Restaurants · travel

Days 49 & 50 of USA Road Trip – The Madonna Inn & Monterey 

Back in the days when I actually had a job, I would procrastinate by googling future places to travel (prospective employers, please ignore the previous sentence). During one Google session, I came across a list entitled, ‘the coolest hotels in the world’. One of these hotels just happened to be in California, and it was called The Madonna Inn. As soon as I saw photos of their insanely pink colour scheme, I knew we had to add it as a stop to the road trip. 

We arrived on a sunny Monday afternoon and were given free neon pink travel coffee flasks upon check in. Our room, Floral Fantasy, was everything I had hoped for. A pink velvet sofa, matching curtains, pink carpet, pink bedding and a gorgeous floral light arrangement around the bathroom mirror. We opened up the (also pink) wardrobe door to find two soft, fluffy, baby pink robes waiting for us. Dreamy.

It was a beautiful day so we headed straight for the infinity pool. We sunbathed with a glass of Madonna Inn’s own champagne in hand, which sadly tasted horrendous. The cocktails were much better though! We had a very relaxing afternoon hopping from pool to jacuzzi until night started to fall. 

For dinner, we skipped the crazy expensive steakhouse at the hotel and instead opted for a local Hawaiian eatery called Poke Chef, about a 5 minute drive from The Madonna Inn. We both had incredible poke bowls and yummy fruit juices. The majority of their options are gluten free so I didn’t feel at all restricted. 

Once back at the hotel, we headed into the main building. They have everything you could want; a wine cellar that offers tastings, a shop that sells popcorn and chocolate for movie nights in the hotel room, a boutique clothes store, a cocktail bar, a spa, horse stables and two different restaurants. Every single area is STUNNING. You mustn’t miss the restrooms! If you have a guy with you, and don’t mind getting dirty looks from other patrons, get them to show you the downstairs toilet. I haven’t seen many urinals in my time, but I’m pretty sure these are the most original ones I’ll ever see! 

After skulking strangely around the men’s restroom, we headed to the cocktail bar for a few drinks. I started with their signature drink, The Pink Cloud. It was basically just vodka, cream and pink sugar blended and tasted like a milkshake! It was a heart attack in a glass so I went for red wine next because red wine is practically a salad, right? 

We had planned to cycle their bike trails early the next morning before check out, but upon finding out that they charge $25 a bike, we slept in instead. Another fun thing about The Madonna Inn is that their in-room toilets are what I would call ‘robo-toilets’ because they have a very fancy remote control panel on them and can do all sorts of random, completely unnecessary things, like providing the equivalent of a hand dryer for your arse. 

Once checked out, we got on our way to Monterey. I’ll admit I didn’t know much about Monterey except that it was the filming location for the recent (and absolutely excellent) TV show, Big Little Lies. It turns out that Monterey is one of the most amazing place that we’ve seen in California so far! It’s an absolute must-visit in my opinion. We saw Bixby Bridge, explored Big Sur, drove the 17 mile scenic route and took in so many stunning views. We need to come back because there’s loads we didn’t have time to see, and I already can’t wait to visit again! 

Monterey has a Fisherman’s Wharf, and while it isn’t a patch on San Fran’s area of the same name, it’s a very cute place to have dinner. Basically every restaurant is seafood which suited me very nicely! We checked out all the menu’s and eventually decided on Albonetti because it was one of the only places that labeled their gluten free options. We got seated with a view of the water and were able to watch sea lions swimming around as we ate our dinner. I went for the Monterey Calamari dish and while a little heavy on the garlic, it was still very good.  

Add Monterey to your travel list, its beautiful! 

Restaurants · travel

Days 46-48 of USA Road Trip – LA & Santa Barbara 

Okay, so LA is both amazing and a bloody nightmare rolled into one. We definitely want to come back, as we only really scratched the surface of what this city has to offer, but ONLY when they finish the metro extension that they are currently working on. I feel like we spent most of our visit in LA in traffic and I honestly feel for anyone who lives there because it must be such a pain in the ass to get anywhere! 

For starters, our drive there was supposed to take a couple of hours and we were going to arrive around 3pm and head out to explore. Cue horrendous traffic and we finally pull up to the hotel in Hollywood around 6pm, exhausted and hungry. We dumped our bags and popped into a random Thai cafe next to our hotel for a quick bite to eat before getting the metro to see the Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theatre. It was busy, buzzy and fun and it was cool to see the celebrity handprints on the floor. Those 2 sightseeing spots are easily accessible via metro, but that’s kind of where the metros usefulness for tourists (and probably locals too which is why everyone has to drive everywhere) goes dry. 

We wanted to see the LACMA at night as they have an art installation outside called ‘Urban Light’, which is essentially just lots of ornate street lights grouped together. To get anywhere near the LACMA, we had to take a 45 minute bus. We felt a little uneasy walking from the bus stop to the LACMA too, because nobody seems to walk in this city so the streets are dark, dingy and empty. However, we got there and it was very pretty! We took some nice pics before getting on another 45 minute bus back to the nearest metro station and heading to the hotel for a well needed sleep. 

The following morning, a Saturday, we wanted to spend the day at Venice Beach. We considered driving but were told by the hotel staff that this was a very bad idea due to traffic/parking. Instead, we spent an hour and a half on 2 different buses to get there. If you’re tired of hearing about buses in this blog post, imagine how it felt to bloody be sitting on one all this time! Thankfully, Venice Beach was very nice and gorgeously sunny. We checked out the original Muscle Beach and walked along the front with an ice cream. 

You can easily walk all the way along the beach from Venice to Santa Monica, which is what we decided to do. It’s a lovely walk and there’s lots of cafes dotted around for drink stops. We stopped in Perry’s Cafe for lunch. They don’t advertise their gluten free options but they offer gluten free bread and can make almost all of their meals gluten free upon request. I went for a California Beach Bowl because I felt it was very fitting for our current location. It was yummy!! Californians love avocado and I’m totally on board with that obsession. 

We eventually came to Santa Monica pier, which has everything from a mini theme park to an aquarium! The view from the pier was beautiful and we came across this group of pigeons on a day out. 

Once back in downtown LA (after an hour long metro ride, of course), we got the DASH bus to Griffith Observatory. Note: do not drive or uber to the observatory. The queue to get in was crazy, and the DASH bus only costs 50 cents and bypasses all the traffic! The observatory is an amazing place to visit, there’s stunning views everywhere and lots of interesting stuff going on inside the building too. There’s tones of hiking trails to choose from and we went for a short one that took us to a viewpoint of the Hollywood Sign. LOVED it. One of the highlights of the whole road trip for me. 

Because we might have actually burned some calories during the hike, we obviously had to go for an enormous dinner. We chose Umami Burger for the location of this feast. Umami Burger is a very cool burger chain that caters to basically everyone, specializing in the ‘impossible burger’, a 100% vegan patty that apparently tastes just like real meat. I didn’t go for the vegan option (shocker) and instead opted for the Cali Burger, lettuce wrapped, with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts. YUM. 

We spent the rest of evening chilling in the hotel at my request, I couldn’t stand the thought of spending any more time that day sitting on public transport. That sounds super boring in hindsight but I was so over it! I’ll have to make up for it next time I’m in LA! 

The next morning, we got on the road to the Getty Villa on the outskirts of Malibu. The Getty Villa was the brainchild of Paul Getty, a very rich business man who wanted somewhere to showcase his art collection. The whole place is designed to be a replica of a villa in Italy that was buried by lava when Mount Vesuvius erupted and it is indeed stunning, inside and out. It’s free to visit ($15 to park though) but you won’t get in without a reservation. You can make reservations online up to 2 months in advance of your desired date. 

We drove along the beautiful Californian coast until we got to our Santa Barbara hotel. It was a little cloudy but still warm, so we walked all the way along the beach and Ewan skimmed lots of stones (7 was his best ‘skim’ of the day). During this walk, we kept seeing little, clear bodied things jumping in the sand. Intrigued but not worried, we continued to walk barefoot along the beach until we got to the town. 

Downtown Santa Barbara is actually very good for shopping and is full of buzzy cocktail bars and coffee shops. We had coffee on a patio at one place then walked along for some wine on a balcony overlooking State Street at another. Gorge. 

It was soon time for dinner, so we headed to PizzaRev. Brathaus also deserves a special gluten free mention as they do gluten free schnitzel and hotdogs, but we ultimately went for pizza because pizza > everything. I was treated so well as a coeliac in PizzaRev that I felt like Queen Gluten Free of Santa Barbara. He cleaned the whole pizza oven even though my pizza was going to be placed on a brand new pizza pan to cook, put on fresh gloves, explained everything to me during the process and got another staff member to open the fridge door for him so that he didn’t have to touch it, thus avoiding any kind of cross contamination. You also get free unlimited toppings on their pizzas which you just can’t go wrong with. If you want all the cheeses they do (which I obviously did), you can have all the cheeses! Gluten free heaven exists, guys. 

Remember I was talking about those hopping creatures in the sand? Well, when we got back to the hotel I noticed lots of tiny bites on my feet. I googled the little buggers it turns out that they are SAND FLEAS. Is nowhere safe?! Thankfully, sand fleas aren’t actually fleas, they are very small crustaceans so I’m not carrying them around with me or anything. Still – GROSS. Hope I haven’t ruined beaches for you forever. Ps. Check out Ewan’s shoe tan below! 

Restaurants · travel

Day 43-45 of USA Road Trip – San Diego 

If you’ve never been to San Diego before, GO TO SAN DIEGO. This was my third time there and it just gets better every time. Ewan and I (mainly I) fantasized about buying a holiday home here… which is another level of laughable seeing as we are currently both technically homeless and very much unemployed. However, if you’re reading this and want to get us a nice Christmas gift, we will take a place near Mission Beach. Thanks in advance. 

Back to reality, once we’d checked in to our hotel we walked to the nearby Trolley Station to buy a 3 day pass for $12. San Diego has a very accessible trolley/bus system that covers the whole city, so it’s a very cost effective and simple way to get around. We headed first to Old Town for a wander amongst the cute, historically decorated shops and museums, most of which are free to visit. There’s a really cool candle shop where you can dip and decorate your own candle for as little as $2, which I have done before and loved, and a donkey farm! 

We hopped back on the Trolley to Sante Fe Depot and walked along the Harbour, coming across a public pier. We walked to the end of it and there were seats set out for people to sit and plane watch on – Ewan’s dream! They also had free wifi – my dream!

Evening started to close in and it got a little chilly, so I dragged Ewan, screaming and crying, towards our next destination. We were headed to Seaport Village for dinner, but on the way we saw lots of gorgeous memorials scattered along the Harbourfront. My two favourites were Homecoming and the Bob Hope Memorial. 

Seaport Village has lots of gluten free restaurant options, including a couple fancy places along the water and a Cheesecake Factory. We opted for Mexican at Puesto and we were not disappointed. It happened to be Taco Tuesday, which meant that all their tacos were half price at only $2.50 each! Bargain. They mark their gluten free options on the menu and if you tell your server about your allergies, they will do everything they can to prevent cross contamination. I went for 3 tacos and a wine flight to wash it down. YUM. 

The waitress asked if we would like to see the dessert menu and I obliged, but only so I could take a look at it ‘for the blog’. This was a rookie mistake; I saw the words Dark Chocolate Torte and couldn’t resist. 

After dinner we headed up to the Top of the Hyatt for a drink and to take in the view before getting the Trolley back to the hotel. Side note: I’d put zero effort into my appearance on this day and before we walked into the restaurant, I’d asked Ewan if I looked decent enough as it was quite a nice place. He did the standard man response of ‘you look lovely darling’ without really looking at me. The second we had finished dinner and were walking out the restaurant, he turned to me, laughed, and said, “your hair looks like Mick Hucknall’s”. Great. 

The next morning, we got the bus to Balboa park. There’s so much to do in Balboa park depending on what interests you – beautiful gardens, art galleries, museums and a big outdoor theatre. We did a bit of it all! The area around the botanical gardens is definitely worth a visit. 

Next, we headed to Coronado Island for lunch and an afternoon at the beach. We ate in Claytons Diner, an adorable little cafe with red booths and duke boxes – very ‘Grease’! They know their stuff about gluten allergies, and although they do make their own gluten free cakes, they are made in the same area as normal cakes so they aren’t suitable for ceoliacs. 

With full bellies, we walked down to the Coronado Hotel and chilled out on the beach for a bit. Ewan isn’t a lover of just sitting on the beach doing nothing, so thankfully we found some games to play to keep him entertained! (Unnecessary info but I would like to get it in writing – I beat him at both games). 

Once we were done with the beach, we sat in the sun on the Coronado Hotel outdoor deck, drinking very overpriced but delicious Mai Tai’s.

We spent the evening in the Gaslamp Quarter, shopping in the Westfield Mall and having an early dinner in Thai Mint. They were great with my gluten free requirements and I had a delicious Green Thai Curry, but Ewan’s Massaman was waaaay better and I had serious food envy! 

We had planned a beach day for our last full day in San Diego but it was cloudy until about 11am, which was actually great because we had a lazy morning and a lie in for the first time in what feels like forever! When the sun was finally shining, we drove to La Jolla (free 2-3 hour parking if you can find a space) to visit the sea lions and seals! They are very smelly and noisy but fun to watch. People get in the water and swim beside them but we were too wimpy to join in. The whole area is very pretty but gets very busy with tourists, so it’s a good place to explore but not such a great place to sunbathe. 

We stopped for lunch on the gorgeous ocean view deck at George’s. Weirdly, they clearly mark their gluten/dairy/nut free items on their online menu, but not on the menus in the restaurant. Not to worry though, because the staff know their stuff and will let you know what you can eat. I had some insanely good yellowtail tacos, and loved eating them with a view of La Jolla Cove below us. 

The weather was amazing so we jumped back in the car and drove to Mission Beach, my favourite part of San Diego with its soft, sandy beach and buzzing cocktail bars. Parking is free and can be a bit of a nightmare, but we were very lucky and grabbed a 4-hour space right on the beach! We sunbathed for ages, walked along the pier and people watched at a beach bar. I wish we were in San Diego longer as I could have spent a couple weeks like that!  

That evening we had another quick sunbathe, this time by the hotel pool, and went shopping at Fashion Valley Mall. We grabbed dinner at the always-amazing P.F.Chang’s and I greedily popped into the Cheesecake Factory afterwards to take a slice of gluten free coffee cheesecake to go! It was yummy but I saved half of it for breakfast the next day, and insanely it turns out that cheesecake isn’t a great breakfast food (who knew?!) because I felt gross for hours afterwards! In hindsight, it was still worth it. 

We are in LA now which we are both loving and hating. I’ll fill you all in tomorrow! Only 3 weeks until we land back in the UK, arghhhhh! 

Restaurants · travel

Day 42 of USA Road Trip – Palm Springs 

I am so in love with Palm Springs that I have been googling flight prices from London, desperate to book my next trip back. We only stayed one night but it was the most relaxing 24 hours of our trip so far. 

It was a rather long 4 hour drive from Vegas, made longer because California drivers are insane. Everyone drives like they have someone giving birth in their back seat and they are rushing to the hospital! We stopped halfway to swap drivers at Barstow McDonalds, which is set inside an old train station and you eat your meal inside a carriage. Very cool. 

From the moment we arrived in Palm Springs and drove along the gorgeous, palm-tree lined roads, surrounded by mountains, I knew I was going to love it. We checked in to our cute little hotel and went straight to the pool and stayed there until the sun disappeared behind the mountain. It was 105 degrees! 

For dinner, we drove into town and ate at Lulu’s California Kitchen. They have a great gluten free menu with pizzas, pastas, salads and more! I felt like I was in dire need of vegetables (and apparently craving mushrooms) after Vegas, so went for the Wild Mushroom Soup to start and the Portobello Mushroom Tower for my main. I washed all my fungi down with a pomegranate juice cocktail and was in food heaven! 

We wandered around the town for a bit after dinner and there were so many lovely restaurants and bars, including one that served unlimited champagne for $7 between 3-7pm weekdays. Yet another reason why I need to come back! 

We had to do laundry last night before our 3 days in San Diego, so while that was happening we went for a nighttime jacuzzi and swim. It was still 100 degrees, so there were people laying out on the sun loungers even in the dark! So relaxing. 

This morning, breakfast was served poolside. This is the first hotel we’ve stayed at where they actually offer gluten free food and I don’t have to bring my own cereal down to eat! God bless California and their gluten free health fads. After breakfast, we sunbathed and swam poolside until we had to check out. Currently writing this while in the car on the way to our next stop, one of my favourite cities, San Diego! 

Restaurants · travel

Days 39 to 41 of USA Road Trip – Grand Canyon & Las Vegas

On Friday, we headed to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to spend the day. Sadly, as we were arriving it started to piss down with torrential rain. At the first stop, Desert Tower, the visibility was terrible and it was freezing! We decided to drive on to the visitor centre and come back to Desert Tower later in the day.

Thankfully the weather cheered up by the time we had parked. We hadn’t been as organized as usual and had forgotten to make a packed lunch, so we headed into the cafe to grab something. I paid almost $20 for a tiny, plastic-wrapped, gluten free sandwich and a coffee… but at least they had a gluten free option!  

We were feeling pretty spritely so decided to walk the rim all the way to the start of the Red Line bus route. The whole thing took us about an hour and a half, but the weather was gorgeous and the views were incredible! I had a very well earned ice cream (they do gluten free cones!) in The Village before we hopped on the Red Line. 

At the South Rim, they offer free bus shuttles for visitors that operate on three different routes. The Red Line is the only one we used because it covers an area that you aren’t allowed to access in your own car. We took the bus all the way to Hermits Rest and snapped lots of pictures along the way. 

By now, it was nearing the end of the day, so we hopped back in the car to Desert Tower and managed to get a clear picture of the view we were unable to see earlier. Beautiful! 

We stayed overnight at the Super 8 in Flagstaff, which we were mega impressed with because they gave us a bag of assorted welcome snacks (basically, we will like you if you give us food). For dinner we headed to The Village Inn right next door. The Village Inn offer a very small but adequate gluten free menu and are very good at restricting the risk of cross contamination. They didn’t even bring Ewan’s pancakes out on the same serving tray as my meal, just in case they touched my food! I went for the Ultimate Skillet and it was tasty. 

Saturday morning and it was time for us to head to Vegas! I’d never been before so I was super excited. We were staying at the Stratosphere as it’s the only place we could find that offered free parking. I won’t bore you with the full Tripadvisor review but the short version is DON’T STAY THERE because it’s smelly and it’s gross. It made most of our dodgy roadside motels look luxury! No bed bugs though, thank Christ. 

On the way to Vegas we had our first In N Out! I’d been waiting to get to the west coast to try it because I’d heard they do good gluten free options, and I was not disappointed! I got a double-double (simply double patties and double cheese) ‘protein style’, which means it’s wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun. It was incredibly messy but delish! I also enjoyed the fries. We will definitely be back during the California part of the road trip! 

Once in Vegas, we waited in the 30 minute line to check in (that I was fuming about but it turns out this is standard in all the hotels, even the crazy expensive ones) and dropped our bags in our grim room. There’s a very good bus called the Deuce that goes up and down the strip 24 hours a day, so we purchased a day pass and went out exploring. 

While we were checking out the shops in Caesars Palace, we came across an area with an aquarium and a dragon statue blowing fire, which as we are both 5 years old mentally, we were drawn to. Behind it was a Cheesecake Factory. I am a HUGE fan of the Cheesecake Factory and am quite frankly livid that we have a sodding Bubba Gump in London but no Cheesecake Factory! Madness. The queue looked ridiculous but we were only waiting about 10 minutes before we were seated. I had the insanely good chicken and roasted garlic dish with gluten free pasta and it was absolutely amazing. I could eat it a million times over! I had planned to treat myself to a slice of their gluten free Godiva Cheesecake for pudding but sadly I had stuffed myself to the brim with peach bellinis and creamy pasta that there was no room left 😦 

We spent a few hours exploring more of the crazy hotels and watched the fountains at the Bellagio while soaking up the atmosphere. We were pooped by the time we headed home for bed!

On Sunday morning we got up bright and early and tucked into a big Denny’s breakfast before hopping on the bus down to the Welcome to Vegas sign. Top top: don’t bother with the huge queue, stand slightly to the side of the sign and take your photos. They come out just as good and you don’t have to stand out in the 100 degree heat for 30 minutes!

We spent the first half of the day literally just working our way around every single hotel on the strip, stopping for a drink now and again. Our top favourites were the Luxor, Paris and the Venetian – I’d love to stay in one of them the next time I come to Vegas. 

We had lunch at Yolo’s Mexican Grill inside Planet Hollywood, which was nice but you have to be very careful if you’re a coeliac. When I first explained my dietary requirements, I was told I could eat basically anything that’s served on a corn tortilla. Thankfully, I questioned if the pork was also gluten free before ordering, and it turned out that I could only eat pulled chicken or beef, and all the other meats were off limits. I played it safe with a pulled chicken salad, which even they thought was odd because they served the chicken on the side! It tasted pretty good though. 

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Stratosphere pool, where we indulged in the 2 for 1 cocktail happy hour and topped up our tans. Who am I kidding? I just topped up my blame-my-mum-she’s-ginger pale skin with a couple more freckles. 

We grabbed a quick dinner at Roxy’s Diner inside the hotel before getting ready for the evening, where I had the gluten free pancakes with bacon.  Nom.

If you’re staying at the Stratosphere, you get to go up to the top of the tower for a discounted price of $5. The view is nice, but the main highlight is watching idiots ride the 3 horrible thrill rides. One of them is a roller coaster style train that hangs off the side of the tower and looks completely unsafe. It actually makes the whole observation deck shake when it goes over the edge, so god knows how scary it is to ride! There’s also a drop ride and a spinning ride that again hangs off the side of the tower. 

My friend Dilys who I worked with in Toronto now goes to uni in Vegas, so we met her up the tower for a cocktail. She gave us a gift of Royce Nama Chocolate from the Venetian and it was AMAZING. It’s chocolate made with loads of double cream, so it has to be refrigerated and only has a short shelf life. She gave us both the Champagne and Macca flavours but it was the Macca (green tea) that stole my heart. We didn’t have a fridge so I had to eat it that night or it would go off. Don’t worry guys, I was up for the challenge. 

I was so sad that Britney wasn’t doing a show on the nights we were there as I would have loved to see her, but overall I really liked Las Vegas and will definitely return – but when I have more money to burn! 

Restaurants · travel

Days 36, 37 & 38 of USA Road Trip – driving through Arizona & Utah 

We’ve had a very jam packed few days; lots of driving, sun and out of this world views. On Tuesday we headed to Petrified Forest National Park, an insanely stunning park with more than enough there to fill a whole day of exploring. We went to every single point in the park, and at the Blue Mesa point we decided to take the short trail which led you into the heart of the mesa. It was only a 1 mile circuit which we thought sounded like nothing and were surprised that we were the only ones doing the trail. We were wrong. Walking up and down steep inclines in 100 degree heat was pretty intense to say the least. Ewan may as well have been walking an overweight Labrador by the way I was panting throughout the trail. The views were just about worth it but I would definitely recommend going in the morning when it’s cooler!

Tuesday’s accommodation was our most exciting yet – a Wigwam at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook. It was actually more like a tiny house in the shape of a wigwam, because it had proper walls, a bathroom and a tv, but I loved it nonetheless. It was apparently the inspiration for Lightning McQueen’s hotel in Cars, which would be exciting if I’d actually watched that movie. 

For dinner we headed a few doors down to Romo’s Mexican Cuisine. They could make most of their dishes gluten free as long as you requested corn tortillas, so I ordered the chicken enchiladas with green chile. It was enormous, looked a little bit like vomit, but tasted incredible! 

After a good nights sleep in our wigwam, we got on the road to the Canyon de Chelly National Monument. It’s completely free and the view from Spider Rock was absolutely ridiculous, there’s no way the photo below does it justice. Add it to your bucket list immediately! 

We then drove on to the Four Corners Monument and stood with our feet in all 4 states at the same time. It was cool but I wasn’t overly impressed with the area on the whole – for the $10 entrance fee I’d hoped that they would at least have a toilet seeing as it’s in the middle of nowhere! All of the toilets were closed so we didn’t stay long. 

On the way to our final stop of the day, Monument Valley, we got caught in a huge, sudden hailstorm. The hailstones lifted all the dust from the hills around us, which in turn created a scary dust storm which was horrible to drive through and covered the car in orange! Definitely an experience but hope that doesn’t happen again! 

Monument Valley doesn’t close until 8pm in the summer, so when we arrived around 6pm we still had loads of time. We started with the self-driven tour but our little Ford Fiesta wasn’t doing particularly well on the very hilly and rocky dirt track, so we turned around and took in the views from the visitor centre. It was gorgeous. On the way to our hotel for the night, we pulled the car over to watch the sun setting behind the Monument Valley skyline. Beautiful! 

By the time we got to the town of Bluff, where our hotel was, it was pitch black and we hadn’t eaten since lunch. To our relief, we came across a cute road-side bistro called Coombe Ridge and headed on in for a bite to eat. I didn’t have high hopes for anything but a salad, but they had loads of gluten free options, including burgers, quiche and genuinely yummy sounding salads. I went for the cheeseburger with a cup of tea and I was in heaven! 

Yesterday, we got up early and drove to Antelope Canyon to do the Upper Canyon Tour. We had tour reservations for 12pm and they ask you to arrive an hour early to keep your spot, and what with the confusing time zones between where we were staying and where we were heading, we ended up arriving at 10.30am! They let us join the 11am tour, which ended up being a huge stroke of luck because when we arrived at the Canyon after travelling in the back of a jeep, the canyon was full of sun beams! By the time we left the Canyon around 12pm, all the sunbeams were gone. Without the sunbeams the Canyon is just very dark and shadowy, and much less fun to photograph! The tour itself is a bit of a chaotic nightmare (you are asked to keep moving at all times in order to keep the crazy amount of human traffic going, but we had a very vain teen in our group who got her parents to take around 2000 photos of her and held everyone up, which resulted in a shouting match between the tour guide and the parents) but you can’t get into the Canyon without a tour, so that’s kind of unavoidable.  

For lunch we went to my fave, Denny’s. I’m obsessed with their gluten free English muffins! They have pretty amazing gluten free options for a diner style restaurant too. 

After lunch, we were heading to ‘The Bend’ and found an overlook to Glen Canyon Dam. Not as stunning as some of the other crazy views we’ve seen over the past 2 days, but still gorgeous!

When we got to ‘The Bend’, we were surprised to find that you have to hike to get to the site. I’m not sure why but we were expecting a side of the road parking lot viewing area kind of thing! It was 100 degrees, I was wearing black (idiot), and there are 2 very steep hills to get there… so it was another sweaty hike! The bend itself is out of this world, but you have to watch yourself as you are literally stood on a steep cliff edge with no barrier, looking down. I can imagine on a summer weekend that the crowds can get quite dangerous, so I was glad we came on a weekday! 

After all that sweating, I was ready for a quick dip in the hotel pool and a nap! I slept soundly until Ewan woke me up for dinner. We headed to the Italian restaurant in Page, which is bizarrely called Bonkers. They had an insanely good gluten free menu, including chicken dishes, pastas, garlic bread and so much more! I went for the chicken parm with garlic bread and it was delicious but I’d pass on the garlic bread next time. It was a slice of gluten free seeded toast with cheese on top. Strange. 

I’d read some reviews about last nights hotel online (Travelodge Page) and some people had complained about bed bugs. I was petrified, but we checked the bed very thoroughly and couldn’t find any sign of them. I decided that to be safe, I would sleep on top of the covers in tight bottom track pants, a t shirt and a hoody with the hood up, leaving literally only my hands and face exposed for potential bites. If I had packed my balaclava and gloves, I would have worn them too! I woke up very dehydrated but with zero bites on me…. take THAT bed bugs!

Today we’re off to the Grand Canyon and tomorrow we will be in Vegas. Woo! 

Restaurants · travel

Day 35 of USA Road Trip – Albuquerque 

“What are you doing in Albuquerque if you’re not Breaking Bad fans?”, asked the man in the candy store where they made the ‘meth’ for the TV show. It’s a question that regurgitated in our brains over the course of the day. 

For starters, I was totally wrong. It’s nothing like Santa Fe. We started off downtown which was completely barren except a few dodgy-looking people, including a man with a huge metal chain nonchalantly chilling on his shoulders. We moved on to the Old Town, which was a lot nicer but small. We meandered through the streets and shops which were thankfully open despite it being Labour Day. This was when we came across the store with the candy ‘meth’. The man behind the counter was adamant that we had to take a photo of the cardboard cut outs of the characters and a tray of ‘meth’, insisting that we would be the envy of all of our friends. Read it and weep, guys. 

We then came across a Rattlesnake Museum, which was only $6 and I’d never seen a rattlesnake, so we decided to go in. The whole place was filled with live rattlesnakes (behind glass) and full of interesting facts. They were also playing a David Attenborough show on a big screen, which was excellent. We made friends with a cute but very venomous lizard, and Ewan snapped a picture of me being ‘brave’ and standing kind of close to a rattlesnake. 

We decided to walk to a park located south of the city, which turned out to be a big mistake. The park was actually a zoo, so we couldn’t get in, and it was sodding boiling and we were both dying for a drink. Thankfully, on the way back to town we found a pub with board games, so we had a drink and played Battleships (I won!). 

Once we finally got back to the hotel, we had a quick nap before heading out to a BBQ restaurant called Whole Hog Cafe for dinner. The restaurant is within a 2 minute walk from our hotel so it was easy peasy. All of their meats are gluten free, as well as 2 of their BBQ sauces and a few sides. I went for the Loaded Baked Potato with pulled pork and a side of coleslaw. It was yummy! 

We’re now in bed watching the first Sex and the City movie ahead of an exciting drive tomorrow. We’re going to be visiting Petrified Forest National Park and staying overnight in a Wigwam! Cannot wait.