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London to Baja California ~ across America

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The purpose of this travelogue is to tell a story from the original idea, the reasons, through to what goes right and wrong in the planning and booking stages, to the start of the journey in Brentwood, Essex, UK on the 15 December 2018 to our hoped for safe return on the 31 January 2019.

 

Entries will be made if there is something to say, so not too much between now and December. The main reason behind starting so early is to show how random some travel is, how exciting planning can be and the disappointments too. So here we go...

 

We live both in the UK and France, we still work but are semi retired. Brexit features large for us as our holiday home in France may not be tenable if Brexit goes horribly wrong. This isn't a political point, just a plain fact and plays a big part in the next few years of our lives.

 

Our business is busy between mid August through to the end of March. There is a dead spot from around the 7 December through to the 31 January every year. Now normally we don't always make the most sensible decisions when it comes to travel, we are self described 'travel junkies'. True to form after 4 journeys in a row which all included some part of the USA and always including Amtrak and Greyhound we decided some of our other travel dreams need to be fulfilled, Iran is at the top of the list.

This is before Mr T decided to pull out of the nuclear deal too. So initial enquiries told us that September/October was a good time for us although this is the epicentre of our first period of busy at work. Next up because we are British (along with US and Canadian) citizens we have to have an official guide from the moment we arrived in Iran to the point we leave, not our style at all and this knocked us back. This only applies to citizens of 3 countries on the planet, bad luck for us.

 

Where next on the list. Central Asia, that would take a lot of planning, South America the same. Then by chance we were talking to a friend and he mentioned Algeria, a country we had tried to visit in 2002 with our camper but were refused entry as we had no visa. At that time visas were very difficult to get, because they had on going internal troubles and again because we're Brits.

 

That evening checked out Algerian entry conditions for 2018, no more difficult than a year and a half ago for Russia, the visa just takes a little longer. Our idea is a good one. Algeria has some of the best Roman ruins anywhere around the Mediterranean, and the Arab world of north Africa has always excited us. We (Rosie) has good French and they have more than 1000 kms of a good railway system running across the Mediterranean coast, this is a really good trip for us and we've waited a long time to go there.

 

Planned a route, starting from the UK or central France, train down through France to Marseilles, overnight ferry to Algiers. Using mainly Algerian railways plus taxis and buses visit maybe 4 or 5 cities/places/sights in Algeria, then ferry from western Algeria to southern Spain, train back into France/UK. Created a second alternate return route which would be via Sicily, then mainland Italy where the train is actually driven on to the ferry, we were set with great outline plans.

 

Then Brexit started to get serious. Any Algeria visit would have to be the same September/October time of year, the middle of our busy season. If we have to sell up in France there is an enormous amount of work to do there first, enormous is not a big enough word. We had a couple of talks around this and decided that for the first time in years we should be sensible, we can't take 4 weeks out in our busiest time, very deflated.

 

But you can't keep travel lust at bay. When an email popped up from our dear friend Milton asking when were we visiting the US next it hit the button! We found excellent reasons for not being in Europe from December to end January, convinced ourselves that as Brexit day was 29 March 2019 we would return to Europe rested and refreshed ready for whatever the politicians have managed to concoct for us, the perfect answer all round (ok we kid ourselves a little).

 

There was one condition we threatened each other with. This trip had to be as close to a regular 'holiday/vacation' as we could get, not at all like the last journey earlier this year which felt at times like an assault course (although it may have been one of our best ever travels).

 

All we have to do is to get ourselves to Los Angeles a few days before New Year, in the most comfortable but interesting manner possible and on the lowest budget possible. All do-able so we started to plan...

Edited by v v

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The whole journey can be blamed on Milton. He's suggested many times that we should watch the Rose Parade in LA once and that we could avoid a northern European winter for a while and get some sunshine. Nothing there to object to and a hell of an invitation.

 

The email from Milton popped up, opened it quickly as they are always a good value read, instantly thought this is the year we should take up his invitations. Rosie was more cautious due to the B scenario, but I was starting to consider the possibility other random factors coming into play.

 

Long time friends are sailing their barge quite near to our French home in August, they proposed us all meeting for a day or two and we're excited about that. They had an experience a few years ago which we particularly remember them by. They were invited to work with American friends common to all of us at the Texas State Fair on their stand. Our common friends were puppeteers and our barge friends are amateur musicians, they would combine their talents. To get there was a problem, at the time they were living in Brittany, come back to this later.

 

About 2 months ago we made a delivery to the high Pyrenees mountains, to an American couple in their mid 30's. They offered us refreshments and we started to talk. Very interesting people who decide on a course and then just do it. A few moments before we were leaving Rosie asked how often they got back to the US, not very often was the reply. While living and working in Norway for the last 6 years they took the chance to explore Europe when on vacation, but have now discovered re-positioning cruises and may take one of those next winter. Then he said, Cunard lower their Transatlantic crossing price to very low levels at the end of the year, so we may aim for that. That was the lethal sentence as that's the route our barge friends took.

 

Off to California in December, cheap Transatlantic crossing on a proper ocean liner, arrive in New York just a couple of days before Christmas and see what a New York City Christmas was about, if the trains are running we would be spending Christmas Day on an Amtrak LD train. A real adventure without hardly any effort, just what we had been looking for. This idea materialised in under 3 seconds, then I explained it to Rosie... Instant response was THE COST! but I knew it was exotic enough that she was listening.

Next twenty minutes proved the trains run over Christmas, that a cabin in the bowels of the QM2 would cost a bit, but not so much, and affordable if we worked harder in the next 3 months, plus we could ask our barge friends in detail how they coped with the rarefied atmosphere of a posh cruise ship. (He doesn't fly but was prepared if they took a ship to NYC to do anything to work a couple of weeks at the State Fair and get to see some of the US via Amtrak on the way. He offered to be semi drugged to fly home, because he so wanted to play his bagpipes in Texas!). A plan was all coming together.

 

Immediately wrote to Milton to confirm that the invite still stood, got a fast long (for Milton) reply... A OK, the longer the better.

 

At this point things went a bit haywire, we didn't realise cruise bookings are a world of their own. That a booking didn't mean a booking until you got on board in some instances, that on most bookings you only aspire to a certain deck/cabin, don't actually get allocated one until the last few weeks or later. But after a couple of wrong turns, booking and paying for a cabin, but not being told which part, up, down, fore, aft or midships, we realised we were complete novices and had not booked what we thought we had. Asked for a refund and actually got a full refund too, that made up in some way for the lack of upfront information.

 

After seeing our refund turn up a few days later made a booking with a more open agency. We ended with a bargain cabin where we want on the ship with a balcony! Our parents would never have believed that we would be travelling on one of the Cunard Queen ships to New York, it's completely out of our league, fantasy land.

We get to spend the 22 December in NYC, we're looking for the brightest and craziest of what the city has to offer just before Christmas. Early next morning on our way to LA on the Cardinal then the Southwest Chief, where we'll arrive on the 26 December, in good time for the Rose Parade.

 

Now we have our tickets to LA, what else should we do there? Definitely back to Huntingdon Library, to re-visit one of the most amazing gardens in the world, oh, and yes, somewhere in California where we at last get to see some giant Redwoods, although that may be more difficult as it's winter. We have someone we must visit at Venice beach so we can pass a message on, and down to Norma's new place south of LA.

That should be a good start as we have to remember we are having a vacation, trying to rest up for getting back to Europe, then Mexico came over the horizon.

Edited by v v

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Wonderful post Jamie, were envious!😎

 

You might communicate with your homeboy Eddie, he took one of the bargain cruises to the Colonies, and as you know is a great source for tips on traveling on a budget!

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The redwoods are gorgeous in winter and the parks are much less crowded than in summer. You have to decide whether you want the wide ones (Sequoia and Yosemite) or the tall ones (along the coast). I'm assuming you mean the inland species.

 

YARTS runs year round from Merced to Yosemite Valley, and you can get from LA to Merced by Amtrak.

 

To get to Sequoia in winter, you need a car, and you need to carry chains or have 4wd and snow tires. Sequoia is where all of the really big trees are. Some car rental agencies in the LA area have ski packages that include appropriate vehicles for driving in snow.

 

There are plenty of outdoor winter activities in both Yosemite and Sequoia to spend weeks, so don't fret about that. The web has numerous recommendations for loop trips encompassing Sequoia, Kings Canyon (adjoins Sequoia and also has big redwoods) and Yosemite, including winter trips. People I've taken up have been blown away by the scenery, there isn't anything else like it.

 

I recommend trying to fit in redwoods if at all feasible. It will be a great way to unwind after the madhouse of the Rose Parade.

 

(Note: Hats of to your friend Milton. Tease your friends back home with selfies of yourselves enjoying the sunshine in shorts and T-shirts. If you get a chance, tour the floats while they are still decorating them before the parade.)

 

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I've been to a sequoia grove in Yosemite and the coast redwoods in the North Coast. I personally think the coast redwoods are a better spectacle. The forest is other worldly, like something out of lord of the rings. Also, despite being further north, there's no snow, but it could be raining pretty hard. The other problem is that they're hundreds of miles out of the way from LA. There are groves south of San Francisco, Muir Woods, in Marin County right to the north of the city is pretty nice, though not as spectacular as the stuff in Humboldt County. I think they even run bus tours there from downtown San Francisco if you don't want to drive.

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Thanks everyone for the help, advice and encouragement, will come back to this in a week or so if that's ok.

 

So we're planned and have tickets bought up until arriving in LA, thought a little around what we should do while there and must now make arrangements to get back to London, and that has to start with when.

 

Before we could get to that (luckily) we discussed was it possible to get out to sea for whale watching from somewhere near LA? Now that Rosie has found sea-sick pills that work there's no stopping her new lifetime ambition to watch as many whales close-up as is humanly possible, then yet another random event intervened.

In the days leading up to getting our Cunard and Amtrak tickets she read somewhere that Baja California is one of the world's best spots for winter (N Hemisphere) whale watching, she thought 'It's not that far from LA surely?'

Without saying a word she worked out how far from LA to central Baja, roughly how we could get there, that hotels were more reasonably priced than many places we go, and that (for me) Baja has some of the largest cacti in the world, that was to draw me in to her plans.

 

Rosie explained all this while I'm using likely test dates to arrange tickets back to either Washington or New York, using at least 4 routes with train, train and bus or train and bus and auto being on the agenda. It was now starting to sound like our version of the movie Trains Boats Buses Planes and Automobiles.

 

Baja now needed checking out, we know less than nothing about any part of Mexico apart from it has a high murder rate, and no, not being flippant. The biggest problem of including another country on the itinerary is it opens up a whole new world of possibilities, lots of research needed.

 

That's on-going still but we have allocated enough time to have days for whale watching, maybe one for cacti, and maybe 5-7 more to return to the USA early or continue into mainland Mexico... crossing into Mexico by Greyhound could be fun, the return maybe more interesting, Mexican long distance buses, live Mariachi music, Tequila and more important the Agave succulent that it comes from plus a city with the delicious name of Guadalajara are currently a fascination for us, watch this space...

 

Due to Mexico we have chosen to take the simplest return to New York, via a stopover in Washington. OK it's not the simplest exactly but most of the way is on the TE in the comfort of a roomette, well at least to Normal, IL. There we will transfer by bus to the famed Indianapolis station to catch the Cardinal.

Two full days in Washington, we want to see things we haven't on previous visits in particular inside the Capitol and the new-ish African-American museum, then an NER train up to NYC to get our favourite airline back to London.

 

The return is now all booked and paid for, so now we know we can get to LA and get back again to London, right on time to catch up with the Brexit story.

Edited by v v

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Tips for Mexico Jamie:

 

It's a Looooong Bus ride or Drive through the Desert from Tijiuana,B.C. to La Paz,B.C.( But Mexican Delujo LD Buses are Much Better than US Buses).

 

Look into Flying or else going with a,Tour Group, Eco-Tourism is Huge in Mexico now,especially Whale Watching.

 

The Ferry that runs between La Paz and the Mainland of Mexico is expensive since it was sold by the Mexican Government to Japanese Interests.( There used to be an Overnight Passenger/Vehicle Ferry between Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta).if interested in visiting the Mainland from La Paz I'd Fly to Guadalajara!!( Highway 15 from Nogales to Guadalajara is Very Dangerous!!)

 

The Tequila Factories and Farms that supply them are located in the Village of Tequila,Jalisco outside of the Metropolis of Guadalajara.

 

There are many tours for Tourists from Guadalajara, but the best way to get there is the Tequila Train that runs between Guadalajara and Tequila.Its one of 2 Mexican Passenger Trains left, the other being the Great Copper Canyon ( Bigger than the Grand Canyon)Train between Los Mochos and Chihuahua City, which sadly is guarded by the Mexican Army since the Cartels and Bandidos have taken over the Mountains on this Route.😣

Edited by Bob Dylan

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If v v and his wife are going to take the ferry across the Gulf of California from La Paz to Topolobampo, they can then ride the El Chepe train across the Copper Canyon route to Chihuahua. From there, they can take a bus to El Paso, TX, then on to Amtrak's Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle (# 422) eastward. That would be epic!

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If v v and his wife are going to take the ferry across the Gulf of California from La Paz to Topolobampo, they can then ride the El Chepe train across the Copper Canyon route to Chihuahua. From there, they can take a bus to El Paso, TX, then on to Amtrak's Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle (# 422) eastward. That would be epic!

You got that right, I did that very trip in both directions back in the 80s( except I rode the Train between Juarez and Chihuahua City!) Edited by Bob Dylan

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Only just noticed this pre-trip report. My report on my QM 2 Transatlantic trip starts here, if you are interested. (I had a blast!)

 

http://discuss.amtraktrains.com/index.php?/topic/61210-southampton-all-aboard/?hl=%2Ball+%2Baboard+%2Bsouthampton

 

 

Ed.

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Hello Ed

 

Thanks for posting the link, was getting round to contacting you anyway as Bob suggested. We're also booked for the Queen Mary 2, just the mid-winter version, so maybe the ocean will be more 'interesting' ? Liked your bow-tie, is it something you wear all the time or just when you're on the QM2?

 

How did you find a week of shipboard life? Too long, too short, just right? Is there more to do than you have time for or is it all 'how many hours before the next meal?'.

 

Do I need to buy a tie? tend not to own such things. Can we get to the formal restaurant without dressing up or are we destined to eat all meals in a café? We've never met but know you are a budget traveller as are we most of the time, was it just interesting to enter a travel world you are not normally in or did it feel too posh and alien?

 

What's your best tip for us?

 

Last question (for now). We both want to know why you booked the QM2, it's outside your regular mode of travel perhaps by a great deal, why did you decide to stump up extra cash to live on a big ship for a week?

 

Really interested to read your answers, thanks.

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The redwoods are gorgeous in winter and the parks are much less crowded than in summer. You have to decide whether you want the wide ones (Sequoia and Yosemite) or the tall ones (along the coast). I'm assuming you mean the inland species.

 

YARTS runs year round from Merced to Yosemite Valley, and you can get from LA to Merced by Amtrak.

 

To get to Sequoia in winter, you need a car, and you need to carry chains or have 4wd and snow tires. Sequoia is where all of the really big trees are. Some car rental agencies in the LA area have ski packages that include appropriate vehicles for driving in snow.

 

There are plenty of outdoor winter activities in both Yosemite and Sequoia to spend weeks, so don't fret about that. The web has numerous recommendations for loop trips encompassing Sequoia, Kings Canyon (adjoins Sequoia and also has big redwoods) and Yosemite, including winter trips. People I've taken up have been blown away by the scenery, there isn't anything else like it.

 

I recommend trying to fit in redwoods if at all feasible. It will be a great way to unwind after the madhouse of the Rose Parade.

 

(Note: Hats of to your friend Milton. Tease your friends back home with selfies of yourselves enjoying the sunshine in shorts and T-shirts. If you get a chance, tour the floats while they are still decorating them before the parade.)

 

 

Thank you Alice and MARC Rider, took the info you supplied and came up with something that worked for us, will write re the plan following this post.

 

I've been to a sequoia grove in Yosemite and the coast redwoods in the North Coast. I personally think the coast redwoods are a better spectacle. The forest is other worldly, like something out of lord of the rings. Also, despite being further north, there's no snow, but it could be raining pretty hard. The other problem is that they're hundreds of miles out of the way from LA. There are groves south of San Francisco, Muir Woods, in Marin County right to the north of the city is pretty nice, though not as spectacular as the stuff in Humboldt County. I think they even run bus tours there from downtown San Francisco if you don't want to drive.

 

 

 

Tips for Mexico Jamie:

 

It's a Looooong Bus ride or Drive through the Desert from Tijiuana,B.C. to La Paz,B.C.( But Mexican Delujo LD Buses are Much Better than US Buses).

 

Look into Flying or else going with a,Tour Group, Eco-Tourism is Huge in Mexico now,especially Whale Watching.

 

The Ferry that runs between La Paz and the Mainland of Mexico is expensive since it was sold by the Mexican Government to Japanese Interests.( There used to be an Overnight Passenger/Vehicle Ferry between Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta).if interested in visiting the Mainland from La Paz I'd Fly to Guadalajara!!( Highway 15 from Nogales to Guadalajara is Very Dangerous!!)

 

The Tequila Factories and Farms that supply them are located in the Village of Tequila,Jalisco outside of the Metropolis of Guadalajara.

 

There are many tours for Tourists from Guadalajara, but the best way to get there is the Tequila Train that runs between Guadalajara and Tequila.Its one of 2 Mexican Passenger Trains left, the other being the Great Copper Canyon ( Bigger than the Grand Canyon)Train between Los Mochos and Chihuahua City, which sadly is guarded by the Mexican Army since the Cartels and Bandidos have taken over the Mountains on this Route.

 

Hello Bob, some of what you experienced is no longer available, but some is. We haven't finalised that part of the journey yet but you gave us some good pointers.

 

 

If v v and his wife are going to take the ferry across the Gulf of California from La Paz to Topolobampo, they can then ride the El Chepe train across the Copper Canyon route to Chihuahua. From there, they can take a bus to El Paso, TX, then on to Amtrak's Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle (# 422) eastward. That would be epic!

 

EP60JPC it wont work quite like that as we need to return to LA as we'll be leaving bags there. We'll also get to spend another few days with Milton.

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Another couple of episodes have now been added to the journey after our arrival in LA. The Rose Parade, yes! we do enjoy the odd madhouse Alice, and a journey as far north as Monterey CA and back again. There are also outline plans for the start of the Mexico adventure too.

 

Milton has ordered us all (5) tickets for the south side of Colorado Blvd (near the start), we'll settle up with him when we arrive. Apparently we have to arrive very early, 3 -5 am which is genuinely early in particular for New Year's Day. We still have to work out how to volunteer for the previous day's float building/decorating, but we're getting there.

 

For a few years now have wanted to watch a college football match live, but the ticket prices are eye watering for this Rose Bowl game so this is not the game for us to go to. Maybe a sports bar will be the place to watch? Anyone know of a good one in or near to Canoga Park.

 

Next up was how to get to see Redwoods or Sequoia in winter, this proved interesting. The Sequoia National Park and Yosemite are the places to go, but both will have almost guaranteed snow all winter. The parks rules state you cannot enter either of these parks unless you have snow chains either with you or fitted, depending on the snow conditions. Driving in snow is not a problem for us, have to do it every year in Europe, but here's the rub. No car rental company will insure their rental cars if snow chains are fitted. Apparently a few years ago some would allow it, now none will. That excluded getting to the Sequoias in winter.

 

On to Redwoods. We now know there are many places in California to see these trees, the tallest in the world. After several hours research it became clear that the place to go is Humboldt County, just as MARC Rider wrote. That there is more than one major stand in the area and they appear to be the most impressive too, all this was bearing out the info from MR. Two of the best are either side of Orick CA, so the place to head for.

Checked out the train schedule and see that from LA we would arrive at Dunsmuir in the middle of the night, not the best as Milton will be with us and he's not quite as young as he was. We couldn't work out something that allowed us to travel and arrive by late evening at worse, or if we could get off the CS earlier it would be a big drive north and back again. As Rosie and I often say, a journey has to have a flow, and nothing we could arrange taking all factors into account would make this flow.

Next transferred our thoughts to Muir Woods, just north of San Francisco. Again no flow. Arrive in the city, rent a car and a hotel room. OK so far but what's happened to SF hotel room prices. We've stayed there 3 times now, but checking for room rates in early January 2019 the prices for the same hotels we stayed at had gone up 25 - 45%, that's taking the pee in under a year since we last booked there. Can we blame it on the tech companies?

 

So third choice had flow, but do understand the Redwoods may only be second best? Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park makes life easy for our party, it certainly looks beautiful and our transport works very well. We visited Salinas and Monterey earlier this year and very much liked both cities, but in particular Monterey, the bay and peninsular coast. The seals by the Fisherman's Wharf are amazing, sleeping as they do perched on just points of rock sticking out of the water, the town is laid back and relaxed, well out of season it was, and the peninsular is beautiful and the hotels reasonable. The best is Milton has never been there so a big treat for him.

 

We've ended up with the Coast Starlight Business Class to Salinas (one of our favourite train rides), Thruway bus to Monterey, hotel on the edge of downtown, and easy to collect a car from the Monterey Airport. We'll stay 2 nights then drive the Big Sur via the PBS State Park, stop over in San Luis Obispo (one of our favourite towns), then continue south keeping as close to the shoreline rail track as possible and definitely stopping at Surf Station California (is that not one of the best station names anywhere?) to get a few photos of it's location, then continue to Santa Barbara for afternoon tea or an evening meal, back to Milton's.

 

Mexico 3 days later. We have decided on a direction and part of the route. Amtrak and Greyhound into Tijuana, overnight there and then a long distance express bus to Guadalajara about 30 - 34 hours. It is a long bus journey but we're up for it, should arrive in Guadalajara for the weekend.

We've listened Bob, so may fly from Guadalajara to La Paz, but may also get a bus back up to Topolobampo and ferry across La Paz (as per E60JPC but the opposite way round) as it's a bit more exciting. From La Paz make our way northwards slowly to enjoy what we started our Mexico journey for, whale watching and giant cacti, then back to Tijuana and LA.

 

For Mexico we are going to travel very light, we want to be able to not have any hold bags and be quick to re-act. Our winter clothes and QM2 bowtie will be left with Milton, he thought our journey was 'fascinating' but declined to join us.

 

C'est la vie

Edited by v v

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Great plan Jaime!😎 I'm sure that Rosie and you will enjoy the adventures, but as you know, I'm not a fan of the Long Distance Busess even though Mexican Deluxe Busess are much Better than the Long Dog here!

 

Alice is a great resource for info on California, you may want to PM her. Jim

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Hi J and R,

 

I already wanted to go back to America in 2015, as my plans the year before had not worked out. Searching for airfares I found that the price of flights in August was pretty steep. Some years previously I had met someone who mentioned she had crossed from Europe to US on a cargo ship, and I thought that a great adventure to try.

Somehow on the web I came across not cargo, but transatlantic passenger ships, and so to the QM2. Contacting an agent, rather than booking direct, I was able to find a good crossing date, and to extend my stay in America by a couple of months before availing of the included return airfare. I paid a good deal more than if I flew, but the total was cheap for what it was, one person in a double cabin, only about £750, if I remember correctly. (I will check later if I can find my old paperwork.)

I took the sea crossing for a sense of adventure, trying a new mode of travel. Finances have nose dived since then, so it is back to economy flights from now on!

 

It is a bit like role play for a week, I don't think everyone takes the "posh" bit too seriously, and I enjoyed the experience very much. Not sure I would ever want to "cruise" though, other than taking a ship as a voyage, from A to B.

 

There are the posh formal dinning rooms, if you book an expensive QM2 cabin, you get to dine in the very posh rooms. It is expected that you "dress" for the evenings aboard ship, after about 6pm jeans and tee shirts are not welcome garb. There is the option to eat in more casual surroundings also, as well as restaurants where you can enjoy other types of food, such as oriental dishes.

 

You are expected to wear a jacket and tie in the evenings, (and probably trousers too!). I just bought a cheap jacket and trousers from the Oxfam charity shop, and chucked them away once I got ashore. Together with a couple of white £3 Primark shirts, and my bow tie, I was good to go. :D

 

(The bow tie was a souvenier from running my fancy dress costume hire shop for 25 years, not my everyday wear. :P )

 

Lots to do aboard ship, dancing lessons, cinemas, shows, talks and lectures, tours of the ships kitchens, etc. I enjoyed my walks round the deck in summer, not sure how that would be in December. They give everyone a daily "newspaper" which lists the next days activities also. They have staff who are there to help you enjoy the facilities if you wish to partake.

 

You can post a letter or card onboard the ship, which might be an amusing souvenier for someone.

 

We did see dolphins, and arriving by ship to New York was magical too. An interesting once in a lifetime experience for me. The fact that one is traversing thousands of miles of ocean is not always evident, as the scenery does not change much from day to day.

 

Have a look at the Cunard website, I believe they have some info on what to wear, and what to expect.

 

Tips.. Bring a book to read, and don't eat too much at breakfast, there are many more great meals to enjoy each day. Don't forget the afternoon tea also, which I found to be a bit of a hoot!

 

There was internet available, quite expensive and not very good I heard folk say, never bothered myself.

 

I am sure you will have a great time aboard!

 

 

Ed.

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Enjoyed your reply, in particular you wearing your Oxfam clothes on board then dumping them. I think you are an inspiration to some of us.

 

Yes there's loads and loads of online info on the Cunard site but wanted to hear from the horses mouth, and trust you to tell it as it is. We are really looking forward to it for similar reasons to you, the adventure of experiencing something new, travelling that distance by ship (about the same number of hours as Moscow to Vladivostok), and arriving in New York City by water.

 

We're not in the expensive cabins but did get a balcony as we do like the ocean even when it's rough. The cost for the two of us was a little more than double what you paid but doesn't include a return air fare.

 

Thanks Ed

Edited by v v

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Nice get Jaime! I can picture Rosie and you all dolled up in your "Best" having tea with the Swells.😊

 

I did something similar in Victoria,BC @ the Empress Hotel @ the urging of my late Canadian wife. It was a grand experience that I'll always remember, since We were probably the Youngest and Poorest folks there!😄

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Here's the start of an update as it's only just over 4 weeks until we are off to Southampton, UK. A full schedule will get published too as soon as there is time, but time is very limited at the moment.

In the nearly 3 months since last writing here an amount has changed, in particular re Mexico and potential border issues, so we are trying to keep up with what's current in that difficult situation.

Ed, have just seen you are in India at the moment, you're not slowing down at all are you. Hope you have your best travels yet.

Tried to emulate your idea of using charity/thrift shops for a suitable QM2 dining outfit, but up until 10 days ago had only managed 8 bow ties and 1 pair of posh shoes. Have to say did buy new 6 pairs of underpants and a black travel blazer that may get me in if they don't look too close, and just this week a pair of trousers and two check shirts. Can't help but feel that I'm lacking a little in the wardrobe department.

Rosie is doing well re outfits for this crossing, selective in what she's buying and some friends and relatives have offered her the most swish or sparkly of their own wardrobes, so she'll be able to eat no problem.

Alice, as an LA expert can you recommend any quirky or less known things to do, see or experience in or vaguely around LA. On a previous visit we were at the Huntingdon Library, the cactus garden blew us away. We also visited the La Brea tar pits which we unexpectantly enjoyed. That they are in central LA is so implausible added to it. Had a lot of fun down on the tacky part of Venice beach too, we enjoy most stuff. But only locals know the real places to go maybe you can point us in a direction please.

Bob, or anybody who has up to date tabs on the US/Mexican border, is there a website that enables us to get a feel for what's happening there? We intend(ed) to cross at Tijuana by walking over or a Greyhound to the Tijuana central bus station, but if the border is closed or it takes days instead of hours to cross then we'll divert.

Back to the start. We're now ticketed through from a UK rail halt/tiny station in the UK called South Woodham Ferrers, Essex. Will make 3 changes including using the London underground to get to Southampton. Next day out to the QM2 by noon to watch embarkation even though we board later during the afternoon. 

After 7 days of indolence arriving early morning at Red Hook Brooklyn cruise terminal to the south of Manhattan. We will have had a close-up look at the Liberty statue and Ellis Island from the deck of a ship arriving from the 'old world'. We've had a fascination about this since we visited Ireland and in particular the main migrant embarkation port of Cork at Cobh (also Titanic left from there).

The migration museum in Cobh is very moving, enough that about a year ago we also visited Ellis Island to try to understand what it meant to the millions of immigrants getting to their promised land and to learn how they fared. Now we arrive on a ship from England in ridiculous luxury.

Later that day the US adventure starts, more later.

 

Edited by v v

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18 hours ago, v v said:

Alice, as an LA expert can you recommend any quirky or less known things to do, see or experience in or vaguely around LA. On a previous visit we were at the Huntingdon Library, the cactus garden blew us away. We also visited the La Brea tar pits which we unexpectantly enjoyed. That they are in central LA is so implausible added to it. Had a lot of fun down on the tacky part of Venice beach too, we enjoy most stuff. But only locals know the real places to go maybe you can point us in a direction please.

 

The first thing that comes to mind is the Museum of Jurassic Technology, a very quirky museum/art exhibition.

And have you been to the Griffith Observatory on previous trips? (It's not particularly quirky, but it's such a well-known L.A. institution that's been in a lot of movies.)

Other than that, this community-sourced list on Atlas Obscura looks like it would be a good place for you to look for things that might be of interest.

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Thanks trainman, that Atlas Obscura certainly has some very weird places and things. Did find a number of places that we will investigate further but most are a little too dark for us.

Visited the Griffiths Observatory but could well make a second visit, as we will to the Huntingdon Library. Due to the uncertain Mexico border situation we may have 7-10 days extra in the LA area than we thought we would, we'll wait another week or two before we decide what to do. Also thought about travelling to another part of the US for a week, or even somewhere outside of the US, we'll see.

Thanks again, much appreciated.

 

 

 

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You might consider the King Tut exhibit at the California Science Center, which is there thru January. It's the biggest such exhibit ever to tour the world, and supposedly the last time these artifacts will leave Egypt, since they are building a massive museum in Cairo.  We made a special weekend trip to LA just for the exhibit, which was interesting not only for the artifacts themselves but also for the science behind the discovery and preservation of them.  You can book online via the California Science Center website...

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4 hours ago, v v said:

Thanks trainman, that Atlas Obscura certainly has some very weird places and things. Did find a number of places that we will investigate further but most are a little too dark for us.

Visited the Griffiths Observatory but could well make a second visit, as we will to the Huntingdon Library. Due to the uncertain Mexico border situation we may have 7-10 days extra in the LA area than we thought we would, we'll wait another week or two before we decide what to do. Also thought about travelling to another part of the US for a week, or even somewhere outside of the US, we'll see.

Thanks again, much appreciated.

 

 

 

Jamie: Please dont go to Mexico,things are not good there and now the Caravan is coming to Tiajuana thru the Baja with our Maximum Leader sending the Army to the Border to confront them, plus a New President is,taking over in Mexico and people are getting killed again!

Consider Canada, Vancouver and Victoria are  great Cities  and easy places to visit from Seattle.

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9 hours ago, Bob Dylan said:

Jamie: Please dont go to Mexico,things are not good there and now the Caravan is coming to Tiajuana thru the Baja with our Maximum Leader sending the Army to the Border to confront them, plus a New President is,taking over in Mexico and people are getting killed again!

Consider Canada, Vancouver and Victoria are  great Cities  and easy places to visit from Seattle.

Yeah I think, as nice as Mexico is, it might make sense to hold out on going there for at least a little bit.

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Another problem with going to Mexico is thst the US just closed four of the border crossing traffic lanes, leading to very long border waits becoming even longer.  We are headed to San Diego by train this spring and were originally thinking about Baja. We've scrapped those plans, sadly.

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