Day 5 – 3rd October

Photography

Today we had our last full day in Vegas. We started the day right with a trip to Denny’s. By the time we navigated the bus system we were starving, and it’s probably best as the breakfasts were huge. Hash browns, two eggs sunny side up with sausages and a stack of blueberry buttermilk pancakes with strawberries, banana and a healthy serving of maple syrup. Needless to say I scoffed it down and 20 minutes later went into a major food coma.

We then headed to the Las Vegas sign. An obligatory thing to do as a tourist, and I sort of felt ashamed of myself but what the hell. A guy took a picture of us all. He stands there all day taking pictures for people, which is great as it means we could all get one together.

After this we went to the Venetian hotel. It was stunning inside, with spectacular painted ceilings. Again full of restaurants, arcades and a casino. We tried our luck at some roulette. We put $50 down and within the first round I was out, but Mum had her lucky pants on and kept winning. A grand total of $72 making us $22. I know, I know we are hardcore.

We went back to the hotel and got ready for the Cirque du Soleil Show ‘O’ at Bellagio. This was absolutely incredible. I have never seen a show like it. I was amazed by the workmanship, writing, art direction, costumes and everything in between. A great mix of drama and comedy.

We then finished the night off with dinner at Lago, a posh (very posh) Italian tapas style restaurant onlooking the Bellagio Fountains. We ordered small plates of pastas, small pizzas and meats to share. It was so delicious. I think the pasta with lamb ragu was my favourite. We were ravenous (surprising after that huge breakfast, I know) so didn’t get a chance to take pictures. As per usual we still had room for dessert, despite being really full at this point. I had the most perfect crème brûlée that I have ever eaten. We then watched the fountain show from outside and headed back to the hotel. I thoroughly enjoyed this evening!

Day 4 – 2nd October

Uncategorized

Today we headed to Zion National Park in Utah, the last of our stops on this three day tour. Zion is another name for Jerusalem. On the way down to the park, through the signature red roads, we passed Checkboard Mesa. The rain and wind erodes the rock, creating a chequered pattern.

A mesa is an isolated, flat-topped hill or mountain with steep sides that is smaller in area than a plateau. A butte is also a flat-topped hill with steep sides, though smaller in area than a mesa.

We saw more beautiful orange rocks with outstanding views on a small trail walk to see a waterfall. It was nice to stretch our legs after spending a lot of time on the bus.

We came across the Sego lily, which is Utah’s state flower. This poisonous plant was traditionally used by some indigenous tribes during religious rituals as a potent hallucinogenic but after time they realised it was deadly.

Many of the cavalrymen chosen to serve in the West’s new national park lands were buffalo soldiers. The term “buffalo soldier” was first used by Native Americans of the Cheyenne tribe to describe African American regiments sent to the West during the Civil War to fight against Plains Indians. It is said that the tribespeople saw a resemblance between the African American soldiers’ dark, curly hair and the matted fur between the horns of a buffalo, and that they also respected their bravery in battle. After the war ended, many of these buffalo soldiers were re-assigned to patrol the Western frontier, including in national Parks.

After we completed the trail we got back onto the bus and went for a buffet lunch. There was so much choice, and for an all you can eat it was surprisingly lovely. We then headed back to Vegas. In three days we travelled over 1000 miles thanks to our great driver Ricardo.

We freshened up and headed to Fremont Street. This part of the strip is full of casinos, live music and DJs. We decided to go on the zip wire here. Knees trembling and a heart rate pushing 120 as I was dangled in mid air. It was really fun whilst doing it though. The thought is always worse than the deed! We then grabbed a drink and danced the night away. There were some real characters here, including a lady lacking in clothing on her bottom half. They were having a dance off! It was a real laugh!

Day 3 – 1st October

Uncategorized

This morning we stopped at the Carl Hayden Visitors Centre and Glen Canyon.

The dam here took 3.5 years to do all the preparatory work, beginning in 1956. The work involved building the road, bridge, town of Page, diversion tunnels and electrical lines. It then took a further 2.5 years to raise the 710 foot / 216m dam. This surprised me, as it didn’t seem very long to build something this big. In England it would have taken a lot longer?!

Workers called highscalers used these little seats to travel down the Canyon face during the dam’s construction. They blasted and chipped the rock to prepare the Canyon walls for bridge footings and dam abutments. The seat was so tiny, and didn’t look too safe. Certainly wouldn’t have passed health and safety tests today. Highscalers still maintain the concrete surface of the dam and the adjacent canyon walls. Although thankfully, now they use harnesses and much stricter safety regulations!

We then took a cruise along Lake Powell. This lake was in Planet of the Apes and also a Britney music video! Our cruise went around Antelope Canyon, created from flash floods and named this because antelopes migrate here in the winter.

The cruise was amazing we went right into the Antelope Canyon, winding round with more of the layered sandstone. The colour comes from the sand which is coated with iron oxide. This rusts and creates the beautiful autumnal colours.

We travelled to Utah, and took a visit to Bryce Canyon, which I think has been the favourite part of the trip so far. You could trek down to the bottom, I didn’t make it all the way down but the views from the top were absolutely outstanding. More of the beautiful layered rusty sandstone which had been eroded away created columns of stone.

We made our way back to Kanab where our hotel was. We headed to an amazing restaurant where I had fresh fish tacos and shared key lime pie, and pecan caramel cheesecake which was obviously sent from heaven as it was so, so delicious. The service was great too, welcomed us in as if we were family. It was a great end to a fantastic day.

Day 2 : 30th September

Photography

After a restless nights sleep, I got up at 4am to get ready for our trip to the Grand Canyon. We didn’t leave until 7am and I don’t take 3 hours to get ready but I had enough of endless tossing and turning.

We drove for a couple of hours whilst our tour guide told us about the day ahead. We travelled through Boulder City. This was built for the workers in 1928/29 to build the Hoover dam. Originally, it was just meant to be a camp for the workers to live in and then leave once it had been built. However, because of the Great Depression people came with families and their belongings, so a last minute town was built for them to live. The dam stopped the Colorado river and created a lake. Lake Mead, which is the largest artificial lake with the most water in the USA.

Gambling is forbidden in Boulder City, and the rule still remains here, if you want to gamble you have to go into Vegas. Way back when, people came to Nevada to find minerals, gold and silver, hence why it is called the Silver State. People were getting richer, so they built casinos with the money. This was an easy way to take money from people without stealing.

We then stopped at Williams which is one of the towns on Route 66. Route 66, also called the mother road is 2500 miles / 5200km long and runs through 8 states. This is a relatively small street running in two directions, so they built highway roads and closed Route 66. Tiny towns and businesses died as the large roads didn’t pass through them.

Angel Delgadillo, was a barber from Seligman, Arizona and has been dubbed the ‘guardian angel’ of U.S. he went out of business for 7 years and then started a petition to reopen Route 66. This initially got declined by the government but after more signatures, the petition was accepted and Route 66 was declared a national monument in 1987.

It is now a tourist attraction and people travel this for fun. Angel transformed his barber shop into a gift shop selling souvenirs. If you book in advance he will even give you a shave at the grand age of 91!

The director of Toy Story, also drove round Route 66 collecting stories from people living here. These stories are referenced in the film Cars.

We had a wander around Williams, browsed the little gift shops and saw the old railway station, they had an old steam train which used to take people from Williams to the Grand Canyon. This was the only means of getting to the Grand Canyon before the roads were built.

We then made our way to the Grand Canyon. First stopping at Mather Point. It was very busy, as you’d expect with people taking endless selfies. However, words just can’t really describe what you see and no photos did it justice, which partly upset me, as loving photography I wanted to capture the perfect frame. I decided however, to just take it all in, and enjoy it, rather than continually looking through the viewfinder. It’s so vast, with the sun and clouds casting beautiful shadows upon the layers of rusty reds and burnt orange sandstone.

After this we headed to Desert View, where we went up a tower for more beautiful sights and saw a man do a craft demonstration. Intricately painting a small figurine.

We sleepily made our way back to another hotel. We popped to a Safeway (throwback!) and grabbed some snacks for the next day and were so tired all we could muster was a subway. Not exactly a gourmet delight and sadly not as fun as the Texas bbq, but none of us had the energy to socialise. We clambered back to the hotel, climbed into bed and finally had a good and well needed nights sleep.

Day 1 : 29th September LGW – LAS

Photography

After a ten hour flight, including 3 films and a few naps we arrived in

Las Vegas airport. With the tiredness and jet lag setting in, and after a long queue, we got the nervous giggles at a very serious border control (probably not very appropriate). We grabbed our luggage and caught a taxi to our hotel, The Luxor.

I came here with no expectations. I tried not to do too much research before hand and arrived with an open mind. It’s what I can only describe as extra. So, totally, extra.

The hotels are huge complexes, full of casinos, neon lit arcades, restaurants and big shows. You could end up never leaving the hotel as you have everything right in front of you.

We checked into our room, on the 22nd floor. We freshened up and went out to explore a little. My sister and dad went on the big roller coaster from one of the hotels. I wanted to do this but chickened out as I was flagging a little at this point, and felt immensely dehydrated. I didn’t think the two went hand in hand.

We looked in a few shops then went to a restaurant called the outback for dinner and had the most delicious steak, with fries and salad. I was definitely not feeling ok at this point. My bed was calling. We stumbled back to our hotel, got our stuff ready for an early trip the next day and climbed into bed. I thought I would have slept like a log. The bed was dreamy, but the jet lag was in full force and I was up every hour waiting for it to be the morning, and time to get ready for our trip to the Grand Canyon.

Wedding Cake

Uncategorized

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, if you want keep up to date with my adventures on my Instagram @mariablackstone… I tend to post more regularly on there.

I have been busy with a new job – I am now working as a Graphic Designer for a wine supplier (lucky me), I have been away to Menorca and Belgium and spending the summer enjoying myself, and getting out as much as I can before I go to study in September. I have a wine course to go on next week, and am then starting a graphic design course a few weeks after that. I’m excited to learn lots of new stuff but apprehsive about the battle I will no doubt have with my energy levels. 

I also made my first ever wedding cake for a friend round the corner. I did a tasting for them and they chose vanilla and lemon – perfect for the summer. It was decorated simply with roses, berries and herbs from their garden. I was super pleased with the result and was amazing to know that people would enjoy all my hard work and efforts and that I could be a small part of their big day. 

If you’d like a cake for your special occasion, please do get in touch and I can discuss options and prices with you. 


A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x

Quick Tomato Salad

Recipes, Uncategorized

Tomato Salad.jpgUse the best of the summer’s tomatoes in this delicious, herby tomato salad. I served mine with lamb fillet marinated in garlic, rosemary & lemon & some buttered new potatoes. But it’s perfect on it’s own, served with some crusty fresh bread to mop up the juices. The perfect simple supper.

Ingredients

  • One or two large tomatoes
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes ( I used red & yellow from my mum’s garden)
  • Handful of flat leaf parsley
  • 2-3 basil leaves (I used purple basil from the garden)
  • A few chives
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Chop your tomatoes how ever you please, I sliced mine in big thin slices & halved my cherry tomatoes.
  2. Roughly chop your herbs, and add these to a bowl with the tomatoes
  3. In a cup, lightly whisk your vinegar and olive oil, and season to taste. You can add more oil/vinegar to suit your taste. I like mine quite sharp.
  4. Add this to your tomatoes & herbs and mix together. Add more seasoning if it needs it.
  5. Place into your serving dish & enjoy!

 

A girl with an appetite for all things creative,

Maria x