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Western USA Fly Drive Holiday

Filed under: Car Hire in USA,Trips — admin @ 11:33 am September 28, 2012

One of the most popular USA holidays is a fly drive to the western states of California, Arizona and Nevada taking in some lively cities, remote desert landscapes and impressive national parks.

The classic “Western Wonders” fly drive starts in Los Angeles and travels east along Interstate 10 to Palm Springs and on to Phoenix and Scottsdale in Arizona. From there north to Flagstaff then west to the Grand Canyon and on to Las Vegas, Nevada via the Hoover Dam. North of Las Vegas the trip goes through Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park to San Francisco before taking in the Big Sur coastal highway and Route 1 down the west coast back to Los Angeles. The journey can be comfortably completed in 2 weeks and can also be done in reverse starting in San Francisco.

With over 3000 km of roads to travel by car, choosing a suitable vehicle is essential to enjoying this western USA fly drive holiday. Driver and passenger comfort is an important factor so a standard/intermediate vehicle such as an Oldsmobile Alero or Pontiac Grand Prix is probably a minimum size to consider. Families should look at Minivans like the Chrysler Voyager or the Chevrolet Uplander. To travel in real style, drive a Ford Mustang Convertible.

Here is a suggested itinerary.

Day 1

Los Angeles

Fly to Los Angeles and pick up a car from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Los Angeles Street SignStay 2 nights in Los Angeles and use Beverly Hills, Hollywood or on the beach at Santa Monica as a base.

Day 2

Los Angeles

There is plenty to see and do in Los Angeles and car hire is essential for getting around as public transport is very limited. Visit the theme parks such as Universal Studios in northern LA or Disneyland in Anaheim, shop in Rodeo Drive or tour the Hollywood sights.

Day 3

Los Angeles to Palm Springs (108 miles/172 km) Map

Take Interstate 10 (I-10) east and drive to Palm Springs, the original desert resort. Stop off at Joshua Tree National Park, a desert park that was used as the name of the famous U2 album. Try staying just off Palm Canyon drive which is the main strip in Palm Springs with a great choice of bars and restaurants.

Day 4

Palm Springs to Phoenix/Scottsdale (285 miles/456 km) Map

Continue east on the I-10 crossing into Arizona before arriving into Phoenix/Scottsdale. Spend an evening soaking up the wild west atmosphere at Handlebar J, Scottsdale’s last authentic Western Style Steak House and Saloon or visit the Six Gun Theatre for a wild west show at Rawhide (shows Wednesday to Sunday) just south of Phoenix Airport.
Tip: Sunsets over the desert in Arizona are often spectacular so aim to arrive just after dusk.

Day 5

Phoenix to Grand Canyon via Sedona (244 miles/390 km) Map

Take the I-17 north towards Flagstaff, coming off after approx. 90 miles/145 km for Route 260 West towards Cottonwood.
Join Arizona State Route 89A N and visit Red Rock State Park before continuing on the scenic route 89A through Sedona and onto Flagstaff. Grand Canyon Arizona, USAContinue north from Flagstaff on US-180 N which joins Route 64 to Grand Canyon National Park. Tip: Although there are plenty of hotels and motels outside the gates of Grand Canyon National Park, for the best experience stay at one of the lodges inside the park. These can be booked through Grand Canyon National Park Lodges. There are plenty of places to eat inside the park including the Maswik Cafeteria, the Arizona Room at Bright Angel Lodge offering authentic Arizona cooking and fine dining at the El Tovar dining room.

Day 6

Grand Canyon

A day to enjoy one of the greatest natural wonders on Earth, take a helicopter or plane tour over the Canyon or possibly a mule ride along one of the trails.

Day 7

Grand Canyon to Las Vegas (277 miles/443 km) Map

The Western USA fly drive holiday continues south from the Grand Canyon to Williams on US-64 then west to Kingman along Interstate 40 and then northeast to Las Vegas via the Hoover Dam. Tours of the dam run every half an hour between 0930 and 1600 and cost US$30 per adult. Las Vegas USA
Accommodation in Las Vegas comes in all shapes and sizes from a basic motel room to 5 star luxury. Staying on the Las Vegas Strip will have all the best attractions and Casinos close at hand.

Day 8

Las Vegas

There are plenty of attractions in Las Vegas to entertain everyone. Try a white knuckle ride such as Big Shot at the Stratosphere Hotel, visit the Liberace museum or take in one of Vegas’s more quirky attractions like the Pinball Hall of Fame.
Las Vegas really comes to life after dark. There are plenty of shows to choose from such as magic shows, comedy shows or big productions such as Cirque du Soleil and Jersey Boys. Of course a visit to Las Vegas would not be complete without trying your luck in one of the casinos on the strip.

Day 9

Las Vegas to Yosemite National Park (407 miles/651 km) Map

Drive north from Las Vegas along US-95 N, the Veterans Memorial Highway towards Reno. Turn left at Lida Junction Airstrip onto NV-266 W. The road crosses the border with California becoming the CA-266 N before re-entering Nevada becoming the NV-264 N. At the Junction with US 6 W take a left and enter California again. Turn right onto the CA-120 W which leads into Yosemite National Park over the Tioga Pass.Yosemite National Park, California
Please note this route through the Tioga Pass is closed in winter. Depending on weather conditions this is usually from the end of October to mid-May.
Accommodation inside Yosemite National Park should be booked well in advance and choices range from canvas tents to the AAA Four Diamond Ahwahnee Hotel.

Day 10

Yosemite National Park

Spend a day exploring Yosemite whether rafting, fishing or taking a leisurely stroll. Take one of the guided bus tours to get a real insight with a professional Yosemite guide highlighting the incredible scenery and hidden secrets of the park.

Day 11

Yosemite to San Francisco (213 miles/341 km) Map

Drive west from Yosemite National Park to San Francisco via California Highway 49, historically known as the Gold Rush Trail. Visit Sonora, the once booming centre of the California Gold Rush between 1840 and 1855.
Stay 2 nights in San Francisco. Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf are popular areas to make a base in the city, both having a good range of hotels to suit all tastes and budgets.

Day 12

San Francisco

Drive across Golden Gate Bridge, take a tour of Alcatraz or visit Chinatown, there is much to explore during a day in San Francisco.

Day 13

San Francisco to San Luis Obispo (254 miles/406 km) Map

Drive south from San Francisco as the fly drive holiday travels along the USA’s West Coast California State Route 1. Big Sur CaliforniaVisit Monterey and Carmel as the road continues along the Big Sur coast, one of the most dramatic scenic drives in the USA.
Overnight in San Luis Obispo

Day 14

San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles Airport (205 miles/328 km) Map

Continue south to Los Angeles Airport along Route 101 as it becomes Route 1 again along the coast through Santa Barbara and Malibu. Drop off the rental car at LAX Airport.
This classic Western USA fly drive holiday can be modified with nights added or removed to suit personal preferences.

La Graciosa Island via Volcan de la Corona in North Lanzarote

Filed under: Car Hire in Lanzarote,Trips — admin @ 7:15 am April 29, 2012

This is a trip made on 15 March 2012 from Puerto del Carmen to Ye and Volcan de la Corona in the north of Lanzarote and then on to Orzola and a ferry to La Graciosa Island. Car hire was purchased on leisurecars.com, details of the rental can be found on the earlier blog to Timanfaya National Park via Playa Blanca. Volcan de la Corona

Volcan de la Corona is situated in Ye in the north of Lanzarote and the route from Puerto del Carmen starts north on the LZ-2 to Arrecife. Taking the Arrecife ring road (Circunvalacion), look out for a sign to Orzola and North Lanzarote which connects with the LZ-1. At Tahiche take the LZ-10 to Teguise and continue north. It is a very pleasant drive with spectacular scenery. At Haria, take the LZ-201 north to Ye and Volcan de la Corona. There are no signs for the Volcano or the trail up to the Volcano crater but it is clearly visible on the right as you drive through Ye. The trek starts with a light incline through cactus and after 15 minutes there is a stone wall and large palm tree which is the beginning of a steeper climb for a further 15 minutes. At the top is the large crater – there are no fences so be careful as it is a long way down into the crater! The views across northern Lanzarote from the crater and indeed on the way up are breathtaking so take a camera.

Next stop is Graciosa Island or more commonly known as La Graciosa, the smallest inhabited island in the Canary chain and a nature reserve. With only 700 inhabitants, no paved roads and restrictions on future development, Graciosa Island reflects a Canarian lifestyle of decades ago where fishing is the main industry and tourism is yet to take hold.Caleta del Sebo La Graciosa

Travelling from Ye, continue on the LZ-201 east and then turn north on the LZ-204 to Orzola for the ferry to La Graciosa. There are two ferry companies operating from Orzola to Caleta del Sebo in La Graciosa; Lineas Maritimas Romero and Biosfera Express. Both companies charge 20 euros return and the crossing takes approximately 25 minutes. Lineas Maritimas Romero departs Orzola for La Graciosa at 1000, 1100, 1200, 1330, 1600, 1700 and 1800. The return ferry from La Graciosa leaves at 0800, 1000, 1100, 1230, 1500, 1600 and 1700. In the summer (1 July to 31 October) there is an additional ferry from Orzola at 1900 and from La Graciosa at 1800. The Biosfera Express ferry leaves Orzola at 0800, 1030, 1300, 1630 and 1830 with the return from La Graciosa departing Caleta del Sebo at 0700, 0930, 1130, 1530 and 1730.

A great place for lunch is Cafe Meson de la Tierra just off the square after disembarking from the ferry at Caleta del Sebo. Outside tables overlook the picturesque harbour and the food is excellent. Try the Fried Squid Romana for 9 euros – the best Calamari and chips you will ever eat!

Playa de las ConchasThe main reason for the visit to La Graciosa was to see the beautiful beach at Playa de las Conchas, 6 km from Caleta del Sebo on the northwest of the island. Travelling to Playa de las Conchas or indeed anywhere on Graciosa Island can be done by hiring a bike or a 4-wheel drive vehicle with driver. As you disembark the ferry there are a couple of bike rental places and to the right a number of old Land Rover’s and other 4WD vehicles ready to hire with a driver. Bike hire was 7 euros for the day from Bike Graciosa Island and the journey across the island on rough roads was made easier with the excellent mountain bike. Bikes are not permitted on the beach at Playa de las Conchas so there are bike racks at the end of the road. The beach itself is spectacular set against the backdrop of Isla de Montana Clara and although the water looks inviting, strong currents makes it unsafe although some were body surfing in the more sheltered areas.

After the ferry back to Orzola, take the LZ-1 around the coast and south to Arrecife connecting the with new Ring Road to join the LZ-2 to Puerto del Carmen.

Timanfaya National Park Lanzarote via Playa Blanca

Filed under: Car Hire in Lanzarote,Trips — Tags: — admin @ 12:30 pm March 24, 2012

This is a trip made on 14 March 2012 from Puerto del Carmen to Playa Blanca and then on to Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote. Car rental was purchased on the leisurecars.com web site for 3 days hire from Puerto del Carmen for only £42. The Hertz rental location was in the Casa Mar area of Puerto del Carmen and the Economy vehicle was a Peugeot 207 with only 16,000 km on the clock. Peugeot 207 Car Hire Lanzarote A deposit of 550 euros was taken off the credit card in lieu of taking excess cover and the car was checked for damage which showed no significant problems and only a few superficial scratches. The statement of vehicle condition was signed which showed a quarter tank of fuel. Always check the fuel gauge before leaving the rental location as in this instance the gauge only showed an eighth of a tank left. This was brought to the attention of Hertz and amended.

Given the popularity of Timanfaya National Park, it is better to arrive in the afternoon if you are driving as most of the organised coach tours arrive in the morning, making Timanfaya very busy during this period. The morning can be spent in Playa Blanca which will complete a great day trip in Lanzarote.

Leaving Puerto del Carmen on the LZ-504, the route to Playa Blanca is straightforward and takes about 30 minutes. Turn left from the LZ-504 onto the main LZ-2 Arrecife to Playa Blanca road via Yaiza. Alternatively a shorter drive is to turn off just before Yaiza onto the LZ-702 down to Playa Blanca, a total of 24 km.

Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca is the main ferry port for crossings to Corralejo on the northern tip of Fuerteventura. There are a couple of ferry companies, Fred Olsen which operates a faster service taking 20 minutes or the Naviera Armas taking 35 minutes and slightly cheaper. Playa Blanca is a fairly small resort with a small sandy beach and a pleasant promenade of mainly restaurants with tables outside overlooking the beach and sea, a definite must for fish and seafood lovers with tapas from 3 to 4 euros per dish. Lunch can be taken in Playa Blanca or at Timanfaya National Park. The main reason for taking lunch in Timanfaya is to try the BBQ meat which is cooked over the volcano using geothermal heat and is absolutely delicious. Otherwise eat in Playa Blanca which will offer a wider choice and be much cheaper.

From Playa Blanca to Timanfaya National Park, take the LZ-2 north to Yaiza and then take the LZ-67 through Timanfaya to the entrance at Islote de Hilario, a total of 23 km. A few kilometres before the entrance are Echadero de Camellos (The Camels’ Resting Place) where camel rides on the volcano can be taken and offer a unique Lanzarote experience.

Timanfaya National ParkOpened in 1970, The Montanas del Fuego (Fire Mountains) or Timanfaya form an area in southwest Lanzarote where volcanic eruptions between 1730 and 1736 have created a unique, almost lunar landscape. Entrance fee is 8 euros and includes the “Route of the Volcanoes” tour, a 14 km coach tour with pre-recorded commentary in various languages. The route takes in the main centre of the eruptions in Timanfaya highlighting the unique geological and geomorphic points on interest. A good tip is to sit on the right hand side of the coach as this offers the more dramatic scenery and stops are made along the route to take photographs from inside the coach. The last tour leaves at 1700 except between 15 July – 15 September which is 1800.

El Diablo Restaurant, Timanfaya

El Diablo restaurant in Timanfaya National Park is open from 1200 – 1530 except between 15 July – 15 September when it is open 1200 – 1645. The restaurant is circular with glass walls providing fantastic views across Timanfaya while eating. Look out for the BBQ section on the menu where the meat is cooked on a large cast iron grill over a hole in the ground. The English section just refers to “Barbecued Meat” with no mention of being cooked by volcanic heat compared to the French “Viandes au grill du Volcan” or the Spanish “Carnes a la barbacoa del volcan”. Prices for steak range from Entrecote at 13 euros to Sirloin at 15.20 euros and T-Bone at 19.70 euros. Half a chicken (which comes thoroughly recommended!) was 8.10 euros and there is also sausages, veal, pork and mixed kebab available.

The drive from Timanfaya National Park back to Puerto del Carmen is the reverse of some of the route already travelled. Take the LZ-67 back to Yaiza and join the LZ-2 towards Arrecife, turning off onto the LZ-504 to Puerto del Carmen.

Paphos to Nicosia via the Troodos Mountains

Filed under: Car hire in Cyprus,Trips — Tags: — admin @ 3:05 pm October 14, 2011

This is a trip made in October 2011 from Paphos to Nicosia via the Troodos Mountains stopping off in Omodos, Platres, Troodos and Kakopetria before staying the night in Nicosia and crossing the border into the northern Turkish side of the city.

Picked up the Honda HR-V car hire in Paphos at around 0915 and headed eastwards along the motorway A6 towards Limassol (Lemesos as it is sign-posted locally) turning off at Avdimou following signs for Pachna and Omodos. Heading north the road climbs steadily offering views over hills and valleys before arriving in Omodos at 1030. Omodos Cyprus Omodos is a small village on the wine route with a picturesque cobbled square. There are many wine tasting places in the village which also has a number of local embroidery shops. The meandering narrow streets ooze traditional Cypriot character and the village is also home to the Monastery of the Holy Cross, one of the oldest and most historic monasteries in Cyprus.

Driving further north into the foothills of the Troodos Mountains was the small town of Platres. Platres seems to be a place on the move with internet access in most restaurants and cafes and messages from the local Community Council about developments in the town. On the down side these developments need to be paid for and parking in Platres was all pay and display (1 euro for 2 hours). Platres has a leafy Alpine feel to it with the temperature noticeably lower and the air fresher. Views down the valley to the coast at Limassol could only be glimpsed through houses although Platres makes a good stop off for lunch – take your IPad and also catch up on your emails!
View from Mount Olympus Road Further north is the namesake village of the mountain range, Troodos which turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment. A man-made feel with one large hotel, a couple of restaurants, a small shopping area selling toot and an ice-cream van! The views were possibly spectacular but obscured by cloud and the air was full of odd looking flying insects. Troodos is only 4 Km from Mount Olympus which at 1952 metres is the highest point in Cyprus. At the top is a goverment installation and again there was poor visibility for viewing. The best views of the trip were on the way down from the top of Mount Olympus before joining the main road back to Troodos with spectacular views down the coastline to the sea. The Old Kakopetria
Descending the northern slopes of the Troodos Mountains but still at an altitude of 667m is the charming village of Kakopetria with its main square surrounded by restaurants and shops. On the eastern side of the Karkotis river is the old village which has been beautifully maintained through a preservation order issued in the 1970′s. A walk along the narrow cobbled street reveals a historical look at life in a Cyprus village and is well worth the visit.
Taking the B9 road, the drive to Nicosia was a little slow especially after reaching the outskirts of the city. With only a small map of the old walled city and surroundings, it was a case of asking for directions which were excellent. The car was left overnight at D’Avila Car Park on the south side of the old city which was very close to the accommodation at the Centrum Hotel, located just off Ledra Street, a pedestrianised street with the border crossing across the Green Line into the Turkish Occupied Area of the city.
Ledra Street NicosiaA walk down Ledra Street is very similar to Carnaby Street in London; trendy shops, cafes, restaurants and bars sit side by side with ubiquitous eateries like Maccy D and KFC. As you stroll north these peter out to reveal a Police Station with prefab building outside. No need to show your passport crossing from south to north as you then enter UN occupied no man’s land. This 50 metre stretch of Ledra Street is surrounded by derelict buildings and a street runs across east to west with huge 10 metre high steel barriers making viewing either over or either side impossible. Along part of this street before the barrier is a building site style screen with large images and commentary of the UN’s efforts to reconcile the situation. Continuing on Ledra Street was Turkish immigration where you can either have your passport stamped or fill out a piece of paper with Name, Nationality and Passport Number and have that stamped. Stamping the piece of paper seemed the sensible option. The north side of Ledra Street picks up where the south side left off with plenty of bars, restaurants and shops. Prices are in Turkish Lira although Euros are accepted but it is probably better to pay by credit card. The streets in the north of the city were much quieter and as dusk fell, the Call to Prayer could be heard from the impressive Arabahmet Mosque.
If you enjoy a beer then try the Efes Pilsen available on draught in a few bars – a very nice drop and far superior to the Keo on offer in the south.