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USA Holiday 2014 – Part Four – San Francisco

Las Vegas done and we are on a Southwest Airline heading further West to the City By The Bay

I have been here before on business so had a rough idea of the lay of the land.

We stayed in the Intercontinental San Francisco which is a new hotel in the downtown area of the city. It proved to be well placed for the few days we were in town.

On our first evening we just wondered down to the waterfront and grabbed a bit to eat taking in some of the sights as we went.

We then retired for the night in need of a good nights sleep.

Unfortunately California had other ideas and at around 3:20am the area was hit by a magnitude 6.1 earthquake centred not too far away in Napa. Up on the 25th floor of our hotel things were certainly getting lively for the 20 seconds or so it rumbled on.

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It certainly kept the local media busy the following morning.

So for our first full day, we booked ourselves onto an all day bus tour with Dylans Tours. This gave us a chance to put our feet up and let somebody else do the thinking for a change. As the tour only had 13 people on it, we were able to stop and explore and unlike some of the big bus tours, we did not feel like we were being herded around like sheep all day.

The tour started in downtown San Francisco before heading out through various suburbs up to Twin Peaks before heading back down into the city, down towards the waterfront by the Golden Gate Bridge and then over the bridge up to Muir National Monument to admire the giant redwoods. Another stop to admire the bridge on the way back before ending up back at the bottom of Lombard Street about 6 hours later. A brilliant tour with lots of information and local knowledge

Another good (and uninterrupted) nights sleep followed before we spent another full day taking in the sights including the waterfront (again), some cable cars (and the cable car museum), Chinatown and the seals on Pier 39

For our last night we took in a baseball game at AT&T Park. For the life of me I can’t work out how a game where not much seems to happen and where nobody seems capable of hitting a ball can last for over 3 hours but perhaps it’s an American thing. In any case it was a nice way to spend our final night in the USA.

And then we were on a plane heading home.

We had a great time exploring may different sides of the USA this summer. Wall to wall sunshine helped although arriving at a very wet Heathrow airport soon brought us back to reality.

The USA is a huge place and we know we have only just scraped the surface. Unfortunately it’s a long and expensive flight so it’s not somewhere you can visit every year however I am sure we will return soon.

 

USA Holiday 2014 – Part Three – Hoover Dam

Another hot day in Vegas but we still had our hire car so this time we headed out to see one of the areas man made wonders. The Hoover Dam

I don’t need to explain the history or the significance of this place and we didn’t see Superman fly past whilst we were there but it is still quite something to see it in the flesh

USA Holiday 2014 – Part Two – Zion & The Valley of Fire

After a few days in Vegas we had seen the sites and were itching to get out of the hot city and into the countryside so armed with a Ford Escape (Ford Kuga for you brits) from Avis, we headed East through the Nevada desert, into Arizona and then finally into Utah.

Once we cleared the desert and started climbing up through the mountains, every time you had recovered from one awe inspiring view, another appeared round the corner.

After a about 3 hours driving (we did stop for breakfast in Mesquite) we reached the Zion National Park and the views certainly stepped up a gear.

The park is closed to cars so you park in the entrance car park and a bus then takes you along the canyon floor and deep into the park itself. There are several stops so you can jump on and off to admire the view knowing that the next bus will be along in five minutes.

Towards the head of the canyon there were dozens of squirrels that whilst not tame were certainly not afraid of humans

As we left Zion, we stopped off for a late lunch at the Zion Pizza & Noodle Restaurant. Whilst the food was great, what will stick in the mind is the amazing view we had whilst we ate. Simply stunning

View from Zion Pizza & Noodle

But we hadn’t done yet.

On the way back into Las Vegas I wanted to reach the Valley of Fire State Park before the sun set for the evening. We only just made it but I’m sure the photos will explain why I wanted to beat the sunset.

USA Holiday 2014 – Part One – Las Vegas

We have just returned from a couple of weeks in the USA. Our 2014 summer vacation.

The holiday was split into 2 parts with 6 nights in Las Vegas and then a few more nights in San Francisco. As you can imagine, my camera was never far from my side so here are a selection of pictures (the full set can be found by following the links to my photo album).

First of all Las Vegas itself.

It’s certainly larger than life, loud, brash and everything you would expect it to be. It’s tacky, it’s cheap (except where the hotels try and charge you for every single thing) and above all else, it was hot.

We stayed right on The Strip in the New York New York Resort but we soon discovered that all the hotels are pretty much the same. Loads to see and do but a couple of days is all it takes

 

Ironbridge Gorge – June 2014

The wheels keep on turning and this weekend we have headed over to the other side of the country to Telford in Shropshire and to Ironbridge.

This is where the industrial revolution began and what happened in this beautiful corner of the country impacted the world that we live in today in ways that you can only start to imagine. There is a good reason why Ironbridge is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Whilst the main attraction of Ironbridge is the Iron Bridge itself, there are 10 main museums up and down the valley covering Iron making and all that it brought as well as the areas other claim to fame, pottery. The museum that you must visit if you do no others is the Blists Hill Village where a victorian town has been recreated with fully functional banks, butchers, bakers and even candlestick makers. This museum alone can take you a full day and is brought to life by an army of volunteers all in authentic costume. If can feel quite strange walking in through somebodies front door and finding them sitting in front of the fireplace knitting and telling stories about what has been going on in the village that day.

Many of the shops actually sell stuff and you can even change your cash into pounds, shillings and pence at the bank first to spend in the shops. There is a pub where songs are sung around the piano and real ale is served behind the bar. The fish and chip shop is certainly worth a visit and serves up some of the best chips (fried in beef dripping) I have had in a long time.

The other museums vary in scale with some taking literally 20 minutes to cover whilst others taking much longer. We purchased a family annual passport at £68 which covers 2 adults and up to 4 children which works out best value if you intend to visit at least 2 museums during the year. Indeed we may well return within the 12 months as we really did enjoy our weekend here. Full details can be found on the main Ironbridge Gorge website www.ironbridge.org.uk

Whilst best explored on foot there is both a Park & Ride scheme in place as well as a shuttle bus that connects the different museums.

We all found something that we enjoyed is Ironbridge and look forward to returning in the future.

 

 

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