Contiki Grand Southern Tour Part Four
Sooooo I'm loving my time in America too much to come home and I've decided to stay and celebrate 4th July in #NYC with my #contiki family! So far today we've been in #Washington & #Philadelphia and we're now on a rooftop bar overlooking the Empire State Building in #NewYork ready for tonight's fireworks!! Travel really is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer 🎉🇺🇸 #noregrets
I’m back at home safe and sound now but am missing Contiki so so much! I miss everything about being on tour, from the bus to my friends to the stopovers, I just want to be back on the road again! I thought I’d wrap up part four of the Grand Southern by recapping what we did during the last few days on tour. Here goes…
After departing Charleston during the early part of the afternoon on day 23 we crossed the border into Richmond and made our way towards the nations capital, Washington D.C. We stopped at Arlington National Cemetery, where JFK is buried along with thousands upon thousands of US soldiers, and also witnessed the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which takes place each day every hour on the hour.
After leaving the Cemetery we passed the historic Pentagon building whilst en-route to our hotel and then, after dinner, we headed back onto the coach for an evening tour of the city and were treated to glimpses of the historic monuments lit up in all their glory. We drove along the National Mall, past the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument, and caught sight of the White House and the Jefferson memorial. We made special stops at the iconic Lincoln memorial and the new Martin Luther King memorial which opened in 2011.
On our second day we fully explored the city and started early by reserving our tickets to ride to the top of the extraordinary Washington Monument. From here we made our way to the Holocaust Museum, which was incredibly moving and so well put together by the organisers, before heading back to the Lincoln memorial and reflection pool again. We then visited the rest of the memorials in the city including the stunning World War Two memorial, the poignant Vietnam and Korean memorials and the FDR memorial before making our way back to the Monument ready for our ride up in the air. We rose just over 555feet into the sky right to the top of the Monument for the most amazing panoramic views across the entire city – something I will never forget!
The evening was taken over by baseball (yay!) and we got another chance to see this American sport being played live but this time at a Major League level as we watched the Washington Nationals take on the Cincinnati Reds at Nationals Park. The evening was fantastic and the atmosphere was amazing as we were in the central stands right at the heart of the action.
Our third and final day in Washington was kind of spent chilling out as I had seen all the landmarks I wanted to see so me and two friends headed to the local zoo before grabbing lunch and doing a little bit of shopping. We made our way to quirky Georgetown for dinner (and cupcakes) before heading back to the hotel where we had our white t-shirt signing party and said a mini goodbye to everyone as, for some, it was their last night on tour. Anyone that knows me will know I am AWFUL with goodbyes so I spent most of the time sobbing, writing messages through teary eyes and remembering all the amazing memories I had made on my trip!
New York City
HAPPY 4TH JULY!! Our final official day on tour came round soo quick I kind of didn’t want us to reach New York for fear of the trip being over too soon! On with the journey though and we stopped off at Philadelphia whilst en-route to the Big Apple and devoured a classic Philly cheese steak sandwich for lunch – it’d be rude not to, right?! We also saw a few sights including the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where America’s Declaration of Independence was signed 240 years ago to the day! The vibe in Philadelphia was pretty special as it was 4th July and there were street parades, fancy dress and music on every corner!
We made good time and arrived in NYC early afternoon, watching the iconic skyline come into view as we rolled in to the city via the Lincoln Tunnel whilst listening to Alicia Keys classic Empire State of Mind played on the coach speakers – good choice John (our TM)! I was officially due to be flying home a few hours after arriving in New York but, being the crazy, spontaneous travel lover that I am I decided I was having TOO MUCH FUN to leave and forked out a whopping £471 to postpone my flight back to London by 24hours!!!! Possibly the most crazy travel decision I have ever made but I 100% stick by it and I have NO REGRETS as I was able to spend one more night with my Contiki family on 4th July in New York City – I couldn’t have asked for a better end to my adventure if I’d tried!
We rocked up at a rooftop bar overlooking the Empire State Building and had dinner and drinks before counting down to the legendary 4th July fireworks shortly before 9pm. Unfortunately there was a bit of a storm and it rained heavily but, instead of dampening out spirits, it made us ten times rowdier and 50 of us ran down to the Hudson river to watch the incredible fireworks display start with a bang. I’ve seen a fair few fireworks in my time and this display was right up there with the London New Years Eve show – it was breath-taking and so fitting for 4th July celebrations, I really didn’t want the night to end so we continued partying until the early hours on our last full night together.
I spent my last day in America with my partner in crime, also called Jess (great minds..) and we had a ball exploring the Big Apple! We hopped on a couple of tourist buses and saw all the landmarks comfortably; we passed the Empire State, Madison Square Gardens, World Trade Centre, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and of course Central Park. Sadly we didn’t have time to wander round all of these amazing attractions but we did make our way through the dazzling lights of Times Square and Broadway which in themselves were incredible. I saw as much as I could in the few hours that I had and I will certainly be back to do it all properly sometime soon!
Jess and I said our goodbyes shortly before 6pm where I headed off in a Big Yellow Taxi to Grand Central Station ready for my flight back to London Heathrow from JFK airport – we shed so many tears and held on so tightly to each other that I didn’t want to leave at all! Miss you Jess, until next time!! <3
So that’s it, I can’t believe my time on Contiki has come to an end! I have had the time of my life exploring so much of America and making lifelong friends. I’ll write a full in-a-nutshell review of my tour once I’ve caught up on some much needed sleep, but for now I’ll leave you with this famous Contiki saying… ‘travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer’.
Love Jess x
So after 28 amazing days the time has come for me to leave the US of A and travel home from my first solo adventure! I've white water rafted in Durango, helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, parasailed on Daytona Beach, been speed boating in Miami and celebrated Independence Day in New York! I've had the time of my life with the most amazing people making 52 new friends as well as hundreds of new memories that will last a lifetime! Honestly the best thing I've ever done and I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. Now it's time for me to fly home from NYC in my contiki top and cowboy boots in true tourist style! Til next time America… Mum I'm coming homeeee 🇺🇸🎉💖 #noregrets @contiki @statravel_uk @travelstarwarsjoe
Wow, breathtaking in speed and number of places covered. As an “introduction,” I hope (know!) you’ll go back to visit some of these places again.
Thankyou! It was certainly a whistle stop tour of the US and I will definitely be back to spend more time there!