Hollywood, Vegas and the Grand Canyon. #5

Last day of the Road Trip was back up to LA from Vegas. We hit the freeway and sat back to enjoy the journey.

Stopping at various points of interest to break the journey.

And so back to LAX and a night flight home. I loved my time in the West. The laid back attitude of San Diego, the dramatic landscape of the Grand Canyon and the craziness that is Vegas and everything in between. East Coast is next on the bucket list.

Hollywood, Vegas and the Grand Canyon. #4

And finally we hit Vegas.

We had a long drive from Arizona to Nevada covering a large part of the Mojave Desert. I loved that barren, hot, dry landscape. We have nothing like it in England.

How can I describe Vegas?- so many sights and sounds. It was alive and vibrant. Bright and loud. Elvis sums it up to perfection:

‘Bright light city gonna set my soul
Gonna set my soul on fire…

We stayed in Fremont at the Golden Nugget. Situated north of the Las Vegas Strip in Downtown Las Vegas, Fremont Street was the city’s actual birthplace, and the Golden Nugget was one of Vegas’s first casinos. It features The Tank a 200,000-gallon shark tank aquarium, which you can take a ride through via its water slide. Unluckily for us this was closed for the season, so we didn’t get that chance.

https://www.goldennugget.com/

The free light shows at Fremont Street Experience are a must-see in Las Vegas, involving a variety of light shows with high-resolution imagery and state-of-the-art, 600,000-watt, concert-quality sound. They were fabulous- on the hour, every hour from 6pm with last one at 2am.

https://vegasexperience.com/

We were about 2.5 miles away from the Strip, but travel was cheap, clean and safe on The Deuce buses. A three day travel card cost $20.

https://www.lasvegashowto.com/las-vegas-deuce

So over the next three days I covered most of The Strip. Below is a summary of each resort I went to, starting with New York, New York, my favourite.

Evoking New York in architecture and other aspects, it features downsized replicas of numerous city landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge.

Signature attractions are the Big Apple Coasters and Hershey’s Chocolate World. I also loved the Irish pub and other eateries in this resort. I really felt like I was in New York.

Paris was another favourite. ‘Experience everything you love about Paris, right in the heart of the Strip.’ https://www.caesars.com/paris-las-vegas I really felt like I was in Paris- especially hearing the bellboys shouting ‘allez, allez’.

And then there was Caesar’s Palace. One of Las Vegas’s largest and best known landmarks founded in 1966 by Jay Sarno and Stanley Mallin, who sought to create an opulent facility that gave guests a sense of life during the Roman Empire. It is iconically Vegas. And iconically Elvis.

https://www.caesars.com/caesars-palace

I’ve not been to Venice but I felt the Venetian was a very good second. It had singing gondoliers and bridges!

https://www.venetianlasvegas.com/

The Mirage has a volcano that erupts every evening on the hour.

https://mirage.mgmresorts.com/en.html

Excalibur had colourful towers and was named for the mythical sword of King Arthur, boasting a medieval theme.

https://excalibur.mgmresorts.com/en.html?ecid=GMB_EX_HO

Finally the luxurious and decadent Bellagio with it’s beautiful fountains.

‘Inspired by the villages of Europe, Bellagio Resort & Casino overlooks a Mediterranean-blue lake with fountains performing a magnificent ballet. You’ll discover that when you slow down, the world will rush past you and leave you with a moment all to yourself.’

https://bellagio.mgmresorts.com/en.html

I was transfixed for that moment.

Vegas was a blast. Lost in the slot machines but that was OK. It definitely wasn’t the winning or loosing that counted. It was the experience, the moment.

Hollywood, Vegas and the Grand Canyon. #3

We set off early today to make the trip down to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, leaving behind the choked freeways of LA for the open road.

It was a long journey; we arrived at our hotel The Grand Canyon Plaza to a significant temperature drop. The rooms were quaint, the main hotel cosy and the food good:

https://www.grandcanyonplaza.com/

We were up early the next morning to catch sunrise over the Canyon. Freezing at -10 degrees but I had packed for the cold as well as the temperate climate. It was absolutely worth it. There was a peaceful hush as about forty of us gathered to witness a true wonder of nature.

Grand Canyon National Park, in Arizona, is home to much of the immense Grand Canyon, with its layered bands of red rock revealing millions of years of geological history. As the sun came up I was truly humbled at the greatness of nature.

We drove back to the hotel for hot coffee and pancakes dripping with butter and maple syrup then back out for a helicopter trip over the Canyon.

To quote one of the Canyon’s many information boards

Gazing upon this view, one is struck by the canyon’s vastness. The mind struggles
to comprehend it. Try to describe the canyon’s size in words. Try to measure
in your mind the canyon’s depth, width, and length. Measurements like 1 mile
(1.6 km) deep, 18 miles (29 km) wide, and 277 river miles (446 km) long leave us
scratching our heads. Perhaps the best we can do is just feel the canyon’s enormity.
Measure yourself up against it. We are minuscule in comparison, but still, through
the keen receptivity of our senses, we can appreciate Grand Canyon’s immensity.

Grand Canyon Information Board. Edge of Vastness.

After a spectacular, bucket list experience we boarded the bus and journeyed on down to Las Vegas, our final destination. I was excited to see that it covered part of Route 66.

The romance of Route 66 continues to captivate people around the world. Starting in Chicago and ending in Los Angeles, “over two thousand miles all the way” in the words of the popular R&B anthem, this legendary old road passes through the heart of the United States on a diagonal trip that takes in some of the country’s most archetypal roadside scenes. If you’re looking for great displays of neon signs, rusty middle-of-nowhere truck stops, or kitschy Americana, do as the song says and “get your kicks on Route 66.”

map of road trip on Route 66 from its start in Chicago to its end in Los Angeles with driving distances between attractions
https://www.roadtripusa.com/route-66/

The iconic American highway would’ve faded into a distant memory of a bygone era, were it not for the excellent work of Angel Delgadillo.

The passion Americans have for their automobiles is inseparable from the thrill of exploring the open road, visiting villages few have seen, and discovering humble hamlets like Delgadillo’s hometown Seligman, Arizona. Dubbed the “Guardian Angel of Route 66” and the “Mayor of the Mother Road,” the 94-year-old Latino American barber still oversees the Angel & Vilma Delgadillo’s Original Route 66 Gift Shop daily, greeting anyone who comes by to speak with the man who saved Route 66 from the sands of time.

I have that same passion for the open road and discovering new places ‘few have seen’.

The Roadrunner Cafe across the road from the barber shop provided a probably unnecessary, but very nice beer stop:

http://www.route66roadrunner.com/

Then back on the bus for Vegas and four nights/ three days of absolute craziness.

Hollywood, Vegas and the Grand Canyon. #2

Beverly Hills was the first stop on day three of the Road Trip.

Home of the rich and famous; the residents value their privacy, so no loitering allowed, the cops will quickly move you on. Apart from this photo shoot spot.

Peace and love
Ringo Starr
In front of the Police department in Beverly Hills, California (Beverly Hill Cop fame)

Next stop Hollywood.

Larger-than-life symbol of the entertainment business, but essentially a neighborhood in California; Hollywood.

Bustling and hustling, it was all a bit frantic.

There was the Hollywood Walk of Fame. An historic landmark which consists of more than 2,700 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard.

Pink stars on the pavement. Could be seen as distinctly underwhelming, however find your favourite film star/ celebrity and let the nostalgia wash over you. Above is my nostalgia trip from the ones I stumbled across. Impossible to look for specific stars. Never did find Elvis! And below some more memorabilia:

On to Santa Monica and the lovely pier and promenade with its chic restaurants and bars.

From a rock guitar soloist to a crazy Hare Krishna group that walked up and down singing loudly and cutting across everything else and the noises of the funfair, the pier was a cacophony of sound. I drank it all in then moved to the relative peace of the promenade, walking and absorbing the beautiful coastal views.

Santa Monica is also the historic end of Route 66.

It was a relaxing sight-seeing day. Lunch was a tasty Hotdog (Kraut) at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, a foodies paradise:

Hollywood, Vegas and the Grand Canyon. #1

Los Angeles was the base for the first part of this trip. First day was San Diego and Coronado Island. I joined the tour bus and we set off.

Coronado Island is home to the Hotel Del Coronado where ‘Some Like it Hot’ with Marilyn Monroe was filmed.

Elegant and charming the Hotel del Coronado screams old style luxury; an iconic living legend that continues to inspire.

‘Hotel founders, Elisha Babcock, Jr., and Hampton L. Story, along with San Diego developer Alonzo Horton, survey Coronado beach, c. 1886. Although neither Babcock nor Story had experience in the hotel business, they were so inspired by the natural beauty of Coronado that they decided to buy the island and build a magnificent hotel, one that would be “the talk of the western world,” an iconic California destination where “people will continue to come long after we are gone.”’

https://hoteldel.com/history/

We then drove through the Gaslamp District and on to the Marina area. The highlight of this for me was the “Embracing Peace” statue by Seward Johnson.

This sculpture depicts one of the most famous and iconic moments in the history of the United States, reflecting the joy of the American people upon learning World War II had ended. It is inspired by the spontaneous war end celebration in New York City’s Times Square.

The Original soldier and nurse., inspiring the statue in San Diego.

San Diego has a huge military history and there are some fabulous commemorations in Tuna Harbour Park.

Outdoor bronze statues depicting armed forces personnel listening to comedian Bob Hope.
Vice Admiral Clifton Albert Frederick (“Ziggy”) Sprague (1896 –1955) was a World War II-era officer in the United States Navy.

We then moved on to San Diego Old Town. Predominately Mexican it has an eclectic, boho, laid back vibe. I loved it.

The Whaley House is deemed as one of most haunted houses in San Diego.

Lunch was the tastiest I’ve eaten in a while; cheese topped boar and chilli bean soup with big chunks of garlic bread and two glasses of Chardonnay, from the Hungry’s Kitchen and Tap.

It was a good first day. Good to be back in America. New states, new experiences.

Bombay Sapphire Distillery. Lavestoke.

https://www.bombaysapphire.com/distillery/

‘Uncover the secrets of our Bombay Sapphire gin on the site of a former paper mill in the Hampshire countryside. Learn about the rare production processes used to make our world-famous gin and discover the sustainable measures and ecology of the conservation area that we call our home.’

Had a road trip down to Lavestoke in Hampshire for a gin tasting experience the other day. Set on the site of an old paper mill (it used to manufacture all our paper money before it went over to a mainly plastic content) the location was historic.It stood beside the River Test; a chalk river bustling with flora and fauna.

We learnt about the gin making process and had a few gin cocktails throughout the tour. There were two beautiful green houses showcasing the botanicals used in the gin making; one housing tropical plants and one Mediterranean. Both were welcome for a quick warm up on a chilly autumn morning.

Pricey at £70 for two tickets but worth it for the beautiful setting and informative tour.

Windsor and Eton.

Return road trip today with a stop off in Windsor and Eton.

Windsor is a town on the River Thames in southeast England and home to Windsor Castle, a residence of the British Royal Family.

As well as the castle, we took a quick look in Windsor parish church of St John The Baptist with its beautiful depiction of The Last Supper by Franz de Cleyn.

Eton is a town on the opposite bank of the River Thames to Windsor, connected to it by Windsor Bridge. It’s famous for it’s public school, Eton College.

The college was founded in 1440 by Henry VI. It has been attended by, among others, Princes Harry and William, prime ministers David Cameron and Boris Johnson and actor Eddie Redmayne.

Short break over and back home to Sussex, but nice to move inland and see a bit more of the culture and countryside that makes up the beautiful country of England.

Cheltenham.

Picture vignettes of our whistle stop tour of Cheltenham.

Gustav Holst. Born in Cheltenham.
Neptune’s Fountain.

Finished the day with a couple of glasses of wine and a steak dinner in Wetherspoons.

Making our way back to the South Coast tomorrow. We stayed in the Cirencester Travel Lodge. Faultless and very central to everything!

https://www.travelodge.co.uk/hotels/86/Cirencester-hotel?WT_tsrc=GHA_Organic&utm_campaign=GHA_Cirencester&utm_medium=GHA_Organic&utm_source=google

Bourton-on-the-Water.

Day two of our Cotswolds road trip took us to Bourton-on-the-Water, in the rural Cotswolds area of south central England. Straddling the River Windrush, it’s known for its low bridges and traditional stone houses.

We walked part of the Windrush path and visited the cute little model village of Bourton-on-the-Water.

You really feel like you are in the heart of England in Bourton-on-the-Water. It was a beautiful morning.

Road Trip Alicante to Benidorm.

Yesterday we hired a car in Benidorm, wanting to explore beyond the coastal town and resort.

Car hire was from Europcar and was approx. 69€ (£54) for one day. Bargain.

https://www.europcar.es/es-es/oficinas/espana/benidorm?utm_campaign=BVNC05&utm_medium=organic&utm_source=local

[We also hired bikes earlier in the week from Monkey Bikes- 13€ for a days hire] http://monkeyrentbenidorm.es/monkey-bike/

We took the coastal road down to Alicante, where we stopped for a picnic lunch and a wander.

We wanted to drive the mountain roads, so took the CV-800 to Alcoi, then the CV-70 down to Benidorm. We wound our way up, over and through the mountains in a very sultry 35 degree heat. The landscape was mostly barren, interspersed with a very occasional villa, a derelict building or a small village.

The drive took approximately two and a half hours. It was a rugged, parched and lonely terrain- just us and the cicadas. We loved every minute of the drive. Certainly a vastly different Benidorm from it’s traditional, stereotypical boozy image. Get out and explore this beautiful Costa Brava region.

Benidorm Cross.

Took a drive up to the Benidorm Cross yesterday evening. A long, winding drive in a sweltering 32 degrees brought us within a quarter of a mile of the Cross. The rest was walking. It was worth the effort.

‘At the end of 1961, at the request of Father Salvador Perona, people from Benidorm, in an evangelizing mission in order to redeem the city from its frivolous reputation, carried a
huge cross on their shoulders from San Jaime and Santa Ana church to Sierra Helada. Over the years, the Cross has become another of
Benidorm’s beautiful tourist attractions.’

Carrying the cross up the hill.