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!

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 23 and 24 las vegas - the mirage volcanotravel - trekamericas grand trek day 23 and 24 las vegas - bellagio fountains nightthe mirage volcano, bellagio fountains
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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!)

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 23 and 24 las vegas - welcome to las vegas sign daytravel - trekamericas grand trek day 23 and 24 las vegas = new yorkme and polly at the las vegas sign, new york new york
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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!

travel - trekamericas grand trek day 23 and 24 las vegas - downtown vegastravel - trekamericas grand trek day 23 and 24 las vegas - preing mantace bartravel - trekamericas grand trek day 23 and 24 las vegas = fremont streetdowntoewn vegas, preying mantace bar, fremont street
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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 tour tips

travel - trekamerica tour tipsYou may be aware that I spent the past two months travelling around America with trekamerica, and I cannot recommend them enough! Here are my top tips if you’re considering or have already booked yourself onto a tour.

1) Take a suitcase.  You might want to live the stereotypical ‘traveller/backpacker’ dream, but give your back a break (trust me, it will get a workout if you’re hiking) and invest in a suitcase! You can not only fit more clothes in it, you will also have more room for the inevitable souvenirs that you will buy! I personally took a hardshell suitcase which definitely came in handy when there were torrential downpours and some of the tents got flooded!

2) Take insect repellant with at least 50% DEET. Believe it or not, mosquitoes and ticks live in America. And they just love your skin. When you arrive at camp, DEET. When you just come out of the shower, DEET. When you’re in Lafayette, DEET. (I forgot to DEET in Lafayette, and my legs are still recovering now). Just remember to DEET.

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3) Buy a pillow when you get there. If you’re camping, invest in a $2 pillow from Walmart when you arrive. You already have to sleep on the ground, why make it more uncomfortable without a cheap fluffy pillow?

4) Take a head torch (and batteries). You never know when you might need to put your tent up in the dark (as we found out in Jackson, Wyoming). Luckily for me and Polly, we had built our tent about 15 times before then and mastered the art of tent erecting in the dark perfectly. But a head torch does help. It also helps for late night trips to the toilets too…

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5) Invest in a good waterproof jacket. If the rain curse decides to follow you on your tour (like it did ours), a waterproof jacket is a must-have!

6) Take hiking boots. These guys will especially come in handy if you’re visiting any of the National Parks. I bought these waterproof Gelert high top boots from Sports Direct, and they were great not only for walking, but for when you’re cooking in ankle deep water! (as we discovered in Cedar Point, Ohio!)

7) It will get cold. Cold you say!? Yup, it does get cold in America, especially at night! So make sure you pack yourself a comfy hoodie (this will be your campsite and van drive essential) and some fluffy cosy socks to keep those tootsies warm!

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8) Flip flops are a must! At first, you will use them for when you visit the showers, but as the trip goes on, they literally become your footwear staple (aside from hiking boots) and you will wear them everywhere! You can thank me for this tidbit later…

9) Be prepared to tip! The American minimum wage is $2.13p/h. Without tips, the amazing waiter who served you your beautiful food won’t be able to pay their rent or even buy food of their own. So don’t forget to tip your waiters (between 15-20%), and to also tip a $1 to the bartender per drink. (Tipping bartenders also ensures you’ll get their attention first and maybe a little stronger tipple in your drink the next time you head to the bar)

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10) If you’re gonna start a prank war, make sure you execute your ideas perfectly! As me and Polly learnt on our Northern Trail trip! After a triumphant first round taking the tarp off the boys’ tent, our pranking then went down hill. (Note to self: Flip flops and giggles will give the game away)

11) You will make friends! Most of the people on your tour will be solo travellers and will be in the same boat as you. But after the first van ride, you will become so close (you’re literally spending 24/7 with them), that you will get on with somebody! One conversation starter is: ‘what place are you looking forward to visiting the most?’

There you go! I hope this helps anyone who is considering or has already booked a trekamerica tour! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments below!

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – trek america’s grand trek instagram snaps week seven

travel - grand trek insta snaps week 7It’s the last week of the trip! After six weeks of travelling around America, it’s finally coming to an end!

washinton - flags at washington monument and the white houseWashington: Washington Monument / The White House

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philidelphia - liberty bell and rocky stepsPhiladelphia: Liberty Bell / on top of the famous Rocky steps

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new york - statue of liberty and flight homeNew York: Statue of Liberty / View from the plane ride home

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The last three places on my trekamerica trip were the wonderful Washington, Philadelphia and New York. We had two days in Washington, where we had a day time bike tour, ate breakfast at the famous IHOP and explored museums. It was then time for our farewell dinner in Georgetown. It was safe to say that we were all ready to head home after such a long trip! But it was lovely to have a chilled last family night. Philadelphia was next, and was a quick pit-stop where we visited the Liberty Bell, posed on the Rocky steps and tried the famous Philli cheese steaks (one word: delicious!). Afterwards it was a short drive to our gateway hotel in Newark, where we all said goodbye! Me, Matty and Polly then checked in and headed straight to New York where we saw the sun set on top of the Empire State Building. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen! The next day, me and Matty literally trekked around the city to try and see as much as we could – we visited the Statue of Liberty, walked the High Line, chilled in Central Park and saw the 9/11 memorial. It was then time to say goodbye and head home!

These past two months have literally been the best two months of my life – it’s such a cliche thing to say, but, when you do travel you learn a lot about yourself, and on this trip I surprised myself and did things I never thought I would do. Despite the few downs (Cedar Point I’m looking at you), I would definitely do it again, and it’s definitely fuelled my passion for travel!

Stay tuned for in-depth photo diaries of my American adventure!

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – trek america’s grand trek instagram snaps week six

travel - grand trek insta snaps week six

There’s only a week to go until my American adventure ends! But first it’s time to sample the famous food and nightlife in New Orleans and Tennessee!

travel - new orleans - hurricane cocktails and gumboNew Orleans: Hurricane cocktails / Trying out the gumbo from The Gumbo Shop

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memphis beales street and rooftop view in nashvilleLive bands on Beales Street, Memphis / A drink with a view in Nashville

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jack daniels distillery in lynchberg and view of appalachian mountains in wythevilleJack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchberg, Tennessee / View of Appalachian Mountains in Wytheville, Virginia

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After a quick overnight stop in Lafayette (where there was humidity and mozzies galore), we finally arrived in New Orleans! Our first activity was a swamp tour where we got to see plenty of alligators and even got to hold a baby one! Then it was onto our accommodation for the next two nights – a townhouse for the eight of us! Better yet, it was only a stone’s throw away from the French Quarter and the infamous Bourbon Street! After a walking tour of the French Quarter, we all had a crawfish bowl for dinner before hitting the nightlife! We all tried the famous Hurricane cocktail, and partied the night away! The next day, me and Polly headed out and explored the local art galleries, shops and tried Creole cuisine (so delicious), before a voodoo tour that night. The next couple of days were then spent in the home of country music – Memphis and Nashville. We had a couple of amazing nights out – including a dance off in a Honky Tonk bar in Nashville – before travelling to Tennessee to visit the Jack Daniel’s distillery (in a non-drinking state, how ironic) and whitewater rafting in Ocoee. Our last stop of the week was Wytheville in Virginia, where we hit the batting cages, played pool and watched Harry Potter!

Stay up to date with all the latest goings-on with my USA trip on instagram – @sazwatson.

sigyhl

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TRAVEL – trek america’s grand trek instagram snaps week five

travel - grand trek insta snaps week five

Week five and after our amazing stay in Monument Valley (and seeing a beautiful sunrise), it’s time to hit New Mexico and Texas!

santa fe - cocktails and townSanta Fe: cocktails / the town centre

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amarillo - spray painting cadillacs and dinner at a texan steakhouseAmarillo: spray painting at a Cadillac ranch / Dinner at the Big Texan Steakhouse

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austin - greetings from austin and texas state capitolAustin: Greetings from Austin art / Texas State Capitol

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On the way to our campsite at Santa Fe, our trek leader Morgan took us see the beautiful badlands to have our lunch. It was a pretty cool sight – and so different to Badlands National Park which we saw on the Northern Trail! Afterwards, we arrived at the campsite, set up our tents and headed to the Plaza! Santa Fe is such a beautiful city (it’s meant to be one of the oldest cities in America), and it was such a shame that we didn’t have a lot of time there. But not to fret, as the next stop was the USA’s biggest state – Texas! We were on our way to Amarillo, home of the Big Texan Steakhouse (and a 72oz steak), where we had an amazing steak dinner. We also stopped off at a Cadillac ranch to graffiti some Cadillacs – safe to say we definitely left our mark! Then it was onto Austin – the home of live music and great nightlife! Me and a few others went to see Jurassic World Park at a very old school cinema (hello tables and service!), before having a night on the town! Despite a thunderstorm in Amarillo (yep, the rain’s still following us), I have had so much fun so far! New Orleans, here I come!

Stay up to date with all the latest goings-on with my USA trip on instagram – @sazwatson.

sigyhl

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