The Wide Wild West by Mike Giles
When we started serious travel over 20 years ago the USA was never near the top of our agenda, to be honest it was never on our original list of must see places at all. However with the developing world reasonably well covered our time had come to visit our cousins across the pond. We started our holiday with a couple of added days in San Francisco. Highly recommended. It is a city easily negotiated with local transport and there are sights not to be missed. You can reach the Golden Gate Bridge from the city centre using local buses, ask for a transfer and, if a senior, accept a substantial discount and proffered seat. A return walk across the 1.7 mile span of the bridge is invigorating and gives magnificent views of the harbour. Have care for the trendy cyclists who, head down, pedal the pathway looking only to knock seconds off a previous best. Cable Cars are a nostalgic way of getting to and around downtown, the boardwalks and Chinatown. The Californian line, which is the least crowded, ends close to the Holiday Inn where day passes can be purchased. With stops every couple of blocks you can hop on and hold on as the locals always did but expect to queue in the most popular spots. The National Parks visited on the tour are magnificent and each very different with a range of walks and activities to be savoured individually depending upon fitness and ability. We cannot, as others, tell of the elation of reaching Angels Landing, wallowing waist deep in the Zion Narrows or descending perilous tracks into deep canyons. However we can recount we had some wonderful peaceful hikes in breath-taking locations at our own pace and distance. Free shuttle buses are operated by park authorities which make it possible to link easy-going and moderate hiking routes to viewpoints and to otherwise enjoy full days in the park. Monument Valley, Death Valley, Lakes, Dams and the sheer magnificence of scenery just kept rolling out ahead of us as we journeyed on through what is really just a small part of the west of this immense country. We are not hedonistic travellers, preferring natural wonders and historic edifices of an ancient world than modernity, so Las Vegas held little lure for us but we were to be dumfounded by its temples devoted to Lady Luck. Based in a prestigious central hotel we were well placed to explore every other luxurious resort on The Strip. We went to Paris, Venice, Rome and Egypt all in the course of one day and two evenings. Each vista faithfully reconstructed with no expense spared, such are the profits of the relentless gaming which epitomises this city. Unbelievable! We just loved it! The final day was a drive across desert to Los Angeles where this particular trip ended at Custom Hotel LAX with an immediate evening flight for UK participants. Again we added to the schedule, pre-booked two nights there and once more made use of local transport. We joined the old hippies and young things at Santa Monica Pier, the end of Route 66, and also chilled out on Venice Beach and Boardwalk. 'They playing our song Gal?' 'Yea Man!'