Mini Road Trip to The Grand Canyon and Las Vegas!

Although the main part of our trip had been to see California, Albert and I decided to tick off a few more states on my list: Nevada and Arizona, or more specifically to see Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon!
This time in a different car to usual we set off four hours North East to see the incredible strip that is Vegas! Choosing to stay in a castle IMG_3270 (Albert let me pick!) the heat hit me as soon as I opened the car door. It was 4pm and the weather was over 45c! It was incredible! We headed straight to the pool, only to find out we would only get 30 minutes there as it shuts at 7pm (mainly to get the people into the casinos!) IMG_3288 We headed in to get changed and rushed down to see the water show outside the Bellagio hotel! Even though it was now late into the evening, the heat had not settled and I was really struggling in it! However it was totally worth it as the show was amazing! IMG_3316 IMG_3339We walked the strip to see the place lit up, with a mini eiffel tower as well as a planet hollywood, and all the famous hotels. IMG_3303 IMG_3440I even managed to find a bit of time to gamble, and ended up exactly where I started – at 0. Though at one point I was $20 up! Even though we were only there for a night, Vegas was an awesome place, but I think I am going to go back there when the weather isn’t so damn hot!

The next morning we got in the car (with my usual Starbucks) and headed into Arizona. Albert always complained on our car journeys about never being able to see around him, as most of the East Coast roads are surrounded by trees, but Arizona was completely different! It really was driving through the desert! I also wasn’t aware that we were driving down ROUTE 66! How awesome?! IMG_3512 Our first stop was to a small town called Sedona. With a population of 10,000 and the home of more than 60 Hollywood productions, Sedona is known for its redstone formations. We took a trip on a trolley with free cookies IMG_3564and were shown some of the best formations. We were told that Sedona hadn’t had any rain for months but were hoping that today was the day they were getting it (not great for us tourists trying to get some pretty snaps!) But some of the places were pretty spectacular! IMG_3599 IMG_3636 IMG_3606
After finding out that unfortunately America had been knocked out of the world cup :(, we got back in the car to head up to the Grand Canyon. Lots of windy roads, and pick thunder clouds were a little unnerving, but we coped and arrived there in late afternoon.
As soon as we arrived, we saw how amazing this place was. Although the weather was a little grim, this did not deter us from heading up the hike to a perfect spot. IMG_3671 IMG_3658 IMG_3699 When we got back in the car, we found that we were stuck in traffic trying to get out of the national park; the reason turned out to be deer! Lots of Bambis, less than 5 feet away from the car!! IMG_3734 IMG_3716The Grand Canyon was great, and although it was a long trip, I am so happy we got to see it! IMG_3750

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Universal Studios v The Happiest Place on Earth (Disneyland)

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After a terrible journey to California which saw us have to change airports for departure and get delayed – by 3am on Thursday 26th June, we had made it to LAX. After about four hours sleep (due to the time difference and jet lag) we got up and headed to Universal Studios. Home of Despicable Me and Thing 1 and 2, IMG_1737 the park is made up of different areas dedicated to their best films. With a simpsons Kwik Mart and Super Silly Fun Land, this place was amazing! After having our photograph taken on the red carpet, IMG_1756 and watching Marilyn Monroe perform, IMG_1763 IMG_1785 we headed towards the Studio Tour.
Taking you into filming of some of their best shows and films, we were taken to the Lake from Jews, IMG_1902 as well as to the Bates Motel (very freaky) IMG_1943
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One of my favourite areas was going down Wisteria Lane (Desperate Housewives) and I did call mum excitedly to tell her so – although it was 11:30pm her time!
IMG_1924 IMG_1933 IMG_1931 I was also taken to WhoVille (The Grinch)IMG_1937 as well as a Crash Scene used in War of the Worlds IMG_1951
After this, we decided to head over to Minion Mayhem and try out some of the rides. IMG_1969 IMG_1970 IMG_1989
Our 3D glasses were used to turn us into Minions and we also took on the Mummy Ride as well as Tranformers. It was an awesome day which didn’t end there. Albert’s sister took us to a fancy bar in Downtown LA, with a swimming pool and comfy chairs! IMG_2052 IMG_2058 IMG_2049 IMG_2048
Many famous faces have stayed in this hotel, including President Obama and Audrey Hepburn!

However my favourite day of the trip, and quite possibly of my year came next: Disneyland Hollywood – The Happiest Place on Earth! IMG_2304
After putting on the suncream and attaching our ears: IMG_2311 We were ready for one of the greatest days ever! And one of the longest! We headed into the park at 9am and didn’t leave till 1am! I was asleep in the car on the way home! disneyland_map As you can see Disneyland is Huge!! There are so many kingdoms which makes it very hard to a) get lost and b) get stuck in one area for a long time! Our first stop was Tomorrowland which saw the likes of Star Wars and Toy Story – once again Albert beat me on a shooting game. I also got the chance to drive – Albert described it as his life flashing before his eyes! IMG_2343 I also got to meet Thor in Marvel 3D which was amazing! And yes I do know he wasn’t real Dad! IMG_2356
Our next stop was to Frontier Land to the Mark Twain boat which was nice IMG_2377 and then onto Fantasy Land – home of the Princesses! I met Jasmine, Aurora and Mulan who were so true to character it was crazy! Prince Jasmine proclaimed that my ride from England must have been a “very long carpet ride”. IMG_2450 IMG_2457 IMG_2465 IMG_2480 I also met Flynn and Rapunzel standing outside!
Our next stop was It’s a Small World, which after many years of listening to the song in the car, I am still able to recite. IMG_2503 IMG_2554 IMG_2517 We went to Toontown to try and meet Mickey Mouse and his friends, although the only person I did get to meet was Mickey after touring his house! IMG_2599 I also went up Chip and Dale’s tree house – but this was alone as Albert said there were too many stairs! IMG_2602
It was getting later in the evening, so we headed down to Main Street to watch the Parade, which happens every couple of hours in the park. Featuring Mary Poppins through to Tiana from Princess and the Frog, lots of characters are involved! And the music changes with each float that comes through! IMG_2660 IMG_2656 IMG_2622 IMG_2646 We went to meet some of Albert’s friends in Downtown Disney at the Rainforest Cafe (such a cool place) and then headed back into the Park for the Fireworks.
This may have been the best fireworks show I have ever seen, particularly as the background was the Disney Castle.
IMG_2682 IMG_2700 IMG_2725 IMG_2816 It also included appearances from Tinkerbell and Dumbo flying in the sky. I was in awe!
We got to see another performance straight after the fireworks right by the water, which was a version of Fantasia with a fight between Mickey Mouse and the villains of Disney like Cruella and Ursula! IMG_2895 IMG_2879 IMG_2908 Mickey saves the day though don’t worry! We finished off our rides with Pirates of the Caribbean which was my favourite ride of the day, and also Indiana Jones which was cool! It was an exhausting day but myself (Minnie Mouse) and Albert (R2D2) survived! IMG_2951
Disneyland is the greatest place on Earth! IMG_2963 IMG_2954 IMG_2284

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OMGOSH I’M ON THE WEST COAST!

10485358_10152217849812469_3013416561576826916_nMy next few posts will be dedicated to my amazing trip to the West Coast. I visited California, Arizona (Grand Canyon) and Nevada (Las Vegas). Enjoy!!

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The Free week in DC!

IMG_1296 The week after Mum and Dad left was Father’s Day. It was a shame they couldn’t stay but this was also my biggest ceremony of the year – In Memory. It honours soldiers who returned home from Vietnam but their names will not be added to the wall. We also had our Father’s Day Rose Ceremony: when the entire Vietnam wall is covered in thousands of roses. It was a stunning sight. IMG_1105 IMG_1124 IMG_1133 IMG_1134 IMG_1135

The following week, I decided to embrace all the free things you can do in DC. DC is a pretty fun place in the Summer with lots of events going on. One of them is the open air cinema every Wednesday. The theme for the Summer was “Unlikely Friendships” and the film for this week was UP! Now I love the opening credits of this film, and do tear up a little – but found myself not remembering anything else. So it was pretty fun to see it again. I went with Steven and Christina, along with a blanket and my pillow IMG_1224 IMG_1225 IMG_1226 IMG_1237 I will definitely be going to another one…I think it’s Batman this week!

My next two events were much more classy – listening to the Symphony at the Kennedy Centre and Jazz in the Garden. The Kennedy Centre puts on free shows every evening at 6pm, and they change weekly. This week it was 4 teenagers who had won competitions in the country for the best performances. They were sensational! IMG_1264 IMG_1268 IMG_1284 The only reason we looked classy was because we’d come from work!
Jazz in the Garden is another event put on in DC during the Summer- featuring music in a park near the National Mall. People crowd in with their blankets for Sangria and dancing – a great scene! IMG_1319 IMG_1320 IMG_1314

At the weekend I took two trips, one to Annapolis in Maryland – a harbor town with great food and some historical places, and to Virginia to Luray Caverns. My boss had told me about Annapolis and it was a really nice place and also houses the Navel Academy which you can walk onto and look around (though the guy did check my passport – I don’t think he trusts the English!) IMG_1345 IMG_1346 IMG_1347 IMG_1348 IMG_1349 IMG_1374
Our various trips have also introduced Albert to fudge. And he has become fascinated with it – watching them make it and then asking for hundreds of samples! He finally decided on Chocolate fudge (I wasn’t a fan!) while I went for a toffee apple (or caramel apple to the americans!).
Luray Caverns is about 2 hours away from DC and has a pretty cool backstory:
Cold air rushing out of a limestone sinkhole atop a big hill west of Luray, Virginia, blew out a candle held by Andrew Campbell, the town tinsmith, on the morning of August 13, 1878. So began the discovery of Luray Caverns.
Campbell, three other men, and his 13-year-old nephew, Quint, were exploring the area, looking for a cave. With the help of local photographer Benton Stebbins, the men dug away loose rocks for four hours before, candle in hand, Campbell and Quint slid down a rope into the cave. They could scarcely believe what they saw. The party had discovered the largest series of caverns in the East, an eerie world of stalactites and stalagmites seen by the light of a candle

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It is hard to imagine that this all formed naturally, and all I wanted to do was keep taking photographs. There was one section which reminded me of a trip to Lanzerote when we went into a volcano and looked down at what we thought was a huge hole. In fact it was just the reflection, and Luray Caverns had a similar thing: IMG_1459
Apparently if you were dripped on while you were walking through the tour, this meant you would have Good Luck – Albert did not see it this way as he got dripped on at least 20 times!
After the tour we headed to the little Museum and tried to find some gold – we were not successful! IMG_1689 It was a really cool place, and an awesome tour!

My final event of the week, and possibly the coolest was a party at the French Embassy. Washington DC is the home of multiple embassys, and sometimes they hold events inviting anyone in. My friend Christina has been working for the French Embassy, so got us into a music event with lots of French food. Now the music was a little odd, but they were also playing silent movies at the same time which I love. IMG_1388 IMG_1397 IMG_1379 IMG_1380 IMG_1381
We all dressed up nicely and had a great evening, doing something different and out of our comfort zones!
Overall it was a packed week of events, but it gave me the opportunity to really explore parts of DC I hadn’t seen before.

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From New York City to the Capital in DC

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I took my first Greyhound bus on the way to New York, but on the way home I was joined by Mum, Dad and Becca. Although they had been apprehensive about sitting on a bus for 4 hours, they soon got over it and everyone was fast asleep! When we arrived they were surprised by a) the humidity and b) how less crowded the sidewalks were. In DC the laws of drinking are much stricter, but there was one place that I wanted to show M,D and Becca before we headed out to dinner: the W Hotel. One of the swankiest places in DC, with one of the best rooftop bars in the City, it has a complete view of the White House, Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. IMG_0648 And you could not have asked for a better night of weather! IMG_0654 IMG_0658
We headed for dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill, the oldest restaurant in DC where apparently many major political scandals have broken. It was delicious!! IMG_0660 IMG_0662 IMG_0670
The next morning we headed out to Georgetown where we were staying, so we could explore the area. For the first time ever, I also made it to Georgetown Cupcakes during the 100 free cupcakes!! IMG_0673 4 free cupcakes for us!! We walked along the Harbor back towards Dupont Circle to meet Albert and Maleeha for Brunch. I had promised to show Dad Irish Whiskey which had $1 bottles of champagne with brunch. We all filled ourselves up on great food (though I will still contend that our fried breakfasts are better!) After lunch we headed over to Arlington Cemetery to see the graves of the Kennedy’s as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. IMG_0688 IMG_0706 IMG_0720 We were incredibly lucky that we arrived just at the time of the changing of the guards – it was an incredible sight as everything was to the exact second; it was like the soldiers had eyes in the back of their heads! We walked back along the Washington Bridge to see the Lincoln Memorial which was packed full of tourists, and found a DRAY on the Vietnam Wall. IMG_0788 IMG_0810 IMG_0873 We also got to the top of the Washington Monument which is the best view in the city. Dad told me I had to put my feet against the monument because this was “a thing” but I don’t think he was quite right! IMG_0967 Unfortunately after this weekend, I had to go back to work but M,D and Becca still kept up the tourist bug for the next few days. They saw the rest of the monuments Korea, World War Two, the Jefferson and the White House; IMG_0876 IMG_0852 IMG_0853 IMG_0910They also went to the Air and Space Museum IMG_0933 IMG_0934 IMG_0935 as well as the National Zoo; IMG_1046The last spot on the tour was the a night time tour of the monuments, I think they are more beautiful at night and they have to be seen both ways. IMG_1073 It was an amazing week with my family, and I didn’t want them to leave. However only 6 weeks to go till I’ll be home!

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“All that Jazz”: Getting lost on Liberty Island and Hitting Broadway.

“All that Jazz”: Getting lost on Liberty Island and Hitting Broadway.

Friday was our last day in New York, and although we had seen a lot, there was still more to see. I had never visited Liberty Island so we had saved this for Friday. It was the anniversary of the D Day landings but what we were unaware of was that there was a service occurring under the Statue of Liberty in celebration. IMG_0455 IMG_0464 People were gathered at the foot of the statue and school children had been chosen to pull out the flag of the US and France. IMG_0523 Above the top of the statue were 3 helicopters hovering, who then proceeded to drop thousands of red rose petals down onto the statue, the water and the pathway. IMG_0499 IMG_0520 IMG_0538 It was such a beautiful sight but in the midst of me taking photographs I managed to lose Mum, Dad and Becca. IMG_0561 It took about an hour till I found them again, and by that time had burnt my shoulders! When I had located them, we grabbed some Ice Cream and headed off the island to Macys! IMG_0571 Located in the famous shopping area, the place was huge. It was like hundreds of mini shops in one area. IMG_0581 Becca and I actually lost mum and dad (it was not my day for keeping track of people) for 20 minutes when they took a wrong turn in the watches! Becca and I got our make up done at Benefit and Mac which was cool, and then it was time to head home to get ready to hit Broadway. IMG_0586 For Mums birthday, Dad had got us all tickets to see Chicago!!
We dressed up in our fanciest gear and headed out for dinner. IMG_0591 IMG_0595 Although we had no idea where we were going, we found the perfect restaurant two doors down from the Theatre. With its old styled walls, and cute china, it was great! And we even managed to get Becca a drink too! IMG_0604 Everyone loved their food, especially Becca who proclaimed it the best meal of the trip! IMG_0612 Chicago was amazing and was the perfect end to celebrating Mums Birthday! IMG_0628 IMG_0630 HAPPY BIRTHDAY MUM! IMG_0611

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Braving the Rain, Walking the Brooklyn Bridge and Seeing in Mums Birthday!

Braving the Rain, Walking the Brooklyn Bridge and Seeing in Mums Birthday!

Although for the past few weeks in DC have been beautiful without a spot of rain we were due for a downpour. Although Becca and I had our Pac-a-mac with us, Mum and Dad were not as prepared. However we managed to find an alternate solution for them: As you can see Mum made sure every part of her hair was covered. IMG_0124 IMG_0126 Luckily the rain stopped by the end of the morning, so we didn’t miss out. While it was raining we went to the Discovery Museum in Times Square and decided to see the Lego exhibition (I didn’t want to see weird stuff about the body!) And we definitely made the right decision as it was incredible. We saw some famous pieces of art work such as the Mona Lisa and Girl with a Pearl Earring made entirely of Lego. IMG_0141 IMG_0143 IMG_0147 We also saw some 3D sculptures which took over 10,000+ blocks to create: IMG_0156 IMG_0169 IMG_0173 IMG_0180 IMG_0181
We then saw some of the artists own designs made entirely out of one colour of Lego: My favourite was the blue swimmer. IMG_0198 The most impressive though had to be the dinosaur which took a whole summer to create. IMG_0226 The next part of the exhibition was a mixture of photography and lego – superimposing one part as Lego such as the red umbrella or a dog:IMG_0238 IMG_0243 IMG_0254 IMG_0255
At the end of the exhibition we were asked to write our names on a block and then these blocks would then be used in a new piece of art – although Dad decided to be annoying and sign it as apparently it would be worth something one day! IMG_0259 IMG_0263 We stopped for a cupcake and then headed on a boat cruise to Battery Park to visit the 9/11 memorial. On the boat cruise our tour guide pointed out the dock that the Titanic was meant to arrive at, as well as the Carpathian which was the ship that came to their rescue. We arrived at the 9/11 memorial and by this time the sun was shining. The view was breath-taking. IMG_0295 IMG_0297 We visited the 9/11 museum which was heart breaking. Covering one wall was missing posters from the time, as well as pieces of shrapnel from the aeroplane when it hit. IMG_0315 Seeing the museum definitely took a lot out of us, but we headed on to our next stop: Grimaldi’s Pizza in Brooklyn. Located under the Brooklyn Bridge and taking only cash and never just a slice – it is one of the best Pizzas I have ever had. IMG_0334After completely filling ourselves up, we were ready to walk the Brooklyn Bridge. One thing I learnt from this experience: None of us can jump in time! IMG_0336 IMG_0337 IMG_0338 IMG_0339 IMG_0340
That evening we waited till pretty late to head to the Empire State Building, so that we would be at the top of the tower by midnight to celebrate it turning to Mums Birthday. IMG_0371 Although I had been up the Rockefeller Centre, as had the others earlier in the week, this was a first for all of us! Once we had reached the top it was incredible. IMG_0375 IMG_0388 Seeing the city lit up at night was amazing although it was also freezing! IMG_0390 IMG_0393 IMG_0403 IMG_0405 We also headed up even higher to the 92nd floor which thankfully was inside! We had made it to Midnight and seen Mum’s Birthday in! IMG_0389 IMG_0410 IMG_0418

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