TRAVEL – trek america’s grand trek: las vegas

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 23 and 24 las vegasSo 22 days with our Northern Trail family has passed. Jules left in San Fran, Holly headed to the airport yesterday and today we said goodbye to the boys as they head on their Grand Canyon mini tour. After a few hugs goodbye, we met our new trek leader Morgan and found out that we’d be doing the Southern Sun tour as an eight – so no new people and no awkwardness!

After filling in loads of paperwork, we loaded our stuff in the new van where it finally dawned on us just how much space we have! We took a row up of chairs each and Morgan even gave us blankets so we could sleep in comfort! Ahh perfect! It was a long drive to Vegas, but we powered through and arrived in in good time. Can I just say, it was so hot! In fact it was 47c! We dropped our bags off in our rooms at the Golden Nugget casino hotel and had a quick look around before getting ready for a pizza party in Morgan’s room.

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When it was time to head out, we were greeted by a 26 seater party bus (did I mention that there were only 8 of us?) It was so much fun to let our hair loose and dance! Making our way through the strip we stopped off a the Mirage and saw the volcanos erupt, we stopped for a photo at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign before completing our party bus ride at the famous Bellagio Fountains which were just as spectacular as I had expected. It was then time to hit the clubs but unfortunately Matty couldn’t get in with his shorts and David’s ID had expired so we decided to head back to the hotel, with the girls getting food and Matty and Dave hitting the strip clubs. Classic!

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After last night’s antics and an amazing lay in this morning, me and Polly got ready, had a quick Starbucks by the pool and went back to the Welcome to Las Vegas sign again for a daylight tourist pic. Then it was onto the strip for some sightseeing! Me, Bobbi, Polly and Kirsty all hung out and headed to the Minus 5 ice bar for a cool down (like I mentioned yesterday, Vegas is one hot place!) It was such a fun experience, we all got a cocktail in an ice glass and chilled (literally!)

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Once we cooled down, we did a mini tour of the famous hotels starting with New York New York and the MGM where we stopped for lunch at possibly the coolest café I’ve ever been to – the rainforest café. It had fake thunderstorms, animals making noises and was such an amazing place! Despite being full from our main courses, we all thought it was a good idea to get ‘the volcano’ for $4 each – it was literally a chocolate volcano with brownies, ice cream and whipped cream – so sweet yet sickly! We even left half of it as we were so full aha!

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 23 and 24 las vegas - mgm grand rainforest cafetravel - trekamericas grand trek day 23 and 24 las vegas - bellagio fountains in the daytravel - trekamericas grand trek day 23 and 24 las vegas- flamingo hotelmgm grand rainforest cafe, bellagio fountains, flamingo hotel
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We then hit the Bellagio fountains again to see them in the daytime. They were just as spectacular as they were at night! Caesar’s Palace was next – I felt like I was in The Hangover (but maybe Dave and Matty had them roles today aha). Our tour ended at the Flamingo hotel where you guessed it, we saw flamingos! It was so cool to visit all of the hotels on the strip and Vegas is exactly like what you’d imagine it to be- like another world!

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After our little tour, me and Polly headed back to the hotel and chilled at the pool which was so nice! The Golden Nugget even had a shark slide (a water slide which goes through a shark tank) which was so cool so we just had to have a go!

We then headed back to our room and got ready for a night out in Downtown Vegas. On the way to Fremont Street, we stopped by the casinos so we can tick off ‘gambling in Vegas’ off of our bucket list! It was then onto the bars – Common Wealth, Griffin and Golden Spike which were really trendy, local bars and it was so nice to be with the locals – we even got some of our drinks paid for! Griffin was our favourite place which was like an indie bar and up our street, with Golden Spike being another fave – we even took advantage of its’ photobooth and in the bar’s garden it had oversized games such as beer pong, cornhole and ping pong!

It was so nice to do our own thing tonight and party it up local style! Bring on plenty of naps in the van tomorrow as it’s Zion time!

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – trek america’s grand trek – los angeles

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 22 los angelesCalifornia so far has been amazing, and has to be my favourite state of the entire trip! From paddleboarding in Lake Tahoe, to hiking in Yosemite, celebrating the 4th July in San Fran, visiting the Cali coast and of course, experiencing a Dodgers game in Los Angeles, it’s safe to say that I would definitely head back here!

Today was our free day in LA which kicked off with a Hollywood Walk of Fame tour. We were on a bit of a time limit, so me and Polly dashed around the strip taking photos and trying to find Johnny Depp’s, James Franco’s and Orlando Bloom’s stars (luckily we found them) before all heading to a viewpoint where we saw the famous Hollywood sign. It was quite misty so we couldn’t get a clear pic but it was so nice to tick another attraction off the list!

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 22 los angeles - will smith hollywood walk of fametravel - trekamericas grand trek day 22 los angeles - michael jackson hollywood walk of fametravel - trekamericas grand trek day 22 los angeles - me and james francowill smith, michael jackson’s star, me and james franco’s star
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Me, Bobbi, Kirsty, Steph, Emma and Dave then headed to Universal Studios for the day, whereas Matty, Polly, Marc and Rob hit Venice Beach. Universal was so much fun! We did the studio tour around the sets – we even passed a film crew doing takes for Home and Family, as well as doing the Fast and Furious and King Kong 3D experiences which weee really good! When the tour had finished, we went straight to the Minions ride as Bobbi was such a Minions fanatic. It was our first 3D simulator ride of the day and it was amazing! It was then onto The Simpsons which I had to say was a bit better and was worth the long wait!

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Getting a tad hungry in The Simpsons land, we visited Lard Lad where Bobbi got the biggest donut that I have ever seen! It was so tasty but sickly at the same time aha! The next stop was Moe’s Tavern, where Kirsty got a ‘Flaming Moe’s’ which tasted a bit like Borrocca and wasn’t as nice aha! We then went to Krusty Burger where you guessed it, you get an actual Krusty burger which was so delicious!

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 22 los angeles - universal studios the simpsons flaming moestravel - trekamericas grand trek day 22 los angeles - universal studios krusty burgertravel - trekamericas grand trek day 22 los angeles - universal studios krusty burger mealflaming moe’s. krusty burger, an actual krusty burger meal
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Once we refuelled, it was time to tackle more rides so it was onto Transformers and The Mummy which was a rollercoaster ride. Transformers, well, to say it was incredible was an understatement! We queued for hours but it was my favourite ride of the day!

As the sun was beginning to set, we somehow thought it was a good idea to end the day with Jurassic park – a water ride. With the promise of getting a good soaking, we were all a tad scared yet excited! What’s more, what was such a hot and sunny day was slowly turning into a cloudy one and the thought of another Cedar Point moment had crossed my mind. Luckily there was a malfunction with the ride and we only got a bit wet – yay!

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After such an amazing day, we all hit the shops where me and Dave got Dodger jerseys, with Steve picking us up at 9pm to take us back to the hotel (what a gent!)

It was so nice catching up with everyone when we got back and see how their day at the beach was! Me, Polly, Steve and the boys all had a drink together as this would be our final night before we head off on our separate ways. All I can say is, viva Las Vegas baby!

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – trek america’s grand trek: santa barbara & los angeles

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 21 santa barbara and los angelesAfter such a nice, chilled day and night exploring the California coast, it suddenly dawned on me this morning that it was day 21, and that once today is over we’ll be losing more of our little family!

We packed our tents away for the final time together and sung cheesy 90s music (think 5ive, Backstreet Boys and B*Witched) on the way to Los Angeles. Despite being a little sad, everyone was in such high spirits! Our first stop of the journey was to Santa Barbara for lunch, before heading to Santa Monica pier for a mooch around.

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 21 santa barbara and los angeles - santa monica route 66 end of trailtravel - trekamericas grand trek day 21 santa barbara and los angeles - santa monica beachtravel - trekamericas grand trek day 21 santa barbara and los angeles - santa monica pier shopstravel - trekamericas grand trek day 21 santa barbara and los angeles - santa monica milkshakesanta monica pier route 66, beach, shops, milkshakelinebreakBobbi (who’s been to LA before) took us to this amazing café on the pier which had the most incredible milkshakes! I had a delicious chocolate one! After a walk around and taking some cool shots, we got back into the van and finally arrived at our gateway hotel.

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 21 santa barbara and los angeles - la dodgers gametravel - trekamericas grand trek day 21 santa barbara and los angeles - girls at the dodgers gamtravel - trekamericas grand trek day 21 santa barbara and los angeles - trek famdodgers game, the girls: kirsty, bobbi, polly and me, raving in the trek van
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As it was technically our last night together before our free day tomorrow, Steve took us to a Dodgers baseball game using the remaining food kitty money. It was so nice to go as a family, we all had hot dogs, bought foam fingers and had a good time at the game!

Once it had finished, we headed back to the hotel, where me and Polly headed straight for bed as we were so tired! Bring on tomorrow and Universal Studios!

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – trek america’s grand trek: monterey, big sur & california coast

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 20 california coastToday I was so tired (after rolling into bed at 5am and waking up at 7am aha), but it was time to pack up and leave San Fran and head down the California coast on our way to LA!

On the way we stopped at Monterey beach for lunch and a spot of sunbathing, before heading to the iconic McWay Falls and Big Sur; passing some whales, dolphins and elephant seals along the way.

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 20 california coast - monterey beachtravel - trekamericas grand trek day 20 california coast - big sur viewtravel - trekamericas grand trek day 20 california coast - elephant sealstravel - trekamericas grand trek day 20 california coast - big surmonterey beach, big sur, elephant seals, mcway fallslinebreakWe then arrived at our last campsite together as a Northern Trail family, where Steve cooked us some yummy quesadillas before taking us to Dog Beach for a campfire and a few drinks.

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It was so nice to hear everyone reminisce about their funny moments, favourite places, and what they enjoyed. After our little chill on the beach, it was time for bed!

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – trek america’s grand trek: san francisco, california

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 18 and 19 - san francisco, californiaWaking up from the night before, realisation soon set it that today we finally get to tick off San Francisco from our bucket list, and best of all, we get to celebrate the 4th of July there!

Also after 13 nights of camping on the trot, we finally get to stay in a hostel! Oh, what’s a bed again? It was only a three and a half hour drive to San Fran and before we knew it we arrived at the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Steve dropped us off where we quickly walked across it, taking in the amazing yet foggy views (the city gets really foggy during the summer months). It felt so surreal to be here!

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 18 and 19 - san francisco - golden gate bridgetravel - trekamericas grand trek day 18 and 19 - san francisco - views from golden gate bridgefoggy golden gate bridge, views from it
linebreak After soaking in the views, we quickly checked into our hostel and got ready to go out for a sunset boat cruise. It was so nice to dress up and feel glam! On the way to the cruise, we paid a visit to Fisherman’s Wharf, where a few of us got a light bite to eat. Me and Polly decided to try out a dish called lobster bisque in a large bread bowl. It was actually really delicious! From there we walked to the famous Pier 39, where we boarded our boat, grabbed a cosy jacket and plonked ourselves onto one of the nets at the front. Aside from not seeing the sunset (as it was so foggy), the cruise was so much fun! We all got two free drinks each, had a laugh and danced to the music blaring from the speakers!

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 18 and 19 - san francisco - fishermans wharftravel - trekamericas grand trek day 18 and 19 - san francisco - lobster bisquetravel - trekamericas grand trek day 18 and 19 - san francisco - sunset boat bridge viewfisherman’s wharf, lobster bisque, view of the bridge from the sunset cruise
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It was then onto the first of many bars, where we all indulged in cocktails (and garlic fries for me and Polly). I’m not gonna lie, I am a bit of a cheapskate, so in one bar I walked up to the bartender and asked for the cheapest and strongest drink they had (little did I know just how strong this $3 drink would be). It tasted like a combination of tequila, fireball and Wild Turkey all rolled into one! But it did the job perfectly. At this point, we all split up, with most of the group heading home.

I made a couple of American friends at the $3 drink bar, and asked them what place they would recommend for us next. They suggested heading to a gay bar, and so we all set off (the boys didn’t know where we were going at this point) and in we walked into this bar, where they all played pool (I’m such a good wingman FYI), whilst I watched, had a couple of drinks and secretly laughed as the boys soon realised where we were, and were a bit startled after a trip to the toilets! By this time it was getting pretty late, so we said goodbye to our new friends and headed home via a takeaway. It was such a good night, and it was nice to let our hair down! Plus we didn’t do too bad, we ended up rolling in at 3am…

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 18 and 19 - streetstravel - trekamericas grand trek day 18 and 19 - san francisco - brunchsan fran’s streets, delicious brunch
linebreak Our first night in San Francisco was sooo good, and if this trip has taught me anything, it’s that I can surprisingly somehow still function without any sleep!

This morning I had a little lie in before heading out to explore on our free day with Polly, Marc and Rob. Rob led the way and took us through some dire-looking streets (and I mean the pee and weed smelling dire). However after a quick loop, me and Polly found a nice place for brunch at a cute independent café whilst the boys (who were pretty impatient with our wandering) grabbed a Starbucks. I have to say, our avocado, egg and toast brekkie was so lovely! Once we refuelled we headed up to Coit Tower, which had some amazing panoramic views of the city (we didn’t pay to go up it, but the gardens themselves still had spectacular views!)

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 18 and 19 -coit towertravel - trekamericas grand trek day 18 and 19 -coit tower viewstravel - trekamericas grand trek day 18 and 19 -coit tower 4th of july viewscoit tower and views
linebreak We then headed down to Fisherman’s Wharf to hit the arcades, where we met up with Dave (who came back from a trip with a few of the others from Alcatraz), went into a photobooth and watched some street artists perform. Me and Polly had a little dance and it was so nice to chill and have a wander.

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linebreak Later that afternoon, we joined a few of the others for an ‘urban adventure’ through Chinatown and North Beach. Our first stop of the tour was to get our fortune read at a Chinese temple, then it was onto a local fortune cookie-making factory before completing Chinatown with a tea tasting session. Then it was onto a quick walk around North Beach where we saw some amazing graffiti and shops before hitting a pizzeria. (I’ve never eaten so much pizza on this trip, so I opted for pasta!)

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 18 and 19 chinatowntravel - trekamericas grand trek day 18 and 19 chinatown streettravel - trekamericas grand trek day 18 and 19 - graffitientrance to chinatown, street, graffiti
linebreak After tea we headed back to the hotel, got ready in our 4th of July gear and headed out to the famous Cheesecake Factory. Their cheesecake slices were so massive that most of us shared a piece between us! Me and Marc opted for Reese’s peanut butter slice which was so nice, yet a tad sickly aha! As it was Rob’s birthday, Marc got him a pink tiara and a Frozen watch that he had to wear all night. We met up with Kirsty, Holly and Bobbi and headed to Pier 39 to see the fireworks which were okay – nothing to special (maybe it was the fog?) Once the fireworks had finished, we hit a few bars, which were a bit quieter than we expected, but we did find a dive bar with dollar bills all over the ceiling which was pretty cool. We decided to join in this trend and write on a $1 bill and sign it with everyone’s name on from trek and hang it up (it’s so weird now to think that our note is still there in San Fran…)

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 18 and 19 - cheesecake factorytravel - trekamericas grand trek day 18 and 19 - notetravel - trekamericas grand trek day 18 and 19 - note on ceilingreese’s peanut butter cheesecake from the cheesecake factory, dollars on the ceiling
linebreak As the night was still young, we tried to find another bar so me, Kirsty, Marc and Dave headed out but we couldn’t find any near our hostel, so we grabbed a slice of pizza at a takeaway before heading back.

A couple of us weren’t really tired, so we hung out in the common room, drinking, chatting and playing pool until 5am (so hardcore aha).

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – trek america’s grand trek: yosemite national park

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 16 and 17 yosemite national parkAfter a chilled day in Lake Tahoe, we woke up and packed our tents away ready to head to Yosemite!

On the drive there, me, Marc and Annalie were in the back of the van playing cards when Marc suggested a forfeit game. You had to guess what suit and colour a card was and whoever loses their guess has to be the winner’s ‘slaves’ for the day. It was a tense moment, but luckily I won (after a Texas Hold’em streak no less) and they were, for the lack of a better term, my b*tches for the next 12 hours. Woop!

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 16 and 17 yosemite national park - volcanic islandstravel - trekamericas grand trek day 16 and 17 yosemite national park - volcanic islands viewthe volcanic islands
linebreakOn the long drive to Yosemite, we stopped for lunch at the Volcanic Islands on Mono Lake. It had some amazing views and we also got to look around the visitor’s centre. With the forfeit in full force, I kindly asked Annalie to make me a wrap, whilst sending Marc to get me a glass of OJ (I could get so used to this!)

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 16 and 17 yosemite national park - lambert dometravel - trekamericas grand trek day 16 and 17 yosemite national park - lakeview from top of lembert dome, lake
linebreakAfter lunch, we got back in the van and after a few hours drive, arrived at Yosemite with the first port of call being a hike up Lembert Dome (no rest for the wicked, eh?) It was such a tough hike but we finally made it to some spectacular views overlooking the park. Steve gave us the option of hiking to the very top of the mountain (where you could literally slide down to your death at any moment). After much debating, me and Bobbi decided to face our fears and give it a go. It was so scary climbing up with hardly anything to hold onto – we had to follow Steve’s exact footsteps – but once we made it, it was such a breathtaking experience. Just as we were taking plenty of selfies and milking in the views, it started thundering (typical) and so we headed back down and went for a dip in the lake. The water was so murky however, that only Holly and the boys decided to go in.

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 16 and 17 yosemite national park - yellowstone viewtravel - trekamericas grand trek day 16 and 17 yosemite national park - the gangyosemite views, the gang 
linebreakToday is Holly’s birthday, so we all got her a card and a delicious chocolate cake. What’s more, as a special treat, Steve relieved us of our cooking duties and grilled some delicious steaks! During tea, someone (okay, that might have been me), decided to (playfully might I add) put some birthday cake on Marc’s face – only a teeny bit. This little act was met with a ‘caking’ in the face off Steve and a condiment fight soon ensued between Kirsty and Marc. The best bit? When Kirsty grabbed the last slice of chocolate cake and smacked it onto Steve’s bare chest (I can still hear the smush of the cake now). I never laughed so much! What a food fight! Once we cleared ourselves up, me, Marc and Matty introduced Holly to beer pong whilst the others chilled in front of the camp fire. It was girls vs boys, and me and Holly actually won two of the three games! I also took this time to take advantage of my previous card win, and got my ‘butlers’ to fetch drinks from the cool box to me and the others. Oh, the good life!

It was safe to say that night we all had such a good time and Holly had an amazing birthday. Bring on tomorrow!

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 16 and 17 yosemite national park - giant sequoia 1giant sequoias
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Food fights, drinking games and an ‘okay night’s sleep’ later, Steve took us to our first of many Yosemite attractions today. Giant sequoias!

Walking through the woodland and seeing the world’s most massive trees was so cool. We climbed onto fallen down sequoias and even made our way through ‘tree tunnels’. It was like being a child again, and I loved it! It was also a great warm up for the tough hike Steve had in store for us today. Once we finished our ‘mini’ morning hike, we paid a quick visit to see the views of Half Dome – a challenging hike to many visitors.

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 16 and 17 yosemite national park - forces of changetravel - trekamericas grand trek day 16 and 17 yosemite national park - ha,fdhalf dome
linebreakThen it was time for the Mist Trail to see the spectacular Nevada waterfall. Polly and Kirsty decided to opt out of this hike and headed off to do their own thing, whilst the rest of us got our daypacks at the ready and made a quick pit stop to the toilets (turns out this trail has hardly any rest stops – oh how this would come to bite me in the arse!)

I’m not gonna lie, this was such a hard hike (I know I say this about every hike, but each one we do tests our limits). You were going uphill the whole time, climbing over massive steps and trying to work your way past people coming down. It was tough, but we finally made it to the second waterfall for a quick bite to eat.

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 16 and 17 yosemite national park - mist trail stepstravel - trekamericas grand trek day 16 and 17 yosemite national park - waterfallmist trail steps, waterfall
linebreakUnfortunately at this point, the thunderstorms that had decided to follow us on our trek came and it was absolutely pouring it down. We made our way over a rocky bridge and took shelter in a hollowed out wall, when suddenly, yep, I needed to pee. At this point there were no more toilets, so Steve suggested that I head to a bush for a ‘drop and squat’. I know, I didn’t like the sound of it either, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Me and Steve headed back out into the rain, soaking wet, clambering over the rock bridge passing people who’d had stuck it out in the rain (they were so much hardcore than us) and then came the time to find my spot. Everytime I was literally about to go, a group of people emerged from the bushes. It was so nerve-wracking! I shouted to Steve, who was waiting patiently (and probably thinking I needed to go for something else as I took so long finding a place) that I was going to have a wander and find a secluded area, when, the heavens finally opened (and they literally did, it had stopped raining) and I came across some very well hidden toilets. Hallelujah! I never felt so grateful for a disgusting, smelly toilet in my life!

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 16 and 17 yosemite national park - glacier pointglacier point
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Toilet troubles aside, I reunited with the group and Steve informed us that the thunderstorm had made the rest of our hike near impossible. The rocks would be slippery and it would be just too dangerous to carry on. We headed back down the trail when Bobbi suggested that we could visit Glacier Point, a place she had been to before that was meant to have amazing views of the park. She was right, as soon as we got there, we couldn’t stop taking photos!

We soon reunited with Polly and Kirsty and headed back to camp for hotdogs and fries after a long day. We were all pretty exhausted and this called for only one thing – laundry! Tomorrow we’ll have a 3.5 hour drive to our next stop San Francisco!

sigyhl

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