Location: Miami and Beyond, USA
Travelling in the USA, we are travelling in the USA!! (Bruce Springstein stylie)!! Yeap you guessed it we are now in the USA and have been for about three weeks so let us tell you what we have been up to so far...............
Monday 5th - Friday 9th June - Miami, Florida
We started our trip in Miami and what a place to start, when we arrived we were so happy to be there, it was clean, spacious and people spoke English something we haven't been used to for a while. We stayed at Clay Hostel which used to be the home and casino of Al Capone the gangster and it was where scenes from Miami Vice and The Specialist were filmed and although we were told it was one of the nicest hostels in the USA it wasn't very impressive but considering the prices of other places it would do. The first day we arrived the weather was not looking good and we had planned (well I had) to spend the four days here on the beach so as you can imagine I was concerned that it wouldn't improve. On our first night there we happened to walk past a tattoo shop and not just any tattoo shop but "Miami Ink" the famous tattoo shop from the tv series and as Luke has wanted a tattoo since we were in India we decided to join the huge queue inside -while we were there Luke got to meet a few of the guys from the show but they weren't going to be doing any tattoo's that night as they were filming the next day! After a few hours we went back to the hostel as Luke was in a lot of pain and unfit to do anything else!!
When we woke up the next morning we couldn't be happier the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day so we got out the sarongs, hired two loungers and we stayed put all day. We pretty much did that for the next four days and it was amazing to be able to relax and enjoy the weather. The beach was beautiful, the sea was rough but blue, the sand was white and the amazing hotels lined directly behind the beach along with the many starbucks!! On our third day on the beach Luke thought he spotted a movie actor he could have sworn at first that it was the guy from Gray's Anatomy but then he realised that this was no actor but actually a football player by the name of Sunny Amavich (Not sure if we have spelt that right) but he plays in the middle of the park for Bryn Munich a German team. He wasn't sure whether to say anything but as he was leaving he asked him and the guy said that he was who Luke thought he was and he had a picture with him, later when we saw him in Starbucks he came over and said hello - he was a really nice guy!! We spent our evenings here looking round the many shopping malls, and enjoying a cocktail here and there in the thousands of bars that they have. Just before we left Miami we were able to watch the first England game of the World Cup it wasn't the best atmosphere at 8.00am in the morning in a nearly empty bar but we seen it. Miami is a beautiful place, you need to have lots of money here really but it was easy and enjoyable just to chill and enjoy the sun but we would love to come back here on a holiday and eat out and go clubbing every night.
Saturday 10th - Tuesday 13th June - Vegas, Nevada
Our next stop was Vegas Baby!! It is fantastic here and we had a great time, we didn't want to leave. As soon as you arrive at the airport there are hundreds of slot machines so you know that you are in for a good and different time. The strip runs through the middle and is full of hotels, casinos and there are lights, entertainment and people everywhere!
For the first two nights we stayed at the Circus Circus hotel and casino and it literally was a circus, this was at the North end of the strip. We spent our first night here walking the strip taking in all the amazing lights, shows and entertainment that each hotel has, there is a pirate show at Treasure Island, a volcano erupting from another one, a mini New York, a pretty big Eiffel Tower, watershow at the Bellagio and people gambling everywhere which was a lot of fun to watch. When we went to bed the first night and got up the next day for a trip to the Grand Canyon there were people still sat there from the night before gambling away their money except now they looked tired and broke!!
Our second day there we did a coach journey to the Grand Canyon it was a long day as we had to cover 1200km return trip but we stopped at Hoover Dam which was impressive, through Route 66 (a famous road overhere) and then two different stops in the south rim of the canyon. It was really impressive and you just can't believe how big the canyon actually is - it's 277 miles long and about a mile deep - its big!! It was late by the time we got back and we were knackered even though we hadn't actually done alot and unfortunately we then had to take a trip to the hospital as Luke had a throat infection and couldn't breath - but he is ok now so need to panic.
On our third day we had a treat from the first day that we booked our trip in STA travel we had decided that we were going to stay a night in the Bellagio the only 5 star hotel and casino in vegas and because it would be for only one night we decided to it properly and we stayed in a Lakeview Salone Suite and it was the most amazing hotel room ever! We had a king size bed, a sofa, sky tv, a whirlpool bath, seperate shower, dresser, two sinks, and the toilet was a in a seperate part. Then on each side of the room we had two huge windows one side looked out to Caesar Palace and the other out to the strip and with a whole view of the lake in front of the hotel where they have a watershow every 15 minutes from the afternoon to midnight and when we turned on a particular channel we were able to listen to the music that went with the show it was incrediable. We had a look around the strip and then came back to our room had some drinks, got ready and went downstairs for the all you can eat buffet which was great we were totally stuffed. We decided that as we had spent so much money on the room we would make the most of it so we went upstairs to watch the watershow, drink alcohol, nibbles from the room service and movies it was great and definately an amazing night of luxury but of course we wanted to stay there for another night but we were sensible and checked out the next morning.
We then spent our last night in the Sahara which was not the best but it would do although it was at the end of the strip and was a bit rundown. That night we had yet another buffet (it's the only way to eat here honest) and then we got dolled up had some more drinks and decided to try a bit of gambling first in Caesars Palace and then back at our hotel but unfortunatley neither of us were any good at it and decided to not waste any more money so we hit the penny slot machines but still it's sad to say that we are not millionaires!! We had a great time in Vegas but again would love to come back with money and smart clothes we didn't want to go to shows as we didn't have the right clothing but definately next time - definatley a place for hen and stag weekends or just an amazing long weekend!! Oh and we forgot to mention that we had a meatball and cheese subway here and it was the best one ever!!
Wednesday 14th - Friday 16th June - Dallas, Texas
Dallas was really different to our last two stops, it was extremely spacious between buildings and areas, buildings were low and were very dull but that might have been because we had just come from Vegas. We stayed in the Quality Inn which was pretty cool it was comfy, had a restaurant and a swimming pool. There wasn't that much to do here but we were only here for a few days so it wasn't too bad. On our second day we watched the England game this time in our room the commentary over here is really strange so it is hard to get into it like we would at home ( I don't know who I am kidding Luke was of course very much into it!). In the afternoon we caught the shuttle to the Sixth Floor Musuem which is the former Texas School Book Depository and where the alleged Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK from. When you look out the window the exact spot where JFK was shot is marked in the road and the museum gives accounts of the time before, when it happened and the arrests and reaction afterwards. They even had speeches and related issues to JFK it was really interesting. We also seen a memorial plaza dedicated to JFK and the conspiracy museum. Around the area of Dealey Plaza the buildings and area look more colourful and interesting. We didn't actually feel very safe in Dallas there were alot of gangs on the streets. The following day we sunbathed and chilled around the swimming pool as the weather was very hot and basically we couldn't be bothered to do anything else!!
Saturday 17th - Sunday 18th June 2006 - Seattle, Washington
We actually went to and from Seattle a few times over a few weeks as we used it as a base so we got to know the city quite well and it is very beautiful. We were told that when the sun isn't shining it is just ok but when the sun comes out it's like a whole different place. This was true and it is definately a beautiful city, the first place we strolled around was Pike Place Market and there is so much going on here, they have every type of food you can think of on every stall. There are a number of fresh fish stalls where they have guys behind the counter and guys that stand near the crowds of people that accumalate and when someone orders fish it gets thrown from one person to another before being thrown to the person buying in the crowd it kept us entertained for ages - it sounds weird but it was very interesting! We were a bit stuck on things to do on the Sunday as everything was shut even Starbucks which we couldn't believe! So we took in the sights that you could get to by foot such as Occidental Park, the famous Elliott Bay Book store and Pioneer Square it's a real nice chilled out place. We were actually pretty lucky to be alive on our second day here as some strong detergent had been used on the carpet in our hostel room before we had checked in and it became so strong and overpowering that at 3.00am we had to move rooms just so we could breath in some normal air- I started to hallucinate at one point which was obviously not good.
Monday 19th June - Friday 23rd June - Vancouver, Canada
We decided that as Vancouver was only four hours away from Seattle that we would jump on the greyhound coach and spend a few days here. It reminded us a lot of places in New Zealand it's so beautiful and set inbetween mountains and lakes, the hostel was clean and the sights within Vancouver were amazing, unfortunately we didn't have enough time to visit places outside of the city. While we were here we had a walk around the city's waterfront which gives spectacular views of the port, the lake, the city and the amazing mountains that surround it all, its pretty breathtaking. Of course on the Tuesday it was England v Sweden so off to an Irish pub we went where we met lots of other English people and drunk far too many english drinks. We ended up taking part in an all dayer and came back to our hotel quite a few hours later very drunk but a fun time had been had by all! We thought we would do something different on the Wednesday so we hired bikes around Stanley Park - this is a park that goes on for miles which is why a bike is the only way but its an amazing park and has some great views. At first I had actually forgotten how to ride a bike I was all over the place and then of course for safety reasons you have to wear a helmet which Luke took off but I kept on just in case when I was riding at 3mph I fell off - dont laugh!! On the ride around we had fantastic views of the city, beaches, lighthouse, the park itself and the swimming pool that they have overlooking the beach it was a real nice day and something a bit different. We spent our other days here taking in different areas within the city such as Gastown the first town in Vancouver, Granville Island where they have many markets and entertainers and the vancouver lookout which gave us a view of the city and beyond and drinks in the many bars they have that line Granville Street.
Saturday 24th June - Seattle, Washington
Well we caught the greyhound back to Seattle today, we only had one day so we were told to head to Kerry Park a small area that gives a good and free view of Seattle skyline and the space needle but unfortunately for us the bus driver forgot to tell us when to get off and we ended up somewhere far far away, after another three attempts to head in the right direction but in fact the wrong direction we gave up and just went back to our hostel and watched tv and to finish the day off there were no mixed dorms so we had to sleep in separate rooms which was very strange.
Sunday 25th - Friday 30th June - San Francisco, California
After only being in Seattle for one night we took yet another greyhound this time to San Francisco but this journey was slightly longer than the last as it took us 22 hours and the coaches are not very comfy, they don't serve food and they don't show movies but hey we were off to San Francisco!! After the 22 hours we finally arrived at the Adelaide Hostel where we were staying in a four bed dorm and where we got to meet a great couple Maria and Jamie who are from New Zealand. We did so much here that it would take us days to tell you everything so we will give you a brief description. The best way of getting round is to get a three day transport pass which allows you to get on any bus or tram within a large area as many times as you like and believe me you need to do this as the length of the roads are huge and are extremely hilly - I thought I would walk it all but I literally wouldn't have seen anything. When you go to San Francisco the main thing that you want to see is of course the Golden Gate Bridge and for the first three days we were unable to see the bridge or parts of the city due to the thick smog that sets over the city, you just can't believe how thick it is but it takes away many sights and it just comes from nowhere. We were really lucky on our last full day there as the smog and clouds were nowhere to be seen so we had an amazing view of the bridge and the bay across from it, it was pretty fantastic so of course we took full advantage and walked across it. While we were here we also seen Pier 39 where seals now live, Fisherman's Wharf a buzzing little seaside place, Coit Tower a lookout point, Lombard Street the crookediest street in the world, the amazing shops and of course the fantastic Alcatraz. We had originally booked to visit the once prison by night first off I chickened out but I came round and then the night we had chosen was overbooked so we were moved to a day time visit but it doesn't matter when you see this place it is still unbelievable. It is a mile and a half from San Francisco Bay this way the prisoners would see what they were missing out on, quite a few prisoners actually escaped and very cleverly to and some were famous such as Al Capone it is such an interesting place and the size of the cells is scary. San Francisco is one of our favourite places and we would love to come back and see more of this place maybe even live here for a while.
Saturday 1st July - Seattle, Washington
Well we were back in Seattle for a final night, again we had to sleep in separate dorms which was weird but we did finally make it to Kerry Park which as we were told did give an incredable view of Seattle skyline and was worth all the hassle.
Sunday 2nd - Wednesday 5th July - Chicago, Illinois
Chicago is not what we expected, it is so much better. The place is all about the skyline and sky scrapers it is a beautful and fascinating place as you have the tall buildings, the beautiful parks, hundreds of cafes and restaurants, amazing shopping and amazing beaches inbetween it all. We were really lucky to be here for the 4th July celebrations and they really made an effort they had a lot going on from the evening of the 3rd and the best thing was it was all free. On the evening of the 3rd we went to Grant Park where fireworks were taking place at 9.30pm, the park had fair grounds and stalls all selling a variety of foods and it was full of people, at 9.00pm when the roads were shut everyone was allowed to head towards the waterfront to watch the fireworks it was pretty amazing (although not as good as Sydney on New Year) and the atmosphere was electrifying. We spent our days here walking the Magnificant Mile (a great place to shop), the Navy Pier where we watched the semi-final, the Millenium Park where they have various bridges and interesting artefacts and Buckingham Fountain one of the biggest in the world. We also spent an afternoon on Ohio Beach which was very peaceful considering when you looked to one side you had a motorway and sky scrapers. We didn't expect to like and enjoy Chicago as much as we did and of course a slice or two of Chicago town pizza obviously helped.
Thursday 6th - Saturday 8th July - Boston, Massachusetts
Boston is the most expensive place other than Vegas that we have visited in USA, the hostels were overly priced and they weren't even that good. The main things to see here in Boston are related to history and we found it really interesting plus it was different to any other state we had seen or been. We did the Freedom Trial one day which took us to 16 historical sites around the city and took us about 4 hours. It took us through markets, graveyards, churches, government centres and monuments to many who lost their lives at different times over the last few hundred years it was really interesting. We decided to finish off the day in the original "Cheers" bar that was used in the tv series. It used to be called the Bull & Finch and it was actually only the outside of the pub that was used but inside there are many artefacts from the set. We had the best burger and chips ever (they were Boston's best burgers), beers and wines served in a Cheers mug, it was a good atmosphere and of course we had lots of photos taken outside we were real tourists getting all excited and camera happy!! We also did a tour of Harvard University in Cambridge which was pretty fascinating but it was to much information to take in although one thing we do remember is that the university has 90 libraries and the biggest one has 3 million books in it.
Sunday 9th - Saturday 15th July - New York
Well, of course we were finishing our trip off in the one and only New York, New York - we couldn't wait to get here but it was also sad that it is was our final stop, scary that in a few days we would be flying home and exciting that we are actually in NEW YORK!! There is so much to see here that we just wanted to fit in as much as we could although if we missed some things it didn't matter as we will be coming back here again in the winter some time. On the first day we arrived we showered, dumped our bags and found a good old pub where we could watch the final of the world cup and of course an Irish pub didn't disapoint. Us and hundreds of others sat and stood in front of the many screens with our fingers crossed that Italy would win and when they did it was time to celebrate - even though we had already started the drinking celebrations about two hours earlier. After a few hours of drinking far too much although it doesn't take a great deal to get us drunk at the moment we stumbled out of the pub having made some new friends and up the Empire State Building to get our first glimpse of the Big Apple - wow!! We got an audio tape so that we knew what each building and area was and any history that came with it, it was interesting and we had to pinch ourselves that we were here the views were awesome. We spent the next few days taking in the Statue of Liberty (which was another one of those breathtaking sights), Ellis Island, Rockefeller Centre, Grand Central Terminal, Chylser Building, Times Square by day and night, Central Park, St Patrick's Cathedral, the very sad site of Ground Zero and St Peter's Chapel that stands behind it with lots of photos and messages (couldn't help but cry and feel sad here) and then of course we took in all the major shopping areas, SoHo, 5th Avenue, Madison Square Gardens and Lexington Avenue. One night we took a walk over Manhattan Bridge to take in the sight of Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan while the sun set behind it which was one of the highlights of our week. Then on our last night we wanted to celebrate where we were and how far we have come so we got dolled up as much as we could and enjoyed quite a few bevvies in a number of pubs in Midtown and Chelsea we had a really good night, we had lots to drink and lots of fun it was a great way to end the trip. We stayed in two great areas, for four nights we stayed at a hostel that was ok but in a great spot at 30th and 8th Avenue right by Madison Square Gardens and for our last two nights in a hotel on 51st and Lexington that wasn't far from Central Park - we wanted to treat ourselves to two nights in a hotel right at the end the hotel was modern and was a perfect ending to the perfect trip! We have to say we were completely knackered by the time we got on our plane to fly home on the saturday evening but it was well worth it, all of it.
Oh, one more thing we have forgotten to mention is the fact that good old Luke talked the check in lady at JFK airport to upgrade us and so she did to Business Class she apologised that First Class was full but would Business be ok? OK it was the best news especially since we were allowed in the lounges with free alcohol and free snacks not a bad finish we'd say - well done and thank you Luke!!
Well it's now back to reality, alarm clocks, routine and living a normal life which might be quite hard at first but it does mean seeing family and friends that we have missed so much over the last 9 months - yes we have been away for 9 months some parts have gone slow for us some have gone way too fast but it has made us appreciate our family, friends and what we have. We have had some amazing adventures, seen fantastic and breathtaking sights and have met some awesome people and became closer and shared moments with friends we already have.
So after 25 flights, numerous coaches, trains and boats we hope you all enjoyed our journal - so until the next time!!
-There and Back Again by Shimmy and Westy.