8 lucky itravel agents won a tourism educational to Northern California and @itravelwithjade was lucky enough to be picked!
When agents sell a lot of a product, it’s really amazing to actually get to go and experience the places, It helps us to sell them better, coming back with even better recommendations and real time knowledge of a particular place or area!
First up was our Air New Zealand flight to San Francisco via Auckland. The planes are pretty spacious, comfy seats with just enough leg room for the average height human. Recommendations for an air New Zealand flight: Exit rows
• Exit row seats are great for long legs and taller people. Get them early.
• Exit row seat in the aisle has a pull out screen or tray (or both) and the side arm rests do not lift up so not ideal if your wanting to put your legs on the seats beside you.
• Exit rows are generally close to the galley, so you tend to get served food or drink first, along with it being easier to order refills. This also means when you need to get up and stretch, you don’t have to ask the other person in the aisle to get up. SO MUCH ROOM #yassssss
• Preferred seats – these are hit and miss. Make sure you check the seat map for exactly the seat you want. Some have seats that have none in front of them, others have a seat slightly to the left (making eating awkward and sometimes eating over your neighbour #gettoknowthembetter) not as roomy as exit rows, however still cost.
3 hours to Auckland with a small layover of 2 hours. Auckland airport isn’t large, but has some great little bars and wholefoods to snack on instead of fast food!
Once in San Francisco, we caught the Air train to pick up our car rental and off we went! Satellite navigation on and a few moments getting our bearings being on the right hand side of the road! Super strange!
Tour itinerary: We collected our two dodge 7 seaters, set the GPS and off to Mariposa Lodge via Modesto for a 15minutes pit stop we went. 6 hours of driving through small little country towns, each with it’s own flair. Navigating roads was ok when your not driving (thanks Boss man Louie yah peanut) working out miles vs kms was pretty funny to be honest! The car rides were pretty entertaining. Each of us calling out everything we saw, yelling at each other to take photos of random rocks and water while reading signs that made us laugh. By the end of the first drive, we ended up on some really windy, unlit, forest country road with no signs of life.
We contemplated what would end our trip early (bears, the guy from Wolf creek, more bears) 😂😂
Finally past a place called HORNITOS showed us some and life for 35 seconds. Back into the depths of the US countryside we went.
Finally made it out to Mariposa Lodge, all busting to go to the toilet as we thought we were going to get lost and die in the first leg of the trip! We had 10 minutes to get to our first hosted dinner with Julie from USA Tourism Bureaus. Dinner at 1850 Restaurant where everyone ordered the specials of short ribs, and I had steak & vege.
Rooms at the lodge were very motel like and what you would expect from a road side motel in the US of A. Had all you needed to get you through the first night. Hot shower, Sitcoms and a sink.
Pretty neat thing I found in the US. They generally have the bathroom sink OUTSIDE the toilet/shower area. So if someone is in the bathroom, you can still brush your teeth or do your makeup. SUPER handy!
Working as a mobile agent and 14 hours behind, it was then time to get some emails done and respond to some enquiries (or to update socials….yah know #priorities)
WED OCT 23RD
In what felt like 25 minutes, we were up again. We stopped at a grab and go for coffee, straight to Yosemite national park for a Valley Floor Tour. 2 hour bus tour through the national park (which one car nearly missed as they WERN’T going to wait!) But we all made it!!!
Yosemite Mariposa County:
Located in the majestic Sierra Nevada of California, Yosemite National Park in Mariposa County. It’s the home to some of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls, massive granite formations and oldest forests. Open all year round, Yosemite is a must-see for any visitor touring California or America’s National parks.
Lots of history within the rocks, and some of the tallest granite rocks in the world here. Climbers brave the rocks to test their skills – power to them!! That stuff looked hard!
Next stop in Yosemite, we caught the shuttle to the Ahwahnee hotel in the park. The cutest thing I heard was a mum talking to her daughter while walking into the hotel, she was telling her that the bears walked amongst the people SO not to walk off!
The staff live in staff quarters just off the hotel, and some have been there for over 20 years!
The hotel is well worth the look. Rug work everywhere, and every grand restaurant you can think of.
The shuttles to get around the area’s are all numbered and you may have to get 2 to get to where you’re going, depending on where the buses go. These run every 10 minutes so don’t worry if you miss one!
1 hour drive to Tenaya lodge that night, through some pretty windy roads. This guy wasn’t car sick yet so that’s a win!! Arriving at Teneya lodge, make sure you know if you are staying in the main lodge or the explorers cabins. Arriving at the Explorer cabins, we were greeted by some lovely reception hosts.
Walk outside and they have a massive gas fire pit, where there is a server giving out free drinks, and making smores! Tiddly before you even get to your cabin and a really nice touch to the welcome at the lodge. These cabins were epic. They looked right over a lake, small cabins from the outside but inside….had everything!!!
Eco friendly plates and bowls, large rooms, spacious lounges and a drink bottle to boot!
Overnight here before an early morning exit for South Lake Tahoe.
THUR OCT 24TH
Car stocked up with snacks and water (Service station’s here serve alcohol!!) we were on the road. 6.5 hour drive, with a 15 minute servo stop! It was the coldest morning we had had at this stage, but we were in for a surprise once we got to Tahoe!
Arriving at the Tahoe Lake shore lodge and spa was very much welcomed! We arrived, were shown to our Lakeview cabin, and Tony from South Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority showed up within minutes with a goodie bag! Wine, cork screw, magnets and info. Good move on wooooing the travel agents South Tahoe Tourism. Gooooood move @winewinewinewinewine
Lake Tahoe has an abundance of natural beauty, home to the Ski lodge and mountain called Heavenly. Super packed most of the year round so book in early to avoid disappointment.
The entire towns building’s are made of logs. Even the McDonalds and the outlet stores. Kept the theme all the way through the town and I really, REALLY loved it.
The others arrived around 2 hours later, as they had stopped in Placerville. Unfortunately, Placerville had a power outage due to the fires! Here…When Bush fire’s go bad, they shut all the power off and evacuate the towns to keep everyone safe. We then headed off to Lake Tahoe Hotel Echo Fireside room. Beautiful hotel, on the California side of the state line….had a cruise ship type of feel.
Many many MANY rooms, were spacious, however felt like an interior cabin. Beautiful decor all around, and great meals too boot.
Coolest thing about this location – its on the state line. So you can literally step across the road to Nevada, and back to California. In California, its illegal to gamble, so if your that way inclined, just head to Nevada straight from the Fireside room. Easy!
FRI OCT 25TH
Next early morning start to head to Emerald bay for a hike and to see the island called Fanette island – the only island in the whole lake. Easy enough walk down….my god, long walk back up!
Laura J Knight built a small tea house on this island, she would have her servants row her out to have afternoon tea every single day and have debaucherous parties in her castle at night!.
What a stunning place! Check out my facebook page for more pics! I learnt so much about South Lake Tahoe, just ask! Things such as; They don’t have gutters because the snow fall is so large that they would all break and the fact its illegal to collect the snow water – this must go back into the ground…!! The houses here are half our size, and roughly $600,000USD!! Its a 1 mile hike down a steep hill and 5 miles back up!
Worth every step, and I earn’t my lunchtime wine #YEPPP!
By 10:30am we were off to see some migrating salmon swim down a river with the hope of a few hungry bear sightings! There was thousands of salmon – all in the river, staying in one spot. This is where they release their eggs and then proceed to die! The bears go NUTS for this! If your an early bird kind of human, I would recommend going down to the river at 5 or 6am, this would be the best time for bear sightings I reckon! Off to the MS DIXIE III for a lunch and history lesson. I learnt all about Captain Dick (who cut off his own toes with a carving knife) and lady Laura, who was said to have funded the first flight across America!
Dinner at the Hard rock cafe after a site inspection of a few rooms. Elvis stayed here, and they have kept the room exactly as it was, no changes and keep its history. Pretty neat stuff!
Dinner is massive portions so I recommend only an entree or only a main. YOU DO NOT NEED BOTH. I repeat….DO NOT EAT BOTH….unless you have a walking stick or an electric chair. Once we finished here, we ducked in for a quick gamble before the Magic show at the loft.
This Friday night show is the only night in the week (they have shows every single night) but this Friday night show consists of boobies flashes, swearing and loads of drinking (by the host’s!!)
Well worth a look at this show…if you didn’t like magicians, this guy will change your mind.
Back to another casino for a quick punt, and home by 12am! Party animal I know. Ol Hornitos managed to score himself a quick US$1000 so he was SET for shopping the next day! SAT OCT 26TH
Due to the fires in Sonoma, our plans slightly changed for the rest of the itinerary! Premium outlet shopping, some Wal-Mart stalking 😂😂 and a night around the fire with vege snacks, cork chips and chatter! Wal-Mart is like Aldi, Kmart, Bunnings and a chemist all wrapped in one. With Macca’s to boot! Ol Hornitos looked like Mary Poppin’s with all his shopping bags, he had to fill the boot and then go back!
We spent our last night out by the fireplace, overlooking the beautiful South Tahoe Lake.
SUN OCT 27TH
Early morning start and on the road by 6:45am, We were on out way to San Francisco. We decided to go to the look out to get the golden gate shot (its RED by the way!), head to Lombard street (this is pretty amazing – google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about) and then finish in Pier 39.
This place has an abundance of activities and food and shopping. Kind of like darling harbour cross haymarket! Bubbagump, 7D experiences and magnet shops! Shooting Clowns and Zombies, and losing the floor in a 7D movie! Worth it!
Back to the airport to try to get some space for a nap on the way home #hahahafullflight
Thank you to Gate 7, Simran – our gracious host, Louie our #1 driver and @itravel for the awesome experience!