The Top 10 Highlights of my DTour across North America!
Now that I’m back in London struggling to come to terms with reality after my whirlwind DTour of North America, I’ve been catching up with friends and family after a month abroad, and the first question I always get asked is ‘What was your favourite bit?’ I spent 17 days travelling around the USA and Canada, so how can I possibly choose just one favourite bit from everything I’ve seen and visited? I felt the other fantastic parts that didn’t make the no.1 spot deserved recognition too, so here are my Top 10 Highlights of my trip around North America:
10. Wine tasting in Sonoma Valley, California
Sonoma Valley was the very first stop on my trip and I was taken on a tour around five lovely vineyards in the area. It was such a lovely day and I couldn’t quite believe how beautiful the area is, and how lovely the weather was in October! I was in a fantastic mood all day, helped along by the abundance of good wine, and couldn’t have begun the trip any better way! You can read my full blog post here: ‘DTour Part 1: When in Sonoma Valley… Drink a lot of wine!’
9. A bird’s eye view over Chicago and New York – two epic skyscrapers
I don’t suffer from vertigo – quite the opposite. I absolutely adore heights and I loved my trips to the top of two incredible skyscrapers: firstly the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower in Chicago (412m high) and then the Top of the Rock on the 70th floor of the Rockefeller Centre in New York City (259m high). Both cities are home to fascinating architecture and you really need to examine them both from up high as well as from street level. Looking down on Chicago and New York, I really grasped their scale and marvelled at how such great cities could have grown into what they are today, in such relatively short time compared to the development of the European cities I’m so familiar with. Read about them in my two blog posts about them: ‘DTour Part 8: How to spend 3 days in Chicago’ and ‘DTour Part 10: And last but not least… New York City!’
8. Strolling along the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas
With absolutely zero prior knowledge of what I’d find in San Antonio, I arrived with a completely open mind and was charmed by both the Alamo and particularly the Riverwalk, which is a recently manmade path through the centre of the city along the canals. It’s lined with restaurants, bars and lovely foliage. You can take a boat along the canals but I preferred to walk and made a video of the stroll. Here’s my full blog post about San Antonio: ‘DTour Part 7: Texan History in San Antonio’
7. Strolling through Central Park in the heart of New York City
I explored Central Park on the very last day of my entire DTour and was feeling rather philosophical that day! I was nearing the end of an absolutely unbelievable coast-to-coast trip visiting seven different DoubleTree by Hilton hotels across North America and I couldn’t help but be moved by the calmness and beauty of Central Park, and the utter contrast it signifies, sitting bang in the middle of one of the busiest, most vibrant and important cities in the entire world. Here’s my blog post about NYC: ‘DTour Part 10: And last but not least… New York City!’
6. Watching the live filming of the Late Show with David Letterman in NYC
Completely by chance and very randomly, one Tuesday afternoon I found myself sat in the Ed Sullivan theatre on Broadway, watching David Letterman interview guests on stage. A friend of mine had happened to be in NYC that same week to train up before the New York Marathon, and he happened to win two free tickets to watch the filming of the Late Show with David Letterman. We turned up and, surrounded by a crowd of excited Americans, feigned to know loads about the show, which in actual fact neither of us had even seen from start to finish! It was the first filming of that sort that I’d ever been to and the atmosphere the compères create before the show, to ensure everyone splits their sides laughing, is very infective! Here’s my blog post about NYC: ‘DTour Part 10: And last but not least… New York City!’
5. The Mystere Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas
That night in Las Vegas I decided to switch career paths and train to become an acrobat – the show was incredible! I was on the edge of my seat the entire show worrying that someone would make a mistake during a leap or a somersault and fall a huge distance to the floor below… The stunts and acrobatics those incredible talented people (if that’s what they really are, because they surely aren’t mere mortals like me) performed were mind-blowing and I swear I could watch it everyday. Luckily for me there are eight different Cirque du Soleil shows in Vegas alone, and others that tour the world, so plenty more for me to see!
Understandably I wasn’t allowed to take photos or videos inside the show, but below are some official photos instead. Read about my trip to Vegas here: ‘DTour Part 5: Las Vegas Baby!’
4. House-hunting in Hollywood (a.k.a. touring the movie stars homes)
It’s ashamedly touristy, but nonetheless I loved touring the stars homes in Beverly Hills and Hollywood. It helped that the sun was out, I had the wind in my hair, the streets were lined with palm trees… Beverly Hills was far better than I had expected, having heard mixed reviews from friends before embarking on my DTour. The mansions and the views along Mulholland Drive and Bel-Air belong to another world and I loved hearing the history of how the film industry had flourished in this spot in California, and found myself scheming ways to buy one of these houses. (I have zero acting skills, so none of my imagined schemes bear any degree of feasibility…) Take a look at my other photos of Hollywood in my blog post ‘DTour Part 3: House-hunting in Hollywood‘, do you like it as much as me?
3. Sunrise in Long Beach, California
The Hotel Maya DoubleTree by Hilton was the second stop on the DTour and I arrived in the evening, and after a lovely waterfront meal in Fuego restaurant, I headed to bed. Still affected by a bit of jetlag, I naturally woke up quite early the following day and drew the curtains to find THIS:
How incredible is that view? Very, is the answer. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The marina, the sandy beach on the hotel lawn, the swimming pool and bar, the waterfront restaurant, the jetty… everything at Hotel Maya is geared around its stunning waterfront location and I can understand why. The following morning I was treated to a paddle-boarding session on the calmest of waters, making for a relaxing way to start the day, as I waved good morning to a sunbathing sea lion posing nearby. Here’s my blog post about Hotel Maya: ‘DTour Part 4: In & Around Hotel Maya in Long Beach‘.
2. Helicopter trip to Grand Canyon
From Las Vegas, in Nevada, I took a helicopter trip out to the Grand Canyon, over in Arizona, and while I did have very high expectations, it completely lived up to them and I was stunned by the sheer size of the canyon and who completely uninhabited it is. There was a constant theme to my DTour around North America: my awe at the sheer size of EVRYTHING. The country itself, the cities, the portions of food, the buildings, everything. And while it only took me 45 minutes to get to the Grand Canyon by helicopter, it would have been an 11-hour round trip by bus. That is some serious distance, and compared to little old England I was amazed. Read more about it here: ‘DTour Part 6: Helicopter trip into Grand Canyon’.
And finally, here is my very favourite part of the entire trip, which I would never have guessed beforehand, and which has surprised most of my friends and family…
1. The Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas!
I was really expecting to not enjoy Las Vegas. Perhaps because I was travelling alone, perhaps because I’ve never really gambled before, perhaps because I expected everyone to be drunk 24/7. But I had a whale of a time in Sin City and it’s all down to the amazing way I was treated at the Tropicana Hotel. For starters, I was given the mother of all penthouse suites (check out that Jacuzzi!), and my weekend’s itinerary was perfectly orchestrated by Lucy, from the Tropicana, to show off the best of Las Vegas in just two short days. They treated me to a one-off private blackjack and roulette lesson (which I was in desperate need of!) in the casino, before watching stand-up comedy in the Laugh Factory, again inside the Tropicana Hotel.
After the helicopter trip to Grand Canyon (which made the no.2 spot!) I had some time to relax in the grounds of the hotel before exploring the dazzling Las Vegas strip and heading to see the Mystere Cirque du Soleil show inside Treasure Island Hotel (highlight no.5!). After the show Lucy took me to Downtown Las Vegas to see where the locals actually hang out, and we bar-hopped the evening away. And to top it all off, they had offered me a massage in the Tropicana Hotel’s spa just before my flight to Texas, which I would have adored, if my alarm had actually managed to wake me up in time for it… But it’s the thought that counts. And I can’t fault how well everyone in the Tropicana treated me – it was an absolute dream come true and very surreal to be treated like such a VIP! I have to say that the Tropicana Hotel has set the bar for all future hotels and my next holiday destination has a lot to live up to! This is why it’s at no.1 on my Top 10 Highlights of my DTour of North America and I can’t recommend it enough – you are guaranteed to have a ball in Las Vegas and I simply cannot wait to go back! Anyone fancy a return trip?? Here’s my full blog post about Las Vegas: ‘DTour Part 5: Las Vegas Baby!’.
There are so many more things I could have added to this list – not least my weekend in Niagara Falls, in Canada, which was absolutely incredible, although the poor weather meant it didn’t quite make it into the Top 10. I owe a huge thank you to everyone at each of the seven DoubleTree by Hilton hotels I visited, for their incredible hospitality, and to everyone behind the scenes, those who picked me as a winner, those who helped me prepare for the DTour and those who made my first solo-trip go so smoothly and made it so memorable. A lot of work went into this trip so that I barely had to lift a finger, and I couldn’t be more grateful for this unbelievable opportunity! A big big thank you to everyone!