Although our American trip was almost a year ago now, we had such a brilliant time that I still have so much to write about even so long after. I still haven’t written about all the amazing sights on our road trip through the Big Sur, I’ve not told you about everything there is to see in Vegas even if you don’t like gambling, and I’ve still not shared the details of our funky campervan adventures, so I thought it was about time the blog got back onto the USA.
One of my favourite parts of the adventure was our road trip along the stunning Big Sur coastline so I thought I’d start off by sharing one of the best places to stay along this part of the Pacific Coast Highway.
We had spent the previous night in Carmel-by-the-Sea, one of the prettiest little towns in California. There is so much to see and do through the Big Sur, from national parks and magical waterfalls to famous bridges and sandy beaches, plus more viewpoints along the coastline than I can mention in one blog post, each with a more gorgeous view than the last. We knew it was going to be a long day and wanted to take it slow so we would have time to fit everything in, so we decided to spend the next night in Cambria, a little beachfront town at the southern end of the Big Sur. The Blue Dolphin Inn was right on the seafront broadwalk, just steps away from the sand of Moonstone Beach, and I loved the idea of going to sleep and waking up to the sound of the waves.
One of the stops both Mr Ayla and I were looking forward to most on our American adventure was camping in one of the United States’ most incredible national parks. Yosemite is a four hour drive from San Francisco so, once Mr Ayla had got the hang of a slightly bigger drive than he was used to, we headed out of the city in our absolutely awesome campervan courtesy of Escape Campervans.
After driving along the windy tree filled roads, we arrived late at night and made our way to the Upper Pines Campground, right in the heart of Yosemite Valley, where we would be setting up our camper for the next couple of nights. It was pretty difficult but equally fun to set up the bed in the dark, find the bear locker to store our food in (no bears would be getting to my leftover cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory!), and find the toilets, all the while trying to be quiet so as not to wake the other campers nearby.
With sunglasses on and the wind in our hair, a fold out map covering the dashboard, a giant pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and a huge $1.99 cup of Dr Pepper filling the car for snacks , and the wide open road ahead of us. Our great American road trip was everything I had imagined it to be and more.
I love the freedom of a road trip – being able to go wherever we want, whenever we want (as long as it fits in with my planned out itinerary of course!). We hopped out of the car to see the stunning blue coastal views along the Big Sur; grabbed lunch at quirky Route 66 roadside diners; came across the most random attractions like Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo and added our own bubblegum to the wall (a gross kind of abstract art). We stumbled upon the coolest places to eat and drink; posed in front of wacky street art; hiked mountains and dipped our toes in the ocean. But most of all we did lots and lots (and lots) of singing.
As much as I hated leaving the fabulous city of Las Vegas behind, it was onto our next adventure. The 4 and a half hour drive to the Grand Canyon was pretty smooth sailing – aside from Mr Ayla having a slight panic at having to drive out of the busy city, in an automatic, on the other side of the road, amidst 4 lanes of crazy Vegas traffic. After Googling which pedal was which (don’t judge – we drive manuals at home and neither of us know much about cars!) we were on our way with our ultimate road trip album blaring out of the CD player.
Despite being quite a long drive there were plenty of places to stop off along the way and the Hoover Dam was the first place on our itinerary. We’d left Vegas a little later than we’d intended (possibly due to too many cocktails the night before) so by the time we made the short 45 minute drive there, it was already packed full of tourists. We decided not to do a tour but instead just drove across the dam itself and ogled at the size of it before taking a few snaps and carrying on with the journey.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of setting out in your car on an epic road trip, the back seat piled with bags, blankets and snacks, Rusted Root’s “Send Me On My Way” playing in the background, and your favourite travel buddy sitting beside you. Whether we’re exploring somewhere completely new and having to learn the rules of the road in a different country, or just going on a short weekend break closer to home, road trips are one of my favourite ways to travel. Being able to stop wherever and whenever we want, having no obligations or time limits, and just enjoying the freedom of an open road.
Our great American adventure is only a day off now (eeek!!), and while we may not have actually been on our American road trip yet, we have been on a fair few in the past, from roadtrippin’ South Africa’s scenic Garden Route to driving around the pretty Cotswolds.
So these are my 10 essentials that are needed for a great road trip, with a few that will give us those extra American feels as we’re cruising along Route 66.
It’s been five long torturous months of having to keep this secret to myself and now I can finally share it. Mr Ayla turned 30 yesterday and I’d planned a little surprise for his birthday. There may actually be a few of you (okay possibly a lot of you) who already know about this surprise – I may not have been able to share it with my husband but the excitement was too much not to share with anyone at all!
Mr Ayla woke up on his birthday morning to be greeted with a treasure hunt leading him to a selection of clues around the house and finally to his big surprise…
Apart from family trips when I was little, as well as the odd night out in my slightly wilder days of partying and actually being able to cope with a hangover, Brighton is somewhere that I haven’t really seen in years. So when my mum gave us a Segway experience voucher for Christmas, we decided to spend Valentine’s weekend trying out this new adventure near Brighton and then spending the rest of the weekend exploring the city.
After an afternoon of fun whizzing our way through the woods on our Segways, with me desperately trying to avoid tree trunks while attempting to keep up with Mr Ayla, we made our way down to the seaside. Thankfully we didn’t have too much mud to wash off ourselves before heading out for dinner where, for once, I didn’t take a single photo of our food. Shock horror I know! But it was Valentine’s weekend and we just wanted to enjoy our meal for a change. (I think Mr Ayla was rather happy that he was able to eat his food while it was still hot without all my photo taking!)
Proving he can be a romantic when he wants to, Mr Ayla surprised me last month with a weekend in the New Forest, a beautiful area of natural woodland and wildlife and a part of the UK that we had not yet explored. An easy 2.5 hour drive from London, the busy roads gradually turned into quiet country lanes with high trees stretching into the distance and wild ponies munching grass by the side of the road. Every now and then we would pass a quaint little village or country pub – the sort of place where you can imagine everyone knowing each other. It was so peaceful and serene and we knew straight away that we would love it here.
Our first night we stayed at Eastclose Country House Hotel, a beautiful place that is said to have been the inspiration behind Alice in Wonderland. Waking up in the pretty white Georgian building and looking outside, I could just imagine the White Rabbit dashing behind the giant tree and down a hole in the grassy garden!
With only 24 hours in Oxford, we had a lot to squeeze in on our visit to one of the UK’s most popular cities. Only a couple of hours drive from London, Oxford is the perfect place for a short weekend getaway and has so much to offer both visitors and locals alike.
It was a chilly but sunny day when we arrived, the skies bright blue and the ground full of fallen leaves, making the city even more beautiful.