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It’s always exciting for us in the shop when a customer has a really unique holiday idea. Our customer Lilly had just that; getting married in Vegas. It happens all the time in the movies, but not so much with real-life travellers from the UK, so we were really excited to hear all about it when the newlywed Mr and Mrs Belsey arrived back from their trip! Here Lilly tells all about her special day (and of course some of the other amazing places they visited along the West coast of the USA):
Me and Pete got engaged in 2011 and quickly realised we wouldn’t be able to afford a wedding at that time. We played around with the idea of getting married abroad, but our priorities changed and our focus was on buying our first house. Over the years we joked about when and where we would get married, and as you can imagine Las Vegas came up a number of times.
We started planning our trip to the USA before we thought about it being an ideal place to get married. Our first stop was Vegas and we thought it was the right time for us.
Organising the wedding day couldn’t have been easier – we used a company that specialise in this kind of wedding, to take place in the Special Memories Chapel. We also booked a helicopter trip to the Grand Canyon, which we did the morning of our wedding. After our flight over the canyon, we headed back to the hotel and changed into our dress and suit, which we had brought in our hand luggage over from the UK. We got picked up from our hotel at 4pm and the limo took us to the court house, where we had to sign some documents. This part took no more than 10 minutes! From there we headed straight into the chapel. There was only us there and our witnesses were the staff of the chapel. The ceremony started at 5pm and we were done by 6pm. We had a slight wait for a copy of the DVD and images, but other than that the entire process was really quick. Afterwards the limo driver Bobby (the most lovely guy) took us the Las Vegas sign so we could get some images of us in our wedding attire next to it. He was so nice, he took the images for us and was really accommodating! It was 100° Fahrenheit that day and we were sweltering, I almost passed out – no exaggeration!
The ceremony itself was completely surreal. Pastor Steve married us, even though it was a non-religious ceremony. Watching the wedding DVD back is quite funny because of the things he was saying.
After going to the Vegas sign, Bobby took us to The Top of the World restaurant in the Stratosphere hotel! Walking around the casinos in our wedding attire was crazy, but everyone was so kind. Our meal was delicious and seeing Vegas at that height from dusk to darkness was incredible!
But we didn’t just stay in Vegas; after four amazing days in the famous ‘Sin City’, our three-week adventure through Death Valley, San Francisco and Los Angeles was just beginning! On our fourth day we picked up a car, a Ford Mustang, and drove to Death Valley where we spent the night. I had hoped to see the beautiful night sky from Death Valley but it was overcast during our one night stay, however the surroundings were just spectacular at 280ft below sea level. We drove from here to Mammoth Lakes, which was at an elevation of 7000ft – that drive was crazy! From the heat of the desert to snow-capped mountains, we had three nights in Mammoth Lakes and planned on using it as a base to visit Yosemite National Park. Sadly, Yosemite passes were closed due the heavy snowfall and avalanches. I was, and am, still gutted we didn’t get to see Yosemite. We spent a day playing in the snow and exploring the area, but realised that we’d get bored there quite quickly as Mammoth Lakes was between the ski and summer seasons; there wasn’t much to do. We only ended up staying there for two nights, and booked one night in South Lake Tahoe, which was beautiful and a great little stop off.
After Lake Tahoe we headed along the interstate to San Francisco. I loved San Fran and everything we did there. Following this, we headed down the Pacific Coast Highway but we could only travel a small part of it due to a mudslide, which is another thing I’m gutted about! We had three unplanned days to travel the length from San Francisco to Los Angeles, so we took full advantage and stopped at Monterey, Pismo Beach and Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara was so beautiful!).
After Santa Barbara we had four nights in Hollywood where we explored the area, had two days in Universal Studios, and did a mini bus tour of the Hills, Hollywood sign and celebrity houses. We also took a day trip to Santa Monica (the final or first destination for anyone travelling Route 66). Our last four nights were in Long Beach, where we just chilled out and relaxed.
We did so much, the above is really only a snap shot as we did something awesome at every destination. The last four days resting in Long Beach were definitely needed! Of all the places we visited, I would have to say San Francisco was probably my favourite destination out of the bunch. We only had two nights there but did so much, whale watching, visited Alcatraz, biked the Golden Gate Bridge, and headed to Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. Mr Belsey would say Vegas though; with so much to see and do there, all day and night, you could spend months there and still miss out on something. Vegas never sleeps and time doesn’t matter there, you can go out at any hour of the day and find something awesome! Along with San Fran and Vegas, we visited some of the Big Sur Pacific Coastal Highway (although some of it was closed), the Hollywood sign, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, the Walk of Fame… We did loads!
The thing we worried about most was the long drives between destinations, having only ever driven in the UK before, but it was super easy! In fact we both thought driving in the US was easier than here. We both got to drive, but Pete did most of it. Driving across the state of Nevada and through California was one of the best bits about the trip; the pictures we have don’t do any it any justice.
Our advice for people hoping to do a similar trip? Don’t be too afraid of the driving – it’s amazing to have so much freedom. Don’t be so concerned about booking a hotel at every destination. Do have a rough itinerary in mind, but don’t be afraid to be spontaneous too.