Contiki 2014 – Grand Northern USA

For a while, I’ve wanted to write about my contiki in 2014.

I hadn’t started my blog yet when I traveled then but I definitely want to do a review on the tour. So I what I think I’ll do, is an over all overview of the contiki, then another blog of each of the place we stopped in at!

The tour started on a rainy morning in downtown New York at the Doubltree By Hilton, Chelsea. The night before, most of us met in the lobby for a quick meet and greet and exchange paperwork of insurance and passports with our contiki manager Craig, a typical American with a very strong southern accent, which threw me at first. Christ, what am I doing? Why on earth did I book this trip, everyone is terrifying me!

My anxiety of new people went into overdrive and I was stuck in the middle of a tiny cramped lobby with 30 or so other people introducing themselves to everyone while I managed to back my way out of the group after I had given my copies of the paper work and nudged towards the elevator and back to my room to try to get a good nights sleep after an extensive day of trying to get over my jet lag and the fact that I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life by coming overseas.

I missed home, my family and my friends already and I had only been out of the country for no more than 48 hours and I still had 30 something days to go!

Mel, pull yourself together, you are going to enjoy this trip no matter what!

The next day we all jumped in the bus and spent the next few hours playing ‘get to know you’ games before reaching our first destination, Boston. We did the touristy stuff in Boston for a couple of days then headed up on the bus to Canada!

We explored in Quebec City, Montreal and of course Toronto where we hit up way too many bars and drank way too much vodka to have our last trip in Canada at the beautiful Niagara Falls.

Before we crossed the border back into the States, we stopped in at the duty free store to stock up for the rest of the trip with more alcoholic goodies.

Next stop, Cleveland Ohio! We only spent one afternoon/night here. We ventured through the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame then spent the night ten pin bowling.

Over the coming days we stopped in at Chicago Illinois, Madison Wisconsin, Sioux Falls South Dakota, the incredible Badlands’ National Park, the tiny historic town of Walldrug and Mt. Rushmore. I got to go to my first baseball game and check in at the Spam Factory (needless to say, like most days we were hung over and the spam tastings were an interesting experience to say the least).

One place I remember fondly is Keystone, a town next to Mt. Rushmore that   I loved the little old town and I was caught it wanderlust of it all. A few of us spent an evening in the most amazing bar I have ever seen.

It was a cross between an old wooden small town bar, and a thrift shop. Yeah I’m serious, and I’ll go into more detail about it in my other blog and review about each town.

The next day would have been my favorite part of the bus trip by far!

We drove from Keystone through to the Wyoming Mountain Ranges, where for the first time ever, I saw snow. The forty or so of us proceeded to have a snow ball fight then return to the bus with blue frozen fingers and toes. It was totally worth it though 🙂


That afternoon we arrived to the small rodeo town of Cody, Wyoming. We all brought out our cowboy boots and hats and headed off the to rodeo for the evening!

The following days were spent in numerous national parks and time for some fresh air! We visited Yellowstone National Park, went on a horse ride through a local ranch, hiked through Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park and finally, the one and only Grand Canyon!


We finished off our trip by spending three amazing days in Las Vegas where, like usual, we drank too much, spent too much and partied too much. It was the final hoorah for the contiki trip so we made the most of Las Vegas before everyone parting ways in Los Angeles, not without several tears and hugs and exchanges of phone numbers.

Contiki’s are infamous for that, creating bonds and friendships like no other. Not only are you travelling to incredible places for the first, and potentially one and only time, but you are sharing that experience and wanderlust with 49 other travellers.

People who are inspired by the world and want to achieve so much. Some already have achieved so much which inspires everyone else even more.

Thank you contiki for creating life long lasting memories and friendships for me with like minded travelers and world seekers.

 

 

 

Wednesday May 11th 2016 – The Canadian Fairmont Bucket List

Since having started working for this company, I have decided to make a-

‘Canadian Fairmont Bucket List’ 

A list of Fairmont Hotel’s that I want to spend at least one night in at some point for here in Canada as well as the United States (since its just down the road)!

  • Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise ✔️

Monday April 18th 2016 – The stayover

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  • Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel ✔️

The reason I want to stay here, and honestly I already have twice, I just haven’t written about it yet, is because it is only 45 minutes away from Lake Louise. Having a passion for spa, the iconic Willow Stream Spa is one thing I certainly will be checking out! I will potentially stay here with my parents, will see 😉

  • Fairmont Palliser, Calgary ✔️

Tuesday, March 15th 2016 – 48 Hours in Calgary

  • Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

I will be staying here in September with my parents when they visit! So I shall keep you informed 🙂

  • Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, Edmonton
  • The Fairmont Waterfront, Vancouver

Again, in September, my parents will be lucky enough to check this place out with me!

  • The Fairmont Pacific Rim, Vancouver

I would love more than anything to be able to stay here!!! They have by what I have heard, the best high tea next to The Savoy in London! They also have a Willow Stream Spa 😍 The only reason I couldn’t book here is because the staff rate wasn’t available for when my parents are visiting 😦  Doesn’t mean we can’t pop over to check it out!

  • The Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver

Here I will be staying with my parents!! Woohoo

  • Fairmont Empress, Victoria

Victoria is a stone throw away from Vancouver and the hotel sits right on the waterfront. It is also home to another Willow Stream Spa

  • Fairmont Chateau Whistler

It’s Whistler, need I say anymore? And yes I will be staying here in September! 😁☺️😆

Americas-

  • Fairmont Southampton, Bermuda

Palm Trees, Beach and Willow Stream Spa. Ah, sounds like heaven! This place is very high up on the bucket list for a holiday getaway!

  • Fairmont Mayakoba, Mexico

I nearly made it here in January when I went on my Mexican trip with G Adventures! Friday January 15th 2016 – Cancun. There were no staff rates, so I didn’t book. But next time!!!

  • Fairmont Copley Plaza, Boston

I honestly love Boston! I was here in 2014 when I went on my first contiki trip, the Grand Northern. (I am yet to blog about it by the way. This trip was before I started blogging!) The historic city of Boston honestly fascinates me and I would go back there in a heartbeat to visit again. The Fairmont Copley Plaza is also recognized as one of the Historic Hotels of America, since its grand opening in 1912.

  • Fairmont Dallas

Dear god, I will never be able to explain in words how much I loved visiting Texas! Take me back!

Day 22 Monday 31st August- “Things do not happen, things are made to happen” JFK

Day 23 Tuesday 1st September – “Brace your backbone and forget your wishbone”

  • Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii

The Fairmont Orchid is home to The Spa Without Walls. Imagine laying there getting a facial with the sound of the water trickling from the waterfall and stream only meters away. And stepping out of the door from your room straight onto the beach. Sounds like heaven to me. And I’ve never been yet to Hawaii.

  • The Plaza, New York

Day 4 Thursday 13th August- Sex and the city

New York is without a doubt my favorite city in the whole world! Not only was it the starting place of both of my contiki trips, which literally changed my life both times, but the city itself is so incredibly diverse and cultured. You walk in one direction to one neighborhood to see Wall Street and skyscrapers, and in another direction you are in the middle of suburbia eating local cupcakes in the park that looks like something out of the “Forrest Gump” movie.

And The Plaza, well is speaks for itself. Do you remember watching ‘Home Alone 2 Lost In New York’ as a kid? Yes, this is the same place! Central Park is right next door (and no its not as scary as the movie makes it out to be) And for those Australians, Crocodile Dundee when he arrives in New York ( you know the scene) his hotel suite is bigger than my whole apartment!

I won’t go on any further, we all know The Plaza.

  • Fairmont Grand Del Mar, San Diego

Even though I had 2 trips to the United States, San Diego is one destination I am yet to get to.

  • Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Arizona

This place is also very high on the bucket list. If I am to one day able to work in the States and get a working Visa for there, here is the place to be! Home to the Well & Being Spa, a holistic overall wellness spa with a fitness center and the works. Right in the middle of Arizona where it is nice and warm, just how I like it!

  • Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Seattle

I will be meeting my parents in Seattle in September when I see them for the first time in a whole 12 months! I tried to book here with the staff rate, but with no luck. We may just have to pop in for a visit though during out day in Seattle.

Eventually I will make my way to all of these incredible destinations. I know it won’t be any time soon, but one day in years to come, I will look back on this list and know just how achievable it really is!

Thank you Fairmont for being such an incredible place to work 💜

 

Day 30 Tuesday 8th September – “Home is now behind you, the world is ahead” Gandalf the Great/ Contiki Charity

It is always a sad day when contiki comes to an end.

You spend a month with incredible people, getting to know their ins and outs, see their ups and downs, and overall, become friends that will last a lifetime.

Travel isn’t about the places you see, it’s about who you travel with along the way. Contiki brings out the best people who are all looking to meet other fellow travelers.

On the final day of contiki, I realized that it’s not the places that we visited, or the hotels we stayed in or the food we ate, but the laughs that were shared along the way that will be missed the most.

On the very first day of your, everyone was nervous and shy about getting to know everyone else.

But we all pushed each other out of our comfort zones, to make the most of the opportunities that lay ahead.

After 26 days of being together, we knew that the reason it is so sad, is that we had all become so comfortable with each other, being around each other everyday or waking up to the company of your room mate.

The first day and last day of contiki are the most important to an individual.

The in between, we learn to push ourselves. But it is truly on the last day, where we have to say goodbye to everything that we know. Say goodbye to the life of the last 26 days and accept the fact that, life goes on.

For most of us, there will always be another trip or another contiki. Which means inevitably, more fellow travellers.

As Gandalf the Great, or our very own Contiki Charity once said, “Home is now behind you, the world is ahead”.

Each trip, or new chapter in the book, we are leaving what we know behind, and starting again.

I want to thank each and every one of amazing people that I travelled with during not only the 26 days of the Grand Southern, but the 4 days in New York as well.

What a journey it has been!



xx

Day 29 Monday 7th September – Don’t be sad that it’s over, be happy that it happened 

 

 Well I must say for the most part of today, I didn’t do a whole lot except sleep!

I didn’t get in til 6.30am this morning after drinking with an old contiki friend back at the hotel! It was great to catch up!

So after sleeping til about noon, I managed to get myself up, get some food and begun getting ready for the last night of contiki 😦

Myself and a few of the girls went to the ‘High Roller’ Ferris Wheel to check out Vegas from a new view.

And as you can see from above, I’m sure Vegas got a view of its own 😉 haha, don’t worry no one saw anything, it was just for fun!


  
  
After the Ferris Wheel, we all met at MGM Grande for our Limo with champagne ride before heading to the club of the night, XS at The Encore, with 3 other contikians!!!

It was really cool to see people that I was in New York with nearly a month ago, I’d missed them so much.

Well there’s not much to say about the night, other than it was huge like the night before 🙂

I’m pretty sure there was a compliment drink with our entry, and we all ordered Long Island Iced Teas, I know I didn’t need another after that.

All in all, it was sad to say, but contiki has all but come to an end 😦

xx

Day 28 Sunday 6th September – “Birthday Celebrations”

 

 

Good Morning Ya’ll :)So yeah… As you can guess, today is MY BIRTHDAY!

And today, we are off to Las Vegas, the original sin city 🙂

This morning we left and on the way to Las Vegas, we stopped in at a little town on Route 66.


It was a hot town in the middle of the desert full of quirky signs and attractions.


  
The bus journey was a fun one with party music and games for an amazing day ahead.

We played plenty of Calvin Harris, because tonight, myself and the girls are heading to Hakassan at the MGM Grande to see him live in Las Vegas!

When we arrived at Las Vegas mid afternoon, we unpacked all of our luggage and headed up to the rooms.

Some went shopping while others began pre drinking.

I headed down to the salon at the hotel to get my hair done for my birthday 🙂

After getting all dolled up for the night, I returned back to the room to find a beautiful surprise waiting for me…


And there was so much more confetti throughout that what is in that picture!

My contiki girls are amazing and I love you all for making my birthday such a special night 😀

We had dinner at the Planet Hollywood at Caesars Palace Forum Shops.

After we finished our meals, I was given a birthday ice cream with a sparkler and everyone sang happy birthday.

It was beautiful 😊


We left Planet Hollywood and hopped on the bus to do a Las Vegas city tour and stop at the infamous sign at the end of the strip!


We spent an amazing night visiting an Elvis chapel and visiting the lights on Freemont Street and partying on the bus along the way.

Finally, we ended up at MGM Grande where we continued to party it up and see the one and only Calvin Harris 😍

xx

Day 27 Saturday 5th September – “Not I, not anyone else, can travel that road for you. You must travel it for yourself” Walt Whitman

The Grand Canyon is one of the marvels of the world that, only when you see it in the flesh, do you appreciate its enormity.

People can go places and see things, and when you get home, you tell your friends and family and you show them photos.

But there are some things, that no matter in how much detail, or how many pixels your camera is, somethings just need to be seen for themselves.

The Grand Canyon is one of these things.

“Not I, not anyone else, can travel that road for you. You must travel is for yourself” said Walt Whitman.


This morning started off with doing laundry which was desperately overdue!

Others had helicopter rides over the grand canyon which I decided not to do, as I had done it last year and decided to keep my money for other optionals.

When everyone got back from the helicopters, Monique and myself went to the village shopping centre to get supplies for the sunset picnic we had planned this evening with the group.

Once the shopping was complete, Leigh and myself took a walk to the Bright Angel Trailhead at the canyon to explore the amazing view and get some cool touristy snaps 🙂

  
  

After an afternoon of exploring, we headed back to the cabins to get our things together and head to Mohave Point for the sunset picnic 🙂

When we arrived, we took a few sneaky photos at the point!


  

Unfortunately, it turned very cold and very windy quite quickly, so we all headed back to the cabins and gathered up for a couple of room gatherings before our big journey tomorrow to the one and only, Viva Las Vegas 😉