The second leg of our road trip took us from Arizona to Utah. The last time I wrote of our holiday in the USA I was up to the part where we had had an epic day at the Grand Canyon prior to setting off up to St George for the night – you can read about that all here.

So yes – We left The Grand Canyon and made our way to St George, where we had a hotel booked for a nights stay, before driving up to the Salt Lake area to spend a week with Family and Friends. This particular night of driving, which took us through the Canyon, was long and felt the hardest part of our Journey. We were pretty tired, there were not a lot of places to stop and get food, and the Reservation/Dessert at night-time is more than a little scary.

We finally made it to our Hotel around midnight and flopped into bed. I was pretty sick that night with something I had eaten for lunch (Wendy’s Chilli) and it was all a bit of a rough/long night! Thankfully by early afternoon the next day, and lots of water, I felt mostly myself again!

The hotel was a bargain at £60 for the night (inc a buffet breakfast) and was such a lovely room we had. We all rested well after the adventures of the previous day, and after said yummy breakfast, we had a lovely little wander around the LDS Temple and Visitors centre in St George.

After our brief visit, we hit the road again and made the almost 5 hour journey from St George to Provo (pit stop) and then onto Herriman where we had our base for the week with Nathan’s cousin. We saw a friend on the way, loved the snow capped mountains and bough a huge pizza for lunch from a tiny place owned by an Amish family!

Once in Utah it felt like home from home. It was so lovely to see everyone, catch up and chat, and whilst we were obviously on holiday, staying with family and seeing friends at parks and out for dinner, all just felt so very natural and normal. Both Nathan and I have been to Utah before, and so we were both comfortable in our surroundings and knew of all of the places we wanted to take the kids to. Looking back, our week in Utah was a good balance of days out/Touristy things, and chilling and reunions with our lovely family and friends!

Temple Square

Our first day there we felt pretty well rested and were very keen to take the kids up to Temple Square in Salt Lake City (and they were pretty keen to go). It is a special place in our religion, and an impressive place generally for people to walk around and see. We knew that there would be plenty to see and do to fill the day! We met some cousins/2nd cousins, and whilst it was a little nuts navigating the kids in a busy place, it turned out to be such a lovely time together.

We took them first to The Lion House – an historic house where one of our early Prophets lived, and then onto the Churches office building where you can take a tour to the top and look over the city from the roof! Both were super exciting and interesting places, and the views from the Church Administration building were stunning!

From here we walked around the outside of the Salt Lake temple, and then across the road to the conference centre (and then back again to the Visitors centre). It obviously took way longer than we anticipated with all of kids in tow, but they loved it and we had a really lovely and memorable family day out!

If you are ever in Salt Lake it’s a good tour to take and place to visit – you don’t have to be Mormon to look around it, and all of it is super interesting about our Church History and beliefs.

Wheeler Historic Farm

Wheeler Historic Farm was such a lovely day out that we did, again with cousins and extended family. It was a hot day, and started off with a big family picnic at the park next to it – It ended with us getting shakes and root beer floats!

Wheeler farm is a FREE farm, which was such a novelty, and it felt very much like an American TV set for an old farm movie! I loved it all, and as we wandered around looking at old machinery and the few animals that they have there, it was so pretty and fun for all. I was excited to see you could have a milking cows experience for just a few dollars, but unfortunately for me and my bucket list, it was later than we planned on staying until! The kids however enjoyed a wagon ride behind the tractor for just $2 each… another great day out filled with fun, adventures, family and fresh air.

Conference and Easter Weekend

After a few days out and gallivanting around places of interest (half of which we never actually went to) it was Easter weekend, and for us as members of the LDS church – our semi annual conference weekend too. This felt such a novelty to be in Utah for this, as we were able to get tickets to go to a live session of it, as opposed to our usual watching of it at home online!

We did watch most of it with his Cousin on their TV, but then on the Sunday morning Nathan and I had the opportunity to go back up to Salt Lake City and go to the morning session of conference. It was a beautiful sunny Easter Sunday, and we began by seeing “Music and The Spoken word” by the Mormon Tabernacle choir. This was breathtakingly beautiful and made me feel so happy to be there with my love!

The session itself was as inspiring and uplifting as we imagined it would be, and it was a real highlight for us both on this part of our holiday.

It felt a little strange to be away from home during Easter – mainly because I missed scoffing down a big chocolate egg whilst in my PJs! But Naths cousin did a lovely egg hunt in the garden for the kids, where they had little sweeties in plastic eggs. And then on Easter Sunday evening, when we got back from Conference, we gathered with his cousins for a lovely Easter dinner and plenty of laughs!

Reunions

I have a lot of friends in Utah that I lived with when I was over there and who mean a lot to me. We keep in touch on social media, and now other apps too, and it is such a blessing to remain a part of each others lives even though we live so many miles apart.

I was so excited to see them all (and relieved that it felt “just like yesterday”) when we met up on various occasions. We had so much to talk about, so many laughs to have, and we shared many delicious meals from “Chick-Fil-A” (which we got “on the house” because we were British!!) to fake cafe rio at a gathering in our honour. We had park days with the kids, chilling at houses and I felt so happy being with such treasured friends, individuals and family.

Reunions both with my friends, and with Nath’s family are what made our visit to Utah so wonderful and special. We wish we could see those faces and hang out with them far more than we are able, but we love living in England and their homes and hearts are in the states. But we will always treasure the time we get to hang out when they visit us or we can visit them – We hope that this is more frequent than it has been, as we treasure these experiences and memories!

Thanks Utah – for cheapo Root beers, More Costco Pizza, Chick-fil-a, Thai food, Five Guys, fake Cafe Rio, delish home cooked meals, and lots of love and laughs! It was a fabulous week and Easter Weekend, and we loved seeing everyone!

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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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There is nothing like being surrounded by snow and on a countdown to an epic holiday in the sun, that get’s your mind whirling with ideas of all of the other places you might want to go to next! In just over 2 weeks we will be heading out to LA to kick start our 2 week America holiday, and being in true holiday mentality, I have found myself wondering where we might go to next. I have been dreaming of, and researching several other places I want to discover with our little family in this beautiful world …

Caribbean Dreams

Maybe it’s having “Havana” on repeat whilst I clean the house every day (and dancing to such cool beats), or perhaps it’s the amazing memories of our honeymoon in Cancun, but just recently I have been thinking a lot about how much I would love to go on another Caribbean holiday, and see such beautiful beaches and seas!

In 2009 Nathan and I Honeymooned in Cancun, and the white sands with turquoise warm seas were out of this world! The food was incredible, as was entertainment and stuff to do – from snorkeling around coral reefs and body boarding, mixed in with jungle tours, ChiChen Itza, and general chilling in paradise, all just felt like an absolute dream! I knew as we headed home to start our life together that one day I would love to return to that area of the world to discover more beautiful places with our family, and right now, Cuba looks like a splendid option for us all in the near future.

My 5 Reasons to want to go to Cuba …

Cuba is the biggest of the Islands in the Caribbean and is also a cheaper option to see that part of the world! Destinaton2 has some great deals that make it a great holiday choice for both a luxury Couples retreat, or general fun and adventurous family holiday. Here are my reasons (inspired a lot from my in-laws recent visit) as to why I would love to take our family to Cuba too!

Paradise Beaches/Sea/Sunshine – Being an Island in the Caribbean it is guaranteed hot weather, white sands and warm turquoise seas. This is obviously the main reason to visit, that and because I would love for the kids to experience such beauty, as well as enjoying it again for ourselves! I imagine even with kids in tow it would be a relaxing and chilled spot to holiday together!

Culture – Cuba is a very culturally diverse place, with wonderful people! I really love to go to places that immerse me in a new experience and really feel the vibe of it! With Spanish, African, American and Asian influences I feel it would be amazing to soak up all of it’s music, food and festivals, for a most memorable experience!

I love the pictures that show colourful 1950’s cars and buildings and I feel like wandering around from beach to city would be so exciting, as well as spontaneous music and dancing with the locals!

History – Cuba is full of History and this is often a huge element to what we look for in a Holiday too. I always think there is only so much beach time you can have on a trip (even in the Caribbean), and so it’s important for us to have things to learn about and look into further!
Being Communist, this in itself is super interesting, as well as it’s roots as far back as Christopher Columbus’ discovery and Colonial architecture. It is most definitely a super, historically interesting place I am keen to explore.

Organically Grown stuff! – Cuba grows Sugar cane, Tobacco and Aloe vera, all of which make it famous around the world, and to see these things being grown in their natural environment would be so fascinating! I think especially for the kids to see and learn more about these things close up would be another highlight and day long adventure!

Swim with Dolphins – Whilst the thought makes me slightly anxious, I think for us all to be in the sea, swimming with such beautiful creatures, would be an out of this world experience and a lot of fun! I know the kids (Megs especially) would be living the dream doing this on a family holiday!

Cuba would be an incredible holiday for us all, and a place I want to go to soon so as to really capture the culture before it becomes too Touristy! I hope it is a destination we get to experience very soon for a family adventure in the Caribbean!

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For years now we have talked about going to America on a holiday to see the friends and family we have there! Nathan has family in Utah, and we both have friends there too, and then there is the major thing of me having lived in Arizona for almost a year and a half back in 06/07!! All are are, and have been, major factors in us wanting to visit those 2 states!

Living in Arizona was fantastic! I was there as a Missionary for the LDS church, and whilst life was a little different to normal every day life, the adventure was still huge and the people I lived with and met absolutely marvellous. After the first Summer I became a lover of the heat (except when riding my bike), and I have since looked forward to the day I could return with Nathan and our family to see more of the touristy things, and generally show them around a place that means so much to me.

Up until now we have never really felt justified in spending the money to go as we knew it would be on the higher end of our budget for a holiday. Nathan was a student for 4 years and then I have always seemed to be pregnant, and with another on the way it always just felt like the money would be best used elsewhere (not to mention who wants to do all that travelling whilst pregnant?!). Last year we obviously knew we were moving house, and so our finances were wrapped up in that major adventure, and whilst it was still a goal we had, it was just in the background as something we would do soonish. It got to the point, as we talked about our plans once there, that we decided that if we could we would definitely go this year!

Cheap flights

And so this year came, and with it lots of flight price watching on skyscanner! We talked everyday about it becoming a reality as they fluctuated up and down, and then on the last day of January we took the bull by the horns and booked it! It felt so spontaneous, but then wasn’t at all! We got a fab deal being that all 5 of us are flying (return) for £1,476 – an absolute bargain!!!

We are flying with Air New zealand from Heathrow to LA, and I have never known it to be so cheap. We seriously thought it would easily be £2,000 if not more! And so we are off – for 2 whole weeks to America and we are super excited for what awaits.

A mega road trip 

We plan on having a Mega road trip – the ultimate adventure thus far for us all!

Last year we did a lot of driving in Italy, and whilst we know that this is far longer, the fact that there are so many new and amazing sights to take in, and people to look forward to seeing, it somehow makes it a bearable and exciting prospect!

Our journey will start in LA with a day or so of seeing the sights and Hollywood. From there we will drive to Arizona and stay with friends for a few days in Mesa, where we will see lots of special people and places. In Mesa I will show them some of the places I lived, climb a mountain and see the dessert, and then the annual Easter Pageant too which is brilliant!

From Mesa we will drive north to the Grand Canyon for a few hours, and then continuing north through some of the other canyons, we will stop for a night in St George (Southern Utah) and chill there for a bit. The next day we will drive up to the Provo/Salt Lake areas of Utah where will spend a week with family and friends, and show the kids some major sites from our churches history. I expect we will just have fun, maybe head into the odd mountain but mainly just enjoy being with friends in America.

Finally we will head back via Las Vegas for a fun day on the strip and a night in a hotel – see the sights, all before reaching LA and flying home to England!

Our biggest outgoing will of course be travel, with the odd hotel in LA, St George and Vegas, which I have found some great deals on too. As we will be on the road a lot and have a bucket list purely with like 20 eateries on, and so we expect quite a bit will be spent on food that is no good for us but delicious all the same. Most of our days will be spent doing free things and seeing places of natural beauty, and as we are mostly staying with friends and family it will be home from home and a huge saver!

The whole thing sounds both ridiculous with 3 kids and yet absolutely amazing too. The kids are excited for all the root beer and giant portions, Sunshine, Pancake stacks and seeing giant cacti in the dessert. We are excited for a holiday and to be able to see so many incredible people and places.

I can’t wait to share in the beautiful Arizona sunsets with Nathan, and experience life on the road in America with my faves! Watch out peeps – we’re all coming to America and can’t blooming wait!

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