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Category Archives: Northern America

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Seattle Washington

Seattle, Washington USA

Growing up as 1990’s teenagers in Australia, Seattle was (and still is) a musical mecca for us. The home of many pivotal musicians, bands and the birthplace of grunge music, it’s art culture and technology has inspired us our entire lives. If you had told “teenage us” that one day Seattle would be a 2-3hr drive from home for the Vades, they would have told you, you were nuts. We were lucky to visit Seattle on many occasions over the last 10 years. It will always be one of our favourite cities. In almost every way, it aligns with our taste, style and of course musical flavour.

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Situated in the Pacific Northwest of the United States of America, Seattle hugs the shoreline of an inlet called Puget Sound. Only 190 km south of the Canadian border it the largest city in the Pacific Northwest region. With its origins as a logging town during the Gold Rush era, Seattle grew as a major shipping port after the two World Wars. Today, Seattle is most well known for aircraft manufacturing with Boeing aircraft produced there. In recent years it has become a tech hub thanks in a small part to the region being the birthplace of Bill Gates and Microsoft. Other tech companies follow with the likes of Expedia, Amazon and Getty Images all having major offices or their corporate headquarters in Seattle. It is also home and birthplace of the coffee giant Starbucks. So turn on your Windows PC, log into Expedia, book a Boeing flight and grab a coffee frappuccino on your way to the airport.

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Music also plays a huge part in Seattle’s history. From the 40s and 50s, its jazz music scene laid the ground for musicians like Ray Charles and Quincy Jones. The 60s and 70s saw artists and bands like the Sonics and Jimi Hendrix.  In the mid-1980’s through the 90s, the grunge rock era exploded onto the airways with bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney and Alice In Chains. These bands brought a raw and unapologetic sound that mirrored the tension between disenfranchised youth, traditional lumber and working-class culture and a new post-punk movement.

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We have visited Seattle many times, so it is hard to provide a Diary entry. Instead, enjoy our list of favourite things to see and do in Seattle. We typically spent 2-3 days here at a time, but travelers could easily spend 7 days with so much to see and do.


 

Getting to Seattle

Car

If you have access to a car, the drive from Vancouver to Seattle is approx. 2 1/2 hours. Remember that you do have to cross an international border and be processed by border security. Depending on what time of the day you are traveling, border wait times can be anywhere from 5 mins to an hour or even longer.

 

Bus

It’s pretty easy to get a bus from any destination. You will have multiple departure and arrival times throughout the day so you should be able to find a time that suits your needs. One thing to remember with buses is that your trip time will be significantly longer and it is possible that there are multiple stops along the way.  We had one of our favorite traveling moments on the bus to Seattle. As we came to the end of the ride the bus approached the crest of a hill before descending towards the city.  As the Space Needle came into view and the City spread out before us our MP3 player started playing an Alice in Chains song as if it knew the band was coming home.

Train

Traveling by train from many USA Cities or Vancouver is a great way to get to Seattle. Not only is a train ride a super fun way to get around, you get to see coastlines and scenery that you wouldn’t normally see from a car or plane. Amtrack has several trains that stop in Seattle. You can start your journey in Vancouver, Los Angeles or Chicago and with tickets starting as low as $60 USD, this is a great alternative for travel. For more info and schedules and pricing visit www.amtrack.com/regions/northwest

We have taken the train to and from Vancouver on multiple occasions. The ride is only 4 1/2 hours so you won’t lose too much time out of your day. The King Street Station in Seattle is conveniently located in the downtown core. Once you arrive you can jump straight into sightseeing.

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Plane

Sea-Tac Airport (Seattle-Tacoma Airport) is an International Airport located approx. 20km South of Seattle. Most domestic and some international flights use this airport so you may be able to fly straight into Seattle this way. From the airport, there are multiple ways to get to the Downtown core such as light rail, bus, rideshare, hotel shuttles and taxis.


A great way to see all the sites and save some money is to purchase a City Pass. Most major cities have CityPASS and it gives you a discounted entry into some of the top attractions. If you are planning to visit multiple landmarks and museums, this may be a great option for you. 


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Space Needle

It’s about as Seattle as it comes. It’s what you see in all Seattle city skyline promo shots and was made famous by the TV series Fraiser. As you would expect, it is the top attraction you must visit when you are in Seattle. Built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the needle stands at 184m (605ft) and features an observation deck at 520ft and a restaurant at 500ft. It only takes 43 seconds to reach the top and where you will get views of the city, Elliott Bay, the Cascade Mountains and sometimes even Mount Rainier (if it’s not raining!) It is not the cheapest experience and if the weather is bad it can be a little underwhelming.  But let’s face it, if you visit Seattle and you don’t do it, there might be something wrong with you.

Location: 400 Broad St


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Seattle Centre Monorail

Also built for the World’s Fair, the monorail links Westlake Centre to the Space Needle and surrounding attractions. While the ride is short, it is a cool step back in time as the trains haven’t changed much since the 60’s. 

Location:

Seattle Centre location: adjacent to the Space Needle

Westlake Center Mall location: Fifth Ave and Pine Street

 


 

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Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)

We love this place! Founded in 2000 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, MoPOP is a non-profit museum that is dedicated to contemporary pop culture. The museum features many different exhibits ranging from movies and science fiction to music that has shaped the Pacific Northwest. The outside of the building is worth a visit to see. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, it almost resembles a smashed electric guitar with many different colors of sheet metal covering the building’s exterior. A visit to MoPOP will take most of your day. Each time we have visited, we have managed to visit MoPOP, the Space Needle, and the Chihuly Garden in 1 day. There is so much to see and do at MoPOP so make sure you give yourself enough time.

Location:

325 5th Ave N


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Chihuly Garden and Glass

Located in the same plaza as MoPOP and the Space Needle, this museum is dedicated to local glassblower Dale Chihuly. With eight different galleries including an outdoor garden full of glass sculptures, the most amazing piece to see is the 100 ft sculpture that fills a glasshouse. The photos of this exhibit don’t do it justice. Seeing these glass pieces close up is amazing.

Location:

305 Harrison St


Pike Place Market 

Established in 1907, Pike Place is still an active Farmers Market with Fish Markets, Craft Markets, and Restaurants. Beneath the main arcade, you will also find quirky bookshops, jewelry shop and art shops. Famous attractions at the market are the flying fish, Rachel the PiggyBank and the original Starbucks location. This is a spot that we always visit in Seattle. We recommend The Crumpet Shop for a quick and delicious bite to eat.

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Gum Wall

Tucked underneath the markets is a small alley completely covered in chewing gum. Read into it as you will; is it guerrilla public art, an irresponsible idea that got out of hand or a statement on human tendencies to follow a community effort no matter how strange. It sounds truly disgusting and honestly, it is a little. However, is definitely worth checking out. If you feel the urge, you can leave your own sticky mark.

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Pier 57 | Seattle Great Wheel | Wings Over Washington

A relatively new attraction to the Seattle skyline, the Seattle Great Wheel is located on Pier 57 near the Seattle Aquarium and the Crab Pot. Each ride lasts between 10-15 mins and you get spectacular views of the city skyline and Elliott Bay.

Wings Over Washington is a flying theatre ride that tours audiences across the state of Washington. Strap into the seat as in room rises and bounces within an immersive 5K drone capture video experience.

Once you have finished your rides be sure to check out the surrounding Piers and then stop by the Crab Pot for an amazing Seafood feast (the long wait times are definitely worth it). they are famous for the Sea and Alaskan Feasts. Which includes more crab and shellfish than any heart could desire.

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Location:

Pier 57 – Miners Landing


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Kerry Park

Just out of the downtown region it is a great spot for views of the Seattle skyline. You will need a car to get here but once you get here, the city views are spectacular. Keep in mind this is a residential area so be mindful to the locals.

Location:

250 W Highland Dr, Queen Ann Hill


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Pioneer Square (Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour)

The original downtown Seattle, this area is full of beautiful old buildings. We took the Underground Tour and learned all about the history of Seattle and the Great Fire of 1889 that almost destroyed the entire city. The tour itself is roughly 90 mins and it takes you through a series of interconnecting tunnels under the bustling streets of the city. 

Location:

614 1st Ave, Seattle


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Fremont Troll

A giant troll located under a bridge in Fremont. Sculpted in 1990 by Steve Badanes, Will Martin, Donna Walter, and Ross Whitehead. The mixed media public artwork was commissioned with a partial goal of rehabilitating the area under the bridge, which was becoming a dumping ground and haven for drug dealers. Derived from Scandinavian folklore the troll holds a Volkswagon looking for more cars to pull into its lair.  Check it out, it’s a great photo op. The Fremont area has many other great public art installations and there is a map you can pick up to visit them all.

Location:

Troll Ave N, Seattle


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Snoqualmie Falls (and Twin Peaks locations)

A 35 min drive East of Seattle is one of Washington states most popular scenic attractions. The 270-foot waterfall is a stunning sight and the area provides hiking, lodging, and picnic options.

We were visiting the area to see the locations where the 1990s TV series Twin Peaks was filmed. We are huge fans of the show and David Lynch, the shows creator. The falls are actually featured in the shows opening credits and the hotel located next to the Falls is one of the shows most recognizable locations. If you head South from the Falls to North Bend, you can visit Twedes Cafe which was the original location for the Double R Diner in the show. This cafe is full of Twin Peaks memorabilia and you can even grab a slice of Twin Peaks Cherry Pie and a damn fine cup of coffee.


Have you visited Seattle?  What are your favourite spots, comment below

 


Want to read more?

Read our travel tips for San Francisco

Read our tips for traveling with pets

Read our adventure in London

Read our adventures in Iceland

Read how to travel with friends

Read tips on using Ride Share App

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San Francisco

We Left our Hearts in San Francisco

Like the Tony Bennett sang “I left my heart in San Francisco.” If you have been to San Francisco (S.F) you will know why we love it so much. If you haven’t, do yourself a favour and get there. This city has so much to offer, the hills, the sea, the golden sun and the mystical fog. The city birthed by the gold rush has grown up into a destination with vibrancy and still beating golden heart. Additionally, take a trip to the beautiful wine regions of Napa Valley and Sonoma. You can visit their cute neighbourhoods with each of which offer a different vibe.

This was not the first time we have been to SFO, but this was the first time all Four Friends experienced the city together. As we always say “adventure is better shared with friends” in many respects this trip was a chance to see it through each other eyes.  When you travel with friends, different ideas and different perspectives all play a part in helping to experience somewhere in a new light.

We travelled over the New Year period and given its California it was not overly cold but still pack a jacket, you will definitely need it.

Here is our list of must visit while travelling this gorgeous city…

 

The Iconic San Francisco Cable Car

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Golden Gate Bridge

There are very few structures as ubiquitous to San Francisco as the Golden Gate Bridge. Opened in 1937 with a construction cost of $35 million dollars which in today’s money equates to approximately $493 Million. 8,981 feet (2,737 m) long and with a clearance above high water averages of 220 feet (67 m). Its towers stand at 746 feet (227 m) above the water. It was the world’s tallest on a suspension bridge until 1993 when it was surpassed by the Mezcala Bridge, in Mexico. The total length of galvanized steel wire used to fabricate both main cables is estimated to be 80,000 miles (130,000 km). The bridge has approximately 1,200,000 total rivets. Its familiar Orange Vermilion colour called International Orange requires year-round painting.  It takes so long to paint, by the time they make it from one end of the bridge to the other, they have to turn around and start all over again.

Tolls will cost you.

FasTrak Toll-by-plate Carpool Multi-axle vehicle
$7.00 $8.00 $5.00 $8.00 per axle

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Made famous by many movies/TV shows and is probably one of the most photographed bridges in the world. At the city end of the bridge, you will be able to visit the visitor centre where you will be able to read about the history and the build of the bridge with information plaques outside near the centre also. To the rear of the visitor centre (away from the main outdoor interactive historical display) there is a cross-section of mainstay cable, allowing you a close up of just how big the cable is! Can you get your arms around it?

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Golden Gate Park

The third most visited park in the United States. While the park is free to visit during the day, popular attractions charge admission. Attractions like; the deYoung Museum, California Academy of Sciences and Conservatory of Flowers. The park is filled with gardens, museums, art, flowers, trees, lakes, birds and wildlife. There are also plenty of opportunities to participate in sports, clubs and other activities. Browse the site for information on parking, maps, weddings, hotels, permits, making reservations, transportation, contact numbers, and the history of Golden Gate Park.

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Buffalo & Bison in Golden Gate Park

Although the name of this popular Golden Gate Park attraction suggests you will encounter a gang of buffalo, you will actually have the pleasure of viewing the behavioural patterns of the American bison. Located next to Spreckels Lake, pieces of history lumber across an enclosed field of green. Since the 1890s, the bison has become a treasured tradition about the park, serving as a remembrance of the illustrious Wild West. Within the Golden Gate Park, the Buffalo Paddock is situated off of John F. Kennedy Drive in the north/west corner of the park. Heading between 41st Ave and Sunset Blvd/36th Ave will bring you closer to this destination.

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California Academy of Science

Delivering the wonders of land, space, and water in an exquisitely wrapped package, the California Academy of Sciences brings the above, below, and beyond of the entire world to life. Serving as one of the largest, innovative, and most eco-friendly natural history museums in the world, this Golden Gate Park jewel glistens with the promise of prehistoric sensations, astronomical exploits, dazzling gems and minerals, and living examples of extraordinary plants and animals.

Since one of the main goals of the Academy is to explore the various realms of science and then educate the public, there are plenty of interesting exhibits to investigate. One moment you’re viewing the latest changes concerning botany, geology, or biodiversity, while the next is spent analyzing prehistoric toothed birds or coming face to face with live anacondas in the Amazonian Flooded Rainforest exhibit. Specimens from across the globe decorate the inside of the Academy of Sciences, including an impressive display of aquatic treasures.

Location: 55 Music Concourse Drive (located right between Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and JFK Drive).

Hours: Monday – Saturday (9:30am – 5pm); Sunday (11am – 5pm)

Admission Price:

Adult $29.95
Senior (ages 65 and over) $24.95
Student $24.95
Youth (ages 12-17) $24.95
Child (ages 4-11) $19.95
Ages 3 and under FREE

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The de Young Museum

When visiting the de Young Museum, one may travel to an assortment of distinct lands without having to step foot on an aeroplane. Thousands of artefacts and international talent are on display that paints a picture of worldwide proportions. Besides art and culture, there are an additional variety of elements associated with paying a visit to this stimulating Golden Gate Park attraction. A café, sculpture garden, and easy access to a Japanese tea garden are just some of the features to look forward to.

Address: The de Young Museum is located at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, which can be found within the Golden Gate Park.

Museum Hours: The museum is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday through Sunday and closes at 8:45 p.m. on Fridays.

Admission: The museum entry fee is as follows: (Adults; $10), (Seniors 65 and over; $7), and (College Students with ID; $6). There is free admission for children 13 and younger. There is also no fee charged for visiting the museum courtyard, cafe, store, sculpture garden or tower.

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Strybing Arboretum in Golden Gate Park

A carnival of colors, scents, and vibrant visions decorate the space of the San Francisco Botanical Garden (also the formerly known Strybing Arboretum). As part of the memorable Golden Gate Park, 55 acres of land stretch across San Francisco, laying out the foundation for a symphony of plants, flowers, and trees to share the roaring sound of nature with the public. A visit to this magical display of greenery consists of more than 7,500 varieties of flora from across the globe. As a result, the San Francisco Botanical Garden is the largest of its kind on the West Coast.

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Conservatory of Flowers

As you venture into one of the first buildings situated in Golden Gate Park, you will encounter the oldest remaining municipal wooden conservatory in the United States. As the first public structures of its kind in the country, the Conservatory of Flowers serves as a safe haven for thought and imagination as visitors browse about some of the most exotic-looking blooms, sometimes presenting the beauty of colorful rarities. Highly praised in the world of history, architecture, engineering, and nature, the Conservatory of Flowers has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is considered an intensely valued landmark in San Francisco.

Location: The Conservatory of Flowers can be found on JFK Drive at the Golden Gate Park.

Hours: Tuesday thru Sunday (10am – 4:30pm) with the last entry admitted at 4:00pm. Although open on major holidays, the Conservatory is closed on Mondays.

Admission:

Adults: $7.00
Seniors: $5.00
Students w/ I.D. :$5.00
Youth 12-17: $5.00
Children 5-11: $2.00
(Children under 4 are free)

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Golden Gate Park Windmills and Tulips

Located on the western section of the Golden Gate Park, two windmills reside, which at one time served a functional purpose for the city, but now stand as regal representations of their former selves. Lacking in their past lustre and respected intricate craftsmanship, the windmills are still solidified within a deep history attached to the city of San Francisco. These stately attractions were once responsible for pumping as much as 1 ½ million gallons of water on a daily basis. Today, they serve as historic gems that need a bit of polishing before shining to their highest potential.

The North and South Windmills can be found in the western section of the Golden Gate Park.

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San Francisco’s China Town

There is normally a China town in every major city. However, San Francisco’s China Town has some claims to fame. Established in 1848,it is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese enclave outside Asia. Believe it or not, China Town draws more tourists than the Golden Gate Bridge. 

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Mama’s

Now, let’s get talking about the amazing food buzz around S.F. Mama’s on Washington Square is a must for anyone visiting S.F. This cute little café has people lining up for hours, so get there early and enjoy the delightful offerings of food. Their doors first opened over 50 years ago and have been going strong ever since. Great brunch options, super friendly staff, delicious food, great prices – what more could you want? The list of items we tried is too long, but trust us when we say anything you order here is going to be ahhhmazing. The carrot cake left us wanting another slice. Don’t leave S.F without stopping by, you don’t want food regret!

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Union Square

Situated in Downtown S.F is Union Square, also known as the commercial hub. You will find like Sephora, Nordstrom Rack, Barneys, all your favourite designers, plus many many more. There is a large selection of hotels in this district too, so you won’t need to sleep on the street if your credit card can take the bashing. We took the cable cars from Fisherman’s Wharf to Union Square. Remember that the cable cars are very popular so give yourself plenty of time for this touristy commute. There are only two cable car lines (Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason) that serve Union Square. Theatre district is also within the surrounding district, so after shopping, go back to the hotel, take a nap and why not take in a show.

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If you’re thirsty for some local microbrew, there is a great place right near Union Square called Mikkeller Bar. For hop lovers our recommendation is Mastodon Mother Puncher. Inspired by the progressive metallers, the IPA features a healthy dose of passionfruit and a little “Brett.”  Not quite sure how they have added some of the band’s lead guitarists and we are not sure we want to know. For those looking for something dryer or creamier, they have a good selection Pils and a delicious Milk Stout.

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Fisherman’s Wharf

This is where we decided to stay this time around, given it was NYE we wanted somewhere close to view the fireworks. This is a very popular tourist attraction in S.F and it covers the northern waterfront area. As the name suggests, it is the home base for the fishing fleet of S.F. Sitting along the waterfront is Pier 39, home to the seals of the bay. There is much speculation on how the Sea Lions arrived, some say it is after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Now we personally could watch these guys all day, making their seal noises, jumping in the water and really just basking in the Californian sun. They will make you smile and even laugh at their noises and tomfoolery!

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It is quite hard to resist stopping at In n’ Out burger while in Fishermans Wharf.  Of course being a tourist location it is very busy during the peak hours so expect a lineup.  We like to do all things Animal style with russian sauce, cooked onions, mustard and extra cheese.  Try it with chopped chilli if you like the heat!

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Visit the Musee Mecanique for a trip back in time to play their extensive range of antique arcade games. There are loads of restaurants to choose from and I’m sure you can guess, most offer a delightful seafood affair.

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After a very exhausting day of sightseeing we ate dinner at Fog Harbour, quick service, large meals, be prepared to roll out of there!

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The Painted Ladies

Hopefully most of you have heard of these girls and know that they are the colourfully ornate Victorian style houses near Alamo Square. These houses have appeared in movies, TV shows and probably best known as appearing in the opening credits of the television series Full House. Alamo Square is an elevated park offering great vistas of the S.F surrounds.

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Haight and Ashbury

This is known as the Hippie district of San Francisco, located near Golden Gate Park. Loads of cafes to choose from, check out the street art and if you find you are feeling a little peckish make your way to Street Taco, all dishes there are made to order and don’t be surprised if you have to line up for a little bit, trust us it worth the wait. Authentic Mexican street food done right and cheap on the pocket too.

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Napa Valley Wine Region

Known as the Wine Country, Napa Valley is situated approx. an hour out of S.F and there are many tour companies that offer day trips or an overnight stay if you wish. Given we all come from Adelaide, South Australia (known as the Wine State of Australia), it is pretty hard to impress us with wine, but they did. A few months before our visit they, unfortunately, had a fire around the region, which made us think twice about going, but the best way to help a town get back on track is to visit it so that’s what we did! We spent 2 nights at the Bel Abri.

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When visiting the wineries we found most offered a tasting menu with a starting cost of $35 per person and to be honest we were not prepared for that and neither was our wallet. So we did 2 tastings one at ZD Wines and another at St Clair Brown Winery. Both had lovely wines to choose and lovely views. St Clair Brown Winery is owned by an Irish lady and guys they have beer on the menu too. Roam around their culinary garden and try the fresh produce straight from the garden. Another winery to visit if you can manage to get in is the Far Niente. They have 4 tasting menus you can select from and the gardens are immaculately landscaped.

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Also, pay a visit to the Oxbow Public Market where you are presented with a wide variety of foods, it’s a hall for food lovers really. Can be difficult to find a table to sit and eat, so consider an early dinner. We decided to eat at Gott’s Roadhouse, and the burgers…oh, my gosh the burgers were incredible! The menu has a wide selection of burgers, sandwiches and sides, but most impressively their vegetarian burger is to die for (seriously).

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Muir Woods or Armstrong Redwoods

We visited both of these and they each offered pretty much the same feeling of majestic awe. Muir woods is easier to get to from S.F, whereas the Armstrong Redwoods is less touristy (with a feeling of having it all to yourself), but you need to hire a car to get there. The size of the trees is absolutely incredible and the smell is really beautiful, aahhhh the smell of the clean fresh air, walking around looking up you realise how small you actually are (you will feel tiny!) We can’t even describe the feeling when walking through there, it takes you to another world.

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Alcatraz

Alcatraz and history go hand in hand. Once home to some of America’s most notorious criminals, the federal penitentiary that operated here from 1934 to 1963 brought a dark mystique to “The Rock”. The presence of infamous inmates, like Al “Scarface” Capone and the “Birdman” Robert Stroud, helped to establish the Island’s notoriety. Yet, many people are unaware of the historical significance before and after it was one of the world’s most legendary prisons.

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Civil War-era buildings, cannons, and subterranean rooms give insight into the 19th century when the island served as both a harbor defense fort and a military prison. As you dock at Alcatraz Island, visible reminders of the American Indian Occupation, which began in 1969 and ended in 1971, remains etched on “The Rock”, recognizing an important milestone in the American Indian rights movement.

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Today, restoration of the first lighthouse on the Pacific Coast, the historic gardens, and the recently renovated Model Industries Building shed new light on an abundance of stories still locked away. Alcatraz Cruises’ selection of tours reveal those insights directly from the legends.

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The rocky outcrop is situated approx. 2kms offshore from S.F and you can reach it in 15mins by ferry. If you are wanting to connect with San Francisco’s history Alcatraz will satisfy. But you need to get in early as tickets sell really fast.  We recommend you book online before you even arrive. If you have time we suggest you take the audio tour, there is so much information included and it really helps to provide context.

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Sausalito

Sausalito is at the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, it was known as the shipbuilding centre in World War II. It is much cooler here weather wise than S.F given the adjacency to San Francisco Bay. We walked from Sausalito, along the foreshore, up the long hill, over the Golden Gate Bridge back to the Visitor Centre. It was long hard walk (7.5km), but oh so lovely. You will find approx. 400 houseboats along the north end of the town. This spot is definitely worth visiting, just have comfortable shoes on and a jacket to keep you a little warmer.

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Dosa on Fillmore

Where do we start, the food there is exceptional and steers clear of the butter chickens’ and vindaloos’ of the world and serves up some amazing South Indian Cuisine. Vade I can’t remember what we ate here, but you have been here plenty so maybe just write a few items of deliciousness down.

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Top 5 tips for San Francisco

  1. Be Patient with public transport
  2. If you are short on time, take a bus tour
  3. Walk the Golden Gate bridge, don’t ride the bikes on offer (people will get in your way)
  4. Download the Muni app to gain access to their public transport. If you buy a 3-day pass, be mindful that it does not begin the moment you purchase, even if you buy at 2pm it actually begins at 12.01am that morning, so you lose half a day!
  5. Visit the California Academy of Sciences

  • 11

Kauai Hawaii, USA

Hawaii, oh Hawaii. Who has not dreamt of a paradise getaway?  Oahu, Kauai, Com’on you wanna lei me?

We have been fortunate enough to visit this remote part of the North Pacific previously, namely the Island of Oahu, but this time needed to be different. Whilst planning this trip, high on the list was a less developed Island where we could hike, relax and enjoy the scenery. Kauai covered all points for us and so without hesitation we booked our flights.

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Our plan included only 4 nights in Kauai and 3 nights in Honolulu (Oahu). Unfortunately, we were time-poor (and we knew this) but 1 week in paradise was better than nothing at all! We wanted to do our best to maximise the time we had. Kauai for exploring. Honolulu for shopping, beach and pool time! Hawaii is known for being one of the most beautiful spots in the world and with that comes the high price, it can be done on a budget you just need to prepare and research before going.

WANT TO FOLLOW IN OUR FOOTSTEPS?        CHECK OUT DEALS ON LIVINGSOCIAL.COM

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Kauai’s weather is generally always moderate and warm. Known as the Garden Island, Kauai is beautifully lush and green, an enviable tropical paradise. Both Jurassic Park and King Kong were filmed here and once you visit you will know why. Therefore, if you are a hiker, beach goer or a foodie you can cover all bases here. The North Shore has some beautiful hikes, you can kayak the Waimea River or surf the world-renowned break at Hanalei, there is no better escape than Kauai.

Coming into Kauai the view was stunning, the water so vibrantly blue and the mountainous backdrop provided just that something extra special. We were in for a real treat – had we planned enough though? We opted to stay in Poipu, in the south of Kauai after reading great reviews. Off the plane, in the hire car and away we went, our road trip had begun in yet another beautiful place (oh so fortunate us!). It had been a very lengthy trip thus far, with the transit through Honolulu, so we headed straight to Koloa Landing Resort to check-in and refresh. We chose this hotel as it had been recently refurbished and the pool area looked amazing (including a waterslide for kids). On a side note, unfortunately for us the bed was excessively soft (albeit a brand new mattress) and we ended up pulling out the sofa bed mattress and placing it on the floor! So there we slept, like camping in a glamorous room, for the next 4 nights. The hotel did allow us to sample three other rooms’ beds, but they were just the same. We had our little rest and jumped back in the car to check out some of the sights and sounds of Kauai.

Spouting Horn is located on the South Shore and is one of the most photographed spots on the Island. There is a powerful energy that captivates you, as the spout of water has been known to reach as high as 50 feet into the air! A Hawaiian Legend stems from the hiss and roar that is released with each burst. The sea was somewhat calm when we were there, giving us an ample 15-20 feet and more of a gentle growl than a roar. From December to May, you may be able to see some Humpback Whales from the lookout if you are lucky (not us this time around). There is ample parking but watch out for the free roaming Kauai chickens and roosters! They are scattered all over the Island and are a tourist draw card also (especially the fluffy youngsters). You will see plenty of souvenirs that glorify the chicken as an unofficial mascot of the island! Although they are wild, they are in fact descendants of the original Moa brought by the first visitors hundreds of years ago. In addition, this is a spectacular spot to stay for the sunset, trust us you will not be disappointed.

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It was nearing sunset time and, as we made our way to Spouting Horn, we spotted the Beach House Restaurant. We decided this could be a great place to have a cocktail and watch the sunset. After we finished with ‘the Horn’ and ‘the Chickens’, we decided to try our luck and see if we could get a table. If not, we would simply stand on the grassy banks and admire natures goodnight kisses from there. Surprisingly enough we managed to score a table! Upon viewing the menu, we were nothing short of some mouth-watering choices that made it difficult to decide (hrmmm…whose problem you ask?) Our waiter came past rather quickly and was very helpful in explaining all the dishes, the types of fish, flavours and textures. Maybe this made it even harder to choose? However, it was an easy choice for cocktails we sat back and enjoyed the silhouettes of the palm trees framed by the golden sunset glow. Hawaiian sunsets are absolutely spectacular and easily some our favourites. Our dinner arrived and it looked amazing, from the presentation, taste and the service neither of us could complain. A great find and we would suggest you make a reservation around sunset time and request a table near the windows.

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Waking up to a bright new morning it seemed the refreshing turquoise of the pool was calling us (or was that just in our heads?) Moosh went out for a jog along the beach first and then hit the pool. Needing some man-sleep, FT was a little slow getting up and about. Eventually joining in for some relaxing pool time and even awaking his inner child and getting in a few runs on the water slide! (Of course after checking with the attendant that it was OK for a 6’2” 108kg Dude). We can generally handle around 3 hours of pool time, at which point we feel the need to get out and explore. So that is what we did, we had to explore this beautiful island.

Ordered logistically to suit the few days we had, below is a brief rundown on what we did, what we saw and what we enjoyed. As the saying goes, a picture says a thousand words. So read below, but definitely take the time on the interwebs to research for yourself an itinerary that suits you best.

 

Day 1 – South > North Coast

Koloa Old Town / Koloa Fish Market – Head down for a leisurely wonder around, and make you way to the Koloa Fish Market for some fresh, delicious (and delightful) takeaway.

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Poipu Beach Park – We sat on the grassed area eating our Koloa Fish Market takeaway whilst soaking in the sun and the picturesque view. This Beach is most famous for the Hawaiian monk seals that cheekily sunbathe on the shore. They are endangered with only about 1,200 remaining and many swim in the waters of Kauai (large Honu or Hawaiian green sea turtles also grace these waters). Please, please, do not be an Instagram muppet and try getting too close to the Monk Seals. Always stay behind barricades and signs or at least 150-feet when in an unmarked area and never feed the seals (in fact never feed any wild animals for that matter, you will be doing them more harm than good!)

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Kilaueu Lighthouse – A trip to Kauai is not complete without seeing the Kilauea lighthouse. Who does not love a lighthouse view? You get a wonderful view of the rugged coastline and the beautiful spectrum of turquoise and deep blue water.

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Hanalei Valley lookout – A breath-taking vista that takes in the Hanalei River, distant mountains and the many a colourful taro field (greens, browns and even blues, when the sky reflects off the watered fields). Although the fields are man-made, it really gives you a feeling of Mother Nature’s patchwork quilt.

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Queens Bath (near Kamamalu Loop) – Note that there is not a lot of parking as it is in a neighbourhood, so be prepared to wait for a park. Although we had seen photos of the Queens Bath, we really did not know what to expect from the trail that leads there (should’ve researched better you say?). Be sure to bring some closed toe shoes! The path down is a little treacherous. There are some steps but mainly a dirt path that can be quite muddy and slippery but the exposed tree roots help you along as ‘Natures steps’. Heed the signs! There have been 28 ‘swept away’ deaths that have occurred there. Take some photos, enjoy the view, but keep away from the edges.

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Hanalei Bay – Hanalei Town and its buildings are quaint throwback to years gone by, boasting many colourful shops and eateries. Of course let’s not forget that some of the best beaches are nearby, including Lumahai Beach and if you are looking to sunbake the day away your choice should definitely be Kee Beach.

 

Day 2 – South > East Coast

Mahaulepu Heritage Trail (starting at Shipwreck Beach, Ainakoa Street) – After the previous day driving around, we needed to get our sneakers on and go for a hike…and a hike we did. The Mahaulepu Coastal Trail is a significant part of the history of Kauai and it is the last stretch of coastline that has not yet been developed. They are trying their best to keep it that way, so let’s keep hoping that it stays undeveloped and pristine for us to all enjoy. This hike takes you from Shipwreck beach to Keonela Bay. Walking along the sand dunes you will see some rocky inlets, inspiring coastline and hear the roar of the ocean. Oh, and if you are lucky enough you will see some sea turtles or the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal.

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Wailua Falls – The larger of the two falls, Wailua does not disappoint. The waterfall splits off into two, making for a great selfie shot with the duo of white water ribbons in the background.

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Opaeka’a Falls – Although a distant waterfall, the overall vista and the surrounding greenery really make this a stunning place to stop for a look-see. There are plenty of Kauai chickens running around that add character to this place!

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Keahua Arboretum – The Rainbow Eucalyptus trees are a sight to behold. Standing tall and proud in their colourful ‘jumpsuits’ they really are like nothing you have seen before. Take a hike if you have the time and immerse yourself amongst nature. She is a beauty!

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Hamura Saimin, Lihue – A local cultural institution. Cheap and delicious noodles. Some love it, some don’t. We did.

Dinner that night we went to Tortilla Republic. It seems every time we go to the States we always have a hankering for Mexican. We ordered a feast, shared some Margaritas, enjoyed the sunset and finished off with a stroll and some ice-cream. So far Kauai had been nothing short of amazing!

 

Day 3 – South > West Coast

Makauwahi Cave Reserve – This sinkhole is considered to be one of the richest fossil sites in the Pacific. A lovely man by the name of Dr David Burney, whom is a paleoecologist, manages the site and is incredibly passionate and the story he tells is worth a listen. In this sinkhole and Cave you will find so much history, the pollen of extinct plants and stories of the flightless duck. The tour Dr Burney offers is free (donations appreciated) and he is there 4 days a week and would love to share his knowledge with each and every one of you! Nearby, Dr Burney will tell you to take a turn off on your way back and visit the Tortoise Refugee area. By now if you know us, anything involving animals we are in for! (Well…as long as it doesn’t involve harming them!). There are two ways of getting there, both via dirt roads after the Golf Course. We found the dirt road suitable for standard cars as long as it has not been raining heavily (although the car hire company might say otherwise! Just drive slowly). In saying that, we took the road towards Punahoa Point and turned left at the fork in the road at the CJM Country Stables sign (based on Forum reviews and despite what the website shows). Drove towards the coast as far as the road would let us and took the Makauwahi Cave Trail. If you don’t want the gentle hike, take the road towards the Lida’s Field of Dreams route and that is where the official carpark is.

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The Na Pali Coast – Consisting of a 17-mile stretch of coastline and is lined with cliffs up to 3,000-foot tall, highlighted with waterfalls and green valleys and the sea caves. The Sea Caves are inaccessible by car, so have your hiking shoes and enjoy the natural wonder. This coastline is what Kauai is best known for and once you see it, you will understand why. We did not want to leave and we guarantee you will not want to either!

Waimea Canyon lookout (Alt. 3400ft) / Kalalau lookout (Alt. 4000ft) / Pu’u O Kila lookout (Alt. 4000ft) – Waimea Canyon, also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The drive here is beautiful (albeit winding wet roads), our only wish was that we drove up to the top first and stopped at the lookout points on the way back down. It was so foggy and misty by the time we got up to the top, we did not have any visibility of the awe-inspiring vista. There were a couple spots along the road back down where we managed to stop and get a reverse view of the canyon. So do yourself a favour and check the weather forecasts, perhaps plan the rest of your ‘vacay’ around this outing? Or, time permitting, there could be the possible necessity of two trips to get that clear day, as the weather can be unpredictable at these altitudes. Take a jacket!

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Pu’u Hinahina viewpoint (Alt. 3640ft) – We missed out on this hike also, due to the weather turning on us. WE MUST COME BACK!!

Kauai Coffee Plantation – Take a walk through their coffee orchard and of course sample their exclusive Hawaiian Grown coffees (more than a few dozen on offer!). We did not have time, but you can opt in for a free guided walking tour where you will learn how they grow and harvest their coffee.

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By the time we got back to the hotel it was quite late so we decided to eat in, taking some advice and grabbing a couple Poke bowls from Makai Sushi. It is located inside Kukuiula Market at 2827 Poipu Rd, Koloa (not at #2728 as per their website). Honestly, we could not go past the Gorilla Ahi bowls and they were super delicious, fresh and presented great value for money.

 

On a side note; the only thing that disappointed us about Hawaii is that, due to the volume of seafood that is consumed on the Island, some of the fish is caught by fishing trawlers (as highlighted in a menu we saw) and unfortunately this is not a sustainable way at all. I suppose with the small Island feel, you would like to think that the Old Fella’s down at the docks have caught the fish in their small boats. Perhaps it has been, perhaps not. This in no way reflects the entire way of the Island, just an experience we had.

We look forward to coming back here again (one day, hopefully) and exploring more of what this beautiful Island has to offer!

 

 


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Seattle Skyline

Seattle, USA


A full post on our adventures in Seattle

COMING SOON!


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Vancouver, Canada

COMING SOON!


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NYC Skyline

New York City, USA

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Read our suggested travel itinerary here

(Our First Trip to New York City Together, There have been Several)

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to New York City!”

Sweet words that no one will ever get tired of hearing. Even though Moosh and FT had been to New York City before, the excitement was exponential as this time around would be very different. Four Friends different. Heading towards Manhattan we took in the skyscrapers, city lights, yellow cabs, the people – what a sensory overload! The city has an immense buzz, an infectious buzz….and we had not even gotten out of the cab yet!

So there we were, four little ants, immersed in the Big Apple and bursting at the seams with excitement! Most people aspire to have the Manhattan experience, as New York City is one of those places that dreams are made of. We had not considered any areas other than Times Square for our Hotel. At the time, we wanted to be ‘right in the thick of it’. Unfortunately, our hotel was average, but it was affordable to us at the time, so we took it in our stride and were determined to make the most of the situation. After all…..helloooooo…..we were in one of the most loved cities in the world. Picture Times Square, famous for basically everything.

We walked around admiring the giant screens, the bright lights, the never ending crowds – Times Square exemplifies the excitement of the City that never sleeps. Fair to say we were living the dream in NYC and couldn’t believe we were all there, together. Options for dinner were plentiful but we thought, “…when in Rome!” and on that decided TGIF was a good idea….or so we thought. Little did we know it was an appalling idea. Almost half of the menu items were no longer available, the poor waiter was so embarrassed having to continually check with the kitchen what was. Taken aback, Moosh ordered a soup that was (oh dear) equivalent to something from a tin can. How do businesses stay afloat with the mentality that canned soup is OK? With that dismal meal behind us we made our way back to the hotel. Time for rest and to prepare ourselves for a full day of sightseeing.

We woke up to a beautiful morning – first stop, Timmy Horton’s for some much-needed coffee and breakfast that satisfied the mind, body and wallet. Our feet hit the pavement and away we went, the Four Friends making their way through the streets of New York City. It proved quite the challenge for FT to look up at the surrounding skyscrapers whilst watching where he was walking, failing on numerous occasions. “Stupid tourists,” we would mockingly say to each other. Given it was Easter break, the city was somewhat quiet south of Midtown.

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We weren’t really heading anywhere in particular, just cruizin’ and admiring the streets of New York. In the Lower East Side we made an effort to stop in at Katz’s Deli for “The World’s best Pastrami Sandwich”. The sandwiches were big, but the line was bigger! We needed to eat there, it’s an institution. We surveyed the menu whilst keeping an eagle eye for nearly empty plates and ultimately a table, ready to pounce for the next available. As we all sat down and began to eat the next words spoken were, “Oh my God!” and “Oh my God!” and… (you get the idea!) Katz’s had definitely delivered with the Best! We savoured every single mouthful, again and again. Comically, the staff t-shirts read, “Send a salami to your boy in the Army”.

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Venturing onwards there was a zany store, aptly named Obscura Antiques and Oddities, that the Vades had seen on TV and were keen to check out. Before even entering, it was evident that the store would live up to its name. Quirky and fun for a look see. It was obscure, no doubt, and if ever there was a place that Chucky would come to life that would be it!! The best way to see New York City is to walk, walk and then walk some more. Slowly we made our way past some landmark buildings and structures;

 Flatiron building, a quintessential symbol of an extraordinary city

 Grand Central Terminal, one of the most iconic buildings in New York City and one of the busiest train stations in the USA

 Chrysler building, the tallest brick building in the World and one of the most architecturally stunning buildings for it’s time. Ahhhh, when the sun catches the Art Deco top it is a sight to behold.

 Brooklyn Bridge, speaks for itself….a testament to the engineering of the 1880’s.

Foot spa anyone?? By the time we made it back to the hotel we had walked 16.5kms through the concrete jungle. Time to let the hair down, grab a ‘cold one’ and watch some sports! That night – local bar, NBA and NHL playoffs. Unfortunately, the Knicks lost by 1 point and the Canucks lost also. For a moment or three it was a sad night for us all, but then again the Wings were hot and the Beer was cold….so really, we were still winning! As a new day presented itself, we start crossing off; (take a deep breath now…..)

Rockefeller Centre, Fifth Avenue, FAO Schwarz, Central Park (row boats are so much fun….who knew), M&M world, Guggenheim Museum, Broadway, Wall Street (Vades had some photo fun with the Bull statue), Ground Zero, Battery Park, Ghostbusters Fire House, Cosby Steps, Friends Apartment block and some New York City Hot dogs. Time then to visit the NBA store (3 years waiting) but we were devastated….”closed due to relocation,” the sign read! If you’ve ever been you’ll understand the total coolness of the life size LEGO players and bobble heads!

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Carnegie Deli, famous for Cheesecake and The ‘Melo’ sandwich, delightfully flavoursome oversized food! Have fun with the pickle….if you go, you’ll know what I mean.

Brick Lane Curry House, famous for the Phaal, hottest Curry in America. Thanks to Man vs. Food, this was a must for Vades. He is after all just crazy enough to eat something that would put mere mortals in hospital. Verbal Waiver….fair enough….holy crap what was he in for? Refer Food Reviews for the Brick Lane delights. Brick Lane Curry House – Phaal waiver, “An excruciatingly hot curry, more pain and sweat than flavour! For our customers who do this on a dare, we will require you to state a verbal disclaimer not holding us liable for any physical or emotional damage…….” When this curry is made the chef uses an industrial gas mask as the aromas while cooking this are stupidly potent. As Vade stopped half way through for a breather, he continued to battle the Phaal Curry and he conquered it. Although to this day he states that he is not the same man he was before that night.  We are not sure if that is a good thing or bad, but it certainly means the experience was memorable.

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We realised there was still so much more to see. There was not enough time and we faced up to the simple realisation….we need to go back. For the final leg we were heading our separate ways and as we got ready to say, “See ya later,” to one another, we knew this was not the end. It was simply the beginning of Four Friends One World adventures. Well, New York City, we made a dent in you but we were left wanting more. So more we will have….next time. For now, the memories will last a life time and until we meet again…..

TIPS for New York City

Statue of Liberty can be seen when you take the Staten Island Ferry – stand on the Northern side to get the best view

Check out the New York City High Line Park

Purchase a sunrise/Sunset ticket for the Top of the Rock Observation Deck and Rockefeller Centre tour at same desk

Travelling North means you are heading “Uptown” and traveling south means you are heading “Downtown”

Is your phone flat from uploading pics to Instagram?  Head to Union Square and go to Best Buy and pop your phone in a demo iPhone dock

Most Bars will have happy hour between 6-7pm

Give the first Shake Shack a try – located Madison Square Park

New York City is a very walkable city

Taxi Cabs: 15% of fare.

Coat Check: At least one dollar per bag.

Bellhop: at least one dollar per bag.

Waiters, Waitresses and Bartenders: 15%- 20% of the bill, based on the service


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Chicago, USA

Read our suggested travel itinerary here

“Cabin Crew prepare the cabin for landing.”  These are exciting words we will never get tired of hearing. Words confirming we have arrived safe and sound, but more importantly announcing that another adventure awaits. Chicago we have arrived!

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Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel.  Check-in complete.  Nothing unusual, until Moosh and FT were given a note from behind the desk.  “Welcome to Chicago, Hope your stay is full of fun and surprises why not start now by joining us for a drink in the bar. Love The Captain and Tennille.”

It didn’t take long to figure out from whom this kind invite came and after a quick freshen up the elevator headed down to an awaiting Captain and Tennille.  There they were, Vade and Sherri with beers in hand, surprising us 2 days early in Chicago (not NYC as planned!!).  It felt like long lost lovers reunited, we gave each other enormous hugs and started “catching up”.

And so the journey of the Four Friends One World Begins.

 

Now surprisingly Moosh and FT did not actually have much planned for Chicago just the usual touristy things, with number one being the Michael Jordan statue that stands majestically outside the United Centre.

Chicago Moosh and Mike

SO THE FIRST FOUR FRIENDS ONE WORLD TOUR BEGINS WITH CHICAGO

We had a quick chat about the non-plans of Moosh and FT, but first things first we needed to decide what to do for dinner.  The Vades had heard about Gino’s East deep dish pizzas from Adam Richman on Man v. Food, a TV show like no other.  Problem solved.  But apparently there is always a massive line up.  New problem.  After a chat to the Concierge about Gino’s he handed us a ‘quick pass’ to get in without lining up, celebrity style.  Problem solved, and solved indeed – because there was a line up, a big one! We had no idea what was in store for us, the delightful smell and atmosphere suggested great things.  Gino’s was already exuding awesomeness and we had literally just been seated, surrounded by the approving scribbles of celebrities and fellow diners all over the walls, tables, in fact on everything…..except the staff (although maybe it’s not out of the question if the Tip is large enough?)  Our waiter was exceptional and helped us Newbies choose the best pizzas.  As we drank beer and chatted about what to do in Chicago (we didn’t have much time) our ‘Pizza Pies’ arrived and they looked and smelt incredible.  As any respectable tourist would do we took photos of us all eating, what is still to this day, the best pizza we have ever had.  Thank you, Adam Richman for guiding us to Gino’s East. Before heading off to the sack we took in “one for the road” at a Jazz club not far from the hotel.

The excitement of waking up in a strange city will never get old.  With the day somewhat planned we set off to explore the Windy City, visiting all the usual touristy spots.

  • Buckingham Fountain – one of the largest fountains in the world
  • Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) – its reflective surface provided great fun taking pics of an ever changing warped skyline and of our warped selves!
  • Navy Pier – plenty to see and do, has a great view back of the Chicago Skyline
  • Willis Tower – Skydeck 103rd Floor, whilst 3 of us were standing on the glass balcony Vade thought it a funny idea to take a running jump and thump himself onto the balcony! We gasped in sheer horror whilst Vade laughed (as did many of the people watching), knowing it was more than safe to do so!  
  • The ‘L’ (Elevated Train) – as seen in many movie car chase scenes…..Blues Brothers, anyone?

With a full day of sightseeing done, it was time to spitball ideas on what to do that night. Whilst taking a well-earnt seat in the hotel lobby Vade mentioned that the Stanley Cup Playoffs were in town.  After searching for available tickets it was unanimous – Ice Hockey, Quarterfinals, Chicago Blackhawks v. Vancouver Canucks.  Vade and Sherri – Canucks fans, in for a treat.  Moosh and FT – ice hockey virgins, not sure what to expect.  The atmosphere was intense (….in fact intense is almost an understated word), the Americans sure know how to support their teams with passion!  We loved every second of this experience and the Canucks won that game to our excitement, but admittedly we sat there in quiet obscurity – not wanting to rattle anyone of the 20,000 or so Blackhawks fans (#self-preservation).

With only half a day left we took in the sights of Lincoln Park and briefly strolled through the city for a little more look-see.  Chicago amazed us and we wished for more time, but we made the most of what time was available – we will definitely be visiting again……one day.

 

Airport, onward – NYC.

Stay tuned for the NYC adventures of Four Friends One World, but first, check our Sample Itinerary for Chicago.

 

TIPS for Chicago

Give this Windy city a good 3-4 days to really enjoy all it has to offer

Bring warm clothes, it is the windy city after all

United Center if you are a fan of NBA

Wrigley Field if you are a fan baseball

If you love Architecture this city has it with one of the world’s best skylines

Lincoln Park – visit the Lincoln Park zoo and see how the Conservation & Science Department is dedicated to improving animal management and wildlife conservation

Best time to visit – between May and October

Get around using the ‘L’ Train


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