Day 1 Los Angeles
This was an unexpectedly impressive tour. At the same time, this was my second trip to this destination. But when I first did this tour, 25 years ago, I was much younger, and I didn’t pay attention to the trip itself. It was more important to me to hang out. But what I remember very well is that even then I was absolutely impressed and that I absolutely wanted to go back and do this tour again.
This time it was different. First of all, on my first tour to this part of the world, I traveled more modestly. We camped, pitched tents on our own, cooked on our own. Now I was going on an organized high category trip. We were always located in the center of events and we visited everything very well and in detail.
The journey began in Los Angeles. Through Arizona and Canyon City, Utah, Las Vegas, national parks, we ended the tour in San Francisco. On this journey, I experienced that real, primordial, authentic America. I could exactly imagine myself in Wild West movies, where cowboys and Indians gallop on horseback. After all, many Wild West movies have been shot here.
But let’s go in order. The flight took me on an unusual route, and an even more unusual airline – Air New Zealand! Namely, as I was traveling on an award ticket based on air miles, I could choose any company from the Star Alliance group. The flight took me to London via Munich on Lufthansa, and then to Los Angeles on Air New Zealand.
I was absolutely thrilled with this combination, which I came up with myself. Fortunately on time, because just a year later Air New Zealand canceled this line. So flying with this company I experienced a bit of Anglo-Saxon atmosphere from New Zealand.
The flight went extremely comfortably, the cabin crew impeccable. As it is a day flight, and then lands in America due to the time difference that same day, I couldn’t sleep. I spent time watching movies, having meals, coffee. The time of 10 hours flew by really fast. Upon landing in Los Angeles, there were large crowds for passport control. But when it was my turn, the officer just punched the stamp in my passport and shouted “next” to the next in line.
At U.S. airports in general, not just Los Angeles, shuttle buses are used to transport you to your destination. Namely, public city transportation in American cities, with some exceptions (for example New York or Chicago) is weak or non-existent. After leaving the airport, it was already 10 pm. I took the shuttle bus and came to my hotel in the Los Angeles district of Anaheim. I was staying at the Holiday Inn Anaheim.
Upon arriving at the hotel, I received the materials. An entire folder of materials related to the tour that starts in the morning. They are really well organized. We got detailed programs, maps, information, everything
By the way, the famous Disneyland is located here, so there are a lot of hotels here. I arrived at the hotel just before midnight. For dinner, I ate a couple of sandwiches I bought at Los Angeles Airport. I fell asleep instantly. At 8 o’clock in the morning we were leaving, I got up a little before departure, enough to drink a big black coffee. I really like that all hotels in America, almost without exception, have a coffee maker and coffee in rooms.
Day 2 Los Angeles – Palm Springs – Phoenix
I woke up after a very comfortable night and well-slept, and the day was to be desired. Real California! Even though it’s only mid-March, it can be comfortable in short sleeves. Upon arriving on the bus, I met our guide and was given a spot next to Kathrin, a girl from Germany, with whom I will hang out intensely for the next ten days. In fact, she and a young married couple from Germany, Daniel, and Jacqueline, were my main company.
We set off, the tour began. The first destination was Palm Springs. A city in the middle of the desert, in the middle of nowhere, but yet very popular in America. Lots of hotels, golf courses, and other leisure activities, this city is a real magnet for Hollywood actresses and actors. And it is the real California, too! Really, I mean it really feels like you’re in California! We had a break in Palm Springs, for lunch, a walk, coffee. I went to Starbucks with Kathrin, and every time we had a break, I would use the opportunity to go to Starbucks. I know many don’t like this coffee chain, but sorry folks, I really like it.
After a long break in Palm Springs, we headed to our destination that day: Phoenix, the capital of the state of Arizona. Better said, the surroundings of Phoenix. We head towards Arizona, passing through Indio and through the Coachella Valley known for its wild parties. Our hotel is We-Ko-Pa, and is located in an Indian reservation.
In the morning when I woke up in this typical Arizona scenery that I had only seen in cowboy movies until then, I couldn’t help but go and take a walk through the cacti. I got up at 6 am without any problem due to jetlag. The most important thing for me was to have a coffee machine and lots of black coffee.
This hotel is also a casino. Because even though we are not in Nevada, but in Arizona where gambling is not allowed, Native Americans are allowed to have casinos in their hotels, in the reservations. And here we are on Indian soil. There are a lot of Indian tribes in America, but today the “Indian” is first of all called “native American” and the “tribe” is called “nation”. We are now in the Yavapai Indian area.
It was absolutely surreal to me that we stayed on Indian lands and there were Native Americans everywhere, who also speak their own languages. Our guides were Native Americans, as well as hotel employees, local McDonald’s employees. It’s unreal. I saw here how important it is to travel. Namely, I really had this prejudice instilled in me by the biased media and the biased point of view that the Americans exterminated the Indians. It’s not true.
Day 3 Phoenix – Sedona – Route 66 – Grand Canyon
I woke up at 6 in the morning, drank a big black coffee, walked around the hotel full of cacti, and soaked up these unreal landscapes. These landscapes are literally like in cowboy movies!
Today we will visit three remarkable places in America: the city of Sedona, route 66, and the Grand Canyon National Park. Driving through Arizona, we soak up the landscapes, everything is somehow red. And when we come to the city of Sedona, everything shines red. There are no clouds in Arizona, the weather is always great. That’s why many senior Americans from the north choose to move to Arizona when they retire. In Sedona, too. The air is extremely clean and clear, perfect for taking pictures.
But it’s hard to catch all the shades of red in Sedona. Today, Sedona is a small town in Arizona that is very much loved by artistically minded souls as well as those looking for “that something”. That is why everywhere in Sedona there are art galleries and similar shops, but also many studios for Yoga and other types of meditative skills. The main street is beautiful and full of scenes from wild west movies.
After Sedona, we headed towards the Grand Canyon National Park, but first, we went to the town of Willams which is located on the legendary Route 66. There we stopped and had a little free time which I used to walk through the place.
Everything is in the sign of route 66 here. Souvenir shops with route 66 signs are everywhere. Restaurants are also in the typical American style, the so-called “diners”.
Grand Canyon national park
We continue towards the legendary Grand Canyon National Park. Everyone has heard of that park. As everything is big in America, so is this park, too. The size of the Grand Canyon itself, you need to be there to try to understand and experience of how big that canyon is! Some countries in Europe are smaller than the Grand Canyon!
It is almost 5000km2 big! It is 446 kilometers long, and in some places it is up to 1600 meters deep. In some places it is as wide as 29 kilometers! So as you can see the geographical numbers of this national park are impressive to say the least!
The national park is huge, but walking to the edge of the canyon you actually see only a small part of it. That edge of the canyon is arranged as a promenade. The next day as we continued our journey, we stopped at a completely different part of the national park and from there also watched the Grand Canyon. This promenade, Southern rim is the most popular part of the national park and here, in fact, more or less all visitors to the Grand Canyon come.
By the way, this is one of the most visited national parks in America and is extremely famous all over the world. In fact, few have not heard of this canyon. Due to its impressiveness, this canyon is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Today it is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
In addition to watching the canyon from the edge, you also have the option of descending to the bottom of the canyon through which the Colorado River flows. Rafting is organized on that river. Also, you can go for a helicopter ride over the canyon, it is something very attractive, but of course also expensive.
When I went to the Grand Canyon for the first time, 25 years ago, I spent the night at the campsite, where we pitched our tents ourselves. This time, however, our accommodation was next to the visitor center and very close to the canyon. We stayed at the Yavapai lodge. The name of our accommodation tells us that we are still in the Yavapai Indian area. In the evening we could walk towards the canyon and watch the sunset.
Just before the entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park, a small town with its zip code developed. It’s called Grand Canyon Village. It also has its own train station. Everything is about visitors here. There is a large supermarket, restaurant, cafe, and everything you need. Yet the Grand Canyon is one of the most visited national parks in the United States and is located in the middle of nature. This means that there are no cities anywhere nearby.
As our hotel was right there in the center of everything, I bought my dinner at the supermarket. In general, I often bought ready meals in supermarkets on this trip because they have very attractive ready meals and a very large selection of sandwiches. I always enjoy beef jerky in America.
So it was this time too, I ate a lot of dried beef. Also, whenever I’m in America I buy a lot of beef jerky to take home
I have to admit that I really felt like I was in another world when I was walking around my lodge in the evening. Everything is in nature and very little is built, but what is built is built in harmony with nature. So this lodge of mine somehow merged with nature. There is a forest all around us, and right next door is the Grand Canyon. It really was a great pleasure for me to walk around my lodge and main building in the early evening and in the evening.
Day 4 Grand Canyon – Monument Valley – Page
The Grand Canyon is 446 kilometers long, and I saw only a small part of that canyon yesterday. So in the morning as we headed towards the state of Utah we stopped at another place to observe this canyon for a while longer. It is simply impressive. In this part of the canyon where we stopped to look at it, the Colorado River is clearly visible down at the very bottom.
In keeping with its name, that river is really colored, that is, not blue. It’s brown. Colorado in translation means colored.
After that, we continued towards the state of Utah, where there are legendary landscapes from Wild West movies. Everyone has seen these landscapes found in Monument Valley. That is why this valley is called so, “the valley of monuments”. Because the rocks that stand alone on this plateau are really impressive and have an amazing view.
By the way, the state of Utah is the third of four states I will visit on this trip. We have already been to California, Arizona, now we are in Utah and Nevada is still waiting for us.
I am a very big fan of western movies as well as cowboy novels. That’s why I don’t even have to describe to you how excited I felt when I came to Monument Valley. It’s exactly the way you see it in the movies. And this little village where we waited for our guides to take us in Jeeps around the valley is all kind of cowboy-style. They even have the character of John Wayne firing a gun.
Then came our guides with whom we went on a tour of Monument Valley. There are no paved roads, everything is dirt and stones. Also, there are no buildings here. This is the land of the Native Americans, and only they can exploit the resources of this area. So our guides and drivers were Navajo Indians, the waiters at the restaurant in that place were Najavo, as well as the ladies who worked in the souvenir shop.
It really was an amazing experience to be in the company of real Indians! The Navajo, like all other Native American nations, have their own separate languages. The Navajo language is particularly interesting because it was used in World War II as communication by Americans so that enemies would not understand what it was all about. The Navajo, therefore, have their own language, but still, the Navajo Indians are Americans and therefore fluent in English.
Our Navajo guides drove us among these legendary rocks, and we would occasionally stop to go out and take pictures. It was nice to see a Native American dressed as an Indian on a horse standing alone in this landscape. He can be photographed for a tip. It wasn’t that interesting to me, but yet, all the time that I spent here I kept remembering the Wild West movies I watched.
Now that I’ve entered the third U.S. federal state on my trip, Utah, the time zone changed. The state of Utah is a different time zone than the state of Arizona. That confused me a lot that day, especially since our hotel was in Page, Arizona. The same day we were going back to another time zone. And tomorrow again back in Utah when we go to Bryce Canyon. The clock on my cell phone was totally mixed up and I could no longer adjust the clock even manually.
Utah is a Mormon state, but we didn’t feel it because here in the south of Utah Navajo Indians live.
The expanses are vast, no living souls, no cities or settlements. Monument Valley is a real desert. But here you have the opportunity to have great photos. The air here is extremely clean and clear. Everyone who comes here is enchanted by these vast expanses, and in fact very few people live there. For example, the entire state of Utah has only 3 million residents, as does Nevada. And Arizona is only 7 million which is nothing compared to the size of those states.
But generally, whoever has been to the U.S. could see that everything is huge here. From burgers that are XXL, to a free refill for example at Mcdonald’s. When you buy a drink you get a cup, and then you refill it yourself as many times as you want. Roads, bridges, parking lots, cars, everything is somehow spacious in America.
After driving among the legendary rocks of Monument Valley, we returned to the state of Arizona, as our hotel was in the town of Page, Best Western Plus, on Lake Powell.
Day 5 Antilope Canyon – Lake Powel – Bryce Canyon
I got up again at 6 o’clock in the morning, but many of my fellow travelers got up much earlier. In fact, the guide teased us and asked who managed to sleep until 6 a.m. Namely, we were all from Europe, and we were all still under the European time zone. When you come to America from Europe, you get up very early for a few days. But it doesn’t matter, it is important that this hotel also had a coffee maker and a lot of black coffee 🙂
In the morning we had a trip to the famous Antelope canyon. In fact, no one had ever heard of this canyon, but everyone had seen it. This canyon has long been a very popular screensaver on computers. We are also here on Indian soil, so again our drivers and guides were Navajo Indians.
Antelope Canyon is truly impressive and we can’t take as much pictures of it as we would like. And we took a lot of pictures. What is the problem, is that it is very difficult to take good pictures of that canyon and especially to take pictures as the one that we saw on that screensaver. It is really difficult to achieve the famous images from the screensaver. Either way, I was blown away by this canyon. We went early in the morning, to experience it when the sun rises.
We continued our journey across the great Lake Powell Dam, and have already re-entered the state of Utah. It’s really interesting how when you cross the border line of two states, and the time zone changes! My watch got confused, so I always had to count what time it was.
Utah is home to one of America’s most attractive national parks: Bryce Canyon. It was our next destination. One might say that there is no point in going to see some canyon again when we just were in the Grand Canyon the day before yesterday. However, those two canyons are absolutely different. While the Grand Canyon is impressive in just about all superlatives, the Bryce Canyon is smaller, but by no means not small!
In addition to the canyon being magnificent to see, there is also a real little cowboy town here. It is interesting that until recently there was nothing here, and far and wide nowhere anyone. A lady named Ruby opened a guest house, and that guest house expanded over time. Not only in the number of rooms, but also in many facilities and buildings.
So from that guest house here arose an entire small town with its own postal code. And they named it Bryce Canyon City. Everything is about the Best Western Ruby’s Inn hotel, everything started from it. N there is also a large hall where a cowboy show program is performed, a large souvenir shop, a supermarket. And as I mentioned, the entire little cowboy town.
There was snow. It’s interesting how the day before yesterday it was hot and we were in short sleeves. Today we were freezing and snow everywhere! Especially since we’re going to Las Vegas tomorrow where we’re going short-sleeved again! The snow certainly contributed to the atmosphere during our stay in this small place at the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park.
Day 6 Bryce Canyon – Las Vegas
We woke up to a cold morning. Then we were on our way to Las Vegas.
Today we were supposed to go to another canyon national park – Zion, but unfortunately it was closed due to heavy snow. To compensate it, we went to another park located on the way to Las Vegas: the Valley of Fire. Me personally, I am really fascinated by these scenes of the American West, and they really remind me very much of the Wild West.
We continued towards Las Vegas. This city is very difficult to describe. I also remember the first time I was in Las Vegas, over twenty years ago, that I couldn’t believe my eyes what I saw. Everything is just huge, and so dazzling. Many will say kitschy, but kitsch like this I love. The city started in the desert, in the middle of nowhere. But when Nevada legalized gambling, this city that now counts population in millions, rose to its prominence.
A city of fun, a city of sin, a city of dice. Everyone loves to come to Las Vegas, and this city is a favorite city break destination for Americans. It is full of hotels, and the so-called Strip is the main street. On that main street are all the biggest, most glamorous, most popular hotels in Las Vegas. There is the Luxor Hotel, on Egyptian theme. I stayed in that hotel. Then Mandalay Bay, on the theme of Burma. Then Excalibur on the theme of a medieval castle and knights. There is also the Circus Circus on the theme of the circus, and the Treasure Island hotel on the theme of pirates. The very fancy Hotel Bellagio is in the heart of the Strip, and its theme is an Italian romantic town, and there’s Cesar’s Palace on the theme of ancient Rome.
There’s also the Venetian, on the theme of Venice with canals and gondolas! There is also the New York, New York Hotel, then the Paris Hotel, then the Planet Holywood Hotel, then the Stratosphere Hotel. All these hotels are a destination unto themselves! Literally! Namely, all these hotels have a couple of thousand rooms (!!!), and that is why they all have several restaurants, lounges, cafes, and many shops. For example my Luxor hotel had as many as three (!!!) Starbucks cafes.
All these hotels have a variety of entertainment and show programs, to keep their visitors busy. They have large swimming pools, and of course huge casinos. Whoever comes to Las Vegas must try their luck at gambling! Of course, they don’t have to be large amounts. In fact, let the amounts be quite small, in cents, to make the party last longer. One-armed Jack’s as well as roulette, you must try it all!
To me personally, the atmosphere of the hotels in Las Vegas is spectacular. I got up again at 6 in the morning and went down to the Starbucks at the lobby for a big black coffee. Namely, only in hotels in Las Vegas, you do not have a coffee machine, nor you have many programs on television in the room. Everything is made to pull you down to the casinos, to spend money.
So, at 6 in the morning, I go down for coffee, and the activity in the casino is still very intense! Namely, casinos operate 24 hours a day. And it was very interesting to see people who spent all night gambling, still behind the gambling machines with a beer in hand!
I spent the day touring three hotels: Luxor, Mandaly Bay and Excalibur. Tomorrow I will go to visit other hotels. And in the evening I went out with some felow travelers. Las Vegas is bursting with colors in the evening.
It’s amazing how much electricity is consumed in Las Vegas. And it’s even crazier how much water is consumed, considering that Las Vegas is in the heart of the desert. When you see how many pools there are, how many fountains there are, how much water is consumed. You cannot believe your eyes!
Day 7 Las Vegas
I woke up again at 6 am without any problems, and very rested. I first went downstairs to the Luxor hotel first floor to buy a big black coffee at Starbucks. Starbucks of course was open, as was the casino. Again there were people who spent the whole night gambling. It was a weekend, so there was busier. Namely, on weekends, a lot of Americans come to Las Vegas for 2 or 3 days.
I spent the day touring the hotels. To repeat, these hotels are not just buildings with bedrooms. They are destinations for themselves. I took a taxi in front of my hotel and went to the first hotel on the Strip, the Circus Circus hotel. As soon as I entered the hotel I realized that this is a hotel for families with children. There were a lot of kids, and the hotel was full with contents for the kids. You have a real trapeze in a huge hall just for kids. The circus program is performed every day. There are of course many casinos, a large number of shops, restaurants and all possible facilities. And Starbucks, of course. So I had my second coffee that day at the Circus Circus Hotel.
I continued my tour of the hotels on the Strip on foot. Next up was Treasure Island, where you have real pirate battles! There are real pirate ships in huge pools. Cannons are fired. For every detail they tried to be original.
I continued my walk along the Strip, I took a walk through the very posh Hotel Bellaggio, in the very center of the Strip. My goal was to visit the Cesar’s Palace Hotel as well. I’m a big fan of the sit-com Friends, and a couple of episodes were filmed at this hotel.
It is a great experience to visit The Venetian, with the canals and gondolas on them. Inside the hotel, the ceiling is made like a vault and painted in sky colors, so it seems to you that you are actually outside.
The whole day passed very quickly for me. I am very happy that we had a whole day off in Las Vegas. This day was exactly what we needed, so we could experience the city of Las Vegas.
Day 8 Las Vegas – Death Valley – Fresno
The eighth day of the trip took us across Death Valley to California. Death Valley is called so picturesquely because there is nothing anywhere, and it was very challenging for the first settlers of the American West to cross this vast expanse, without any plants, animals, water anywhere. Today, the Valley of Death is a national park and it attracts a lot of visitors with its ruggedness.
Today, it is very easy to pass this national park by car. We stopped at the visitor center, and in two other places to get off the bus and take pictures of the national park.
The ride was generally long that day, but nothing for it. Tomorrow we go to Yosemite National Park, and the day after tomorrow we are in San Francisco. And then our tour ends. Who would have thought that days would fly by so fast.
Day 9 Fresno – Yosemite national park – Modesto
Today we go to one of America’s most famous national parks, Yosemite. As this is a very popular park, not only among Americans but also among foreign tourist groups, there were very many visitors to the park. By the way, the park is very large, but tourist groups always see only one very small part of the park. You always get to the visitor center and you go to the main waterfall.
Going down into the Yosemite Valley, you can see the most famous image of the park, the “Half Dome” rock. This rock is almost completely smooth, and is called “half dome” because it looks like it was cut in half. Unfortunately we did not see the Half Dome because the weather was very bad when we were in the park. It was foggy, rainy, gray, so we couldn’t really see anything.
Still, we got to the main waterfall, took a little walk in the park and that was it. Walking through the park, I kept imagining what it was like in times when Native Americans lived here in teepees. After all, in this aera Indians have always lived. That is why the park is called by an Indian name.
Day 10 Modesto – San Francisco
Today we have a shorter ride than the previous days, and in a few hours we will be in San Francisco. To me personally San Francisco is one of the most legendary cities in the world. This city is to me a notion of freedom, but not only of personal freedoms, but also of freedom of spirit. When something comes to your mind, you do it. That’s why California is generally so successful, in everything. That is where so many things came from, from aerobics to hula hoops.
San Francisco can indeed at first seem like a hippie city, and a city of universal liberties. But this is still a city where people live and work. The business district is huge, and has many tall skyscrapers and office buildings like any other city in the US. A lot of families live here, with very ingrained traditional values, and children are raised accordingly.
This is a city that combines all the differences into one. That’s why the guide kept telling us to enter San Francisco with flowers in our hair. So goes the famous song about San Francisco. Even though it wasn’t my first time in San Francisco, again when I saw the city in the distance, I was overjoyed. We crossed California deserts, hills, forests, and hurried toward the Pacific Ocean.
San Francisco is located on the Pacific Ocean, and is surrounded on three sides by the sea. In fact, the city is in the bay, and if we look strictly at San Francisco’s city limits, then we could get the wrong picture that the city is small. But that’s why when we talk about San Francisco, we always talk about an agglomeration, the so-called Bay Area.
In that case, under San Francisco we count both Oakland and San Jose which are right there. They are separate cities, and they are big cities too. So this whole area actually has a large population. But the boundaries of San Francisco itself make it actually small.
Also, only San Francisco is said, in addition to New York, to be somewhat Europeanized, in the sense that it still has some sort of center in the European sense. The city is very beautiful and has many sights to visit. You have to stay here for a few days. For us, the tour ended in San Francisco, but all the participants of this trip decided to stay here for a few more days. I also decided to stay another 4 days.
The undisputed symbol of the city is the legendary red Golden Gate bridge. Likewise, everyone has heard of the famous Alcatraz prison. The most visited part of the city is the former fishing district of Fisherman’s warf. It is also very interesting to walk in Chinatown, pleasant neighborhoods like Russian Hill, North Beach. The main street is Market street and is extremely pleasant for walking and shopping. Embarcadero Street takes you to the port. Mission and Castro are also very pleasant neighborhoods.
Be sure to go on a panoramic boat tour that lasts 1 hour. You will experience San Francisco in a totally different way, and you will pass under the Golden Gate bridge. Then be sure to cross the Golden Gate Bridge on foot. On the other side of the bridge is the cozy little seaside town of Sausalito, where you can have a coffee or sit in one of the many restaurants.
In addition to the Golden Gate Bridge, quite independently of the bridge there is also the Golden Gate Park, located in the middle of the city. It is a huge park, a real oasis of greenery. And besides, in Golden Gate Park there is a “Japanese garden” where you will simply enjoy the beautiful horticulture in the Japanese way.
Don’t expect that sunny California of Los Angeles and San Diego in San Francisco. You will often need a long sleeve here in July as well. The climate is very strange in San Francisco, the weather is very often rainy, gray and chilly.
There is absolutely no doubt that you will like this city very much and it is easily possible that San Francisco will be your favorite city in America! It surely is mine!
My company on the whole trip were Kathrin, Jacqueline and Daniel, all from Germany. Because of them, I spoke German all the time in America, and I hoped to speak English when in America 🙂
My fly back home was a story unto itself. For the first time in my life, I flew business class on a long flight. My flight took me via Frankfurt to, and I flew with Lufthansa. The flight to Frankfurt took almost 12 hours, and I have to admit that a huge difference is felt when flying in economy and business class.
They treat us very nicely on the plane, the meals were for five stars, and altogether the service is somehow much more gentlemanly. I can’t wait to fly long-haul business class again!
I have flown a lot of times every year on many long haul flights, but always in economy class. Here in business class, a large seat extends into a bed. This is important on such a long flight because it can help you avoid losing the night. Namely, the flight departs late in the afternoon and arrives in the morning in Frankfurt. So that one can fall asleep, and well rested resume the connecting flight.
This tour was my second tour of Western USA. Compared to the first time, I have now also seen Bryce Canyon, route 66, Monument Valley. Too bad I didn’t see Zion Canyon. We will leave that for my third tour of American West!