USA Recap Part V: VEGAS IS THE BEST

Warning: I know I always say that these posts are photo-heavy but this one actually is. But it's Vegas, baby! Despite me not be a particularly wild party animal (therefore expecting to hate Vegas), it ended up being my favourite place EVER. I would hugely recommend going there and will be going back at some point soon because it was really just that good. Even being under 21 didn't stop me from having a great time. 

We drove into Vegas in the daytime, so the first couple of pictures are my first view of Sin City. It's quite weird, to the left of the strip there are just rows and rows of residential housing and to the right it's all completely desert. And Vegas was pretty hot during the day but it was a dry heat so easy enough to copy with (especially combined with exploring huge indoor shopping centres). We pulled up to our hotel- Circus Circus, great hotel, great location- and settled down in our rooms. None of us had bought appropriate club-going shoes so we all headed to Ross to buy some horrendously cheap ones before grabbing some quesadillas and heading back to the rooms to get ready for the night..






The view from our room- the tall building is the Stratosphere- very north of the strip!

Once we had all glammed up for the evening, we actually had a tour of Vegas in a party bus- essentially loud dance music, neon lights, drinks on ice and a stripper pole in the back of a converted minibus. Sounds tacky but ended up being a lot of fun. We started by heading to Fremont Street in Downtown Vegas and my god, Vegas is a totally different place at night! The crazy lighting alone was so over the top and kind of magical. Fremont Street had a live Bon Jovi concert projected onto the ceiling and everyone was belting out 'It's My Life' in a huge almost street-party type of thing. Amazing.

Then we were driven down to the Vegas sign to have some photos taken and that was equally incredible to see in real life. After that our driver dropped us all at the Bellagio to watch the fountain show and I can't even describe how cool that was. Just go, if you can, and see it for yourselves. The fountains dance along to the show tunes that they play and it's a wonderful experience (Fountain shows? So much cooler than fireworks). We met up with a friend of our tour guide and she showed us around the strip at night and took us into some casinos and bars (F.Y.I Margaritaville in Flamingo is so much fun). With aching feets and an overwhelming sense of tiredness, we waited at the Bellagio's taxi rank to get one back to our hotel but because we were a large group it worked out super cheap to get a limo back. Driving down Vegas strip in a limo was literally like something out of a movie- so so so so fun!






Excuse the blurriness of the last photoI had such a fun time reliving that night in Vegas whilst typing out this post- it all seems so surreal but it was honestly the best time ever. I stayed in Vegas for two nights so round two will be in the works very soon but I hope this gave you guys a nice insight into the city. I can't wait to tell you all about what we got up to the next day/night but that's all for now..

Have you ever been to Vegas?

USA Recap Part IV: Hiking in the Grand Canyon

We camped for the night nearby the Canyon and the next morning, we all headed back to the South Rim with plans hike down on the Bright Angel trail. We ended up hiking down about two miles or so- with no problems, other than the rising temperature- but on the hike back up again, I had a seriously bad panic attack (I think due to the altitude). Being stuck practically on the edge of a cliff in the middle of the day with searing hot temperatures and no energy to keep moving, I was pretty worried.. but the group that I walked down with were so lovely and encouraging, and some other groups joined in helping too- huge thanks to the guy that gave me his entire packet of potassium shots, although you probably aren't reading this!

Once we reached the top again, we walked around the visitor centres and then headed back to our campsite for an evening of s'mores, open air showers and freezing cold 1am "need more blankets" tent banter. The next day we left the Canyon to head to Vegas, driving along the iconic Route 66. We stopped off at Seligman, a seriously small madcap town- definitely recommend stopping off there despite the ridiculous heat!












So there you have the fourth instalment of this travel-related series. We're kind of approaching the halfway point but the next week or so was my absolute favourite so I guess you're all going to have to watch this space once more (psst.. I've got Vegas next- it was incredible). See you then!

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet potato fries are my absolute guilty pleasure. I make them all the time at home because they're so quick and easy to make but taste delicious and are kind of healthier than their brother potato, Russet. But if you've got a good thing going, why keep it to yourself? 


This recipe (it's not really a recipe, more of a do-what-you-can-with-what-you-want) serves 1 person because some of us just don't have boyfriends, okay? Not that I'm bitter about that or anything.. Haha. Seriously, individual portions are the best because you can easily double/triple/supersize them to suit whatever you need. You can adapt the seasoning too, I'm just letting you know exactly how I make mine. But if you want to throw in some cayenne pepper or don't want any seasoning, then go for it!

The photos below are in step by step order so you can eyeball it easily enough at home. But for those of you who are more imperative-inclined.. there's a recipe at the bottom of this post. You're welcome..


To serve one, you'll need:                                          

One sweet potato 
A drizzle of oil (I used olive)

Seasoning:
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
3/4 tsp garam masala
3 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sugar

Optional garnish:
1 tsp flat leaf parsley
1 tsp butter, melted

1. Preheat your oven to 220'C. Peel your sweet potato and cut into thin fry-shaped sticks (the thicker the cut, the longer they'll take to cook- maybe add an extra 5/10 minutes or so for thick cut chips- and they probably won't crisp up as well).

2. To minimise on washing up, I like to place the raw sweet potato fries into a freezer bag, making sure that it doesn't contain holes, and then add the oil. You want the fries to look glossy (see the photo number two), not wet. So don't drown the fries- a teaspoon or so will suffice depending on how large your sweet potato is. Ensuring that the bag is closed- I just use a hand to hold it shut- massage the bag to evenly distribute the oil.

3. Place the salt, pepper, garam masala, paprika and sugar into a bowl and mix. Gradually add the seasoning to the freezer bag containing the fries and massage the bag again until the fries and evenly coated in the seasoning.

4. Pour the fries onto a large baking tray and spread out, ensuring that they aren't overlapping. FYI it always takes me a while to spread them all out, it's like Tetris or something.

5. Bake a 220'C for 6/7 minutes (cooking at a high heat for a short time will dry out the outside of the fries and make them crispier), before taking out to turn them over- to prevent sticking. Turn the heat down to 180'C and cook the fries for 10-12 minutes.

6. Once you take the fries out of the oven, leave them to cool for a couple of minutes. They should have reduced in size a little bit. To make the garnish you can just melt the butter and add some parsley, then pour it over the fries. Enjoy!

US Recap Part III: Montezuma & The Grand Canyon

Just to let you know in advance, this is a tremendously photo-heavy post. But I was in the Grand Canyon so.. yeah. Incessant photo taking was a must. We stopped off at Montezuma Castle first for lunch and it was culturally very interesting, the entire castle has been carved into limestone over the course of five centuries, containing twenty rooms and housing fifty people at it's peak (in the fourteenth century). 

We then headed over to the Grand Canyon- our tour guide made us draw faces on paper bags, put them over our heads and walk in a line to the very edge of the canyon. Then we took off the blindfold-bags and were standing on the very edge. It. Was. Incredible. We all just stood there in silence for a few minutes taking everything in. You really don't understand just how vast the Canyon is until you actually go and see it- it stretches out much further than the eye can see, being 277 miles long and 18 miles wide. We walked along the South Rim and had takeout pizza on the edge (the last photo before the sunsets was taken from where we ate the pizza- now that's what you call dinner with a view!). The sun began to set and we all started snapping some photos...






We then headed back to our campsite for the night, and mentally prepared ourselves to hike down the Canyon the next day. In Part IV, you can find out just how mentally [un]prepared I was for that.. Stay tuned!