26 April, 2013

USA Adventure: Part 3 - San Diego!

The 6 hour drive from Tucson to San Diego was pretty amazing. Heading across the Interstate 8, through desert towns like Casa Grande and Yuma, the landscape changes from desert mountains to desert sands and into the most incredible boulder mounds I’ve ever seen. Huge flat expanses of land are home to giant windmills, generating energy from the wind farms and slowly disappearing the close to the coast you get.
 

Once we arrived in San Diego, we checked into our accommodation for the duration, the Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalows. Built in 1946, this historic property was once a vacation hotspot for Hollywood’s elite, including celebrities like Bob Hope and Ava Gardner. The hotel has kept much of its grand colonial style and seamlessly blended it into the facilities you’d come to expect in a modern hotel. The rooms themselves (or at least the poolside room that we stayed in) was fairly basic compared to the grandeur of the rest of the hotel but given we weren’t spending too much time in there it served its purpose. The service was reasonable but not quite as good as we were expecting, particularly for the price we paid. In saying that, it was lovely to be surrounded by such classic beauty.
 

Our first night in San Diego, we had a (rather strong but delicious) drink at the hotel bar before heading next door to the Red Fox. This old English steakhouse also featured a piano bar and has a history of its own. Originally built in Surrey around 1560, the inn was dismantled in 1926 and shipped to America for actress Marion Davies. By the 1950s, Ms Davies sold the property and after a short time in storage, the Red Fox came to rest in San Diego and is now an icon. We had dinner and drinks in this intimate and atmospheric restaurant before retiring for the night rather giggly and looking forward to sightseeing the next day.
 

After a bit of hike in the morning (read a 1 hour flat out walk up and down hills thanks to some dodgy advice from the front desk) we made it to beautiful Balboa Park. America’s largest urban cultural park, Balboa is home to 15 major museums, renowned performing arts venues, beautiful gardens and the San Diego Zoo. A sprawling 490 hectares, we finally found our tram that was to take us around the beautiful city of San Diego. This was a fantastic day of sightseeing, with the hop on hop off tram allowing you to see what you wanted to see without wasting time on things you didn’t. We cruised through Little Italy and the Old Town, touted as ‘little Tijuana’ but seeing as we were going to the real thing in a couple of days decided not to hop off. We did drive past Whaley House though, which is a rather old house that is renowned as America’s Most Haunted House. It did look kinda spooky.
 

Next it was off the Harbour and Marina. We got off here for a lovely stroll along the foreshore seeing a huge aircraft carrier and a cruise ship as well as some beautiful old ships including the Star of India, an iconic old ship that is so old it was built when Abraham Lincoln was still president! We downed a margarita while we watched the boats sailing on the horizon before hopping back on the trolley for a scenic ride through the lovely Seaport Village. Then it was on to the famous Gaslamp Quarter, home to some stunning old architecture as well as a huge range of bars, restaurants and theatres. We explored some of the local hangouts and picked up a couple of souvenirs before stopping in for a beer at…none other than…Hooters! Haha
 

Back on the trolley we drove through downtown and past the famous Petco Park Stadium (known for its baseball) before doing over the big bridge to Coronado. A little island off the coast of San Diego, Coronado is a beautiful little spot home to the historic Hotel Del Coronado, a National Historic Landmark. Built in 1888, this Victorian luxury beachfront resort has been host to a number of famous guests and was even the setting for Marilyn Monroe’s film Some Like It Hot. We explored the stunning gardens, classic old architecture and beautiful beachfront location of this amazing hotel before hopping back on the trolley and returning to Balboa Park.
 

We had some dinner at the hotel bar/restaurant where we met some friendly guys who shared a few drinks with us and even footed our bill at the end of the night! Everyone was so friendly over there! The next day we visited the San Diego Zoo which, despite everything we’d heard, was very much a disappointment. It is supposed to be the ‘best zoo in the world’ and while that may have been so 10-15 years ago, it’s certainly not true today. The habitats were quite small and not very well landscaped, there were lots of empty enclosures and the animals were a rather sad sight to see, with most of them looking unhappy or flat our stir crazy. It was sad and frustrating and disappointing. We would have preferred to spend another day exploring San Diego. Still, it’s all a learning experience. Luckily the guys at the bar the night before had recommended a great place to eat, Lucha Libre, and so we ended the day there with a delicious burrito in a VERY cool shop who’s claim to fame apart from some of the best burritos was a visit from the TV show Man V Food. As one of my fave TV shows, it was a real kick to visit this place.
 

Well that’s it for San Diego! The next day we headed over the border into Tijuana, Mexico. Bet you can’t wait to hear all about that one, huh!? Well sorry, but you’ll just have to wait until Monday for that!

In the meantime, you can catch up on the beginning of my USA adventure in Vegas including my Vegas tattoo, the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender, the wild west and tiki bars of Arizona, our San Diego experience, making it back alive from Tijuana, Long Beach and the Queen Mary, amazing Palm Springs and all the adventures of Hollywood!

24 April, 2013

USA Adventure: Part 2 - Arizona!

Beacuse I'm a big meanie, I'm leaving my VLV post til last haha So we'll skip those last few days in Vegas and go right ahead to the Monday when we departed Sin City headed south for Arizona. By the time we picked our hire car (a Chrysler C300 thank you very much) up from the hire company it was around 1pm and with a 4 hour drive ahead of us to Phoenix, we hit the road hoping to make good time. It's hard to make good time though, when you're surrounded by such stunning scenery.
 
Still, it wasn't long before we hit Arizona. We were originally going to stop in Flagstaff but after some good advice from the locals, we decided to continue on to Phoenix for the night. While simultaneously navigating and booking our accommodation for the night, I also managed to snap a few pictures. We got into Phoenix around 5.30 pm and were surprised by how modern the city was. I guess when you think Arizona you think desert and wild west. But that was to come.
 
We walked a couple of blocks from our hotel to downtown Phoenix and decided on a cool blues bar and restaurant that had interesting decor and a HUGE range of local and boutique beers. Dinner was delicious and I had my first taste of REAL American Mac & Cheese. Mmm mmm! Our friendly waitress got to chatting with us and recommened we check out Tombstone tomorrow if we had time. It was only a couple of hours past Tucson (where we were headed) so we decided to head straight there the next day before heading back to Tucson for the night.
 
Tombstone was very cool. Wild west at it's best. The Arizona we were half expecting to see I guess.It was the last wide open frontiers of America's old west and was home to the famous gunfight at the OK Corral, a shootout where Doc Holiday, Wyatt Earp and the Earp brothers shot and killed outlaw cowboys Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury after tensions between cattle theives and law enforcement came to a fatal conclusion. The town was wonderful to walk around, with many buildings and artefacts preserved. We also got to see a re-enactment of the gunfight.
 
 
After a fun day in Tombstone, we headed back to Tucson for the night. We'd heard about a tiki bar in Tucson called Kon Tiki from artist Doug Horne during Viva. While we really respected his opinion, we weren't sure what we would find all the way out in southern Arizona but we certainly weren't disappointed! The restaurant and bar was AMAZING! We had a great night enjoying dinner and drinks and marvelling over the art, treasures and oddities throughout the place. The tiki drinks were awesome, the food was great and the atmosphere was fun. We only wished we could have visited on a weekend when I'm sure the place would be rockin!
 
We didn't have too late a night though as the next day we were headed to San Diego, our biggest drive of the whole trip. 6 hours from Tucson, the drive was spectacular! But more on that later this week...
 
You can catch up on the beginning of my USA adventure in Vegas including my Vegas tattoo, the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender, the wild west and tiki bars of Arizona, our San Diego experience, making it back alive from Tijuana, Long Beach and the Queen Mary, amazing Palm Springs and all the adventures of Hollywood!

23 April, 2013

Tattoo Tuesday: Americana

I'm sure you all guessed this would happen...that I would come back from the US with some sort of new ink. Well you were right! I couldn't help myself! Tuesday when we were cruising Fremont Street we went into a bar called Mickey Finns to grab a beer and our waitress got talking to us about her and our tattoos. Turns out her husband is a tattoo artist and his shop was right around the corner! Of course we had to check it out!



The shop is called Downtown Tattoo and it's a very cool shop full of all kinds of awesome old school stuff, beautiful beach cruisers and it's fair share of oddities including a taxidermied turkey and a barbarosa lamb. There were lots of great things to look at, including the artwork on the walls, but we already knew what we wanted. Something very American. Something to remind us of Vegas. Something that also has a personal meaning to us, prior to this trip.


A BURGER! 

You may laugh, but we love burgers and one of our favourite things to do (as you would recall if you've been reading for a while) is to cruise out on a Friday night to Petrie with all the other old cars and hot rods for what we consider the best burgers in Brisbane. It's something we've done regularly for years now, so it means something to us as we've had a lot of good times out there. This one is on my left arm, on the outside of 'the ditch'.

Our tattoo artist was none other than Buddy Holiday - it's too perfect isn't it!? He was a great guy, so friendly and such a great artist. He was quite impressed with the quality of some of our work back home and we were so proud to show off local artists like Tilly Lace and Mimsy. I got to look at cute pictures of his dogs while he tattooed me which was a bonus! He'd inked us in no time and I love how it turned out. It's my favourite souvenir of Vegas! Our course we had to get one of these stubbie coolers while we were there as well. 



If I ever want some more work done the next time I'm in Vegas, Buddy will definitely be my guy!

To read more about my adventures in the US, check out my first Vegas post.

What do you think? It's still not as crazy as getting married in Vegas, right?

22 April, 2013

USA Adventure: Part 1 - Las Vegas!

Well, not only am I home AND back to work (for this week at least) but I’m also back here. To my REAL work and home. My blog. I have so much to share with you guys and this holiday really was of epic proportions! So I figure what better way to share it with you (and prolong the holiday high) than by breaking it down into a series of posts. After all, there is A LOT to share.

I guess I might as well start at, well…the start! And Vegas sure was one hell of a start! I’ll keep my VLV experience in a separate post all to itself but for now, lets look at my first week in Sin City! We arrived in Vegas by about lunchtime on Friday feeling all kinds of messed up from the flight but a lovely trip in our stretch limo along The Strip and to the famous ‘sign’ lifted our spirits. And what luck, when we stopped off at the sign not only was it not very busy but who should be there but Elvis of course!


A little rest time at the hotel and then off to The Strip where we enjoyed (maybe a little too much!) yard-sized double shot frozen margaritas that were some of the best of the trip! We spent lots of time in the Planet Hollywood Miracle Mile shopping, particularly at the Bettie Page store. However, beware drunk shopping! Trust me, I’d know ;) haha

Saturday we were off to the Monster Jam World Finals which was SO. MUCH. FUN!!! A definite highlight of the trip, I enjoy watching these monster trucks on TV at home and knew I would like seeing it live but I never realised just how much I would love it! Safe to say I was up out of my seat, yelling and cheering more than a few times (read most of the time). I even got to ride in one of my favourite trucks, Grave Digger!! More on that once all cameras are fully downloaded ;)



Sunday was a little more relaxed during the day with a sleep in and a bit of shopping before heading back to the Planet Hollywood Miracle Mile to catch Vegas The Show at the Saxe Theatre. This brilliant production showed us Vegas through the ages. From the early mob days through the glitz and glamour of its 50s heyday and swingin 60s and into the tourist attraction it has become today. The performers were SO talented, the costumes were amazing and the footage of stunning hotels like The Stardust being torn down bought a tear to my eye.

Monday was off to the Grand Canyon and this is a day that will stay firmly in my memory for a long time. This natural attraction is simply breathtaking and mind-blowingly vast. Pictures just do not do it justice and it is certainly something everyone should see in their lifetime. We did the bus, helicopter and boat tour and let me tell you, this is THE way to see the Grand Canyon. We visited the West Rim and it was simply spectacular. I had SUCH a great day!



Tuesday we hit the Neon Boneyard for an insight into the beautiful old neon signs that used to dominate the Vegas strip. As a 50s-o-phile, it was so exciting to see all the famous old signs and atomic stylings! It’s so great that a not-for-profit museum is putting in the time and effort to preserve these timeless treasures! Then we went for a wander down Fremont Street where we saw the famous neon cowboy Vegas Vic, as well as the Glitter Gulch, Golden Nugget and Binion’s Horeshoe signs! A nice spot to explore, particularly at night, for a taste of the old Vegas.


Tuesday night was off to Frankie’s Tiki Room where the very strong drinks preceded to get me rather trolleyed rather easily. A really fun night meeting lots of great people! Having only had 3 (or 4?) drinks, I don’t remember leaving Frankie’s, the cab ride back to the hotel, getting back to the hotel, going to bed or anything. The last thing I remember was ordering another drink and the next thing I knew I was waking up in my bed in the hotel with the worst hangover of the trip! I had so much fun though!!


Wednesday we dragged our hungover selves to Ronny Weiser’s party which was the unofficial kick off party for Viva. There were plenty of bands jamming, lots of friendly folks and plenty hair of the dogs. It was a great day meeting people from all over the world and Ronny’s house is simply amazing! This guy is so lovely and generous, every year he opens up his home to all us rockabilly kin for a fantastic afternoon. After the party, we went and visited a special shop just off Fremont Street for the best souvenir of the whole trip…but more on that tomorrow. Can you guess what it was??


Thursday was the beginning of Viva Las Vegas, but not until the evening. We spent the day doing a very American past time. After all, when in America…you’ve just gotta go shooting!! A whole group of our Aussie crew went to a range just down the road from our hotel and had ourselves a time. Having never even toughed a real gun before, I was slightly scared but mostly excited! I chose the zombie package and got to shoot a Glock 9mm, an AR-15 Rifle, an AK-47 and a pump action shot gun! For a first timer, it sure was a baptism of fire!! It was a little scary but mostly fun and although my aim wasn’t the best it was a real rush to fire those weapons!

Phew! Well, that was my first week in the US and that’s before we even hit Viva! Now you can see why I needed a few days to recover once I got home…and that’s not the half of it yet!! Stay tuned this week for more posts on my USA adventure including my Vegas tattoo, the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender, the wild west and tiki bars of Arizona, our San Diego experience, making it back alive from Tijuana, Long Beach and the Queen Mary, amazing Palm Springs and all the adventures of Hollywood!