A Travellerspoint blog

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Melbourne

Australia

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So we arrived in Melbourne and quickly noticed the significant drop in temperature from Sydney. We flew in to Avalon airport, which is kind of far from Melbourne centre, we got the Sky Bus to South Cross Station, which cost us 22$ each. It took us just over an hour but was a decent little journey as the buses have wifi, so we were able to quickly catch up with our families.

Once we got to South Cross, we didn’t really have a clue where to go to catch the tram, so we asked around and were told to purchase a Myki card to be able to get on the tram or be potentially fined $250 (about 144GBP). After buying a Myki card from a 7/11 store, we some how found our stop and caught the '96' tram to St Kilda to meet Melissa's cousin, Jacob.

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That evening, Jacob took us to a place which served tapas. It was really nice. Our first thoughts of Melbourne were that it was (Similar to Sydney obviously) very full of English people. In fact, on our walk back to the car, Melissa and Jacob even bumped in to a friend which they both recognised from Birmingham, pretty random. Anyway, after enjoying a good catch up with Jacob, we were all tired and hit the hay back at his place where he had kindy offered to let us stay during our time in Melbourne.

The next morning we woke up feeling fresh and ready to explore Melbourne 'The worlds most liveable city according to some vote some place'. We had both done a little research and noticed the Melbourne Botanical Gardens were a 50 minute walk from where we were staying, we knew that a City Tour Bus stopped at this destination too (A hop on and off bus). So we headed that way and took in the beautiful architecture of the buildings on our way to the gardens. This is one of the first things we noticed about Melbourne (the architecture).

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When we got to the botanical gardens it was beautiful and seemed to be a totally different place to what surrounded. The gardens were huge, silent, full of joggers and just generally therapeutic. After looking at the Shrine of Remembrance and reading through the history of WW1 & WW2 we then decided to get on the tour bus.

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The bus cost only $10 each, for two days, which was super cheap! We even noticed that some people would catch this bus to get from one part of the city to another because it was cheaper than other public transport options. Anyway, we plotted which sites we were going to visit on the free map.

We listened to the commentary on the bus which pointed out St Pauls Cathedral. It looked impressive, as well as Hosier Lane (a pedestrian laneway full of street art) which is the most photographed street in Melbourne. The lane has been noted for the quality and the often political nature of its street art. Melissa and I both decided we would get off the bus the following day to look at the Cathedral and the art work as we had passed the stop by the time we spotted both of these places.

The first stop which we got off at was China Town. We stopped off for some lunch and then decided to go to the Chinese Museum, home to the largest Dragon in the world, which was actually pretty impressive.

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We spent about an hour there and then walked from there to the Melbourne National Museum, however we were told at the museum that it took around 3 hours to walk through and as we had some other stops in mind, as well as plans with Jacob & Laura (Melissa's cousins), we decided that we would look around the museum the next day instead.

From there, we got back on the bus and had already decided that we would be stopping off at Victoria Harbour to walk around its newly built shopping complex and along the harbour front. We were slightly disappointed as it was a ghost town but non the less, the harbour and architecture was beautiful to look at. It was very futuristic

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In the evening we went for a lovely Indian meal with Laura and Jacob and it really was great catching up with Melissa's family.

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The following day we woke up bright and early, made ourselves poached eggs on toast and headed to the City Tour bus stop again. We got on the bus and headed to St Pauls Cathedral & Hosier Lane to view the street art. St Pauls was pretty cool. The stained glass windows were what stood out the most. The brickwork inside was also really nice. We were not allowed to take pictures from the inside, but I guess you could take a look on google if you are really that interested. Next we headed to Hosier Lane. We spent quite a while looking up and down at the walls. Mel was searching for some of the famous Banksy pieces, but wasn’t able to spot anything. You could spend ages on this street and keep finding new things. it was pretty mesmerizing.

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After that, we hopped back on to the bus and headed towards (Stop 5) The Melbourne National Museum. We spent ages here. It was extremely informative and an interesting place to visit. They had great exhibits and variety. It was split into many different sections focusing on a mix of different things, such as geology, Melbourne History, Mind and Body Science, World History, a dinosaur walk and so on. The cognitive science section was probably our favourite. It had lots of interesting facts and exhibits which you could really get involved in. It really got our brains engaged. We also enjoyed Melbourne history and learnt a few facts about how over the years Melbourne has grown.

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After the museum we decided to go up tallest building in Melbourne (the eureka tower), however, found the cost (at $100 including a photo) to be a bit extreme, so decided to visit the second tallest building in Melbourne instead (Rialto tower) to get a picture of the tallest building from the skyline. At the top, we had a coffee and cake and took in the beautiful view which surrounded us. It had a great atmosphere.

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We then headed back to Jacobs and were both shattered from another busy day. Jacob was working for the majority of the time we were visiting, due to an upcoming visit back to the England. So he woke up at 4am each morning, which meant that we didn’t really go to bed any later than 9pm our entire stay. It was good for us really because it meant that we were fresh headed and got to make the most of our visit. Seize the day and all that.

Anyway, the following day Laura had planned to take us out on her day off. She planned the day for us and decided to show us some of the area surrounding Melbourne, so that we could get to experience some of the different types of places and not just the city centre. Laura picked us both up at 10am and we headed North to St Andrews market, which had an authentic hippie feel about it. (The type of place that both the girls and their mum's all love to look around). We spoke with a women with a parrot on her shoulder and I was fascinated by the unique market stalls which sold some really cool (random) things.

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We then stopped for some lunch (which was lovely) and headed to Fern Tree Gulley to complete the 1000 steps. It was a great walk and we were surrounded by millions of trees. It didn’t seem to be 1000 steps and we got to the top pretty quick. Some people were jogging up and down. We weren’t quite that eager.

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After leaving Fern Tree Gulley, we popped in to a Coles supermarket and picked up some ingredients for Melissa to make dinner that evening. Then, we went back to Laura’s (beautiful) house, where Jacob joined us. We met Laura's house mates and Melissa cooked a spaghetti bolognese. After, we all sat down and watched a film 'Get Out' on the projector. It was the second time we have watched this film, as Laura and Jacob had not seen it. Laura mentioned it, so we were like, 'yep, lets watch that, it's good!' It really was great to spend some time with Laura, especially because she has lived out of England for a very long time, so it isn’t often that Melissa gets to see her cousin. After a great day we headed back to Jacob's feeling full and tired.

The following day, Jacob had planned to take us both out on his day off, so we were all up early and headed to Healesville Sanctuary, which was a sanctuary specializing in native animals. It is in a Australian bush setting about an hours drive from Melbourne's City Centre. The animals had been saved from abuse or are there to be preserved to help stop extinction.

We had a really good time at the sanctuary and spent about 3 hours walking around and interacting with the animals. Melissa's favourite part of the day was watching a koala in action as it woke up and started jumping from one branch to another.

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After we left the sanctuary, Jacob drove deep into the bush, where he had recently been doing some plumbing work. There was nothing, but tree's for as far as we could see. We saw lots of parrots and heard the native Australian bird (the kookaburra) making its signature laughing sound. It was quite funny, walking up to a hidden house built by a friend of Jacobs, as we were trying to be as quite as possible at the hope of spotting some of the random wildlife which live out there. We literally tip toed up this big hill, stopping every once in a while when we would hear a rustle in the bushes. Jacob also showed us some of the stuff which he was working on out in 'the bush'. It was pretty cool to be able to see it in person and not just to chat about it.

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We then headed back to St Kilda (me and Mel fell asleep for a little on the journey, lol). When we got back, we went to a gorgeous Mexican restaurant and stuffed ourselves. It was gooooood.

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The next day, we decided to have some down time, so that we could relax and get back up to speed for our next little adventure to New Zealand. We visited the library across the road from Jacobs, checked in to our flights for the next morning and booked a few other things for the onward trip. Melissa booked her bungee jump, which she then realised she was pretty scared about. Too late I guess. lol. We also packed for a millionth time and decided to go out for some lunch. We had fish and chips, because we can. lol.

Jacob worked until pretty late that night, so we didn’t really get to spend too much time with him as we had a super early night due to our early flight the next morning. At 4am, he very kindly offered to drop us off at the airport. It was sad to say goodbye because it isn't often that we can all just meet up, but it isn’t goodbye, its until next time.

On to New Zealand...

Posted by Millypaulrtw 23:14 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

New Zealand

South Island

storm

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After an early start in Melbourne and super quick flight, we had landed in New Zealand (Christchurch). Once again we didn't get a stamp in our passports :(. We had been building quite a collection!! Anyway, the security was a little more hands on there. Melissa was asked to hide some packaged celery in her rucksack, as they were training a sniffer dog in the customs area. We slowly walked through customs and surely enough, the sweet little Labrador pup came straight up to her :) She was happy to help :). So next, we needed to make our way to stop numero uno. Leaving the airport, we were greeted by really cold weather, so we picked up our hire car and blasted the heating on.

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Next, we headed on to a family (who we had never met), whom were hosting us for a couple of nights. We had made this arrangement through 'Couchsurfing' a popular travelers website, which you can use to arrange a short stay in a series of other people's homes, typically making use of improvised sleeping arrangements. We thought that it would be a pretty cool idea to meet new people and also save some pennies. We were a little dubious at first as this was our first time using Couchsurfing, but when we arrived we met the kindest people, a Christian family of four who couldn't of made us feel more comfortable.

We spent the first night getting to know the family which was great, there was Rebekah, Craig, their daughter Jennifer(17) and son Joel(15). We discussed our plans and Rebekah was amazing, giving us great tips where to visit on the South Island of New Zealand. Craig gave us a detailed weather pattern of the days to come as snow fall was expected half way through our journey, which could affect our plans from driving from place to place, as certain roads could be potentially closed.

So as the night went on, Rebekah showed us her insanely extended family tree, which had taken her ages to do. She had literally gone as far as she was able to find. To my amazement, her family roots went all the way back to the UK and even Nottingham! (This huge world is such a small world :s)

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The next day we woke up at 09:00am and the family had all gone to work, university and school. Due to the time difference from Australia it seems as though we had a lie in, well anyway we got straight up and headed into Christchurch to view what the city had to offer. On the way, we decided to stop off to pick up some food bits for our trip. It was at that point that we realized how differently Rebekah and her family pronounced certain words. They had recommended a cheap super market for us to go to (PAK n SAVE). Well, we were looking for a PEK n SAVE. :P

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lol. Anyway, after we drove into Christchurch city center and noticed that there were lots of road works going on and buildings which were half collapsed or not standing at all and in a heap of rubble. This being due to the horrific earth quake they had in February 2011 which caused over 2000 casualties and measured at 6.3 on the Richter scale. We came across Canterbury Cathedral and couldn't believe our eyes. The earthquake had left the cathedral badly damaged. The spire was completely destroyed, leaving only the lower half of the tower standing. While the walls and roof remained mostly intact. Several surrounding buildings were also left in ruins and had still yet to be repaired.

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There was some ongoing decisions to be made on whether it would be knocked down and completely rebuilt, or just corrected. At this point we were feeling very cold, so we headed into some local shops and bought ourselves matching woolly hat's to keep the heat in! :-) We are so cool!

The shops were very interesting. We visited the Container Mall. Literally, containers turned in to shops. They were opened back in 2011 and were a temporary solution post-quake. They became an internationally famous icon. We caught the last of them I believe, as Christchurch is rebuilding it's city.

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After taking a long walk around Christchurch City Center we felt a little peckish, so we went for some food near the Avon River, which ran through the middle of Christchurch. After lunch we headed to Canterbury Museum and spent a couple of hours learning about the history of New Zealand. It was a fairly good museum considering it didn't even cost anything (just a donation). Sadly, we had used up all of our phone batteries walking around the town and trying to find a car park which wasn't easy, so we don't have any pictures from the museum. :(

After walking around the museum we headed back to the house as we had offered to cook Rebekah and family a meal, as a thanks for their kindness in letting us stay with them.

Mel had a plan to cook one of her specialties but couldn't find much of the ingredients which she needed, so I decided to cook a steak and vegetable pie with mash, with maybe a little help from Melissa. Well obviously, it turned out well and everyone cleared their plates. After dinner Rebekah dished up ice cream with a feijoa (a local fruit) pastry dish which she whipped up using leftover pastry from the pie. It was lovely. We then got talking about card games and ended up playing a game called spoons which was pretty fast and brutal. After that, we played the board game 'The Settlers of Catan'. We played for an hour and Melissa and I were learning as we went along so weren't totally hands on. It was a pretty good game though. No doubt that Melissa will be hunting that down once we return from our travels. Anyway, Rebekah beat Joel rite at the end of the game. We then all went to bed around 22.00pm as the following day we had a 5-hour drive in the direction of Franz Josef, with a few stops on the way.

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The next day, we both woke up at 7 am and got ready. Rebekah had kindly let us borrow some water proof trousers as it was heavy rain outside. We planned to drive towards Franz Josef, making a few stops on the way. We also booked a hostel that day located in the Franz Josef area.

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So, first, we headed towards the west coast of the South Island with our first stop being Devils Punch Bowl Waterfall at Arthur's Pass. We arrived there around 10:30 and could see the waterfall from the distance, which looked really impressive, however the trekking paths were all closed for maintenance of some kind, so sadly we didn't get to experience the waterfall up close.

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Another stop after that was somewhere Rebekah and her family had shown us, known as devils corner, once a very dangerous road along the West Coast, which was now closed and rerouted. It was known to have many of the Kea bird's around. This bird is an extremely clever, cheeky little fellow, the worlds only alpine parrot! Sadly, we didn't find any at this stop. We think that we may have seen a few flying around though. Anyway, it wasn't completely wasted. The view was pretty cool.

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We got back into the car and decided to continue to Hokitika Gorge. This place was truly great with a viewpoint overlooking a magnificent granite gorge with blue pools, backed by cliffs and forest and a swing bridge on the edge of the Gorge itself. We managed to get some great picture.

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After that our drive to our accommodation was just over 2 hours, so we set off and eventually arrived at our hostel in Franz Josef, check-in was really easy and we headed out straight away for some food as we were both pretty peckish. We went to a restaurant called Blue Ice, Melissa had a typical English, Fish and Chips and I decided to have NZ BBQ Ribs which were awesome! lol.

The next morning, we woke up at 08:00 am after a pretty awful sleep, due to one of the people sharing our dorm room being drunk and leaving a huge window open all night, meaning that we were freezing. It wasn't until the morning that we even realized the window was open. Anyway, we had breakfast before heading towards Queenstown (just over 5-hour drive).

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It was a much colder today, so on went the layers and we headed off after defrosting our hire car.

We headed on towards Haast Blue Pools which was a further 2 hours away. The time absolutely flew whilst driving as the scenery of the mountains was breath taking. The mountains all had a sprinkle of snow on the top and were surrounded by all different colored trees. We couldn't help our self's but to keep on stopping every 20 minutes or more, to take pictures of this beautiful country. We drove the famous Haast Pass route on the west coast, which is a mountain pass in the Southern Alps. It was so picturesque. Neither of us had ever seen so many beautiful mountain views and we had picked a great day for it. The tops of the mountains were covered in snow, adding to the beauty. We drove over the Haast Pass bridge and got a few more pictures of the rapids passing through the mountains.

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Our first stop on this route was absolutely amazing, Lake Matheson, we walked 1.4k to the beautiful still brown lake which reflected the trees and surrounding mountains on the surface of the lake which made the lake look like one huge mirror. It was truly stunning and we got loads of pictures of the reflections of New Zealand's highest peaks, Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. It was great as we were the only two people there and we were both mesmerized for 15 - 20 minutes just taking in the breath taking view. It was raining for a little while which made the reflection not so pristine. Luckily the rain stopped for five minutes, so that we could take some really good pictures. We then headed back to the car to continue our road trip.

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Our next stop was another waterfall formed from melted glaciers, we parked up at the side of a road near a car park and took an easy walk along a track that passes through hundreds of trees until we came to the 28 meter high, Thunder Creek Falls. The water was roaring when it crashed to the bottom of the lake. Once again out came the cameras and many pictures were once again being taken.

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We then headed to our final stop, before heading to Queenstown where we would be spending the night, the amazing Blue Pools at Haast Pass. Well, the walk to reach the pools from the carpark was another easy walk and leads through a forest covered in moss, then to a huge swing bridge (20 people capacity) overlooking the pools at the mouth of Blue River. The water was truly breath taking and especially for another tourist who decided to go for a 'quick' swim in this glacier water (11 degrees) he was in and out with moments. haha. Melissa and I made a tower of stones as it seemed that many people who visited, left a stone tower which added to the surrounding shore areas beauty.

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We then continued our road trip towards Queenstown. Although it was such a long trip, we had some good fun chatting away, playing silly games and singing along to the radio (when we had signal). We made quite a few little stops in some random little qwerky towns, for food, petrol, toilets and just generally to stretch our legs. It was crazy how we would stop in some random places and find places of sheer beauty. A great example, Lake Ianthe. We just literally stumbled upon this beauty whilst making a toilet stop.

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Finally, on to Queenstown which sits just on the shores of the South Island’s Lake Wakatipu, with a view of the Southern Alps. Very well known for its extreme bungee jumping, which Melissa at this point was not looking forward to! She had one booked for the following day and it seems as though the nerves were starting to settle in. Anyway, we finally arrived at 'Nomads Hostel', centrally located in Queenstown and made ourselves at home (for 2 nights, so not too at home). At check-in, we were told that there was a free meal in the evening at some random bar (Loco), so we went along. The meal that evening was Spaghetti and meatballs and was fairly decent. After, we decided to just head back to the hostel as the following day Melissa was booked into do her Bungee jump at 10.30am, plus it was freezing, so we didn't fancy staying out much.

That following morning, we both woke up bright and early as we wanted to get to Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, (the world's first commercial Bungee Jump site). So, upon getting up I looked out of the window to check on the weather and to my amazement it was snowing!! Not just a little, but...LOTS!!! Melissa's instant reaction was that it might be cancelled, which at the time I think gave her a sense of relief, lol. Well anyway, we had breakfast and headed straight to the bungee site, driving super carefully in the snow.

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This next paragraph is written by Paul (Brackets are Millie's comments)

When we arrived, we both walked out to the viewpoint and looked down at the impressive (terrifying) 43 meter drop. At this point, the snow was ( a blizzard) sweeping past. For any of you wondering, Melissa was as cool as a cucumber at this point! (I WAS NOT cool as a cucumber at all! I was about to have a heart attack! :o) and anyone wondering why I wasn't doing the bungee jump, well this was due to medical reasons, being I am sane!! haha (Wimp ;P). So anyway, we decided to go to the reception area to let them know that we were here a little early. Upon checking in, the receptionist said to Melissa 'ohhh your jumps at 10.30am, would you like me to bring it forward... to now?' A little squeak came from her mouth (That was the sound of my heart falling out of my mouth) - 'Yeh....okay' and at this very moment I could see her nerves kicking in (I started to shake like j-Lo's A#$%) . I then walked her up to the platform (cheers, yeah, good of ya :s) where she (not so) bravely got strapped in. It seemed like forever (It was super fast and that they couldn't of got me standing on the ledge any faster :o). I gave her a few last words of encouragement (I do not remember these words even a little bit) I then left her so I could go to the viewpoint to watch and film her hop to the edge of the bridge. (At this point I was being asked simple questions which I could not even answer correctly, for example, "Which part of England are you from?" My reply "the UK" lol. Melissa was strapped in and all ready to go (Not ready at all) She then gave me the most awkward wave and suddenly I could hear the guys supervising the jumps, counting down "Three - Two - One" and boom, without hesitation, she threw herself off the bridge (It was now or never) into the blizzard with one extremely loud squeak!

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After the jump, Melissa seemed to take ages to get back to the top of the canyon as there were hundreds of steps to climb, the first thing she said to me when she did arrive at the top was 'I would do another one from higher but next time in warmer conditions, I couldn’t see anything' haha!!! We both then watched her bungee jump video which was a really proud moment for her, as this bungee jump had been at the top of her bucket list for a very long time and now was crossed out. She was absolutely in her element.

After, we slowly drove back to Queenstown, due to the ongoing snow. When we got back we headed straight out and had a walk around the beautiful town Center.

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We stopped off at an Irish pub for a well-deserved drink or two. After, we headed back to the hostel for a little bit to warm up again before we headed back out. We did go for a free meal later with the hostel, but it was some chicken and mushroom slush and we couldn't stomach it. We found ourselves a nice little Indian restaurant and then just generally wondered around for a bit, before ending up at a Starbucks cafe. We connected to the wifi there and decided to speak with our families. We chilled out there for quite a while before heading back to the hostel.

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The following day we drove back up the coast and stopped off in a few destinations to take pictures of the beautiful scenery. As Melissa was yet to drive on the trip due to the car being an automatic she had a go and drove 100 kilometers before we swapped back over. Again, we saw some great views and passed by some interesting looking towns.

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The houses in New Zealand are generally very different to the ones which we are used to back in the UK. You only really find detached houses in New Zealand, with plenty of land surrounding it. Even in the city, the houses stand alone.

That evening, We went for a meal which was really nice. It was some burger place which I really do not remember the name of but was good. We also decided to hit the cinema pretty late. We watched King Arthur. It was okay, nothing to rave about. It was a really nice evening though.

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The next day we headed back to Rebekah's house where we had a shower and a quick nap until they got home. Rebekah cooked a beautiful meal for us all and we played a few games which were good fun. We were really pleased that we chose to stay with this family as they helped to make our trip as good as it was. That evening, Mel also decided that cutting my hair would be a good idea. First, she gave me a Mohawk :P Then she fixed it.

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The following morning, we were up at 4 am to drop the hire car off and head to the airport. Everything went smoothly and we were on our way to North New Zealand.

All in all, we had an absolutely fantastic time on the South Island on New Zealand and we both wouldn’t have changed any of it for the world, with so much to see and do. It really boasts sensational views and we met some great people. We would both recommend going there. It really has something for everybody. We haven't seen anywhere else like it. We leave with great memories and maybe one day, we will be back.

Posted by Millypaulrtw 14:36 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand

North Island

rain 10 °C

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So, our flight from Christchurch to Auckland took all of one hour 10 minutes and it flew by ;P. Once we had gone through customs, we headed to pick up our hire car, which again was really simple as we were with the same company as in Christchurch.

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Melissa had booked our second couch surfing place months prior. After having such a great experience with the Tregurtha family on the South Island, we were both looking forward to meeting our next host :-). So after driving directly from the airport to the address we had, we walked up to the door and I knocked several times but had no joy with any answer. I attempted the door and noticed that it was actually left open, so I shouted 'Hello, anybody home?' and I received a frail reply 'Hello, just come in' and out popped a staggering male in his mid 20's called Henry who pointed us to where we were staying. He took us in to the lounge, didn't turn the light on, then pointed to the dirty carpet which was supposed to be our bed. Well I looked at Melissa and she looked at me in shock. It was one of those moment when you don't even have to talk, the look says it all. 'drug den, get out!' The house was extremely dirty, dark and damp. We said to Henry politely 'ohhh thanks' and he replied I haven't got a spare key but all you will need to to do is jump through the front window to get in and out the house, feel free to come and go as you please. At this point we were both in shock!

We got back in to the car, looked at each other and agreed that, no way on earth would either of us stay there. We both consider ourselves to be pretty open minded people, but there is a line and that was it. So we went to find wifi and book alternative accommodation. After pulling up at a McDonald's and using there wifi, we spent the next hour there charging our phones and searching for accommodation, we luckily found a pleasant place to stay around a 20 minute drive away from Auckland City Center. We headed back, climbed through the window and got our bags, right after Melissa took some photo's. :D

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After we left, we sent a message to the woman who was supposed to be hosting us and lied, saying that I was suddenly unwell, so we didn't want to pass it on and had booked to stay in a hotel. We didn't want to be mean, the woman had just offered to let us stay at her place for free after all, even if it was horrific. 💩

After dropping our bags off at our alternative last minute accommodation...

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we decided to head straight into the center of Auckland for a wonder. We took a nice long stroll around and headed to the bottom of the Sky Tower for a few pictures, we then decided to have a walk around Albert Park as it was a beautiful sunny day.

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After chilling out on a park bench for a while, we decided to head for some drinks, then headed to the local library to update you (the blog) and to research the North Island further to help plan our next 6 days. After a long day, we stopped off at a supermarket, picked up some bits and headed back and hit the hay, ready to explore the following day.

The following day, we woke up around 08:00am and headed to the North Head Tunnels, an extinct volcano, which was turned into a military base in 1885 and was funded by the British Government. We took a walk through tunnels, learned about the battery's and watched a short movie at the summit which taught us about the military history in Auckland. Luckily for New Zealand this base was not needed during WW1 and WW2 as New Zealand was never under attack. It was just pretty much there just in case. It was also used for military training in later years.

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Whilst at the top of the previous military base we had a great view of the sky line of Auckland and we took many pictures. We also headed to a small town (Devonport) nearby on the way back. It was truly beautiful there. We walked around for a little while and had some lunch. Part of us wished that we had stayed there for how lovely it seemed and the great views, however, it was pretty far away from Auckland town centre.

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In the evening we were planning on going to 'One Tree Hill' for another view of the city skyline but the weather was rubbish, so we decided to stay in and watch a movie (Life Happens). Melissa also cooked a beautiful Spaghetti Bolognaise.

The next day we were up early and were back on the road, heading to Hunua Falls, this was located in Hunua Ranges Regional Park just on the outside of Auckland. This spectacular 30 meter waterfall was breath taking and over the years has carved through the extinct volcano making the waterfall wider and wider. Neil was also pleased to see this great waterfall.

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We then got back in the car and drove two hours to the iconic Cathedral Cove. After driving for what seemed like forever, we finally pulled up into the car park of Hahei Beach and looked down at Cathedral Cove. From the car park it was a 45 minute walk along the cliff top, which slowly descends towards the Cove & Cave. Melissa and I found the walk down very easy, however we both cannot say the same for the walk back up lol. Once we got to the bottom of the walking track we Found the gigantic cove, along with a huge cave. It was very impressive. Once again the cameras came out and we took plenty of snaps. 

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We then headed to our hostel for the night in Taupo, it was just shy of 3 hours 30 minutes from Cathedral Cove. It was a pleasant drive and we got to the hostel around 18.30, we literally put our bags down, had a bite to eat. Mel made the saltiest pasta I have ever tasted, so we dumped it and had a cheeky McDonalds instead, not just any McDonald's, the 'worlds coolest McDonald's' site, which was based on an aircraft. After, we did our laundry, and finally, went to the land of nod.

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The next day we woke up to crazy weather conditions and so we looked at the weather forecast and it was due to rain like this for the rest of the day, which ruined our plans a little, so we didn't really do a whole lot. We only stayed at that hostel for one night, so moved out things from that hostel on to the next one, but it wasn't far,so didn't take long. The new hostel was pretty cool. It had a snooker table and communal area, so we just killed some time there and later, headed to the local library to catch up on our blog again. Whilst at the library we got a parking ticket for $12.00 for staying in the car park just over an hour. So I went back into the library where I paid the fine online which was pretty simple. Just one of those annoying little things. Also, at the library, it was hard to get anything done as there was a Maori guy sat next to us, chatting away in such a load volume to himself like a mad man. Anything he wrote or read, was out load. A few of his friends popped in and they were the same. It seems as though, that is just the way they were. Nothing wrong with it I suppose, unless you're in a library and supposed to keep the noise down. Lol, just different.

The following day we woke up and the weather was looking much better, therefore we decided to venture out. The first place we stopped off was Taupo bungee, where we watched some people doing some silly things. It was exactly a week since Mel had done her jump and she loved the fact that it was over and that others were now doing it. After that, we decided to visit the hot pools nearby. We took a walk around a near by park which was recommended to us by the guy who ran our hostel. Well, we did not expect what we found. The pools were amazing. They weren't just little pools with tepid water. They were big pools, full of people and led on to a freezing lake. We felt the water and it was actually really really warm, like a hot bath.

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After that, we decided to head to the Huka Falls. When we got there, we could hear the water roaring and we were pretty excited, however, upon reaching the waterfall, we were both disappointed as we had seen much nicer waterfalls upon our trip. The waterfall was more of a rapids really.

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We then headed to the Huka Dam which was due to be opened up at 12:00 so we drove to the Dam and waited for the water to come through which was pretty impressive, water rushed down the stream and we saw the water rise around 12 meters from literally nothing. You had to be there to really get it.

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After the dam, we headed back to the car and decided to visit an attraction known as 'Craters of the Moon' the largest geothermal field in New Zealand, it cost us $8.00 each to enter the site. The Craters of the Moon site consisted of a wooden path through a weird other-worldy, landscape with bubbling craters and steaming vents. The walk took around 40 minutes, we looked inside many craters with lots of hot steam coming out feeling the warmth on our faces. It was genuinely a fascinating albeit very smelly place to visit.

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In the evening we both relaxed and played a few games of pool with a couple of drinks. We had a pretty Early night, as the following day we were heading back to Auckland, For an early flight the following morning to Hawaii :-) Ahhhh Sun again! 

The next morning, it was time to leave Taupo, it was a lovely place to visit and we felt like we got a bit more of an insight to the Maori people and how they now live.

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On the way back to Auckland, we stopped off at the library once more, to check-in to our flights and print our boarding passes. About 2 hours in to the trip, we decided to pick up a hitchhiker, which was something we had never done before. There were loads of them around and we thought that it would be nice to do something like that for somebody else. We stopped for a young German lad called Ben and he was grateful that we helped him out. It was our good deed for the day.

We arrived at a small homestay near the centre. Mel cooked a better pasta dish from some leftovers we had and we pretty much prepared everything for our very early morning start and went to sleep.

In the morning, it was a bit of a pain,trying to drop the car back at the airport, as the office was supposed to be open 24 hours and nobody was there to even open the electric gate for us to leave the car. We also needed a lift back to the airport from where the car rental place was. FYI
the company was called driveNZ. After quite a while of a mini panic, some guy in a van arrived and said that he had been doing the airport run. That was fine, but a sign or some kind of heads up would have been helpful. Luckily, we had given ourselves some time to spare and were okay.

All in all, our trip to the North Island in New Zealand was great. As a whole, if we were to come back though we would visit the south Island as it has a lot more beauty to offer. That being said, we never managed to visit Wellington (NZ capital) Maybe next time 😏😉 xx

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Posted by Millypaulrtw 09:44 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Hawaii

Waikiki, Honolulu, Oahu

sunny 35 °C

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On Tuesday 30th May, after what seemed like forever, we landed in Hawaii. In actual fact, we went back in time. We had left New Zealand at 7am on 30th, travelled for 24 hours, with a stop in Australia and arrived in Hawaii at 6am on 30th. It was enough to mess with us and even resulted in us booking our accommodation for the wrong dates. Luckily, as we do, we checked and double checked and realised our mistake in time to fix it.

So anyway, we arrived at the airport and instantly noticed that the weather was great. Like I mentioned, it was pretty early and so we needed to kill some time before heading to our hostel. Rather than pay for a taxi, we decided to get a bus. It was good because it meant that we got to see a little bit more of Oahu Island on the way. On our way to Waikiki, where we were staying, we noticed LOADS of homeless people in bus stops, parks and just generally on the street. It didn't really paint the backdrop which we expected, I must admit. Regardless of that, we both stayed in pretty high spirits. We got off the bus and still had a fair way to go, so we decided to walk and have a look around on the way. We passed some beautiful shopping malls and the streets just had the American feel going on. We were pretty hungry and so decided to stop off for some breakfast at a typical American/Hawaiian diner.

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After the walk and our breakfast, it still wasn't yet time to checkin to our hostel, so we decided to change our clothes in a toilet and leave our bags in storage until we could check in. What better way to kill some time, then to head down to the beach where we could catch some serious ray's. So off we went on our merry way's. 'No rhyme intended'

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It is fair to say that we may have slightly overdone it. By the time we were able to check in, I was pretty red and Paul had enjoyed quite a few local beers. The room was decent. We had booked a semi private room, which was basically a double room with a shared bathroom and kitchen area. We dumped our stuff in the room and decided to go for a walk to find our way around. We stopped off at a food pantry and got some bits to make for dinner during our stay, rather than eating out for every meal.

That night, I cooked a chicken dinner and we pretty much recovered from our antics. I was a little burnt so didn't feel like I was up for much.

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... 5 seconds later

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The next morning, we woke up pretty early and could hear the beach calling our names. We quickly had some breakfast which was included at our hostel. It was simple toast or oats but decent. I had decided that it would be best for me to stay in the shade at the beach because I was pretty burnt from the previous day. This time, the beach was super busy and the sun was placed in a position which didn't create much shade. We chose a beautiful spot on the grass, just by the beach, but had placed ourselves between two lots of crazy people. We quite quickly realised after arriving in Hawaii that tonnes of people were on drugs and pretty much all of the homeless people we spotted appeared to have been on one thing or another. Being big fans of documentaries, we had learned quite a bit about the Crystal Methanthetamine problem in America. Well, Hawaii's problem is at an all time high. Seriously, neither of us had seen anything like it. It made for quite an uncomfortable place to spend time as people who take this drug become very aggressive and unpredictable. It was quite strange to see so much of it on the streets, especially considering that the law there is pretty strict. For example, you could not drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes on the beach. In fact, I found it pretty hard to find anywhere to smoke. Restaurants and bars didn't have a designated smoking area and most places didn't allow smoking within 20 meters, or a big fine could follow. There are also strict laws on jaywalking (crossing the road anywhere other than a designated crossing place) or even roller blading down the road. Waikiki was a pretty place for sure, but it wasn't quite what I expected. It didn't bother us too much as we were only after the weather really. We actually only ended up booking Hawaii as it was cheaper to stop here for a couple of days, than to get a direct flight from New Zealand to Canada, but if you had booked Hawaii as a holiday alone, I think people would be pretty disappointed by how the streets generally were.

That being said, we decided to go for a walk and check out some of the shops just up the road from the beach. We found some really nice designer shops and around this area, you found less homeless people. It was a bit more of a comfortable experience and obviously, being me, shopping just felt good 😏 we walked around for quite a while, browsing in and out of the shops. Paul bought himself a new jacket for when we arrive in a colder country and I got myself a new bikini which I loved 👙.

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After a long day of shopping, we took a slow stroll back to our accommodation and ended up staying there for the rest of the day. I was exhausted from the sun and generally exploring Waikiki. Besides, the next day we had plans to get up super early.

We decided to visit the WW2 Valour in the Pacific. It is a museum honouring events, sites and people of the Pacific who died or were in anyway affected by the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II (December 7, 1941). It opened at 7am and gave the first 1,300 people in line, free entry, but places went very fast and it was at least an hour away from us on the bus, so we were up at 5:30 and ready. We were at the bus stop for 5:50 and the bus was a little early so we were lucky. When we arrived, the queue was huge! We weren't sure if we would be within the first lot, but the queue went down pretty fast and we were in for free. We also had entry to the Arizona memorial for free, which was really good for such a famous, meaningful experience. We decided to pay a little more for the audio tour and glad we did because we learnt so much. The museums there were amazing! It really was such an experience. I cried multiple times watching and listening to different exhibits. It really was brilliant and so informative. What got me most of all was watching a short film which showed some of the survivors talking about the events. One man in particular (who was only 17 back in 1941) went in to detail about how he was only able to send a very short message home and to only one parent, so he was torn between his mother and father and who he could tell 'I'm okay'. Honestly, I am writing this about 2 weeks later from our visit and it gives me a lump in my throat thinking about how heart wrenching the whole experience was.

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Another big heart wrenching moment at the museum is the visit to the Arizona memorial. You catch a boat over to the Arizona memorial from Pearl Harbor. The memorial marks the resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on USS Arizona (BB-39) during the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. More than half of the men who died during the attack, died on board the Arizona memorial, or trying to escape the ship which was surrounded by fire. The attack on Pearl Harbor and the island of Oʻahu led to the United States' direct involvement in World War II. The USS Arizona ship was never recovered from the bottom of Pearl Harbor and is directly beneath the memorial, so technically, when you visit, you are visiting a cemetery. Within the memorial, there is also a guide who tells you all about the history and a wall which contains the names of all of the soldiers who were lost. Many of the soldiers who survived the attack on Pearl Harbour have since requested that their names be added alongside the men who they consider their brothers once they also die, which means that the list is still growing. Like I said, it really is an emotional place to visit. There is also still oil floating up from the sunken ship. Each drop is referred to as the soldiers/marines tears.

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We spent the majority of the day at the museum and were exhausted by the time we went to get the bus back. We got back to our hostel and could have passed out but I had read about a dance/music performance down at the beach that evening and so we decided to drag ourselves back out. We watched on as a small band and Hula girl danced, sang and told us some stories about Hawaii and its history. It was actually really fun to watch. There were loads of people there watching and we stayed for quite a while.

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The next day, I was good to go to the beach once again. we relaxed there for a good few hours and topped up our tans. Once again, we noticed a few weirdo's lurking around. Nobody bothered us, more than anything it made for an unfortunate bit of entertainment. :s After we were all sun bathed out we decided to head back to our room and relax. Not much more of any interest to report really. Paul had a couple of drinks, we ordered some rubbish food. It was the worst burger I have ever tried, from a 'Teddy's Bigger Burgers'. NEVER GO THERE!!! No wonder, America has such a bad level of obesity. This place alone could be to blame. I do not understand how it was so busy there. The burgers were served in a box which had a puddle of fat at the bottom, literally about an inch deep. It makes me heave thinking about it. Anyway, we watched a few TV episodes (Blacklist) and then went to bed.

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On our last day we pretty much woke up, went for breakfast, got everything ready to leave and caught the bus to the airport. We had to wait for quite a while at the airport. FYI Honolulu airport is not very good. It is a rough place to have to kill some time.

Leaving Honolulu, we have very mixed feelings. Obviously, the place is beautiful, Its a dream! But it's people need help. I don't have any answers for how to do it. But somebody needs to find some, because the Hawaii known to the world as a paradise is fast becoming something very different. You want to visit? I wouldn't recommend it to be quite honest. If you are happy to stay in a plush hotel and barely venture out then yes, but who really doesn't want to explore on holiday?. Maybe the other Hawaiian Islands may have more to offer, I don't really know. I would be more than happy to visit them and find out. ;) But for now we still have quite a few places to visit on our dream come true journey.

Next stop, Canada, the place I have been looking forward to the most since we planned our trip. XD

Bye bye Hawaii, you were beautiful xxx

Posted by Millypaulrtw 14:30 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Canada

Vancouver, Field, Golden and Banff.

sunny 20 °C

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So we arrived early in Vancouver and after going through the Canadian Boarder control, we went to pick up our hire car from the airport campus.

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As our check in time for our Airbnb room was not until 13.00pm, we decided to stop off and have a Starbucks. We were both shattered and were hoping that this would wake us up.

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Still not satisfied, we headed for a Subway store for something to eat. After killing some time, we drove to where we were staying. It was only a few minutes down the road and we pulled up outside but we were still too early to check in, so we decided to have a catnap in the car for an hour or so.

Once we checked in to the apartment, we decided to go to the local supermarket to buy a few bits for over the next four days that we would be staying there. The first evening we were there we decided to have our hair cut as Melissa wanted to have a fringe cut in and I also needed a trim as the weather was pretty warmer in Canada. So Melissa got on google and located a hairdressers and then we headed there straight away as it was around 18.00pm and the hairdressers shut at 19.00pm. Once we arrived they said that they would only be able to see one of us, as they had an appointment. As a true gentleman, I let Melissa have hers done but luckily the appointment for the hairdresser did not turn up, so I ended up getting my number 1 all over. :-) We then went back to our apartment and watched a couple of 'The Blacklist' before we decided to have an early night so we could explore the following day.

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The next morning, I woke up bright and early to the birds chirping away around 05:00am!!!! I think we were both a bit disorientated at how light it was outside and so early. We attempted to get back to sleep but it didn't really happen, so we had breakfast and once showered and ready we set off for Stanley park. After following Google Maps and driving straight through the centre of this incredibly scenic city we eventually arrived. We paid for parking for a couple of hours and headed off to explore the park. This was actually my second visit to Vancouver and to Stanley Park. The first time was with my Grandpa some years ago, so I knew that the scenery and views were pretty beautiful and it was very special to return with Melissa. We headed to the totem poles and both took many pictures around the park, as you can see :-)

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Since visiting this amazing place over 10 years ago, my Grandpa has sadly passed away and as you can probably imagine, the visit brought memories flooding back. After taking lots of pictures, Mel got herself a coffee and I got a drink (Canadian Dry Ginger of coarse) and fries. We then decided to sit down on the park grass and we took in the incredible view of the city whilst watching the water planes taking off and landing one after another.

After returning to the car we both decided to take a trip to Granville Island. This place is an Island which is home to a bundle of indoor market stalls with lots of variety. The market was fascinating. It had very colorful food and produce stores, with lots of handcrafted products and many unique gifts. In which I did buy Melissa an eternity charm for her necklace which she was very pleased with. We spent a good few hours at the market and even watched some street entertainment from an acrobat from Hong Kong. We also found a hat shop which Melissa went crazy about. lol. I always say how I love that she gets so fascinated by the smallest things. One example would be the stationary shop. She could look around for hours if I let her. She got really interested in stamps in this one shop, yes stamps!!!

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Anyway, after a full day of exploring we headed back to the apartment and decided to chill out. We decided to watch a couple of movies (Inside Out & Tangled) both were really good :).

The following day we had a lie-in and woke up around 10:00am. After having breakfast and getting showered and ready, we decided to visit Vancouver City Centre. We spent a while walking around the streets and decided to stop off for some Arabian food at a place called Aladdin's, lol. We then decided to go to the local library to do some bits on the blog and local research. Later that evening after a full day in the city, I made dinner (sweet and sour chicken) for the both of us and again, we decided to have another chilled out evening. We watched some TV and had a pretty early night. After all, we had lots of plans for later on during our time in Canada. We also washed some of our clothes whilst we were staying here which is always nice when you're on the road.

The next day we woke up late and chilled out, watching a few episodes of 'The Blacklist'. At around midday we decided to go to the VanDusen Botanical Gardens and we just walked in for free, not realizing that we should have paid, whoops. We were very impressed with the garden as there were literally thousands of different trees and plants. It was very colorful and beautiful. There was also a maze which was pretty difficult to complete. After having a nice long stroll around the gardens we went to the park cafe and sat down for a drink as it was a pretty warm day.

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We were that impressed with the VanDusen Botanical Gardens that afterwards, we decided to visit Elizabeth park. However, we were not the slightest bit impressed with these gardens as they were not any where near as impressive as what we had just seen, so we didn't stay long. On our way back to the apartment we decided to go back to the supermarket to get bits for the road road trip to Golden the following day. It's a 7 hour long road trip, so we picked up some bits and headed back to the apartment where Melissa made some sandwiches ready for the following day whilst I did some more laundry. We were all ready for our trip through the Rocky Mountains. XD

The next day we got up super early, put everything in the car and went on our way. The drive wasn't too bad. Melissa had a snooze for about 1 hour and we were in Golden before we knew it. The drive was pretty scenic and some parts I even remembered from so many years ago.

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We had booked to stay at a place called 'Dreamcatcher Hostal' in Golden. Once we were all settled in Golden, Melissa made a beautiful jacket potato and chilli as a filler. After we ate our food we stayed in the common area where there were big sofas and played the board game 'Backpacker'. Melissa won :s.

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We went for a drive around the surrounding area and pulled up outside a 'Tim Horton's' and Melissa saw three chipmunks, Alvin Simon and Theodore lol, we found it pretty funny anyway. After our drive around the small town we headed back and had a shower and chilled in our 6 bed dorm which was only occupied by one other person.

The next day, we woke up to the weather being cloudy with sunny intervals. I had planned a full day out, as I had wished to go back to the famous Lake Louise and onto Lake Morraine, two of the most picturesque places in Canada, also, a few days earlier a Canadian guy who we got talking to at Granville Island advised us to check out Emerald Lake and Emerald Natural Bridge as he mentioned that he used to live in the Rockies and said how beautiful they were. So we thought we would check them out too. Our first stop was actually to the Emerald Natural Bridge which took around an hour to drive too. After driving through amazing snow capped mountains, we pulled up to the Natural bridge. For our first stop of the day the scenery was beyond incredible and we both loved the feeling of being in the mountains. The Natural Bridge is a unique rock which has been gradually carved out over time by the powerful Kicking Horse River to resemble a bridge, It is a magnificent work of nature and an impressive natural wonder. We must have arrived at a good time early morning, as there weren’t too many tourist at all. It was amazing to see how powerful water is and how it can transform landscapes completely. The river was so loud as it powered through the area in massive volumes and the colour of the water was beautiful.

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We then headed over to Emerald Lake. This was a 15 minute drive from the Natural Bridge. Well we didn't really know what we would actually find after driving down a long and windy road but once we arrive, we were both wowed with how intense the colour of the lake actually was. The lake setting itself was quite secluded with huge mountains as it's backdrop and it definitely lived up to its name. We both just stood there silently taking in the picturesque view. It was very humbling being in such a beautiful setting. We did see other tourists filling up there water bottles from the lake, as the water was freshly melted ice from the mountains, however, Melissa and I passed. I though it best that we don't take the chance of being ill over the next few days ;).

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From here we drove to the world famous Lake Louise, a place I hold very close to my heart as my Grand Parents had visited this beautiful lake on a few occasions and boasted about its pure beauty. It was their favourite. My Grandma had always told me that I must go and I had visited with my Grandpa after she had passed away. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and it is my favourite place in the world. Myself and Melissa had talked about this place so many times and I was so excited to share this experience with Melissa. We arrived to a car park full of cars and tourist, all heading towards the lake. We must have parked a 5 minute walk from the lake, so we took a slow stroll towards the lake and Melissa was really buzzing to see the world famous lake which means so much to me. So we walked through the car park, down a long path, surrounded by trees. Then, all of a sudden out comes this amazing panoramic view with the most amazing turquoise watered lake with a soaring mountain backdrop. It was exactly how I had remembered it all them years ago. Absolutely unforgettable! Melissa walked up to the edge of the lake and starred into the distance, it was as though she was dazzled by the view. It didn't even look real.

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I had built her up to visit Lake Louise for years now and she was not disappointed. So, this was it. I chose the perfect place to propose to Melissa. After the build up, I didn't want her to expect it, so I had made a few comments along the way about how I wouldn't be able to carry an engagement ring with me on this trip, which I have since found out worked.

As you can imagine, at this point, I am getting pretty nervous. I suggested that we walk over to the Canoe cabin. My plan of action was to hire a canoe and propose in the center of the lake. Well, 'Closed - Due to bad weather' was the sign on the door of the cabin entrance. The weather was not even that bad, about 16 degrees and not raining nor windy! So there I was stood at the entrance, having to think quickly on my feet. The proposal had to happen today. I had this planned forever! I had also booked a 5* place to stay for the evening, so it had to be this day! It then dawned on me that I would be proposing at the side of the lake with hundreds of people being around us both. Holy Moses!!! My heart was pounding and my nerves were going through the roof! We were walking around the side of the lake and I was looking for the quietest part to get down on one knee. Mel had no idea. She was taking selfies, getting pictures of Neil and reading the information boards. She was completely chilled out. Just then, a family asked if I could take their picture. At the same time, Melissa got asked to take a picture of another family who were a little distance away. After taking a quick snap, I said to the family, 'Could you return the favour?, however I am going to propose so please go snap happy'. No pressure, lol. Well without even scanning the area, I had crazily chosen the most busy part of the lake to ask her, Melissa came across and I made out we were having a picture and as she turned around I went down on one knee and in panic said, 'We've both been together now for over 3 years, will you do the honour of marring me?' Nothing like I had planned and rehearsed in my head, but luckily she said yes! I then pulled out a well prepared clean tissue for her tears of joy. For the next 20 minutes she was an emotional wreck. But it was all worth it. :-)

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After we both sat down for a good 20 minutes and let things settle in, I told Melissa that I had booked a luxury place for the next three nights for us in the mountains, however, before we headed over to Hunters Hideaway - Kicking Horse Mountain Resort we would visit one last lake, this being Morraine Lake. After a 30 minute drive we arrived at Morraine Lake, it was around half the size of Lake Louise, but perhaps even more scenic, Moraine Lake is one of the most photographed points in Canada which used to be on the old twenty dollar bill. Moraine Lake is a glacially fed lake and it is a breath taking blue-green colour, which makes this place another place we will both treasure for ever. With Melissa still in a daze from the proposal, we took a load of pictures but since deleted loads because we planned to go back in a couple of days. We then headed to Kicking Horse Resort.

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Prior to arriving at our accommodation we stopped off at a local super market and picked a few bits for the next 3 days. Once we arrived at the accommodation Melissa's face lit up once again, as it was perfect. We had our own hot tub, large BBQ, huge kitchen and bathroom and a lovely comfortable bed. We both literally got straight into the hot tub and relaxed and took in the mountain views. After we both got out I decided to put the BBQ on and cook the steaks I had just bought. The steaks went down an absolute treat.

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Melissa was really excited to tell our close friends and family, however due to the 8 hour difference, it meant that it was the middle of the night in the UK. So she couldn't really tell anybody at that time. :-(

The following day Melissa woke up super early so that she could call her family and let them know the good news, after speaking with them all she then got the bug and it has not gone away since...wedding planning. haha!! Whilst we were at Hunters Hideaway, all we did for the full time we were there was relax and enjoy living in luxury. If we were not in the hot tube we were cooking food on the BBQ or chilling on the sofa watching cable television.

The day we left Hunters Hideaway the weather was beautiful so we decided to do the same trip and head back to Lake Louise, Lake Moraine but then onto Banff. We set off pretty early and luckily there was no where near as many tourists as there were the previous time we visited. We took hundreds of pictures and here are a few for you to enjoy of Lake Louise and Lake Moraine.

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We then headed onto Banff. Once we arrived, we stopped for a quick Starbucks and went for a bit of a walk.

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We both went into the visitors centre and asked of things to do locally, they mentioned that due to Canada celebrating its 150th birthday, we would be able to visit the local museum for free and Lake Minnewanka for free also. So we decided to take the advise and visit them both. First we headed to the local museum of Banff. We both didn't really have an idea what would be in the museum, but when we arrived we were in the presence of huge stuffed animals such as moose, grizzly bears, cougars and eagles and so on. We had a quick walk around and were especially took back at how big the Moose was, as we had never seen one before.

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Next, we left the museum and drove to Lake Minnewanka. Not only did we see a HUGE moose, Melissa spotted a baby black bear! she was on cloud 9 as she had been bear spotting the whole time we had been in the Rockies.

We arrived at Lake Minnewanka to a beautiful blue lake, much bigger than any that we had seen so far and we decided to take a little walk around the edge of the lake where we took lots of pictures of the beautiful scenery.

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We then decided to head back to Golden where we did a quick shop and decided we would spend the next two nights in the Dreamcatcher Hostel again. Once we arrived at the hostel we both ate and relaxed for the night.

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The next morning when we both woke we decided that we would go to Golden's local library to update the blog and look at the pictures properly on the GoPro. We were still not sure if the proposal had been caught on video at this point as we were using an old Gopro which you cant view the contents until it is plugged in to a computer. Unfortunately the library did not have an SD card reader so viewing the pictures and video was out of the question. So we both worked on the blog for an hour, before heading back to the hostel.

The following day we had another long trip in the car back to Vancouver. The drive time was around 7 hours and 20 minutes. We completed the journey pretty quickly. We made one short stop for toilets, a bite to eat and a quick visit to Bridal falls.

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Once we arrived back in Vancouver, we were both pretty shattered and hungry but our Airbnb host was not yet back from work, so we found a Nandos restaurant and ate ourselves senseless. Once the host had arrived back from work we literally crashed for the night after such a long day.

The following day we had planned to meet some friends of my grandparents who I had previously stayed with some years before with my Grandpa. We arrived at Pete and Violets house around 17.00 and were there until around 21.00. We had a lovely dinner prepared by Violet and we all had a great catch up.

The next day was our last day in Canada, so we decided to just relax and pack our things ready for our flight in the early hours of the morning.

We both really enjoyed Canada and we will certainly be returning to this overwhelming beautiful country in years to come. We can show our children where their dad proposed to their mum, as well as a truly magical place. We have made some amazing memories here which will never be forgotten.

Posted by Millypaulrtw 16:55 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Las Vegas

Vegas & The Grand Canyon!

sunny 45 °C

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So, we arrived in Las Vegas early morning time and had decided to hire a car. From the minute we walked out of the airport, we felt the Vegas sun beating down. Obviously, this was expected in the desert but jeeze!, it was intense! From the airport, we had to get a shuttle to collect the hire car from a company called dollar rental. It was quite strange when we got there as the man at the rental desk simply told us to "go to area 5 in the car park and pick any car". We were like yes, let's get an awesome car! Well, that wasn't really an option 🙃. We ended up choosing a white Nissan Micra. It could have been worse.

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From there, we drove straight to our hotel for the week, The Stratosphere 👍🏼😀. Paul had been to Las Vegas before and had picked up some tips on saving a few penny's. He had also mentioned that staying in anything other than a hotel on the Vegas strip wasn't really an option as it would really restrict you. I am so glad he had called this one as it was one of those rare occasions when he was right 😜. I had been looking at hostels to try and save money 🙈 thank god we didn't go with my plan. What we chose to do was pretty clever I think. We compared some prices of the best hotels on the Vegas Strip and then booked one which we found to be pretty cheap amongst all of them (The Stratosphere) This was about 2-3 months before we traveled to Las Vegas. We also made sure that the booking we made had a free cancellation policy on it. We then checked the price change, all the time to catch the best price and kept changing the booking each time the price went down. About 2 weeks before checkin, the hotels attempt to sell the last of their available rooms and drop the price by about 50%! The best thing was that with our booking, we also got a great discount on the rides located at the top of the hotel (the worlds tallest rides) which we planned to do if we stayed at this hotel or not, so saved even that little bit extra!

When we arrived at the hotel, we were so pleased. It was brilliant! We quickly checked in and went to explore. The hotel was huge, we even got lost walking around the streets inside the hotel. We decided to stop for some food and had heard about the portions so split some nacho's 😂 The portion was crazy, it could have fed a family. We finished them off between us though 🙊🐷. After that, we went to do some more exploring around our hotel. We spotted somebody was about to take a go at doing the Sky jump from the top of our hotel and asked if we could go to the balcony to watch. It looked terrifying. It is basically a leap of faith, tied on to rope which speeds up as you are falling, pretty much in to free fall and then suddenly stops about 2-3 meters above the floor. It was even scary to watch. After, we decided to find our room again and to head to one of the pools at our hotel. We stayed there for about 1 hour and couldn't handle any longer. The heat was crazy! After that, we decided to start walking down the strip to check out some of the hotels. This was also cut short, after about 5-10 minutes of walking, we decided that we would walk it another day and, as we had the car, today we would take a drive to the end and back. You may think 'how lazy!' ☝🏼️ but the heat and the distance were both extreme. If you have ever been to Las Vegas, you'll get it. But we did vow to do it another time 🙈. So we drove and got our bearings a little. When we got back, it was pretty late. I headed to the gym at our hotel whilst Paul spoke to him family on FaceTime. When I got back at about 9pm, apparently I just passed out. Not very cool for Vegas I know. Paul didn't even try to wake me, obviously I was shattered and I don't think he was bouncing around with energy either.

The next day, we woke up pretty early and felt super rested and ready to explore Las Vegas. First of all, we drove to a supermarket and picked up some food bits for our room, so that we weren't eating out for 3 meals a day. We picked some standard things, like breakfast bars, fruit and sandwiches which lasted us right up until the end of our trip and probably saved us a fortune. We ate out a couple of times and knew that the prices would be crazy, although the portions kind of matched the price to be fair. Only problem was that we didn’t want to feed a small army.

Once everything was done and food was put away, we decided that today would be the day that we walked the strip. This day, we had a lot more energy and had managed to reach a hotel called treasure Island (1.8 miles from where we were staying). We decided to go inside of this hotel and have a look around and cool down. After cooling down, we walked out of the hotel and were approached by a sales man asking if we were interested in seeing any of the shows during our stay. I have always thought that seeing Cirque Du Soleil would be pretty cool, especially in Vegas. I had spotted the signs and mentioned it to Paul, so we decided to hear this guy out and what he was offering.

The price I had seen advertised online, at a discount was $49.50 each and this guy offered us the following:

2 tickets to Cirque Du Soleil (Mystere)
2 tickets to Chris Angel (Mind Freak)
$100 chip token to use on a slot machine
1 free buffet dinner at Treasure Island
3 free nights stay in Vegas at some point (knowing we would never use it)

All for $60 for both of us!

We quite quickly realized that it was on the basis that we checked out a timeshare hotel. Just like we had done in Bali a few months before. We decided, why not? It did kill about 3 hours of our time but we also got free lunch and a lift back to the other end of the strip, so only had to walk back rather than both ways. The deal was really good in our opinion and we told our sales rep (Lolita) straight away that we weren't interested. She was cool and just wanted her commission I suppose. She showed us around a bit and took us to watch some rodeo practice which was cool.

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She told us to pretend that we had viewed the facilities (rooms) at the hotel but weren't interested even though she had done a great job 😏. We helped each other out I suppose :). Myself and Paul were given our tickets and the extras we had agreed to and dropped back to Luxor hotel in a limousine like bus (which wasn’t bad).

From there, we decided to walk back slowly and to explore the different hotels on our way. It was still boiling and so we went in to quite a few different hotels and looked around. To name a few, we looked around Luxor, Excalibur, New York New York, MGM, Ceasers Palace and the Bellagio. Outside was also very interesting. At the time we visited Las Vegas, there was also a Carnival going on, called the EDC (Electronic Daisy/Dance Carnival). Well, I don’t know the criteria for what you should wear but I noticed that it included a LOT of bum's being on show! Enjoy the picture below. Anyway, we made our little mission really fun and decided to play our $100 free chip on our little day out on the strip, it was spent in second mind. Lol. We also decided to get a 'Fat Tuesday' a slush ice drink which has alcohol in it. It's a really good idea for Vegas with the heat and the cups can be refilled at loads of different Fat Tuesday stores along the strip, including our hotel. On the way back, we also decided to watch the famous Bellagio dancing fountains. It was great, the noise of the fountains was so loud and the show was pretty impressive. It gave you a weird sense of pride, that you were there watching them. The kind which you would only understand if you were to be there, watching them in person. Exploring the hotels, we took so many photo's, none of which actually show how amazing the hotels actually are. You can only really understand to see it in person but I will leave some pics from over the course of our time in Vegas anyway...

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And obviously, the stratosphere...

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After our 'most steps in one day, according to my phone' we got back to our hotel and pretty much passed out.

The next morning, we were up early to make our way to the Grand Canyon. We had decided to rent a car and drive to the South rim which was a long 4 hour drive away (8 hours there and back) because we had taken a look at many reviews and the different options of seeing the Grand Canyon. First, we decided not to view it in a helicopter because apparently, whilst it was pretty cool, the experience didn't allow you to really get very up close and experience the best parts of the Canyon in person, just at a distance. Plus, you weren't really able to capture great photo's from this spot and when you were taken down to the Canyon, it wasn't on the South rim where the sun reflects, so your pictures wouldn't capture the amazing colours of the Canyon. Secondly, we decided to drive the long mission around the Canyon instead of to the Sky bridge because of the whole reason of it being the part of the Canyon which is not lit up by the sun. I didn't really have a clue. Paul told me all of this. lol. Also, we decided to drive ourselves because taking a coach meant that we would have to be up at a silly time and wouldnt have our own comfort of being able to stop whenever we wanted. Plus we had a car so that we would actually save money on our transfer from the airport, trip to the Grand Canyon and later, a trip to The Valley Of Fire, along with any other little drives we decided to take. Another bonus, which we liked, was the fact that we could have a Grand Canyon stamp in our passports if we visited the South rim. Not that, that matters much to me because I will have to change the passport in 2 years anyway, because we are getting married and all that (any reason to mention it).

Anyway, so after a long but fast drive to the South rim, with a stop off at the Hoover Dam, we finally arrived.

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We walked from the car park, to the very edge of the Grand Canyon and I couldn't believe my eyes! I can in no way put in to words, the Grand Canyon! You need to see it to understand it and even then, you wont comprehend it. It's just, bigger than anything you will ever see! I stood on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Canyon and it feels like you are standing on the edge of the earth! It is the most amazing thing I have ever seen and I have seen a fair few things to be fair. Its up there by a long stretch! I don't know what I was expecting but it really did take my breath away! After a while of walking around and taking pictures in awe, we decided to get back in to the car because of the heat. We literally couldn't take the heat any longer and needed to get in the car for the air conditioning. Imagine getting too hot and fainting at the edge of the Canyon! It does happen, I have since had a look and its the main cause of deaths at the Grand Canyon! About 12 people die there each year. Anyway, enough of the morbid trivia, the Grand Canyon is out of this world and I would recommend anybody visit the South rim! I couldn’t say if it is better than other ways to experience the Grand Canyon because I havent seen the other ways but I could not imagine being more impressed. After we cooled down, we hit the visitor center where we got a bite to eat, a drink, had a nosy around and got our stamps in our passports.

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We then headed back towards Nevada and by the time we got back to our hotel, once again, we were dead. We pretty much fell in to our room and in to bed!

Even though we planned a lie in the next morning, we were up super early and ready to be all over Vegas once more! We decided to get ourselves a drink and go for a gamble. We spent a little time down in the Casino and then decided to go to the rooftop pool of our hotel which was super cool. The atmosphere was great (No kids allowed).

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We ordered a bucket of beers and decided to chill out in the sun. The music was great and the pool was full of inflatables to lounge on. Before we could even finish our first drinks, Paul suddenly felt really unwell. (Heat exhaustion I believe) So, we decided to go back to our room and take the beers to go, for another time.

We decided to chill out in the room for a little bit until Paul started to feel a little better. That night, we were booked in to go watch Cirque Du Soleil (Mystere) at the Treasure Island hotel. We also had a free buffet dinner at the hotel and decided to walk to the hotel and get dinner before the show. The buffet was really great in my opinion. Paul still wasn't 100% and barely touched his dinner. The heat in Las Vegas was exhausting and you would think would curve your appetite but not for me. I ate everything I got my hands on. It was goooood. lol. Whilst we were in Las Vegas, it was even hotter than usual and weather warnings were even sent out. The walk to Treasure Island was hard work and I swore that I would not be doing that walk again, ever!

The show itself was good. The performers were amazing at what they did but I wouldn't call it the best show I have ever seen. I did expect more from it to be totally honest. I feel like I must have missed something because the story, I just wasn't getting. It was certainly Mystere (very weird).

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After the show, guess what we did.... we walked back didn't we, too impatient to flag a taxi down. On the way, I was sick. Again, I think that the heat was to blame. I had drank so much water and still didn't feel hydrated, so I just kept drinking and drinking and then was sick :s. Once we got back to the hotel, I was fine, just tired and so we were in bed once again in Las Vegas before midnight!

The next day, we woke up and decided to visit a diner for breakfast. The options on the menu were so very American, obviously. Paul actually had steak for breakfast!! I found the most British thing I could which was eggs benedict. lol. Think part of me is missing home. Both of our meals came with a huge portion of hash brown (US style obviously) neither of us could finish the breakfast. They could have fed a family of 6.

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Anyway, enough about food. We attempted to go for a bit of a stroll but it wasn't really happening. The weather was just too hot. There were even health warnings to tell people to drink lots of water and pretty much, stay inside if you could. We decided to go for another little gamble and had a couple of drinks again, but nothing major. We didn't win anything either :s We actually spent the majority of the day just roaming around the hotel. That day, we went to McDonalds, in our hotel for some food and did a whole lot of nothing. In the evening, we had a show to watch at the Luxor hotel, which was at the other end of the Vegas strip (not far from the famous Welcome to the fabulous Vegas sign), so we decided to drive there as, although the hotels are technically on the same road, they are about 4 miles apart. We stopped off at the sign and took a few silly pictures. We met the one and only Elvis too :P.

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After that, we headed to Luxor to catch the show. We had booked to see Chris Angel (Mind Freak), as a freebie with our timeshare deal more than anything. Neither of us knew who he was or really if he was any good. Well, we were massively surprised at the show! It was amazing. Better than the show which we actually planned to see even. It really took us by surprise. The guy is MAGIC! I am telling you. He flew on stage! Like, he actually did! He didn't just levitate. The guy literally went on a little fly around. He even got in to a clear box at one point and just started flying around that. Me and Paul could not find any kind of explanation as to how he was doing it. There was no place for wires! You have to see it to really get what I mean! I think that it is fair to say that we left, stunned.

We werent allowed to take pics of the show, so I am afraid that I don’t have much to show.

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The next day, we had decided to visit the Valley of Fire State Park, so we were up super early and drove there, which took a little over one hour. The park covers nearly 46,000 acres and gets its name from red sandstone formations which are the centerpiece of the park's attractions. They often appear to be on fire when reflecting the sun's rays. We spent the morning walking/jumping/driving around the park and took a fair few pictures. We didn't really 'trek' because it was just too hot to stay out for a long amount of time. Plus, we were advised not to.

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We had left for the park so early, that we actually got back to our hotel pretty early and decided to go back to bed for a little bit. The weather really does take it's toll in Las Vegas, which is my excuse for going to bed so early each night. The excitement and early nights mean that you are up super early each day though.

That evening, we had planned to meet up with some work friends from back home (Gibraltar). They (Daisy & Jason) were visiting Las Vegas for Daisy's 30th Birthday and had been staying at Treasure Island (located mid strip). We went to collect them from a spot nearby their hotel but had missed them because the weather was too hot and so they had decided to jump on a bus which was passing to get to our hotel. We weren't able to get in touch with them, but luckily managed to bump in to them outside our hotel. It was a bizarre feeling seeing them in Las Vegas. We took them on a bit of a tour around our hotel and decided to head to the top of the Stratosphere for drinks and to try out the rides at the top. Daisy kindly volunteered to take pictures of us on the rides. lol.

After spending some time overlooking the Vegas Strip, we decided to go for some food. We ended up back at the diner at our hotel where we all ordered food to feed a small country. Not to mention, the biggest milkshake I have ever had! It was really nice catching up with Daisy & Jason and made us more excited about heading back to our normal lives and even to get back to work. Obviously, we are still loving life on the road, but every now and again, we say to each other that we are both feeling recharged and know how good we have it in our little lives back in Spain/Gibraltar.

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After dropping Daisy and Jason back to their hotel, we had an early night, as we needed to be up at 4am to get to the airport and fly on to San Francisco! Checkout was easy. The Casino downstairs was more lively at 4am than any other time we passed by. Las Vegas should be the City that never sleeps, not NY! Well, I don't know about NY, I can tell you in a week ;)

To sum up Las Vegas, it is epic! I tried to prepare myself for it but I was still overwhelmed to experience it. Paul had told me that I would be in awe, but it still stunned me! I would recommend anybody/everybody go to Las Vegas at some point in their lives and to definitely visit the Grand Canyon whilst there too! You would have to be one hell of a miserable person, not to like this place!

EPIC!!!

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Posted by Millypaulrtw 00:38 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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