USA – San Francisco

The inner geek in me loved this place, probably because it is a the tech-hub of the world. Nonetheless, the atmosphere of San Franciso was great because it felt like LA (the people and culture, without being so geographically spreadout) and had the buzz of NYC (without being too busy and hectic). If I had to move to the USA, San Francisco would certainly be on my list.

Fisherman’s Wharf is a cool place to hang out, but it is very touristy. Parking is outrageous, with most places wanting US$45 or more a day. Try to park on the street or just use public transport. Some of the great things to do in San Francisco would be to check out the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, hop on a trolley tram, and visit Golden Gate Park (hop on a segway if you can!).

Canada – Vancouver

Vancouver is a great place. The people there are extremely helpful, and go out of their way to assist. I recall once we must have looked like we were lost, and a gentlemen in a suit approached us and asked if he could assist – we were shocked. We were in Vancouver in between seasons unfortunately. It was wet and cold, but not cold enough for snow yet.

Funnily enough, Vancouver was a place where we could actually “normal” coffee, similar to what we were used to at home. The food there was also quite pleasant and tasty to eat, and the random places we ate at were alright (whereas in the US, it seemed to all be of lower standard).

Unfortunately, there isn’t too much to do in Vancouver. We loved Richmond – it felt like they picked up a piece of Hong Kong and dropped it here in Richmond. Take a walk through Stanley Park if you can, and walking along the Sea Wall is a relaxing option after dinner.

USA – Seattle

Seattle is a great quiet place to be. It is very much an outdoors kind of state, where you need to take in the scenery. We went across to Mount Olympic to visit the Hoh Rainforest.

We past Fork along the way, which is where scenes from Twilight were filmed. We went up the space needle like typical tourists, and had a great view of Seattle and the surrounding mountains that encompassed the city.

USA – Washington DC

DC is a beautiful place, but like most capital cities (if I can loosely use “most”). It is a city rich with history, so it is suited to people who are interested in how America came to be. You will see the White House, Lincoln Memorial, and many museums. The vast majority of the museums are free to enter.

Even for the history rich, I think 1-2 days in DC is plenty of time to explore the city.

Canada – Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Niagra Falls

First impression of Canada is that is the smaller version of the US (much like New Zealand to Australia). Canada is much cleaner than USA, and has deeper cultural imprints. It is amazing to see how one country can have two official languages – English and French.

We were part of a 4-day tour which trekked various cities of the East coast of Canada. Montreal. the second largest French speaking city outside of Paris is lit with heritage. Toronto and Ottawa are worth visits, as there are many landmarks and monuments to see. Toronto is rich with cultral diversity from all the students travelling and studying from Asian countries.

Of course, the highlight of the trip was Niagra Falls. The spectacular view of the the fall from the Skylon Tower was amazing, and the cruise on the Maid and Mist was memorable. The ability to get so close is breathtaking.

From what I witnessed, I believe Canada deserves a trip on it’s own, or at least coupled with a visit to the United Kingdom.

USA – New York

There are great expectations placed upon New York, largely from all the hype on television and other travellers. It certainly lives up to all the hype. It is an extremely large city, the population of people in New York City (NYC) alone is almost as much as the whole of Australia. This is hard to believe until you have visited NYC. You will also notice how dirty and polluted the city is!

You can spend a very long time in New York. If you’re into shopping, get dropped off anywhere in NYC, and you will probably spend a day there circling a few blocks. The great thing is there is more than shopping in NYC, there are plenty of others things to see, do, eat. NYC is one of a few places in the USA where you can find good food – yet to find a place that makes a proper coffee though (Cafe Latte anyway).

Of the many places to visit, the standard ones to name a few are Fifth Ave, Times Square, Grand Central Station, Wall St.

USA – Miami

We decided to visit Miami due to seeing it feature in various movies and TV shows. Burn Notice fueled my need to explore Miami. The city is one very much focused on beach culture. We stayed down South Beach, which is the main party strip in Miami. A car is needed to get around Miami successfully, as you will find yourself driving around and taking in the surroundings. The other option is to sit on South Beach and absorb the Sun.

Apart from the beaches and the beautiful views driving across the bridges to South Beach, I cannot say there was much more to do in Miami. There is the equivalent of Hollywood Bld, but that it is much more quiet in comparison – almost a ghost town. To make the most of Miami, you need to hit the beaches by day, and clubs by night.

USA – Texas

Big flat and nothing like on TV is what I describe this place.

The stereotypes of people from Texas you see on TV did not exist on my visit. No cowboys, no horses, nothing more than a civilised city with big freeways, and citizens driving large trucks for no real reason. The only “stereotype” was the thick Texas accent you typically associate with this state.

I had family here, so I spent a lot of time with them. I stayed primarily in San Antonio, but made a day trip to Dallas. Even still, I could not be convinced there was a whole lot to do here…

The riverwalk in San Antonio was “neat”, but not much else stood out. Dallas was just another city, but there was not much there. A great place to eat is at Chama Gaucha which is a Brazillian Steak House. Definitely some of the better meat I had in the US! – http://www.chamagaucha.com/

USA – Las Vegas

After our initial stay in LA, we moved onto Las Vegas.
First thoughts, it’s hot. Second thought, what a party town.

It’s amazing to see how much money casinos are able to bring into a town, and it’s ability to develop such an entertainment hub in the middle of nowhere. We stayed at the Monte Carlo.

Shopping at the South Premium Outlet was great, plenty of brands and stock to choose from. Food was very hit and miss, but I would have to give American Fish (in Aria) a wrap as the food there was by far the best.

The days were spent shopping or lounging in pools, and the nights were spent gambling away or watching shows. The three shows we saw were “O” – Cirque De Soleil, Penn & Teller, and Phantom of the Opera. I would recommend all three of these shows, and you may be able to pick them up cheap off the strip from the stalls that try to sell last minute tickets.

George Clooney shooting ad for Mercedes Benz in Beverly Hills

In Beverly Hills, we had lunch at Villa Blanca, the reknown restaurant owned by Lisa Vanderpump. It so happened that an ad for Mercedes Benz was being filmed at the time.

After some inquiring, we heard that George Clooney was to star in this commercial. We decided to hover around for a bit, to see if he might show up. Sure enough, he arrived in his black Mercedes, was escorted into the car to be featured in the ad, and driven again after a few minutes of filming. What a life!

George created much buzz and interest. It was like nothing else mattered!

George Clooney filming an ad for Mercedes Benz outside Villa Blanca in Beverly Hills

George Clooney filming an ad for Mercedes Benz outside Villa Blanca in Beverly Hills