A Travellerspoint blog

USA

Yosemite National Park and San Francisco

overcast 25 °C

I left LA around midday and got to the Yosemite Rustic Bug Resort around 5:30/6pm.
It was exactly what I was looking for:
quaint wooden cabins adorned the hillside, trees as far as the eye could see and nothing but the sounds of nature surrounded me
- perfection!

Just before I drove up to the reception area, a hobbling woman stopped me and asked for a lift as she'd hurt herself hiking and had already walked so far on a busted knee.
Naturally, I picked her up because I'm a decent human being and drove her to reception.

After I'd checked in, I went to the dorm room cabin and discovered my injured passenger was also my roommate which was nice.
She was German and there were 2 other German girls who were travelling together and we became a little unit for a night and a day!
We had some dinner together and chatted about the different hikes to do in Yosemite.

Now as many of you who know me or have read my Thailand blog will know, I am not a hiker and in fact any up-hill motion makes my physical inadequacies all the more ubiquitous.
So, I asked my new German friends about the easiest hikes and where I could drive to...

The next day, I drove to Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park and on the way I saw a bear.
A bear!!
I've never felt so incredibly in awe as I did at that moment.
I saw the bear trundling along the edge of a mountain slope so I quickly pulled in off the road, got my iPad and got out of the car.
I was taking some picture of this beautiful creature, when it stopped walking and looked straight at me.

90_IMG_0580.jpg 90_IMG_0581.jpg
90_IMG_0582.jpg 90_IMG_0579.jpg
90_IMG_0583.jpg

We both just stood there for a while, staring at one another, like there was nothing and no one else in the world at that moment in time but the two of us.
It was almost like for those few seconds, we were one and the same, until a noise away from us both startled the bear and it ran into a nearby hedge.
Not knowing entirely where the bear had gone, nor how tasty a treat I would be, I hurried back into the car and continued driving through the park.
My day was pretty much tops after that!

I arrived at Glacier Point and took some photos of the incredible views and noticed all the families and couples setting off on the various trails available from there. I walked around for a little, but I knew I wouldn't be able to do any of the hikes from there so got back in my car and began to drive down to the village. I stopped on the side of the road by a barren looking mountain top that looked higher than Glacier Point, got my camera and climbed up to the top to A) see the views and B) see if I could see any mountain lions...!

DSC_0275.jpg 0C42D621FA4EA9342F1D567CFC56913A.jpg
90_IMG_0587.jpg 90_IMG_0588.jpg 90_IMG_0589.jpg 180_IMG_0590.jpg

I got some supplies from the village store when I'd parked the car and mentally prepared myself for the exercise ahead!
A comfortable bag, a souvenir and some water, then I headed out to what was left of Mirror Lake.
The hike had a little elevation but it was totally doable, and overall, really quite pleasant.

The Mirror Lake, at that time of year, was nothing more than a glorified pond surrounded by sand and gravel, like a misplaced beach.
It was however, very pretty there and the mountains carved mercilessly into the skyline with such precision, it was truly breath-taking.

270_0B462B9CF69BF0B58F9D2656BA6221A0.jpg 0B4E3E52DC7AA923342590FC28D6B2D8.jpg
270_DSC_0279.jpg DSC_0282.jpg
0B573FE2DD74578BC204135AFB804647.jpg 0B5D7F31D4E4C11AA9374C9C68935A4A.jpg
DSC_0285.jpg DSC_0292.jpg

I walked back through the forest a bit more in order to enjoy nature without other people getting in my way!
It was incredibly peaceful hearing nothing but the sounds of birds singing, the flow of water from the rivers and trees bending in the gentle breeze as I looked at the beautiful surroundings and looking out for mountain lions... of which I saw none!

DSC_0293.jpg DSC_0294.jpg
DSC_0295.jpg 270_DSC_0296.jpg
DSC_0297.jpg 270_DSC_0298.jpg
270_DSC_0302.jpg 270_0B8F8AECDC4D8B8897F4DFB24AFD7CE7.jpg
270_0B91BFC70F89AA2484BE208F40D99E8B.jpg 0B93DB320CDF51988FC9EA560F2AB4EC.jpg
270_0B4182B1F91BAEF20189A374C7A94A0E.jpg

After a total of 8-10 miles as I had gone full Red Riding Hood and had ignored the path all together, I eventually found my way back to the car and drove back to the hostel resort for some dinner and some much needed spa time!
After a hot tub and sauna session and a cheeky hour long deep tissue massage, I felt like I'd had a super productive day!
The next morning, I had some breakfast and began my shortest drive to my final destination; San Francisco.

Now I have to say, I either did it wrong, or San Francisco really isn't all it's cracked up to be...

I went to see the Golden Gate Bridge, which took forever on various busses and by the time I eventually got there the fog had begun rolling in which both ruined and momentarily enhanced my pictures. I was not dressed appropriately for the cold that the fog brought in so was frozen to the bone, tired and a damp and had to make the long journey back to the more central part of the city.

0AD9C9FA91CAACAFEADFC473C93E8D9B.jpg 0ADF9A22B862946CEDF0C95832F40D4F.jpg

I went to Alcatraz Prison, and again, was not all that impressed.

IMG_6651.jpg 270_DSC_0322.jpg
DSC_0321.jpg DSC_0320.jpg
DSC_0319.jpg 0C932DC4D205EA06DDB5E93CE504A5A5.jpg
DSC_0318.jpg 270_DSC_0317.jpg
270_0C6B54709CC752512DBB585A3B7E2003.jpg 0C5FBDDDED8C026C6A07F810C9A387B5.jpg
DSC_0314.jpg 90_IMG_0664.jpg
90_IMG_0663.jpg 90_IMG_0662.jpg
90_IMG_0661.jpg 180_IMG_0660.jpg 90_IMG_0659.jpg 90_IMG_0658.jpg 90_IMG_0657.jpg 90_IMG_0656.jpg 90_IMG_0655.jpg 180_IMG_0654.jpg 90_IMG_0652.jpg 90_IMG_0651.jpg 90_IMG_0650.jpg 90_IMG_0649.jpg 90_IMG_0648.jpg 90_IMG_0647.jpg 90_IMG_0646.jpg 90_IMG_0645.jpg 90_IMG_0644.jpg 90_IMG_0643.jpg 90_IMG_0642.jpg 180_IMG_0641.jpg 90_IMG_0640.jpg 180_IMG_0639.jpg 180_IMG_0638.jpg 180_IMG_0635.jpg

The views from Alcatraz Island of the bay were quite good but it all just seemed somewhat anti-climactic and a little over-hyped.
I didn't even get through the audio tour without being bored senseless, admitting defeat and bailing out of there.
My most enjoyable experiences in San Francisco was probably standing on the side of the cable car as it went downhill toward the marina but even that wasn't mind-blowing.
I went to China town, but having been living in China for over 2 and half years now, it was actually a little sad seeing how Chinese culture had been bastardised for Western means.
I did enjoy walking around the bay and I even met Elmo, but apart from that, I wasn't all that taken in by San Francisco and my heart definitely came home with me...

IMG_6652.jpg IMG_6649.jpg
180_IMG_0618.jpg 90_IMG_0619.jpg
90_IMG_0620.jpg 90_IMG_0622.jpg
180_IMG_0626.jpg DSC_0312.jpg
DSC_0313.jpg 180_IMG_0635.jpg
180_IMG_0634.jpg 180_IMG_0633.jpg
90_IMG_0632.jpg 90_IMG_0631.jpg
90_IMG_0630.jpg 180_IMG_0629.jpg
180_IMG_0628.jpg 90_IMG_0627.jpg
180_0CBFE464AFCDB4DE70B64548478057E8.jpg 90_0CBC87A4C8DEF58B4F0EF1958537B8F4.jpg
90_IMG_0676.jpg 90_IMG_0675.jpg
90_IMG_0672.jpg 90_IMG_0671.jpg
90_IMG_0670.jpg 180_IMG_0669.jpg
90_IMG_0668.jpg 180_IMG_0667.jpg
180_IMG_0666.jpg 180_IMG_0665.jpg
90_IMG_0621.jpg 90_0CB15FFD9CE4475FE8717E0579601E62.jpg
90_0CAF1C05D05B523785651DF5DE4D70AF.jpg 180_0CAABEAC9149C330C3C6E5C4168F82F0.jpg

I had more fun in Oakland (which is where I was staying courtesy of my wonderful AirBnB host Cassandra!) and could have happily just stayed in Oakland, ignoring SF all together, but that's the annoyance of hindsight, you never get it in advance!
I think my most interesting experience was waking up to an earthquake, not really knowing it was an earthquake at first, acknowledging it was an earthquake, assessing the severity to not be that high and then going back to sleep!
Ahh California!

Posted by Lady Mantle 19:44 Archived in USA Tagged mountains hiking california spa san_francisco golden_gate_bridge duck yosemite national_park alcatraz cable_car bear china_town earthquake elmo oakland fishermans_wharf airbnb hot_tub the_bay mirror_lake glacier_point port_of_san_francisco rustic_bug_resort deep_tissue_massage Comments (0)

Los Angeles

sunny 31 °C

I drove to Los Angeles with a few stops along the way as it’s a long-ass drive!
It didn’t help that a lorry had overturned so I had to sit in a long line of traffic for a while.
Roads in the US are so long and everything is so much further apart than you realise!

I eventually got to my hostel in L.A. around 5:30/6pm and went to meet Steve from the hostel in New Orleans for a drink on Hollywood Boulevard before he left for his flight back to Australia.
I walked along the Walk of Fame then headed back to my hostel for an early night.

90_IMG_0289.jpg 90_IMG_0290.jpg
90_IMG_0288.jpg 90_IMG_0287.jpg
90_IMG_0286.jpg 90_IMG_0283.jpg
90_IMG_0282.jpg 90_IMG_0281.jpg
90_IMG_0280.jpg 90_IMG_0276.jpg
90_IMG_0275.jpg 90_IMG_0274.jpg
90_IMG_0517.jpg 90_IMG_0516.jpg
90_IMG_0277.jpg 90_IMG_0284.jpg

  • RIP Robin Williams *

Apparently my early night was a little too early as I was awake at 4am and bored, so I got up as quietly as possible (not the easiest thing to do when you’re on the top bunk in a room of 6…!) and drove up to the Griffith Observatory to watch the sun rise.

270_6B76012F977F5E9B95FAA6D83EFD7E50.jpg 6B775286E8B4E6B1CF696B2A1FEE88E9.jpg

It is truly amazing what you can see when you’re awake 4 in the morning in Los Angeles. I saw something being filmed, a movie or TV programme, in a gas station, I got to see the beauty of Griffith Park from the observatory and the pure, silent, unpolluted view of Los Angeles as all her lights twinkled in the early morning darkness.

6B77F374920FDA59279EEDE43ECAD563.jpg 6B7A14E29502789F00348C89D53BD92D.jpg
90_IMG_0300.jpg 180_IMG_0305.jpg
90_IMG_0306.jpg

I saw a guy propose to his girlfriend, she clearly had no idea it was happening, and as the sun rose over the nearby mountains, the mysticism of Los Angeles faded away in the astounding beauty and power of the morning glow.

90_IMG_0325.jpg 90_IMG_0327.jpg

I particularly enjoyed an old Chinese man, ignoring the sunrise and staring, full-bodied at the moon as her light begin to diminish. There was something traumatic about the whole thing. It was almost as if he was contemplating his own life and how much or little time he might have before his own light fades…

DSC_0239.jpg

I took lots of pictures of the sun rising over the hills and after the initial beam of sunlight had hit the high rises and the city was bathed in the morning light, I got back in the car to get away from the hordes of people that had suddenly arrived and drove to Venice beach to enjoy some sea air and a casual walk on the beach and over the little bridges along the canals.

DSC_0216.jpg 6B78AFACE8BF355EEB5904D5AC3841AA.jpg
6B7946CEA4FA98296B0BE67181480D8D.jpg 6B7AB15603BEA12723278B989153C1E2.jpg
6B7B5271BFB9927E5631AEC48F751889.jpg DSC_0230.jpg
DSC_0232.jpg 6B7D4FE3913B483BFFAA2BD6DC7AD58D.jpg
DSC_0236.jpg DSC_0237.jpg
6B7EFB3F0A25C1FD3C1765D59F6D4C18.jpg 6BA9B316C191F17B3DF4E74101CB3668.jpg
6BAA6290AE829E5FDB8BFE729738A9F0.jpg DSC_0263.jpg
DSC_0265.jpg 6BAD1CA0B216F1511231B4FE4C38E06B.jpg
6BADF874ECE1CFC2D15EC302D4158381.jpg IMG_0273.jpg
180_IMG_0356.jpg 90_IMG_0357.jpg
90_IMG_0358.jpg

I only got a short amount of time for parking so I had to cut my walk short and made my way back to the hostel to catch up on my missed sleep before driving to Newport to go whale watching.
Now, in order to get to the port to get on the boat to go whale watching, I had to drive to Balboa Island: the weirdest place I’ve ever seen. It was almost like none of it was real. Like the Truman Show meets Pleasantville, but so much more expensive. People were doing water sports and lounging on their private boats whilst I sat in my car on a 3 car ferry to get across the water to the dock, just like the car ferry in Jaws! So weird.

180_IMG_0360.jpg 180_IMG_0361.jpg
90_IMG_0362.jpg 90_IMG_0363.jpg
90_IMG_0364.jpg 180_IMG_0365.jpg
180_IMG_0366.jpg 90_IMG_0367.jpg
90_IMG_0368.jpg 90_IMG_0369.jpg
90_IMG_0370.jpg 180_IMG_0371.jpg

The boat trip was pleasant enough, I saw a whale, from a distance and some dolphins, yet it wasn’t as enchanting as I’d hoped for, but pleasant enough. I got back onto the 3 car ferry, being the first car is the scariest thing of all as you stare bewildered at the minimal chain supposedly preventing you from diving engine first into the water, drove back to my hostel and had another relatively early night.
The next day I went to Universal Studios and I have to say, as good as it is, it’s ridiculously overpriced for what’s on offer and you have to pay for parking,
even after the extortionate entry prices! $16 for basic, general parking!
I packed some food and a big bottle of water as I wasn’t paying their prices for food and drink but luckily everything else was included in the exorbitant ticket price!
Plus, on the rides in the lower lot, they have a single rider entrance so if you’re travelling alone like I was or you don’t mind getting separated from your group/friends then you basically walk to the front of the queue to fill up empty seats on the rides. I walked straight past the 30 minutes wait like for the Jurassic Park Water ride and literally stepped straight on! Winner!

IMG_0374.jpg 90_IMG_0376.jpg
180_IMG_0377.jpg 90_IMG_0378.jpg
180_IMG_0379.jpg 180_IMG_0380.jpg
180_IMG_0381.jpg 180_IMG_0382.jpg
180_IMG_0383.jpg 180_IMG_0384.jpg
90_IMG_0389.jpg 90_IMG_0394.jpg
90_IMG_0395.jpg

Jurassic Park and the Transformers ride (also with a single rider line) were by far the best, and the Waterworld show was great but the Mummy ride was a cheap, poor-man’s ghost house. It was boring and a total waste of time. The only thrill was the accelerated start, it was downhill from there, both figuratively and literally.

IMG_6647.jpg IMG_6636.jpg
IMG_6636.jpg

The Studio Tour was pretty interesting and definitely worth doing, but the queue was crazy long after 11am, so my advice would be to do that first. The Shrek 4D experience was pretty good too!

90_IMG_0401.jpg 90_IMG_0405.jpg
90_IMG_0408.jpg 90_IMG_0409.jpg
90_IMG_0411.jpg 90_IMG_0413.jpg
90_IMG_0415.jpg 90_IMG_0418.jpg
90_IMG_0419.jpg 90_IMG_0421.jpg
90_IMG_0423.jpg 90_IMG_0424.jpg
90_IMG_0425.jpg 90_IMG_0426.jpg
90_IMG_0428.jpg 90_IMG_0429.jpg
90_IMG_0430.jpg 90_IMG_0431.jpg
90_IMG_0432.jpg 90_IMG_0433.jpg
90_IMG_0435.jpg 90_IMG_0436.jpg
90_IMG_0438.jpg 90_IMG_0439.jpg
90_IMG_0440.jpg 90_IMG_0441.jpg
90_IMG_0442.jpg 90_IMG_0443.jpg
90_IMG_0444.jpg 90_IMG_0445.jpg
90_IMG_0446.jpg 90_IMG_0447.jpg
90_IMG_0448.jpg 90_IMG_0449.jpg
90_IMG_0450.jpg 90_IMG_0452.jpg
90_IMG_0453.jpg 90_IMG_0456.jpg
90_IMG_0457.jpg 90_IMG_0459.jpg
90_IMG_0460.jpg 90_IMG_0462.jpg
90_IMG_0463.jpg 90_IMG_0464.jpg
90_IMG_0465.jpg 90_IMG_0466.jpg
90_IMG_0467.jpg 90_IMG_0468.jpg
90_IMG_0469.jpg 90_IMG_0470.jpg
90_IMG_0471.jpg 90_IMG_0472.jpg
90_IMG_0473.jpg 90_IMG_0474.jpg
90_IMG_0475.jpg 90_IMG_0477.jpg
90_IMG_0479.jpg 90_IMG_0486.jpg
90_IMG_0487.jpg 90_IMG_0489.jpg
90_IMG_0491.jpg 90_IMG_0492.jpg
90_IMG_0493.jpg 90_IMG_0494.jpg
90_IMG_0495.jpg 90_IMG_0496.jpg
90_IMG_0497.jpg 180_IMG_0499.jpg
90_IMG_0500.jpg 90_IMG_0501.jpg
90_IMG_0502.jpg

All in all, it wasn’t a bad way to spend the day but it is an expensive outing, especially for families without a well-stocked picnic basket and an inability to say no to the excessive souvenir shops and tack sellers!

90_IMG_0514.jpg

Now it sounds like I had a horrible time, which just isn’t the case, at one point some street cleaners started performing the most incredible dance routine, I just don’t understand why places with such high footfall need to be so expensive! Grinds my gears!

90_IMG_0512.jpg 90_IMG_0511.jpg
90_IMG_0510.jpg 90_IMG_0509.jpg
90_IMG_0508.jpg 90_IMG_0507.jpg
90_IMG_0506.jpg 90_IMG_0505.jpg
90_IMG_0504.jpg 90_IMG_0503.jpg

I went for a walk down Fairfax Avenue after parking my car in the hostel’s minimal underground parking so as to not lose the space! I got falafel and hummus for dinner and some sushi for the following day and then chilled out.
The next day I did a Hollywood tour, they took you to famous people’s houses, not that you could see anything, but it was relatively informative and fun, if somewhat pricey for the gift of looking to famous people’s very high gates and fences.

90_IMG_0518.jpg 90_IMG_0519.jpg
90_IMG_0521.jpg 90_IMG_0522.jpg
90_IMG_0523.jpg 90_IMG_0524.jpg
90_IMG_0525.jpg 90_IMG_0526.jpg
90_IMG_0527.jpg 90_IMG_0528.jpg
90_IMG_0529.jpg 90_IMG_0530.jpg
90_IMG_0531.jpg 90_IMG_0532.jpg
90_IMG_0534.jpg 90_IMG_0535.jpg
90_IMG_0536.jpg 90_IMG_0537.jpg
90_IMG_0538.jpg 90_IMG_0539.jpg
90_IMG_0540.jpg 90_IMG_0541.jpg
90_IMG_0542.jpg 90_IMG_0543.jpg
90_IMG_0545.jpg 90_IMG_0546.jpg
90_IMG_0547.jpg

I then drove to the La Brea Tar Pits to see some fossils before going back to the hostel for a late lunch of sushi; some writing and a little TV before free BBQ and drinks in the Tiki Lounge!

90_IMG_0548.jpg 90_IMG_0549.jpg
90_IMG_0550.jpg 90_IMG_0551.jpg
90_IMG_0552.jpg 90_IMG_0553.jpg
90_IMG_0554.jpg 180_IMG_0555.jpg
180_IMG_0556.jpg 180_IMG_0557.jpg
90_IMG_0558.jpg 180_IMG_0559.jpg
90_IMG_0560.jpg 90_IMG_0561.jpg
180_IMG_0562.jpg 180_IMG_0563.jpg
180_IMG_0564.jpg 90_IMG_0565.jpg
180_IMG_0566.jpg 90_IMG_0567.jpg
90_IMG_0568.jpg 90_IMG_0569.jpg
90_IMG_0574.jpg 90_IMG_0570.jpg

The next day I packed up and checked out of the Banana Bungalows and went to meet the girls for breakfast I had eggs benedict and it was crazy delicious! We went to the Blu Jam Café and clearly made an excellent choice as there was a queue down the street about 10 minutes after we arrived.

90_IMG_0576.jpg

After that, I said goodbye to the girls for the last time and began my drive to Yosemite.

Posted by Lady Mantle 19:36 Archived in USA Tagged sunrise expensive universal_studios walk_of_fame rodeo_drive sushi whale_watching l.a. solo_traveller la_brea_tar_pits hollywood_boulevard griffith_park_observatory balboa_island single_rider fortune_cookie it's_so_fluffy jurassic_park_ride waterworld_show Comments (0)

The Grand Canyon, the Hoover Dam and Las Vegas

And the joys of renting a car in a foreign country!

sunny 34 °C

My flight from New Orleans to Atlanta didn't take very long, but after the 3 hour flight to Phoenix and the 4 hour drive to Flagstaff, I was knackered!
I picked up my rental car at Phoenix airport - sounds simple enough but I'd had to cancel a previous rental agreement because the US Customs decided that my international drivers permit was not important enough to actually deliver and even now, after 6 months, it still hasn't been delivered! But my friends in NOLA advised me that rental companies barely ask for it, so I took the risk by booking with another company that wasn't asking for an IDP and I was away!

Now in Britain, we drive on the right side of the car. In China and in America, on the left side. Now I've driven a car in China, but having sat in taxis and friends cars, I was familiar with the right hand drive, automatic gear box stuff, plus Michelle had been kind enough to let me drive a little in New York so I was confident that I wasn't going to die!

Oh my god, how I had missed driving! Being on the wrong side of the car meant nothing, I was driving again and I had forgotten just how much I enjoy driving! Then I realised just how long roads in America are and just how far away everything is and well, my newly rekindled love of driving soon died out! So as soon as I reached Flagstaff, I checked into an over-priced and totally not worth the money or my time motel, but salvaged the experience by having the scrummiest Greek food at Alpha and Omega on Route 66 for dinner before having an early night, ready for the Grand Canyon in the morning and the big old drive to Vegas!

I got up around 6 am, showered, had a little breakfast, checked out of my room and head out towards the Grand Canyon.
The roads in the US are so long and wide and seemingly never-ending!
I eventually got to the Grand Canyon, paid my $25 car fee and parked up near the visitors centre.
I followed signs towards Mathers Point and was subconsciously picturing what I was about to see.
I was wrong.
My mind could not produce the sheer magnitude and vastness of the chasm before me.
I was literally speechless, I don't even think a 'wow' uttered forth from my parted lips, more of a squeak peeped out.
It is truly an incredible sight to behold. I felt so insignificant against that backdrop, and oddly serene.
There's something comforting and calming about looking at the Grand Canyon that even I have difficulty describing.

693E0CFDEE166C1B276736678021620E.jpg 693F43DABA52B0BAB3FC15D98493A233.jpg
694069F29C23BA240212DE930229F1B3.jpg DSC_0181.jpg
DSC_0182.jpg DSC_0183.jpg
DSC_0184.jpg 6946BCD2A5DBE78E919B7737F7E1B83C.jpg
270_DSC_0186.jpg 69493FCC90453D9693623F05B13780BA.jpg
697C2BF9C970C47B753A3093460B8F55.jpg 697B04B6C134A9E7AB1767B898468ECE.jpg
DSC_0204.jpg 697838E5E72990F2F6630225A7B5CF87.jpg
DSC_0202.jpg 6975E2DC94FCB619768347752FA10D8C.jpg
69749D1C9438498D56627F7D9FDF981E.jpg DSC_0199.jpgDSC_0198.jpg
DSC_0196.jpg

I walked along the trail for a while before getting on a free shuttle bus that takes you to other points along the rim, all equally stunning.
I nice Korean lady offered to take a picture of me on my phone standing precariously close to the edge but feeling unafraid of the abyss below me.

IMG_6642.jpg

I felt nothing bad could happen at the Grand Canyon, with so much beauty surrounding me.
I stayed and walked around for about an hour and a half, then in true me-as-a-tourist fashion, got in my car and drove away as hordes of cars desperately tried to find parking spaces.
My advice to anyone visiting the Grand Canyon would be to arrive early, that way you will be blessed as I was with minimal people and maximum parking options!

~ ~ ~

I began driving to Vegas and it wasn’t until I saw a sign for it that I realised the Hoover Dam was on route, so I stopped there for 20 minutes ($10 for the privilege to park!), took a few snaps and then left as there were no more tours that day.

270_69E9BB8104CA53C2272EACE8964E0B28.jpg DSC_0211.jpg
270_69E77A84BF1D68AC06A0240D7F7757B1.jpg DSC_0209.jpg
DSC_0208.jpg 69E48024D3C7949E84A99DF80BB95515.jpg

I think one man was hoping to recreate the dam at home, at least I can only imagine as such given the number of photos he was taking of roughly the same area!
By the time I reached Vegas I was almost out of gas and had been driving on and off for about 8 hours!
Things are not as close as they look on maps!
I found my hotel and had a much needed early night.

The next day I didn’t really do much; I went to a 50’s Diner for pancakes at 1pm and then chilled out in my room watching T.V. I obviously needed the sleep because another early night later and it was Tuesday!

I’d booked tickets for Cirque du Soleil on livingsocial.com - a great website for discounted tickets and needed to collect them from the box office at Treasure Island so I got in the car and made my way down the strip.

Vegas is like Disneyland on crack.

For adults.

With hookers.

It’s bright and gaudy and you forget that you’re in the middle of the desert until you acknowledge how thirsty you are!
I parked (for free!) in the Treasure Island carpark, got my ticket, and then went for a walk.

IMG_0241.jpg IMG_0240.jpg
90_IMG_0239.jpg 180_IMG_0238.jpg
90_IMG_0237.jpg 90_IMG_0236.jpg
180_IMG_0235.jpg 90_IMG_0234.jpg
180_IMG_0233.jpg 90_IMG_0232.jpg
90_IMG_0231.jpg 180_IMG_0230.jpg
90_IMG_0224.jpg

It is hot in the desert!

I went into Paris to get the monorail and was accosted by various people trying to sell me above and beyond expensive skin care products before eventually finding the monorail.

They’re very sneaky in Vegas, putting the thing you need miles away through a vast array of things you might want in shiny glass cabinets and brightly dressed window displays….!
I resisted temptation however, paid for my $5 one-ride monorail ticket and went back to Treasure Island.

I went back to my hotel for a 2 hour nap then headed out again to watch Cirque du Soleil.

180_IMG_0243.jpg 90_IMG_0244.jpg

It was INCREDIBLE!
Everyone should go and see at least one of their many shows.
I was totally blown away. The physical endurance and ability those performers had is nothing like I’ve ever seen before; simply breath-taking.
I was going to walk around for a bit after the show, but the streets were heaving and I wasn’t in the mood for hen and stag do drunkenness so I headed back to my hotel!

The next day I went to Denny’s for brunch then did some laundry, called my bank who had once again blocked my bank card and the chilled out in my room.

Vegas as a solo traveller is a little boring but I suppose it’s what you make of it.
Meeting friends tomorrow so hopefully my opinion of Vegas will be improved…

I went for a late breakfast before going to the airport to pick up the girls and dropped them off at the Paris Hotel and Casino, gave them some time to wind down and get settled then met them in their hotel room to decide what to do.
We went casino hopping and had quite a bit of luck!

IMG_6641.jpg IMG_6643.jpg
IMG_6648.jpg

We saw the fountain show at the Bellagio and walked up the strip for a while, admiring all the varying types of people and groups before admitting defeat and needing sleep so I said bye to the girls at the MGM Grand and went back to my hotel, ready for the next league of my journey!

90_IMG_0245.jpg 90_IMG_0246.jpg
90_IMG_0253.jpg 90_IMG_0254.jpg
90_IMG_0255.jpg 180_IMG_0256.jpg
180_IMG_0257.jpg 180_IMG_0258.jpg
180_IMG_0259.jpg 180_IMG_0260.jpg
180_IMG_0261.jpg 180_IMG_0262.jpg
180_IMG_0263.jpg 180_IMG_0264.jpg
180_IMG_0265.jpg 180_IMG_0266.jpg
180_IMG_0267.jpg 180_IMG_0268.jpg
180_IMG_0269.jpg 180_IMG_0270.jpg
180_IMG_0271.jpg

Posted by Lady Mantle 20:57 Archived in USA Tagged desert las_vegas bellagio rental_car pancakes treasure_island winning gambling monorail route_66 cirque_du_soleil the_strip the_grand_canyon the_hoover_dam paris_casino mgm_grand mystere fountain_show caeser's_palace the_hangover right_hand_drive left_hand_drive alpha_and_omega mathers_point stunning_views wonder_of_the_world transformers denny's livingsocial.com disneyland_on_crack hookers gaudy skin_care Comments (0)

New Orleans

And Jacksonville, NC

sunny 40 °C

I arrived in Jacksonville, NC and waited for my friend to pick me up from the tiniest airport I’ve ever been to!
When the plane touched down on the tarmac, and everyone started to leave the plane, I hadn’t even realised that we were not connected to the airport (you know how there is usually a tube-walkway thing from the plane door to the airport?).
I stepped off the plane and watched as everyone who knew what they were doing just began walking across the tarmac to the terminal building that looked no bigger than a large community centre.
I wasn’t really sure what the protocol was, so without any personnel that I could see to guide me, I followed suit and walked to the terminal building.
It looked almost like an office building inside; one floor, one bathroom, and at the end of the building, there was a single, maybe 10ft conveyer belt slowly bringing in the luggage.
After successfully collecting my baggage, I went outside (only a few feet away from the conveyer belt!) and waited for my friend who eventually arrived looking fashionable as usual and off we went.

To go from New York to Jacksonville, NC was quite a change in not only pace but environment as well.
I was surrounded by green and big open fields, just what I needed after a busy 2 weeks in NYC.

My friend took me for Carolina BBQ and hush puppies which is basically shredded chicken, vinegar and coleslaw in a bun and deep-fried corn cake things.
Anyway, it was yummy!
It rained for the next 2 days so we basically just ate tasty food and I bought some much needed additions to my wardrobe…!
The hotel I stayed in (Extended Stay America) was actually really good and the staff were great, would definitely recommend.

My flight to New Orleans wasn’t until 12:45 so I checked out at 11 and my friend took me to the airport. Standard security, standard flights, although at one point, I felt like Sandra Bullock in the Proposal when she goes to Sitka in the tiny plane - it felt like I was in a glider, not a real plane at all! I had to change at Charlotte and luckily the next plane was bigger!

~ New Orleans ~

My hostel was in the Garden District, about 15 blocks west of the French Quarter, and full of beautiful, typically southern country homes.

90_IMG_0192.jpg 90_IMG_0190.jpg
90_IMG_0189.jpg 90_IMG_0188.jpg
90_IMG_0187.jpg 90_IMG_0186.jpg
90_IMG_0185.jpg 90_IMG_0184.jpg
90_IMG_0183.jpg 90_IMG_0182.jpg
90_IMG_0181.jpg 90_IMG_0180.jpg
90_IMG_0179.jpg 90_IMG_0178.jpg
90_IMG_0177.jpg 90_IMG_0176.jpg

To be completely honest, the hostel (the Atlas House) didn’t look massively fancy from the outside, but the inside was lovely and clean and the staff were really welcoming. I stayed in a 6-bed dorm which was spacious and even had a little balcony off the back.
Very cute, and cool too thanks to the giant fan and air conditioning!

I didn’t arrive in New Orleans until the evening so after making my bed and organising my things, I made the 30-45 minute walk to the French Quarter for dinner.

90_IMG_0040.jpg 90_IMG_0041.jpg
90_IMG_0042.jpg 90_IMG_0044.jpg
90_IMG_0045.jpg 90_IMG_0050.jpg
90_IMG_0051.jpg 90_IMG_0052.jpg
90_IMG_0053.jpg 90_IMG_0054.jpg
90_IMG_0055.jpg 90_IMG_0056.jpg
90_IMG_0057.jpg 90_IMG_0058.jpg

After sweating off about 40lbs(!) I started talking to a guy on Bourbon Street who suggested that I got a Po-Boy… I was intrigued so went up some stairs to a little restaurant and ordered a Shrimp Po-Boy and an iced tea.

Best. Shrimp. Ever.

I was presented with a toasted sandwich stuffed with lots of fat shrimp, lettuce and tomato, some fries and my own little pot of lemon mayonnaise – perfection!
I thought it would be strange eating alone, but I actually sort of enjoyed the quiet reflection time… and people watching, naturally.

Bourbon Street really is bar central and if your trip to New Orleans doesn’t require a street of neon signs and drunken gargoyles staggering around, it’s probably not somewhere you want to be at night…!

IMG_6637.jpg IMG_6631.jpg

I walked up and down different streets, but the French Quarter is basically a massive grid and after a while I felt like a pawn in a game of chess!
Eventually I got to Jackson Square and saw all the horse-drawn buggies and Café du Monde – home of the beignets!

IMG_6638.jpg

One of my missions for New Orleans was to enjoy the French pastry-doughnut that is the beignet and as good luck would have it, I stumbled upon the most famous place to get them from!
3 beignets for $2.25 and a kilogram of powdered sugar later and I scuttled to a dark corner to avoid onlookers observing my ritualistic devouring of those powdered treats only to discover that my chosen scoffing-place was generally use as a beignets eating area, given the copious amounts of powdered sugar dusting all over the floor..!
YUM!

For some reason, I couldn’t sleep (probably all that sugar!) so I was chatting to my students for a while before eventually admitting defeat around 2am.
I then woke up at 8am for no reason at all, so decided to head to Lafayette Cemetery to take some photos.
It was so peaceful and beautiful.

8F67634CC1EB550BE4A84CF7E0976844.jpg 270_8F68588407CE88F23F77EF11926CA3A1.jpg
270_8F6913D2ACEA876F8C2F8FF03430526B.jpg DSC_0159.jpg
DSC_0160.jpg 270_8F6B8021F4B298ACEEB2E00BD05FC90D.jpg
8F6C54F8C191E645BBB605AFD0854496.jpg 8F6D36F7AB8141B8B6294068FC2B13BB.jpg
270_DSC_0164.jpg 270_DSC_0165.jpg
8F6FDA87F32418364E5E6AC014474BB4.jpg 270_DSC_0167.jpg
270_8F71A543E322CFCEC7E0F37AC5CFCED2.jpg DSC_0169.jpg
270_DSC_0170.jpg 270_DSC_0171.jpg
DSC_0172.jpg 270_DSC_0173.jpg

A little light rain meant a quick lunch stop was necessary and then I went back to the hostel for a nap!
I woke up around 5pm and headed to the French Quarter again, had scrummy Creole Rabbit at Oliviers then walked around the French Quarter, stopping at Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo to satiate my mystique ways!

IMG_6645.jpg IMG_6633.jpg

To continue the theme, I sat with a lady near Jackson Square who did a tarot reading for me.
She told me I’m going through a solitary phase and doing more things for myself than constantly doing things to help others, she said all of my cards point to education, knowledge and wisdom and that I’d be an excellent teacher…
I’m taking that as a high five from the universe.
She also said that there would be a change this time next year that would see me venturing out on my own again which coincides with my new job next school year.
She was lovely and very down to earth, we had a great chat and I really enjoyed listening to her.
When in New Orleans!

I took the advice of my lonely planet guide and did my own walking tour of the French Quarter – before my tour could begin however, I stopped to appreciate the musical stylings of a jazz band who had set up in Jackson Square.

Whilst listening to their amazing music, I got chatting to a local guy which was nice – you forget what it’s like to talk to other people when you travel alone.
I like my own company but even so, the occasional conversation is welcomed.
I grabbed a quick bite before heading out into the 80% humidity and began my walk around the French Quarter.
Some of the buildings are really quite exquisite and I half expected people in 1920’s outfits to be exiting through the double doors under the looming balconies above.
Alas, this never came to pass but there was a cute trio of acapella singers in matching suits, complete with bow ties and wicker hats.
Very dapper!

I ended up in an old pharmacy with bottles and potions for everyday ailments and an interesting birthing suite, needless to say, I’m glad for the feats of modern medicine!

90_IMG_0059.jpg 90_IMG_0060.jpg
90_IMG_0061.jpg 90_IMG_0062.jpg
90_IMG_0063.jpg 90_IMG_0064.jpg
90_IMG_0065.jpg 90_IMG_0066.jpg
90_IMG_0067.jpg 90_IMG_0068.jpg
90_IMG_0069.jpg 90_IMG_0070.jpg
90_IMG_0071.jpg 90_IMG_0072.jpg
90_IMG_0073.jpg 180_IMG_0074.jpg
180_IMG_0075.jpg 90_IMG_0076.jpg
90_IMG_0077.jpg IMG_0078.jpg

I had a relatively early night, not for sleep, but for relaxing at the hostel.
I just chilled out in the courtyard with a cute Canadian-French couple for a while then watched a movie with one of the guys who worked in the hostel (Freddie).
Some girls from the UK moved into my dorm and we got chatting and decided to go for a drink just up the road.
I left them to get some food as I was starving but only managed a salad and a quarter Philly cheesesteak sandwich which found a new home in the fridge.
I also bought a homeless guy a shrimp sandwich and a bottle of water before heading back to the hostel;
everybody deserves food.

I booked a haunted tour with Witches Brews Tours for Wednesday evening so I knew I didn’t want to do a lot of walking during the day.
I got on a bus near the hostel to Canal St then hopped on the tram up to St Louis Cemetery No. 1 to visit Marie Laveau!

90_IMG_0174.jpg 90_IMG_0173.jpg
180_IMG_0172.jpg 90_IMG_0171.jpg
90_IMG_0083.jpg 90_IMG_0084.jpg
90_IMG_0085.jpg 90_IMG_0086.jpg
90_IMG_0087.jpg

I met a lovely guy in Cambodia in January this year who told me to look him up in New Orleans so when I stumbled across his gallery, it seemed fated for us to meet up.
We had a good chat and arranged dinner and drinks for the following evening as I was walking with the spirits that evening!

So after chilling out with my little hostel family, I jumped on a bus into the French Quarter and arrived early enough to grab a quick bowl of gumbo at an Oyster bar on Royal Street where upon I informed my waiter/bar tender that I’d never had an oyster before when one ceremoniously appeared before me with crackers and hot sauce.
Now, I’d sat at the bar (as advised by my friends for travelling solo!) so I was surrounded by other people, all somewhat more accustomed to oyster-eating and yet upon receiving instructions on how to eat my (free) oyster and doing so successfully, I received a round of applause from my bar constituents!
I wish every ‘first’ in my life was applauded!

After my oyster experience (which far outdid my first gumbo experience!) I walked across the street to meet with my tour group for the Voodoo, Witches, Vampires and Ghosts tour around the French Quarter.
It was really interesting and definitely worth doing, even if I was sweating buckets by the end of it.
Even between 8 – 10pm it is crazy humid.

90_IMG_0099.jpg 90_IMG_0098.jpg
90_IMG_0097.jpg 90_IMG_0096.jpg
IMG_0095.jpg 90_IMG_0094.jpg
IMG_0090.jpg IMG_0089.jpg

Even got to see the Delphine LaLaurie house...!

90_IMG_0102.jpg

Our guide was great, the right amount of funny and knowledgeable - a definite must for anyone visiting New Orleans and wanting a more in depth lesson on the darker history.

When I got back to the hostel, everyone was outside having drinks for Inci’s leaving do (a girl who worked at the hostel) so I joined the festivities including flip-cup and charades until I thought it best to go to bed, given that I had to be up at 8am the following day.

IMG_0242.png1168.jpg

I really loved my stay at the Atlas House hostel and would 100% recommend it to anyone who wants a real family of travellers and the guys who run the hostel are the best, great to just chill and talk to about anything.

The following morning, I was up and ready to go around 8.30am, went to buy cheap (for the USA) cigarettes and waited at the hostel for my tour bus to arrive.
Around a 30 minutes drive later, we arrived at the Louisiana Swamps and climbed aboard our airboats for the next 2 hours.
Today was alligator day :D

The journey out to ‘gator territory was relatively slow until we hit open water and then our ‘captain’ cranked up the speed and I instantly understood why they’re called airboats – we barely touched the water!

We quickly got to the renowned Bayou and within seconds of turning off the motor, 3 or 4 crocs began sashaying towards the boat.
Thankfully, they weren’t people-eaters!
This happened pretty much every time we stopped, and our driver enticed them to the boat so we could get a closer look, and we even got to hold a baby gator!

IMG_0103.jpg 90_IMG_0104.jpg
90_IMG_0105.jpg IMG_0106.jpg
IMG_0108.jpg 90_IMG_0109.jpg
90_IMG_0110.jpg 90_IMG_0111.jpg
90_IMG_0112.jpg 90_IMG_0113.jpg
90_IMG_0114.jpg 90_IMG_0115.jpg
90_IMG_0116.jpg 90_IMG_0118.jpg
90_IMG_0119.jpg IMG_0120.jpg
90_IMG_0121.jpg IMG_0124.jpg
90_IMG_0125.jpg 90_IMG_0135.jpg
90_IMG_0137.jpg 180_IMG_0138.jpg
90_IMG_0139.jpg 90_IMG_0140.jpg
90_IMG_0141.jpg 90_IMG_0142.jpg 90_IMG_0143.jpg 90_IMG_0145.jpg
90_IMG_0146.jpg 90_IMG_0148.jpg
90_IMG_0150.jpg 90_IMG_0151.jpg
90_IMG_0152.jpg 90_IMG_0155.jpg
90_IMG_0164.jpg 90_IMG_0162.jpg
90_IMG_0160.jpg 90_IMG_0158.jpg
90_IMG_0167.jpg 90_IMG_0168.jpg
90_IMG_0169.jpg 90_IMG_0170.jpg

I was the only person on the boat without noise-cancelling headphones so by the time I got back to the hostel, my ears were so sensitive I could hear my eyes blinking!

I had a nap and then went into town to meet Kirt (from Cambodia) and his lovely friend Gabriel for dinner and drinks which was an absolute blast!
I do love good company for dinner!
A theme which continued the following day with lunch and dinner with the girls from the hostel with a quick tour in between.

We went to listen to some live music on Frenchman Street and Andy and Dave from the hostel met us at the Spotted Cat Music Club.

IMG_6639.jpg IMG_6640.jpg
IMG_6634.jpg

My flight to Phoenix was at 5am the next day so I went back to the hostel at 9pm but got chatting to Freddie and then had to organise my life so I didn’t sleep until 11pm anyway!

Ah, New Orleans - you complete me.

Posted by Lady Mantle 20:04 Archived in USA Tagged food jazz ghost new_orleans jacksonville alligators shrimp witches bayou galleries oysters voodoo swamps garden_district french_quarter solo_traveller vampires beignets cafe_du_monde jackson_square po_boys marie_laveau delphine_lalaurie atlas_house_hostel lafayette_cemetery st_louis_cemetery Comments (0)

Summer in the USA

New York and Washington D.C.

sunny 30 °C

As my taxi barrelled down the highway to the airport, I couldn't help but think how incredibly lucky I am.
I was leaving on another holiday, having completed my second year of teaching in China and I was going to America for the first time ever!
So far, in the last 2 years, I've travelled around China where I'm inordinately lucky to live, I've been to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and America, and over the next year I'm going to Japan and India!

The first flight from Zhengzhou to Seoul was ok, Korean Air is comfortable enough and even though the trip was only 2 hours, I got a pretty good meal.
The issues began once I reached South Korea...

I had no money, so I asked where I could find an ATM and was informed that I had to go outside - on the plus side, I now have a south Korea stamp in my passport ^_^

After several attempts to withdraw some money, without success, I realised that once again, my bank had frozen my account.
Normally, this happens when I already have some money to pay for the international call to my bank, however on this occasion, I only had 50 yuan which, when converted, wasn't enough to even buy a phone card!

I painfully inserted coin after coin into the pay phone, got connected to my bank for a whole 10 seconds before the money ran out.
This happened a further 3 or 4 times before the cashier refused to give me any more coins.
I used what little change I had left to buy a pretzel and a bottle of water before giving up entirely.

I did get a free foot massage though which was nice!

5 hours later, I got onto my connecting flight and began my trip the wrong way around the world to the USA.

After a tediously long 13 hour flight with very little sleep and poorly edited films done and dusted, I topped up my UK phone online which now had signal and called my bank.
They unfroze my card while I was on the tarmac at JFK and by the time I'd discussed how short my little fingers are in comparison to my other fingers with the nice immigration officers, I found an ATM, hailed a cab and began my USA trip!

Now those of you who now me well enough will know, probably from personal experience, that I'm a natural mimic, especially of other people's accents... needless to say, when I asked where the ATM was, the NYC accent seeped into my brain, so much so, that when I told the taxi driver where I was going he said, "welcome back"...

Hanna Mantle: Citizen of the World!

I finally arrived at Shelly's house in Queens (after a somewhat uncomfortable conversation with my Bangledeshian driver about how much he hates his wife) to Shelly's mum, a hot shower and an air-conditioned room.

Over 24 hours later and 3 different time zones, I had arrived in New York! Boom!

I stayed awake until 1am to see Shelly when she got in from work and we had a little catch-up before going to bed.

By the time I'd woken up, Shelly had already left for work again and I had a hair appointment to get to!
I ordered a taxi and made my way to "Touch of Brazil" where another Michelle was waiting for me!
She was lovely and really looked after me.
I got highlights and a cut and it felt nice being able to actually discuss my hair with the person cutting it, unlike in China!

I desperately needed to buy some new clothes so I went down Steinway to the street of shops...
Oh my!
With my hair cut and that damn street, I must have spent at least $300!

I made my way back to Shelly's to await the arrival of Matt who arrived safe and sound around 3.30pm.
We had a brief catch-up, got ready and headed into Manhattan on the subway to meet Shelly at work.
We went to Pier 81 and got on the restaurant boat where Shelly works, went for a 30 minute cruise and had some dinner before heading to Union Square to meet Tanya for drinks.

IMG_6538.jpg IMG_6537.jpg
IMG_6536.jpg IMG_6535.jpg
IMG_6534.jpg IMG_6532.jpg
IMG_6531.jpg

Union Square is a strange, eclectic mix of types of people - hipsters and street performers, students and working people enjoying a break in the setting sun, and people eagerly awaiting an opponent for their chess game, set up with crates and stools and even office chairs to sit on and enjoy a game.

IMG_6533.jpg IMG_6539.jpg
IMG_6544.jpg IMG_6547.jpg
IMG_6549.jpg

We went to the oldest pub in NYC where they only sold light and dark ales and I managed to go to the toilet in the men’s...!

IMG_6530.jpg

We walked around a little more until we went into a seemingly innocuous hot-dog shop until Mish stepped inside a phone booth in the shop, picked up the receiver and pressed a button when all of a sudden, the back of the phone booth opened, revealing a speak-easy from the prohibition era!
Very cool.
We waited for a few minutes before being seated in a booth in the living-room sized bar, hidden away from the rest of society.
The drinks were so strong we could only sip them and then moved on to the next place.
We stopped at the Sin Palace to check out the decor, only to be accosted by a drunk man who insisted he was from Liverpool and liked kissing strangers on the neck apparently...!
(I can still feel his stubble!)

We ended up in a Dominican and Mexican restaurant, Matt and I being the only Caucasians in there and had midnight nachos before clambouring into a cab and heading home.

The next day we woke up late but early enough to enjoy pancakes, crispy bacon and eggs over easy for breakfast and then went to Metro PCS to get me an American phone for my travels.
We bought some snacks and then made our way to Chinatown to get the bus to Washington D.C.

IMG_6542.jpg IMG_6548.jpg
IMG_6550.jpg IMG_6553.jpg
IMG_6554.jpg IMG_6558.jpg
IMG_6560.jpg

After 5 or 6 hours we arrived in D.C, went to our hotel, and then made our way to the White House.

1149.jpg

D.C. is so different to New York, a third of the people and so clean it was almost like nobody went outside.
We walked around the lit up monuments surrounding the White House until pangs of hunger overwhelmed us, so we made our way to Adams Morgan to get some food and drinks.
We went to a soul food bar called Madam's Organ and it was amazing.
The decor looked like the inside of my wildest imagination; dark reds and blacks, random items handing from the ceiling and the walls, dark, shadowy corners with little tea-lights providing minimal light and crooked staircases leading to tiny balconies.
We order dinner and enjoyed cocktail and the live band before admitting defeat and heading back to our comfy hotel beds for some much needed rest.

IMG_6552.jpg IMG_6546.jpg
IMG_6543.jpg 834913F9FB1230DF0511593F83B1F226.jpg
270_DSC_0009.jpg

The next day, we checked out of our swanky apartment and headed for the open-top bus tour. My bag was so heavy, still not sure why, so the bus was a welcome break from carrying it around.

We travelled around D.C. learning interesting information and hopping off and back on again whenever we felt like exploring things a bit closer.
We even got a free ticket to Madam Tussauds with our bus ticket, so we went to have a look and took some pictures with our new friends.

835CC800DF70B3189B0DDB0E22C6CA20.jpg 835DCBC8AD1472FB73063012B417811D.jpg
270_DSC_0014.jpg 835FC722FE8CD4F43E6300677CAC30B9.jpg
8360E16094AC0C8DE99EF9E8DD91866B.jpg DSC_0020.jpg
DSC_0021.jpg 8363AB3CBE6481FA7C7AE5920C999EC1.jpg
270_83649CC9A5F7F9724BEF361AEFC68280.jpg 83659699E3AE5F15A1FC09D5D8296099.jpg
8366F8E00C6C03360DBD12C991CFB5A8.jpg 270_DSC_0028.jpg
270_8368E9BEFC3C1CDDB485EA1ED8AE0EFE.jpg 270_DSC_0030.jpg
DSC_0031.jpg 270_DSC_0032.jpg
837763E0E6ECA10B762D7FDD8BAAAA86.jpg 270_DSC_0034.jpg
270_DSC_0035.jpg 837A28E1D6505608EB4F66506BE6D688.jpg
270_837B193EA6F45759EC77A7CD661FC498.jpg 270_837C114D06D4C4B0260B0A133B78469E.jpg
IMG_6545.jpg IMG_6556.jpg

We stopped for a bagel and to see Mr. Lincoln before heading to Chinatown for sushi and Chinese food (of which I ate only Sushi as Chinese food is my normal food every day!)

270_837D14D4A058F3A25286E1FDD70800F1.jpg IMG_6563.jpg
DSC_0068.jpg 270_83AA7175E874FEDC83B365C3FE6F30D6.jpg
83A93B57AD94AE26D02D0616B5B41B75.jpg 83A850D1A596F6CA7242787F431E6D98.jpg
270_83A75F10098D484D7297E0D384C6011A.jpg 83A64DBEF8D835C001163D82A2AA4238.jpg
83A53895BDCE52AE0AC26F3D32E74CC1.jpg DSC_0044.jpg
90_83A35315C339955B09E8497112D07306.jpg 83A23788F7E9EAF3F0A947328FAAEF4C.jpg

We waited for the bus back to NYC and all 3 of us pretty much passed out until the bus got to Philadelphia and we perked up a bit until reaching NYC.

On Sunday, Michelle had to work a double so Matt and I ventured our alone.
We stopped at a cafe on 52nd st near the subway and had Philly Cheesesteaks for lunch - oh my yummy!
We then hopped on the subway into Manhattan and up to the National History Museum.
We got a little confused with the express trains but eventually got to the museum 2.5 hours before it closed.
The most confusing layout of a museum, ever!
We gave up trying to use the map and just walked around until we found something of interest.

When we left the museum, we were opposite Central Park, so we grabbed a hot-dog and a giant pretzel and entered the most beautiful inner-city park I've ever seen.
Green and water as far as the eye could see, the tops of building only just visible overhead.
We found the Angel fountain and the Home Alone bridge and Matt got selected to participate in a street performance act - so good!

83CFF9EFEE141ABE5610D897A0BA380B.jpg 396.jpg
83CEB4B4A46AB26E815A4AD933D7214C.jpg 324.jpg
83D15DA500506FB7629E36BAE903E591.jpg
IMG_6566.jpg large_708.jpg
IMG_6565.jpg IMG_6568.jpg

After walking around Central Park for hours, we got on the nearest subway and headed to Times Square.
Holy moly, that was a busy area!

83E815EAB742CCB5E2759098E2635F5F.jpg 397.jpg
IMG_6567.jpg IMG_6572.jpg
IMG_6573.jpg IMG_6574.jpg

We bought some postcards and souvenirs, including some very fetching "I love NYC" jammies for me before attempting dinner at the Olive Garden.
It was so busy that we gave up and decided instead to try and get to Little Italy, which also proved too difficult without Michelle to guide us, so we stopped in "Hoomoos" and had a quick bite for dinner before heading back to Queens.

IMG_6561.jpg

I had the most mouth-watering falafel and humus pita, I can't even describe how tasty it was!
Everyone deserves to eat this food at some point in their lives.
Amazing.

Monday came and went without much to report.
We had a lie-in, then Mish went to work so Matt and I had bagels and cannolies then chilled out.
We all went for pizza at an Italian place near Mish's house and had an early night.

The next day we ventured out to the Bronx to visit the zoo - it is truly incredible that there is so much green and land not occupied by buildings in New York.
The zoo was great, quite a trek as you walk around the whole place (and it's huge!).
All of the enclosures are big, green and open and the animals look healthy and well-cared for.
As zoos go, I was really impressed with the treatment of the animals, less so with the prices of food and drink, but it's to be expected.
Overall, a definite trip for all ages.

In the evening, we met up with Shelly's friend Gallie at Caracas in Williamsburg and had the best plantains I've ever eaten and these amazing arepas which were like goodness stuffed corn bread pouches! mmmmmmm! So good.

387.jpg

We then went to a rooftop bar in the Wythe Hotel and took in the fantastic views of Manhattan at night, before walking around Williamsburg, taking in the hipster collective that has gentrified Williamsburg and created a hipster ghetto!
We went to a gay bar with barely anyone in it before heading back to the main street to enjoy our first ever tacos from a taco truck and a disgracefully chocolaty milkshake (which I later regurgitated..... stupid lactose intolerance!)
We had a sleepy taxi ride home and crawled into bed.
Good times!

We’d pre-booked tickets to the Statue of Liberty online, so after a quick breakfast, we jumped on the 7 train to Times Square, transferred to the 1 train to South Ferry and walked the short distance to the cruise ships.
We passed through security with ease and made our way onto the top deck of the boat.

84153E7FA0C0F76615BCC4B38F18244D.jpg 270_DSC_0084.jpg
DSC_0082.jpg DSC_0081.jpg
841611AEC3A64A59CD2CC31889457B39.jpg

As we approached Liberty Island we snapped away, taking in the glory of Lady Liberty before docking and collecting our free audio tours for a closer, more in-depth experience.
I love audio tours, you can do everything at your own pace, skip things and choose extra options to listen to.
I found it particularly interesting that women were not allowed to attend the unveiling ceremony of this magnificent structure, despite the fact that this 93 metre high statue signified freedom and liberty and is of course, a woman…

After admiring Lady Liberty, we got back on the ferry and headed to Ellis Island to try and find any ancestors who came to America – I found a potential family member, but it probably isn’t!

IMG_6577.jpg

I enjoy the idea that we could have relatives all over the world and none of us know about each other; keeps things interesting!
We stopped for food before getting on the ferry one last time to go back to Manhattan.

We hopped back on the 1 train and went to the 9/11 memorial, Wall Street and the Stock Exchange.
I like to think that the giant, perpetually revolving water of the 9/11 memorial signifies the constant movement but ultimate reincarnation of life and that people can never truly be gone or forgotten as they are reborn and re-join our lives over and over again.
That might just be me, but I take comfort in that notion.

842F5BB6AD89C9F56DE216B0F3EE43B9.jpg IMG_6570.jpg
IMG_6575.jpg IMG_6579.jpg

Once again, we headed to the waterfront, this time to get on the Staten Island Ferry as we went to watch the Yankees play baseball!
It seemed fitting that we partake in this American pastime, plus we got a free cap, bobble head, Yankee Stadium figurine, a hot dog and a drink with the ticket AND I got a baseball from the game!
BASEBALL! USA! ETC…!

IMG_6588.jpg IMG_6585.jpg
84672868D551ADDECF44AD45AA4FBCC6.jpg DSC_0086.jpg
84692439FEF4E6A9076FFB742B3E3D75.jpg 846A1747D7F9784E74AD25335FD67767.jpg
DSC_0093.jpg 846BFC6DE6C634EB5D316A860204F88B.jpg
846CF11EF7C0331CC30406135455D72D.jpg 8466BAE209BBF643C0FC621A342A1A87.jpg
846610DCE27D816F52514000C74D4F14.jpg 487.jpg
846DE6E7A9E647D4000DBC783FA1A2C0.jpg DSC_0107.jpg
DSC_0108.jpg

About half way through the game, the heavens opened and a killer thunderstorm was unleashed above us, effectively ending the game, and forcing us to wearily make our way back to Shelly’s where we promptly crawled into bed and went to sleep!
The following day, we enjoyed another American pastime – going to the Laundromat! ^_^

Everyone should go to the Laundromat! $3 to do all your washing and drying?
Bargain.
We waited for Mish to get her nails done and then we rented a car for a few hours with Zipcars – you can rent a car from them hourly and it’s not very expensive at all, we went for Greek food and then went to Roosevelt Island between Queens and Manhattan.

IMG_6592.jpg IMG_6594.jpg
IMG_6593.jpg IMG_6584.jpg
IMG_6582.jpg IMG_6589.jpg
IMG_6603.jpg IMG_6602.jpg
IMG_6599.jpg IMG_6595.jpg

We walked from one end to the other, saw the northern lighthouse and the abandoned smallpox hospital at the southern point.
From Roosevelt Island we could see the PepsiCola sign in the distance and decided to try to get to it.
We found it in Long Island City and walked around there for a while before heading back.

84A303CAC4676337B48DCF675F8F521B.jpg IMG_6590.jpg

Mish let me practise driving an automatic on the let (which I’d never done) in preparation for when I would rent a car here later on and it was breeze.
I’ve missed driving!
We gave the car back and then went with Mish’s mum to a Colombian restaurant in Jackson Heights where we all shared 2 plates as they were so huge!

IMG_6586.jpg

Portion size here is out of control!
We walked back to Mish’s and say on the front porch for an hour just talking and enjoying the cool night air before bed.

Friday morning, Matt and I put on our walking shoes, grabbed a bagel and got on the 7 train to Manhattan.
We got off at Grand Central to take some photos and then went down to 33rd street to get to the Empire State building.
We knew to get there early and it’s lucky that we did!
We arrived around 10am and it was already quite busy but when we left around 11.30, people were queueing out the door!
We got tickets for both the 86th and 102nd observatories and the views were truly spectacular.
Matt and I are now members of the 102 elite; or so the elevator informed us, not like some weird sex thing.
Unfortunately, there was no King Kong but we later found him chilling in the gift shop.

DSC_0123.jpg 270_84BC1DBFCC89094691074BAFB2950BB9.jpg
DSC_0125.jpg DSC_0129.jpg
DSC_0130.jpg DSC_0131.jpg
84C134D3979FC0807CD8C1C3EC2C3D34.jpg 84C25FD9DFB3314D87BEFC3519DB3153.jpg
84C375C50CD60D384FCDE280DCA87611.jpg 84C4D23FE4E95FCD4FF67C46A212F19F.jpg
84C635DE00A4D42760661C814B878394.jpg 84C7B13B0CA4454654AB2A5F15698145.jpg
DSC_0138.jpg DSC_0139.jpg
DSC_0140.jpg DSC_0141.jpg
DSC_0142.jpg DSC_0143.jpg
DSC_0144.jpg DSC_0145.jpg
DSC_0146.jpg DSC_0147.jpg
DSC_0148.jpg DSC_0149.jpg
DSC_0150.jpg DSC_0151.jpg
270_DSC_0152.jpg DSC_0153.jpg
84EB5EB6F6E4D25E32A15A1ADC71D81A.jpg DSC_0155.jpg

After we left the Empire State building, we made the arduous trek up 5th Avenue…!
So. Many. Pretties…!
We had 2 missions – find the Apple Store for Matt and Tiffanys for me!
I bought a beautiful little necklace with the Tiffanys lock on it and squealed like a little girl when she handed me that turquoise gift bag with the turquoise box and white ribbon inside.
I’ve never been very girly, but when I had that gift bag in my and, I felt like Audrey Hepburn!
It was love at first sparkle!

1157.jpg IMG_6488.jpg
IMG_6596.jpg IMG_6606.jpg
IMG_6601.jpg

We went to the Apple Store so Matt could buy an IPad and had to swiftly leave before I did the same!

We grabbed a sandwich in this narrow but amazing coffee shop where I bought a man his coffee as it was cash only and he only had his card, hopefully he paid it forward like he promised!

IMG_6608.jpg IMG_6605.jpg

We sat in Central Park and ate our lunch then began the trek to Macy’s, past the Plaza hotel and some dandelion fountains until we saw it; Macy’s!
I just wanted something from Macy’s so I bought a scarf in the sale which I got a further 10% off just for being a tourist and some make-up from the Benefit counter before running away from the expensive pretties!

Matt wanted to go to the highline which is a disused railway line that has been converted into a walkway garden.

IMG_6597.jpgIMG_6607.jpg

So we went there and walked along this natural overpass above the city bustle below, blissfully enjoying the shade that buildings and plants provided before heading back to Shelly’s for a rest.

We chilled at home for a few hours or so before getting ready and heading back into Manhattan to Theatre Row to watch Naked Boys Singing.
We were thoroughly impressed – it was excellent!
7 beautiful guys in all their natural beauty singing a mix of heartfelt ballads and comical gems. Fun was had by all!

8537C014FF82847C2889ABBEAA3C11AD.jpg IMG_6626.jpg

The next day was a chilled day, I went to the shop to buy a hung-over Mish some ice tea and ginger ale and then we had a big BBQ on the porch with Sangria and just relaxed into the evening with a new, furry friend.
In the morning, we met up with Gallie for IHOP breakfast…… oh my pancakes!
They really shouldn’t write the calories for each dish on the menu…!
Your whole daily allowance in one meal!

IMG_6611.jpg

After breakfast, we went to the cinema to watch Maleficent – so good!
Mish went to work so Matt and I headed to Bushwick for a free music festival only to arrive and find there was nothing happening. Sad face.

IMG_6612.jpg IMG_6613.jpg

Monday came around again with Matt and I venturing to Brooklyn to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan.
We walked up through Chinatown and into Little Italy for lunch.

IMG_6559.jpg IMG_6614.jpg
IMG_6615.jpg IMG_6616.jpg
IMG_6617.jpg IMG_6618.jpg

After spaghetti meatballs and cocktails, we ventured uptown a little further to Central Park and stopped into Eve’s Garden to buy some toys unavailable (without embarrassment in China) then went into Central Park to try and find the zoo… which was closing in half and hour…! Boo!
We admitted defeat and headed back to Michel’s, ordered some sushi and vegged out for the evening.

IMG_6630.jpg IMG_6632.jpg

On Tuesday, we went for breakfast, then got on the subway for the long journey to Coney Island.
Now I know why it took the Warriors from the seminal 1979 movie so long to get home, and we weren’t even being chased by rival gangs!
We arrived in Coney Island and were greeted by the most classic Theme Park I’ve ever seen; Wonderwheel, a ghost train, games to win toys (competed in successfully by us, I might add!) and seconds away from the boardwalk and beach.

IMG_6619.jpg IMG_6620.jpg
IMG_6621.jpg IMG_6623.jpg
IMG_6624.jpg IMG_6625.jpg
IMG_6627.jpg

We stayed and played for hours, had Nathan’s famous hot dogs for lunch and continued playing until around 5pm.

We stopped in a cool artsy store and bought some things before getting back on the subway and napping until we got to downtown Brooklyn, changed trains, hopped in a transfer shuttle bus and got back on the train into Queens. Matt and I got off one stop early for Wendy’s (an apparent ‘must-have’ dining experience!) then walked back to Shelly’s to find Gary (Shelly’s now husband, but fiancé at the time!) had arrived safely from Ireland!
Matt left the following day, so Mish, Gary and I went to the Cinema and then I left early the next morning…

Posted by Lady Mantle 20:37 Archived in USA Tagged new_york baseball chinatown nyc manhattan grand_central_station williamsburg lighthouse statue_of_liberty brooklyn little_italy brooklyn_bridge washington_dc ellis_island pancakes sushi queens central_park falafel empire_state_building union_square bagels lincoln_memorial sunnyside macys hipsters the_white_house the_capital 5th_avenue tiffanys the_natural_history_museum speak_easy_nyc ny_yankees staten_island liberty_island coney_island warriors_1979 zoltar bronx_zoo hoomoos zipcars roosevelt_island smallpox_hospital western_food taco_truck ihop philly_cheesesteak touch_of_brazil steinway 7_train i_love_nyc Comments (1)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 5) Page [1]