We were then approaching one of our most anticipated stops: New York. After seeing the prices for Airbnb’s in the city, we were so grateful that our friend Arnaud let us stay at his place. We had met him in Vancouver not long before he moved back to France. When we looked up his address and saw a street located in the very cool Williamsburg, we were like “wow, these guys have a killer location!” And when we got there, not only did it confirm the awesomeness of the area but we got to see their really cool apartment. You know, the kind that makes you want to drop everything and move to New York. We met his roommates Flo and Lionel – whom I offended right off the bat by saying I had the same necklace as him. Oops. But it’s true! Anyways, we had some pasta over a nice chat with everyone and Flo broke the ice by asking: “When is the last time you guys took a shower?” It was amazing to have a good night’s sleep in a cozy home and in a real bed!
The next day, we went for a walk around the city – only to remember how much you’ll end up walking in the streets of New York. We also went to B&H, a gigantic photography store that looks like a factory inside. You leave your bags at the entrance, then you go through the different floors and their thousands of products. Whatever you’re looking for, they’ll have it. Once you pick what you want, they send it through their machine while you have to go pay. Only once you’ve paid do you get to pick up your purchase from another booth, where all the orders make their way above your head. Plus every salesperson is Jewish and wears the kippah on their head. It’s quite an out of the ordinary experience! We then walked down Broadway and discovered the super cool store Forbidden Planet full of comics, Marvel action figures and superhero toys. We also made a quick stop at Brooklyn Industries, a very cool apparel brand where I got to spend a bit of money… In the evening, we met Arnaud’s friend, Lisa, who’d just gotten here from Paris and indulged in some fine tacos at a small and cozy restaurant in Brooklyn.
The following day, it was pouring rain so Lisa, Steph and I agreed that it was museum weather. We opted for MoMA and were not the only ones to have that idea apparently, when we saw the crowd inside the building. It was a great visit through contemporary art with very cool exhibitions. The highlight was definitely Robert Gober’s “The heart is not a metaphor”: he creates realistic sculptures (mostly sinks and legs) using wax and real human hair in a minimalist setting to convey a very strange feel in every room. As it was getting colder and colder outside, we treated ourselves to some hot soup before heading to the store with the best merchandising in the world. Yes, I mean Urban Outfitters. After buying huge extra warm scarves and a few other things with Lisa, we were ready to step back in the freezing streets. In the evening, we headed to The Jane Hotel to meet up with the others. The interior was very fancy, especially on the lounge side: velvet couches, a fireplace and chic decorations. It typically looked like a cigar room. We stayed a couple of hours on the other side, at the bar of course. What a disappointment to realize that in such an elegant place the waiters were not so good. Steph had to ask one of them to redo his Old Fashioned as it tasted like soda. Not so classy! But other than that, the atmosphere got really fun as it started getting crowded. What a contrast when we stepped back to the other side to find a huge crowd of drunk people dancing on the classy seats to Rihanna. Well, we joined the dance floor for a little while, snapping some Polaroids in between, getting pretty god shots with Flo looking like a marionette as the guys held him so he wouldn’t pass out! We then made a very quick stop at Union Pool for some quesadillas. When we arrived at the apartment around 3am, Arnaud suddenly said “I have to prepare the turkeyyyyyyy!!” And this is how, in the middle of the night, he and Steph held the huge turkey in the sink, filled it with salt, water and herbs and struggled to make it fit in the fridge. It was pretty hilarious. But after all, it was Thanksgiving the next day, so…
With quite a lack of sleep, we woke up the next morning to go see the parade on Broadway in the cold and in the snow. We got there too late unfortunately, and most streets had been closed off to avoid having a massive crowd. We tried through every way possible, but simply couldn’t get closer to the parade. So we stayed with the crowd a few blocks away. Lisa and I were lucky to be with the guys, as we got to sit on their shoulders to get some shots of the balloons: Spongebob Squarepants, a Smurf… We only spotted the back of Finn and Jake from Adventure Time – Arnaud almost had tears in his eyes. It was the only reason he’d come here!
We then made our last grocery shopping for the upcoming dinner and headed back to the apartment to cook the turkey, which requires several hours. Steph led the way with Arnaud, while the girls cut some vegetables. But it was such a good decision to make the stuffing ourselves and not get a pre-made one. As the cooking takes a few hours and requires thorough monitoring, we put episodes of Adventure Time and then Home Alone on the projector in the living room. Sprawled on the couch, it honestly felt like Christmas had come early.
4 hours later, the turkey was then ready and we all headed to JP’s place, another french friend of Arnaud’s. It was basically the Thanksgiving of the expats who don’t have families to go to for the long weekend. And what a crowd! We were all gathered in this incredibly well designed apartment around a huge steel table in the kitchen. Everyone had brought something, so you can imagine the amount of food spread out in front of us. We therefore had a delicious dinner paired with some wine and excellent conversation, happy to meet and chat with such fun people. We even went up on the roof, climbing up the ladders to find the best view of New York by night. Honestly, we couldn’t have dreamed of a better Thanksgiving!
After a lazy morning in Brooklyn, we had some sushi before heading to Times Square with Lisa, just to see those giant screens once again. We then went on a little shopping mission in Levi’s and Urban Outfitters as it was Black Friday and there were some pretty good deals. After a well deserved Starbucks break to escape from the cold, we took some photos in the metro and headed back to the flat before going back to JP’s flat for Thanksgiving part 2. We got to finish eating the meal from the night before as there were so many leftovers, and it was still just as good! We then had the most insane game of flip cup, getting drunk on Corona and Jaegermeister cracking up and screaming “team spirit!!!” whenever we had the chance to do so. And yeah, one side had more team spirit that’s for sure… but we’ll give points to Lisa for screaming on her own on the other side and representing the other team. Once everyone was totally tipsy enough, we decided to head to the bar. Not without pretending to use “the force” to open elevators. Blame the Jaegermeister. We walked to Union Pool for a night spent 80% in the Photo Booth (where we spent most of our money) and 20% drinking shots of Tequila (where we spent what was left of our money.) We even got to see the oldest DJ alive who looked like he’d stepped right out of Fort Boyard. We had WAY too much fun with everyone and just couldn’t get enough of the Photo Booth. We got home super late and quite drunk. So of course, we didn’t leave in the morning the next day like we were hoping to… We woke up at noon, I believe I was still drunk and honestly we had had so much fun that we were tempted to never leave Arnaud’s living room. But hey, we had a car to sell and a plane to catch in Montréal, so a couple of hours and a necessary McDonalds later, we were on the road to Montreal.
And of course, at the very end of the trip, we were stopped by the police on the road. But all good, he was just unable to see the state on our license plate and wished us a good day!
Arnaud, Flo and Lionel thank you guys SO much for letting us stay with you we had such a BLAST. We really hope we can return the favour someday somewhere in the world and have just as much fun. You’ve made our stay in New York totally kickass.
So we were driving from Philadelphia to New York and took smaller roads in an effort to avoid expensive tolls. And at one point, I look outside the window and see this huge and incredible rock building. And I think: “This looks familiar. It looks like the University in the movie A Beautiful Mind – where did Nash study again? Right, Princeton!” And sure enough, we had randomly ended up on the Princeton University campus! Well, if we had gotten the chance to study in a place like this… We were pretty jealous as we gazed at the amazing Hogwarts like building. When we randomly spotted statues of animal heads, we juste couldn’t resist.
Okay so, from Nashville to Washington there are 666miles (1070km) – 10 hours driving. So needless to say, the trip was quite long to get there! Especially when you consider the fact that Steph did the whole thing. Yeah.. I was still feeling pretty sick so I stayed on zombie mode in the car next to him. At least I didn’t bother him much! Anyways, we spent a night in a reallllllly weird place in the middle of nowhere, with police cars cruising around and a bunch of guys waking us up in the middle of the night as they were playing football on the parking lot (and hitting the car of course.) Great.
But eventually, we did make it to Washington. After reading a couple of articles about the city, it was clear that there wasn’t much to do except for the political and historical landmarks plus a bunch of museums. So we decided to be super efficient for the afternoon. We parked right by the White House – almost feeling like we were in an episode of Homeland with all the security cars driving around. We then went ahead to take a look at the famous building – it looked smaller in real life than in the movies, that’s for sure. We did wonder how often they get the walls painted for them to stay so white… Any thoughts? Like real tourists, we took some photos – with our Crapules stuff of course! As we were taking them we couldn’t help but notice the insane level of security, I mean, snipers on the roof! We were also trying to imagine who among the crowd of tourists were actually undercover spies. It is the White House after all! We did have the impression that it looked different in our mind, so we walked to the back to see it from the other side. And that’s where we recognized the bow of the Southern façade! Unfortunately there is a huge grass area right after the gate, so we couldn’t see this side up close, but still!
Once we agreed we had enough touristy photos with Obama’s house, we decided to go the Abraham Lincoln Memorial and National Mall. For those of you with the same references as me, it’s where Captain America is jogging in the morning in Captain America 2. Anyhow, the Abe Lincoln statue was really impressive and imposing. It’s only a shame the room is packed with tourists, we struggled to get a good shot. We had a lot more fun posing in front of the National Monument obelisk. The reflection in the water is a big plus! We were really lucky that day, unlike the previous ones, it was surprisingly warm and sunny! As we were leaving to go back to the car, a huge helicopter flew above our heads and we like to think that Obama was in it. Because why not! Our Washington visit over, we continued driving up towards the long awaited stop in New York.
As you can see from the huge gap on the map between New Orleans and Nashville, this was a bit of a drive. And I am quite proud to say that I contributed to the driving! After a night stop in a random city by the highway, we arrived in what they call the Music City, in the famous state of Tennessee. A road trip does come with a few complications unfortunately and we had to stop at a garage because of a weird noise and signal the car was making. After booking a spot for the next day, we headed straight to one of the typical music night bars of the city: the Listening Room Cafe. For a first taste of the city, it was more than ideal. The room combined food, drinks and a stage with extremely talented singers for the entire night! The concept of writer’s night in Nashville brings together passionate musicians to showcase their own songs in front of new audiences. We understood why so many aspiring performers move to this city to make it in music: they get to practice and show their songs in so many potential spots! In that one night, we first saw three young musicians taking turns in songs with their guitar. We then saw a really talented singer called Sabrina. Alone on stage with her guitar, she absolutely rocked it! Then two brothers who apparently were on The Voice US season 5 put on a show. And last but not least, the band Amber’s Drive simply killed it, bringing the entire room to life! They sounded like a new version of the O’Brother soundtrack. We quickly came to the conclusion that Nashville is pretty much the equivalent of New Orleans but the country version (with cowboy hats please.) So as you can imagine, the night was lots of fun and we even had our first valet parking – how very fancy.
The next day, well, was not as fun. It started with getting the car fixed, which not only lasted a really long time but cost an arm and a leg! When it was done, I was getting sick but we decided to go for a walk around town. We went to Broadway, where most of the bars and barbecues are lined up for people to enjoy some tasty meats and live music. What really impressed us in those streets is the fact that every single bar has a live music schedule from 10am to 2am, 365 days a year! Whenever we would enter one, there would be a band or singer on stage. How incredible is it to have a city where you can be certain to find live music any time, any day? Lots of these honky tonk bars are where some celebrity country singers started their career, like the Legends Corner, Tootsies Orchid Lounge, The Stage on Broadway.
We then headed towards the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which according to our guides was the thing to do in Nashville. After taking a look at the Walk of Fame, where we realized we knew nothing about country music, we started the visit in the museum. I suppose it is a fun museum when you have certain knowledge about country singers like Kenny Rogers and others (whose names I’ve already forgotten) – but we pretty much only knew Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Taylor Swift (no comment.) So the visit was not that fun for us in all honesty but we did really enjoy creeping at the stars’s cars – everything was not lost! My stomach was getting worse and worse which probably didn’t help – picture a zombie wandering through the exhibitions. Afterwards, Steph was starving so he picked Jack’s barbecue to pile up a couple of ribs and steaks.
As Steph realized that I was really not feeling good, he kindly let us stay in a hostel for the night – a night in the car on a parking lot was maybe not the best idea! So he found one quickly and I was in bed at 6pm. Obviously, he wasn’t going to do the same! So he went and made some friends in the living room and they all went out to a bar downtown. When he came back at God knows what time, the smell of beer made it clear how much fun he’d had! He then explained he had gone to a Karaoke bar with a Swiss couple, an English girl and a Nashville cowboy where beers were $1! That ought to do it. We left Nashville the next day, I was still half a zombie so Steph drove and told me travel stories he learned from the night before with the hostel crew.
We finally made it to New Orleans, one of our most anticipated stops! We arrived in the evening and went straight to the famous Cafe du Monde to finally taste their world famous beignets. Sipping on some cafe au lait and hot chocolate while devouring these delicacies was the best reward after the long drive of the day. You can’t escape covering yourself from top to bottom with their powdered sugar but it’s more than worth it! We then walked around very quickly to take peak at the famous Bourbon Street, but it was absolutely freezing that evening. Like most people, we thought we’d find warm weather in Louisiana but it turned out to be one of the coldest places! We then spent the night at the BMC (Balcony Music Club), definitely THE place to be for an evening in New Orleans. As soon as we entered, we were grateful for PG’s advice to go there. The band was Eudora Evans & Deep Soul and they were simply incredible. Beautiful jazz music through trumpets, saxophone, guitar and drums coupled with Eudora’s breathtaking voice and presence: welcome to New Orleans. This is where you realize the true musical and lively vibe of the city. Steph tried the local whiskey cocktail Sazerac and I stuck to pineapple juice, being on driving duty for the evening. After the incredible show of the first band, a second one came on, The Abney Effect – never had we seen that many musicians on one stage! We listened to their energetic jazz symphony for a little while before finally calling it a night. We spent the night on a pretty sketchy Walmart parking lot which was everything but reassuring. Waking up to a sunny and warmer day sure was a good reward.
We then spent the entire day walking around the city, getting to discover the French quarter and street vibe of beautiful New Orleans. It started with a warm coffee in one of the oldest bars in the U.S. In there, everything is wooden and seems crooked. There was even a man practising the piano for later, which was ideal as we were slowly waking up. Just like in Austin, this bar showcased pictures of all the celebrities that had been there – Tarantino sure knows his way around cool American bars! As we continued our walk, we stopped a few times to listen to the talented street musicians playing their own jazz songs and bringing the city to life. One of them even had a tap dancer! We also checked out lots of cool voodoo and skull shops as well as colourful and vintage decoration shops. Out of nowhere, we spotted an incredibly colourful store which turned out to be a hot sauce store. We got to taste all kinds of flavour and did not leave empty handed! Although the French quarter is amazing, the city is still recovering from the consequences of the terrible hurricane Katrina. Lots and lots of homeless people are unfortunately wandering around as they have lost everything.
New Orleans is famous for two things: music, of course, and food! You already got a pretty good introduction with the beignets – but we figured it was necessary to try a lunch specialty as well. So without hesitation we stepped in Acme, the Oyster house. Sitting at the bar, I tasted their renowned oysters – both the fresh ones and the charbroiled ones. The latter is their specialty, and consists in oysters with cheese, garlic and different herbs grilled on a barbecue. Delicious! Steph went for their seafood gumbo, but did fight his dislike for oysters to try these. Not so bad! We continued our stroll to try to find CD’s of the band we’d heard the night before, without luck, but did find some old school carriages and mansions on our way.
As our day around New Orleans was coming to an end, we knew that one day we’d have to come back for Mardi Gras – where it seems the costumes, the atmosphere and the music are absolutely incredibly unique. We’ll be back.
The Texan way of life continued as we reached the city to meet with PG, a friend from France who is currently living and working there. He had warned us: “You know in Houston, it’s mostly business, there’s not much to do, mostly partying.” Well that’s no problem! We reached the city in the gloomiest weather before it started pouring and we were really grateful that PG kindly let us crash in his living room! After a few Coronas at his place, we headed to a bar catching the most epic Uber ride. The driver was completely hyper, couldn’t stop laughing, and was all like “Oh you know where the bar is! You’ve been going there a lot huh! They know you there now hey! Hey, your buddy’s got a girl where is yours?” All between giant bursts of laugh, it was hilarious. We enjoyed some of the million (almost) beers on tap the bar features, chatted and played darts. We decided to play 110 as it’s supposed to be the easiest way. Steph went first, threw his very first dart of the game and hit the perfect middle: bullseye. PG was like: “Are you serious right now?!” Lesson of the day: don’t play aiming games with Steph. In the end PG won the first two rounds, Steph the last three and I zero – no comment. We then decided to move on to another bar to meet some of friends, but the drinks were a little strong so we called in a night soon after! We slept on a thin leather sofa that was both cold and uncomfortable – ha, we had been warned by PG and his roommate but we thought we could endure anything at this point. However, it sure felt amazing to be in a warm apartment while it was freezing and pouring rain outside.
The next day, the weather hadn’t improved much so we lazily enjoyed some breakfast muffins and chilled around. We were also thrilled to have finally received the package from our friends Les Crapules. Luckily there were three T-shirts, all beautifully designed by Crapules artist Ambroise. So we put them on right away for the cheesiest photo you’ve ever seen. Admire below:
What do Texan people do on a rainy Sunday afternoon with their families? Why of course, they go to the shooting range! We jumped in the car with PG and his roommate and drove there eagerly. I had never shot a gun before and Steph had only shot with a rifle in Oregon (to shoot discs) as in that state you can’t use a gun if you don’t have a gun and a licence. It seems more reasonable, but apparently in Texas you can do whatever the hell you want. So we just entered the shooting range, looked around the shop full of guns and saw a promotion on hand grenades (wtf?!). Then we just gave our passports, picked our guns, snapped some goggles on and went to the booths. Just – like – that. PG and Mika had already been here, so they taught us the basics – thank god. It is a little freaky to think that in that room, everyone has a killing machine in their hands and most people actually bring their own weapon. As French people, we still couldn’t wrap our heads around the fact that people own guns in their homes. This feeling grew even bigger when we got to shoot for the first time! The strength of the bullet as you pull the trigger is insane. It was quite surreal to play badass with our guns and our Crapules t-shirts, that’s for sure! But again, very much a culture shock, especially as we would see kids enter with their parents…
We then had a well deserved break back at the apartment and as the weather wasn’t getting any better, we thought it was ideal for a sunday night movie. After an unfair vote (2 boys vs 1 girl), we ended up watching Nightcrawler. Before the movie started, the boys couldn’t resist playing games to win prizes. PG tried to catch a minion and then Steph tried to win an iPad. Didn’t work out too well, but it sure was a good laugh! The movie was insanely good, mainly thanks to the crazy performance of Jake Gyllenhaal. No spoilers, only one word of a advice: go see it!
The next day was a bit of a fail, as we emerged late and then spent the whole day driving around to find a hard drive for Steph. Who would have thought it would be so complicated? Only after two Walmarts and two Best Buy’s were we able to finally find one. Apparently, people buy lots in Texas… Luckily, we made up for the shitty day with a very very cool evening: a Methodman and Redman concert. Yes, that’s right. Okay, I’ll be totally honest with you I didn’t who they were but the boys sure did as they spent their teenage hood listening to their songs! We first had some beers and food at the bar, with the most annoying waitress in the entire world. You know the one who doesn’t let you enjoy your drink or conversation for more than 5mn and then gives you the wrong price for a beer and tells you it’s actually $3 more expensive – once you’re already halfway done drinking it. Anyhow, we finally made it to the “Smokers Club Tour” concert. They’re a bunch of rappers touring together and well, promoting the stoned way of life! In the concert room, one person out of two was smoking weed, which really surprised us because it’s illegal in Texas and you actually risk prison for it! Oh well, it didn’t seem to bother the crowd or the rappers themselves at all! The concert got really fun and B-Real (singer of Cypress Hill) stepped on stage and rocked it. Steph and PG didn’t know he was going to be there so it was a pretty awesome surprise! And then, the final act was Redman and Methodman, who totally killed it. They are definitely showmen, making the crowd participate in every song and dancing like crazy! It was by far the best way to finish our epic american experience in Houston with PG!
The next day it was time for goodbyes as we had to take the road to New Orleans. But not without stopping at a Texan barbecue on our way, of course! PG, a million thanks once again, we had a blast and you were a perfect host. Looking forward to returning the favour!
When we looked up the directions from Moab to Austin, Google Maps said it would take 19 hours. Okay then… The road was actually a little scary that evening because it was extremely dark, a single lane in the middle of nowhere with the speed limit of 75mph (120km/h.) We were definitely afraid of animals crossing the road so we were constantly on the lookout for movement ahead of us. We stopped to sleep at a Walmart in Albuquerque (New Mexico) and we woke up really early and really cold. There was snow on the road as we kept going and when we decided to check the temperature, we realized it was -14 degrees (7F). There had been no transition for us, we had gone straight from summer to winter in a split second!
After a day of non stop driving, we finally arrived in Austin in the evening. Too tired to do anything, it was Happy Meal and straight to sleep! Just like the kids. The next day, we went to the outlet store in the morning and instantly caught up on our lack of shopping over the past 2 months! North Face, Nike, Adidas at crazy prices, say no more! Once we were done, we were obviously starving. We first drove to the famous Franklin’s Barbecue. Obviously they were sold out. They open at 11am and are so popular that people show up at 8am to start lining up. They wait up to 4 hours in order to get to eat there. The girl who explained this to us said that the wait was part of the experience: “Some people come with camping chairs, blankets, games. It’s almost like camping!” Okay… When have we ever waited 4 hours outside in the cold to eat? Never.
We then picked a Tex-Mex location that had good reviews and where we would actually be able to eat right away! We ended up at El Rancho’s (check) in a cute hacienda like restaurant. You know the saying that everything is bigger in Texas? Well it’s true when it comes to food! We found ourselves with a huge amount of food on the table, everything looking more delicious than the other. After 3 bites I think we were already full, but the fajitas that we got to make ourselves from meat still burning on the plate were just too delicious to stop. When we were officially full (and I was half asleep on the table), we got the rest in a box to go.
It was then night time and a Friday night, so we knew we had to do what a real Texan cowboy would do to go out. We went to Broken Spoke, a family owned bar celebrating their 50th anniversary. Entering this place was like entering a new dimension: cowboys, girls wearing santiags, very very old school haircuts (the ones you wouldn’t think are even still possible to get today) and a Texan cowboy singing country music and yodeling at the same time. I was still in a bit of a food coma so I asked the old lady at the bar for a coffee, to which she replied with a stunned expression on her face: “You want coffee?! There’s the beer menu here!” In the bar, there was a cool room called the Tourist Trap, which obviously lured us in. It is a collection of photos of the owner with all the celebrities that visited this bar from Clint Eastwood to Tarantino to Robert Rodriguez to Robert Duvall. 50 years in business, 50 years of photos. We also got to see two-step dance lessons given at the back as youngsters arrived for a dance night dressed in their boots, cowboy hats and mini skirts! I even got to take a photo with the cowboy owner, please admire the diamonds on his shirt.
Maeva and the cowboy owner of Broken Spoke
It was still relatively early in the evening so we decided to move to another typical Austin location for a night out: Dirty 6th. Now, this one is a little less old fashioned and gathers all the young people of Austin into one street full of bars. We started with Buffalo Billiards to play some pool. Obviously, I lost – in my defence, Steph has practiced many times and is too mathematical to be beaten. We then randomly picked another bar for a few drinks. There was live music from a super friendly guy named Joe Vega who could play a huge list of songs upon request, right there with his guitar and microphone. Steph picked “Escape (Pina Colada)” as we’ve been listening to it a lot from our Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. It was lots of fun, especially as we got to watch a few birthday girls who had had a few too many drinks dancing in the middle.
The next morning, we passed by in front of Franklin’s to see if people were really THAT motivated for barbecues. And it turns out they are! It was early on a Saturday morning, it was raining, it was cold and a huge huge line was just waiting outside the restaurant… O-kay. We went to Spider House Cafe instead for a warm drink in a warm and cozy coffee shop. With an eclectic decor, a hipster setting and lots of vintage furniture, the place is perfect for good coffee and good conversation. You can never get enough of artsy and kind of weird places with a unique charm like this one!
It was a long long drive from Monument Valley to Moab and a big detour on our road. But we had heard only great things about Arches National Park so we figured it was worth the drive. On our way we stopped at a cute coffee shop in a town in the middle of nowhere to enjoy come cappuccino and chai latte before taking the road again.
In the evening, we arrived in Moab, the town where the National Park is located. We tried to find a campground but the first two we visited were closed for the season. Luckily the last one wasn’t, although it seemed like it. Slick Rock Campground had no office during the winter season, just an envelope based on the honour system: leave your money in it and that’s it. That wouldn’t work everywhere! Happy to have somewhere to cook, we made another one of our delicious chilis con carne. We then headed back to find the laundry mat as it was becoming necessary. We enjoyed the wifi there along with all the hippies and travellers of the city!
After a pretty chilly night, we were thrilled to discover hot and free showers in the campground – it doesn’t happen that often around here. And after a warm Starbucks, we knew we were going to have a pretty good day! We even discover a new kind of trail mix, with nothing but different sorts of peanuts, called Peanut Lover. Well, we ate the whole thing in one day (650g, yes it’s a lot)!
We drove to the Arches National Park and after the Park Ranger warned us against the upcoming snow (what?!) we drove up the road in the gigantic park. The area covers indeed 76,359 acres (30,901 ha) and contains over 2000 sandstone arches. Obviously, we had to pick what we would do! So we drove all the way to the end of the road to hike the Double O trail. As soon as we stepped out of the car, we knew things were going to be rough. The wind was blowing like crazy and it was freezing! We put our coats and hiking shoes on and headed hastily towards the trail, trying to warm up as we walked. The hike was really nice, especially because once we reached the Landscape Arch, it turned into primitive trail which meant: no beaten path, less people, more climbing on rocks, more fun! We walked among the rocks in an amazing scenery and finally reached the double O arch, which was definitely worth the effort. We couldn’t even resist climbing all the way to walk at the very top of the arch for the best aerial experience of the park!
Afterwards, we drove to watch the famous Delicate Arch and watched it from the viewpoint, too cold at this point to attempt another 3 hour hike. We then went to see the Window Arches and followed the trail to see the North Window and South Window side by side. We also peaked at the Double Arch and Turret Arch.
We were definitely not disappointed to have made it all this way for the arches, because this incredible orange landscape of rocks was really the best way to finish our national parks tour.
We arrived in the Monument Valley area at night time, only perceiving dark shapes in the horizon. We picked the closest campground in Gouldings in order to catch Monument Valley at sunrise. Waking up at 6 was really hard. As we drove out of Gouldings, Steph suddenly screamed and pulled at the side of the road by a trailer that read “Breakfast Burritos”. Of course! Honestly, it was probably the BEST breakfast of the trip: a HUGE burrito of thick tortilla filled with a potato omelet, two eggs and bacon. Plus spicy sauce for the crazy ones (=Steph.)
We then arrived at the visitor centre of Monument Valley and accepted the fee of $20 to drive through the monuments. After all, we weren’t going to be here everyday! We took the dirt road that loops around the famous rock formations immersing ourselves in the Western feeling of the park. Driving through the orange colours of the desert under a warm sun completely immersed us in the Western environment. But something was missing. As soon as we spotted horses by the side of the road, we knew what it was. If we were going to play our own John Wayne movie, we had to gallop through the valley! We therefore agreed to go on a little horse riding tour with one of the locals. It was so much fun to move through the valley on horses and even though it had been a while since we’d done it, Steph and I picked it up quickly! Plus, he got the white horse named Mustang, it helped a lot. He would gallop in front and yell “Yihaaaa!” Our guide was also very nice, though his thing was to gallop sideways and lose his hat every time – we would find out later why.
As we got back to the ranch, he and his friend asked if we could give them a ride as we had to go to the visitor centre to the ATM to be able to pay them for the ride. We explained that we only had 2 seats in front as it was a bed behind. But they were done with their day of work as it was veterans day and they were going to have to leave anyway. So they both got in the front next to Steph (picture two big guys on the passenger’s seat) while I sat on the bed at the back. Now this was a pretty insane couple of minutes to the visitor centre, and when we realized both were completely drunk! They would ask: “So where are you from?” and a minute later ask it again. I was at the back and they kept on moving, I was wondering what the hell they were doing. In all honesty I was a little worried! As we stepped out of the car at the visitor centre, Steph told me they were trying to “discreetly” pass each other a huge bottle of beer. Riiiiight. After Steph had to drive to Gouldings and back to an ATM since both of the ones at the Visitor Centre were out of service (wtf?), he payed them while they attempted to negotiate between themselves who would get what percentage. After a good laugh about it, we went back down the dirt road to take some touristy pictures of the three famous monuments before heading out.
Monument Valley was definitely one of the top stops on our trip, both for the amazing views as for the crazy experience. And to finish it beautifully, as we drove on the scenic road with the skyline of the rock formations at the back, we stopped to longboard down the empty and incredible road. PERFECT!