Travel

The city that never sleeps

Las Vegas is an adults playground. Instead of swings there’s roller coasters, and instead of sweets there’s booze. What once was wasteland of the Mojave Desert, is now a pulsating vibrant city. When in Vegas we tried to cram as much in as possible, and the few days were pretty hectic!

What amazes me is the fact you can walk from one hotel to another, without actually stepping foot outside. Throughout the hotel’s there are travelators which will transport you from being inside a pyramid to a castle… it’s bloody brilliant.

After hours of persuasion, I finally got my mum to agree with going on the roller coaster that surrounds The New York New York Hotel. I haven’t laughed so much in my life. Whilst in the queue, I read a sign that said “WARNING: Do not ride if you have high blood pressure.” and I panicked… my mum has high blood pressure. I turned into a nervous wreck,  and my head flooded with thoughts… what if I my mum dies… I would’ve killed my own mother. She thought it was hilarious, and teased me by saying she’s just written her will which didn’t settle my panic at all. As we got towards the front of the line my nerves settled down, as I realised that I wasn’t nervous for my mum, I was simply hiding my own nerves. The roller coaster itself was a jolty old thing, but had some fabulous (upside down) views of the Vegas Strip. It’s definitely worth it.

Two of  my all-time favourite photos were taken on that roller coaster…

Notice how calm and collected we look in the first photograph, and well, not so much in the second.

Las Vegas does everything 11/10, and then some. The fountains at the Bellagio are stunning, my mouth was glued open because of how much I was smiling. Not to mention how breathtaking The Venetian is. Picture this: a man sings to you on a gondola whilst sailing through a shopping centre, in a hotel. It looks like you’re outside, there’s rainfall, but actually it’s indoors. That’s how extra Vegas is.

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David Copperfield @ The MGM 

Whilst in Vegas my mum insisted that we had to watch a show. Apparently it’s tradition. I got to choose who to see, and I was given the option between ‘O’ Cirque de Soleil and David Copperfield. Although ‘O’ looked brilliant, I was always intrigued my illusionists and thought I’d be able to suss David Copperfield’s tricks out… oh boy was I wrong.

The venue, The MGM Grand, is exactly what it says on the tin. Grand. The casino was humongous, and full of drunk lads on stag do’s. What many people think is that if you’re under 21 you cannot step foot in a casino, but that’s not true. You’re just not allowed to pass the lines marked out beside the machines, otherwise that’s known as “loitering”. Anyway, back to Mr Copperfield…

I don’t want to ruin the show for anybody, just in case you do go and watch it for yourself, but let me just say that your brain will hurt. We were sat in the front row, and I thought I’d be able to see fishing wire and trap doors but I couldn’t fault it. He made a T-Rex appear from nowhere. I was so inspired that I went home and dug out my old magic kit, I’m not as good as Mr Copperfield but it was worth a shot.

Although Vegas is crammed with tourists, it is the cleanest place in the U.S. I’ve visited. I couldn’t see trash anywhere, apart from the countless Elvis Presley impersonators.

I could’ve stayed on the Strip for days walking through all of the hotels, but since we were so close to some of the worlds wonders like The Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam, we had to get out of Vegas and do some more sightseeing.

NEXT STOP… THE GRAND CANYON, AND HOOVER DAM!

 

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Travel

Hello Sin City

It is pretty much impossible for me to sum up my experiences in Las Vegas in just one blog post, so I’m going to attempt to explain everything in three. Now, where do I start?! I must admit visiting Las Vegas previously never appealed to me, but now I’m already planning my second visit for my 21st. What many people think is that you need to be able to drink and gamble in order to have a good time, but that is far from true. The crazy place has way more to offer than that. When heading to Vegas, I asked the tour guide, “What’s Las Vegas like?” but after visiting I’ve realised that nobody’s explanation will do the place justice, you need to see it for yourself.

What really got me was the fact you drive for hours through the Nevada Desert seeing nothing but sand and shrubs…

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… then suddenly you’re surrounded by flashing lights and towering buildings. The Las Vegas strip is absolutely mesmerising, driving down it for the first time I look to my left and see The Gold and Silver Pawn Shop (from Pawn Stars) and I look to my right and see an Elvis Presley chapel. I now understand why so many people drunkenly tie the knot in Vegas, there’s more chapels than fast food restaurants… and that’s saying something.

Our Hotel

The Vegas Strip is full of out-of-this-world hotels, not to mention that the architecture is immense. You can expect to see a castle, the New York skyline and an Egyptian pyramid all on the same stretch of road. We stayed in The Luxor, which is a hotel in the shape of a pyramid. It towers over 30 stories high, and has way over 4,000 rooms. The Luxor, just like every other hotel in Vegas doubles as a casino… and shopping centre… and chapel… and food court. It’s so big that a group of guys recorded themselves running a relay race around the hotel, which went viral. Don’t believe me? Take a look.

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Our hotel room was fit for a king. My mum and I both had our own king size beds, and the hotel room overlooked one of the many hotel swimming pools. Although the hotel was amazing, I couldn’t wait to get out and explore.

Travel

Pitstop in Fresno, CA

We decided to stop at The Piccadilly Inn, Fresno, as it was a half way point between San Francisco and our next destination… Las Vegas baby!! Not to mention that we were also absolutely shattered, and just needed to recharge our batteries. I decided to take the time in Fresno to reflect on my experiences so far, because the past 5 days had just been hectic!

Fresno itself was the most spacious city I’d visited in the US so far, with the roads through the town looking like highways. There wasn’t anything “touristy” for us to do, because we were just surrounded by locals which was actually really refreshing to see. We spent the remainder of our day soaking up the well needed sun, and spending time with our new friends that we had made. The tour guide also set up some light nibbles, so we could all to get to know each other, which was really lovely. We spent the remainder of the afternoon laughing, dancing and making great friendships which I still have to this day.

I also had my first afternoon nap… in years! American hotels tend to have MASSIVE beds, and we both had a king size bed each, so I was loving life. For dinner, we took a walk over to Domino’s, and treated ourselves to a pizza each. I, of course, had Texas BBQ.

 

Like I said, whilst in Fresno I reflected on my experiences so far…

Ever since I was a child, I’ve wanted to move to America, but I had never been. At first, I wanted to move to New York and become a singer on Broadway… so cliche I know. It then changed, and I decided I wanted to move to L.A, and that was one of the reasons we decided to do this tour of the US!

From seeing San Francisco, Yosemite and travelling to Fresno I was in love with the country already. One thing that I noticed was that everybody was so friendly, even all of the retail workers who were probably sick to death of tourists. Although, after speaking to some of my American friends at University, they’ve told me how everyone is incredibly fake. But the grass is always greener, hey?

I was having the time of my life, and couldn’t wait for the next stop – Sin City! Although under 21, I wasn’t going to let that stop me having the time of my life in Vegas. Prepare yourself for lots of amazing pictures!

NEXT STOP… LAS VEGAS BABY!

Travel

Yosemite National Park, CA

When my mother said we were visiting Yosemite National Park I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. I went in with a blind eye, because I hadn’t even typed it into Google. Although I am now dumbfounded as to how I wasn’t aware of the park, I am glad that I didn’t know what I was getting myself in for… because I was shocked at its unreal beauty. My jaw remained on the floor the entire time.

If you’re unaware, like I once was, Yosemite is a protected park in California, and has been since 1864. It covers 1,200 square miles of natural beauty, and is best known for its waterfalls, however you can expect to find deep valleys, ancient sequoias, and much much more.

What’s more, the park is also home to hotels which look just like homely lodges, and are surrounded by granite mountains. If I could go back, I would definitely stay in one of the hotels at Yosemite, I can imagine that it would be incredibly peaceful waking to nature at your doorstep.

For the day that I was at Yosemite, I turned off my phone and *cringe alert* decided to be at one with nature. I was able to admire everything around me, and absorb the tranquility of birds singing. It was amazing.

If you’re heading to Yosemite, definitely take some comfy shoes, because my feet were in bits by the end of the day. I also met the friendliest donkey, and that inspired me to adopt one when I got home – he’s a cutie and is called Mr Crusty.

Yosemite National Park has to be on your bucket list, 100%. It’s only a three hour drive from the built up city of San Francisco, but you couldn’t feel so far away from it. At first I thought I would be bored out of my brains, but oh boy I was wrong! I loved every minute, and it has definitely made me appreciate and value nature. Everyone needs to experience an eye opener like this at some point in their lives, and I’m grateful I got to do it so early on!

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My favourite travel buddy, My Mum♥.

NEXT STOP… FRESNO, CA!

Travel

Sightseeing in San Francisco

There is no doubt that San Francisco is rich in history, sights, and culture. As we were only there for 3 days, my mother and I had to cram in all of what we wanted to see. For years I’ve been interested in the history of ‘The Big Rock’, aka Alcatraz, so I knew that Alcatraz was a must-see for me! And of course we had to take a trip to the infamous Golden Gate Bridge, so prepare yourself for some very ‘touristy’ photos.

Alcatraz

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As you can imagine, Alcatraz is a high demand tourist attraction, so the only option is to book months in advance, but it is completely worth it. If you’re unaware, Alcatraz was America’s primary maximum security prison from 1934 to 1963, and was home to some of the worlds most notorious crime lords. It was built on an island just over a mile offshore of San Francisco Bay. It’s most famous for housing Al Capone, Robert “Birdman” Stroud, and for Alcatraz’s Great Escape!

As I stepped on the ferry, I saw Alcatraz in the distance, and as it eased closer, I could make out the water tower, and the prison blocks… it felt real. I thought to myself, “How could someone survive swimming through these choppy waters?” It hit me how people actually risked their lives to escape Alcatraz.

When the ferry docked on Alcatraz Island the atmosphere hit me, there was undoubtedly an underlying tone of sadness. Although I was surrounded by tourists, I felt isolated and alone with my thoughts. I looked up and saw the overbearing rusty water tower, and a wall that had “Indians Welcome” pained on it in big red letters.

The tour of Alcatraz itself was fascinating. You get to see pretty much all of the rooms inside of the penitentiary, and you’re also free to wander round the island for as long as you like (in moderation, unless you want to be alone at night there… I think not).

Even the shower rooms caused me to feel uneasy. No effort was made at all to make it comfortable for them – imagine showering next to 30 other people *shudders*. At an attempt to prevent the prisoners from acclimatizing to the cold waters of San Francisco Bay, an attempt to prevent prisoners from escaping, they were only allowed to shower with warm water.

We also walked round the prison blocks, and saw the actual model heads in the cell of B Block that the prisoners used as part of their escape plan. We also had the opportunity to lock ourselves in a prison cell, and take a photograph… and of course we jumped at the opportunity.

Ghost at Alcatraz?

On a more serious note, whilst at Alcatraz a trusted friend of ours chose to hang back from the tour and take some photographs on his own. He started taking pictures of the reception room, where there was a glass window in front of him. There was nobody around, and he can swear by it. When he got on the ferry he began to look through the photographs he had taken, and noticed there was clearly a woman’s face in one of the windows, but, like I had said, there was nobody around. What stands out to me is the fact that you can clearly see an elderly woman, with a bonnet on her head – which isn’t today’s fashion. Take a look for yourself…

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If you have any thoughts on the photograph, or have visited Alcatraz and have experiences of your own, please let me know. As soon as I stepped foot on the island I felt uneasy, and with all of the deaths I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some spiritual activity on the island. I’ve always kept an open mind.

The Golden Gate Bridge 

Of course when visiting SF we had to visit The Golden Gate Bridge! It was very busy (which is to be expected) but was beautiful seeing up close. It made me realize how small we people are in comparison to such colossal landmarks.

Fishermans Wharf / Pier 39

One thing I love about San Francisco is the constant happy and busy vibe it has. It’s such a diverse city, with buskers playing classic jazz to hip hop. Fishermans Wharf is a neighborhood that is popular amongst tourists, because of there being many quirky shops and stalls, and the post card views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.

In terms of shops you can expect to see everything under the (hidden) San Francisco sun, ranging from Forever 21 to a left handed shop. There’s also a Bubba Gump for you shrimp lovers. Whilst in San Francisco you must try a churro from the stall opposite the aquarium, I promise you you won’t look back! Amazing.

Fishermans Wharf is also home to the famous Pier 39, which is an area always full of sealions. When we arrived, we expected to see this, but we saw this…

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Oh well, at least we can say that we’ve done it!

Twin Peaks

A famous neighbourhood in the SF area is Twin Peaks. It’s on top of a hill, meaning that the views of the city are breathtaking. We decided to make our way to the top of Twin Peaks one morning to take some beautiful photographs of the city. Much to our dismay, it was foggy. So instead of having a lovely view of the cities skyline, we saw this…

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My mother and I still laugh about it to this day.

Overall Impressions

As a city, I think San Francisco is great. It has everything you need, plenty of shops, history, and it’s full of great people. The only downside for me is the weather, I found it very disappointing because it affected some of our experiences – but mother nature’s to blame for that. Also, I didn’t like how there are too many hills, because it meant I was constantly struggling to walk from A to B, that may just be because I’m lazy but it did affect my overall opinion of the city.

Would I recommend visiting?

Yes. Definitely. If you ever visit San Francisco, make sure you visit Alcatraz. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

NEXT STOP… YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK!

Travel, Uncategorized

First Impressions on San Francisco

As the red seat-belt lights began to flash, I felt my ears pop – the plane was beginning it’s descent to San Francisco airport. Looking out of the window, all I could see were clouds upon clouds… I turned to my mum and said, “Have we just been flying round in circles?” Despite this, I was itching with both excitement to start the holiday, and excitement to get out of the plane… being sat in front of a kicking child for 11 hours wasn’t great.

Our first night in SF was eventful. During the transfer from the airport to our hotel, we witnessed a lady being mugged of her weekly shop, and a homeless man attempt to break into a car. And that was within 2 hours of us landing. Once we arrived at the hotel, the receptionist provided us with a map. He highlighted the places we should visit, like Fishermans Wharf, and also highlighted a grey area where we shouldn’t go… ever. It was just a block away from the hotel, and was where drug raids were as common as Lucky Charms and Fruit Loops.

Before you go to San Francisco, here’s some things you need to know…

San Francisco itself is like one large maze, there is a grid system, and instead of talking distances in miles, they talk in “blocks”. Oh, and walking around San Fran is like one large workout. It’s on a hill, so you’re guaranteed to some home with extra large calf muscles. Make sure you visit Nob Hill, and bring your walking shoes… it’s massive!!

 

 

This is my emotional journey of walking up a hill in San Fran

 

If you’re expecting to have the ‘Cali Weather’, you’re in for a shock. I visited in early July, and the highest temperature must’ve been around 25 degrees C. Make sure you pack a few jumpers, and a rain mac! For the weather is just as hormonal as it is here in the U.K.

Stay tuned… next I’ll be talking sightseeing.

  • The Golden Gate Bridge
  • Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Pier 39
  • Shopping
  • 4th of July
  • … and the breathtaking Alcatraz

 

 

NEXT STOP… SIGHTSEEING!

Travel, Uncategorized

Western USA Road Trip 

So this fortnightly theme is going to be on travelling outside of the UK… and what better place to start off than The Land of the People… the brilliant United States. In Summer of 2015 I was fortunate to be surprised by my mother with a guided tour of the west coast of the US as a reward for finishing my GCSE’s. I had never been to the States before… so all the anticipation at the airport made me look like a child in a sweet shop.

July 1st/2nd 2015

As a descendant of generations upon generations of Northern Irish folk, I’ve come to the realization that I don’t tan. At all. If anything the I come back from my travels even paler. Determined not to let the curse of the pale skin faze me, I decided to get my first ever spray tan. At first I looked nice and sun kissed, and I sat there and thought to myself, “hey, don’t you look good!”. I was ready to take on America looking just like the majority do in blazing 40 degree summer heat. But much to my surprise, and it was just my luck, that as the tan developed, it reacted with my skin in a way it shouldn’t have. As my mother walked into my room at 10 a.m on the day we were due to head to the airport, I was already awake, lying there excitedly reading “Top 10 things to do in San Francisco”. I looked up, and was greeted by my mum’s face full of shock, like she had just seen a ghost. Confused, dazed, and half asleep I asked her, “Maaaam, are you okay?”. She then let out a giggle, and told me to look in the mirror. I… Was… Green.

Let me just clear things up. I was a tanned orange-like colour, with a green tint, not as green as The Hulk. Thank god. But what a great first experience of spray tanning it was (not). It’s like the Irish gods were telling me to embrace my heritage, and from that day I have.

A pot of exfoliator and 3 showers later the green seemed to fade. I still had a faint tan, and at that point I was happy. The panic was over. I could now finish packing my suitcase (last minute, I know) and get into holiday mode! I must admit, I’m a typical woman, I don’t pack lightly. The best thing about packing heavy is that you’re prepared for every scenario. Raining at 10 a.m then sunny at 11 a.m? Sorted. Skiing in the morning and meeting the Queen for dinner? Got that covered. A zombie apocalypse? Running trainers, check. Much to my mothers dismay, I decided to put a couple of pairs of shoes in her suitcase… you know, just to be sure.

Our flight from Heathrow International to San Francisco International was very early morning on the 3rd of July, so my mother and I decided to take a taxi down to Heathrow the night before, and start the holiday early. Driving up to the hotel, all you could see was a sky full of Dreamliners, and I could just imagine seeing all of the tiny little people peering out of the oval-shaped windows waving goodbye to rainy England. That would soon be us! The hotel was within such a close proximity of Terminal 5’s runway, that at dinner we sat watching all of the keen holiday-makers take off. It was far more entertaining than sat on the sofa eating dinner and watching Neighbours.

After dinner we went back to the hotel room, watched some television, and decided to have an early night. After all, we were flying over 5,000 miles across the Atlantic the following day. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t doze off, all of the excitement was to blame. But eventually, I fell asleep, for the next morning I would head off on what would be an unforgettable adventure.

NEXT STOP… SAN FRANCISCO!