Monday 30th June - Las Vegas to Bakersfield
Waking up in the Bellagio was something I think you only really think you'll dream of doing one day - waking up to the view of the strip whilst in the Bellagio is something else! We are so lucky.
Breakfast was simple but gorgeous - coffee and pasties from Jean Phillipe's patisserie in the hotel, eaten again enjoying the view from our room! (And seeing their chocolate fountain - the largest in the world!) And then it was time to check out, we were so sad! But it meant that our adventure was truly beginning, the roadtrip was about to begin!
After a very long wait at the airport, and the woman behind the desk trying to sell us every extra she could, we picked up our car. I purposely didn't want anything too big or too fancy, just something that would get us about, as I learnt how to drive on the wrong side of the road!! The car didn't come with a GPS, and the woman tried to make us pay $180 for one - no chance! So instead our first trip was to Walmart to buy one ourselves (at least we can sell it when we've finished!). I'm so glad my first drive was for 8 minutes to Walmart, as I think I held my breath the entire time I was driving! But we got there fine, and with the purchase of a GPS plus drinks and snacks for the journey, we were off!
The drive to Bakersfield, CA, was very long and very beautiful. We drove through desert for miles and miles, chatting away to each other and listening to the gorgeous CDs of 'our' music Sarah had made. And then we drove through mountains - up and down and round and round, the scenery reminded me very much of Wales!
I have to say the motorway part of the drive was by far the easiest to get to grips with, I was very scared after hearing nothing but horror stories from every single person, but actually they were the same as motorways at home, just with a lower speed limit! City driving I'm still a little unsure about - the roads are so huge! And all the extra rules I am still getting my head around (turning right on a red light?!), but mostly I think I'm doing ok!
And then finally we arrived at our destination, Bakersfield, chosen for no other reason than it being about half way between Vegas and our next proper stop, Yosemite. We didn't arrive until 6:30, later than anticipated, so opted to have Taco Bell for dinner (cheap Mexican goodness!), quesaritos - whoever invented those are quite simply genius! And a very early night!
Tuesday 1st July 2014 - Bakersfield to Yosemite
This holiday, so far, is more brilliant then either of us thought it would be! The only thing is, it needs to slow down - it's Tuesday already, nearly a week since we left Birmingham for London, and tomorrow we will be in San Francisco - staaaahhhhp!
This morning we started off the day with a breakfast in the hotel, there seemed little point in paying for food that was provided for free! As it turns out it was a decent breakfast too - we both tried froot loops cereal (we seem to be drawn to things we can't get in the UK, and then love it!) and then freshly cooked waffles with maple syrup - yum. The food is amazing here, even just the waffles for breakfast, we are loving it! It was a good little hotel, with free tea and coffee 24/7 and a free breakfast, the only thing was it was so hot! I felt like I was sleeping in a sauna! But worth £50 that's for sure. Very glad we opted for some very expensive hotels and some, less so!
After breakfast my next task was to fill up with petrol - I couldn't even work out how to turn the pump on to make the petrol flow - luckily my English accent makes any bloke want to help, the one who did said it had made his day- hahaha! Well I know for next time! Car filled up, cold drinks for the drive, and we were off, on schedule, at 11am (apparently being in the USA makes us not late…we need some of this at home…)
Our next stop was Fresno - the next biggest city on the route to Yosemite. There we were after two things - a Whole Foods and a Starbucks! I had researched that there isn't a huge amount of choice to eat in Yosemite so instead we went to Whole Foods and bought the evening's food - salad, olives, pasta, yum! And then on to Starbucks to try their cinnamon dolce latte's (iced) which were amazing and we shall be having more! Apart from those coffees and the ice teas, it doesn't appear that Starbucks over here is that different from the UK, which surprised my Starbucks-loving wife as she expected there would be loads of new things she could try! Ah well, I'm sure it won't stop us going all the time, even if it's just for more sweet tea and cinnamon dolce lattes!
Now packed with enough food for the journey ahead and the evening, we left Fresno for Yosemite. As we got closer the landscape started to change before us, from flat vineyards to more rugged landscape and then the mountains appeared in the distance, and then we were in the mountains! Driving along through roads that twisted and turned and narrowed and soared and dropped - this was a way to test my new right hand side driving if ever I saw one! But wow what a beautiful place to be, I loved every minute of driving through such a beautiful place with my beautiful wife, even if she was a little scared at times, being on the outer side of the road meant at times she had nothing beside her but a sheer drop!
We opted to take the detour to Glacier Point and wow am I glad we did - it is quoted as being one of the most impressive views in the world, as you can see 1/3 of Yosemite from a single point of rock high above the valley, it is breathtakingly, cannot-find-the-words-just-how-beautiful.
After spending quite some time up there, taking pictures and not quite believing the view in front of our eyes, we started to make our journey to where we were staying, the valley floor. More twists and turns in the road and a fairly steep decline brought us to the valley floor, and our hotel for the night. It's like nowhere we have ever stayed in before - a hotel, but split in to cabins. And when you open the back door to the patio area there is nothing in front of you except trees and mountains. There was even a wild deer wandering past a couple of feet away! Honestly you couldn't ever get enough of this view, it's incredible, and so so bizarre to compare it to the view we had waking up two mornings ago in Las Vegas!! It's times like this that I feel incredibly humble, to be such a tiny part of such an enormous world, and what a beautiful world it is. I will always be grateful to be been in a place with such raw, untouched, natural beauty.
We spent this evening taking a walk to the Yosemite Falls as the sun set behind the mountains - it's the 5th tallest waterfall in the world, and although it relies on the flow of water from melted glaciers and is starting to slow down now, it was still a sight to behold. This evening we have spent sitting on our patio, eating our gorgeous picnic and enjoying just being together. Honestly, we feel so lucky, this all feels like the most amazing dream!
Wednesday 2nd July 2014 - Yosemite to San Francisco
As if it is Wednesday already! Almost a week since we arrived in the USA and the day we go to San Francisco! Waking up in Yosemite, with a view of enormous mountains and trees, and the little deer wandering around, is a view I will long hold as one of the most beautiful, it was absolutely stunning, I didn't want to leave this place! We had to be on our booked valley floor tour at 10am which meant an early rise so we had time to eat breakfast, pack, check out and get to the bus. Breakfast was included in our stay, so we headed down to the place that felt like a school cafeteria you see on TV and ordered blueberry pancakes for Sarah and a vegan breakfast burrito for me. Both were enormous and gorgeous, as was the huge latte that came with them! It made us laugh that most people seemed to be ordering vegan oatmeal or half a grapefruit and some egg whites, and we ordered the complete opposite. Ah well, dieting isn't our thing! And egg whites are not a breakfast! Full for the day ahead we checked out and got on to the open top trolley that was to take us on a valley floor tour. The tour woman was nuts! A really crazy tour guide, which makes us think that her and crazy Iceland tour lady trained at the same tour guide school. Either that or you have to be crazy to do that job!
But the tour itself was really beautiful, showing us and talking about the highest of their mountains (even if crazy lady was a bit obsessed with the fact we could all die if a rock slide happened!) the trees that are the biggest living things on earth and bears outsmarting bear traps. And we saw gorgeous rivers flowing and beautiful trees, this place is beautiful beyond your wildest dreams, I feel so so lucky to have seen it. Had we have known just how awe-inspiring it is, and just HOW beautiful it is, perhaps we would have stayed for longer. But the good thing is - it means we have a great excuse to come back!
The tour lasted for about 2 hours and we set off for our next destination - San Francisco!
The drive to San Francisco was probably the bit I have least enjoyed if I'm honest, I had managed to get a bit sunburnt in Yosemite, and the drive was just a bit…dull! The highlight was definitely arriving in San Francisco via the Bay Bridge - a huge suspension bridge with the most beautiful view of the city. It was definitely the most amazing way to arrive!
We had booked to stay at in a little boutique hotel in the Haight based on amazing tripadvisor reviews and a really good price compared to the rest of this expensive city. Upon arrival we were slightly concerned about the lack of a lift and we had to haul our very heavy suitcases up two flights of stairs, and our room was tiny, but perfect for what we needed - a place to sleep and shower! We had booked to eat at Millennium, a vegan restaurant in the centre of the city, and got an uber there (a new thing for us both - I hope it comes to Brum soon!). The guy on reception gave us vegan recommendations and told us about uber - both great recommendations! The food was amazing and my wife looked incredibly beautiful! It often amazes us how much thought and effort goes in to making vegan food something so beautiful, and like Sarah said that night, a normal restaurant wouldn't produce something with such a depth and variety of flavour on your plate - it was absolutely gorgeous, and a very lovely evening to begin our San Francisco adventure.
Thursday 3rd July 2014 - San Francisco
After a really good nights sleep (I was starting to love this tiny place in the Haight after all) we got up and out to spend the day exploring San Francisco. Our first stop was to Alamo square and the painted ladies. Well, we saw them. They are three painted houses, we couldn't exactly understand why they are famous, but we saw them! And then got the bus to our next stop - Union Square. Here we got coffee and pastries for breakfast and spent a short while walking round the shops we don't have back home - Victoria's Secret and Bath and Body works, and then saw the big department stores of Macy's and Bloomingdales, that to us have only been places you read about in books or see on TV. But honestly, there was nothing hugely amazing about this place either - it felt an awful lot like London, only with more crazy people about the place and more of a feeling that you were about to be mugged!
Next we queued for a while to get on a cable car, the world's last manually operated cable car system, which was quite a cool little experience going up the soaring hills of San Francisco on something that looked like it belonged in a museum! We rode the line all the way down to Fisherman's Wharf, the next bit of our tour. Here we saw our first sights of the Golden Gate Bridge - amazing! And started our slow walk down towards Pier 33 to board our boat to Alcatraz. Fisherman's wharf was not how either of us expected it to be - it was busy, built up and commercial - there is nothing authentic about having chain restaurants line the street! But we managed to stop for hot clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls which were very much anticipated and very lovely - definitely worth the wait! Unfortunately Pier 39's famous sea lions had already left for their summer migration!! So we just walked on to pier 33 and boarded the 15:50 boat for Alcatraz. I am so glad we had booked tickets so long ago - the next available walk up ticket was for September 3rd!!
I am really glad we saw Alcatraz - it is such a funny place in that it is actually quite beautiful, and the view of the city from there is absolutely gorgeous, and yet it is a prison! And a hardcore prison at that! It was great to learn about the history of the place, the escape attempts, and life on the island. And the boat journey there and back was quite beautiful too.
Back on dry land after a couple of hours on the tiny island of Alcatraz we walked back down Fisherman's Wharf and this time it was a better experience - slightly quieter, more relaxed and lots of street entertainers - it was a little more like the fisherman's wharf I had imagined after reading about it in so many fictional books based here! By the time we reached the end it was 6:30pm and we had been out since quite early in the morning. There was one last place I wanted to see - Chinatown! With a quick bus ride we were there, wandering through the most densely packed ethnic neighbourhood in the USA, and found our destination, a tiny little vegetarian restaurant in the middle of Chinatown. Although it wasn't beautifully decorated, and to get to the toilet you had to walk through their kitchen, this turned out to be a little gem! There were few tables and it was pretty full, with a mix of Chinese families and couples from San Francisco. And the food was incredible! Really well cooked vegan Chinese food - wow! With lots and lots of jasmine tea - I love that stuff - and it cost us the grand total of £20! I am so glad we decided to go there, it was a really fun evening that will stay in our memories forever.
Our walk to the bus stop took us through a different part of town, the financial district - skyscraper building and coffee shops a plenty, through here it was quieter, felt safer, and allowed us to wander at our leisure and enjoy the evening's sunset. It is often in the most unexpected of times that we have our best moments, we loved seeing this part of San Francisco, with the bay bridge just beyond. We caught the bus back up to Haight Ashbury and fell exhausted in to bed after a very long and varied day!
Friday 4th July - San Francisco - A year since we said 'I do".
Waking up again in our quiet, cute little room in the Haight I was once again thankful for a really good nights sleep in such a cute little place, this place gets a huge thumbs up from us - the staff are lovely and so helpful, and the rooms are perfect to use as a base for the city. We woke up to lots of cuddles and love - it was a year ago since we said I do! And spent a little while just lying together and recounting our perfect wedding day. This is a pastime we have done many many times over the past year, but to do so exactly a year to that wonderful day was really perfect. Turning our phones on they became little hives of activity with texts and good wishes being sent from all across the globe, with many people telling us it was one of the best days of their lives. It was certainly the best day of ours! For breakfast I wanted to treated my gorgeous wife to breakfast in bed, so got dressed and wandered around the Haight district for a little while choosing the perfect place - before settling on hot cinnamon buns and caramel macchiatos, yum! I couldn't help but smile as I ordered our breakfast at so many people wishing me a 'Happy 4th July' - how kind of them all to know it was our first wedding anniversary!
After breakfast in bed and yet more cuddles we packed up and said goodbye to the lovely little hotel and it's lovely staff and drove to the Golden Gate Park. The weather had decided to be typical of San Francisco and turned from happy sunshine to fog. Lots of fog! But never the less the Japanese Tea Garden was a beautiful place to spend a couple of hours - and the jasmine tea definitely warmed us up! It's a beautiful little oasis in the middle of a sprawling metropolis and brought us peace and happiness in lots of measures!
After a while we needed to escape the cold and I was desperate to get a good look at the Golden Gate Bridge in all it's glory so decided to drive right over it - now that's something I won't be forgetting in a hurry! It's the kind of experience you think you will only ever dream about - and there we were, on our first wedding anniversary, driving over the Golden Gate Bridge! Reaching the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge we decided to continue driving for a little while and just 'see what we could see'. Just the other side is a really beautiful little place called Sausalito - which reminded us very much of a little Italian village, with very Mediterranean looking houses high in the hills, and a stretch of beach and cute independent little shops very much like you would see in the med! We very much wished we had longer to explore this gorgeous place (especially as, randomly, the sun was shining here!) but we had more plans for the day ahead.
Driving back through the city our next stop was to our hotel for the night - the Mandarin Oriental San Francisco, which occupies the top 11 floors of a 48 floor office tower in the financial district. We had booked a room which promised views of both the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge, and a good view of the City. The view that was got was out of this world! It was stunning. On account of it being our wedding anniversary we were sent a glass of champagne shortly after check in, which we enjoyed very much whilst enjoy the spectacular view. What a perfect anniversary it was turning out to be! We couldn't have dreamt it would be this amazing.
For dinner we had made a reservation at a restaurant on the waterfront, not far from our hotel and with amazing views over the water. We were lucky enough to be seated next to the window, and ate and drank amazing, beautiful food and pink wine. We never ever would have thought, when we met nearly 10 years ago, that this is what we would be doing to celebrate a year of marriage!
|The view from our dinner table|
The past year, being married to my best friend and soul mate, has been the best year of my life. We only seem to get more and more blessed with amazing experiences that will live in our memories forever. I like to think that it is because we have so much love in our lives that it keeps us so strong, so happy and so ready to experience life and all it has to bring to us. We are very lucky, but we also work incredibly hard. My beautiful wife, thank you so much for being a part of us, it is the best thing I have ever been.