LA to the Bay (Winter) » Review by William Gillard
Before we even started the tour, out tour manager Adri established herself as our hilarious guide through the best the US west coast has to offer. We quickly realised that she knew what she was talking about, and had done this tour enough times to know every funny aspect you could imagine.
We started off in LA but quickly headed off the San Diego, where the beachy lifestyle and laid back atmosphere was an instant hit with everyone on the tour. The nightlife and parties beckoned many on the tour, and for the under 21's, new ways to have fun needed to be found. Having grown accustomed to 18 being the drinking and gambling age, there were aspect that were not enjoyed by myself and a few other people. However, this sometimes worked to our advantage. On our second day, we had the choice of the zoo or Sea World, and from past visits to San Diego, I knew that the zoo was the place to go. The price, as well as the choice of things to do made it the clear winner in my head, and clearly many others as well, seeing as the majority of the group went there that day. The accommodation was fine, nothing fancy, but we were told that money had been diverted from our San Diego accommodation to improve Vegas' hotel.
From San Diego we headed straight to Phoenix, Arizona, and further still to the very well off neighbourhood of Scottsdale. Our accommodation here was next to a very big and very fancy mall, where a few of us made sure we had everything we needed for Vegas. Our dinner that night was not included but we all went and had a fantastic time, drinking, eating delicious ribs and 3-foot cotton candy.
The next day we were off to do the optional hot air ballooning ride, but after an hour-and-a-half wait in the van, we were told that the wind was too strong and that if we went, we would be dragged headfirst through plenty of cacti... not an optional we were willing to pay for! Disappointed, we headed back and ate a quick breakfast before we headed off to Sedona and ultimately the Grand Canyon. Sedona was beautiful, and the Jeep tours were excellently done by our very friendly tour guides. After they had finished, we got back on the bus and continued to the Grand Canyon! We were very luck as it had snowed pretty well the couple of days before we got there so the whole north rim was beautifully covered with a layer of snow.
The next day, we headed off to the helicopter tours which were breathtaking and a little scary for some. After this, Adri reminded us that the Super Bowl was on, which drew in almost our entire group the pizza pub at the lodge. Everyone enjoyed seeing a piece of an institutionalised American pastime. Adri was going for the Giants, which meant that most of the group were as well, however, we did have a few disappointed Patriots fans that were on the edge of their seats until the very end.
The tour continued to Vegas where we were put up in the very nice Harrah’s hotel and casino, one of the original brands on the new strip. Our city tour took place at night which allowed us to see the full glitz and beauty of Vegas. After our included dinner, the group went clubbing. The club they went to was having its anniversary and they had invited celebrities and had Skrillex DJ-ing. This news was monumental for a few of the tours members. The under 21's went sightseeing and were able to see parts of the strip that many of the other tour members wouldn’t get to.
Our second day in Vegas had us doing whatever we liked. A few of us went to the outlets and bought plenty of really cheap items from our favourite stores. Then we went on the rollercoaster at New York, New York which was great. We went out to dinner and saw the variety show that was an optional, it was very enjoyable. The best part of the night though was the stretch Hummers that took us around the strip, filled with cartons of champagne. This was the greatest way to view the city and the strip.
The next day we had plenty of hung-over people, and also had our longest drive to Tahoe. Whilst the ride was pretty uneventful some of the scenery as we got into Tahoe was spectacular.
Tahoe was by far one of the best stops, because it’s like every mountain, skiing village that you see in movies and magazines. It didn’t really snow while we were there but there was plenty to do as well. I didn’t go skiing on the first day, but was told it was very fun if not a little painful. On the second day, we went snowmobiling, which was fantastic. The day finished with a relaxing coffee at the Starbucks in the hotel lobby.
The next day was the trip to San Francisco, which is a pretty short journey, compared to the others. Having been born in San Francisco and living there for eight years, I was really looking forward to showing my new friends all the best parts that only the natives knew about. We went to a restaurant called Brandy Ho’s for lunch on the second day, which I wholly recommend to anyone. If you do go, have the deep-fried wontons. This was the final day for my tour, so a few goodbyes were said as most of the group went for their visit to Alcatraz.
All in all, this was one of the best experiences of my life as it not only showed me the areas of the west coast that I had missed out on, but it allowed me to meet new people as well.
I would like to thank Adri our Tour Manager for an unforgettable experience, Adrian our coach driver for a fantastic ride and funny stories at breakfast and dinner, and to all of the people on the tour, who made it fantastic :)
Review written Feb 2012event 0.3