by Rachel Horsting
9 weeks in the USA, what a tip of a lifetime. I started in Los Angeles and joined my first Contiki where I travelled in a loop via San Diego, Phoenix, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Bass Lake and San Francisco, ending back in Los Angeles. This 2 week tour was incredible! I made lifelong friends and saw some amazing cities. One thing that I will always remember about this tour was getting up for the sunrise at the Grand Canyon and walking through the live Elk. That view was worth getting up so early for! We did many activities from riding mechanical bulls in Phoenix to hiking through Yosemite National Park, from Hot Air Ballooning to Jet Boat Rides (pictured), from 4WDing to getting VIP in Las Vegas and so much more.
I then continued onto Disneyland in Anaheim to relive my childhood. I stayed at a beautiful boutique hotel only 5 minutes walk from the main entrance to Disney so there was no hassle needing to get a taxi or bus. Over two days I was like a child is a candy store, riding all the rides, playing all the games and getting photos with all the characters. I then continued through to Albuquerque to take in the amazing views of the ‘Balloon Fiesta’, where hundreds of hot air balloons take off at sunrise and through the day. This is one incredible view that you just have to see to believe (pictured). From there I flew up to Chicago, known as the Windy City, and it truly took my breathe away. Here i took as Segway tour to explore the city and it’s beautiful sites. Chicago is my favourite city from the entire trip! From Chicago I took a day trip to Niagara Falls, where I took a ride on the maid of the mist and walked through the main street which was very lively with entertainment, museums, restaurants and more. Wanting to get my groove on I took the Amtrak train down to Memphis to stay at Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel and joined the VIP tour of Graceland. The experience of getting onto Elvis Presley’s aircraft was one I will never forget. The VIP tour is the best way to go when visiting Graceland’s as you skip the line and you get access to ALL areas! Memphis centre was very lively with lots of music, bars, street entertainment and more. At night the main street was closed off to traffic and this is when everything came to life and is a must see.
From Memphis I then took the Amtrak train down to New Orleans where I started my second Contiki Tour. This tour was also 2 weeks long and travelled from New Orleans to New York via Panama City Beach, Orlando, Miami, Cocoa Beach, St. Augustine, Savannah (haunted city), Raleigh and Washington D.C. Again I made lifelong friendships on this tour and did many activities that I will never forget like visiting Universal Studios, Riding bicycles in Miami, visiting Kennedy Space Centre, touring one of the most haunted houses in Savannah, visiting many museums in Washington, touring the White House gardens and much more! If you didn’t enjoy your time you were doing something wrong. At this point I was only about two thirds of the way through my trip and I have already seen so much!
Staying in New York for several days I visited the ‘Top of the Rock’, Central Park, Times Square, the memorial of 9/11 and everything in between. I of course went to a theatre production, at the time Lion Kind was showing and this was absolutely amazing.
The last two weeks of my 9 week journey was now ahead of me and was just as great as the prior 7 weeks I had just experienced. 1 of the last 2 weeks I spent onboard the Carnival Splendor cruise to the Bahamas. I had a balcony cabin on deck 6 mid-ship, this was the best thing as we did run into some bad weather and being located where we were we had the pivot point of the ship where the least amount of movement was felt. This however didn’t affect the great experience I still had onboard and on shore. There was great entertainment onboard, the food was excellent and the staff were fantastic. After the cruise my last week was spent in Hawaii. I split this week between Maui and Oahu. Maui was very small but was exactly how I dreamed of typical ‘Hawaii’. What a perfect way to end my holiday on the beach at a Luau watching the sunset. So if you’re thinking of going to America come and have a chat with me at the office