A month exploring the delights of the boot, including Venice, Milan, Turin, Genoa, Pisa, Florence, Rome, Bolgna and Verona. All by train, pew.
Location: Tenby, Wales
And I cant believe how quickly it has gone. Feels like yesterday I was getting up at 3am to go to Heathrow. Ive managed to cram so much in: 6 flights, half a dozen Greyhound bus trips, over a dozen hostels, countless postcards sent, thousands of miles travelled and thousands of photographs taken to document it all. Im exhausted just thinking about it!
My favourite bit? It has to be a toss up between watching the sun set off the top of the Empire State Building, and watching the sun set over the Pacific from El Capitan beach, Santa Barbara. But snorkelling in Hawaii, the Bellagio fountains, the cherry blossoms in Washington, Muir Woods and Yosemite are all up there in my top 10.
Ive uploaded a few last photos, from Hawaii and my two day stopover in Washington. Enjoy!
Big love to everyone I met during my travels, and definitely keep in touch. If I cant find a job, Im uping sticks and disappearing on a gigantic world adventure to visit each and every one of you!
Love to all, thanks for the messages, and, until next time, farewell!
Location: Washington D.C., USA
I'm half way home! Jet lag is already starting to kick in as I've lost 5 hours coming from Hawaii. But couple of days to readjust here before the final leg of my journey. So excited about coming home, everyone clear your diaries, a reunion is on the cards!
Off for a final wander around the sights tomorrow (not that they will have changed much since last time I was here, but bit nicer not to have to wade through the snow).
If anyone is up early Sunday morning, don't forget to look up, I might be in ones of those planes overhead (get into Heathrow at 9.30am). Try and spot me waving!
Location: Waikiki, USA
Thought it was about time I updated you all on the shenigans of Hawaii. Despite the fact that I have spent copious amounts of time on the beach, I have also managed to fit in a few other activities. Mainly beer pong, which is very time consuming and requires alot of effort, but aside from that, I also spent a day at the Polynesian Cultural Centre. Entering that place, I think I died and went to heaven. It is full of, what appeared to be at first glance, the entire New Zealand rugby team wandering around in grass skirts and nothing else. It was great! Unfortunately it wasn't them specifically, but I think most of the boys there could give them a run for their money. After the ogling, I also got to learn a bit about the Polynesian islands, which include Hawaii, Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand and Tahiti. Watched a man play a nose flute, alot of men beating drums and a slightly unhinged tour leader climb a coconut tree. At the end of all the cultural stuff comes the luau, when you eat...alot and watch more half naked men prance around on stage. And the whole day is rounded off with a huge show where all the different islands do their traditional dances, one of which included alot of firey sticks being thrown around the stage. Great fun had by all, and definitely worth a look if you're bored of sitting on the beach all day. Though it is run by Mormans, and once you know that, it feels a little creepy as you begin to notice how they try to get everyone to visit their temple. But avoid that and it's great!
But unfortunately all the fun has to end this evening, as I fly out to Washington DC for a couple of days before returning to sunny (it had better be!) Wales on Sunday. So I guess I shall see you all soon!
For now though, I going to cut this short and spend my last few precious hours topping up the tan.
Next time you hear from me I'll be half way home!
Location: Waikiki, USA
Still here, still sunny, still spending the majority of my time on the beach.
Though I did do the cultural thing and went to Pearl Harbour on Wednesday. Not really that much to see there, but the memorial for the USS Arizona (one of the battleships sunk in the attack) has been built right on top of the wreckage, which is just under the water. And apparently holds the dead bodies of over 900 men that couldn't be rescued when the ship went down. Rather creepy! Expect to see a bloated hand come floating up to the surface! But it was nice to see there wasn't a picture of Ben Affleck or Josh Harnett in sight.
And yesterday, I conquered my fear of the sea and went snorkelling. And it was definitely worth it! The place to go is Hanuama Bay, which is supposed to be a "hidden gem" but everyone knows about it, it was absolutely heaving. But still got to see plenty of fish, one of which was the size of a large dinner tray and you could hear it biting off chunks of the reef. Didn't want to really get that too close to that one. I like having all my fingers, thanks. It is like a different world down there though. For most of it, all you have is the sound of your own breathing filling your ears, and you just float over these massive expanses of reef, with fish darting everywhere. It was very easy to get disorientated, thinking you've swum for miles and then you stick your head up and you are only about 10 metres from shore, and visa versa. But great to see, and it didn't once cross my mind that I could get eaten by a shark (honestly). Took plenty of photos with my snazzy little underwater camera, which made my look like a complete grockle. Hopefully they will come out, and if not, I'll just have to go back! What a shame!
Location: Waikiki, USA
Have finally got round to uploading a selection of photos from the past few weeks. Don't worry, there are plenty more, and I will be subjecting you all to a slideshow upon my return!
Location: Honolulu, USA
In Hawaii now (finally left dirty LA behind), don't intend on doing much for the next 8 days except lying on a beach and reading alot of books!
Beautiful island, or at least the bits I've seen thus far. Rather an abundance of palm trees, and very tanned people. Looking alot like the newcomer at the moment, what with having a skin colour that doesn't resemble tarmac, but I'll catch up soon enough!
Location: Los Angeles, USA
As long as we beat the English, we don't care, indeed!! So proud of you boys, just gutted that this stupid country doesn't understand the concept of rugby and therefore won't show it on the telly. Hmph. I'm sure they'll release it on DVD, will have to watch it upon my return.
Still in LA. Attempted to go for an explore yesterday but got lost because this city is just ridiculously huge. And then in the evening, attempted to go celebrity spotting but to no avail. And the girls I'm sharing a room with have seen Paris Hilton and Benjamin McKenzie, to name but a few! I just don't think I'm concentrating hard enough! Well, one more day to see if I can turn my luck around, and then tomorrow - Hawaii! Woohoo!
Location: Los Angeles, USA
Blumin' heck, apologese for the lack of update on here, has been yet another manic few days. Can't remember where I left you now...Sunday night in San Francisco? So yeah, Monday...
Monday, met up with three guys who I toured with in Yosemite, Ben (the Aussie) , Mike (the Bristolian) and Johnny (the Scot) and after much faffing about and attempting to navigate the endless maze of online car rental companies, we (and by we I mean I) managed to book a beautiful (if not rather cheesy) red Mustang convertible for three days, for our road trip down the Californian coast to LA. After much squealing and "that's so cool!!" in the car rental office, we finally managed to stuff all four of our bulging backpacks into the boot (it's was a work of art, I'm telling you), and with Johnny's guitar on our knees (which was soon to become the bane of our existance), and the top down we set off through San Francisco, with the help of Belinda the satnav, on our way out of town and onto Highway 1. As soon as we set off, we made a wrong turn, and it went on from there!
Beautiful weather, fantastic scenery, cool car, great company, slightly cheesy American music and Highway 1. What more could you ask for! That first afternoon we made our way through Santa Cruz, after stopping at a lighthouse and being very lucky to see dolphins and a whale swimming out at sea, and seals bathing on the rocks. Didn't stop in Santa Cruz for too long, bit too much of the Blackpool about it. Finally ended the day in a hostel in Monterey. And, for traditions sake, seeing as we were roadtripping in California, in the grand old US of A, we spent the evening...in a British pub run by a man from Caerphilly with a cockney accent. Just like home! Good fun, cheap beer, weird locals - definitely just like home. And so that was Monday.
Tuesday - up (relatively) early and back in the car for the next leg of our journey. Destination - Santa Barbara. Via Big Sur, the 17 Mile Drive and a lovely stretch of freeway. Mike was doing all the driving and I felt truly sorry for him, because Highway 1 south of Monterey, along the Big Sur coastline, is ridiculously windy, full of hairpin bends, and very high cliffs. But beautiful, and bizarre because we kept driving through patches of mist, just hanging around the headland, before returning to blazing sunshine. Stopped for lunch for American size buerittos (read - huge), and for an afternoon stroll at the base of the hill under Hearst Castle (a "castle" built by some crazy media tycoon years ago, that has Zebras roaming wild in the garden). And finally to Santa Barbara, not before stopping to see the sun set over the Pacific, with dolphins swimming in the sea, in a very picture perfect manner.
Booked into a hostel in Santa Barbara, right next to the trainline (thought I'd left that experience behind in Flagstaff), and headed out to the local version of St. Mary's Street, and a true student bar where the music was scarily similar to the playlist of the Sands. Was great fun! Finally got to go dancing! Utterly pooped at the end of it, but totally worth it.
And so to Wednesday. After yet another lie in, we headed out for some breakfast on the seafront in a proper American diner (with booths and everything!) and then, back into our lovely car, for the last leg, down the freeway to the sprawling city of Los Angeles, and to a hostel on Venice Beach. Literally, right on the beach, in amongst all the freaks! Was great for people watching, and competing with each other to find the weirdest person/sign/t-shirt/piercing... After we'd had our fill of the freaks, we jumped back in the car, with the top down (taking full advantage of the fact that we have it!) and headed into the city, and north onto Sunset Boulevard, just as the sun was setting. Going through Beverly Hills, over Santa Monica Boulevard, past all these incredibly posh and ridiculously huge houses, was just truly surreal. Also stopped off outside the Viper Room, attempting to get a glimpse of Johnny Depp, but to no avail. Then, with the help of Belinda, we managed to find Hollywood Boulevard, and cruised past Mann's Chinese Theatre and the Walk of Fame, followed by a fruitless attempt to find the Hollywood sign in the dark, before returning back to Venice Beach, and an early night.
Next morning, it was time to say goodbye to our Mustang, and to Mike and Johnny, who were heading south to San Diego and on to Mexico (good luck!). Ben and I headed up here to a hostel in Hollywood, where I am now. After a lovely hour and a half bus ride (to do 14 miles I might add, how ridiculous is that?! I have never seen so many traffic lights, and stopped at so many traffic lights, in my life!) we finally checked in, and then went out for an explore down Hollywood Boulevard. Managed to see Tom Cruise, Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Steven Spielberg and even The Simpsons. Ok, so it was just their stars on the Walk of Fame, but it's still pretty cool!! And if anyone ever goes to Mann's Chinese Theatre, beware! Out front is just full of failed actors dressed up in bizarre costumes, including a really hilarious midget in a Chucky costume that kept chasing people around with a sword. Only in America! We were lucky enough to catch a film in the Theatre. 300, if anyone is interested. Good film if you like your over-the-top blood and gore, and scantily clad men with rippling six-packs but lacked a plot and a point for that matter. From there we ended the evening in the Cat and Fiddle, which is apparently really well known but it means nothing to me! And so, to bed.
And then today. To be fair, haven't actually done anything today. Attempting to get my breath back! Just said farewell to Ben, who is off to Las Vegas, and so now I'm back on my own again, and attempting to catch up on all those e-mails etc. that I've neglected over the past two weeks. Have had a fantastic time here in California, from the crazy Michigans in San Francisco, to the unhinged hostel owner and mullet man in Yosemite, to a road trip in a convertible red Mustang down the Californian coast. And I have taken shed loads of photographs for evidence, which I promise to upload just as soon as I can find a computer that will let me do it (the ones in this hostel are rather basic, to say the least).
Have two more days here in LA, before I fly out for the beaches of Hawaii. Think I might make a pilgrimage to Rodeo Drive, see if I can spot a celebrity, and then head back down to Venice Beach for one more night before attempting to navigate my way across this gigantic city at 6 in the morning to get to LAX. Wish me luck with that!
Big love to all.