A Winter’s Escape to The Peak District – Twixmas and New Year, 2015-16 – Part 2

Thursday (NYE)

Today dawned a stark contrast to yesterday, a gorgeous crisp winter’s morning with not a cloud in the sky. Today we were saying a reluctant goodbye to Topley Head Farm, and moving onwards, about 8 miles, to another Caravan Club CL- Flagg Hall. We really liked being at Topley Head Farm and cannot get over its price tag of £10 pn. The pitches were spacious, cracking views and all the facilities that we needed. We are stunned we were the only ones there for 4 days!

Continue reading “A Winter’s Escape to The Peak District – Twixmas and New Year, 2015-16 – Part 2”

A Winter’s Escape to The Peak District – Twixmas and New Year, 2015-16 Part 1

Monday 28th Dec:
Bluebell the motorhome is all settled into our home for the next three nights, Topley Head CL site (Caravan Club, £10pn w/electric and hard standing), near Buxton, Derbyshire. We arrived here as the sun was setting but our whistle has been wet, and we are looking forward to daylight as the view looks promising!
We had an uneventful journey up to the Peak District, arriving at Eyam just in time for our turkey and cranberry sauce sandwich and sausage roll lunch to be devoured! The weather was dry albeit notably chillier than down in Norfolk, and we set off with Jazz for a wander around this fascinating village- a village in which during the summer of 1665, a parcel of damp cloth from London changed the course of its future, sadly carrying plague infested fleas which spread and went on to kill 260 people in just one small, sleepy village.
It’s such a pretty little place, right in the middle of a valley with hills surrounding and the typical white peak brickwork on all the houses. Most of the houses in the village have a plaque outside depicting who within those walls were killed. Some has as many as 9 family members who died in that one house – whole generations wiped out. Keith noticed that in many families the wife appeared to survive over the men and the children.
 
 and I found the road where I should live, Lydgate 🙂
What was amazing was that all of these properties are now inhabited and are looking very cosy. Bet there are some serious ghost stories told in the pub these days…
There is a national trust property here, Eyam Hall, that was unfortunately closed today, but we are going to try and come back later in the week.
A short drive from Eyam and we found our campsite for the the next 3 days. It’s right on the Monsal Trail, which we hope to cycle on tomorrow. The drive was through Millers Dale and reminded Keith of Lord of The Rings scenery!
We are surprisingly the only ones on this site – amazing as it’s hard standing with electric and only £10 a night! It’s across the road from Beech Croft Farm campsite where we stayed a couple of years ago, a lovely site, but twice the price and looking very full from what we could see from the road!
Tuesday 
Dawned a bright winters day, perfect for a bike ride, so we were up and out by 10am after a lovely brew and some brekkie whilst enjoying this view from our window.
The start of the Monsal trail was found just down the road from the campsite- walkers have access to a steep path at the end of the farm entrance down to the trail, but on the bikes, we opted for half a mile down the A6 to the Wyedale car park (it’s downhill meaning a rather steep incline on our return!)
 
The Monsal trail is an old industrial railway trail that goes from Wye Bridge to Bakewell covering a distance of about 8.5 miles. It cuts through some magnificent countryside, passing serveral interesting sites along the way, including Lime Kilns and mills, through several tunnels and over the impressive Monsal Head Viaduct. It’s a lovely way to spend a day- and it seemed like the whole world was too, it was packed! Nice to see lots of people out and about in the fresh air, but sometimes a challenge navigating around those who thinks its ok to walk 5 a side, leave their bikes mid track etc! Never rang my bell so many times in a day!
 
On arriving at Bakewell we assumed we would find bike parking, and spent a considerable amount of time trying and failing to find somewhere safe and unobstructive to leave them. Bakewell is such a pretty little town, home to the Bakewell pudding AND Bakewell tart, so it seemed rude not to buy two of each for a tasting later! Bakewell was even busier than the Monsal Trail, it was heaving!
We rejoined the Monsal trail and headed back to Bluebell, the return journey was hard work on our unfit legs, but we really enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. I was pleased that I remembered to pack my hip flask – getting back up that hill to the campsite was haaaarrrrrddd!
We’ve battened down the hatches as the wind is picking up and more rain in the name of Storm Frank is on the way, so we’re bracing ourselves for a blustery evening! We are warm and cozy though inside our home on wheels
Wednesday 
Storm Frank passed overnight and during today and although we didn’t get hit badly, in fact we both slept through it (!), a day out during high winds and thrashing down rain was unappealing to us, so it was declared as a motorhome duvet day, where we literally stayed in bed til lunchtime watching Shogun, ate the leftovers in the fridge up, watched crappy tele, watched more Shogun, I read a book, then we went back to bed! We very rarely do this, at home or away, but enjoyed the chill enormously, and felt very rested, which is what holidays are for aren’t they, so will probably try and do more of this on subsequent trips!
Until Next Time
Lx

October Half Term 2015 (and Lydia’s 30th) Part 3 

Wednesday

Bluebell the motorhome is on the edge, the waters edge that is, enjoying an enormous fully serviced pitch right on the lake at Waterloo Leisure site on the outskirts of Market Harborough.  

^ We ended up totally wasting the space on our pitch as we wanted to take advantage of the on pitch grey water drainage, therefore were restricted by the length of our grey water waste pipe! ^

It’s slightly more than we would usually like to pay for a site at £24.50 pn but it’s location being right on the Brampton Valley Way trail, that links Northampton to Market Harborough on an old railway path, made us bite the bullet and book it. If you’re into fishing you would love it here, our door literally opens onto a rather large fishing lake, and if we wanted to, we could have 2 rods as part of our nightly fee.
The pitch is absolutely gigantic for little ol’ Bluebell- but it’s hard standing base and grey water disposal/drinking water tap on pitch is proving to be beyond helpful considering the amount of rain we’ve had over night!


We arrived yesterday lunchtime and after finishing off the remains of the slow cooker beef casserole we enjoyed the night before, we got our walking boots on and walked about 3 miles along the old railway track towards Northampton.


We managed to take in a 400 Mt tunnel which was pitch black, apart from a shaft of light in the middle which presumably was a ventilation hole. I wouldn’t say I was a huge fan of the tunnel, it was damp, pitch black, cold and really eery! Keith however loved it and he did a good job protecting me with the help of our iPhone torches!
  
  
Along the way there were loads of juicy sloe berries crying out to be picked ready for a mass slow gin making effort when we get home!

  
After a nice leg stretch we headed back to Bluebell in time for afternoon tea and a chance to finish of my birthday cake before having a chill and watching Shaun of the Dead on Keith’s Blu Ray player that we cart around everywhere and rarely use!

Wednesday dawned a wet one to say the least- although it really is lovely being tucked up nice and warm and DRY and hearing the rain hitting the motorhome roof. We decided to utilise the rainy morning by having an enormous lay in, which these days meant we lasted til around 09:30 before getting itchy feet! So I cooked us a spinach and mozzarella frittata and made a packed lunch, all the weather apps were telling us the rain would pass by 1pm. We were keen to get on the bikes as we wanted to get to nearby Foxton Locks. Around 11:30 there seemed to be a gap in the rain so we decided to don our wet weather attire and go for it, a good decision as it ended up stayed dry, with even the sunshine coming out as we arrived at Foxton.


We took the Brampton Valley Way trail to Market Harborough (around 1.5 miles) then picked up the Millenium mile cycle path along the riverside towards the Grand Union Canal on cycle route 6. We then cycled 6 miles alongside the canal on the towpath, ending up at Foxton Locks at around 1:30. The colours alongside the canal were breathtaking.


Foxton Locks are a set of 10 Grade II listed locks that form a staircase transporting canal boats up the valley.



 We enjoyed watching some boats travelling through the lock system, helped by the lock keepers and found the old boat lift fascinating. The old lock keepers cottages had been well restored into a tempting looking tea rooms, however we chose for a refreshment stop in the Foxton Locks Inn at the bottom of the staircase.  


 The above two pics are the old boat lift which was engineered in the early 1900s. It would carry boats up in a tank on water- each one carryed two boats and used a pulley system to pull the entire tank up or down the hill.

It was an easier journey back, and we opted to stay on the canal path right into the centre of Market Harborough into a Union Wharf.


  Annoyingly Keefy managed to get a puncture (he is so unlucky with his bikes!) – luckily this happened as we were coming into Market Harborough so we ended up walking the bikes the last couple of miles back getting back to Bluebell just as the sun was going down.

We enjoyed our stay on the Waterloo Leisure site- the only extra thing that we would have enjoyed was on pitch wifi – apparently the owners are working on this though.

Sadly our trip was over and it was time to head back home this morning (Thursday). We have had another fantastic break away, done some lovely cycles and walks and generally been pretty lucky with the weather. We are hoping we may get a cheeky weekend away before Christmas, but we are looking forward to our next adventure over New Year in the Peak District.

Until next time
Lx

October Half term (and Lydia’s 30th) Part 2

Monday
Bluebell the motorhome is parked on a working farm in Upper Hambleton, Rutland, where she is enjoying some fine views of Rutland Water. It’s very basic Caravan club CL but has all that we require and at only £13 a night is a bargain.  

My birthday weekend has been fabulous. We had a good chill on Saturday morning before heading to Cley Beach, Norfolk for some sea air. 

We then had a gentle walk around the very pretty village of Cley Next to Sea, enjoying the windmill, a pint in The George and some serious droolage and spending in the fantastic deli in the village. It took all the will power we had not to empty the shop, instead opting for a few bottles of Woodfordes Nog, some homemade lavender bread, local honey and chutney and some handmade fudge!

      

We then headed on round the coast to Blakeney, where we had another mooch and then a chill in harbour car park. Keith bought me a birthday cake complete with candles and we enjoyed watching the tide come in.

  
Around 6pm we moved on the short journey to Morston Hall, where the management had very kindly let us park up in their car park overnight. We both showered and got poshed up before heading inside for 7:30 for my first taste of Michelin Starred fine dining.  

 I was not disappointed, it was without doubt the best meal I have ever eaten- all 9 courses! We met the chef / owner Galton Blackiston as he bought our canapés to the table. The wine flight – an additional experience where they bring you a new wine to match each course (hic!) was right on the mark and the 60 day aged beef and Ox cheek was absolutely breathtakingly delicious.

After a great sleep in their back car park, we woke early and moved on, not wanting to overstay our welcome. We headed the short distance to Morston Quay, where there is a large national trust carpark which was a nice spot for breakfast- the homemade lavender bread and honey from yesterday’s splurge in Cley.

We hit the road at 9am and drove west on the A47 towards Rutland Water arriving at our certified site for midday. We quickly emptied and refilled, and by 12:15 were en route in a taxi towards the Wheatsheaf in Edith Weston, where we were meeting some of my best friends for Sunday lunch. The pub is very dog friendly and the food was lovely. We had a great catch up and got back to Bluebell late afternoon, where we caught up with Strictly before hitting the sack just after 8pm!


Monday dawned bright, despite the weather forecast saying otherwise, therefore after a quick 8 egg frittata for breakfast and getting the beef casserole in the slow cooker, we were on our bikes by 10am ready to tackle the circuit of Rutland Water. Our campsite is located on the peninsular so we ended up cycling the full 24 miles, but there is an option to cut out the peninsular if you don’t fancy that distance. However the route that goes around the peninsular is beautiful and we enjoyed it.


The weather was perfect, and at times we could have been forgiven for thinking we were in the Italian Lakes! The route itself was fairly challenging for us, it’s very up, down, up down etc, and usually we try to avoid hills if we can, so we found it hard, but massively satisfying and very enjoyable. The route took us 5 hours but we stopped for refreshments every hour or so. 



Highlights were Normanton Church and also seeing all the sailing boats on the water. The colours of Autumn were in full abundance and it really was spectacular.

  


Next stop tomorrow, Market Harborough and Foxton Locks
Until then

Lx

October Half Term (and Lydia’s 30th) Part 1

Friday

Bluebell the motorhome is tucked away under the autumn leaves on The Caravan CL The Sheleig, on the outskirts of Cley next to Sea, North Norfolk.  We have a sea view, we have 2 pubs within walking distance and life is feeling rather good. We arrived after a less than smooth journey- making the silly mistake of relying on google maps to get here and ignoring the roadmap. We squeezed down some tiny roads in a “sat nav effort” to save a couple of mins, but seem to have gained a couple of extra wear and tear scratches. We vow to consult the road map next time…!


 The site is nice- on a slight grassy slope however luckily the owner didn’t mind us tearing up his grass to get onto our pitch! We have a slight sea view and it’s wonderfully quiet. After a quick soup lunch (I made a pumpkin soup earlier in the week-yum) we got our walking boots on and set about on a 4.5 6.6 mile walk.






The walk took us mainly on quiet lanes to Glandford and across its impressive ford, across Wiveton Down and into Wiveton where we had our first refreshment stop in The Wiveton Bell in front of the roaring log fire. I managed to polish off most all of the Liquorice Allsorts on the bar tables!




  
We walked across the 13th Century medieval bridge into Newgate on the outskirts of Cley, where there was another inviting pub, The 3 Swallows, it seemed rude not to pop in for “one for the road”. It was a short journey back to the campsite and we surprised to realise we had actually walked 6.5 miles.


  
Since getting back, we’ve given my new DAB radio a whirl, a present for my birthday, and currently are waiting for my homemade chicken and pumpkin pie to finish cooking in the oven. Not a bad way at all to spend the last night of my twenties!!!

Saturday

Its my 30th birthday!!!!!


I’ve had a lovely chill and been thoroughly spoilt!! Keefy’s cooked me a fry up and tonight he’s taking me for my first Michelin star meal, at nearby Morston Hall!

Excited!

Until next time

Lx

Our Royal Ramblings around Sandringham, Norfolk

Bluebell the motorhome is parked on a lovely spacious pitch overlooking Woodland within Sandringham Country Park. We are nestled upon the Caravan Club club site- a first for us, but there were no CLs close enough for us to park up on Friday and not drive again til today, so here we are.

  
We are lucky in that Sandringham is only an hours drive from home, so we arrived on Friday bang on the check in time of 12:00 ready to explore. On arrival we were told about SCD (Seasonal Canine Disorder) from the cautious warden and advised not to take the dog out into the Country Park. Panicking, we didnt know what to do for the best, as the country park goes for miles and we were smack bang in the middle. We decided to walk Jazz as normal, but not let him off lead ( well we dont do that anyway) and be extra vigilant for signs of illness. 

The weather was fantastic, blue skies, no clouds, so we decided to set out on a 6.5 8 mile walk to Wolfreton and back through the park and past the visitor centre. The walk was glorious, taking in the wonderful Royal Wolfreton Station, once the main station where Royals would disembark on their way to Sandringham, but now a residential property which has been wonderfully restored privately. You can access the station, and visit the museum and it’s all free. Remarkable. 

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
  The walk took us over Dersingham bog (on the boardwalk of course!) with views of the wash and then back through the country park. We haven’t walked that length in a while (it turned out to be 8 miles as we added 3/4 mile each way getting from the campsite to join the AA Route.   
   

We had a great sleep on Friday night, the site is very quiet, and we were treated to hearing the Owls in the woods. They sounded very close to us! Always a lovely sound. 
Saturday dawned another sunny day, so we got the bikes off the rack and set out on a 15.5 23 mile cycle, a route we found on the Caravan Club website. The route took us through West Newton, Amner (and past Amner Hall where Kate and Wills live- not that you could see it!) Great Bircham and its impressive windmill (sadly now closed until Easter- we’ve been up previously and it’s fantastic). 

   
    
    
    
    
   
We then carried on through Fring, Snettisham – where we stopped at the picturesque Rose and Crown, winner of Pub of the Year 2015, and we can see why, it’s very pretty and our sandwiches were delicious. It was then the home stretch through Dersingham and back to Sandringham campsite via the visitor centre. 

   
    
    
 We passed several shops selling local produce, and took advantage of the fact stopping to get cheese at each, and chutney atSandringham visitors centre,  building ourselves a nice little local cheese board for later that night! Not sure why the cycle ended up being 7.5 miles longer than the route suggested, we don’t think we went wrong! Anyway, we were glad to get back as it was just about our limit and actually there were a surprising amount of hills- but it was a lovely day nonetheless. 
Saturday night was spent chilling and watching Strictly. Here’s a strange story- I went to enquire about a TV arial lead at reception as Friday night our TV signal off the status arial was ok but sometimes broke up, and we noticed everyone else on site had Arial leads. I was shocked that they were not available to hire, you had to buy them and they were £15! I’m not sure if we are out of touch with these larger commercial sites or what, but I was surprised to hear that, especially in an area where TV signal isn’t so good, you would think that they perhaps would let you have them  for free to hire with a deposit or something? Especially when we are paying £20 a night?  Suffice to say, I didn’t buy one, and in the end we had no problems off status arial so that was satisfying! 

Sunday dawned and we were up early ready to pack away and the short drove to Sandringham House. It’s 1.5 miles from the campsite, so we could have walked t you can’t take dogs in so we wanted to reduce the time that Jazz needed to stay on his own in the van. 

It cost £13.50 each to get into Sandringham, this included the stunning gardens, downstairs of the house, and also a large museum.  We felt it to be very good value. The gardens were spectacular, the leaves just starting to change colour.  

    
    
    
    
 The first view of the house was exciting, it’s a stunning property you can see The Queen chooses to spend Christmas here. 
   
    
   

  
We weren’t allowed to take piccies inside, but we got to see the lounge/saloon, drawing room, dining room (where they have their Turkey!) and ballroom. It was better value (IMO) than Ballmoral. 

Inside the museum were loads of old Royal vehicles and a wealth of history and information. Also, a very large Pumpkin!

   
    
    
    
   
  
The west lawns were our favourite  

    
 
Finally, after going to pick Jazz up, via the shop may I add, we went for a quick look around the church where The Royal Family worship on Christmas Day. What a pretty spot, the inside is lovely. We will watch the news with a vested interest on Xmas Morning

   
    
   
Jazz licking his lips on the above signalled time for home- we’d had a lovely break, and are now looking forward to doing Leicestershire over half term! 

Until next time

Lx 

Looking ahead

So we are back in the thick of term time now, and with all our wedding adventures over and done with, the photobook’s are printed and filed on the shelf, and we are on the hunt for new adventures to look forward to. 🙂

Although we have had THE most AMAZING year so far, with trips to America, Paris, Lake District, Kent, Oxfordshire -not to mention a couple of cheeky weekend jollies to local areas in Norfolk, we are excited about the final quarter of 2015 as we no longer need to save pennies for the wedding, leaving us free to jump into Bluebell as often as we like! Hurrah!

We keep a list of places we want to go to/return to and so without further ado last week I set to booking our first trip away in Bluebell since July. Top of the list was Sandringham, a local one for us, so we got straight onto the Caravan Club website and booked ourselves onto their Club Site situated within the Estate grounds. We try to avoid Caravan Club sites generally, the large commercial feel they have aren’t really our cup of tea- however Sandringham has been one we will make an exception for given its Royal location!

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We’ve booked a trip through the middle of England for October Half term, starting at North Norfolk as its my birthday and I’m being taken out to Morston Hall for a slap up meal (Michelin restaurant, hubby did GOOD!) After being wined and dined we will head West towards Rutland Water, then onto Leicestershire to explore Foxton Locks and that area.

We’ve even gotten as far as Twixmas and NYE- tonight firming up bookings on two hard standing pitches in the Peak District- hopeful the weather will allow us to cycle the Mensal Head Trail and The High Peak trail. Wonder if we will see snow?!

Anyone else going out anywhere over the next few weeks? Any favourite winter sites?

American adventures on Amtrak- Part 10 travelling on the Amtrak “Coast Starlight” from LA to San Fransisco then onto Yosemite National Park and back home.

It was our last trip on the Amtrak trains, and one we had been looking forward to, as we knew some of it hugged the dramatic coastline of the West Coast of America, The Pacific Ocean! We couldn’t believe that we had made it to the west coast, over 3000 miles from New York where we had started, and over 5000 miles away from London!

It was a long journey lasting over 11 hours, but we spent some time in the observation lounge watching the ever changing coastline- we even saw a school of dolphins swimming just off the shore.

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Lunch and Dinner was taken on the train, and we disembarked around 21:30 at Oaklands, just outside of San Fransisco.

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We were up early the next day as we were off on a guided coach tour of San Fransisco, which was fabulous, it took in all the sights, including the famous Lombard Street (a very steep and windy picturesque road), The Palace of Arts, The Golden Gate Bridge and even a fine view of the city from Twin Peaks. Our guide was really knowledgable and we thoroughly enjoyed the morning. We were dropped off at Fishermans Wharf, a lively area by the sea at lunch time, and along with our friends, Steve and Arlene, we popped for a swift beer followed by some local crab for lunch. It was a lovely spot, and we even saw the famous San Fransisco sea lions.

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Later that afternoon we visited the infamous Alcatraz. We had booked our tickets well in advance, and a good job too, as it was totally sold out for the time we were there. It was an incredible trip- what an interesting place to visit. The old prison has been left as it was when it was in use- the cells are all available to view and the audio tour was fascinating, telling tales of prisoners who had been held at Alcatraz and also those who escaped.

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That evening we joined Steve and Arlene on a trip into Chinatown for dinner. We travelled on the famous San Fransisco “Cable Cars”- interesting, as we all thought they were going to be up high in the air, but in fact they are little wooden boxes that travel on the middle of the road- more like trams come to think about it. They are fascinating to ride on, even a little scary actually, they whiz up and down the hills and the braking system is nothing other than a wooden block that traps under the wheel!! Also, the health and safety regs obviously aren’t a priority over there as there was nothing to prevent you hanging out of the side as the carriage was hurtling up or down the hill!

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Next day was a free day, and our last free day in San Fransisco. We were up fairly early and got the metro bus down to Golden Gate park. We enjoyed a visit to The Japanese Tea Gardens, then had a pleasant walk through the park, and onto Haight Steet, famous in its day for the “hippy” part of town. In fact, back in The Summer of Love, this was where the hippy subculture began. Nowadays, traces of these hippy days are still evident, the street hosts independent stores, restaurants, book stores, smoke shops, and even a naked man with nothing other than a sock on his you know what! We enjoyed a nice Thai meal before carrying on. This section of town was home to some of our favourite bits of architecture in the whole city. Beautiful wooden townhouses, with turrets and bags of style.

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Once back at the hotel, it was time to say farewell to the rest of our tour group, including the tour manager. They were all flying back to England Monday afternoon, but Keith and I were staying on for an extra couple of nights as we had booked an extension to Yosemite National Park. There were a couple of hiccups on this final chapter of our journey, but I won’t discuss them online yet as its currently under investigation. Despite the hiccups, we were pleased to take in Yosemite, its a breathtakingly beautiful part of the world.

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There is an excellent free shuttle which operates around the National Park making it accessible without the huge hikes, however there are plenty of trails for different abilities. We did a short walk on our first afternoon taking in Yosemite Falls, which sadly had dried up as California is in the middle of a 3 year drought. Still the glacier cliff face was amazing, and the tall trees were HUGE!

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Next day we did the trail up to Vernon Falls- around a 3 mile circular trail which went quite steep! Still, it was worth it as we found some water in the waterfall. The views are just beautiful.

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Soon, it was time for our transfer back to San Fransisco for our final night before our flight home. We were feeling sad that our adventure was over, but satisfied and in awe of the places that we had travelled to. It had been our first experience on an organised tour, and we absolutely LOVED it. Having a tour manager with us throughout was a luxury, he took the stress and the thinking out of every aspect, meaning we could relax and just enjoy. For anyone thinking of exploring USA, we would highly recommend Great Rail USA Coast to Coast. All the Americans that we met on our journey were impressed with the itinerary, several saying that we were seeing more of America than 80% of Americans. It was extremely well organised and our tour manager, John Levick was a true pro. He stayed calm no matter what, was informative, friendly and totally in control. He took care of our cases, our tickets, everything. All we had to do was turn up on time and follow like sheep!

Seriously, if you fancy taking a trip of a lifetime, without the hassle of driving (I still cannot get my head around HOW BIG America is!!!) this tour is for you.

American adventures on Amtrak- Part 9 – The Grand Canyon to LA and staying on The Queen Mary at Longbeach

We travelled to the Grand Canyon from Williams on The Grand Canyon Railway.

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It was an interesting way to get to the Canyon, although the cheesy cowboy show at the beginning was a bit much for us! Haha. Our group got bumped up to First class which was fab, and the carriages were wonderfully art deco, wood panel lined. Real old fashioned luxury.

I still can’t talk about experiencing the Grand Canyon without getting a tear in my eye. It was the single most amazing place I’ve ever been. Absolutely sensationally awesome. Funnily enough, we didn’t actually see it until about an hour or so after actually arriving, as, because we had booked the flight over the Grand Canyon, we were bundled straight onto a waiting coach and driven to the airport. So our first view was this:

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I made a short video of our flight – but I’m aware that nothing I can show you here will ever prepare you for seeing the canyon for real.

We flew on a 19 seater propellor plane – now, I am not a good flyer, and I am so proud of myself for getting on! The funniest thing happened once it took off, Keith and I were sat on the second row back, and I looked round to see EVERYONE looking PETRIFIED. It was the single most terrifying thing I’ve ever done, but in the same breath it was the most wonderful experience I’ce ever had. A funny comment from one of our fellow group members as we landed “I don’t know why they have vomit bags on the seats, I think spare pants would be more appropriate…!”

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Back on  the ground and with very shaky legs, we caught our coach back to the rim and enjoyed an hour looking over the edge. It really is the most amazing place you will ever visit.

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Our journey back to Williams on the Grand Canyon railway was spent trying to make sense of what we had experienced, helped by the train bar, where we spent the entire 2 hour journey, trying all the cocktails on offer!! At one point the train jolted to a stop, and we looked out of the window to see cowboys on horses running next to our train. Next thing we know, these “cowboys” are on the train “robbing us” – all part of the show, very cheesy but a bit of fun!

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That night we had some time to kill in Flagstaff before boarding our overnight sleeper train to LA, so we carried on with the beer, enjoyed a nice meal with Arlene and Steve, some friends we had made and then a few sherbets at the Irish Bar across the road from the station. The train ran 3 hours late, so we ended up having a few more than intended!

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After a very heavy sleep (no idea why…!) our arrival to LA was sadly 3 hours later than planned, which resulted in us having less time in LA. We managed to get a whistlestop tour in, with lively guide Kenny. we saw The Dolby Theatre, home to The Oscars, but couldn’t get in die to them setting up a premiere for that night. We saw Hollywood Boulevard and also some of the stars on the sidewalk. We also saw a naked man on a street corner (our guide just said, welcome to California!) and we took a drive through Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive.

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Our first sight of our room for the night, The legendary Queen Mary, was exciting. The Queen Mary was built as a luxury ocean liner and for many years held the title for fastest crossing from England to New York. It was so fast that come WW2, it was used as a troop ship to cart Americans to the war, and was so fast that the German U Boats couldn’t catch it to attack it. We were so lucky to be spending the night on this marvellous ship. They’ve left on board exactly as it would have been so it was lined with rich wooden walls, luxurious suites, and marble flooring. It was fabulous. We enjoyed our hour tour of the boat and afterwards went down into the engine rooms to look at one of the propellors. All the fixtures and fittings were original in the rooms, although they had added a flat screen tv for guests! We enjoyed cocktails in the first class lounge at the front of the boat before having dinner looking out across to Long beach. Perfect

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American adventures on Amtrak- Part 8 – Durango to Flagstaff via Monument Valley

We had a quiet night in Durango – still trying to process the scenery that we had seen on the past couple of days, knowing that there was much, much more to come! We stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton which was lovely, we had a nice balcony overlooking the river Colorado and it was very quiet.

Next day and another early start, but we were all excited as today was the day we were travelling through Navajo country into Monument Valley. Jeff, our coach driver/tour guide was fantastic, pointing out the sights to see. Our first stop was at Twin Rocks Trading Post, situated just below some impressive sandstone sculptures.

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Our next stop was absolutely breathtaking – not often you can silence an entire coach full of Brits, but this spot sure did – Goosenecks State park, an impressive canyon with some neat river meanders. Absolutely amazing. (click on pics for full res)

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Next stop was the eagerly anticipated Monument Valley, with pictures stops in various locations, including the spot where we all shouted…”Run, Forrest, Run”….

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We stopped for lunch just beyond Monument Valley at the place where Jeff Wayne used to stay when he was filming wild west films. It had a cool museum with loads of photos of them filming various movies etc. We ate traditional Navajo food, Frybread with beef stew for me and chilli for Keith. Delicious – and amazing to think we fancied such hot food despite it being high 30s outside!

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On our journey from Monument Valley to Flagstaff we passed several traditional Navajo houses, called Hogans, and made out of sandstone. These days, Navajo People are becoming more westernised, many living in trailers (to use they look like static caravans). Apparently this is because they never can buy the land they live on, it belongs to the ‘Navajo people” – so rather than building permanent houses, living in trailers offers them the luxury to move to a different patch of land as and when they want to.

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We arrived at our hotel for two nights in Flagstaff just in time for Happy Hour and a dip in the gorgeous outside pool before having dinner with some of our group. Next day, we had a free day so enjoyed a pool day and also exploring the hotel “Nature Trail”- a 1.5 mile circuit through the woodland. A lovely way to spend our free day.

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