Now, it is always best to seek advice before booking a place to stay as my hotel was extraordinary, in the bad sense of the word! So much so, that I actually turned back up the street because I could not believe that it could be situated there. Low and behold, it was on the street and not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I ended up having a 6 bedroom dorm to myself which provided some welcome privacy after my long haul flight through time.
The next morning, I woke up early for my tour of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys This included a drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, a trip to the Redwood Forests, which have the tallest trees in the world, and also 3 different vineyards. When you are backpacking, free alcohol always comes in handy! It is a beautiful part of the world, very similar to the Cape Wine route. After heading back to the city, I just took a stroll around the original and best China town, and having just visited Hong Kong, could not believe how similar it was to the real thing. However, the staple diet of the Golden Arches always tended to provide a trusty source of nourishment if you are ever unsure of the menu!
A highlight of San Francisco is Fisherman’s Wharf, which is jam packed full of restaurants and bars, and is also home to the huge colony of sea lions. From there, you can catch a ferry across the famous bay with great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, all the way to Alcatraz. You go through the prison with headphones and learn all about the various mass murderers that lived in the cells – a fascinating place with so much history, and the perfect place to get a great view of San Francisco. It was then time to catch the Greyhound bus overnight to Los Angeles. Now, I am all one for saving money on accommodation by catching overnight journeys, but I don’t think this will be something I will ever repeat – rather just a cheap day flight or train.
Arriving in Los Angeles, groggy from my much needed sleeping pill, I staggered to my youth hostel, luckily just around the corner from the station, having planned it that way. The first thing I noticed were the stars on Hollywood Boulevard, as my hostel was quite nearby, only 5 minutes away from the Kodak theatre where they film the Oscars every year. After being able to put my bag down early and being offered free pancakes, I hit the town as fast as I could and headed to the corner of Hollywood and Highland, admiring the many stars on the Walk of Fame and headed to the Chinese Theatre and Kodak Theatre. (Yes, I sat in the seat that Charlize was sitting in when she won her Oscar, but that’s all I am saying about that!)
I carried on walking down Santa Monica Boulevard towards the Santa Monica Pier, can’t be far I thought. After walking through Beverly Hills and Bel Air and checking out Rodeo Drive, the backpacker urge within me kicked in and I thought I would be able to save money on a bus and walk the rest of the way. Four hours later and limping badly, I saw the coastline – looming like an angel of everything that is good in the world. I strolled along the beach and onto the famous pier, before heading back for $1 beers at the hostel.
The next day I headed down to Venice Beach, a great bohemian part of the world to rest my aching legs. I was then off that night for the four hour bus ride to Las Vegas, and checked into the Stratosphere hotel at around 10am and then passed out for hours, waking up in time to head up to the top of the tower (tallest in western America) and took a ride on the world’s highest rollercoaster. Next I watched the sunset over the Las Vegas strip, an amazing sight to watch as all the lights slowly come on. I had to get to bed early that night as I was to wake up at 4:30am for my helicopter trip through the Grand Canyon – truly one of the greatest memories of my life. We spend about an hour in total in the air, and flew back low over the strip on the way back, looking at all the unbelievable hotels from above. My mother met me later that day after a 33 hour door to door journey from Durban, and off we went around checking all the sights and sounds of Las Vegas and scoffing all the ridiculously cheap buffets!
This tour, including flights and 9 nights’ accommodation, can be done for the unbelievable price of £699 per person sharing! Email me personally on [email protected] for more details