Exploring: The Grand Canyon

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When you’re in Las Vegas, Nevada and one of the most amazing sights in the world is just a 6 hour drive away then you’d be pretty stupid to miss out, and with our expat life focusing on new adventures we were ready to take on the challenge! So after stopping off at the Hoover Dam (you can read all about that by clicking here) we went on our merry way to the Grand Canyon, the historic via Route 66 (you can read all about that by, yep, you guessed it, clicking here!)

I knew the Grand Canyon was going to be spectacular but I don’t think I was braced for its beauty at all. This place is just breathtaking. We left Vegas at around 7am and, after our stops at the Hoover Dam and for lunch, we made it to the Grand Canyon in the late afternoon, perfect timing for some daytime sightseeing and catching the sunset, the most beautiful part of the day in those parts.

The canyon was carved by the Colorado River, it’s 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and has a depth of over a mile, quickly put, this thing is HUGE. We made our way to the South Rim and into the Grand Canyon National Park. We had to pay a small fee for parking, but we were allowed to stay for as long as we wanted and move around to the different viewing points.

We quickly parked up the car and headed to our first viewing point, desperate to get our first glimpse of the Grand Canyon that we’d read about and seen many pictures of, but, the pictures just do not do this thing justice:

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WOW.

WOW.

WOW.

I couldn’t stop saying it. It was out of this world and I was standing there looking at it. I had one of those expat ‘am I really here’ pinch myself moments. I was standing there, looking at the Grand Canyon. A couple of years ago I could only dream of being there and there I was, taking in its stunning beauty in awe. Did I mention this place is beautiful?

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The different shapes, colours and textures just looked stunning. The different light exposures made every view different. It was pretty cloudy when we arrived but the sun would suddenly peek out, making one part of the canyon brighter than the other, giving the picture another dimension completely.

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This was camera heaven for the German, he loves taking pictures and must have taken at least a couple of hundred while we were there. We obviously had to document the fact we’d been standing looking at the Grand Canyon, warning, typical tourist shot incoming…

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We also had time to take a few shots where I am mainly looking and acting like an idiot…no change there then.

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After checking out Yaki Point, we made our way along the road to Lipan Point and Desert View to check out the watchtower and it seems the peaceful tranquility of the canyon can lead to a lot of contemplation and reflection whilst looking at the spectacular view:

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I did check our pictures for one of me doing something similar but it would appear I am just a nutter. I swear I did do some contemplating and reflecting, it’s just that nobody managed to get any photographic evidence of this, just of me acting like an idiot. Great.

Anyway, enough of my idiotic tendencies, you need to see some more stunning pictures of the Grand Canyon:

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And we can’t forget this bit of camera trickery by the German:

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Then it was time to catch a Grand Canyon sunset, the part we’d all been waiting for and it was definitely worth staying late and getting back to Las Vegas at midnight for, no doubt about that. We were worried the cloudy skies may have led to a disappointing sunset that we pretty much wasn’t going to see, not good when you’ve travelled so far and you can’t really pop back next week for another look. But, the clouds cleared a little, some blue sky popped out and the sunset was stunning. If you’re going to the Grand Canyon, do not miss out on this part of the day, you’ll regret it forever if you do, here’s why:

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The sun reflecting off the rocks made you see them look totally different. New parts were highlighted, different formations came into light and the textures and shapes of the rocks looked so different to just 10 minutes ago when they were in the shade. All around me were collective gasps of ‘ooh’ and ‘aaah’ and ‘look at that bit over there’ and ‘how pretty is that.’ The colours were so bright and vivid, I couldn’t believe I was watching the sun go down at the Grand Canyon.

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All in all it was a pretty spectacular day and one that I’m sure won’t be beaten anytime soon when it comes to stunning views like that. Another destination has been ticked off the bucket list…I am one very lucky expat.

Have you been to the Grand Canyon? What did you think?

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Exploring: Hoover Dam

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When we were in Las Vegas back in April we thought it was only right to take a trip to the Hoover Dam, when you’re in the area it would be rude not to, right? So, on our way towards Route 66 and the Grand Canyon we stopped off to check out the Hoover Dam and see what the big fuss is all about.

So, we got up mega early (I’m talking 6am people, and we were on holiday!) jumped in the car and headed off to explore. Seeing Las Vegas at 6:45am was the first experience. Walking through our hotel casino we spotted gamblers who were there from the night before, still chugging on a beer and losing, or maybe winning some cash. Then there were the early riser gamblers who’d just got out of bed, picked up their morning coffee and headed to the slots. Never mind New York, Vegas never sleeps either!

After picking up our morning coffees and the German designating me to be the first driver we set off like happy, excited road trippers…

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The Hoover Dam isn’t too far away from Las Vegas, in fact it’s about an hour away from the strip so if you fancy a little trip out and away from the bright lights and flashing machines this is definitely the place to go. We arrived at about 8:30am, perfect timing if you want to avoid the crowds of tourists that flock there on a daily basis. We were just about the only people there, give or take a few other couples and groups of friends. It was definitely the best time to go if you wanted to take some fab pictures at your own pace without having to wait for people to move out of the way!

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This place is just breathtaking. Obviously I’ve seen it in pictures, in films and on TV but until you get to the real thing you really can’t believe how big and beautiful it is. I think I got out of the car and simply said ‘wow!’ It is bigger than you could ever imagine, each area you walk around is more breathtaking than the last, each angle you take a photo from is more beautiful, it’s simply out of this world.

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Ready for some stats and history about this place? So, the Hoover Dam was built between 1931 and 1935 during the Great Depression as a way to give thousands of unemployed workers jobs, but sadly it also cost over one hundred lives.  It was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on September 30, 1935 and controversially named after President Herbert Hoover, the guy who was in power when construction began.

The dam impounds Lake Mead and the Colorado River and serves as a flood control barrier to the surrounding areas as well as a power provider for public and private utilities in Arizona, Nevada and California.

Now back to the fun bit! So, the Hoover Dam sits in both Arizona and Nevada, meaning half of the dam is in a different time zone to the other. Obviously, I had to have a little fun with this and at one point was half in Arizona and half in Nevada, I think the German thought I had a screw loose, nothing new there:

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Heading to the dam early in the morning had another benefit too, aside from the lack of tourists the temperature wasn’t too bad either. Well, I say it wasn’t too bad, it was still 90 degrees! I can only imagine what it was like for those thousands of workers who built this thing, no wonder some of them sadly died from heat exhaustion. Just a leisurely stroll from one end of the dam to the other was hot enough for me, never mind lugging concrete around. You can also see where the heat has had its effect on the water and how the levels have dropped significantly over the years, the white line above the water is where the levels were at one point, they’re much lower now but not low enough to not need the dam!

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After a stroll from one side of the dam to the other and taking in the amazing sights, we decided to head back to the car and make our way towards our next stop…the Grand Canyon! Stay tuned for a blog post on yet another breathtaking destination!

traveltuesday

Exploring: Las Vegas – Route 66

It’s Travel Tuesday again with the lovely Bonnie Rose over at A Compass Rose so today we’re heading back to Nevada and Arizona for another piece of Las Vegas:

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Ok, so I know this isn’t technically in Las Vegas but it happened whilst we were on our Las Vegas trip so I’m going with it!

This time I’m taking you on a trip down a legendary road – Route 66. Whilst out in Las Vegas we decided it was only right to head to the Grand Canyon – hey, how many times are you going to be just a few hours drive away from it in your lifetime? We figured we couldn’t miss this opportunity, so, along with my brother and sister-in-law, we hired a car and headed for the Canyon.

This obviously meant a trip on Route 66! Even though you can now take a new highway that would mean you arriving at the Grand Canyon earlier than if you took Route 66 we all felt like we had to experience it, it’s America’s most famous road and a once in a lifetime opportunity – it is just amazing.

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Route 66 was one of the original highways within the US highway network. When it was first constructed in 1926, it practically spanned the whole country, starting off in Chicago, Illinois and running through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before ending in Santa Monica, California. It was known as the Mother Road or the Main Street of America.

Now though, new highways have been built and although Route 66 remains, parts have been designated as a National Scenic Highway with the name Historic Route 66 – it was this part of the road that we were about to travel on.

I was so excited about this, I mean, this is Route 66, this road has had a television program named after it and a song. There had to be something about it that made people love it so much and you can tell why in Arizona.

The road is just breathtaking:

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That right there is all you saw for miles and miles. It was just beautiful. You were in the middle of the desert, on one long road that didn’t seem to have an end. You saw hardly any cars and there wasn’t much happening around you apart from every so often you’d drive through a little town in the middle of nowhere and you’d spot the odd really long train in the distance. It was amazing.

We did stop off for some food along the way at a roadside diner my sister-in-law had read about, you simply couldn’t make it up – a couple of Germans had moved over to the States and opened a diner on Route 66, the German felt like he was at home!

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If you’re ever on Route 66 stop here. The food was delicious! The portion sizes were out of this world – I think even my brother and the German couldn’t finish all their plates and they’re usually quite good at that!

After our re-fuel we carried on our trip to the Grand Canyon, more on that later. I’m so glad we drove down Route 66, here are a few more photos just for you!

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And as usual there is a picture of me being an idiot…standard.

Have you ever driven on Route 66? What was your experience like?