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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American adventures on Amtrak- Part 7 – The Rockies and The San Juan mountains, Colorado

Our journey from Denver through to Grand Junction on The Californian Zephyr was fantastic. It was a daytime journey and passed right through the heart of The Rocky Mountains. The scenery was breathtaking, we followed the Colorado River through the majority of the journey and we saw hundreds of people enjoying the river, be it on kayaks, dingy, canoes or just swimming. What was hilarious was something that we had been prewarned about- the “locals mooning” at the train as it goes by – we were in stitches when we saw our first- and it kept the whole carriage amused as we played “spot the mooner” Some did to whilst balancing not their dingy, some from the side of the river, some old, some young – it didn’t seem to matter! Hilarious!

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Photos don’t do the journey justice, so I took a selection of videos, which you can see below:

We arrived at Grand junction, Colorado just n time for a dip at the outdoor pool at the hotel (temperature was 38 degrees at 7pm!!!) and a few glasses of local wine and a meal at the local brewhouse. The Colorado wine didn’t blow us away, but the meal was delicious. There were some interesting sculptures dotted along the High Street, including this one of the buffalo, made out of bumpers of cars!

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Next day we had another big day of travel – we were heading to the San Juan mountain range and up to Silverton by coach, then joining the Durango-Silverton narrow gauge railway back down to Durango. Our first rest stop was at the amazing village of Ouray, which is nestled at the foot of the hills, and at the bottom of what the locals call “The Million Dollar Highway”. The town is very small but authentic wild west in style, and had numerous cowboy style buildings from the late 1800s.

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As soon as we arrived at Silverton (named because they used to mine silver there) we knew we were in for a treat. It was so so SO amazing there – really oldey worldly, horse drawn carriages being pulled, old saloon bars, cowboys etc. Absolutely fantastic place, I would really love to go back! We found a saloon bar/restaurant called Grumpy’s – we were enticed by the honky tonk pianist playing. We enjoyed a couple of pints of local beer and a buffalo burger each in an amazing atmosphere.

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Our journey from Silverton to Durango on the narrow gauge railway was absolutely incredible. I still can’t even describe how much we loved it so I’m afraid I’ll have to give you the pics and vids instead!

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American adventures on Amtrak- Part 6 Denver, Colarado

We arrived at Denver Union station almost an hour late, but seeing as it was still 09:00 in the morning no one seemed to mind the extra time in our sleeper cars!

   

  

 We were greeted by a coach and tour guide who gave us a whistle stop tour through the city of Denver before dropping us at our hotel. We were under the impression that we would be able to have an early check in, but sadly this never happened, which did result in quite a bit of waiting around the hotel lobby. John, our tour manager took us on a walk around the city, past the Capitol building with its beautiful golden dome and also the house of  Molly Brown, who was a survivor of the ill fated Titanic.  

 
    
   

   
There was a lovely park which was packed with different food trucks and some interesting sculptures dotted around. Keith and I decided to kill some time by nipping back down to the park and get some food- Keith opted for the Italian beef sandwich and I had a meatball baguette. The sun was shining and we enjoyed a relax in the park, before having a quick look around the Capitol building- we were also allowed up to the observation deck just below the dome. The view towards the Rockies was nice and it was an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so whilst we waited for our room to become available. 

              
Once checked in we grabbed a nap- and woke to an enormous thunder clap! We had a chill whilst the storm passed over and then headed into town. Word on the street was that there was a great place to try out local Bison, Ted’s Montana Grill, so we headed there first. Keith had the Bison fillet steak and I had slow cooked bison ribs, both served with local corn. It was delicious. So good that we ended up going back there the next da        

We stopped for a beer on the way back to the hotel in The Yard House, a bar that had a huge selection of local draft ales and lagers. We got id’ed again and as we didn’t have our passports a local chap said he “would vouch for us”! It’s very confusing the laws re alcohol here- we are now having to carry passports all the time,something we don’t like to do, some places insisting its the law to id everyone, others not bothering at all. Strangely, you can buy pot here legally though and don’t get me started on the gun law.. 

Friday dawned and we were up early- we’d booked onto the optional extra excursion up into The Rocky National Park. Our guide was a lively local lady full of interesting facts and stories and our driver was an Indian Chief… Chief Jim. The tour was absolutely fantastic, we drove to an altitude of 12,000 ft through the most impressive scenery we’ve come across, with plenty of stops for piccies and refreshments. Up at 12,000ft there was the risk of altitude sickness, symptoms which we incurred were light headed ness, shortness of breath, and feeling very “floaty”. During our trip we encountered herds of Elk, (a deer like animal) and we think we saw an eagle soaring above. 

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
 We returned to the hotel shortly before 18:30, and we had a quick freshen up before heading out for dinner, back to Ted’s Grill, via The Tilted Kilt, a bar where the waitresses dressed in short mini skirt kilts and bras! We met up with another couple on the trip and went for dinner with them and had a lovely boozy evening.

Next stop, Grand Junction, which is right in the Wild West! Can’t wait! 

American adventures on Amtrak- Part 5 Chicago

We arrived slightly later than scheduled (2 hours- apparently normal!) at Union Station, Chicago, where we were greeted by a very lively local tour guide who was to take us on a coach tour around Chicago. On it, he shared amusing stories and fed us local recommendations on where to eat, as well as showing us some places linked to Al Capone, The Blues Brothers, and much much more. His enthusiasm was wonderful, he really brought the stories to life- although our whole group, us included, were all shattered and hungry so probably didn’t appreciate it as much as we could have.

    
After our tour we were dropped at the hotel, conveniently located on the Magnificent Mile, a stretch of posh shops, restaurants and tourist attractions. We had chance for a wander so headed off towards Portillos, recommended by our guide as the best place to eat Italian beef sandwiches, a Chicago delacasy. The sandwich was great, but sadly we were unable to wash it down with a cold beer as we’d left our passports in the hotel safe and we got id’d!

  
Later that afternoon we were booked onto an architectural river tour, which was brilliant. We learnt about the 4 different types of architecture in the area and all commentary was delivered by an excellent young lad, presumably an architectural student.

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
   
After our cruise we headed to the John Hancock centre for a drink in the 96th floor bar. We’d been recommended this by our guide as an alternative to going up the very popular Willis tower, saving lots of time, money but most importantly the view was as good if not better. Having watched the sunset fro the 96th floor with a cocktail in our hand, I’d be hard stretched to imagine a better view. It certainly rivalled the One Freedom tower in NY.

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
   
Dinner time came and we headed to the home of Deep Pan Pizza- PizzeriaUno. To us Brits, the pizza more resembled a quiche using shortcrust pastry rather than dough, but still it made a tasty and local dinner. We wasted it down with a nightcap on our hotel roof. Don’t panic mum, it was in the hotel bar on the 29th floor. Not as high as nearby “Big John” but still very cool. 

   
    
   
After a good nights kip, we were up early and into town for a quick ride on the El loop- an overheard metro system unique to Chicago. We got off at Millenium Park for a visit to “The Bean” a large glass sculpture designed to show off the cities skyline via reflections in the bean before heading back to the hotel in time for our coach to take us to the station for our Amtrak train to Denver.    

    
   
   
    
    
    
 We may have only had 24 hours in Chicago but it’s been a fab place to explore, we’ve loved it here. 

American adventures on Amtrak- Part 4 Our first Amtrak overnight train experience – Washington DC- Chicago

The excitement began when our tour manager, John, announced that after checking in at Washington DC Union Station we would be taken into the “first class boarding lounge” where complimentary soft drinks and light refreshments would be available and sofas etc. Here we would wait for an hour or so before boarding onto our first sleeper train of the trip- The Capitol Limited, a sleeper service that runs daily between Washington DC and Chicago covering over 700 miles. We had been given our car and room numbers previously, and pre warned that the rooms “are small, very small“. He wasn’t kidding, but where the rooms are on the small side, the trains themselves more than make up for- walking alongside before boarding it felt like we were standing next to a jumbo jet! They are HUGE. Double deckered, silver and intimadating. Fantastic! 

 We were greeted by our car steward, shown our room, and asked to wait until the restaurant steward came to take our restaurant booking. Included in the price, we got a dinner and breakfast at the on board restaurant. The mood was good as everyone was discovering their rooms for the first time- as motorhomers, Keith and I found the rooms to be more than big enough. Two nice sized chairs with a big window, that converted into bunk beds, a closet, table, bin, temperature controls, plug socket and complimentary coffee/water. Perfect. Just down for us was the shower and 3 toilets. 

   
 Keith got his shower in early and I made our dinner reservation for 7pm when the steward came round. We went to check out the observation car, which was a fantastic glass roof/sided car with chairs positioned to get maximum viewing enjoyment. Next to this was a bar so we set up stall here for a few hours, enjoying watching the American countryside whizz by. It was very relaxing. 

  
Dinner time came and we enjoyed a top quality meal- a lovely huge slab of juicy steak with jacket potato and sour cream, followed by strawberry cheesecake. Yum.

   
 By now the sun was going down, so we watched the sunset with a glass of scotch before asking our steward to arrange our beds for us. I took the top bunk, and found the security strap hilarious – it reminded me of something from 50 shades.

   
 I wouldn’t say we had the most peaceful nights sleep in the world, however we managed to get some sleep. The rocking of the train was quite gentle although every now and again it would jolt so hard you thought you would fall out! At about 06:00 we decided to get up and have our breakfast- we opted for the Breakfast special which was sausage, eggs, French toast, croissant, strawberries and maple syrup. An interesting mix but it was delicious! Whilst having breakfast we met an interesting American couple who we enjoyed sharing stories with. 

After breakfast we went back to our room and snoozed for an hour or so before arriving at Chicago at a slightly later than scheduled time (2 hours late!) it didn’t matter though, we had survived our first overnight sleeper journey and absolutely loved it! 

   
 

American adventures on Amtrak- Part 3 Washington DC

We’re just waiting at Washington Union Station to board our next Amtrak train, this time taking us to “The Windy City” (Chicago) on an overnight sleeper train service. We are very excited about the prospect of sleeping on a train, fingers crossed we will enjoy it! Our first experience of Amtrak on the journey from NY was good- loads of leg room, comfy seats, free wifi that allowed us to stream Spotify well, plus it ran on time (which we’ve been warned is a rarity!)   

On arrival to our hotel, The Phoenix Park hotel, we were once again treated to a warm welcome.

   
    
 We’ve had 2.5 days in Washington and have had a great time seeing the sights here. Funnily enough, we’ve spent the entire time feeling a sense of de ja vu as there are SO many films that we’ve watched that have been filmed around these streets. It’s been a quieter pace of life and cheaper for drinks and food. Impressively most of the memorials and museums are free to enter, and so our 2 days were spent trying to cram as much in as poss! The transport here is also good, with circular buses running between all the main attractions, plus a service from Union Station, where our hotel is, to Georgetown for $1 pp. 

Highlights:

First view of The White House

  
  
   
^(Do you like our tee shirts?! Couldn’t resist!)^

Martin Luther King Memorial   

Washington Memorial 

  
    

   
Lincoln Monument
   
    
 Iwo Jima

   

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  Washington by night    

    
 

Cheeky unofficial photoshoot “inside the White House” 😉

   
    
 
National Archives  home to The original Declaration of  Independence, Bill of Rights and Constitution

 
National Museum of Air and space (FAB)

   

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  



  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Georgetown

   

  

  

  

  

  

   ^The steps where the film The Exorcist was filmed^ 

The Jefferson Memorial

Vietnamese Memorial

National Museum of Native A,erican History 

American adventures on Amtrak- Part 2 New York

We’re just waiting for the porters to collect our bags, Keith’s nipped to the deli next door to get our sandwiches for our journey, as today we depart New York on our next leg of the journey… Travelling to Washington DC on our first Amtrak journey of the trip.

The last 2 days in New York have been a whirlwind of excitement. New York is entirely as you imagine it to be- tall, bright, loud, quirky and exciting. During our two days here I’ve seen more than I have in my entire life! We settled into a pattern of up at 7, coffee then out by 8, exploring on foot and back by 10pm.

 Our highlights:

Times Square at Night

  
 Trip down the Hudson River to see The Statue of Liberty and The Manhattan Skyline on The Circle Line

   
    
 
Walking through Central Park and seeing so many film locations!! 

   
    
    
 
New York Public Library – Ghostbusters/Sex In The City/Breakfast at Tiffanys etc  

 
Serendipity 3 (film Serendipity with John Cusack) and Bloomingdales and the biggest pizza in the world!

   
    
 
Macys

   
 
The High Line

   
    
    
 
Carrie’s Apartment (Sex and The City)

   
 
Washington Park Square 

   
 
Little Italy

   
    
   
China town (including a very bizarre encounter with a park full of Chinese musicians!)

   
    
   
Lobster Rolls at Ed’s Bar

   
   

Brooklyn Bridge

        
Wall Street

   
   
9/11 memorial

      
One World observatory/Freedom tower 

   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
 

American adventures on Amtrak- Part 1, London – New York

Wednesday 5th Aug 

We are currently travelling at 35,000ft above the Atlantic Ocean, somewhere in between UK and USA on the top floor of a Virgin Atlantic Jumbo Jet!  After 18 months of waiting, planning and looking forward to, we are finally on our honeymoon- a trip that will take us from New York to San Fransisco over the period of 3.5 weeks. Most people we have told about this trip have assumed that we will be hiring an RV to make the trip, and this was something that we certainly thought about, but the thought of driving the entire width of America seemed a little bit tiring, so we’ve opted for an organised tour, with Great Rail and will be travelling via train, once we land that is!

   

 In true Keith and Lydia style, we decided to travel to London a day early, in order to do a bit of sightseeing before we headed to the Airport, Wednesday morning. So yesterday, Tuesday, we said our farewells to Jazz, who is staying with my mum and stepdad, and jumped aboard our first of many train journeys- Newark Northgate to London Kings Cross. 

  

The weather was good so we decided to head towards the Shard however, sadly, when we arrived it was midst evacuation (there had been a small oven fire in one of the restaurant kitchens!) so those hopes were dashed. We regrouped at a nearby Thameside pub, and feeling inspired by all the boats travelling up and down the river, decided to take a boat trip to Greenwich Village as neither of us had done that previously. 

  
We walked across Tower Bridge, enjoying watching the bridge lift to let a boat through, and towards Tower Pier, where CityCruises operate from. Whilst booking on to the next departing boat, I showed our National rail tickets and we were given a hefty discount- worth remembering if you ever are down there. The tour itself was fab, the commentary was very amusing and delivered by a broad cockney lad- who made us smile with his anecdotes and stories.    
    
 
Once in Geenwich, we decided to have a quick trip the The National Maritime Museum (free), somewhere that’s been on our list for quite a while. It was a flying visit really, but we enjoyed it nonetheless, particularly the 2nd floor which was home to the Nelson Exhibition, and also had Nelson’s uniform he was wearing when he was killed during the Battle of Trafalgar- you could even see the hole in his jacket that killed him. We took our return journey to the city via boat and once on dry land headed to Covent Garden, where we met for a quick beer with one of a Keith’s oldest friends. Our evening then was spent taking in the street life from a few pubs, rounded off by a curry at our old favourite, The Strand Tandoori. 

   
    
    
  

   We awoke nice and early, super excited that departure day was finally here. We made our way across London to Heathrow ready to meet our Tour Manager, John, at 10:30. 

  
After a quick hello, he assisted us with check in and sent us on our way, until we meet again at JFK. We decided to upgrade our seats to exit doors on the upstairs level, so we got maximum leg room (Keith’s 6ft4 so it’s a nice treat for him) but the main reason was because we couldn’t get any seats together otherwise. We felt it was a worthy upgrade though, it’s so spacious up here- it’s wonderful to be able to stretch out, plus, we are getting served first, AND we are right next to first class, which is great for people watching! So far (3.5hrs in) we are talking about doing the same for the return journey. 

  
I’m a nervous flyer, but the staff at Virgin couldn’t have done more to put me at ease during take off, the steward told me stories to distract me which was so nice of her, and worked a treat (first time in years I’ve not blubbed- Hurrah!) As soon as the seatbelt sign was off, we were asked what we wanted to drink (complementary) and so we’ve enjoyed a couple of gins each along with pretzels, a glass of wine with our tasty in flight meal (bean salad to start, I had chicken curry, K had pulled beef, Gu desert and cheese and crackers) and I’ve just been given a “Fab”- never had an ice lolly on a flight before!! Apparently next up is “afternoon tea”- I’m loving all this food!! 
   

    
    
   
We touched down at JFK on smoothly and on time, and within 45 mins our entire group (30 people) had gone through security, customs, got our bags and we’re headed to the awaiting coach to take us to Manhattan, a 90 min transfer. Our tour manager John, offered interesting commentary along the way and it’s safe to say Keith and I were bubbling with excitement as we saw our first yellow cabs, and yellow school bus, both iconic American sights in our eyes! 

   
 The hotel, The Sheraton Times Square, is A.MAZ.ING! Hands down the poshest place I’ve ever been to, is right in the heart of Broadway/Times Sq. We were treated to a bottle of complementary fizz and chocolate covered strawberries as we are on our our honeymoon, which we necked giddily, before a quick shower and a wander up to see the sights of Times Square, along with a hotdaaaaaawg and a couple of drinks, in a cool Havana bar then an Italian wine bar/piano bar where we met a musician off Broadway who we chatted to for a while. Keith requested Billy Joel’s New York State of mind and the live pianist nailed it. Absolutely awesome. We crawled back to the hotel for a nightcap, 22 hours after waking up in London, high on excitement and absolutely loving NYC 

  

   
   

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  
  

 

Until next time

Lx