There aren’t enough words or pictures to describe how incredible this trip was, but here is a brief overview
Day 1 Travel day
The coach picked us up from the front of school at 7.30am ready to embark on our epic journey! We flew for 10 hours from Gatwick to Los Angeles. Luckily there was plenty of food and in-flight entertainment and we were filled with excitement for what was to come! When we arrived in the US we met Martha for the first time. Martha was our coach driver and drove us over 3,000 miles in the space of 11 days! Martha played a huge role in our experience. She was also a complete treasure, always giving us local knowledge and advice and making sure we had the best possible trip. Thank you, Martha!
Day 2 Los Angeles, Hollywood, Universal Studios, Downtown Disney
After an amazing sleep in our first hotel (we stayed in seven hotels in total) we filled up at breakfast and then made our way to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Whilst there, we saw stars for many celebrities such as Hugh Jackman and Michael Jackson. We also stopped at the Grumman and Kodak Theatres (where they host the Oscars) and caught a glimpse of the iconic Hollywood sign. We then spent the rest of the day at Universal Studios, which was one of the highlights of the trip. By this time the temperature was around 55 degrees (as it was for most of the tour) so we went straight to the Jurassic World ride to enjoy being soaked by the gigantic log flume! The T-Rex that jumped out at us at the top certainly added to the terror! Every ride we experienced in Universal was phenomenal. The studio tour, which we initially thought was a tour of the sets, included three 4D rides. One was a 4D experience of a dinosaur fight in Jurassic World, another an earthquake in a tube station and the last, a Fast and Furious car chase. They truly were phenomenal! The views of LA from Universal were outstanding. From there we ended the day by having dinner at Downtown Disney. To truly put the cherry on top of our first day in America we saw in the fireworks before making our way back to the hotel.
Day 3 Route 66
Day two was our first of two travel days. We had to accept the journeys if we were going to see all that there was to see on the west coast. Luckily, the coach journeys were all filled with laughter, driving games, cards, music and singing! Firstly, we stopped at the small town of Seligman on Route 66, which was the inspiration for ‘Radiator Springs’ in Pixar’s ‘Cars’. Finally, after entering Arizona, we completed the day with a trip to ‘Cruiser’s’, a classic American diner. Route 66 and Williams, Arizona were exactly what we thought the ‘off the beaten track’ parts of America would be like. The people were so lovely, and always eager to let us know the best places to go and tell us about the local area.
Day 4 Grand Canyon
After being greeted by an American Ranger, we walked up a path and then were met by one of the greatest vistas we have ever seen! As we looked out over the 18-mile-wide, one mile deep and 277-mile-long Canyon, the group were moved – some even shed a few tears! The Grand Canyon is breath-taking. The photos do not do it justice. We walked from Bright Angel to Mather Point with constant views of the canyon on our left. We also had an opportunity to learn about the geology of the Canyon and learned of the volcanic and fluvial influences in its formation, which was fascinating. That night we stayed at a hotel within territory retained by the Navajo Nation (A Native American Tribe). It was so calm and tranquil, the food was incredible, and it felt like an honour to experience their culture first hand.
Day 5 Navajo code breaker, Monument Valley, smooth water rafting
We were unbelievably lucky on the morning of day five. We were surprised with a talk from a Navajo code breaker from World War Two, who told us about the amazing contribution of the Navajo people to the war effort. Peter was one of only seven code breakers left. We were all completely mesmerised by his talk on their war efforts. Please do look up the Navajo code breakers because it is truly fascinating! From there we went to the infamous Monument Valley. This was the epitome of a stereotypical American desert landscape and every western film you have ever viewed will have been filmed there! After lunch we took a 3 hour smooth water rafting trip along the Colorado River. It was beautiful! However, it was pushing 50 degrees again so we all enjoyed a good dip in the river. Little did we know that around the next meander we would be hit by the first monsoon of the season. Despite getting soaked, everyone enjoyed singing in the rain, and we saw waterfalls cascading down the sides of the canyon, which we were told was a rarity!
Day 6 Bryce Canyon, Las Vegas
Today we travelled to Bryce Canyon which was amazing but very different to the Grand Canyon. It was much smaller so it was easier to get our heads around. We walked around the canyon to ‘inspiration point’ which had spectacular views. From Bryce Canyon we drove to Las Vegas, where spent the evening walking down the strip, eating in Bubba Gump’s and riding the ‘New York New York’ rollercoaster. It was the best rollercoaster of the trip, with amazing views over the crazy Vegas lights and was as high as some of the skyscrapers!
Day 7 Hoover Dam, Las Vegas
On day 7 we visited Hoover Dam, a concrete arch-gravity dam in the black canyon of the Colorado River. We toured the dam, descending more than 50 storeys in an elevator, to the hydroelectric generators that are powered by the water flowing through it. Halfway across the dam is the boundary between Arizona and Nevada so the time zone changes as you walk across the state line. We visited a shopping mall, before spending our second evening in Vegas. We went to Fremont Street which was insane with so many people and lights, as well as the Fountains of Bellagio which were incredible!
Day 8 Barstow, swimming
Today was our second driving day; however, we stopped at Barstow shopping outlet, where we all made the most of the unbelievable discounts on designer clothing. We were provided with VIP discounts on top of the outlet discounts; numerous handbags were purchased! By this point in the trip we were all tired and we arrived at the hotel early, so we had time to relax after a very enjoyable but busy few days. We were all allowed to unwind and enjoy ourselves with a swim before bed, and a much-needed early night!
Day 9 San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge, Cable Car, Pier 39
San Francisco was a favourite location for most of us; a brilliant place to end the trip. The temperature was cooler, the views were amazing, and it was a lot more relaxed. We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, stopped at the look out point and, of course, took lots of pictures! We had lunch in Union Square before catching the iconic San Francisco cable car from one side of the city to the other, from which we saw much of the city including Lombard Street. In the evening we went to Pier 39 which looked amazing lit up in the dark. Pier 39 had an incredible atmosphere, there were plenty of restaurants, including a Hard Rock Café. The pier is inhabited by seals so we had lots of photos of the adults sleeping whilst their pups played around them!
Day 10 Alcatraz
After leaving our final hotel, we took the boat to Alcatraz Island which gave us great views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. Alcatraz was fascinating but unsurprisingly felt very cold and isolated. We had a radio tour of the island and prison, where we learnt about the escape attempts and famous prisoners, such as Al Capone. When we got back to Pier 39 we were able to go shopping to buy any last-minute souvenirs, eat lunch at Hard Rock Café, and finally, see the sea lions for the last time. Unfortunately, we then had to make our way to the airport for our journey home.
Day 11 Home
After what can only be described as a truly once in a lifetime trip, we all enjoyed a good sleep on the ten-hour flight home to Gatwick and then again on the coach back to school. We were all completely wiped out!
We would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who played a part in giving us this incredible experience. We will never forget it!
Rebekah and Emma, Year 12