Trip of a Lifetime: Day 10 – Hike for our lives on Kauai’s North Shore

Today is the massive hike we had been preparing for the past 2 months or (by preparing, I mean a lot of internet research and a couple of long testing walks around Richmond Park). 

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Gorgeous views on the way in.  There was a bit of traffic but pretty smooth sailing

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You always feel so close to the clouds in Kauai as they

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The Hike is the Hanakap’ai Hike – an 11 mile roundtrip (we weren’t doing the 22 mile camping one) to a beach and waterfalls.  We set off about 6am to get to the north side of the island as was recommended.  I thinking we were trying to be optimistic as it had rained very heavily the night before and when we got to the trailhead at Ke’e beach, our worst fears were confirmed the trail would be closed for the rest of the day. 

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Exactly what we DIDN’T want to see!

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Consoling ourselves with a selfie by Ke’e beach

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On the walk back tot he car we spied this cool looking cave

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The faceless man…

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A more normal selfie

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My brother and wife met us on the north shore a bit later and we had a quick breakfast together then Bae and I had heard about another hike nearby. Determined to do some sort of hike today so as not to feel like pussies (I had even brought a hiking pole!) we headed to this hike trailhead.

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This hike, while a lot shorter was rated 9/10 on some hiking site which is strenuous – I could definitely see that as this hike was entirely uphill- I mean we basically walked up a mountain which tested our bodies and relationship but was ultimately worth it for the view, plus there was a nice bench at the top to soak in the sun and the amazing vantage of Hanalei Bay.

Downhill was a pleasure after that 2 mile climb although face planting was a constant worry!

We decided to drive to Queens Pond, as the photos looked epic!  Sadly it was high tide, and there was no way you could swim in it without being swept away (seriously, they had a sign showing about 25 people had died there so far!)  This place is definitely worth the wait.  The parking lot is super small; about 8 spots total so there is a bit of a wait. Luckily people don’t spend the whole day here so after about 20 minutes of waiting, we got to park and head down a short (but moderately strenuous downhill) hike (flip flops no Bueno for this terrain).  The hike down, while a bit difficult, is really beautiful.  The trees were reminiscent of something from a dinosaur movie and almost all the way down; we encountered a lovely waterfall set against some dense green lush vegetation.  Then the vegetation stops and you are at the coast, replete with volcanic rocks over which to clamber, hop and jump.  We stayed out there watching the waves crash into the tidal pool and spotted dolphins and lots of giant turtles frolicking in the rocky waves.

After we had had our fill, we were in need of some nourishment.  My brother and wife had checked into the St Regis for their stay post wedding so we met them at the swanky hotel pool. The drinks they had were amazing and we scarfed down our sandwiches brought from some random café in the morning (we like to keep it classy in these establishments you know)

It was the last time we would see them for a while so we hung out by the pool and chatted about the beauty of Kauai.  My brother and I went down to the beach to have a quiet moment for our father, who had sadly passed away a couple of months before.  My brother wasn’t there when he was cremated so I brought some of dad’s ashes so we could do a little remembrance and send off.  My plan is to take his ashes with me all over the world and spread them around – just like he was a world traveller, I think and hope he would appreciate being spread around the world.

Tired and satisfied, we started our longish drive down to the South Shore. As we were driving through Kapa’a I got peckish (what’s new) and spied a couple of food trucks on the side.  We bought a couple of tacos and sat by the beech on a piece of driftwood to enjoy the Hawaiian sea one more time.  I must add that these tacos were amazeballs as well.

Tune in Tomorrow!

Trip of a Lifetime: Day 8 – Kauai Eastside

Today we (me, Bae, my sister and her husband) decided to do have an adventure day including a bit of kayaking to a waterfall.  We drive up to Lihue airport first so Bae and I can pick up our rental – of course it is a white convertible Mustang! 

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After getting the car we drove about 15 mins to Opekaa where we passed a few amazing outlooks before turning into the Hawaiian village. 

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The village itself is not all that. 

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Granted it is cool to have a look around and feeding the peacocks and chickens was fun (there are more chickens than people on Kauai) but the main draw of coming here is renting kayaks. 

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Compared to other tour operators in the area, offering the same tour to the waterfall, we opted for a self-guided tour.

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The price was $35 per person (whether you rent one kayak or share one) and we decided to share kayaks with our Baes (thought 4 kayaks might get a bit crowded!)

After a (very) brief safety demo and pretty vague directions to the waterfall (just keep right) we set off from the dock.  I must mention the very sweet dog hanging out there who was wearing a tie – so cutie!

The river was wide and relatively calm which made for a very relaxing ride. I would recommend going in the morning as it was very quiet when we set out, but as we were coming back the river and trails seem to be a lot more crowded.  After about 15 minutes of kayaking we found the dock for Fern Grotto (which has a restroom) and stopped there to look at the Grotto (it is basically a wooden walkway through some cool vegetation and flowers, with a large deck facing a lovely tiny waterfall and a shit ton of ferns.  If you like plants or if you need to go toilet, then I recommend the stop, if not, no loss.

The first stop on the kayak route is the Fern Grotto.  Some people say it’s not worth stopping however, it is the only place that has toilets on the way, and is a bit of a welcome stop after a bumpy ride getting used to a tandem kayak! (LPT: don’t try to walk in the kayak!  Even turning around to take pictures can be rather perilous!)

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After docking our boats (looks for the row of tires but make sure you don’t park actually by the tires as the big tour boats stop here and your kayak WILL get crushed!), we started along the wooden walkway, surrounded by lush green ferns and other tropical plants.  After passing the toilets, we arrive at “The Grotto”

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Not sure if you can see but there are lots of tiny waterfalls in the background too.  It was a lovely sight and there are a few benches you can sit at to admire the ferns.

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We walked back, past a few larger, gushing waterfalls  and some awesome tree tunnels

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We jumped back onto our rafts and somehow went the wrong way as we missed out on the Kings Pond and the Tree Swing.

We did dock onto the landing point for Opekaa Falls, which is why we were there in the first place!

I bough a bag of chicken feed for $5 at the Village and fed curious chickens and roosters along the 30 minute hike (was mild, but don’t wear flip flops!).

The hike itself involves walking over large tree roots, and through corn fields and other quite rough terrain.  Also be prepared to cross a few streams, about 3-4ft in width.  There are ways to hop over it but to prevent any unnecessary falls (the tree roots get slippery when wet), we crossed slowly in bare feet.  At the beginning of the hike is a large river that has a rope you can hold to walk gently across.  Sometimes there is a slight line, but it moves generally quickly – sling your shoes over your shoulder for this one

We kayaked for about 15 more mins from the Grotto and came to the second dock where the short hike started to the waterfall. I will not lie, it was a bit more strenuous than we thought – it would have been ok if we brought proper shoes, but flip flops, especially when wet are not ideal.  After about 30 minutes of hiking we could hear the lovely welcoming sound of rushing water and as we climbed up a steep incline, and crossed a few streams (bring a stick, defo worth it), suddenly the waterfall came into view.

It was well worth the hike!  There were about a dozen or so people there already, chilling on the rocks or swimming in the pool, although no one was going near the waterfall!  The water is cool, refreshing and just what we needed after a sweaty hike.  We still had the birdseed which we bought at the Hawaiian village for about $5 and spent the next 30 minutes surrounded by chickens – or more specifically, roosters and their harems.  Was quite amusing to see roosters attacking each other to make sure their harem of hens got enough food – weirdly though if you try to feed the roosters, they will not take the food or even seem interested – must have one thing on their minds…

After a quick snack of some sandwiches and dried fruit we went for a dip in the luscious clear pool and swam slowly but bravely towards the waterfall. The water was pummelling down and although we got close enough to be under the waterfall for a few seconds, the force of the water made us retreat back to the relative calm of the outer pool. Not before we enjoyed a romantic smooch behind it, because you got to do that once right!

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Post swimming in the waterfalls – the falls themselves are very hard to stand under (something I just have to do when I see a waterfall!)

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We stayed there for about an hour before setting off back to the canoe but ended up taking a wrong turn at the fork and went out of our way but the fun is always in the journey!

The ride back was even more interesting.  Since the wind had picked up, we hadn’t anticipated having to fight against the wind current in order to stay on course – let’s just say that we had an impromptu up close and personal with some sharp brush along the river bank – ouch!

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The trees around here look positively prehistoric!

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Even if there are telephone poles, the sunset is still amazing!

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Tune in Tomorrow!

 

Trip of a Lifetime: Day 7, My brother’s Wedding

My brother’s wedding day is finally here!  My sister and I are bridesmaids so we headed over to the bridal suite in the morning to have our hair and makeup done.  Cue many cute impromptu pictures, chilled champagne and a lovely spread that my sister in law’s father (who is a chef) had kindly prepared for us.

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A nice couple pic of us before the wedding.

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The ceremony began at 16:30 next to a gorgeous orchid garden in the Kiahuna Plantation and it was such a beautiful and heartfelt ceremony. 

Both parents typically cried and after the vows we got pictures done (in the blazing sun) and then headed over for a cocktail hour.  After the cocktail hour we had a lovely dinner, although typically for me, I peaked too soon having loaded up on some delicious hor d’oevres and ended up having to take my steak in a doggy bag!

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Tune in Tomorrow!

Trip of a Lifetime: Day 6 – Kauai Beachtime!

Waking up in Kauai and walking out onto our lanai to see the sea and the sun was definitely something special.  



Had some amazing banana and macadamia nut pancakes (with coconut syrup) for breakfast – I will say that the only complaint was that they were too big to take down!


My sister and I had to do the obligatory walkthrough of the ceremony and then we all went to find a nice beach to chillax on for the afternoon- good times. 


 We drove to the west side of the island and found a remote beach (we were the only ones there) where the waves were nice and mellow and the sand soft and velvety between our toes. 

our British pasty bodies need to catchup to the beautiful background!

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Taking it all in…

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LPT – even if it doesn’t seem that hot and sunny, WEAR SUNSCREEN!  We regretted this over the coming days.

After the beach we headed to Ishihara Market to have some of their famous Poke.  This is just a local supermarket, but they have a fresh fish and seafood counter at the back of the store where you can find all manner of amazing poke.  We got three different types of poke with rice and seaweed salad all for under $10!

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Also another LPT – if you have less than 20 minutes of sunlight left, don’t think you can “chase the sunset” around Kauai – the island is a lot bigger than you think! 

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20170521_192053Having read numerous reviews for the best Hawaiian tacos on the island, we found this cute hole in the wall type place with limited seating but offering sustainably sourced, organic food in Kapaa. Our fish and steak asado tacos took half an hour to prepare and about four minutes to eat – my oh my were they delicious. This place also serves vegetarian tofu tacos for those in need!

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Tune in Tomorrow!

 

Trip of Lifetime: Day 4 – Relax and Beach

My brother and future wife leave very early in the morning to catch their flight to Hawaii. A bit later in the day, my sister and her husband arrive at my brother’s house.

We drove around Sunset Boulevard (which is not what I expected!  Very bohemian, not glamorous at all but an interesting walk down the boulevard) and headed back to Santa Monica beach (again!) for some people watching and a couple hours later ended the day with rooftop drinks overlooking the pier watching the sunset – Lovely!

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Nice quiet parking lot about 500m from the pier (north) with lovely sands

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Gorgeous Sand and surf! – I recommend walking a bit down from the pier to get a quieter spot (there is a paved road to walk to the pier or car park)

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Chillaxing

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Some fresh fruit with a drizzle of lime juice and a sprinkling of cayenne – make sure the pepper is evenly distributed!

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Barbie’s house! (Or the owner of Mattel)

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There is a theme park on the pier but was quite expensive and we weren’t very interested.

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The food court is next to the theme park and offers lots of seating to chill and people watch

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Just had to go another round with these delicious corn dogs!

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The centre of a delicious bite

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The garlic butter parmesan fries are especially good!

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View from the end of the Pier (about 15 mins from the beginning if you don’t stop)

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Lot of people catching fish themselves too

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I was surprised at the (low) quality of street vendors and entertainers for the Pier,  most are typical touristy things like below but a lot of them you’d think there was no quality control – there was literally a drunk guy with his boombox doing a weird uncle at the wedding dance – and people were giving him money!

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Sunset on the beach

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We found a cool little spot at the beginning of the pier where we enjoyed some sunset cocktails20170519_183102

Tune in tomorrow!

Trip of a Lifetime: Day 3 – LA the American Way

Bit jetlagged but ready for the day!

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Breakfast is the first order of the day, and Bae, only having visited America when he was a child, wanted the full American breakfast experience.  And that meant IHOP…say what you will about that place, it holds a nostalgic endearment for millions and this is the way to get a typical American breakfast (though it can be hit and miss depending on the branch)

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Bae loves pancakes, so this was the perfect place to go (I will introduce him to Waffle House this Christmas and IHOP will be all forgotten).  I always go for the smokehouse breakfast – love those sausage links!

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Errands to run with the impending newlyweds, my brother is furiously hammering luggage tags for the wedding dinner (or is it breakfast?) and his fiancé and I tend to more important tasks – namely getting our mani pedis.  Shout out to this place CocoNails in Silverlake.  My sister in law has been going there for years and we settle down for a lovely shellac mani pedi complete with the foot baths and massages.

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View of the LA skyline from the car (where we spent the most time in LA total)

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Industrial look

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I love the urban artwork you find in LA

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After a bit of pampering we meet up with my brother and Bae and head to a place called Destroyer.

Wow I didn’t realise Movember was  an official company!

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Apparently a lot of movies are made in this pretty area

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More Jacarandas!

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Some interesting architecture and artwork in this area

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A new vertical garden

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My brother and fiancé had talked this place up, and I hadn’t looked at the menu yet (which is surprising for me) so didn’t really have any expectations. We arrive and it is very typical LA/California healthy hip eatery.  Only about 4 dish options per course and sine there are four of us and we are hungry, we decide to get a selection of foods.

Now I am all for being healthy but frankly, can never really find veggie food or healthy food that is super delicious, or at least delicious enough for me to stop eating the “bad” foods totally.  This place made me a convert for sure.

The innovative way the chefs played with different textures and temperature made for a very exciting lunch!  Pics and dish descriptions below.

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A super refreshing watermelon spritzer (non-alcoholic)

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Endive Salad

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Chicken Confit: An amazing dish that played with different temperatures and textures – and almost vegan!

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Look at that chicken loveliness!  I don’t know what’s what, but that’s the fun of it!

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Roasted Cauliflower, poached egg, black garlic, chicken skin

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Rice Porridge, caramelized broccoli, puffed rice, burnt onion

20170518_133648More cool urban artwork

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Of course, we had to stop at the famous Rodeo drive.  To be honest it held no interest for me at all.  I don’t enjoy shopping, and certainly not at these prices, but the people watching was very interesting.

This is what I think of when I think of LA

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A cool street with lots of street entertainers

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We then decide to walk down Santa Monica pier and take in the sights.  Yes it is super touristy, but such a cool slice of Americana by the beach.  I mean, these places are touristy for a reason I say!

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I had to indulge myself of a corn dog; especially when I found out Bae had never tried one.  His reaction was dissapointingly and unsurprisingly not quite as enthusiastic as mine, but he has never really been a fan of processed meat, esp. hot dogs!

This is literally my favourite food

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Strolling down Santa Monica Pier

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View of the beach from the pier

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obligatory selfies lol

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Playing around on the pier

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As I was the only one to indulge, the rest of the group starting getting quite peckish.  We were taken to a cool Mexican place called Mercado, where we enjoyed some of the best guac I have had since I was in Mexico and it was hand made in front of me.

The tacos were really melt in the mouth. Plus they have an amazing drinks menu and tequila selection which we got stuck in to

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Fresh made Guac

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Lovely croquettas

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Delicioso tacos – shrimp and chicken here

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Tune in tomorrow!

Day 1: London to LA

So excited I can’t sleep!

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We have been planning this trip for the last year and a bit and the day has finally arrived for take off!

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Thankfully our flight is at a very civilised 1pm which gives us plenty of time to get to the airport and get some breakfast although Bae still got tetchy and picked up a speeding ticket on the Hangar Lane.  Note to self get him one of those speed camera detector for Christmas!

 

Arrived at Gatwick with time to take down a delicious Nando’s grilled chicken meal before braving the long haul airplane food.

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I love to get the wing roulette – living dangerously at lunch

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Mentally preparing for 11 hours 15 minutes sitting in a big flying tube crammed full of my fellow human being…Bae has his eyes open but he is already asleep

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I love these airplane maps…helps to know progress is being made even while I stare at the back of a seat inches from my face

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Possibly the longest flight I have ever been on (that I can remember)

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Benefit of a Samsung S7 camera – taking shots like these from a tiny airplane window

England’s green pastures and pleasant lands…Bae said I started humming Jerusalem

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Getting higher above the ether

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Food:

We were on a Norwegian Airline flight (It was £200 for our LON-LA trip) and as it is considered a lower cost airline,  I didn’t have very high expectations for our food.

The salad was an oriental salad with a bit too much vinegar, but still edible if you are hungry (we were not – in case you missed the Nandos pics),  a sweet and sour chicken with beans and mashed potatoes – hearty and bit on the sweet side but would eat again, and an apple cinnamon pie which I didn’t touch as cinnamon and I are sworn enemies.  Bae said the pastry was more bready and lots of cinnamon, but overall satisfying

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Bae opted for a Kosher meal, which we had heard were supposed to be tastier than the average airplane meal.  Salad was smoked salmon, then a pulses and veggie chilli (bit salty) followed by a piece of cake AND fruit salad.  I recommend doing this if you want more food – like what the planes USED to serve before portion sizes decreased.

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Must be going over Iceland at this point – I love the fact you can see a blue glow over the horizon – is that the ozone layer?

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Bae bought us an array of neck supports, being long necked humans he had to do some research. In this one we have the Trtl which was purchased for about £20 on Amazon which wraps round the neck and has a brace on one side to support the weight of your head. Bae liked the support but found it hot and not quite as helpful as the Travelrest pillow (red coloured to the left of the shot) which we both used a lot and which work on a different principle. Once you inflate it, you get support all up once side from the waist to your head kind of like when you hug a pillow in bed. Both cost about £20 but the Travelrest is much easier to fold away once it is deflated!

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The reason for the blue tint is because Norweigan has a very cool button on their windows instead of a shutter you close.  Simply press the button (there are 4 options) and it will shade the window from light to completely black – very cool!

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Some more gorgeous pictures of the mountains

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I think this range is maybe the Rockies?

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Approaching Los Angeles!

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Not sure – Is that Big Sur?  Let us know in the comment if you know!

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The one thing I really hate about LA – the traffic and the roads (dangerous – have never seen so many bad and distracted drivers).

Driving back to El Sorreno where my brother and fiancé live after they pick us up from the airport.

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I love these beautiful trees!  My brother said they are Jacaranda trees. Lucky we got to see them in season!

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As the sign says…

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Getting hungry!

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Everywhere in LA is a LONG drive away and traffic (we would realise) can be awful

After being picked up my brother and fiancé who saw how we debilitated we looked after our long haul flight, they took us to a Baby Blues BBQ for a pick me up American-style with massive portions of smoked meat.

Cool ladies bathroom

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Baby Blues BBQ Menu – prices aren’t bad, but food could have been a bit better

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My brother and his beautiful fiancé (now wife and sister to me)!

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A cool looking place to eat with typically large, salty portions, not matched in quality unfortunately. We also tried their mac and cheese which Bae thought was tasteless.  The sweet potato fries were good though.

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After a long day of travelling, we get an early night in preparation for our first real day of holiday!

Tune in tomorrow!