Getting Stuck in Vegas (or, Adventures at the Tod Motor Motel)

After staying for three days at The Excalibur, which FYI is a gigantic and fantastically tacky castle-themed hotel and casino at one end of the South Las Vegas Boulevard, the plan was to venture in the vague direction of the Grand Canyon and continue from there, moving onwards across America in a joyous semi-pioneering fashion. What we didn’t plan for is suddenly having access to our money stopped (owing to simultaneous problems with our cards), giving us no option but to stay in Vegas indefinitely, and no longer in the giant fake castle, but instead at an equally cool-looking but potentially cockroach-infested motel. This, my friends, is the harsh reality of long-term travel: it doesn’t always go to plan and it definitely isn’t what it always seems on instagram. No way, José. Continue reading

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How to Live it Up in Vegas (Even If You’re Not a High-Roller) 

Las Vegas is both hilarious and insanely amazing…GOOD. LORD!  If I had to write a tag line for this city it would be ‘like Disneyland for gamblers and alcoholics.’ And although I wouldn’t describe myself as either of those it was to my own astonishment that I was fully in my element when we arrived by airplane one March morning. After leaving the cool air of San Francisco we flew over mountains and desert, finally coming in to land over the bizarre turrets of our castle-shaped hotel- The Excalibur- and he Luxor’s pyramid and Sphinx.  I never thought about how surreal the idea of all these massive Disneyland-esque buildings in the middle of the desert really is.  One of the most surreal sights I’ve ever seen, actually.  I’m still laughing. Nothing but rock for miles and miles, then suddenly- BAM- here’s a giant castle, the Statue of Liberty, and the Eiffel Tower smack bang in the middle of No-Man’s Land.  WHAT. A. LAUGH. There’s something about Vegas that just makes you want to throw all your money in the air and have a party in it wearing an outfit made entirely of feathers and diamonds. But, what if you do not have a pile of cold hard cash and a tacky outfit to prance about in!? Fear not, pals. I’m here to help.  Continue reading

A casual review of the HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf

After a very brief stay in the HI Downtown San Francisco branch, we decided it was about time we upped sticks and moved on…to a different, cheaper hostel, in the very same city. Also part of the Hostelling International family, because as we had payed for membership we decided we might as well make use of it, know what I’m saying?

In comparison to the cloud of inner-city smell in the Downtown area (you know, the subtle aroma of bin juice mixed with car exhaust, urine and mouldy food from the back of restaurants), approaching the Fisherman’s Wharf hostel was practically like stepping into the countryside! This hostel is located in an old army barracks which is technically situated within one of the USA’s smallest National Parks, Fort Mason, on the cliffs overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, and surrounded by greenery. Quite frankly; it was just bloody lovely!  Continue reading

A casual review of the HI Downtown San Francisco 

Our first hostel stay in San Francisco was for three nights at the HI San Francisco Downtown, and I’ll tell you for sure it was a good’n.  Although it was fairly late at night when our Amtrak bus deposited us into the centre of the city- get the lowdown on the Amtrak adventure here– the streets were so full of people that it put my mind at ease about finding a new place in the dark with only a memorised route to lead us there. Sometimes I get a bit concerned about wandering around unchartered territory in the middle of the night, know what I’m saying? The reception area on the ground floor had all sorts of people hanging out for the wifi purposes, and after checking in we entered the main hostel through a top secret door (i.e. nobody enters without a key) and went to find our respective rooms.  Continue reading

Adventures at the HI:Santa Monica

The spooky mist that had shrouded the palm trees upon our arrival into LA had disappeared by the time we woke up the following morning, luckily. After checking out of our hotel bright and early, we made our way to a bus stop to await the #3 Big Blue Bus towards our hostel in Santa Monica. Transport in LA’s pretty shoddy as the city’s so full on massive, but Big Blue Buses connect Downtown LA to Santa Monica so if you’re heading that way from the airport it’s handy to know. And they actually are big and blue, so you can’t miss them. Personally I felt like a bit of an idiot sitting in my human-size purple backpack on a crowded bus, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

Whilst on said bus, I overheard (so did the rest of the bus, presumably) half of an extremely interesting conversation between a shaven-headed man who seemed to be a suspect in a murder case, and an unknown person on the phone (who may or may not have been his mother). He was just on his way home from being questioned by the police and seemed very angry about the whole situation. No-one else on the bus seemed that bothered, so I just went with it. There was a mild moment of panic though, when neither me nor my bf could work out how people were managing to stop the bus when they wanted to get off- there were no bells to be seen. As we neared our stop my heart was beating ever faster, until finally I noticed a cord running along the length of the bus and realised that was what we had to pull to exit the vehicle. Panic over. This is the type of thing that causes panic at the best of times, know what I’m saying!?

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What to See in Santa Monica

Santa Monica: home to celebrities galore and definitely one of the more aesthetically pleasing areas of Los Angeles. The city itself is sprawled out across a ginormous surface area, and if you ever find yourself paying a visit, it’s definitely a good idea to stay in this area of town. It’s beaut, there’s plenty to see and do, and it’s smack bang right by the beach. On top of all that, the air feels a little fresher than further into the city where the general vibe is a little more urban. Mainly, the Chanel-clad shoppers of the area made me reminisce about the days of Clueless, but what bloody great days they were, let’s be honest.


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Journey to L.A. : Saying Howdy to the US Border Control

So here it is, you guys: the beginning of the America trip, in all its glory. Neither me nor my boyf had ever even been on a long haul flight before, yet there we were, planning three months in America without much of an idea of a route other than that we were starting in Los Angeles and finishing in New York. The whole thing was a series of rollercoaster rides, but let’s kick things off with rollercoaster ride number one: entry to the New World. Aka, America. You know what I’m saying. Our feelings about leaving England were possibly not too dissimilar to those lovely folks who set sail on the Mayflower back in the day- possibly but not probably. The one key difference is that we travelled by plane as opposed to massive giant ship. We were excited, we were nervous, it was INTENSE.

Helped with the medium of smileys, here is a blow-by-blow account of our journey across the pond.

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Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads (or, how to cross America without a car)

The Great USA Road Trip. It’s a rather iconic thing to do, something that crops up on bucket lists of people young and old across the world, and (I’m not gonna lie), I still want to do it myself one day. But, at the time that we booked our three month jaunt to the good old US of A, neither my boyfriend or I were actually in possession of an actual real live driving license. Which ruled out the whole road trip idea before it had even begun: public transport it was! In some places this was tricky, in others it wasn’t, but here are the alternative modes of transport we used to make our way from one side of North America to the other, covering these locations in the process:

L.A. – SAN DIEGO – SAN FRANCISCO – LAS VEGAS – TUCSON – HOUSTON – NEW ORLEANS – ST AUGUSTINE – FLORIDA CITY- MIAMI – SAVANNAH – WASHINGTON, DC – TORONTO – NEW YORK CITY

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