In late July/early August 2016, my travel companion and I embarked on a two week coach tour of the West Coast of the US along with twenty or so other people from around the UK. We toured with American Sky, who are a truly sensational company. We had an inspiring and informative tour guide and a good-humoured driver, both of whom took care of our every need. Each day we would drive for a few hours, making frequent stops for souvenir shopping, lunch and of course ‘potty stops’. Below are some of my true highlights from the trip, which I would highly recommend any traveller to the West Coast include in their itinerary if possible. As I have so much I want to share, this is Part 1.
In July 2011 I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to some of the most beautiful places in the United States on a school trip. Our travels took us around the west of the country from San Francisco and the remote prison island Alcatraz, down to Monument Valley, Utah, passing through some incredible places along the way.
We began our trip in the beautiful city of San Francisco, where we got our first taste of a real American diner (complete with massive portions!). I went for the classic American hamburger piled high with just about every topping imaginable and ketchup and mustard to top it off! We all decided to try the American diner’s traditional drink: the ice cream float. For those of you who don’t know what these are, they are essentially a glass of some kind of fizzy drink (usually Diet Coke or lemonade but some also offer ginger beer) with a spoonful of ice cream on top. It doesn’t sound like it should work but trust me, they are heaven! We also got to ride on the famous cable cars from our hotel at the top of the city right down to San Francisco Bay, where we got a brief glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog. The real lure of the city for us though was the historic Alcatraz Island, a short ferry ride away. The island is famous partly for the Native American occupation in 1969 (although the tour guides often neglect to mention this!) and for being a notorious prison. It is now a tourist attraction in which visitors learn about the prison and the famous criminals who were incarcerated there. Well worth a trip for those interested in American history, despite the fact that the tour guides often skip over the Native American occupation of Alcatraz as a somewhat embarrassing chapter of the San Franciscan story.
The occupation was the result of the discrimination suffered by Native Americans, who had long been referred to as ‘savages’ and were thought of as inferior by many Americans. They staged a non-violent (inspired partly by the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s) takeover of the island in order to attract national and international attention to their suffering. It is often not mentioned by the tour guides as it highlighted the racist tendencies of much of the country, a reputation forged out of years of discrimination suffered by many ethnic minorities in the United States.