McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, The Big Sur, California
So where to start; we got back from easily the best holiday ever three weeks ago and we had such an amazing time, I'll try not to overload you with too many photos (I can't promise anything though!). For those who hadn't seen my previous blog posts, Jack and I booked a road trip around California and Nevada, USA. To start with, though an expensive holiday and one in which Jack and I have been planning and saving for some time towards, I just wanted to say how easy we found it to organise and book everything ourselves rather than paying over and above by getting a company like British Airways to organise it all for us. It gave us the freedom we wanted to plan what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go, so we just booked our flights and hire car with BA and then booked all our hotels and activities ourselves separately, getting over £250 cash back into our bank thanks to Quidco (I can't recommend using that site enough!).
Sunset in San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge just about visible as the fog rolls in
Our itinerary while out in America went like this:
Day 1: San Francisco
Day 2: San Francisco
Day 3: San Francisco/Big Basin Redwoods State Park/Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay
Day 4: Monterey Bay
Day 5: Monterey Bay/17 Mile Drive/Pebble Beach/Carmel Beach/The Big Sur/Morro Bay/Edna Valley Vineyards/San Luis Obispo
Day 6: San Luis Obispo/Santa Barbara/El Matador Beach/Malibu/Los Angeles
Day 7: Los Angeles
Day 8: Los Angeles/Las Vegas
Day 9: Las Vegas/Mojave Desert
Day 10: Las Vegas/Fly Home
The itinerary doesn't really do justice to just how much we managed to do while out there and I'll say it again, it was AMAZING! It was incredibly tiring and at times I struggled, especially in the heat too but I'd do it all again tomorrow if I could afford it (though I think I'd miss the dog and torts too!). We visited so many places, ate some great American food, did some fantastic activities while there, met some lovely people, got told I say lovely a lot ("you're definitely English aren't you" they said!), saw some amazing landscapes and...... GOT ENGAGED!
My beautiful ring in the beautiful setting where Jack proposed!
It came as a complete surprise to me; Jack and I have been together for nine years since the age of 18 and it's a bit of a running joke that Jack was going to make me wait until we'd been together 10 years! I think perhaps deep down I had secretly hoped he'd ask me while we were on this amazing holiday but I'm not the type to pile on the pressure like some itching to get engaged, I knew he'd ask me one day. It was therefore an amazing surprise when he did ask me while on holiday; we had celebrated my birthday the day before by going whale watching in Monterey and it was a dream come true to see one of my favourite animals ever, the Blue Whale! They're huge and though we only got a fleeting glimpse of two of them you still can't comprehend just how big they are. We also saw a feeding frenzy of Californian Sea Lion and Humpback whales enjoying a bait ball of a Anchovies. One of the highlights had to be watching Humpback Whales breaching; they leap right out of the water and to this day scientists still have different views on why they do it. Personally I think they do it just for fun and they make an incredible splash as they re-enter the water. I divulge anyway, so I had a fantastic time whale watching, sadly Jack did not and was very sea sick along with quite a number of others on the whale watching trip. They had warned us of a bumpy ride that morning so I took sea sickness tablets before we set off and they obviously did the trick for me. Jack being the tough bloke that he is refused as he is usually fine. Poor Jack, I felt so guilty! He obviously still loves me though as the next day he proposed!
Humpback Whale breaching - Amazing! Monterey, California
The Big Sur/The Pacific Coast Highway, California
On Saturday 3rd September we left Monterey Bay to travel along the stunning Pacific Coast Highway to San Luis Obispo. It's the best drive we've ever done and in our bright red Mustang GT Convertible it was lots of fun. There are plenty of places along The Big Sur to pullover to admire the views of the Pacific Ocean, white beaches below and of the cliffs, gorges and mountains too. We made a number of stops along the way and by far my favourite was when we parked up at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to walk to McWay Falls, a beautiful waterfall that flows onto a sandy beach below and where the sea seems extra blue. It's only a narrow walkway around the edge of a cliff to view the falls and I was busy taking photos when Jack said he had a question to ask me and popped THE question! It was incredibly romantic and by far the best memory of our holiday and this year! I of course said yes but later on said that I should have played harder to get after waiting for nine years! It means even more to me that Jack rung my parents before we went on holiday to ask for their blessing; Jack said it was like asking my Dad if he could borrow a tool out of his toolbox as my Dad just said "'course you can" while my Mum blubbed happy tears in the background! Now Jack is not a decision maker at all so I was even more impressed at the fact he picked out my engagement ring all on his own. It's beautiful, simple and dainty with a sparkly diamond on a platinum ring, just what I think I had imagined. Jack knows I like dainty and simple and he also knew that I hate an audience so he asked me in a place that was quite private other than the odd few people walking past, it was just perfect! I'll stop gushing now as I probably lost you way way further up on this blog post! To say I'm a happy girl is an understatement though!
Morro Bay, California
The rest of our holiday was wonderful too; picking a favourite place is very hard as they were all so different to each other. San Francisco was beautiful and lots to do there, though very expensive - even cost $50 per day to park our car at the hotel and that was cheap! Monterey was pretty and for wildlife it's a fantastic spot, we could see Sea Otters from our hotel balcony! San Luis Obispo was mainly just a stopover place to break up a long journey but it was a nice city and the vineyards were beautiful and quite different to the vineyards I'm used to in the Loire Valley, France. Los Angeles was great but we agreed probably our least favourite place; Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach and Beverly Hills were all fantastic and we enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Hollywood too, though it's quite worn out and over-touristy. Finally, Las Vegas. I think Vegas is the sort of place where you either want to go there or you don't. I personally wanted to go and see what it was like, not for the casinos but for all of it and we were not disappointed, it was brilliant! It's a clean place, unbearably hot outside but the casinos and hotels are nice and cool, there's so much to see and do even if you don't want to gamble and I'd definitely like to go back there again, as with all of the places we visited. I've provided a few highlights of the holiday below.
Cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge
Cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge was probably the best part of our time in San Francisco, the views were a great reward as the cycle ride was hard work for me! We enjoyed our tour of Alcatraz Island and it's something I'd recommend to others but it's not as amazing as everyone says - unless you like wandering around a prison, I personally don't! I more enjoyed the wildlife of the island and found it strange that people were queuing to get a book signed by former prisoner - no offence intended to anyone, but it's just not for me. Pier 39 was fantastic for shopping and going for a drink, the Ferry Building had some amazing little boutique shops too full of handmade gifts and tasty food. We also rode the cable car from down near Union Square back up to Fisherman's Wharf where our hotel was and it was great fun, the steep roads in San Francisco are something else.
Californian Sea Lions at Pier 39, San Francisco, California
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA
Monterey used to just be an old canning town and so the history of various buildings on Cannery Row was quite interesting. There are lots of great seafood restaurants here with really fresh seafood on offer; I enjoyed a lobster tail and crab claws on my birthday meal out and it was delicious! I think Monterey bay area is going through a lot of investment and refurbishment and it would be interesting to come back in a few years time to see how it's changed. The Monterey Bay Aquarium was fantastic as there's so much to see and very informative. There are lots of small beaches to sit on and while away some time just relaxing and it's funny to be so close to animals like Sea Otters and Californian Sea Lions and think nothing of it like the locals! I was more in awe obviously! Whales and dolphins are even seen through binoculars only half a mile out in the bay. For wildlife it was great and I really enjoyed spending my birthday here. As described above, whale watching was truly phenomenal and a dream come true for me. I was lucky enough to go whale watching a few years ago while visiting some family in Vancouver, Canada and we saw Orca then, so to see so many other different species on this trip was brilliant.
Happy car fanatic Jack in our 5 litre Mustang GT!
Monterey Bay, California
Another Humpback Whale, Monterey, CA
Driving The Big Sur
Driving the Big Sur/Pacific Coast Highway was great; the views are amazing and as mentioned above, there are plenty of places to stop and admire the views. There's also a beach along here home to lots of Elephant Seals and the viewing platform gets you quite close to admire these big animals. The wildlife in America and Canada is just amazing; I love British wildlife and I'm always out taking photos with my camera but it's always nice to see other wildlife in another country and I'm a huge fan of birds of prey. The Turkey Vulture and Red Tailed Hawk were frequently seen soaring high above us.
The Lone Cypress, 17 Mile Drive, California
Bixby Bridge, The Big Sur
Beverly Hills is a very swanky place to spend some time and Rodeo Drive has some very expensive shops. There are also lots of fantastic restaurants though and we had a lovely meal at a French Bistro; a welcome break from the overwhelmingly huge portions of American food in other restaurants! Santa Monica Pier was great fun; lots of performers, street art and lovely white sandy beaches (see, I said lovely again!)
Edna Valley, San Luis Obispo, CA
El Matador State Beach, Malibu, California
Santa Monica, Los Angeles, CA
Hollywood Walk of Fame, LA
We stayed in The Bellagio while in Las Vegas and it was brilliant. The fountain display outside the hotel each evening is great to watch and we stayed for quite a few songs, before Jack dragged me away to find some dinner! Vegas is hot and you melt as soon as you step outside, it's a clever ploy by all the hotels and casinos to keep indoors so cool. It's bearable though in our opinion and we managed a long walk along the main strip to admire the other hotels and stop in a few shopping centres. You don't have to leave your hotel if you don't want to though; each has it's own shopping mall, some have over 10 restaurants, multiple swimming pools etc. I hadn't quite realised just how huge the casinos were! We liked the Wynn where we went for a buffet dinner. Buffets are like nothing you've had in England where you tend to get a lot of 'kept warm' food. The Wynn had a fab salad bar, Alaskan King crab claws (I loved those!), a Mexican taco stand where fresh tacos were made, carvery of various meats, pasta dishes, freshly cooked pizzas, a chocolate fountain, freshly made crepe stand and tonnes more! To say we ate well that night was an understatement! We had booked an activity before we went out on our holiday to go off-roading through the Mojave desert and we really enjoyed it. The company picked us up from one of the nearby hotels and it was a short drive to their base in the open desert. It's hot, dusty and sticky but such good fun! I fear I may have spoilt it for Jack a little; he was the one driving our 4x4 dune buggy-type vehicle and I was screaming at him to slow down at one stage, scared we would roll it as we clambered over rocks, sand and in old dried up streams (washouts), but I did eventually relax a bit and enjoy it! We also saw a show while in Las Vegas and decided to see Cirque Du Soleil's "O" show which was showing at the theatre in the Bellagio. It was incredible! The performance was using a giant pool of water instead of as stage and the performers are amazing, I'd definitely recommend a show to anyone going out there.
Outside our hotel, The Bellagio, Las Vegas
Las Vegas by night
Bellagio Fountain Display
Off-roading in the Mojave Desert! Great fun!
I'm going to stop the babbling there, I know it's not everyone's cup of tea hearing about someone else's holiday, but we did have such an amazing time so it's hard not to keep re-living the memories out loud. I've started a scrapbook anyway to store all of the things we collected along the way, plus photos and maps of our route. I'm still trawling through lots of photos I took while on holiday. If anyone is thinking of a holiday like this in the future then I would definitely recommend it if you're up for lots of fun, lots of walking and driving and lots of food! If you're interested in knowing what hotels we stayed in, I've listed them below. All were fantastic, but our favourites had to be Pier 2620 Hotel in San Francisco with their amazing industrial décor (we got a free room upgrade too which was great!) and the Bellagio was just amazing; we stayed in a suite as we got such a good deal on the room - it's not too expensive to stay in Vegas as they want you to spend all your money in the casinos. Even the motel we stayed at in San Luis Obispo was lovely for a basic motel room with your car parked right outside the door!
San Francisco - Pier 2620 Hotel, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, http://www.pier2620hotel.com/
Monterey - Monterey Bay Inn, Cannery Row, Monterey, http://www.montereybayinn.com/
San Luis Obispo - Inn at San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, http://www.innatsanluisobispo.com/
Los Angeles - Crescent Hotel, N Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills, LA, http://www.crescentbh.com/
Las Vegas - Bellagio, On the strip, Las Vegas, https://www.bellagio.com/en.html
Lastly, I completed a travel journal while we were on holiday using a great app on my phone called BonJournal. It made it easier to update family and friends with what we were up to and where we were as it sends them an email each time I completed an update. I always used to write holiday diaries when I was very little and they're always good fun to read back through. If you're interested in having a look then the link is; https://bonjourn.al/journal/55768. Please don't feel like you have to read it, you deserve a medal if you've read all this! I talk about food A LOT in it because I just love food!! As I say, it was done for my family more than anything, but I trust you all enough not to laugh too much at it!
We came home to lots of beautiful birthday cards for me and engagement cards and we seem to have raised quite a few toasts! Jack gets a lot of "well done" pats on the back and he's also had a lot of "About bloody time!" even from our own parents! It's been lovely anyway and I still have a big grin on my face each time I look down at my ring. We're very happy anyway! :-) I've had a lot of people asking me if we've set a date and what our wedding plans are and to be honest we're only just starting to think about that. I'm not one of these girls that already has her whole wedding planned out on Pinterest, perhaps I should have been and then I can answer everyone's questions! Again no offence intended but for us we don't want a big showy wedding. I'm not saying they're not nice but they're just not for us. Jack and I are quite plain and simple in what we like and I expect nothing different for our wedding either. I'll want to do lots of craft and handmade elements for the big day because that's what I like but I begrudge spending stupid amounts of money just because that's what articles you read tell you to spend! It's all about love for me and about having our family and friends there to celebrate it with us! I can't count how many times I've been asked if Barry will be pageboy....!!
Hoping to get back to writing lots of blog posts soon, lots to chat about and lots to catch up on. I've had a lovely time catching up on all your blogs over the last few days :-)
Ps. Sorry again for such an excessive post! If you have died of boredom all I can do is apologise!