Friday, September 7, 2007

Visit All Fifty States Of America - California

After being taken, kicking and screaming out of Hawaii, even the lure of a limo to take us to our hotel in San Francisco didn't seem appealing. I loved Hawaii and didn't want to leave, so this city that was foggy and cold, just didn't seem to fit into our schedule somehow.

It took me most of the next day and a trip to Alcatraz for me to begin to settle into this strange city. People had said that it rates higher than New York, but personally I have to say I prefer the Big Apple. Alcatraz was amazing, though a little over crowded with tourists - if I ever go back I would definitely do the night tour, as I would imagine it gets really eerie once dark.
Over the next couple of days we spent our time visiting Fisherman's Wharf, watching the seals wrestle each other on Pier 39, riding the trams and general hanging around Union Square. We also did the standard tourist bus tour, which enabled us to go over the Golden Gate Bridge. Just the sight of the bridge was amazing (I rate it alongside seeing the Statue Of Liberty) and to also see many of the streets that hosted many an infamous car chase was surreal.
Only the climate seemed to let us down - part of the city tour was obscured by the fact that there was a heavy blanket of fog settling over the city. I think if San Francisco had been warmer, than I would have looked at it more favourably, but it's certainly a city that I would revisit at some point and I certainly would like to see more of California, so this may be Part 1 of the California trip, who knows.

Visit All Fifty States Of America - Hawaii

There are certain images you tend to conjure up in your mind, when you think of Hawaii. Sun kissed beaches with palms trees swaying, mesmerizing sunsets and hula dancers a plenty, to name but a few. You won't be short changed by any of these when you go.

Hawaii was the second destination on our honeymoon and as we took out of Vegas as fast as we possibly could and boarded the 5 hr flight to Oahu, we were a little hesitant to what to expect. As we drove through the back streets of Oahu, the approach appeared to be similar to that of Vegas and my heart started to sink somewhat - I just couldn't cope with another hotel like the one in Vegas! But fear not! The Hotel was wonderful, the room was great and we even had a sea view, what more could you wish for!

I had been warned that the island was very built up and not as remote as it may seem, of which it was, but somehow it doesn't take away the magic of the island - it's just so beautiful. One thing that struck me about the native people was the laid back attitude that they all had. It was so soothing after being in a pressure cooker of a place like Vegas. They have a saying 'just hang loose' and they do literally that! The only frustrating part is when you are waiting for a taxi or coach to take you there and then it arrives 45 minutes after the pre booked time - they are just so relaxed it's untrue!

Places of interest that we visited; Pearl Harbour - personally did nothing for me, found it very over rated and not worth queuing at 7:15am just to get in. I do feel compassion for all of those who died, but just didn't appeal to me! Paradise Cove - a traditional Luau, complete with tour guide that keep saying 'cheerio old chap' every time someone mentioned England? No, I wasn't quite sure what century he was living in as well! This was a wonderful experience where you got to witness at first hand the traditional games and crafts and also watch a traditional island style show. Of course we had to be sitting next to the most annoying woman ever, that reminded me of the old lady from There's Something About Mary - you know the one that looks like a wrinkled prune! Sea Life Park - probably one of the best sea life parks I've visited and gives you the opportunity to view all the sea life in close proximity. Also gave me chance to check the honesty of the people around me, as I decided to leave my brand new digital camera on a bench, of which a kind Japanese tourist handed it in to the lost & found. Hawaii Volcano Adventure - sometimes you just have to do the traditional tourist thing and this tour of the big island gave you the opportunity to view volcanoes and the terrain that NASA used to train astronauts. Oahu Island Tour - for a film/TV geek like me this was superb! Not only did this give us a tour of the beautiful island, you also got to see places that were used to film Fantasy Island, Magnum (we knew it was for this show, due to the huge moustache over the gate post), Jurassic Park and Lost. At one point we actually got to see the plane that is used to film the scenes in Lost. Wow, I hear you saying, but it made my day!

As I was dragged, kicking and screaming from Oahu, I would definitely go back . It was just an amazing place, the stuff that dreams are made of!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Visit All Fifty States Of America - Nevada

Ah Nevada, the seventh biggest state in America and home of the most famous gambling city in the world. You know sometimes, when you have an instinct about something, you should really act on it? Well from booking our package holiday for our honeymoon, I had decided that Las Vegas was the least place out of the three that I wanted to go to, but as it was a package deal and the only other option was LA (I had watched a TV programme about the 200+ gangs in LA, which put me off just a tad), then Las Vegas it had to be!

Arriving at the strip early evening after a 10 hr flight from the UK, we saw the Mirage and the Treasure Island and started to get quite excited. Okay, it looked like Disney Land on acid, but hey it was better that what I had anticipated. Then we started to pull out of the main strip and away from all of the expensive hotels and into the seedier district, past the massage parlours, sex shops and hey presto there was our Hotel - I was not a happy bunny! Inside was like something out of the 1970's and our room was very basic, no drink making facilities or anything fancy to say, hey this is your honeymoon, have a good time in Vegas on us. We ordered room service that night and 2 days later the remains still stayed outside our room in 94 degrees heat. It wasn't until we went to our welcome meeting next day that we realised all the rooms were like this, designed for you to constantly stay out of your room and gamble in these glorious casinos. Ha! Well the plan failed, let me tell you! Not once did we part with our well earned dosh, not even to slip the odd quarter in a smoke infested slot machine! We did however, part with our cash in the wonderful shopping malls of Caesars Palace, so I guess they got it back from us in some shape or form, but hey, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo - who cares?
I have to say at this point, that there were certain aspects of Las Vegas that were enjoyable. The shopping obviously, the fact that we took a gondolier ride at The Venetian in downtown Las Vegas was just surreal! The helicopter ride that we took over the strip at twilight was amazing and the trip to the Grand Canyon was breathtaking.
Las Vegas, I believe, should be taken as it is, with a pinch of salt and definitely just be used for a base to travel to areas around. Glad I saw everything at first hand, but probably wouldn't go back!