Just call me Bronwyn

There is a politician in our Federal Parliament who not so long ago was found to be abusing her travel perks by using helicopters for short trips instead of more economical means.

After a great deal of media outcry, she lost her high level position in the government and was the butt of a lot of Facebook jokes and memes.

And after having already had a helicopter ride in NYC, a second one in the Grand Canyon made me feel more than a little self indulgent.

But really, what better way to get a true feeling for the grandeur of this natural wonder than by air?

20151029_065951 So after our breakfast and opportunity to thaw at El Tovar, and after a walk to see a bit more of the cliffs and park, it was off to the airport to check in. 20151029_082318

(Has anyone else noticed that while I managed to get all of NYC into just two posts and Arizona seems to require a whole lot more detail?)

Before leaving Australia, I had actually booked this tour.  At 40 minutes long, it was touted as a really great experience, taking in both the south and north rims and so I was really looking forward to it.

20151029_102908 But Mother nature had other ideas and we were asked to choose between a shorter option or taking our chances and hoping the weather would improve later in the day.

Short on time and not really optimistic that the coming storm would fizzle out quickly, we went the 30 minute trip which still covered the south and promised great views of the Colorado River. It delivered.  Complete with dramatic music and commentary in both German and English. 20151029_101753

20151029_101848 It was perfectly timed, as we could see the storm coming through from the north as rain spotted the front window of the chopper. 20151029_100649

Safely back on the ground, it was decided that with the weather becoming a little dodgy, and having had a pretty good look and all the pretty rocks and cliffs, we would continue our adventuring and head to Bearizona.

Where we got bears, howling wolves, an assortment of other critters,

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and hail. 20151029_130032

Which surprisingly, was just an added bonus to an awesome day.

We saw the Flintstones campground, although we didn’t go much further into it than the gift shop, which was dark, crowded and smelled a little weird.

20151029_105609 There was a cool place across the highway from it though, that had life size metal sculpture of horses and wagons and that was certainly worth a look. 20151029_110320

The day ended back in Williams, a late late lunch of burgers and fries, (or a very early dinner) followed by some wandering, shopping and chilling.

Big breakfast and late lunch meant that dinner was not required, although it was actually that day that the world famous best ever pie was consumed. (see previous post for pic)

Possible snow was forecast for overnight but Day three arrived snow free and soon we were back on the road with Las Vegas our final destination.

We stopped briefly in Seligman, not that anything was open but it had some interesting cars and buildings.

20151030_090407 There was a comfort stop required at a servo.  And of course, the mandatory purchase of snacks and drinks.

And this was where I finally tried a Twinkie.

The one and only time I will ever eat one. FB_IMG_1446228165217

I can only think that this was some sort of payback for Vegemite, because that white goo inside, omg…what the hell is that???

By the time we arrived at the Hoover Dam, we were ready for a walk to stretch our legs and it was definitely worth the stop.

20151030_115437 It was enough for us to walk from one side to the other and back.  Especially as the weather had warmed considerably from what it had been in Williams. 20151030_115630

From there it was straight to Vegas.  From empty desert and mountain ranges, suddenly we had freeways and buildings and signs.

And bumper to bumper traffic.

There it was, the Strip.  With all those casino hotels with the famous names.
20151030_131059   Massive complexes, with huge billboards.  Neon and spotlights and LED screens.

People.

Everywhere. 20151030_131711

Hotel located.  Car parked.  Lunch found and then back to check in.

As promised, a beautiful room with a fabulous view located after a bit of navigating through the casino.

20151031_085840_LLS You can seriously get very lost in those places. Chill time.

Then back downstairs for a flutter on the pokies before dinner and then the Cirque show “Love”. 20151030_170312_LLS

We finished the evening with a wander down the Strip, pausing to watch the Mirage Volcano explode and the water show at the Bellagio.

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After such an amazing few days, it was terribly hard to say goodbye to our incredibly cheap but totally amazing tour guide Patty (who very kindly allowed us to keep our kidneys).

She was only stopping the one night with us in Vegas, and she had to go home and back to her family and reality.

We were so blessed that she joined us on this part of the adventure and without her offer of the road trip, we would never have seen all the amazing and quirky things that we did.

She left first thing the next morning, leaving us to discover more of Vegas on our own.

Yes, there is still more….

 

 

 

 

A new road

20151027_075545 Looking out the window as the plane descended over Phoenix Arizona, I was filled with a mixture of excitement and just a touch of anxiety.

For here was the start of stage 2 of the great adventure and the day I was to meet “Antisocial Patty” for the very first time in person. We connected through our blogs and for the longest time we have chatted on-line.

And with her help, we planned a road trip from her city to Las Vegas.

It started simply enough, perhaps we would meet in Vegas, but then she gave us an offer we could not refuse. That she would drive us to Vegas.

And so the “list” was created.

But there was no need to be anxious, as there she was, waiting for us, with a big smile and a sign welcoming us.

First time I have ever been greeted at the airport with a sign.

Luggage collected, we were soon out of the airport and getting our first glimpses of her lovely city.

We were indulged with a trip to the art shop and the local archery shop.  Enjoyed an awesome lunch which included a fabulous dessert and an introduction to chocolate coated corn nuts before being welcomed into her home and meeting not only her family but also the neighbours.

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A great dinner at a local Italian place, followed by some much needed chill time while I took advantage of her washer and dryer and then a great night sleep in preparation for hitting the road first thing the next day.

20151028_090225 First stop was for coffee and a look at the world’s largest Kokopelli.  And while we are well used to “large” things here in Aus, this was something new to us and the first thing crossed off “the list”. 20151028_094929

A lot of our friends, when we mentioned “road trip” asked if it was Route 66.

There is the perception that this road is the ultimate driving trip in the USA and many people I know have expressed the desire to travel it.

But we found a better road.

Spectacular scenery, windy bends and beautiful towns.

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That first day on the road, we stopped at Jerome,

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wandered the gorgeous little galleries that are filled to the brim with beautiful things and had the potential to seriously dent my spending budget before finding our way to Sedona.

And Sedona is breathtaking.

20151028_122113 It’s hard to find the words to describe the natural beauty of the area that is Sedona. And there were even more gorgeous shops, filled with local artists works that were oh so tempting. 20151028_124944

Lunch was at a music themed restaraunt, an outside balcony table giving us a perfect view of the red rocks and mountains.

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And if the view wasn’t enough, the food was fabulous too.

Chilli cheese fries, to share between three, was almost enough on it’s own but we had already ordered a main course – the man had a burger and it was salads for us girls, and so when we finally left the table, we were well and truly stuffed. 20151028_141349

Back on the road, a tour through Flagstaff next, and a chance to see where our awesome tour guide, went to school, a stop at a lovely lookout area and then on to our stop for two nights – Williams.

20151028_151933 Williams is a cool little town.  Obviously a stopping point for many tourists travelling the famous Route 66 and trading heavily on the nostalgia aspect. 20151028_173807_LLS

It was an interesting mix of 50’s Americana, beautiful artisan works, with a touch of old west thrown in.

And what was recommended to us as the best pie in the area.

And of course, we had to test that theory out..

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Early to bed that night as apart from a long day on the road, we had to be up at sparrow’s fart the next day as the next thing on the list was “sunrise over the Grand Canyon”.

“Dress warm” was what we should have done, and while one part of our brain told us that it would be cold before dawn at the Canyon, we pretty much underestimated just how cold as we piled into the car excited to finally see the Grand Canyon.

Happily the Elk we passed, stayed on his side of the road unlike the giant rabbit that decided a dash across would be more fun.

All critters survived and we arrived at the chosen lookout and had a virtually empty car park to ourselves.

Yes, we were early.  And it was a good long wait in the cold and dark before we were joined by others as more intrepid tourists chose to greet the dawn.

Happily before we lost all feeling in our digits, the sky started to lighten and the cliffs and rocks appeared before our eyes. 20151029_061823_LLS

It was then we could really appreciate the sheer size and magnificence of this natural wonder.

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So beautiful and well worth the early start.

And with the day started, it was time for breakfast at El Tovar.

With more adventures planned for the day, we needed sustenance

and coffee

Hot hot coffee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best & worst

Before I take you to Arizona, I thought I would play a little game I love to play with Hubby whenever we go away.

Usually I hit him with “best….” and he defers with “I don’t know, I liked it all”

and then I hit him with a pillow.

So instead of nagging him, I thought I might wrack my brain and give you my opinion on a few different things.

Feel free to throw in a few questions of your own.

Best breakfast – A fresh wholegrain onion bagel with cream cheese.  Love love love.

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Worst breakfast – Eggs Benedict where the hollandaise was the exact colour of a New York Taxi.

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Favorite Art Museum – The Metropolitan.  Less busy and more variety than the MoMA.  Both have sensational art, but I think I could have spent all day at the Met.

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Best sightseeing experience – The Ride.  A bus fully kitted out with hosts ready to entertain as they drive you around the Time Square area.

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Best free experience – toss up between the Staten Island Ferry and the 911 memorial pools.  I would recommend both.

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Best indulgence – “Kinky Boots” on Broadway. Seats centre of the 2nd row, close enough to see the sweat on the performers.  While the helicopter over the city was great, it was per minute, crazy expensive and just a little scary for this girl.

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Best lunch – Shake Shack burgers and cheese fries.  Yum

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Worst lunch – The hot dog.  Over priced and pretty bad. Oh and a chicken gyro.  Nothing like the yiros we have here at home.

 

Best tourist discovery – The NYFD museum.  Little museum off the tourist trail based in an old fire house filled to the brim with memorabilia with proceeds supporting the fire department.

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Best walk – The Highline.  Busy but very cool with lots of art and lovely plants

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Least liked place to walk – Times Square.  Noisy, pushy, crowded and confusing.

 

Best shopping – Macy’s.  It’s where I got my wonderful new bag and coat.

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Favorite dinner – Very possibly Thai.  We would wander the local streets and found this little place.  Did an awesome curry.  Although I had some pretty great Italian one night too.

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Best cocktail – chocolate raspberry martini.  yum

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Worst moment – not knowing if hubby had made it onto the train as we left the station at Time Square.

Best art moment – all of them, seeing the masters, and discovering art by artists I had never heard of.

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Best dessert – waffles, with apple and caramel sauce and icecream.

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Yes, food is always a big part of the best and worst list.

You want to know more?  Throw your questions in the comments.

Next stop, definitely  Phoenix

 

 

#no regrets

Four weeks ago today, bags packed and tickets triple checked, hubby and I set off for what would be the most amazing trip of our lives so far.

Arriving at our local airport at 4am for the first leg of the marathon journey which was completed 28 hours later when we landed at JFK.

How do I begin to tell you all about this adventure?  What do you want to know?

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Through tired eyes I looked out upon the bright lights of New York city as the shuttle bus wound its way through the streets toward our hotel.

 Past Time Square, street names familiar from a life time of tv and movies.  Our first glimpses of the city shining bright as I craned my neck to seek out the landmarks.

So exciting.

Our room in our “Upper West side” hotel, looked out over Central Park.  A little disappointing was the hotel’s decision to put us in a “double double” and try to pass it off as an upgrade.  But it was New York and if it meant separate beds, we would survive. And no, it wasn’t possible to push them together.

7 nights at that hotel. A week of exploring.

3 art museums, The Metropolitan, MoMA, and The Whitney. Finally I could stand in front of stunning originals by masters that I had only ever seen before in books and on the net. messenger-quick-cam-1445455981781//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Picasso, Warhol,  Gauguin, Cezanne, Kahlo, O’Keefe Rothko, Pollock, Dali….the list goes on.  Amazing, beautiful thought-provoking art in beautiful surroundings.

New York has some of the most beautiful architecture that I have ever seen.
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We took the double-decker tourist bus.  Rode the Staten Island ferry and stood in awe of Lady Liberty. Another view of the city from a helicopter, and from the top of the Rockefeller Centre. 20151025_092736//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

We conquered the subway, and walked…miles and miles.

Times Square was an assault on the senses and Macy’s was dangerous to the wallet.

And then there was the food.

Burgers of course, and the obligatory street side hotdog.  Cheesecake, and waffles.  Huge cookies still warm and buttery from the little bakery three steps down and popular enough to get queues.

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Starbucks coffee, an extra shot required.  

Bagels, fresh with lashings of cream cheese. Shake shack burgers with cheese fries had the potential to become an addiction. Pasta, Pizza and even amazing Thai.  

Little cramped restaurants, packed to the brim with happy customers.

Not night owls, we did spend one evening in the centre of town, enjoying a tourist bus called “The Ride”.  Laughs and entertainment both on the bus and on the pavement with street performers and dancers appearing just to put on a show for the passengers.

Of course, how could this Aussie come to NYC and not see a show.  Kinky Boots on Broadway. 20151025_142410//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Perfect.

New York is noise, colour, people, food, and more noise.

New Yorkers are lovely people.  The look a little startled when greeted by random Aussies in the grocery store, but usually they are more than happy for a chat.

So what else would you like to know about the New York portion of our trip?

Yes, we went to the 911 memorial and walked the High Line.

And crossed the Brooklyn Bridge.

I saw a squirrel, actually a lot of squirrels, but the first was in Central Park, just past Strawberry Fields.  I also saw a young man with a chameleon there too.

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We got a little lost, but that is all part of the adventure.

Most of you would have no idea how exciting it was to see a New Yorker curse an errant driver with a classic “hey, we’re walking here”, or the sheer thrill of recognising buildings from TV shows and realising that the cafe you are sitting in, was part of a movie you love.

People have asked me what I thought was the best bit of the trip and I struggle.  I loved New York, in all her brash noisy self.  She was glitter and music and humanity.

Even crammed in a subway train at peak hour, unsure if Hubby had even made it on, I still felt excited.  Possibly less excited by the proximity of the very large man’s armpit as the train rocked and shuddered towards our stop.

Each day had its own adventures and as such, I will remember NYC always.

We left our hotel early, the sun coming up as we headed to the airport.

Next stop Phoenix, Arizona.