A Travellerspoint blog

Last stop - San Diego

sunny 28 °C

There wasn't a great deal that we wanted to do in San Diego but we had a really nice time anyway, soaking up the sun and enjoying the last few days of our trip together. I tried not to think that I'd be back in England soon, but unfortunately it was at the front of my mind all the time, which ruined these last few days a bit as I was a bit mopey!

Day 1:

Although we were heading to the final city of our 5 month trip, I was pretty excited as we were packing up to leave LA because we were going to stop at Newport Beach on the way down to San Diego. This is where the TV show The O.C. was filmed, which is one of my favourite shows ever! We had lunch by Newport Pier and strolled along the ocean front, envying the people chilling outside their beach houses. Newport was everything I imagined it would be and I'm really glad we got to go there and see it :) Some of the yachts we saw as we passed the harbour on the way out of town were amazing!

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The restaurant that was the 'Crab Shack' in The O.C.

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Lunch on the beach

When we arrived at our hostel in San Diego we were a little disappointed as it was no where near as nice as the one we'd stayed in in LA (even though it was part of the same small chain). However, it didn't matter too much as it was right on Pacific Beach and we were only staying there one night before moving to the downtown area.

We spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach and most of the evening at a place called P.B. Alehouse which did delicious food and even more delicious beer :)

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Pacific Beach

I was pretty tired so I called it a night when we got back to the hostel, but Stephen stayed up drinking with some people we'd met in LA and didn't end up getting to bed until about 4am!

Day 2:

As Stephen was feeling too tired and hungover to drive us anywhere, we decided today would be another beach day. We managed to drag ourselves the 5 metres from the hostel to the beach and stayed there for most of the day (breaking for lunch at P.B. Alehouse!). We eventually got in the car and drove to our next hostel in the late afternoon, where we discovered parking was an absolute nightmare as it was right in the middle of downtown and next to Petco Park (the baseball stadium). Quite a lot of time was spent over our last few days moving the car between different cheap/free parking spots!

We had a private room in this hostel and it was nice and cosy. The whole place was generally pretty cool with lots of random artwork and drawings all over the walls. We walked into the Gaslamp Quarter in the evening (where all the restaurants and bars are) and found an amazing Mexican place called La Puerta to have dinner. It ended up being even better than we thought as when we got the bill the delicious home-made guacamole and our beers were half price!

Day 3:

We really didn't know what to do during the day today so we ended up sleeping in really late and then wandering around downtown for a bit before having something to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe (the worst one I've ever been to - rude staff and no atmosphere!). After lunch we walked down to have a look at the convention centre where ComicCon had been on a few days before, unfortunately everything had been taken away already and there wasn't anything of much interest to see, apart from a couple of massive games adverts covering the entire building of both the Hilton and Marriott hotels, but even these were in the process of being taken down.

We then took our picnic blanket down to the park by the harbour and just chilled out there for the rest of the afternoon. We were watching the men taking down the games advert from the windows of the Hilton and one of them dropped his roll and it was very close to falling on someone's head about 20 stories below! It was pretty funny but would have been a very different story if it had actually hit someone!

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Chilling in the park

In the evening we went to Petco Park to see a baseball game - the San Diego Padres against the Houston Astros. It was really fun and the Padres won by a long way so the atmosphere was great too :) It was a special day where people could bring their dog's to the baseball game too, so that was pretty funny to see!

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Petco Park

Day 4:

I woke up this morning feeling very sad - it was my last full day away before going back home and leaving Stephen :( Luckily we had a fun packed day ahead of us! We got up early (mainly because we had to move the car from its parking space before 8!) and drove to iHop for a yummy pancake breakfast before heading to San Diego Zoo for when it opened.

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San Diego Zoo

We had a lovely day at the zoo and saw some really funny animals - here's a few of my favourites:

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The orangutan looked so sad and was all on its own in the corner of the enclosure :( It made us feel really sad!

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Me being a seal!

We felt really lucky to be able to see Giant Pandas again, after seeing them for the first time all those months ago in Chiang Mai.

In the evening we dressed up in our best clothes and headed to a posh steak restaurant for dinner. We spent way more than we should have done, but the food was really great and it was a perfect last night together :)

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Delicious steak

Day 5:

It was hell trying to pack all of the things I'd accumulated in the US into my two bags (I bought another one to take extra stuff home). I also had some of Stephen's stuff to bring home and lots of beer for him to have at home so I got very stressed trying to get it all to fit. Eventually Stephen managed to do it and so we loaded up the car and made our way back to LA.

After dropping the car back off at Hertz we got a taxi to the airport (with a very funny sports obsessed Iranian tax driver!) where we waited or our flights. We were pretty early so we sat in Starbucks feeling very sad until the time came when we had to part. This is probably the saddest I've been in my entire life; ending the trip of a lifetime and saying goodbye to Stephen, it was just terrible!

And so it ends...

I will look back on these past few months and remember them with such happiness. I'm so proud that I had the courage to go as I enjoyed myself more than I ever thought possible. It was perfect being able to share this with Stephen and the memories will last forever :) We are already planning our next trip (money and time dependent of course) and hope that this first adventure will not be our last!

Posted by charlotter45 20.08.2012 11:58 Archived in USA Tagged park beach zoo pancakes steak Comments (0)

Back in LA LA Land

sunny 25 °C

Day 1:

After a scenic drive into LA through Malibu and Santa Monica, we checked into the same hostel we stayed in before. This time we paid a bit extra to have own own room with ensuite which was pretty nice - we even had a fridge and microwave!

The only thing we wanted to fit in today was to go to the Griffith Observatory up in the Hollywood hills.

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Griffith Observatory

Most of the exhibitions were free but you had to pay for the planetarium. Stephen convinced me to do this, but it was all a bit weird and Lord of Rings themed! The rest of the observatory was good though, they had a seismometer that had three levels of accuracy: one that picked up vibrations from inside the room only (so you could 'create your own earthquake'), one that picked up activity in LA only, and one that picked up any earthquakes in western California. On the wall they had the output from when the earthquake in Japan hit last year, it was so big it even made the western California section of the seismometer go crazy!

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Was this the entrance to the observatory or was it not?!

In the evening we went to a restaurant called Tart for dinner. You got so much food for $16 and it had a really nice outdoor courtyard, so it was a good find. Unfortunately, the bar we went to afterwards wasn't so great as it was really pretentious and the cider I ordered was $10 and disgusting!

Day 2:

Today we went to Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park, where they have the fastest, longest, tallest (etc.) roller coasters in the world. We splashed out and bought the best 'flash pass' which would cut our queueing time by 90% and let us stay on each ride for another go after we'd queued once. We thought this would be great, but the park wasn't actually that busy and the rides were so fast and loopy that we both ended up feeling sick and with massive headaches so needed quite a long rest between each one. We're obviously getting old! We did go on pretty much everything though, including the world's first standing up roller coaster, and had a really fun day overall :)

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Magic Mountain

Day 3:

We had quite a relaxed day today and we didn't have much left that we wanted to do in LA. We drove to Beverley Hills and walked along Rodeo Drive trying to celebrity spot, but unfortunately we didn't see anyone we recognised. We got a cupcake from the bakery that (apparently) started the whole cupcake trend. It was delicious and they even had a 'Cupcake ATM' outside that dispensed cakes out of a little door!

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Being cool on Rodeo Drive

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The best thing ever - a cupcake ATM!

After having pho for lunch at a place called 9021Pho (get it?) we killed some time by going into a Warner Bros exhibition. It was pretty good and they had costumes and props from loads of shows including The OC, Friends, The Big Bang Theory and True Blood. They even had some of the sofas from Central Perk in Friends and you were actually allowed to sit on them (unlike at the actual set at Warner Bros Studios).

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Enjoying my coffee in Central Perk

On the way back to our hostel we took a drive up into the residential area of Beverley Hills to have a nose at the seriously posh houses and cars, then popped into Whole Foods to buy some delicious chorizo sausages for dinner.

Earlier in the day we'd signed up for the hostel's Friday night out which included a limo ride to a club in Hollywood, entrance to the club and then a limo ride home afterwards. There was a party in the courtyard of the hostel beforehand where beer was free (always a good thing!), so we hung out there until it was time to go to the club. They squeezed so many people into the Hummer limo but it was so much fun!

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Our ride to the club

The club was pretty awesome; it had a courtyard with ponds, fireplaces and cabanas and then lots of rooms inside with comfy seats and a big room with a dance floor and stage above the bar at the front. There was even this lovely lady giving out chocolate dipped strawberries:

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When we got home from the club at 3am we went to Canter's 24 hour deli and had the most delicious food! A huge pastrami sandwich for Stephen, and pastrami and coleslaw in a cheese and jalapeño bagle for me.

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Stephens humongous sandwich!

Day 4:

After a much needed lie in, we jumped in the car and headed for Venice Beach. It was so busy as it was a Saturday but I think that made it all the more interesting. The day started pretty cloudy and windy so we just walked up and down the beach and watched the skateboarders in the awesome skate park. There's loads of weirdos on Venice Beach and it's generally a pretty strange place, but it's definitely entertaining! Later on the in the afternoon the cloud broke up and it was lovely and sunny so we just sat on the beach and enjoyed the nice weather :)

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The skate park at Venice Beach

We ended up going to Tart again for dinner as it was just so delicious and then walked around The Grove outdoor shopping centre and The Farmer's Market (both of these were right by our hostel). There was a stall at the Farmer's Market that sold so many different types of hot sauce, some of them even said on them that they weren't really a sauce and I think they would pretty much kill you they were so hot! The Grove had a band playing at the band stand (it was Sean Kingston the night before so bit gutted we missed that!) so we stood and watched that for a while before heading back to the hostel for a good nights sleep before our trip down to San Diego the following day.

Posted by charlotter45 10.08.2012 08:05 Archived in USA Tagged food beach shopping hollywood beverley_hills theme_park Comments (0)

A roadtrip down Highway 1

sunny 26 °C

This was a really fun three days; we got to see a lot of cool scenery and stop at lots of nice places. The weather greatly improved as we moved further away from San Francisco and it was nice to feel the warmth of the sun again! We camped just outside Santa Cruz for our first night, stayed in a motel in San Luis Obispo for our second night, and another motel in Santa Barbara on our last night.

Day 1:

We didn't think we'd be doing much driving today as Santa Cruz is only an hour and a half away from San Francisco, so we decided to make a stop in Stanford and have a walk around the university campus there. Unfortunately, the GPS got a bit confused as we took the coastal route and it ended up taking 2 hours just to get to Stanford when it should have taken about 30 mins! We did have a very scenic drive though:

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I was pretty jealous of the people who get to Stanford because it looks amazing, not that Nottingham wasn't! You could tell they have so much money because all the buildings and grounds were immaculate. This is the church on campus - pretty spectacular:

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When we finally arrived in Santa Cruz we walked around the town centre, along the river and down the the beach. We saw this crazy van drive past so many times as we were walking:

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The guy inside it had this puppet that he was making dance to the weird music he was playing - it was all very odd.

We passed a really cool skate park on the way to the beach where there was a full pipe, we didn't see anyone attempt it though, but it would have been interesting! There's a big board walk at the beach which was fun. There were lots of rickety old rides and fast food stands and it was all very American.

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The beach was so wide and long (all the beaches in California seem to be like this), it was a shame we weren't there earlier so we could have spent some time on it and gone on some of the rides.

Day 2:

Today was probably the busiest and best of the three days. Lots of the places we visited were very nice and upmarket so it was interesting just to visit briefly to see what they were like. We started off by going to the Monterey Aquarium for a couple of hours which was really good, if not a bit pricey fr the amount of time we spent there. They had some really big tanks and cool sections dedicated to jellyfish and seahorse. We were lucky enough to see the sardine feeding; it was amazing to see how they all move together as one to get their food.

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Tank showing the sea life in the kelp forests that are off the Californian coast

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Jellyfish

When we left Monterey we went on a private coastal drive called the 17 Mile Drive, which goes from Pacific Grove to Carmel-by-the-Sea. It was very picturesque and we got some good photos and saw some very nice houses. Not sure it was worth paying $10 to use the road though.

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An example of the coast line along the 17 Mile Drive

After stopping for lunch in Carmel we went to a nearby beach for a bit of sun, but it turned out to be pretty windy so we didn't stick around for very long! It was very beautiful there though, and quite a lot of people were braving the wind or trying to find a place in the sand dunes where it was sheltered.

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When we were nearly into San Luis Obispo we spotted lots of people taking pictures of something at one of car parks near the coast. We turned around and went to park up and have a look and it turned out there were loads of elephant seals there! There were so many, all packed really closely together and some of the males were fighting like they showed on Frozen Planet last year, it was amazing to actually see it in real life!

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As we got into town pretty late, we didn't have any time to explore or see much. There were lots of cheap restaurants and bars as it's a student town so we just picked one, got dinner and drinks, then went to bed.

Day 3:

We wanted to have a full day in Santa Barbara so we got up early and headed straight there. It's a really lovely town with lots of good shops, bars and restaurants and a long, wide, sandy beach lined with palm trees. Everyone there is quite posh, but I guess that's because it's a very nice place!

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Santa Barbara beach

We had a really nice chill out day - a bit of time on the beach, a bit of shopping and browsing the farmers' market which suddenly popped up in the middle of town during the afternoon. We went to a place called Santa Barbara Brewing Company for dinner where they brew all their own beers. The beer was good and the food was yummy! After dinner we got some frozen yoghurt (as most people in California seem to do), where we discovered that Hello Kitty is obviously just as popular in the US as Japan - they had special edition flavours, cups and spoons!

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Hello Kitty frozen yoghut

The following day we continued on down the Pacific Highway, through Malibu and Santa Monica. It was a shame we couldn't stop and enjoy the sun and beaches, but we had a lot of things we wanted to fit into our three days in LA, so we just headed straight there so we'd have the afternoon free to get started :)

Posted by charlotter45 23.07.2012 14:17 Archived in USA Tagged beach sun skateboard aquarium boardwalk frozen_yoghurt Comments (0)

San Francisco

semi-overcast 24 °C

We loved San Francisco! The only problem was that 5 days just wasn't enough time to do everything we wanted. It was a bit of a shame about the weather too as it gets pretty chilly and foggy in the summer for some reason. We left the car in a car park for the whole time and explored the city on foot and by bus which made a change as we’ve got used to the American way of driving such short distances!

Day 1:

We were told there are lots of cool murals in San Francisco and we came across our first one as we drove into the city:

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We didn’t arrive until late afternoon so we just spent a couple of hours doing a bit of shopping as our hostel was near the main downtown area. In the evening we just chilled out and did some much needed laundry!

Day 2:

Today was 4th July, US Independence Day, so we thought there’d be lots of cool stuff going on to get involved in. Unfortunately, no one in San Francisco seemed that bothered and life seemed to be going about as usual! There were some good fireworks in the evening at Fisherman’s Wharf, but that’s about as far as the celebrations went.

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Pretty fireworks

In the morning we went to the ‘Exploratorium’ which is a hands on science museum and very fun. It’s free on the first Wednesday of every month (which is was), so that was pretty nice. There was quite a long line to get in but they had staff out entertaining everyone with science tricks.

The Exploratorium is next to the Palace of Fine Arts, which is a nice building in a pretty little park:

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On the way back to the hostel we stopped off in Chinatown which was interesting. Apparently fortune cookies were invented in San Francisco and we visited a little factory that’s made them for decades. We bought a bag and got some pretty random fortunes!

While waiting for the fireworks at the Wharf we went into the Musee Mecanique which was museum of old arcade games and photo reels. You could play and watch them all and it was really funny!

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We didn’t try this one as we ran out of quarters, but I’m sure it would have been funny to see what was considered racy years ago!

Day 3:

Today we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and went to Sausalito. Most people rent a bike and cycle over as it’s about 5 miles, but I don’t really like cycling so we just walked it. It was fairly windy and cold while we were walking across the bridge but it wasn’t too foggy so we got some quite good photos.

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The Golden Gate Bridge

Sausalito was a very pretty little town with lots of nice shops and restaurants. Some San Franciscans we met in Fiji recommended that we go a restaurant called ‘Fish’, but it turned out that this was the other side of town and another 2 miles walk! We went anyway and I’m glad we did because it was so delicious.

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Lovely Sausalito

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Yummy yummy fish tacos (with Stephen's monster of a meal in the background!)

Being the other side of town also meant we could visit the Bay Model. This is a huge replica of the San Francisco bay that was used to work out the effects of changing salt levels and other geography related things. It was just huge and really interesting as it’s still all working so you can watch as the tides change! Stephen could probably have explained it a bit better than me, seeing as he’s the geographer!

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A small section of the bay model

We got the ferry back to San Francisco and got a nice view of the city on the way back:

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In the evening we went on a hostel organised bar crawl. It was pretty fun and we met a lot of people, but drinking in bars gets very expensive so it was a one-off!

Day 3:

Today Stephen surprised me we lunch as one of the best restaurants in San Francisco. It was really nice and so delicious, especially dessert. It was nice to go to a place where we had to dress up nicely for a change!

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Lunch with Stephen at Boulevard

In the afternoon we had a walk around Golden Gate Park and then went to our new favourite supermarket (Whole Foods) to buy some dinner. We want them to open up Whole Foods in England!

Day 5:

We got up early and went to the Farmers’ Market at the Ferry Building. We got some delicious breakfast there and had a nice wander around. After the market it was time to head to the pier for our trip to Alcatraz.

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Alcatraz

Alcatraz was really interesting and there was a good audio tour narrated by former prison officers and inmates. It was quite busy though and also freezing!

After Alcatraz we went to a cool street in the city called The Haight. It’s comparable to Spittlefields in London, with lots of vintage clothing shops, delis and alternative people around. There were some pretty eccentric people about, including these guys who were riding pennyfarthings around in old fashioned clothes!

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We then headed to the Mission district where we hung out with the cool kids in Dolores Park. If it was a bit warmer we could have easily spent the whole day here, it was great for people (and dog) watching!

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Dolores Park

There was an ice-cream place by the park that had a queue that went right around the block so we thought we had to check it out. Turns out it was the best ice cream we’ve ever had! I had salted caramel and malted vanilla with peanut brittle, and Stephen had salted caramel, balsamic strawberry and honey lavender. They were all amazing and definitely worth queuing for half an hour for!

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The best ice-cream ever!

While walking around the Mission District trying to find another recommended place for dinner (Tacolicious – the best tacos ever!) we came across lots more cool murals and painted buildings. Some of them were so detailed and must have taken so long to do!

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Day 6:

We managed to squeeze in one more 'must-do' on our last morning - seeing the world’s crookedest street! We parked up the car and watched other people drive down it for a while and took some photos:

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After driving down the crooked street ourselves, it was time to wave goodbye to San Francisco and start our three day road trip down Highway 1 back to LA.

Posted by charlotter45 13.07.2012 10:42 Archived in USA Tagged food park shopping fireworks alcatraz Comments (0)

Camping in Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks

sunny 25 °C
View Charlotte and Stephen's Adventure! on charlotter45's travel map.

We had a good few days camping and hiking in the National Parks, but we didn't really spend enough time at either of them, especially Sequoia where we only spent one night. I think you’d need a good few days to do Sequoia properly and a week for Yosemite.

I was pretty scared of camping because of the threat of bears coming into your campsite. It was also so much hassle having to put everything with a scent in the bear box all the time! You had to keep all food and toiletries within arms-reach when you were using them too. We didn't actually see any bears, but Stephen did wake up at 4am on our last night to the sound of people shouting and banging pots and pans, so they’d obviously been disturbed by a bear in the night!

Sequoia:

It was 3pm by the time we arrived in Sequoia and set up our campsite so we only had time to do a couple of short walks (to the top of Moro Rock and the Big Trees Trail) before seeing the General Sherman tree – the largest tree in the world (by volume). The trees in the park were amazing – so large and tall – and it was nice just to drive around the park taking in the scenery.

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At the top of Moro Rock

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General Sherman Tree

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Blue sky + Green trees = Pretty

As we got back to the campsite quite late it got dark while we were cooking and so it was a bit miserable and cold trying to eat and wash up without much light! We made a little campfire and toasted some of the biggest marshmallows we’d ever seen, so that made me feel a bit better.

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Stephen attempting to eat a 'Giant Roaster'

We had to get up early in the morning to pack everything away and make our way to Yosemite, which was a bit of a pain as we’d only set it all up 16 hours earlier!

Yosemite:

After the three hour drive to Yosemite and yet another trip to Walmart (this time to return a faulty stove) we felt pretty exhausted so we didn’t do much when we arrived at our campsite. We set up our tent and drove to the store to buy some food then decided to cook some pasta to have for lunch the next day. For some reason, cooking pasta for both lunch and dinner took three hours! So again, by the time we were done cooking, eating and washing up it was dark.

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Our lovely campsite

The next day we got up early to hike to the top of Yosemite Falls - the tallest waterfall in North America. Although the walk was only a 7 mile round trip, the guidebook said to allow 6-8 hours as it's a very steep climb. It was pretty exhausting but we managed to do it in 6.5 hours (including a 1 hour lunch stop) so I think we did pretty well! The view from the top was really spectacular and made it all worthwhile :) Going down was actually harder than going up and it really made our knees and thighs hurt!

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The view from the halfway point

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At the top

We had planned to do more hikes the following day but my legs were so stiff when I woke up in the morning so I just couldn't face walking again! Instead we spent the day chilling out and sitting by the river in Yosemite Valley.

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Our spot by the river

I was pretty happy to be packing away on our last morning as I was looking forward to having a real bed again in San Francisco! I did really enjoy the parks, but if we went again I think we'd definitely stay in a lodge or nearby motel :)

Posted by charlotter45 09.07.2012 22:48 Archived in USA Tagged trees park hiking mountain waterfall camping Comments (2)

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