Updated: Mar 23, 2021
I never thought I would travel. I never thought I would have enough money or time or courage to travel.
However, regular readers of my blog – if there are any – will know that my most recent posts have been short but sweet snippets centered around the six week trip my husband and I just spent travelling across America, with a quick stop off in Canada.
We’ve been home for a little while now, and the time has come for me to expand on those little blogs I was posting whilst we were out there.
Where Did We Go?
Back To Reality
I will try to not to go into too much detail about the things we did whilst we were there, as I think that might spoil it for some people. However, keep an eye out for further blogs, where I’ll be talking about my favorite thing that I did in each place we went to!
Planning and Saving
A few years ago, we decided we wanted to travel together. We had each been on many holidays together both with and without each other, and my husband had actually spent some time travelling Asia. It was time for something a bit different, something special!
At some point we decided we wanted to go to America. I had been to Los Angeles twice and I had loved it, but he had never been. Of course, it’s such a huge country, it’s hard to decide where to go. I wanted to go back to L.A, but we wanted to see so much more!
So with that we had decided – we would travel America!
From there, we had to figure out when we would go. At first we thought the winter of 2014 would be a good idea, that way we would get to see America around the holiday season. I was worried that first of all we wouldn’t have enough time to save, but also that if the weather was bad we might get stuck somewhere.
2015 was the year for us! Except it wouldn’t be, but for a great reason! Christmas 2014, my husband proposed to me! I knew that we would never be able to save for a wedding and save to go travelling in 2015. His solution – let’s get married in 2015, and go to America in 2016 for our honeymoon! Perfect!
We wanted to go for six weeks, we thought that was the perfect amount of time for us to be away. The only problem would be getting time off work. My husband put in a special request in at work to take 3 weeks prior to the end of the holiday year, and 3 weeks straight after the start of the holiday year, meaning we would be gone 14th of March till the 21st of April. His request was granted. I would deal with work a bit closer to the time.
First things first – I bought a new notebook and a Lonely Planet Guide. The one I bought was the “USA and Canada on a Shoestring Budget” book. It was really cheap, but it’s a bit outdated, making a bit unreliable as far as prices go. However, it helped with some basic planning such as deciding where to go. Once we got a new copy – “USA Travel Guide” – as a wedding present, we found out just how handy these guides are. Some of the tips are really great, they offer prices and some of them have special sections that focus on different things such as National Parks, and some of them have pull out maps. I really recommend getting one. Of course there is the internet which is also really useful when doing research, but it can be hard to pinpoint specific things, and you end up with lots of conflicting opinions and information. It’s useful for cross referencing, getting reviews and double checking things like opening times.
There was a lot to do, so I set about making a list of things to do. I love a good list, and this one here is just one of many that I made! You don’t need to go off it, but there are definitely some things to consider here –
Figure out a budget
Make list of things to do in each place
Figuring out budgets can be difficult, especially when one of you works full time, and earns more than the one that works part time. However, we have a pretty good system, which we also used for our wedding. You figure out how much the lowest earner can put away each month, and the higher earner matches that. Then set up a couple of change pots – we have two for just loose change, and one for pound coins and up. This might seem a bit extreme, but every penny really does count! We didn’t have a definitive budget, because we also planned to ask for contributions to our honeymoon fund, instead of wedding gifts so we didn’t know exactly how much we would have, plus when you add in any birthday or Christmas money – I even canceled my Graze boxes – but we could figure out a base budget.
Really it depends on how lavish you want your trip to be, but we were planning on making it as shoestring as possible! Anyway, we feel the above method is an easy, fair way to save money - you might have a different way!
Figuring out transport and route would come a bit at a time, but we needed to decide on our destinations first. This took months. In theory, we could have just chosen a start and end point, but I’m a bit too organised for that, and didn’t like that idea of trying to figure out where our next destination would be whilst we were already out there. I guess I’m not really that adventurous! Our original destination list had about 27 places on it, so it took a while to cut it down. Eventually, we had 7 confirmed places. (I know, there is more listed above, I’ll get to those later) We thought it best to narrow it down a bit!
Eventually, the time came for me to put my request in at work. I asked for three weeks holiday, and three weeks unpaid leave. The request was rejected on the grounds that they had no guarantee we would return from the States. I found this a bit ridiculous because I wouldn’t be allowed to stay longer than the 90 days on my visa. What choice did I have? I handed my notice in, and worked right up until two days before we left!
Just a quick note on transportation and activity planning. There are lots of different ways to get around a country – flights, trains, buses, cars, RVs… our original plan had been to drive but that was going to be way to expensive for us. We could have flown all the way round, internal flights aren’t that bad, but we would miss out on all of the scenery. Trains and buses can be expensive, but a great way to see the country. So in the end, we decided on a combination of flights, trains and buses. As for activity planning, we had a list a mile long of free stuff, but when it comes down to the pricey activities, we thought it best to try to limit those. It can be hard when there is more than one of you, but we seemed pretty agreeable on most things. We had maybe one main activity per place, then a few smaller ones. Again, it depends on how much you want to spend, but there is so much you can do for free or with special offers! As it turns out though, you can’t buy American Groupons without an American phone number, so don’t spend weeks looking for good deals like I did!
We got married in October, which gave us five months to finish planning, saving, pack and book anything that needed book before we left.
My birthday is in November so my husband kindly bought me a Vango Freedom travel back pack -60 liter with a 20 liter day pack attached – and some new walking shoes. The backpack is brilliant, it has everything you need space wise! The little pack detaches and again, it fits loads in and has space for water bottle on it. You can clip things to them such a tote bags, and they have waist and back support on them. Perfect! Then when Christmas came, we decided to buy our flights as our Christmas present. For this we took the money out of our savings, but then paid it back in before we went.
My husband mostly dealt with flight buying and hotel booking, and those types of things. Not that I’m not capable, but I did the list making and research, he did the practical stuff. Also, that way if anything went wrong, it wasn’t my fault! He will be writing a guest blog about our trip too, so I’ll post that when it’s done.
He found some pretty great flights on SkyScanner which were with British Airways. To book them through Expedia – instead of the unknown site that we had found previously – it would be about £20 extra, but the timing was better. Plus, we felt more comfortable doing this instead of on a site that we had never heard of, that had really bad reviews.
For around £850, we got a flight from Newcastle to London Heathrow first thing in the morning, then a flight from London into San Francisco. Then our return flights came out from JFK (New York) to London first thing in the morning, then London back to Newcastle. They were such great flights, that we checked and re-checked the terms and conditions before we booked. We couldn’t believe our luck! Also, British Airways is great because among other things, the baggage allowance is huge! We each had 23kg each for our checked bags, and we could each take two pieces of carry on, in my case a back pack and a handbag. So we booked them!
After that, we had to book our first hotel because we needed an address when we applied for our visas. Before leaving, we would also need to book our last hotel but we would wait until just before we left to do that. For a lot of our hotels, we used Priceline. It’s just another hotel search site, but it’s supposed to show you the best deals. I do think that there are better sites out there, but this one served it’s purpose quite well!
For our first hotel, we actually booked a hostel. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but we were trying to be really frugal. It was more like a hotel crossed with a hostel. For our last one, we decided to go for luxury! I will go into this more later on in the post.
One really important thing that had to be done, was getting our visas! I was so worried about getting the wrong one, but for a trip like ours, you get an ESTA, which allows you to travel for 90 days. There are so many websites out there with different bits of information, most of them are forums and they all conflict. I found it best to just follow the guidelines on the Gov Website. It was easier than I thought, and it was so cheap that it didn’t have to come out of our savings! Just make sure that your passport is up to date well in advance, and you’ll be fine!
I hate packing, so instead of preparing to do so, I wrote and rewrote lists of what things we could do and things we needed to buy before we left. Eventually, I had to ask my sister – who is really good at packing – to come round and help me do a run through, showing me how to save space and how to make a wardrobe for six weeks, out of just a few pieces of clothing.
Here is a rough idea of what to pack:
Big Pack –
Essentials that I packed and would take with me again* –
1-2 pairs of shorts (1 pair)
Walking trousers – essential
1-2 dresses, one casual, one nicer
4 vests – 3 nice, 1 plain to go underneath
PJs – Lightweight, but suitable to be worn going to and from bathrooms, and might keep you warm if need be
Underwear – 9 pairs should do, more if you don’t think you will have regular access to washing facilities
Socks – I took too many pairs, thinking I might need some thicker pairs, but I didn’t, although it is always a good idea to have spare!
Plimsoles – Extremely comfortable, the brand is Dunlop
Sandals – Good for if you’re going out, and they don’t take up much room
Perfume – take samples packs not a full big bottle (An actual bottle)
deodorant and body spray – I just took normal so I wouldn’t have to buy more whilst we were away (Just deodorant)
Shampoo and conditioner – even though some hotels provide it, I took my own because I have a certain hair type and I wanted to use what I knew would work
Toothbrush and toothpaste – we did actually receive travel packs on the plain, which we think might have been honeymoon freebies. This included toothbrushes and travel toothpaste. The toothpastes wouldn’t have last the six weeks, and we didn’t know about it either but hey-ho. (Would buy when we got there)
Face wipes – Baby wipes are the best, because you can also use them when you travelling long distance and don’t have access to a shower. (Flannel)
Aloe vera gel – You can use it as aftersun and put it on cuts and grazes
Cotton buds, cold sore patches (just in case), plasters, vitamins and supplements (enough to take them every other day in my case, because I take a lot), and any other medicinal things you might need. If there is anything in particular that you are worried they won’t have over there, a quick google search will tell you if they do, or if they have an alternative.
Washing sack – It’s really lightweight but it’s also breathable so your clothes don’t start to stink when they need washing. Don’t use a plastic bag. Buy a specific one
Any chargers, plugs or adapters
Waterproof jacket – this seemed like a waste of space for a lot of the time but trust me, it was worth it!
What I took but wished I hadn’t –
3 extra t-shirts – which I packed because I had the space to do so, but then I didn’t end up wearing them
Swim stuff – We never had to opportunity to swim
Black ballet pumps – I left these somewhere because I only wore them once, and they gave me a blister.
Mouthwash – With hindsight, we probably could have done without the mouthwash, but dental hygiene is important!
Toothbrush – obviously this is essential, but on the plane going we were given a travel kit that had a little toothbrush in. We didn’t know that this would happen, but I think it was because we were on our honeymoon because no one else got one.
Shower gel – Just about every hotel we went to supplied shower gel, shampoo, soap and some even have little grooming kits with cotton buds and shower caps in. I wouldn’t bother taking shower gel.
Body lotion – I took some samples which was great, but most hotels had some with the toiletries so I didn’t really need it.
Carry on (divided between a large handbag, and my day pack) (With hindsight I might not have taken a handbag but I'm not sure on this point) –
Spare clothes – a vest, some socks and underwear just in case something happens to your checked baggage
jewelry – I took more than I needed, and with hindsight, I should have just worn what I would wanted to take. I didn’t know what to expect though.
Notebook and Diary
Water bottle – empty. We bought Water to-GO bottles but they leaked. So don’t get those ones.
Ipod and headphones
Scarf that doubles over as a blanket
I traveled in my jeans, walking shoes (which were essential) and comfortable t-shirt, and a hoody. I recommend wearing sports bra too. I didn’t going but I was so uncomfortable so I did for any long distance travelling and walking for the rest of the trip.
We didn’t take sun cream, thinking we would buy some as soon as we got there. We actually struggled to find anywhere until we were burnt. It took us a day or so to figure out where best to buy such things, but we actually discovered the likes of CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens Pharmacy sell just about everything!
Obviously this is just my list, you will have own ideas for what you want to take. I just feel that this is a good guide. My husbands packing list was very different and I think he left more as we made our way around the country. I didn’t take a hair dryer or anything like that. Most places had them, but it was hot enough for it to dry naturally. I also didn’t take a guidebook, because in most places you can use the internet or go to tourist information.
When packing, put heavier stuff in the bottom, like shoes, and stuff your socks and underwear into them. Roll your clothes tightly together – I learned on the trip to roll things together – and pack every thing in as close as possible!
So with that, we were planned, packed, and prepared, and we were on our way!
San Francisco, California
Arrived: 14/03/2016 Departed: 18/03/2016
Golden Gate Bridge. Photo Credit – Ashleigh Nicole
Getting to America unfortunately wasn’t a breeze. The morning we left, we were up at 4.45am – early but worth it in the end – and picked up by my in-laws to be taken to the airport. It was foggy and cold, but we got there fine. After a quick sandwich at Gregg’s, we got through customs with enough time for a beer before boarding.
We were sitting on the plane for quite sometime before they announced it was too foggy to take off. Fair enough, the pilot needs to see. They waited about ten minutes or so to see if it cleared, when they discovered a steering fault! Another ten minutes or so, and the engineers arrived. That was also fine though, after all you want the plane to work properly!
We had originally boarded the plane at 7.40am, and we were meant to take of at 7.50am. We didn’t leave the airport till 9.15am. Despite being delayed, we weren’t worried because our connecting flight wasn’t until 11.05am, with the gate closing at 10.45am. We would be cutting it fine, but we felt sure we would make it. It was also a short flight, but as we got to the airport, we couldn’t land! It was at this point that I started to panic, although my other half managed to keep his cool. When we eventually landed, the plane couldn’t park in it’s spot! Whilst the cabin crew frantically tried to answer the many questions that were being thrown at them, I realized we were weren’t going to make it. We had just minutes till the gate would close. By the time we got off the plane, we had missed our flight by a minute.
I was furious. After planning for so long, things were going wrong before we’d even left the country! I quickly came round however. After all, it would have been worse if they had just taken off, unable to see and with faults on the plane!
Next, we waited in a long line full of annoyed people, trying to stay positive.We were told we could get on to a flight at 1.33pm, with American Airlines instead. This wasn’t too bad, the next flight after this one wasn’t till much later. After a lot of security questions, we were slowly issued new boarding passes, and some vouchers to be used in the terminal. With these we bought some plane snacks, and some prosecco!
Finally on the plane, my husband informed the stewardess that we were on our honeymoon. They were thrilled! We got A LOT of free champagne, not in plastic cups either. We also got a travel kit each.
It’s a long flight to California, about 13 hours but the flight was actually pretty good. It was smooth, we got a snack, lunch and dinner, all of which were very tasty. I particularly enjoyed the ginger and honey ice cream that came with dinner!
I have no idea what time we actually landed, but it was sometime in the afternoon. It took a while to get through security. After a few quick questions about our visit to the US, and a stamp in our passports, we went to collect out bags. They were actually waiting for us, lying on the floor next the one of the luggage belts!
To get as close to the hotel as possible, without spending a fortune we got the BART system. It was a great choice, fast, easy to navigate and cheap! We got it to the Union Square area, which cost around $8 each, and took about 20 minutes.
Of course from there we had to walk to the hotel. I discovered two things on that walk. One, the streets in America are considerably longer than in England. Two, San Francisco is HILLY. I already knew it was this of course, but I could never of imagined this. Hill after hill after hill. With our luggage. Although my husband carried the big bags!
Although it’s called a hotel, it’s really more of a hostel. I was a bit concerned about staying in a hostel, but it was exactly what we needed. Cheap, close to a lot of things we wanted to do and opposite a really great bar!
Different forms of public transport run up and down California street too. The bathroom was shared, but it was the exact right distance from our room. It was kept immaculate and even though it only had one shower and one loo in it, they were in great condition and we never had to wait to use it.
The bed was really comfortable, there was fridge and microwave in the room, it was spacious, we got free WiFi and there were free apples in the reception.
Of course there is a down side to every place you stay. The WiFi was really bad quality, we actually had better on Alcatraz Island. The TV didn’t work great, and the whole place smelled a bit of smoke.
I would recommend it, especially if you aren’t fussy, and you’re on a budget! For the low price we payed, it was really decent. I would take the stairs if you can though, the lift is really rickety and creepy.
San Francisco is a great place for sight seeing. There are lots of walking tours available, but we sort of made it up on our own. It’s not ideal if you struggle to get around, but there are some good buses that run frequently. We walked more here than we did anywhere else!
It was pretty quiet everywhere as we were out early on a Tuesday morning. We went to Ina Coolbirth Park first. It’s really beautiful, and well worth the uphill walk. It’s a must see in my opinion, the views are stunning. From there we briefly visited Russian Hill and North Beach. Take your time on Russian Hill. We didn’t see the best side of it. We did see more of the North Beach area later in the week, but for the time being we went to Washington Square Park. It was pretty disappointing but on the outskirts of the park you can stop by Saints Peter and Paul Church. It’s really beautiful, although we didn’t go in.
A great stop off is Coit Tower. It can be seen all over the city! It’s a beautiful 210 foot memorial tower, and even from the little area that surrounds the base of it, you can see everything. The views are amazing. We didn’t go to the top of it though because it was one of more the expensive things to do, and at this point we were still being super careful with our money. Looking back, I’m not sure if I wish that we went up to the top of it. Because it’s such a hilly place, San Francisco offers some of the better views. Even when you’re low down, the towering hills and skylines are amazing. It would have been nice to go up, but I’m not sure it would have made much of a difference. Either way, another must see!
Fishermans Warf which is a pretty cool place to go, although it was quite a walk from Coit Tower. There’s a lot happening down there, it’s really vibrant and colourful. It’s really pricey though, but there are lots of different piers, and the view of the ocean is beautiful.
Everywhere has a Financial District, and San Francisco’s is one to see! We were fascinated, because that’s not really a thing here. I remember seeing our first skyscraper, and thinking wow! Of course the skyscraper’s just got bigger as we made our way around the country. Whilst you’re there, swing by Justin Herman Plaza**. Lots of people were gathered around it eating their lunches, and we just sat by what we thought was a big industrial sculpture. It turns out it was actually a fountain that was just switched off!
One worth while site in the financial district is the Transamerica Pyramid. Don’t look for it in the financial district though, see it from afar! It’s a big part of the skyline, it looks fantastic.
The Union Square area is pretty cool, but on our little site-seeing walk we actually just went to Union Square Park, however there was a lot of construction going on. Unfortunately this is something you will find everywhere and there is no way to avoid it. It was on to China Town for us. It’s one of the best China Town’s I’ve ever seen. It’s filled with quirky, authentic shops, interesting looking fruits and veg, and the sights and smells are amazing!
China town wasn’t far from our hotel, so we started to head back. On the way we stopped off at the really lovely Huntington Park. It’s really relaxing place to sit and people watch. Plus just outside of it is Grace Cathedral which is really beautiful.
Of course that isn’t where our site seeing ended, but that was a main chunk of it!
Whilst in San Francisco, you have to stop off at Alcatraz, it is an absolute must see! I’m not actually going to tell much about this right now, it gets its own personal blog, that you can read here but I will say it is crucial to book in advance! At least two weeks is recommended.
We really loved it there! Once you’re on the island, you can leave on any boat, you don’t have to stick with your tour.
Once we left the island, we walked to Golden Gate Bridge. We had already walked from our hotel to Pier 33 to get the boat to Alcatraz from our hotel, which was about half an hour or so. I don’t know if any of you know how far GGB is from Pier 33, but it’s REALLY far. I just checked it on the map, and it says 1 hour and 40 minutes. I took us longer than that though, for a start I think we walked inward a bit because we didn’t walk along the water front all the way there. We also stopped off in a supermarket for ice cream, and spent some time in Crissy Field, which is a really nice stop off area, we really liked it. From there we weren’t entirely sure how to get to the bridge. We kept getting closer to it, and we could see the road for cars but we were on foot! Once we got close enough to see San Francisco Bay – with me gleefully pointing out that that was where Kim Novak jumped into the water in Vertigo – we could see how to get up there.
Once you get up to the bridge, you have to go across it. Some people cycle but of course we walked. We didn’t walk all the way over, just half way and stood and took in the amazing views. I really felt a sense of achievement standing on this beautiful bridge. After we walked back across it. That was when we decided it was time to get the bus back to the hotel, I didn’t think I could face another walk! This was where we learnt that buses in America are better than in England. Easier to use, cheaper and the drivers are friendlier.
On our last full day in San Francisco, we walked to Golden Gate Park! This was another long walk, an hour and a half according to Google, although it felt like much longer!
GGP is HUGE. It’s actually bigger than Central Park! We didn’t go in with a plan so we ended up missing a great deal of the park, if I were you I would go in with a map otherwise you’ll end up wandering around aimlessly like we did. We did manage to see the Bison paddock though, which was really cool, and we ate pretzels which were yummy!
The same day, we went to Union Square to have a proper look around. It’s a really nice shopping area! It’s also where you will find the cable car turning circle, where they turn the cars by hand. Getting a Cable Car is a must in San Francisco. It’s one of the many iconic features of the city. It is expensive at $7 for one very short journey, but it was fun! It’s a bit confusing when you’ve never been on one before, and everyone around seems to know what they are doing, but just do what everyone else is doing, and you’ll get there!
We loved San Francisco. It was a great place to start because it was the exact perfect mix of relaxed and busy. It’s a really beautiful place, there are great views everywhere. I would have liked to have explored further, particularly in the Mission district. We saw lots of really stunning streets and houses, but it would have been great to see some of the iconic streets. The weather was amazing the whole time we were there too! It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. I would definitely go back.
Our favorite places to eat and drink –
Lori’s Diner – I recommend the one in Ghirardelli Square for breakfast. The square is a really cool place for a start, but out of the two Lori’s Diner’s we ate in, this one was definitely better! I had buttermilk pancakes and coffee, and they were delicious! It was our first breakfast away, and we loved it. This particular restaurant offers amazing views, and the staff were really friendly. We loved it so much that we went to the one on Sutter Street for dinner one night, but preferred our breakfast at the other one. I got a burger and fries with a root beer float. It was quite pricey, and I didn’t feel that the price matched the quality of the food. It was tasty but the fries were really dry and salty and the float was very basic.
Thai Thai Noodle – The food here was delicious, although very spicy! I ordered a chicken and cashew dish – don’t eat the chili’s – and a jasmine tea! The interior is really cool and it was right next to our hotel, which was handy. My husband wasn’t as impressed as I was but I highly recommend it.
Hyde Out – This is a really cool bar on the corner of Hyde Street and California Street (I don’t even know if I said that right! We don’t do directions like that in England) It was really nice inside and the staff were lovely, and it wasn’t too expensive. We went there every night actually!
The morning came when we had to pack and leave San Francisco. We walked about half an hour to the bus station with our heavy back packs, and boarded a Greyhound bus to L.A.
Arrived: 18/03/2016 Departed: 25/03/2016
Santa Monica Beach with the pier off in the distance. Photo Credit – Ashleigh Nicole
We ended up spending more time in L.A than we had intended, only by a day or so though. We knew roughly when we wanted to move on to our next destination, but we made the mistake of leaving it quite late to book our train which meant we couldn’t get the one we wanted. Even though L.A is so big and there is so much to see and do, by the time it got to our last day we, felt we had spent enough time there.
We didn’t walk as much here because everything is so far away, so we made a lot of use of Uber. We hadn’t used this before, because even though it is in England we don’t live in a place where we ever need to use it. We thought it was great, it’s a cheaper than most taxi’s because they charge you before hand so you don’t get charged for being stuck in traffic. It feels safer because the drivers are registered with Uber, and most of them are a lot friendlier than a taxi. You can pay through Paypal so you don’t need to worry about having money on you (although we did discover that most taxi’s have card machines in them in America!) and you can track where they are when they are en route to you, plus you can book it all through a handy app on your phone!
We arrived at the Downtown L.A bus station, and we had read that you had to be really careful around there at night. Thankfully our Uber driver was there to pick us up pretty much straight away!
Whilst we were in L.A, we stayed in three different places. The first was another hotel/hostel, which had actually been our plan for the majority of the trip, but this was the last one.
The Ocean Park Hotel is located in Santa Monica and it was wonderful! It’s about 10 minutes away from Santa Monica Pier on the bus, and it was really cheap! It’s got huge comfortable beds, nice light rooms, and the staff are super friendly. Like the Cable Car Hotel, it has shared bathrooms, but these are different. You need a key to get into the ladies, which makes you feel a bit safer (although I didn’t feel unsafe in the CCH) and there are two showers and two toilets. They were really clean, bright and spacious. You get free WiFi, a fridge, TV and sink in your bedroom and it’s got a really lovely cafe attached to it. We were running late getting there, and the staff left a key for us in a lock box so we could get in. We stayed there two nights.
From there, we used another handy app for the first time, Air BnB. It’s great because other than having it on your phone, it usually works out cheaper than most hotels, and even when it’s around the same price you get more for your money. People rent out their spare rooms, an annex or even a whole apartment. We even saw a yacht on there once!
After Santa Monica, we moved to the West Hollywood area, in a spare room in a really cool house. The whole street was filled with these amazing houses, each one of them different. The couple we stayed with were absolutely lovely, and were happy for us to hang out in the garden with them. We had our own entrance through the kitchen, and our own bathroom. We loved it! We stayed there for three nights.
We didn’t actually move that far, although it felt like it was a lot further away. This time we were lucky enough that she was out of town but still willing to let us stay there, so had the whole apartment to ourselves! The bedroom was really big and comfortable, the bathroom was really nice, and it was great to be able to make use of the living room and the kitchen, including watching Netflix. This was particularly handy because we both came down with a cold, so we had a nice place to relax for a two nights.
We didn’t do too much in Santa Monica, it’s definitely a place to sight see! We actually only had one full day there, so we went down to Venice Beach and walked to one end of it, then back along to Santa Monica Beach and Pier.
Whilst you’re on Venice Beach, be sure to walk along the pier. It’s really different to SM Pier, it’s really peaceful and the views are better because it doesn’t actually have anything on it. This is where we thought we saw shark, but we aren’t sure, it could have been a dolphin. The surfers didn’t seem too bothered! A great deal of Venice Beach is made up of touristy shops selling fridge magnets and overpriced t-shirts, and people flogging everything from sunglasses to paintings. Keep an eye on your purse and don’t keep you wallet or phone in your back pockets – good tips for everywhere you go actually – and just enjoy people watching and check out some cool street art. If you stop to look at anything on VB, make sure it’s Muscle Beach! Whether or not your fitness inclined, it’s a pretty fascinating, iconic place. Once you get down to Santa Monica Beach, you can see the original location of Muscle Beach too.
Once you pass into Santa Monica beach, it’s a little more refined and little less interesting. There aren’t as many stores, no one is flogging anything and the street art is seriously limited. Here you’ll see Rollerblade's, skateboarders, cyclists and for those that are feeling a bit more adventurous, Segways! It’s a bit more relaxed than Venice Beach, that’s for sure. The really attraction though is Santa Monica Pier. We didn’t spent too much time on it during the day but we went back to watch the sunset, have dinner and go on the Ferris wheel. I would highly recommend going to watch the sunset from the pier, make sure you stand at the very end of it for the best view. It’s really beautiful. I would also like to remind everyone that it will be cold, no matter how hot it has been during the day because it’s always cold on the coast! I didn’t think of this, and wore a dress and sandals. I was freezing. It was really busy, so if you’re wanting to eat on the pier, it might be a good idea to book a table. We had intended to eat at Bubba Gump Shrimp, but the wait was two hours. The Ferris wheel was really fun, and the first one I have been on, I would definitely recommend it!
The best thing about visiting L.A, for me at least, is Universal Studios! I'm not going into too much detail right now, as I'm going to be doing a separate post about it, but I will just say it was FANTASTIC!
Call in at The Grove if you can. It’s really nice shopping area, quite different to a lot of other retail areas that I’ve seen. It has a really beautiful fountain and lots of places to eat and relax once you’ve finished shopping!
You can’t go to Hollywood without a stroll down Hollywood Walk of Fame! At least that’s what I thought, but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I visited L.A over 10 years ago, and I loved the HWOF! Today it isn’t quite the sparkling place of joy that I remember. Sadly, it’s a little underwhelming. The streets are lined with tourist shops (nothing new there, but I remember them being much nicer once upon a time) people flogging tours and wearing really bad super hero costumes. A lot of the squares are also cracked and faded. I don’t make it sound amazing, but you should still go. Even if it’s just to glimpse your favorite stars… star… and to visit TCL Theater, formally known has Mann’s Chinese Theater. Here you’ll be able to put your hands in the prints of some the greatest film makers ever born! There are some fun museums and famous buildings all around the the the walk, so you might find something else to do. We didn’t do them, but I have during previous visits.
If you fancy doing something “un-Hollywood” whilst you’re there, I highly recommend Griffith Observatory. Hollywood is a strange place for an Observatory because of all the light pollution, but that doesn’t make it a bad place to go. It overlooks Griffith Park and has spectacular views of the city. There is a direct walk to the Hollywood sign – which we sadly did not do – and the building is gorgeous. It’s a really great place to go, although it was super busy when we went and we struggled to get up there.
Whilst we were there we went on a the free sunset hike, which is brilliant – this is only on once a month though – and then we went to the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, where we saw the “Centered In The Universe” show. My husband in particular was very impressed with this, he said it was the best planetarium he’s ever been to! It really was fantastic. There are also exhibits throughout the building, and lots of other things you can do! We were lucky enough to see them switch on the Tesla Coil, which is switched on at certain points in the day. The Griffith Observatory is a must see in my opinion!
There are lots of nice places to just walk about too in L.A so make sure you do that. It’s got a lot of fancy stores, art and it’s usually sunny – California is in the middle a really bad drought, so there you go! Just don’t waste water – and near Union Station, you’ll find Olvera Street. This is the old Spanish town, and it’s really pretty. The food is good, and there are some great market stalls! We happened to be there on Good Friday, so there were lots of celebrations going on. This is street is supposedly the oldest street in Los Angeles, so it’s well worth a visit to it and the surrounding areas. You can also see The Cathedral Of Our Lady of the Angels which is really beautiful and very big. It isn’t like the Cathedrals we are used to seeing because it’s a pretty new building but it is fantastic.
We saved this for our last day in L.A because we were actually at Union Station all day. We were booked onto the 10pm Amtrak Sunliner to Texas, so we had a lot of time to kill! We walked around Olvera Street and the surrounding area, did some reading, and enjoyed Union Station. All of the Union Stations are pretty impressive.
Our Favorite Places to Eat and Drink
The Sidewalk Cafe – This place is on Venice Beach and we stopped here for breakfast. It’s worth mentioning because other than the fact that it’s a nice setting, I ordered a fried egg sandwich, something that is not uncommon at home. Those pathetic excuses for a sandwich are a thing of the past now! This was delicious. Tomato, lettuce, bacon, fried egg, mayo with a side of breakfast potatoes and coffee! Yum! It also overlooks Venice Beach!
Ristorante al Mare ^ – Located on Santa Monica Pier, this was where we went when the wait for Bubba Gump Shrimp was two hours, and boy are we pleased we did! We still had to wait quite some time, but we could do so at a bar where I could drink Rose prosecco! For dinner, I had the best – and biggest – meatballs I’ve ever had. If you sit outside you overlook the pier too!
Ocean Park Cafe ^ – This is attached the hotel we stayed in in Santa Monica. We came here for breakfast and I loved the decor and the hustle and bustle of the place. I had a short stack of pancakes and coffee and it was so yummy, one of the best I had the whole time we were away!
The Kings Road Cafe – We loved this place! We came twice, both times for breakfast. The french toast is the best french toast I have ever had! And the savory I had – eggs Benedict that came on a croissant was also delicious! A really great place!
Pinks – We don’t actually eat hot dogs that much but I would eat here regularly if we lived in L.A! Without a doubt the best hot dogs I’ve ever had, I had the polish dog, but it took me a while to settle on that. Thankfully you can do that because the lines are long! Well worth the wait though!
Sweet Lady Jane – Okay so I haven’t actually mentioned any bars, but I’m going to make up for that by instead talking about bakery! My husband had read about it and said he wanted to go so one evening we went and got take-out cake in boxes! You can do that here but it’s not quite the same. Mostly because the cakes aren’t as big as my head! I got a slice of apple pie and it was gorgeous not only to eat but to look at, and my husband got chocolate cake! They were so big that we had to save some for breakfast. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! It is expensive, but it’s worth it!
Bubba Gump Shrimp – We went here when we went to Universal Studios. It’s on City Walk, and the wait wasn’t anywhere nearly as long as the one on Santa Monica Pier. I ordered fried shrimp and it was delicious! Although I did feel it was a bit overpriced because I had more fries than shrimp.
There isn’t much I would do different here, although I wouldn’t have minded going walking to the Hollywood sign, and possibly leaving a day earlier, because we could have used that extra day elsewhere.
I just want to talk quickly about travelling long distance on a train. First of all, it’s worth the discomfort because you see a lot of the country side and you pass through so many different places. We even saw the Mexican boarder! If you can, I would go for a sleeper car. We didn’t for our first journey, and we were pretty uncomfortable.
On this journey we went from L.A to San Antonio, Texas. We passed through and stopped at –
Palm Springs, CA
El Passo, TX (We actually got to get off and stretch our legs here)
Del Rio, TX
Finally getting off at San Antonio, Texas
The trains have a restaurant, a snack bar and a viewing car. They have WiFi that doesn’t work, and very nice toilets. The seats are pretty cool, they recline and have foot rests. However, I couldn’t get comfy when it came to going to sleep.
You check your big luggage, which is handy but make sure you pack some essentials like toiletries, entertainment and a blanket! The train food is actually quite nice too, and not too pricey. I had a great burger for dinner, and eggs and sausage for breakfast.
Arrived: 27/03/2016 Departed: 28/03/2016
Gardens at the Alamo. Photo Credit – Ashleigh Nicole
San Antonio surprised us! We had absolutely no idea what Texas would be like, and we really loved it! Unfortunately we only stayed in San Antonio for one night.
We stayed at the Best Western Sunset Suites, which turned out to be a great choice. Other than the fact that it was a short walk from the train station, we received excellent service. Sleep deprived and in desperate need of showers, we walked into the hotel at 4.50am. We couldn’t check in till after 10 but we had no where else to go. The receptionist was extremely accommodating. Immediately she said she would check our room status. It was full, but she would check if there was a room we could just sleep in till it was ready. There wasn’t but as soon as the cleaners were in, we would be in the first available room, and in the mean time we could sit in their restaurant and help ourselves to breakfast. We were actually only waiting an hour or so, when she came to us and said that our room was ready for us!
Now, we aren’t sure exactly how this happened, and we suspect that we were upgraded because we were on our honeymoon – something my husband had mentioned when he booked – or if she did it because she felt sorry for us – maybe it was a combination – but we were in a suite! It was a gorgeous room, with the most comfortable bed!
After the best shower and sleep, we woke up to find out we had missed breakfast so set off in search of some lunch and an explore. The hotel is in walking distance of the Riverwalk, The Alamo and a great selection of shops and bars.
When you’re in San Antonio, you have to visit the Alamo. It was really fantastic, but I’m saving this particular activity for it’s own blog rather than going into detail about it here.
We had wander around the shopping center, stopping for some really yummy ice cream.
That night we to the Riverwalk for dinner and a wander. It’s really beautiful, especially at night. We didn’t go on the boat though.
I’m afraid that’s all I really have to say about San Antonio, what with us not being there for long. I will say this though – it is really lovely! I would love to go back and spend a couple of days there. It’s very different to anywhere else we went, we weren’t surrounded by towering skyscrapers for a start!
Our Favorite Places to Eat and Drink
Johnny Rockets – I don’t usually like chain restaurants, but there are some exceptions! I have such fond memories of this one, and we struggled to find any in L.A – I know, how weird?! – but we just happened upon this one whilst walking around looking for some lunch! A chicken club sandwich and a root beer float later, and I was very happy!
Esquire – This is a really cool, romantic place on the Riverwalk. My husband had read about it and we loved it. I mean, really, wow. Good beer, great food, lovely atmosphere. If you eat anywhere in San Antonio, you need to go here. Order the big red empanada followed by the deep fried apple pie. It was one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had in my life.
Pat O’Brien’s – This was a great bar that we went into before going to Esquire. It has a gorgeous outdoor seating area and we were lucky enough to catch some live music! I was spoilt for choice when it came down to choosing a cocktail here, but eventually settled on the Fuzzy Leprechaun and I wasn’t disappointed! This was also where we discovered that the bottle caps of Lone Star have little riddles in them.
That’s my short and sweet section on San Antonio. I would definitely stay at least an extra day if we could go back or if I could do it differently.
We had breakfast in the hotel the morning we left – free, and so much to choose from – then we got on another Greyhound bus and off we went to Dallas. This took us five hours and was mostly uneventful.
Arrived: 28/03/2015 Departed: 31/03/2015
Pioneer Plaza. Photo Credit – Ashleigh Nicole.
My desire to go to Dallas started when I read and then became possibly a little obsessed with Stephen Kings 22.11.36, a book a bout a man who goes back in time to stop the assassination of Kennedy. I could quite easily get distracted here and start talking about the book, but instead I will say that despite Jake Epping/George Amberson’s negative opinions about Dallas, I had to see it for myself. Of course a lot has changed since the 50’s and 60’s. Also we aren’t in Stephen King’s imagination.
We stayed in two places whilst in Dallas. First, we rented a loft style apartment from Air BnB. We were there for two nights, and it was brilliant. It was the right size, open plan, had gorgeous decor. We had full use of the whole apartment including a washer and dryer and once again, Netflix! It had good WiFi, a nice view and the owner was kind enough to leave us a nice welcome basket complete with red wine! It was pretty hot, probably because we were really high up and the air con was really loud. For one night – thankfully – we stayed in a motel near Love Field Airport. The Knights Inn Market Center, was quite different. Of course staying in a motel is cheap and it ticks another box on the old travel list. This place was complete with signs on the door reminding you to keep it locked, and telling you not to answer to strangers. It was boiling by this point on the trip, the south had become rather muggy and humid, and this night it was quite stormy. Once we had wandered out for some tea and bought some vending machine snacks, we were safely in for the night – deadbolt engaged – and we were pleased to see that the room didn’t flood!
There are lots of things to see in Dallas, including the magnificent Pioneer Plaza. We had no idea what it was when we arrived, but obviously had to take a look when saw it! It consists of huge bronze statues of cattle and cowboys, and they are something! There is also a Giant Eyeball!
Dallas is nice place to walk around too, because it has a lot of really nice architecture.
A great thing you can do there is buy a City Pass booklet. You can buy these for a lot of a different places, but it isn’t always worth it. In this case, it definitely was!
You can buy your City Pass book online and pick it up at one of the attractions, or you can just buy it there and then. Usually the offer includes 5/6 (but sometimes more or less) of the cities top attractions, but you get them for around half price. In this case, it had the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, The 6th Floor Museum (or the Dallas Zoo), The Reunion Tower Geo Deck, and The Botanical Gardens (or The George W Bush Library).
We chose to do the Perot Museum, The 6th Floor Museum, and The Reunion Tower. We had also wanted to do the Botanical Gardens, but we didn’t get round to it. All of this cost us $46 instead of the $77.32 it would have cost to do them separately.
We picked it up at the Perot Museum, and the ticket also included a short film. We chose A Journey To Space, which was about how far we had come with space travel, and what the future holds. It was really interesting! The museum is really fun! It’s very interactive, one of the best museums I’ve been to. It was really busy though, I counted about 5 school buses in the car park.
After that, we walked to Dealey Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum. I want to write about this in it’s own separate blog, but I will say that the Plaza is really beautiful and the museum is very interesting, although it is still haunted by the tragedy that happened there in 1963.
We saved the Reunion Tower for evening, just before sunset. It was the first of many tall towers that we traveled up on our visit. The building itself is very interesting to look at, especially at night when it’s lit up. It’s definitely worth a visit. Once you’re up there, you can see for miles, and it also overlooks Dealey Plaza. The views are stunning.You can walk out onto the deck – it was very windy when we were there so keep a hold of those skirts! – and inside there are interactive computers which are pretty fun to play with. The beers weren’t actually that expensive either.
I loved Dallas. If we were to go again, I wouldn’t mind exploring a bit further out, and I would really like to go to the Botanical Gardens too.
Our Favorite Places to Eat and Drink
Ellen’s Southern Kitchen – This place is wonderful! I’d read about it, but wasn’t too sure where it was. We weren’t looking for it, we just stumbled upon it whilst we were hungry. I’m so pleased we did! It was busy, and I had read that the wait could be a long one. We got a table straight away,but we did indeed have to wait a while both to order food and for it to arrive. It was totally worth it though, I think the service is so slow because they are so busy. I ordered a fried chicken sandwich and it was perfect. I haven’t had one better since. It was the perfect combination of moist chicken with a thick crispy skin. I’d go back to Dallas just for that.
The Purple Onion ^ – This was a great find! We were looking for somewhere to eat breakfast – and struggling – and just came across it. It was really busy and I think they were short of staff, but the food was great! I had a double stack of pancakes with strawberries. Yummy!
The time to leave Dallas unfortunately came, but it did mean that we were on our way to one of the most interesting places I’ve ever been! New Orleans.
To get there we got a plane from Love Field Airport. Our journey was quite literally, Planes, Trains and Automobiles!
Arrived: 31/03/2015 Departed:04/04/2015
Louis Armstrong Park. Photo Credit – Ashleigh Nicole.
New Orleans, what can I say? If it’s possible to fall in love with a city, I think I might have done. What an amazing place!
We stayed in two places whilst in New Orleans. The first was another Air BnB find, a little two floor annex about 20 minutes outside of the French Quarter by car. It was really nice but it had really weird stairs in it, they were like jigsaw pieces that weren’t together, and the bedroom was downstairs but the bathroom was upstairs. There was no TV – although that wasn’t a big issue because we didn’t really need one – but we did have a full kitchen and a really comfy bed. There was a flooding issue at one point, when there was an almighty downpour, but the owner refunded some of our money. It was a bit annoying that it was so far from the French Quarter, because that’s where we spent most of our time but we didn’t realize it was so far. We stayed here for four nights.
We moved to the Hotel Royal in the French Quarter for our last night. It was one of more expensive ones but we thought it would be nice to treat ourselves to a fancy French Quarter hotel. It was nice, but not really what we were expecting. It was comfortable and it had this beautiful courtyard and there were loads of stairs leading in every direction, it made me think of that scene at the of the Labyrinth where Sarah has her final confrontation with the goblin king! The room was pretty small though, and the bathroom had a lot of wasted space, so we didn’t really understand that, and the plug sockets were in strange places. So if you’re looking for a fancy hotel, I would possibly have a good look around first, but this place was really nice.
We went to the French Quarter every day. I know there are other places to go in New Orleans, but it’s so interesting! There is so much to see, even just sitting people watching is wonderful. You can walk to the Mississippi, sit in Jackson Square Park, walk around the very beautiful Louis Armstrong Park, wait in line at Cafe Du Monde!
We did venture away from the French Quarter one did, and did something I never thought I would – we went to a shooting range! It was my husbands birthday whilst we were away, and this is what he asked for. I personally went through a terrible moral conflict in deciding if I wanted to actually go and take part. I don’t really agree with guns, or other weapons for that matter, but I did go because it’s important to understand things you don’t agree with, and I think that you can disagree with certain policies surrounding guns but learning how to use one and understanding gun safety can be sensible.
So on the most rainy day we saw – and one of the only days of bad weather – we set off to St Bernard Indoor Shooting Center. Not only were they really helpful when I was struggling to book, but they were so professional. The lady that taught our course was great. She knew how nervous I was and she was so patient with me. It wasn’t just a really educational day, but it was fun! They teach you safety before you even get to hold a real gun, using a fake, rubber gun. My husband really enjoyed it too! They even called us a cab when we had finished.
We did a lot in NOLA, I think we were busy pretty much every day. You should absolutely go on the Natchez River Cruise! It’s a huge gorgeous steam boat, with big red paddles. It was $79 each – possibly a little pricey – and you get a buffet dinner with a jazz band, as well as your cruise down the Mississippi river. We told them that it was our honeymoon when we booked, so they even put a little sign on our table. While you cruise down the river, taking in the beautiful views you will also learn a lot about New Orleans. The cocktails were a bit unpleasant, but the food was quite nice. It was really fun!
You can’t go to NOLA without doing a cemetery tour! We did one and it was brilliant. I’m reserving this for it’s own blog, so I can go into a lot of detail! I will say this though – it might seem like a creepy idea, but it’s fun and really educational! We used Ghost Adventures and did the Voodoo and cemetery tour, and I really recommend it!
Whatever you do in NOLA, you’ll have a great time. It’s a vibrant, beautiful place filled with lovely people, great music, good beer and delicious food! Catch some live music, a burlesque show or peruse some of the fantastic little stores, not forgetting a lovely food market.
Our favorite places to eat and drink
Cafe Du Monde – Once we were in the French Quarter, this was our first stop! Despite the fact that the line was SO long. Everyday this place is busy, even late at night. The only time we saw the line shortened was when it rained, and after 11pm. You don’t need to worry about the lines though, because first of all you can only order one thing, and second of all, it’s totally worth it! They sell Beignets, decent sized fried doughnuts covered in powered sugar. They are like little pieces of heaven! You can sit in or take out – the line is long for both, but the take out takes longer. Once you get to the counter all you needed to do is order your drink, and tell them how many bags you want (each bag has three in them) and pay. To sit in, the line goes down quicker, but once you get a table it takes a while for someone to take your order, but similarly all you need to do is tell them your drink orders and how many orders you want. We went three times, although we wanted to go more.
Monty’s On the Square – We went here one morning for breakfast, it’s really nice! It was super busy – it was actually spring break in NOLA at the time – so we had to wait, but we got to do so with drinks in the sun! Mimosas are my new favorite thing! I ordered the Amaretto French toast with the banana foster, although it was a bit too much – one of the bigger portions I had – but I managed it all! My husband went for a mountain of blueberry pancakes.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar – This place is pretty awesome. We learnt on our Voodoo and Cemetery tour that it’s the oldest building in the USA to be used as a bar. It’s got a great atmosphere and a live pianist! It’s pretty pricey though but worth at least one drink there!
Barcadia – This is a really cool bar. It’s filled with old arcade games! Plus, it does really nice chicken wings, and alcoholic root beer! We went here a couple of times.
I was pretty saddened the day we had to leave NOLA. Our next stop was Washington, DC but we had to figure out how we could get there. We could either get a train direct, or stop off in Chicago for a day. The train route is a bit of an odd one, but we chose to stop off in Chicago for the day.
It was still a long 19 hour train journey to Chicago, filled with uncomfortable sleeplessness.
To get there, we went through –
New Orleans, LA (Starting point)
Yazoo City, MS
Chicago, IL (Stop off for the day.)
Arrived: 5/04/2016 Departed: 5/04/2016
Cloud Gate. Photo Credit – Ashleigh Nicole.
When we finally pulled into Chicago, I was so relieved. We had roughly 9 hours to see the Windy City, so we wanted to make the most of it, without wandering too far from the train station.
We stepped off the train and were shocked to find we had gone anywhere from 70-85 degrees nearly every day we had been away, to an unbelievable 30 degrees! That’s -1 degrees to us! It’s cold in England, but we mostly have the trouble of wet weather with okay-ish temperatures. Thankfully, we had our coats, scarves etc.
We headed straight for Millennium Park, and we were delighted to come across Cloud Gate when we got there. We didn’t actually know where it was, so it was a nice surprise! I really loved this sculpture, I thought it was really interesting and loved how it captured the skyline. An absolute must see!
We walked through Millennium Park, which is huge and beautiful, down through Grant Park and Hutchinson Field. From there we walked to Lake Michigan. There is little beach here, and the lake is HUGE. From there went along to museum campus and walked past a lot of great Museums, but we didn’t have time to go in any of them. Then we walked all the way back around to Navy Pier. On our walk, we got to enjoy lots of outdoor art including the giant heads of the Chinese zodiac.
Navy Pier is really nice, one of the biggest piers I’ve ever seen. There are a lot of stores and places to eat, and the views are great.
It’s a really long walk, and here I must remind you of an important rule of travelling – if you see a toilet, go. No matter how little you need to go, just do it. Sometimes waiting until the next stop might seem fine, but sometimes, the next stop isn’t for miles. On our walk we saw about 6 or 7 public toilets, but not a single one of them was open. They were all due to open April 22nd. I’m guessing this is the busy season, because that’s also when all of the fountains were due to be switched on.
Once we left Navy Pier, we went off in search of a pub and pizza! After buying pizza for our train journey, we decided to head back to the station. When we got there, my husband came up with a wonderful idea – asking if we can book into a sleeper coach for the night! We were close to exhaustion from not sleeping, and then being busy. We just couldn’t take another sleepless, uncomfortable 19 hour journey. As luck would have it, one was available and although it was a big expense, it was one we could afford!
I can’t remember the price, but I can tell you that it included an evening meal, breakfast and we got to wait in the comfortable lounge with complimentary drinks and snacks! The staff were incredibly helpful and friendly, and our little room was so cosy! It was really small, but it had bunk beds in it, one which attached to the ceiling, the other that folded up into two chairs. There was a little table, and best of all, no strangers! We could shut out the rest of the train, and at this point we were ready to do just that. We weren’t even bothered about seeing the country side. Of course, we did have the pizzas to eat, followed by a free dinner… but we managed! If you can afford to do it, then do it. It’s so worth it! There was even a little shower next the loos on this end. It was actually better than some hotel showers!
Our Favorite places to eat and drink
Pizza Due – We really wanted a Chicago deep dish pizza experience, and this place was recommended to us. We found it, and it did not disappoint. I ordered an individual which I assumed would be a single slice, and my husband got a small. His small was more like a medium, and my individual was a bit like a quiche in size! I got a BBQ chicken, and it was delicious. I have never seen a deep dish pizza like this.
I’m afraid that’s actually all I can offer you food wise, and I don’t actually have a bar to tell you about either. If we had planned a bit more ahead, we could have done more with our day, but it’s hard to do so when the Amtrak WiFi doesn’t work. I wouldn’t have minded trying somewhere else for breakfast – the place we went was okay and did the job, but whilst trying and failing to find the name of it, I have discovered loads of nicer looking places. However, it was enough to make us want to go back and spend more time there.
On the train, blissfully unaware of the outside world, we went through the following places –
Chicago, IL (Starting point)
South Bend, IN
Harpers Ferry, WV
Washington, DC (Final destination.)
Maryland & Washington, DC
Arrived: 6/04/2016 Departed: 10/04/2016
The Washington Monument. Photo Credit – Ashleigh Nicole.
This section has two names because we didn’t actually stay in DC, we actually stayed in a place called Silver Springs in Maryland. It was a little bit too expensive to stay in DC, and Silver Springs is about 15 minutes, maybe a little less, on the metro. It was really nice too! We’re pleased we ended up there, because it was different to anywhere else we had stayed.
We found an Air BnB – the last of our trip – that was perfect. We had a spare room in a house owned by a really lovely couple. We also pretty much had our own bathroom. If anyone else used it we had no idea. They had a lovely garden, and they were more than happy for us to sit in it, and even joined us round the fire pit one night. They were so welcoming, and let us use the kitchen and were more than happy to have chat with us on an evening, and they were so interested in everything we were doing and had some great recommendations! Honestly, that's one of thing about staying in an Air BnB that makes it so wonderful!
There are loads of stores and restaurants a short walk away too, and the train station wasn’t too far so we could get to DC easily, which is something we did every day because there is so much to see and do!
Aside from the White House, which in itself is pretty fabulous to stand outside of – but it’s pretty tricky to get a visit nowadays, ordinarily you would make an appointment through the British Embassy, but at present the tours on hold – there is so much more.
National Mall is the place to be. It spans 1000 acres and within it, you will find so many stunning sculptures and monuments, and surrounding it, many museums.
My favorite part of National Mall is being reserved for it’s own blog, that being the Reflecting Pool and the surrounding monuments, but I will tell you now that they are stunning!
D.C will keep you busy for hours. The Library of Congress is a must see, it’s so beautiful! It’s free to get in, although you can’t access the actual library or “reading room” without a library card, there are different exhibitions on and you can see the Thomas Jefferson Library. You can view the reading room though, which for me was pretty exciting!
From there, you can take an underground tunnel over to the Capitol Building. This is a pretty cool thing to do, although it’s not as “secret agent” as you might think. There are security checks to go through, you can’t take any water or food in. You get used to these security checks though, especially on that side of the country. If you’re going to the Capitol Building, and I really recommend you do, I would book a tour. We didn’t and once you get in, you can have a basic look around but there isn’t much more to do. You can have lunch there though, which is an interesting thing to be able to say. Mind, it wasn’t that great.
Make sure you fit in as many of the Smithsonian Museums as possible. Why? Because they are all free, and considering they are all free, some of them were the best museums we went into during the whole trip! We did…
The Smithsonian Botanical Gardens – This place is beautiful and it offers one of the biggest collections of Orchids in the world. It wasn’t even on our list but when we passed by it, we couldn’t resist!
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – This is huge. I would actually go here first so you have enough time to get around all of the exhibitions. There is some really fascinating stuff in here, and I learned a lot not only about space travel, but the history of air travel. I couldn’t believe it when I clapped my eyes on what the interior of airplanes used to look like! We had to come back here the following day because we didn’t quite get around it.
The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History – This isn’t the one that is used in The Night At The Museum, that one is in New York, and do feel that this one is better! It was more interesting, also huge like the Air and Space Museum. We really enjoyed it.
We had wanted to do more museums and possibly could have fitted one more in on our last day, but we were also pretty warn out when it got to that point!