I’ve completely neglected this blog! We’ve been back from the States for over two months now, and last time I posted, we’d just finished the Tour. We spent the remaining eighteen days touring California before flying to Florida for three and a half weeks.
Anaheim is only a thirty-minute(-ish) train ride from the centre of LA, and is a very pretty spot, but of course, there is only one reason anyone goes to Anaheim unless they live there – Disneyland! The original theme park in the glorious Disney empire, Disneyland Park is the only park in said empire that Walt himself oversaw the construction of. It also shares a ridiculously small amount of rides with the other parks, justifying our visit for five nights. We managed to pick up an “Honorary Citizen of Disneyland Resort” badge whilst we were there (mainly cause they were out of “First Visit” badges) and managed to have a nice relaxing time, especially after the stress of the tour. We also enjoyed a ridiculously huge cake at Outback Steakhouse – it was only 1,000 calories, and suggested for three people. We actually had to give up and bring it back to the hotel and put it in the fridge and ate it on our last night there.
When I posted the last blog, we were on the (remarkably plush) train from Anaheim to San Diego. After five nights in Anaheim, we had to tear ourselves away from the lights and sights of Disneyland to the most south-easterly city in the United States – San Diego. We only had four nights in San Diego, so decided to only do the major sites – Old Point Loma Lighthouse, SeaWorld (much to the irritation of Lawrie Brailey) and the USS Midway. Despite a run-in with SeaWorld (who advertised their water park as being just minutes away, when it was actually less than two miles from the Mexican border, and two hours away on public transport), we really enjoyed San Diego, and it was by far the most relaxing bit of the Californian adventure so far.
A proper visit to LA
For the last eight nights in California, we travelled back to LA – Hollywood in particular. In addition to a return to Universal Studios (obviously – we had an Annual Pass to use!), we saw sights such as the Griffith Observatory (Amazing Race 22 Start Line!), the Walt Disney Concert Hall (Amazing Race France task site!) and of course, Pasadena, where we took our L’il Sebastian plush back to his spiritual home at Pasadena City Hall. If you don’t know what the end of that sentence means, go and watch Parks and Recreation – do yourself a favour! We used the Hollywood part of the trip as a more quiet endeavour, mainly because we knew what was coming next – the biggest part of the trip, and the part where we were most likely to see well over 75,000 people in a day – Florida.
The last part of our trip took us to the Sunshine State, the home of not one, but FIVE of the top ten theme parks in the world in terms of attendance, at the busiest time of the year, with our trip coinciding with 4th July celebrations. It is also the home of two of the top three water parks in the world. As a side note, by the end of the trip, we’d been to seven of the top ten theme parks, and eleven of the top twenty, which is a pretty impressive stat.
We’d chosen the Maingate Lakeside Resort as our base, as it supposedly had great links to the theme parks (Disney and Universal), but as we found out, the Disney parks were closer if we walked, as it was only around a mile away by foot. We only visited Universal Florida once, but it was full of surprises, as I discovered that one of my classmates from high school worked at the Simpsons Ride, which was a very surreal moment when I said hi to him in the queue.
The hotel was comfortable enough – we weren’t planning on spending much time there anyway (at least in comparison to the other hotels), but it did have one major benefit – a Pizza Hut on site. Even better, there was an offer on allowing us a refillable cup for $10.70 (about £7.00), allowing us to refill said cup any time we wanted whilst it was open throughout our stay. This as you can imagine was abused, and we more than made our money back.
We decided to spend 4th July in Epcot, as Magic Kingdom was forecast to have 100,000 people (also known as a Phase 4 closure) on that day, despite it being a Thursday. Epcot is also home to, in my opinion, the world’s greatest fireworks show – IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, which has around 2,000 fireworks added as an Independence Day celebration. We watched a patriotic concert at the American pavilion to start the day, and it was as over-the-top as you can imagine. Thankfully, Disney provide wi-fi in all the theme parks now for free (a great help when using their app), so it was there that I found out another classmate from my high school class was also at the same concert. I suspect there must be something in the water at BRGS that makes us all come to Florida in early July. We also had a day trip to Miami, which featured an Everglades airboat ride and Miami Harbour Cruise – I didn’t really enjoy it, but if you’re into the sort of trip where you look round islands where famous people live, it probably has much more appeal. We left Florida feeling very pleased with ourselves for a holiday well done, as well as a little homesick (although not necessarily pleased to come back)!
All-in-all, a job well done – we were disappointed at some aspects of the holiday, but nothing was bad enough to ruin our impressions of the US. We travelled somewhere in the region of 10,000 miles (3,000 of which were in the tour alone!), and spent 77 nights in (on the whole) beautiful surroundings. Thanks to all who helped us with this trip, whether it be work allowing us the time off, our parents for helping us with a load of the planning, and Tim Johnson at Travelbag, who put up with my nagging and helped sort the flights, tour and some hotels. I’ll be back tomorrow for one final post, where I’ll be imparting some advice on how we sorted out a trip of this magnitude.