As many of you know, I spent the first half of 2019 in the USA receiving medical treatment. I’m blessed to be able to say that my health is fast improving and I am now back at home settling down into my normal life. Looking back on my experience, I’m obviously so happy that my treatment as planned. But I’m also really glad that I was able to enjoy my time in the US and savour the places I was lucky to spend time in.
I was very fortunate that my other half James was able to be with me throughout my treatment, even though he almost forgot to renew his ESTA, which would definitely have been a problem had I not reminded him of it 2 days before we left the UK!
So here is the lowdown on my 2019 US destination highlights!
I spent 3 weeks in Denver in total as I flew in and out of Denver International Airport a few times and took full advantage of this by checking out what the Mile High City has to offer.
Denver is located in the South Platte River Valley, which automatically makes it an idyllic city as the Great Plains are clearly visible to its East and the spectacular Rocky Mountains are in full sight to its West.
The first thing to say about Denver is that I found people to be super friendly and helpful. Maybe it’s something to do with the clean, bracing air and the wonderfully clear sunny days that being a mile above sea level brings. I felt instantly at home there and it’s actually a city I’d definitely consider living in if I moved to the US.
Union Station was the first thing that caught my undivided attention. Without a shadow of a doubt the most gorgeous train station I’ve ever been in – with its opulent architecture, big sofas and lovely bars and cafes. It’s also the perfect place to get some work done if, like me, work follows you everywhere. It has rows of old-fashioned and very cute tables with quaint old lamps and charging points.
I could easily write a long post just about Denver (and probably will at some point!). For now, however, it’s a joy to be able to reminisce about its beautiful long 16th Street Mall, it’s wide-open city parks and it’s jaw-dropping Capitol Building. As a massive foodie, I also must mention it’s array of different and affordable downtown restaurants and cafes, all of which are within very walkable distance.
If you can avoid the furnace of the Arizonian summer, when it’s just too hot to do anything (!), then Phoenix is a very cool city to visit. And if, like me, you’re into history, there’s plenty to take in, such as the fascinating story of the Hokoham people, who occupied the Phoenix area for 2,00o years.
Downtown Phoenix is a hub of cultural and sporting activity. And the live music scene is pretty awesome too, with lots of local festivals going on. I also hugely enjoyed hanging out at Phoenix’s downtown farmer’s market.
A little further out from the downtown area, but very accessible on Phoenix’s great transportation system, is Scottsdale, which I particularly enjoyed. It’s shops, mission churches and museums kept me entertained from early morning till late night.
Los Angeles, California
I didn’t see as much of LA as I would have liked. I only flew in and out of LAX once, so only spent a couple of nights there. But what I did see of the City of Angels left me with quite an appetite for a longer visit.
Probably my favourite attraction was the OUE Skyspace Observation Deck, which gives you a magnificent 360 degree view of the entire city. A close second was the Grand Central Market, which had a huge selection of absolutely delicious street food.
I accidentally stumbled across the Wells Fargo History Museum, which I really enjoyed as I’m really into the history of the Wild West and the Gold Rush. And I managed to pop around Little Tokyo before I left. As many of you know, I have 3 half-Japanese step-kids and am fascinated by Japanese culture – especially the food!
El Paso, Texas
Last, but by no means least on my destination USA list – the city where I received my life-saving treatment, El Paso, Texas.
It’s with a very heavy heart that I mention El Paso given the recent tragedy that has befallen the city. My experience there was wonderful, and not solely because of the great doctors who helped me. El Paso has a very interesting history. It was one of the first places to be inhabited by the Spanish pilgrims who travelled from Mexico (then known as “New Spain”). The long history of how different cultures have always co-existed there is the subject of much of its natural appeal.
Without wanting to be too repetitious, the food is amazing and the fact that I went back onto a ketogenic diet as soon as I got back to the UK should be enough to tell you how much I enjoyed it!
The US has had a fair bit of negative press recently, for various legitimate reasons. But it’s still a country that I’d have no hesitation in recommending. It’s size and varied climate means that there’s always something fascinating to do or see – wherever you happen to be. Just don’t forget to get your ESTA visa before you set off!
What are your destination USA highlights?