Category Archives: United States

San Francisco – America’s European City

The city is one of many dreams fulfilled, which is something that seems to be apparent as you walk down the street and see the beaming expressions on faces left and right. Like any city, San Francisco also has its grit, but where elegance, good taste and class are concerned, the city has been called more than once by people who know, “European”. Why do they say this about San Francisco? Well, there are a dozen and more reasons, but the binding factor is that San Francisco is politically divergent.

Or, it might be the coffee. It might be the café au lait that you can sit to in any number of chic, outdoor bistros, heated in the colder months. This is not to say that other American cities don’t also dabble in the typical European, or more precisely, French, pastime of sitting to a drink and patiently playing observer to the world, but it is to say that there are more instances of it.

San Francisco is a clean city. This has a lot to do with its progressive politics, which have been likened to those of some of the more ecologically-minded Scandinavian countries. In San Francisco, you will see categorical recyclables bins beside the trash, beside the compost, beside the paper-only. You’ll see parking spaces with weird electrical terminals, and maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of an electrical car stationed there. Surely you’ll see Segways zooming about under the slight weight adjustments of their drivers. In restaurants you’ll find biodegradable utensils and plates, and most shoppers in the big markets will have their own canvas bags or rollers in tow.

The city steeps comfortably in the quintessentially laid-back urban atmosphere, where alternative is in and retro is now. Of all American cities, it’s probably in San Francisco where you’ll see the latest trends of European capitals find expression—whether we’re talking about fashion, film or food is anyone’s guess.

San Francisco is home to the best public university in the country, UC Berkeley. As such a hub of higher education, the city of Berkeley and of San Fran itself is graced with the presence of stout minds and intriguing debate. On any day, in any venue, you can find a good conversation. This isn’t to say that intellect is something unique to European scenes, but what you find in San Francisco is akin to what you find in Brussels—San Franciscans are direct, prudent and unafraid of variable discourse.

Berkeley was the center of focus during the protests which began in ’68 and created of the next decade a generation to remember—the hippies. Those days of sexual liberation, peace, political freedom and civil rights rallies have gone away, but the traditions and lifestyles remain. Every once in a while a protest will form up, and for a visitor it is always interesting to see (if it remains peaceful), but the reflection of the city’s past is best observed through the experience of its music venues, its festivals and its everyday candid approach to urban living.

The last snippet might not have much to do with Europe, but for some reason folks tend to equate it with that continent. Otherwise, the other facts and presentations here should give you a decent idea of what makes San Francisco so intriguing to outsiders, who come to America and expect something gruffer. If you spend enough time in a San Francisco hostel (can be booked using HostelBookers), exploring the city, you’ll soon see it more as the perfect hybrid of American and European influences, an urban scape cross-section whereby you can delve into the differences and similarities of cultures.

Route 66’s amazing road trip

The historic Route 66 highway, which was established in 1926, originally ran between Chicago and Santa Monica and while some portions of it have been removed and realigned, if you’re serious about following the route, you can.

Regardless of whether you hop aboard a Route 66 motorhome or you jump behind the wheel of a 4×4, driving along The Mother Road is an experience like no other. If you’re after a road trip, this is it.

Perhaps you’re tempted with the adventure and would like to know more about why you should do it, or maybe you’ve been dreaming about driving along this historic road for some time and need a kick to go ahead and book it, here are ten reasons why a Route 66 road trip will rock your socks off.

Endless Places to Explore. Stop your car, climb out and take a look around you. Whether you’re travelling with family, your other half or friends, driving under your own steam will give you the chance to explore of your own accord. Stop in the desert, where you can see for miles, or grab a picture with the piled up Caddies in a barren stretch of Texas road. Possibilities are endless.
The Souvenirs. Most Brits love to pick up some souvenirs from their latest vacation and Route 66 has more than its fair share. From magnets to volcanic rock, you name it, it has it.
The Architecture. Stop along the way and you will come face to face with some incredible old buildings and bridges that are well worth grabbing some quick photos of.
The History. If there’s one way to take a look at the past, Route 66 will transport you back to the 1920s in seconds.
Off the beaten path adventure. A lot can be said about the introduction of motorways and highways across the world. They take away from the adventure of exploring the back roads, meaning you miss an incredible amount when you’re driving from A to B. Stick to the back roads like Route 66 and you will be in the heart of it all.
The People. You’ll have the fortune of meeting some incredible people along the way, from all over the world.
Quality Time. It’s not often that a family can enjoy so much quality time together, but with a road trip, it’s a dead cert.
The Wildlife. Spot birds and wildlife as you drive, including burros (small donkeys) and eagles.
The Food. The sheer range of food available as you drive along the road and stop at the cafes and diners along the way is just awesome.
The Memories! What an adventure!

The Big Apple

New York is the United States’ largest city, with plenty of sights to see and things to do. You could take a trip to the Statue of Liberty, visit the Met and any number of art galleries or museums. New York at night also has many activities in which to indulge your senses and you might be surprised at some of the choices.

Broadway and Theatre Shows

One of the popular activities to do in New York City at night is to attend a show either on Broadway, or at an Off-Broadway theatre play. If you enjoy musicals, you can take in shows such as Kinky Boots (Tony Award Winner for Best Musical for 2013), Annie or the ever popular Phantom of the Opera. Broadway also features plays and you can find Off-Broadway musicals as well.

New York
Dance Clubs

New York City is full of nightclubs and bars if you want to dance the night away and meet new people. A few of the more popular clubs include No 8 – a bi-level restaurant and lounge located in the Chelsea art district. There is also Cielo which features many genres of music including Electronic, Soul and House. Finally, we have Club Shelter, a true dance club that features House music and is the longest running underground dance club in New York.

Bowling Alleys

While you might not think of New York for bowling, it does have some truly great alleys to play on. Many of these bowling alleys combine a restaurant and a recreation space complete with bars and lounges. 300 Club New York features a purple-lit 32 lane bowling alley and also has a fabulous menu. If you want to try bowl-in-the-dark, then visit Bowlmor Lanes in Union Square; it has a fantastic audio-visual display and custom DJ booths.

Karaoke Bars

Karaoke is a fun way to spend the evening and New York has its fair share of bars to accommodate you. Take the 5 Bar for example, which contains private karaoke rooms in a multi-level setting. Arlene’s Grocery is a well-known karaoke bar and gets pretty crowded on weekends. Arlene’s Grocery also offers up-and-coming bands and open-mic nights for the aspiring musicians.

There is no shortage of nightlife in this busy city and you can also find free or almost free activities to do as well. New York City truly is a wondrous and fun place to visit, day or night.

America’s Grand Teton

Grand Teton National Park is located in the Northwest Corner of the American state of Wyoming. The park is less popular than its nearby neighbor Yellowstone, famous for its geologically fueled Geysers like Old Faithful, which means Grand Teton is a place where you can find an excellent balance of peace and tranquility with easy accessibility. The park is centered around the Grand Teton mountain range, named after its highest peak visible in the upper left hand corner of the photo above. May through June is the perfect time to visit as the scenic mountains are still covered in snow, but daytime temperatures reach a very comfortable 20 degrees Celsius (~72 Fahrenheit). Be sure to pack your camera, the stunning peaks are incredibly photogenic, especially at sunrise and sunset.

The Power of the Desert

Death Valley National Park in the Southeastern corner of California is a place of extremes. On July 10th, 1913 at Furnace Creek, temperatures reached a searing 134 degrees Fahrenheit (56.7 degree Celsius) — the hottest ever recorded on Earth. What’s more, at 282 ft below sea level, its the lowest point in North America. Surrounded by soaring mountains, the Valley looks out over some of the most dramatic prominences anywhere on earth. Mt. Whitney rockets up to over 14,000 ft, making Death Valley home to the highest peak in the contiguous United States. Also found within the park are the Mesquite Sand Dunes (pictured) where various scenes from Star Wars were shot in the 1970s, as well as expansive, fissured salt flats that fill with water during the winter months, creating the perfect reflecting pool for the surrounding mountains.

Day Tripping in Vegas

If you are like most people, when you think of Las Vegas you think of casino gambling and hit shows. Fortunately there is much more to see and do in “Sin City” than just the casinos and today we give you some of the best things to do in Vegas other than gamble.

Hoover Dam

One of the great manmade marvels in the world, Hoover Dam was built in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River as a way to control flooding and produce electricity for the area. The massive dam provides power to parts of Arizona, Nevada, and California and is a popular tourist attraction drawing millions of visitors each year.

Lake Mead

Created by the construction of Hoover Dam, Lake Mead is one of the largest man-made lakes in the Western Hemisphere and the 16th largest man-made lake in the world. It is a popular destination for recreation by both locals and tourists and offers a variety of water activities including skiing, boating, and more.

Mount Charleston

While not specifically in Las Vegas, a short 30 minute drive outside the city will provide you a stark contrast to the Vegas desert. Mount Charleston is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Nevada and is a great place for camping, horseback riding, or even skiing during the winter.

Go Bungee Jumping

For you bungee enthusiasts out there, Vegas offers two options for you. The first is the sky jump at the top of the Stratosphere and the other is the T-Tower close to Circus Circus. The T-Tower is the largest dual platform bungee tower on earth with jump platforms at 171.5 feet above the ground.

Grand Canyon

For those who have always wanted to see the Grand Canyon, there are numerous companies in Vegas that offer round trip day tours to one of the seven wonders of the world. These trips range from standard bus trips to and from the site to even helicopter tours. Do your research to get the best rates for these trips.

A Day in Washington DC

Washington DC

Washington DC has a lot to offer the passing traveler. Sure, people talk a lot of trash on DC. After all, its the home of the world’s most powerful and controversial government, a fact that makes it hard to judge the city on its own accord. But trust me, there are plenty of things to do in DC that make it well worth exploring.

Washington DC Monument-2

The self-serving political culture of DC is a fact as old as America, but more recent changes have remade the face of the city. Over the past decade, rapid gentrification has seen the rehabilitation of many once shuttered buildings and pushed the grinding poverty deeper into the outlying neighborhoods. But the city, like all others, is a mixed bag. Its deep historical roots in the post-colonial era combine with vast green spaces, countless public galleries and soaring monuments to give it a charm all of its own.

Washington DC Gentrification

The best way to see the city is by foot, meandering along its broad treelined avenues. The countless historically protected colonial-era houses and public monuments give a keen sense of time and place. DC boasts an extensive, efficient and inexpensive public transit system, through which you cover much of the city in just one day.

Washington DC Boulevard

Start your day off with brunch at the Eastern Market on Capitol Hill. This historic farmers market forms the heart of one of the capitals most relaxed and beautiful neighborhoods – pefect for a lazy sunday stroll. From the Market, you should walk down Pennsylvania Ave towards the US Capital Building on the National Mall to glimpse one of the best views of the capital building.

Washington DC Eastern Market

Most tourists make a B-line for the Mall and the Smithsonian Museum complex that rings it periphery with such famous highlights as the Natural History Museum and the National Air and Space Museum, where you can see everything from full on dinosaur skeletons to the Apollo re-entry vehicles from the great space race of the 1960s. The mall also boasts the Washington Monument and reflecting pool (of Forrest Gump fame) as well the poignant Vietnam and Lincoln memorials.

Washington Monument

Once you’ve had your fill of museums and memorials, hop a train to the DuPont or Logan Circle neighborhoods for happy hour (a DC institution). After a few drinks, take the bus or walk to the Georgetown Waterfront Park and watch the sunset over the Potomac and the iconic art deco Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. I’d suggest grabbing a few more drinks and dinner at one of the many restaurants along the scenic Georgetown canals, and then head back to the city for the nightlife along U Street.

Georgetown Canals

There are plenty of things to do in DC. If you approach the city with an open mind, leave behind they baggage and hit the pavement, you’ll find plenty to stimulate your mind and fill your belly.