually spring break in NOLA whilst we were there – so we had to wait, but we got to do so with drinks in the sun! Mimosas are my new favorite thing! I ordered the Amaretto French toast with the banana foster, although it was a bit too much – one of the bigger portions I had – but I managed it all! My husband went for a mountain of blueberry pancakes.
  • Jax Bistro Bar – We drank A LOT in NOLA, but this was my personal favorite bar! We went a couple of times, and the bartender recognized us and struck up a conversation with us which was really nice. It had a great atmosphere and good beer!
  • Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar – This place is pretty awesome. We learnt on our Voodoo and Cemetery tour that it’s the oldest building in the USA to be used as a bar. It’s got a great atmosphere and a live pianist! It’s pretty pricey though but worth at least one drink there!
  • Barcadia – This is a really cool bar. It’s filled with old arcade games! Plus, it does really nice chicken wings, and alcoholic root beer!

I was pretty saddened the day we had to leave NOLA. Our next stop was Washington, DC but we had to figure out how we could get there. We could either get a train direct, or stop off in Chicago for a day. The train route is a bit of an odd one, but we chose to stop off in Chicago for the day.

It was still a long 19 hour train journey to Chicago, filled with uncomfortable sleeplessness.

To get there, we went through  –

  • New Orleans, LA (Starting point)
  • Hammond, LA
  • McComb, MS
  • Brookhaven, MS
  • Hazlehurst, MS
  • Jackson, MS
  • Yazoo City, MS
  • Greenwood, MS
  • Memphis, TN
  • Newbern, TN
  • Fulton, KY
  • Carbondale, IL
  • Centralia, IL
  • Effingham, IL
  • Champaign, IL
  • Homewood, IL
  • Chicago, IL (Stop off for the day.)

Chicago

Arrived: 5/04/2016 Departed: 5/04/2016

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Cloud Gate. Photo Credit – Sweet Silver Linings Blog.

When we finally pulled into Chicago, I was so relieved. We had roughly 9 hours to see the Windy City, so we wanted to make the most of it, without wandering too far from the train station.

We stepped off the train and were shocked to find we had gone anywhere from 70-85 degrees nearly every day we had been away, to an unbelievable 30 degrees! That’s -1 degrees to us! It’s cold in England, but we mostly have the trouble of wet weather with okay-ish temperatures. Thankfully, we had our coats, scarves etc.

We headed straight for Millennium Park, and we were delighted to come across Cloud Gate when we got there. We didn’t actually know where it was, so it was a nice surprise! I really loved this sculpture, I thought it was really interesting and loved how it captured the skyline. An absolute must see!

We walked through Millennium Park, which is huge and beautiful, down through Grant Park and Hutchinson Field. From there we walked to Lake Michigan. There is little beach here, and the lake is HUGE. From there went along to museum campus and walked past a lot of great Museums, but we didn’t have time to go in any of them. Then we walked all the way back around to Navy Pier. On our walk, we got to enjoy lots of outdoor art including the giant heads of the Chinese zodiac.

Navy Pier is really nice, one of the biggest piers I’ve ever seen. There are a lot of stores and places to eat, and the views are great.

It’s a really long walk, and here I must remind you of an important rule of travelling – if you see a toilet, go. No matter how little you need to go, just do it. Sometimes waiting until the next stop might seem fine, but sometimes, the next stop isn’t for miles. On our walk we saw about 6 or 7 public toilets, but not a single one of them was open. They were all due to open April 22nd. I’m guessing this is the busy season, because that’s also when all of the fountains were due to be switched on.

Once we left Navy Pier, we went off in search of a pub and pizza! After buying pizza for our train journey, we decided to head back to the station. When we got there, my husband came up with a wonderful idea – asking if we can book into a sleeper coach for the night! We were close to exhaustion from not sleeping, and then being busy. We just couldn’t take another sleepless, uncomfortable 19 hour journey. As luck would have it, one was available and although it was a big expense, it was one we could afford!

I can’t remember the price, but I can tell you that it included an evening meal, breakfast and we got to wait in the comfortable lounge with complimentary drinks and snacks! The staff were incredibly helpful and friendly, and our little room was so cosy! It was really small, but it had bunk beds in it, one which attached to the ceiling, the other that folded up into two chairs. There was a little table, and best of all, no strangers! We could shut out the rest of the train, and at this point we ready to do just that. We weren’t even bothered about seeing the country side. Of course, we did have the pizzas to eat, followed by a free dinner… but we managed! If you can afford to do it, then do it. It’s so worth it! There was even a little shower next the loos on this end. It was actually better than some hotel showers!

Our Favorite places to eat and drink

Pizza Due We really wanted a Chicago deep dish pizza experience, and this place was recommended to us. We found it, and it did not disappoint. I ordered an individual which I assumed would be a single slice, and my husband got a small. His small was more like a medium, and my individual was a bit like a quiche in size! I got a BBQ chicken, and it was delicious. I have never seen a deep dish pizza like this.

I’m afraid that’s actually all I can offer you food wise, and I don’t actually have a bar to tell you about either.

If we had planned a bit more ahead, we could have done more with our day, but it’s hard to do so when the Amtrak WiFi doesn’t work. I wouldn’t have minded trying somewhere else for breakfast – the place we went was okay and did the job, but whilst trying and failing to find the name of it, I have discovered loads of nicer looking places. However, it was enough to make us want to go back and spend more time there.

On the train, blissfully unaware of the outside world, we went through the following places –

  • Chicago, IL (Starting point)
  • South Bend, IN
  • Elkhart, IN
  • Waterloo, IN
  • Toldeo, OH
  • Sandusky, OH
  • Elryia, OH
  • Cleveland, OH
  • Alliance, OH
  • Pittsburg, PA
  • Connellsville, PA
  • Cumberland, MD
  • Martinsburg, WV
  • Harpers Ferry, WV
  • Rockeville, MD
  • Washington, DC (Final destination.)

For more on this part of our journey, click here.

Maryland & Washington, DC

Arrived: 6/04/2016 Departed: 10/04/2016

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The Washington Monument. Photo Credit – Sweet Silver Linings Blog.

This section has two names because we didn’t actually stay in DC, we actually stayed in a place called Silver Springs in Maryland. It was a little bit too expensive to stay in DC, and Silver Springs is about 15 minutes, maybe a little less, on the metro. It was really nice too! We’re pleased we ended up there, because it was different to anywhere else we had stayed.

We found an Air BnB – the last of our trip – that was perfect.We had a spare room in a house owned by a really lovely couple. We also pretty much had our own bathroom. If anyone else used we had no idea. They had a lovely garden, and they were more than happy for us to sit in it, and even joined us round the fire pit one night. They were so welcoming, and let us use the kitchen and were more than happy to have chat with us on an evening, and they were so interested in everything we doing and had some great recommendations!

There loads of stores and restaurants a short walk away too, and the train station wasn’t too far so we could get to DC easily, which is something we did every day because there is so much to see and do!

Aside from the White House, which in itself is pretty fabulous to stand outside of – but it’s pretty tricky to get a visit nowadays, ordinarily you would make an appointment through the British Embassy, but at present the tours on hold – there is so much more.

National Mall is the place to be. It spans 1000 acres and within it, you will find so many stunning sculptures and monuments, and surrounding it, many museums.

My favorite part of National Mall is being reserved for it’s own blog, that being the Reflecting Pool and the surrounding monuments, but I will tell you now that they are stunning! You can read that blog here.

D.C will keep you busy for hours. The Library of Congress is a must see, it’s so beautiful! It’s free to get in, although you can’t access the actual library or “reading room” without a library card, there are different exhibitions on and you can see the Thomas Jefferson Library. You can view the reading room though, which for me was pretty exciting!

From there, you can take an underground tunnel over to the Capitol Building. This is a pretty cool thing to do, although it’s not “secret agent” as you might thing. There are security checks to go through, you can’t take any water or food in. You get used to these security checks though, especially on that side of the country. If you’re going to the Capitol Building, and I really recommend you do, I would book a tour. We didn’t and once you get in, you can have a basic look around but there isn’t much more to do. You can have lunch there though, which is an interesting thing to be able to say. Mind, it wasn’t that great.

Make sure you fit in as many of the Smithsonian Museums as possible. Why? Because they are all free, and considering they are all free, some of them were the best museums we went into during the whole trip! We did…

  • The Smithsonian Botanical Gardens – This place is beautiful and it offers one of the biggest collections of Orchids in the world. It wasn’t even on our list but when we passed by it, we couldn’t resist!
  • The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – This is huge. I would actually go here first so you have enough time to get around all of the exhibitions. There is some really fascinating stuff in here,  and I learned a lot not only about space travel, but the history of air travel. I couldn’t believe it when I clapped my eyes on what the interior of airplanes used to like! We had to come back here the following day because we didn’t quite get around it.
  • The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History – This isn’t the one that is used in The Night At The Museum, that one is in New York, and do feel that this one is better! It was more interesting, also huge like the Air and Space Museum. We really enjoyed it.

We had wanted to do  more museums and possibly could have fitted one more in on our last day, but we were also pretty warn out when it got to that point!

You can also go to the Ford Theater, where Lincoln was shot. We did go but couldn’t get in. It was interesting just to see it.

The time we spent in Silver Springs itself was mostly spent wandering around the shopping area just taking in the sights. We did use the Cinema, my husbands first I-Max experience. We went to see Superman Vs Batman much to my disappointment but that isn’t something I’m going to get into now. The cinema itself was pretty cool, and it was an interesting experience ever so slightly different to what we do at home. Something that I think you should partake in if you get the chance. It was really strange to me though that we had come all the way from San Francisco, coming down through L.A, and it was this little place called Silver Springs where we had our cinema experience!

The time came to leave, and we booked our transport to New York, our hotel, and an excursion to Canada, then off we went.

Our Favorite Places to Eat and Drinks –

  • Quarry House Tavern – This place was recommended by the lady we were staying with. The food was great. It was an interesting place in itself because the previous location had burned down, so it was kind of temporary place. You can order a 1/2 pound or 1/3 pound burger. I went for 1/2, although I was taken a back by the question at first. A combination of never having been asked that in the past, and me being very bad at maths. I ordered the BBQ with bacon and swiss cheese, on rye bread and a side of tator tots. We also got a side of onion rings. My burger was DELICIOUS, and very different to any other burger I’ve ever had. The tator tots were lovely, although more fried crispy outside than the potatoie goodness like I had expected. The onion rings were huge. I would like to see the onions they use. They also have a great selection of beers!
  • Pete’s Diner – I believe we saw this on Trip Adviser. I was a bit dubious when we went in, but actually they did delicious chocolate chip pancakes! The staff were also super friendly and it was right around the corner from the Library of Congress.
  • Bete Ethiopian Cuisine and Cafe – There are a lot of different types of cuisine in Silver Springs, and our hosts kept recommending them to us. We had so far pretty much eaten American food, with the exception of a few places and thought hey, why not try Ethiopian. It was a really relaxed atmosphere and they could tell we had no idea what we were doing. They told us that if we ordered a couple of dishes, they would come out sort of like a platter on an Injera which sort of like a pancake. It has a bit of spongy texture and it is delicious. We ordered some Lamb tips, which came in the middle and was surrounded by the veggie combination that we ordered to go with it. He then explained that it comes with your own Injera, which you tear up and use to scoop up the food. It was so delicious! We also got some Ethiopian beer which was really good.
  • Pacci’s Pizzeria – Again, we went here on our hosts recommendation. My husband loves pizza, and I quite like it but I can be fussy about it. Here, I had one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. I ordered a white pizza, which comes without the tomato sauce. I got the Mast’Nicola, which comes with smoked mozzarella, roasted peppers and Italian sausage and it was so good. I even somehow managed to fit in a Limoncello Shortcake after. I’ve never had shortcake and it was so good!
  • The Lincoln Waffle Shop – This was quite an experience.It was super busy, and the waiting area is tiny. The restaurant itself is set out in quite a strange way, and we got to sit at counter that was in the window, but there was space for a server to get in front of us. I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the place, and it was sort of like get in, eat, get out, but in a nice way. I really wanted a waffle, but I couldn’t get my head around the whole sweet and savory mixed together, and that was what was on the menu so I went for chocolate chip pancakes again. They were yummy! I really recommend giving this place a go.
  • AG Kitchen – We had one evening where we – mainly me – couldn’t quite decide what we wanted for tea. Okay it was all me. I had some feeling I guess, I knew I didn’t want a burger and I wanted to go somewhere that served sort of home cooked grub, comfort food type stuff. So, I knew if we were at home, that would have most likely been pub grub. We did try a pub but it was pricey and not really what were looking for. Then we found this place. It was just what I was looking for. I ordered the fried chicken which was really good – although it still didn’t beat Ellen’s, in Dallas – and my husband got some ribs. We were both really happy with out food choices! They came with pineapple fritters, chipotle mash, and honey salsa.

The morning we left, we walked the short distance to the bus station and caught a bus to New York City.

To read more on this, click here.

Canada Excursion

When we arrived in New York, we actually only stayed for one night. We really enjoyed it, but we wanted to go on a little trip to Canada. We had thought about just doing it ourselves, but decided it would be easier and potentially cheaper if we did a tour instead. So that’s exactly what we did. However, I  have decided that I will actually give that it’s own separate blog, because it’s not like any other part of the trip that we did. To read about it, check out my blog post “Our Whistle Stop Tour of Canada.”

New York City

Arrived 10/04/2016 Departed 11/04/2016 (Went to Canada)

Arrived 14/04/2016 Departed 21/04/2016

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Cherry Blossoms in Central Park. Photo Credit – Sweet Silver Linings Blog.

We stayed in three different places in New York. Because it was sadly the end of our trip, we decided to splash out a bit, however we discovered that splashing out in New York, isn’t always the same as splashing out elsewhere. By this I mean, the prices you would pay to splash out, can actually turn out to be just good hotel rather than a fancy one.

First, we stayed in the Wyndham Garden, in China Town. It was by far the nicest, and we almost went back after we had been to Canada. Complete with roof top bar, our room overlooked China town and it was a nice size, it was very comfortable and the staff were lovely.

When we got back from Canada, we moved to a place called the Days Inn. It was okay, but I not great. We had requested a room higher up in the hotel so we would have nice view, but we didn’t get that. The WiFi barely worked, and whilst the mattress was comfortable, it didn’t quite fit the bed properly and the TV didn’t work brilliantly. It looked fancy in the lobby but that where that ended. It was in a pretty good location though.

For our final hotel, we moved to the Mansfield, what we thought would be our luxurious treat. Don’t get me wrong, it was a beautiful hotel and it was in walking distance of Times Square  but it wasn’t quite what we had in mind. The room was tiny and dark, with no view, and what seemed most ridiculous was that you had to pay $14 a day to use the WiFi, unless you wanted to sit downstairs. When you’re spending a couple of hours planning, plus you use the internet to communicate with your family, you don’t always want to sit down stairs but needs must. There was no way we were going to pay that much, when we were already paying a lot for an expensive hotel. The bathroom was really nice though!

New York was fabulous! Once again, very different to anywhere else we had been on our trip.

There are two things that are particularly important when visiting NYC. Firstly, walk everywhere or get the subway. Get a bus if you can’t get the subway. I can’t understand why anyone drives around, it’s so gridlocked. We made the mistake of getting an Uber somewhere, and it took us twice as long as it should have taken us.

Secondly, if you want to get nice views, go up! It’s easily done, there are plenty of high rise buildings that have viewing platforms or decks. The problem is though that you might struggle to see much from low down.

We got another City Pass booklet here, which was really helpful. This one got us The Empire State Building Experience (A day and evening visit), The American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Top of the Rock Observation Deck (or the Guggenheim Museum), the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises) and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum (or Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum)

This cost us $116 rather than the $194 it would have cost us to do them all separately so I would really recommend doing this!

Going up the Empire State Building was amazing, it’s such an iconic piece of NYC’s skyline! It also has a little exhibition in it, all about the building. They are pretty strict once you’re up there, you just have to lean funny and they will tell you to get down! It’s a must see though. It was lovely to go back at night too, and whilst you’re there you can grab a bite to eat because it has restaurants inside of it.

I actually preferred going up to the top of Rockefeller Center though. It’s pretty much the same views, but once you get to the main viewing platform you can actually get up higher so you can see further, and it means you can spend a little bit more time up there. There’s a lot of other stuff going one inside Rockefeller too, including an number of shops and restaurants.

The American Museum of Natural History was a lot of fun, although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit disappointed. I suppose that’s because I’ve seen Night At The Museum, and whilst I knew the exhibitions wouldn’t be running around, it doesn’t look much like the museum in the film, and the only piece I could find from the film was the Easter Island head. It was still fun though!

The MET was a different story, we REALLY enjoyed that. You could spend all day in there, there’s so much to see! Some of our favorites include the Temple of Dendur, the medieval sculpture hall, the Van Goh collection, and the sculpture of Perseus holding Medusa’s head. Amazing! I think it’s the best art museum I’ve ever been to.

The Statue of Liberty was an interesting one. You get the boat to the island, and there was quite a line when we went. There is airport style security to get in but the boat ride was really nice. Once you’re on the island, it doesn’t take long to walk around the statue. If you can get tickets to go inside, I would. We couldn’t, I think you have to book those in advance because there were none left on the day. It’s pretty fascinating seeing the statue, and the view from the island is wonderful. Once you leave the island, you can get dropped off at Ellis Island, but we didn’t actually have to do that because that night, we were going to a Broadway show!

That show was The Lion KingI was thrilled when my husband said he wanted to go and see a show, it’s not usually his thing. I was even more delighted when he said he wanted to see The Lion King! We went to the Minskoff  theater, where it plays, early on and bought tickets for that night. You can buy them in advance, but we did this because we wanted to get them as cheaply as possible. I think we payed $90 for seats 7 rows from the front. The downside was that they weren’t together, but they were only two seats apart and the couple that was sitting between us let us switch so we could sit together. It was a breath taking play and it was even better to see it in New York.

Broadway is near Times Square, and it was really nice to come out when the show was finished and take in the screens and the lights at night. The atmosphere is amazing! It’s really nice to go there during the day too mind.

Another thing you have to see whilst in NYC is Central Park. We loved it, but I’m going to save that for it’s own blog because there is quite a lot to talk about – you can read that here! I will say this though – take some water, a map and go for the day!

Now, we aren’t big shoppers but if you’re going to shop anywhere it might as well be NYC. We were lucky enough to hit Macy’s one day Super Saver Saturday Sale – trying saying that five times fast! It doesn’t even last a full day! We didn’t realize it was on until the morning we went, otherwise we probably would have gone for it opening. Saying that though, it was quite a pleasant shopping experience, it wasn’t as busy as we feared it would be. What’s even better is some of the retailers give you an extra 10% off if you’re visiting!

There is a lot to see in the Financial District too. I would say this is the place to go for a good walk. Whilst you’re there, you can see the 9/11 memorial, and the new World Trade Center. Which is really beautiful. The memorials have been done so well, they are beautiful, peaceful and very moving. Even though we had a ticket for museum, we didn’t go in. We felt that seeing the memorials was enough for us, that in itself is very emotional.

Another great stop off is the Charging Bull, although there’s a chance due to high demand you won’t be able to get very near it! There’s also the Flatiron Building, which is  a really beautiful, iconic piece of NYC architecture. Whilst you’re looking at buildings, you can also find the exterior of the Friends apartment too! Admittedly this was a little underwhelming, after all it is just the exterior, but still it’s another tick in another box!

A great way to spend a sunny afternoon, is the High Line Park. This is a disused rail way line that has been turned into an urban park with flowers and greenery, as well as some great art installations. It offers some lovely views and even has a few nice sunbathing spots. Make sure this is on you’re list of things to do!

New York was a fantastic end to our journey. We felt safer than we thought we would, it’s a great place to walk around and there is so much to see and do! To think we never actually left Manhattan!

Our Favorite Places to Eat and Drink – 

  • Pies and Thighs – This is a great little place, it had quite a wait but it had such a brilliant selection of food! We would have gone back if we remained in the area. I got eggs and cheese on a biscuit, followed by bourbon pecan chocolate pie! Yum!
  • Fig 19 – Ask no questions, get no answers. Go to this address – 131 1/2 Chrystie Street, NYC, Tuesday to Sunday – you’ll enter a gallery, ask for the bar – Fig 19 – show your ID and in you go. That’s all I’ll say. That and dress nicely. Do it. DO IT NOW.
  • Rooftop 93 – This is actually at the top of the Wyndham Garden Hotel. There’s a roof top bar, but there is also one on the floor below. We wanted the roof top but it wasn’t open. This bar was great though. Fantastic views and brilliant drinks. I ordered the silver fox, it was so yummy. We even got a free shot of bourbon for being on our honeymoon!
  • Manhattan Diner – We actually found another diner very similar to this one, The Metro Diner. In fact, it was pretty much the exact same diner, so I’m assuming they are a part of the same business. Anyway, I liked this place for breakfast, although we did also come for tea one night too! The breakfast was possibly the best waffles I had whilst we were there.
  • Tick Tock Diner – Who knew Lemon Ricotta pancakes were a thing? Now I do and I am so happy about this! We sort of stumbled upon this place when we were hungry, and stopped for breakfast! So delicious!
  • Vino Levantino – The day we came here became known as the day we had three mimosas with breakfast! It’s opposite the Days Inn hotel, and it had a special offer on – they were $3!  It was very different to what we had eaten so far, but I think that’s great. I had baked eggs, and then I had some baklava. Both were delicious.

  • The Tavern on The Green – This is an expensive but worth wile stop off at Central Park. It was super busy when we went, but we stopped in for one drink, and managed to squeeze in at the bar. This was another mimosa for me! It was a shame because it cost the rest as the other cocktails, which I don’t really think is fair considering it’s only two ingredients but hey ho!
  • Heartland Brewery – Located in the Empire State building, this is a lovely place. We both had really yummy fried chicken sandwiches, and some great beer!
  • Caffe Reggio – This lovely place boasts being the first cafe in the USA to serve cappuccinos! We hadn’t planned on coming here, but like with so many other places that we just happened across, we were happy we did. It was sadly our last breakfast in America, but they had a great brunch deal on – coffee, mimosa and pancakes! YUM! Some of the best pancakes we had the whole trip!
  • Bills Bar and Grill – This is where we went for our last meal in the USA. I had a really delicious burger, and one final root beer. It’s in the Rockefeller Center, and it’s a pretty nice place, wit great food and a good atmosphere.

Sadly, that’s where our trip came to an end. We went back to the hotel, finished packing and went to sleep, only to be woken up at 2.50am to be taken to the airport.

That’s when we found out that New York really is the city that never sleeps. There were actually some stores open, some traffic on the roads and construction workers working away! I probably could have gotten a little more sleep in the back of the shuttle, but I wanted to take everything in.

It took us quite a while to get to JFK, and once we were inside we had no idea where we were going. At that time of the morning, there aren’t many members of staff around, but eventually someone did come a long and told us we were in the wrong place. We eventually got checked in, and through security – I did get a quick pat down because I had a tissue in my pocket… – and then we went off to grab a snack and wait for duty free to open. Not that we bought anything, although I did go into a book store and add another Stephen King novel to my collection!

Our flight – finally a British Airways one – went relatively smoothly. I made full of use of the TV screens in the back of the chairs to pass the time! It doesn’t take too long to get to London from New York either.

After nearly missing another connecting flight due to security checks, and me not being able to run very fast, we were back in Newcastle, being hugged by my in-laws who were delighted that we’d returned safely.

It’s two months later, and I still can’t believe we are home.

Thoughts On America

Travelling America has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I loved every single place we went to. Leading up to the trip, i was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy it as much I was hoping too, and I completely proved myself wrong. I enjoyed it more than I thought possible!

I would go back in a heart beat, and for the most part, I would even go to the same places and the same stuff. There are things we didn’t get to do though and places we couldn’t see, so I would also love to tick some of those off the list!

America to us, was filled with friendly people, beautiful sites, fascinating histories, and delicious food! I loved every second of it. I think it’s a place that everyone should try to experience at some point in their lives. It’s such a vast place, and each destination is so different from the next.

Here are just a few points that I haven’t mentioned previously…

  • Dunkin’ Doughnuts –  We called into a couple of these. They some tasty food, but nothing particularly special. I wouldn’t have minded trying somewhere else. Coffee was so-so.
  • Taco Bell – We had to try a couple of American fast food joint, so we did this and one other place. We were very interested in this because we have nothing like this at home. I was bit disappointed to be completely honest. I thought it was bit difficult to see what was on the menu, and the food was nice but I don’t think I would go back.
  • Wendy’s – This was the other fast food place we tried, and I really enjoyed this one. Although very similar to a typical fast food restaurant that sells burgers, I would say the food was nicer than most places.
  • Hershey’s bar – I think this taste awful, but my husband seemed to enjoy them. Part of the problem for him was that a lot of American chocolate seems to have nuts in it, and he doesn’t really like nuts, especially peanuts!
  • 3 Musketeers bar – YUM. It’s sort of like a combination of a milky way and a mars bar.
  • Twizzlers – Neither of us see the big fuss in these, they didn’t really seem to have any flavor.
  • Root Beer – I love root beer, and so far it’s been quite unavailable over here. However I’m starting to see it in more and more places.
  • Yellow Cab – We preferred either an Uber or a subway… even the bus! We found the drivers to be quite unfriendly, and it was expensive.
  • Time Difference – I thought I had this all figured out but then daylight savings happened, at different times in each of our countries. When we were on the train going from California to Texas, we got a bit confused as we were travelling long distance so we passed through different ones.
  • Jet Lag – Jet lag can be such a pain, who wants to be flat out when you could be exploring? We found it really helped because our flight was so early in the morning, we could sleep a little on the plane but mostly we were awake the whole time. By the time we got to San Francisco, it was late afternoon. All we had to do was make sure we didn’t stop for a few hours. Once it was past 9, falling asleep was fine! I had a problem with waking up really early – like 4ish – and being fully awake, but that didn’t last long. Coming home was the same really. We stayed up past midnight, and then slept for as long as we needed to the next day. Other than being a bit tired for a few days, we didn’t really seem to have any negative set backs. Keeping hydrated is really important too, it can be temping to just start drinking coffee to keep yourself awake, but that will probably do more damage.
  • Safety– This biggest safety tip I can give you, is use your common sense. If you keep things in your trouser pockets, make sure they are at least attached or that you have you’re hands in your pockets over the tops of them. Ladies, use over the shoulder bags, and keep them on your front with a hand on them. Don’t go down dark alleys, or anything like that. If you someone end up on a sketchy street, keep your head down and speed up! Don’t advertise

Coming Home

On our first morning back in the U.K, I woke up and had no idea where I was. We had arrived home late, and stayed up for an hour or so. I slept unbelievably well, and it was the sun shining through the curtains that woke me up. I slowly opened my eyes and I had to think really hard. Our bedroom was, for a moment, a strange place. So were the light switches, and the flush on the loo! I’ve never been out of the country for more than two weeks at a time, and I’ve never really had to adjust to anything. Staying in an all inclusive hotel doesn’t really require that. Travelling across a strange country does take some getting used to, and I felt that I adjusted quite well. The pavements became sidewalks, I became a really good pint drinker and I got used to waiters and waitresses bringing us the bill before we had finished eating.

I was, and still am, sad to be home. I missed our family and friends of course, and nothing beats a cup of tetley tea in my opinion. I would have preferred it if all of those things could have come over to us though!

We do have some amazing memories, and I’ve enjoyed telling anyone who will listen about our travels. I feel like travel does change people, although I don’t think this trip has changed me drastically. Whilst America was very different to the U.K, it was also very similar in the sense that we pretty much had everything we have here, and compared to some, we were travelling in luxury, even though we were on a budget. I did live out of a back pack for 6 weeks though! Whilst we didn’t travel in a 3rd world country, or see horrendous devastation, we did see the biggest homeless population I’ve ever seen, and the worst drought we’ve ever seen, as well as the sites of many tragedies, which can be a huge eye opener. Plus, being away from home and your loved ones for so long really makes you appreciate them.

Travelling has definitely made me more confident in myself, and it’s made me realize that some things aren’t quite as scary as they seemed. I never thought I would be able to use a shared bathroom, or that I would be able to sleep in so many different places – I struggle to sleep if I’m not familiar with the place I’m in – not to mention learning to live with the amount of things you can fit in a back pack!

It’s also made me long to go on adventures, rather than those ever popular beach holidays. I want to go somewhere that I can explore! Sure you come back from a week in the sun feeling relaxed but does it really stick with you? Is it worth the money to just lie around all week? Maybe sometimes, but now I know what I would pick given the choice.

Thank you for having us America, I hope we see you again soon!



Categories: travel, wedding

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Trackbacks

  1. Our Whistle Stop Tour of Canada | Sweet Silver Linings.
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  3. These Are A Few of My Favorite Things – Part 2 | Sweet Silver Linings.
  4. Our American Adventure- Part 2 | Sweet Silver Linings.
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