Our USA Holiday Part 1 – Arrival and Arizona

2 weeks worth of holiday pictures, and over 2,000 miles travelled across 4 different states, isn’t an easy task to now  condense into one blog post (how could I do it justice?). And so as I have spent this last week reflecting on what a great holiday we all enjoyed, and as I have been sharing the odd pictures with friends while retelling tales of our adventures, I saw how massive of a task it would be to blog about such an epic trip in a few 100 words and decided that to really give you a feel for our trip, I would do this particular holiday over 3 posts… beginning with our first week in Arizona!

London to LA 

Before our trip, so many people said to us they couldn’t think of anything worse than an 11 hour flight with kids… Especially when one of them wasn’t even 2 yet. But we obviously like a challenge, and whether brave or just delusional we took on that challenge! After a 7am start on Wednesday the 22nd of March we drove 5 hours from Yorkshire to London Heathrow, for our 11.25 hour flight to LA.

Far from being the closest airport to us, it did however enable us to fly for a lot cheaper to America than the northern ones – thus making this whole adventure a reality! We found that on the whole there are some really good deals with Air New Zealand from Heathrow to LA (go check it out right now) and as an airline we could not fault them. They were great with the kids, the food was lovely, and the seats felt modern, clean and comfortable.

The kids were fab on the way there… they were mega excited and we were mega excited too, and so as a result of us all being super excited, the first half of the flight was simply great. They watched movies, they snuggled in their seats with their blankets, and then watched more movies. They ate the pre bought treats I packed (this is an essential) and enjoyed the yummy on board meals (Butter Chicken curry and rice with salted caramel Ice cream, and a calzone pizza and Jam & Cream scone before landing!). And then… you guessed it, they watched more movies!

As the hours passed by and we went way beyond what would have been bedtime at home, Ethan and Megan sat dozey eyed looking at their screens before falling asleep for a couple of hours. Alice on the other hand became increasingly fidgety and tired, and therfore very emotional. I walked with her up and down the plane, and stood in the galley at the back rocking her whilst she screamed her head off. At one point in life that would have made me paranoid about what others thought, but at this particular point, and in this moment of desperation, I didn’t care as long as she would finally doze off!

And she did…She gave in eventually, and managed a couple of hours before landing, enabling both Nathan and I to watch a couple of things too and enjoy the remainder of the flight. They all awoke as we landed, and we smiled that we had done it – an 11.25 hours with three kids – High 5!

Then was the hardest part of it all – Border control in LA! Let’s just say it felt like complete unorganized chaos, and with sleepy parents, 3 exhausted kids, no AC and a mega long line moving at 0.5 miles per hour it was HARD! After 90 minutes of that I had zero patience left and so approached a worker, who after some chat bumped us up to almost the front so we could get out and get to the car rental place, and of course eventually get the kids (and us) to bed!

A while later we had all of our luggage, picked up our “pimped” Nissan Rogue, and had a bed for the night in a shady feeling Motel. We slept, we showered and we settled in to life in the USA! We were here and we were more excited than the day before.

The Drive!

For weeks leading up to our trip, all we could talk about was dipping our toes in the Pacific Ocean! We spoke of walking down the Hollywood boulevard and snapping shots in front of the iconic sign… and we dreamed of laying on the beach for an hour or 2, to recover from an 11 hour flight, and soak up the fact we were finally in America!

But none of this happened, at least not at this stage of our trip! Rather we were greeted with a tropical storm. Warm yes, but also very grey and lots and lots of rain! We decided that very first morning (after ordering our first stack of pancakes) that we would just go ahead and start an earlier drive over to Arizona to escape the grey and wet weather that was too much like home!

We took the I10  for 6 hours, with a stop off in Blythe for some tacos, and made it finally to Mesa early evening! It was the first of many long drives and like them all  (as you will see) was filled with so much natural beauty. This was sprung on us in abundance when crossing the Arizona border meant us seeing real life massive Cacti for the first time and it was such a novelty for us all (and especially the kids)!

Mesa Arizona 

Mesa Arizona was my home for well over a year, and I have missed it so much! Of course it has changed a lot since I was there 11 years ago, but the smell of the warm dry air and street names felt oh so familiar and I couldn’t get enough of it – it was like coming home.

We stayed in Mesa for 4 nights at one of my friends houses, which was so great. There we were able to catch up, chat late into the night, and reminisce. It was good for the kids too as they found new friends, and had other kids to play with which they thoroughly enjoyed. And then of course staying with friends or family means that is also great for the bank balance too! (Thanks Rachel). It was lovely living there as a local again for a few days, as well as going on a few adventures, and generally just seeing into friends lives a little more and living the American dream!

Whilst a lot of our trip here was about touring around the people and places that were important to me, we were also conscious that it was still a family holiday and so we wanted to do some activities that were fun and would build lasting memories too. The first day I started at the top of my my list and we had lunch at my most favorite of places – Cafe Rio (Priorities) and as hoped Nathan loved it too! Then with bellies full of deliciousness, we headed downtown to “Main Street” where they have an LDS Temple and Visitors centre. During Easter they also have an Easter pageant here, and so the remainder of our day (and evening) was spent here with friends… a place where most of my days were spent too 11 years ago!

We walked around and looked, played at the splash pad in Pioneer Park opposite, and then met more friends for a picnic tea and an evening watching the Pageant. It was such a lovely day in such a special place, that felt utterly surreal, but we lapped it up and had an absolutely fab time.

The following day we took our adventures to the next level when one of my friends (and his kids) took our family to Superstition Mountains for a hike. This was something I was greatly looking forward to as I have, for so long, wanted to explore the dessert a little more. The hike took us just a couple of miles up a track to the bottom of the mountains, where we found some Native American hieroglyphs – they were so cool! The kids absolutely loved everything about it (until Megs fell into a cactus), and had fun running round the desert and clambering up rocks with their new American pals!

Once at our destination we had our picnic and explored a little cave whilst admiring the incredible views and scenery. It was a warm day, but thankfully not too hot, and whilst I was somewhat anxious about potential scorpions and snakes, it didn’t seem to matter as it was still such a lovely time and Nathan and I loved just being in the desert, seeing the massive cacti and feeling the heat.

That evening the kids cooled off in the pool when we met up with an old friend and his family. It was such a great day, and then before we knew it we only had one last, and so spent the rest of the weekend mostly just driving round old places I lived and seeing old friends I love!

The Grand Canyon

We left Mesa on Monday morning after a delicious breakfast at the cutest of places in Gilbert! “The Gilbert House Restaurant”, whilst a little off track, was the loveliest of places to meet one of my friends for last minute chats and a hearty American breakfast. I loved everything about it; the food was incredible and I seriously felt like I was on “Anne of Green Gables” as soon as we walked up to it. It was a great start to our last day in Mesa!

Set up for the day food wise, we drove up the highway, passing Scottsdale etc until we reached Flagstaff. Here we had a toilet break and a late lunch before a shorter 1.15hr drive to the Grand Canyon National park.The scenery was beautiful, and as it blended from desert landscapes to picturesque woodlands, the temperature dropped and we soon found ourselves in a blizzard! It was the weirdest thing, and we couldn’t believe our eyes…especially to be at the Grand Canyon National park and seeing snow. As I stood there in my sandals, all I could do was laugh my head off!

The Grand Canyon and national park were quite possibly one of the major highlights for us all on this trip! It was so incredibly beautiful and each of us stood in total awe and amazement as we stood high on the edge looking over it. At this point, the sun came out and it was just spectacular! We weren’t there long, but it was long enough to appreciate it’s vastness, read of it’s people and see some local wildlife crossing the road.

It costs $30 for a car (weekly pass) which felt pricey for a couple of hours, but is completely worth it for a week. I would definitely go back here and explore it for longer, and would love to visit the Navajo stalls that line the road as you drive away from it! If you have a chance to go, you totally should (but beware of mountain lions!). It’s such an adventure and beautiful place, and we couldn’t believe our eyes, or believe we were there!

The canyon itself, and the drive down from it/ through it, and through the reservation is so fascinating and exciting. It is for sure the greatest of adventures! Of course it was a little more scary when darkness crept in, but with sleeping kids, it was an easy drive for the remaining 5 hours it took us to get to St George, Utah.

What a brilliant end to our time in Arizona!

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1 Comment

  1. April 16, 2018 / 5:12 pm

    I think it makes all the difference to a holiday when the journey kicks off well. Those plane meals sound fab compared to any I’ve ever experienced. It seems like you had a really good balance of family adventures, time with friends and time together. Hope you’re not missing Nathan too much now you’re back into the routine of school run days.

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