Ciao amici e la famiglia!
I’m going to do my USA posts in four parts, Wild West, Road Trip, South East and Eastern Escapade. We have officially completed part one so while we drive to our first stop along Route 66, I’m going to tell you all about it!
I feel calling Hollywood ‘interesting’ would be a gross understatement. When I picked to stay there my main motivation was finding somewhere within walking distance of a few attractions, as I knew jet lag would be a killer.
We landed safely and royally buggered after a 24 hour journey with my old faithful, Virgin Australia. We had a lovely videographer sat with us on the way. His name was Daniel and told us tales of the documentaries he’s filmed in Central America, and being held at gunpoint by a farmer. It was an incredible way to pass the time and a very cool introduction to the interesting people we would be encountering in LA.
Our hostel, USA Hostel Hollywood, was literally around the corner from the boulevard. We arrived too early to check in so crashed out in their lounge. When we woke up groggy in our room at 11pm after a long and full snooze, we realised we may have stuffed up. It took us four days to fix our vampyrism.
In that time we managed a midnight feast at Hard Rock with enough nachos to feed a small village, we worked our way in to party with the DJ in a cool LA club and I smashed a snow globe within seconds of buying it.
We met a few characters and hitting the Maccers is never a good idea, but it made for some good stories!
We did find an incredible place called Mel’s Diner which had duke boxes on the tables. For a quarter you could turn up your jam. We smashed a bit of Johnny Cash and I had the best milkshake of my life.
After our nighttime adventures in the ‘wood it was time for Jess’ very first Contiki!
I love group tours with all my heart. This was to be my fifth, and my second Contiki.
I have met some of my best friends on group tours that I am still super close with to this day. I was really looking forward to connecting with some fellow travellers and covering as much ground as possible while the pros take the lead for a couple of weeks.
Day one we headed out to Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Oh how I fell in love with Venice. It helped that it was also the location of one of my favourite films, Romeo + Juliet. Vintage shops and markets mixed in with Muscle Beach, Arnie’s old stomping ground. Yes please!
Next we hit up my absolute favourite spot of the tour, San Diego. It had everything I love the most. Shopping, nightlife, history, water and the best vibes.
Our fearless leader went above and beyond and arranged a night at the baseball for us. This was without a doubt the biggest highlight for me. We got to see the San Diego Padres smash the Pittsburgh Pirates (sorry Will!) so I’ve picked them as my team. I will stay loyal.
The next night we visited old town which was filled with gorgeous old buildings and markets. A very Mexican experience!
I can’t wait to go back one day; for Comicon most likely.
Next we headed through the desert to our chilled out stop at the Golf Resort Arizona. I brought my trusty wagon along.
We drank by the pool and at night headed out to our very first country bar. The line dancers were fascinating and it was a very cool mix of old and new. It reminded me of a skating rink from the 70s without the rollers.
A great surprise for me was Sedona. Known for its rocks and crystals I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the breathtaking landscape and native American style really blew me away.
But then came… The Grand Canyon.
I think it was more impressive than I’d expected. It doesn’t match my eternal fascination with Kings Canyon but I’m only slightly biased.
We got to experience a sunset by the rim, and for those of you who know of my extreme phobia of heights, check out this bad boy!
Call me Leigh, conquerer of fears.
More bus selfies before…
I fell in love with the place when I was there for Global ball last year. It’s mental. There’s really no where else like it. We had two wild nights out and it’s all a bit of an awesome blur.
Without a doubt the highlight had to be the surprise marriage of two of our unsuspecting Contiki fam.
Jess and I were tempted to join when we saw Elvis was the celebrant but we wouldn’t be able to afford the inevitable divorce after three weeks in a car together.
In a bus full of hangovers we made our way to the total tranquility of Bass Lake.
I’m astounded by the sheer contrasts in California’s landscape and this place really did it for me. It was heaven.
My second favourite night on tour was spend around this bonfire with a bunch of cool people, beers and smores. Will and I nerdfested hard over our mutual love of all things pop culture, I learnt some more Italian from my beautiful Martina and it was overall one of my top nights ever. Sometimes all you need is a deck chair and good company.
Yosemite has been on my list ever since I learnt how to pronounce it. It’s one of my goals to do an overnight hike with my angel Natalia one day here. The waterfalls were breathtaking. We went bear hunting and even just watching the hikers prepping was an experience in itself. Another one on the must return list.
We spent that night dressed in our Walmart best singing karaoke to the locals (sadly I couldn’t partake in this. I lost my voice a week in to this trip and it’s still yet to return. I think it’s all the drunken yelling. We all know not speaking is not an option for me).
Our final destination: San Francisco.
I really didn’t know what to expect with this one. All I knew about it was what I’d seen in Mrs. Doubtfire and Milk so I wasn’t well prepared for the sheer wonder of the place.
From the touristy and fun Fisherman’s Wharf, to the beautiful Golden Gate Park; from the iconic Castro to the Painted Ladies… I was honestly moved. I couldn’t live there, but I love what these incredible cities are doing for our planet. Everyone was free to be completely and unapologetically themselves. I had a great time, and I spent it with the best people.
P.S. We saw a whale under Golden Gate Bridge. What the actual.
We headed back to LA and said our ‘see you later’s and my heart broke a little bit, as always, but true love lasts a lifetime! And our next Contiki actually passes through Will’s home town of Pittsburgh. We’ve got ourselves a tour guide. I am beyond excited to be reunited. One month of self navigation to go first!
Here’s to the start of our next adventure…
Meet Sherry ❤️
Another update to come from the dirty south in a few weeks time.
Love you all