Honolulu (October 2013)

Posted Posted in Trips

This is the sixth and final leg of our four week holiday in the United States and Canada.

October 12

Farewell to the Yukon

We were up early packing our bags in readiness for the final leg of our holiday, a four day stay in Hawaii. We returned to LAX and parted with our Yukon hire car. Please GMC can this car be imported for sale in Australia?

Honolulu

We arrived in Honolulu late in the afternoon and picked up our hire car for our Hawaiian stay, a Chevrolet Suburban. This car was almost identical to the Yukon. Having picked up our hire car we drove the short distance to our accommodation.

Aqua Waikiki Pearl

Our accommodation for the next four days was the Aqua Waikiki Pearl. Whilst the website makes it seem that the accommodation is modern and fresh, the reality was much different as the accommodation looked tired and somewhat messy.

October 13

Island Circle

We purchased an app from GyPSy Guide for a few dollars with no great expectations. Bang for buck, it turned out that this was the best investment we made for the holiday.

We used the app’s “Island Circle” tour which took us all around Oahu. In between the points of interest the commentary provided insights into Hawaiian culture.

October 14

Boom Boom Sportsfishing

We had pre-booked a six hour fishing charter with Boom Boom Sportsfishing. On the drive to Waianae Harbour we experienced some serious inclement weather with weather warnings issued to residents to stay inside. We were apprehensive whether we should go on the charter or not.

The boat’s captain, Tony, assured us that all would be fine and that the weather at sea wouldn’t be an issue, so off we set. For 4 hours we didn’t hook a fish, then within an hour we’d caught three yellowfin tuna which weighed 110 pounds, 153 pounds and 154 pounds.

We stayed out way past our 6 hours, returning to the Waianae Harbour after almost 9 hours at sea. It was an amazing experience.

October 15

Beaches & Volcanoes

We used our GyPSy Guide app’s “Beaches &Volcanoes” tour and experienced points of interest which we not included in the “Island Circle” tour we went on a few days earlier.

October 16

Hawaii Gun Club

This was another “only in America” experience. The Hawaii Gun Club offers “specials” where you can fire a number of guns. We took the Super Course which allowed us to fire 7 guns.

October 17

Mahalo!

Mahalo” is a Hawaiian word meaning thanks, gratitude, admiration, praise, esteem, regards, or respects. This pretty well sums up our Hawaiian experiences.

Before we knew it, we had returned the hire car and were on our way home, our four week holiday was over.

 

Los Angeles (October 2013)

Posted Posted in Trips

This is the fifth leg of our four week holiday in the United States and Canada.

October 9

We bade farewell to San Diego and made the relatively short drive to Los Angeles and our accommodation for the next three days, The Beverly Garland Holiday Inn in North Hollywood.

Universal Studio’s Citywalk

Having settled into our accommodation, we took courtesy trolley bus to Universal Studio’s Citywalk and spent a leisurely few hours shopping before taking the courtesy trolley bus back to our accommodation.

October 10

American Riviera Tours

We had booked a private tour operated by American Riviera Tours for less than the cost of a bus tour.

Yuri, our guide, picked us up at 12 noon and visited all the “must see” locations in Los Angeles, returning us to our accommodation at 9.00pm.

Yuri was very knowledgeable in all thing “la-la” taking us to:

  • The Hollywood sign
  • Mullholland Drive
  • Griffith Park (and the Observatory)
  • Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • Grumman’s Chinese Theatre
  • The Dolby Theatre – home of the Oscars
  • Farmers Market – for a late lunch
  • Rodeo Drive
  • Beverley Hills
  • Malibu
  • Santa Monica Pier
  • Venice Beach

October 11

Warner Brothers Studios

We hadn’t planned anything for today following our long day yesterday, but on a whim we decided to visit Warner Brothers Studios.

We took the VIP Studio Tour. We were able to enter the studios where they film and produce The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Conan O’Brien Show , only because neither show films on a Friday.

San Diego (October 2013)

Posted Posted in Trips

This is the fourth leg of our four week holiday in the United States and Canada.

October 5

Road Trip

Today we drove 500 miles from Las Vegas to San Diego. We left Las Vegas driving on a five lane each way highway and arrived in San Diego also driving in on a five lane each way highway.

In between  the “narrowest” the highway became was two lanes each way. No where along the way was the road empty, and for most of the drive it was like driving continuously in peak hour traffic.

Barstow

We stopped for lunch in Barstow and tried our luck at the “skill” machine and were lucky to nab a Beats by Dr Dre headphone set.

San Diego

We arrived in San Diego at 4.00pm. Our accommodation for the next four nights was the Handlery Resort in Mission Valley. It was a surprise to find that we had a ground floor room.

October 6

Fashion Valley Mall

Today was somewhat of a rest day. We visited Fashion Valley Mall and had our first experience in an Apple Store and a Microsoft Shop.

Old Town San Diego

Late in the afternoon we visited Old Town San Diego. We bought what seemed like half  of the 16 different fudges available from Cousin’s Old Town Candy Shop. We enjoyed eating each one of them.

October 7

San Diego Waterfront

Today we went on the San Diego SEAL tour, a boat with wheels.

We spent over an hour on the water and half an hour on land.

USS Midway Museum

It isn’t until you get on board the USS Midway Museum that you get a real appreciation of the size of this ship, seeing all the various aircraft stored on board.

October 8

San Diego Zoo

Today we visited the San Diego Zoo. Who would have thought we would come all this way to see Giant Pandas when we could have seen them in Adelaide.

The zoo lives up to its hype. The enclosures are well presented and the viewing platforms are more than adequate. The cable car ride from the bottom to the top of the zoo provides a great view of the surrounding areas.

This would be our last day in San Diego.

 

Las Vegas (October 2013)

Posted Posted in Trips

This is the third leg of our four week holiday in the United States and Canada.

October 1

Las Vegas

We reluctantly left downtown Vancouver for Vancouver Airport and flew with Air Canada direct to Las Vegas, arriving at 2.00pm.

We decided to arrive in style and took a limo to our accommodation at The Mirage. The cost was equal to having to hire two taxis. The rear wall of the reception counter is a massive aquarium.

Government Shutdown

Whilst we had heard there was the potential for a US government shutdown, speculation was that the issue would be resolved before money ran out. Unfortunately that was not the case and for the rest of our holiday we had to forego visiting many of the locations we had planned to visit.

Some of the places we couldn’t visit included Red Rock Canyon, Grand Canyon South Rim and the Pearl Harbour memorial.

Refer to our post on the Government Shutdown for the grief this gave us.

The Mirage

Whether our expectations were too high or not, but our accommodation wasn’t what we expected. Our room was almost at the end of one of three wings of rooms, some considerable distance from the lifts. From the lifts there was a lengthy walk through the casino to the entry foyer, and then another lengthy walk to actually get on “the strip”.

The Big Red Bus

This evening we took the Las Vegas Night Tour operated by the Big Bus Tour Company.

The tour lasted about three hours and we went up and down the strip with a stopover at Fremont Street.

Fremont Street Experience

The Fremont Street Experience was one of the highlights of Las Vegas.

The overhead video screen was amazing, especially the way the video synced to the music being played. The video being played was of Bon Jovi singing “Livin’ on a Prayer“. Apparently this was to promote a concert that Bon Jovi were due to play in Las Vegas.

October 2

Camaro Convertible

As a treat we hired a Camaro convertible for 24 hours. The top went up and down at least a dozen times due to the novelty of never having driven a convertible before.

Almost Red Rock Canyon

We took the Camaro for a drive out towards Red Rock Canyon, hoping we might be able to “sneak in”. Whilst there was no money available to keep the canyon open, there was money to pay someone to stop anyone from entering. One of those “only in America” moments.

Bonnie Springs Ranch

As were unable to enter Red Rock Canyon, we kept driving and eventually drove down a side road to Bonnie Springs Ranch and visited the ranch for a few hours. Our recommendation would be not to bother – the “Wild West” wasn’t that realistic and the zoo wasn’t clean. Give it a big miss.

Pawn Stars

We visited a number of the locations at which the TV shows filmed in Las Vegas. These shows air on the A&E Network. Whilst we were unable to enter the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop as they were filming, we did see the Old Man, Rick, Big Hoss and Chumlee.

Ricks Restorations

Once again, there was filming being conducted at Rick’s Restorations, luckily we did see Rick and the rest of the cast whilst we enjoyed a tour of the workshop.

Counting Cars

There was no filming at Counting Cars so we didn’t mange to see the Count, but we did see a lot of modified cars.

David Copperfield Show

Another highlight was being able to attend a David Copperfield show.

How he did what he does had us stumped. It was all so believable.

October 3

The Yukon

Today we returned the Camaro convertible and picked up a GMC Yukon which we would drive for the rest of our stay on the mainland.

Premium Outlet Stores

Most of the day we shopped, primarily at the Premium Outlet Stores. This is where we purchased our replacement luggage.

October 4

Hoover Dam / Lake Mead

This morning we were away early to take in Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. The visitor interpretative centre was a font of information and the Dam Tour was well presented. This really is a feat of engineering.

Grand Canyon (West Rim)

Due to the government close down, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park remained closed. We decided to visit the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. This is where the traditional Indian owners of the land built the Skywalk attraction on the rim of the canyon.  Interestingly, they could build the Skywalk, but couldn’t build decent roads to get to the Skywalk.

We would have much preferred to see the rim without it having been spoiled by the Skywalk. Hopefully there will be a next time and we can visit the South Rim of the Grand Canyon as we had originally wanted to do.

Viva Las Vegas

After a long day visiting Hoover Dam and the West Rim we returned to our accommodation and our time in Las Vegas drew to an end.

 

US Government Shutdown (October 2013)

Posted Posted in Ramblin' On, Trips

From October 1 through 16, 2013, the United States federal government entered a shutdown and curtailed most routine operations after Congress failed to enact legislation appropriating funds for fiscal year 2014, or a continuing resolution for the interim authorization of appropriations for fiscal year 2014. Regular government operations resumed October 17 after an interim appropriations bill was signed into law.

And just like that our holiday took a dramatic turn for the worse.

This is why you shouldn’t rely on your Travel Agent

Once we understood the ramifications the government close down we immediately rang our Travel Agent back in Australia to resolve our accommodation for October 5 (we had planned to stay in the Grand Canyon National Park) and October 6 (staying in Phoenix).

We had rung our accommodation in the Grand Canyon and informed we could cancel and get a full refund or we could wait and see and if the close down wasn’t resolved, we would automatically receive a refund.

We also rang through to our San Diego accommodation and they informed us that we could extend our stay by 2 nights, but the accommodation provider would need to receive confirmation via our Travel Agent’s wholesale provider.

We explained all this to our Travel Agent, yet when we rang back the following day our Travel Agent informed us that everything was normal and to continue with our itinerary. I begged to differ and suggested that the Travel Agent might like to investigate a little deeper than they had.

By now it was Wednesday US time, but Thursday Australian time and time was running short to resolve our accommodation for October 5 and October 6. We had visions of sleeping two nights on the side of the road.

Fortunately when we rang back Thursday US time (Friday Australian time), our Travel Agent was able to confirm that we had an extra two nights accommodation in San Diego, and that depending on what (if any) refund received for the cancelled accommodation , there might be added costs to pay on our return to Australia.

We did receive confirmation that our Grand Canyon accommodation would be refunded, but no refund would be given by the accommodation provider in Phoenix.

Unfortunately, we can’t prove anything, but we suspect the reason for no refund forthcoming from the Phoenix accommodation provider is due to the short notice that was given by the Travel Agent’s wholesale provider.

We believe most accommodation providers offer a full refund less an administration fee provided at least 48 hours prior notice is given. If the Travel Agent’s wholesale provider had notified the Phoenix accommodation provider when we first contacted our Travel Agent we would have received almost a full refund.

However, as the accommodation wasn’t cancelled until Thursday US time, no refund would be considered.

Taking into account the many omissions and mistakes made by our Travel Agent we will in future attempt to make all our own arrangements and be in total control of our arrangements, and not rely on a Travel Agent .

Rant and whine over!