Dear readers, I need your assistance…

Sasieology is all about visiting new places and trying new experiences. When I first started this blog, I challenged myself to visit at least one new place and try at least one new experience or activity every year. I have certainly achieved that target in 2015.

In January, I went skiing in Andorra

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I managed to squeeze in a camping weekend to Watchet in Somerset…

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My big adventure of the year started in Sacramento, CA…

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Before a whirlwind tour of the Northwest coast of the USA, stopping in Portland

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… and Seattle

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Then I chilled out on the deck of an Alaska Marine Highway ferry for three nights…

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When I arrived in Alaska, I visited so many amazing places like KetchikanHaines, Skagway, Anchorage, Homer, Seward, Whittier, Valdez, McCarthy, Kennecott, Tangle Lakes and Denali. I also got to try glacier walking, and I took a flightseeing tour over Wrangell St Elias National Park…

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Back in Cardiff, I used my detective skills to give a murder mystery a try…

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And I also chilled out in a massage workshop with my friend Alicia…

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Now that 2015 is almost over, it’s time to think about next year. Call me crazy, but I have decided to try and do even more next year. My plan is to visit 12 new places and try 12 new experiences, one for each month of the year.

So, I need your help to generate some ideas. I already have some trips planned, and some ideas of activities that I’d like to try. But, what do you think should be on my list for 2016? I will only consider ideas that are vegan-friendly, and I will probably be staying within Europe, but I would love to hear what you all think. 🙂

 

Sacramento/American River Cycle Ride

Please note, this post is part of a series. Click here to read it from the beginning.

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I am so glad that I decided to spend the first few days of my trip in Sacramento. It provides the perfect mix of exploring and relaxing/getting over jetlag.

After exhausting Old Sacramento on my first day, I decided to have a stroll through the ‘new’ town and compare the two. Unfortunately, the city is one big building site at the moment. Weirdly, I like photographing building sites, but I’m sure it doesn’t appeal to most tourists. From what I could see, they’re planning to build a new sports stadium, and it should look amazing once it’s finished.

In a bid to stay active whilst on holiday, and to give my blistered feet a rest after all the walking I’d done the previous day, I decided to hire a bike from Old Sacramento and venture out onto the American River trail.

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Bike rental at Practical Cycle begins at just $5 per hour/$25 for the day for a basic, one-speed cruiser. This is the option I went for. If you’re planning on covering some distance, cycling on main roads or you’re not too confident on a push bike, I’d recommend upgrading. Once you’re on the trail, it’s an easy surface to ride on. Ironically, the track you need to ride on to get from the bike shop to the trail when you’re still getting used to the bike is really bumpy. I only had time to cycle about 45 minutes along the river before I had to turn back, but the trail apparently stretches over 30km.

Heading out onto the bike trail also gave me the opportunity to have a closer look at the two water towers that I had seen from the boat cruise. The difference in size between the two, old and new, shows you how much the population of Sacramento has exploded.

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Useful Info:

2 hours bike rental: $10

Exploring Old Sacramento

Please note, this post is part of a series. Click here to read it from the beginning.

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Old Sacramento is totally not what I’d expected. I knew very little about Sacramento before I travelled there, and it was a really nice surprise. On the underground tour our guide, Steve, told us all about the history of California’s capital city. He is so entertaining, I could have followed him around and listened to him for hours.

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Sacramento has not been a town blessed with luck. When it’s not being burnt to the ground, it’s flooding. A 10ft levy that was built to protect Sacramento in the 1800s proved useless when the flood waters rose to over 20ft, and in fact only made the problem worse by effectively turning the area into one big reservoir when the waters started to subside. If this had happened to a town in the UK, us British probably would have just shrugged our shoulders, grabbed what we could and moved on to build somewhere else. This is the USA, though, where early white settlers believed it was their right to build coast to coast and ‘improve’ the land. So, most of Sacramento was raised about 10ft to it’s current level. Workers were paid $5 per day to crawl into floor spaces and operate hand winches. This painstaking work resulted in the buildings raising just 1 inch per day on average. It also resulted in a lot of crooked buildings and uneven flooring as all the winches wouldn’t be turned in sync. There are stories of buildings falling apart and people rolling out into the street, but miraculously no records of anyone being killed.

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I’ve discovered something confusing about (renovated) old towns. You head towards the building that has a huge sign above it reading ‘General Store’, only to discover it hasn’t been a general store for 100 years and has now been converted into a coffee shop.

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Purely by fluke, rather than planning, I explored Old Sacramento on a quiet day. From talking to the people who work there, I get the impression that it can get very busy. I managed to walk straight on to every tour I took, but on a regular day during the season I’d advise planning your time there.

The River Cruise gave me the opportunity to see Old Sacramento from the water. The boat takes you to the convergence between the Sacramento River and American River. You can see a definite line between the blue of the American and the green of the Sacramento. The beach at the convergence was full of families sunbathing and cooling off in the water. Considering the 102 degree heat, I couldn’t blame them.

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After burning off some calories in the old town, I headed to Pieology in the new town for dinner. This is pies in the American sense, as in pizza. My veggie pizza on a gluten-free base with Daiya vegan cheese was heaven! Great pizza, friendly and efficient service – what more can you ask for? I was a little offended that the lady behind the counter didn’t immediately ID me when I ordered wine. Fair enough, I understand I rarely get asked in the UK anymore where there is a Challenge 21 policy. But here in the States they ID everyone who looks under 40! She asked the guy in front of me, although in all honesty he did look under 21.

Useful Info:

Sacramento Underground Tour: $15

Hornblower River Cruise: $20

Cardiff to Sacramento

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Although it sounds miles away from Cardiff (another capital city in another country!?!), Heathrow is actually only a two hour drive from where I live. Even at peak times, the M4 is never anywhere as crazy as the M25 (otherwise known as the London orbital car park). Unfortunately, although getting to Heathrow is easy, you have to tack an extra hour on to your journey to find the long stay car park. I swear if you follow the road signs you double back on yourself at least twice and end up somewhere close to the motorway exit you just came off.

Note to car battery – please, please do not die during the four weeks you are parked at Heathrow airport.

When did the Virgin Atlantic check-in procedure suddenly get more complicated than your passport application? I love flying with Virgin (especially if the option is them or British Airways, who I only fly with when walking is my only other viable choice), but having to give them my mum’s contact details and a brief summary of my planned trip seems a bit extreme just to board a plane.

My early morning start was soon forgotten when I popped into Pret for breakfast. Oh my god I love those guys! Soya milk decaf latte, gluten-free and vegan porridge (yes!!!), fresh fruit salad and a protein salad. What a great healthy meal to start my trip.

If only my plane food had been as successful as my breakfast. I’d contacted Virgin Atlantic via email the previous week and asked if they could provide me with a vegan and gluten-free meal. They’d replied no, I had to choose one or the other. I chose the vegan option in the hope that there would be something I could eat. Other than the fruit snack, there wasn’t. It was all pasta, sandwiches and wraps. I’d taken my own food on board, so I didn’t go hungry. And the cabin crew were very understanding, giving more of the things I could eat and even offering to make me a jacket potato. I was annoyed when one of them told me you can pre-order a bespoke meal, so if anyone finds themselves in the same situation I’d recommend pushing the subject with customer services before you travel. And take some food with you just in case.

When I was at school, we used to argue with our maths teacher that the subject was useless. On the off chance that he might be reading this, I’d like to apologise. I have found a genuine use for GCSE maths – trying to buy a ticket for the BART in San Francisco. The Bay Area Transit is a great mode of transport, but I don’t remember it being so weird to use. Never before have I seen a ticket machine where you have to find the fare you need from a list, put in what money you have and then subtract off what you don’t need. But hey, as the lady next to me who was also having trouble with the machine pointed out, people from San Francisco probably find the London Underground strange.

I caught the BART to Oakland, and then dashed through the city (as much as I could dash with 2 backpacks on) to the Greyhound station. Oakland looks nice, I’d like to go back some time and see it properly.

The Greyhound I travelled on from Oakland to Sacramento has the slipperiest seats I have ever been on. I’m glad I’ve been keeping up with pilates training recently because it took all my core strength just to stay on the damn thing. I also heard the funniest introduction ever from a bus driver – ‘I don’t like to be called Driver, Miss or Ma’am. My name is Nesha, if you can’t remember that then just walk up to the front of the bus and start talking.’

We pulled into Sacramento on one of the hottest days of the year. I decided to power through and walk to my hostel, which in hindsight probably wasn’t a good idea. Don’t listen to the directions on Hostelling International’s website. They are for the old Greyhound station, which was really close to the hostel. The new station is miles away. After sweating out what felt like half my body weight, I arrived at my first proper bed and vowed to take a cab back to the bus station when I left Sacramento.

One of the reasons I love staying in hostels is that each one is unique. Sacramento HI is housed in a beautiful (rumoured to be haunted) old mansion house. It is an incredible building to stay in, made all the nicer by the super friendly, welcoming staff. Plus, they have free use of towels, great kitchen facilities and cheap laundry facilities.

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Useful Info:

BART San Francisco airport to Oakland: $8.95

Greyhound Oakland to Sacramento: from $7.00

Dorm beds at HI Sacramento: from around $30 per night

Sacramento

Anyone following me on Twitter and/or Facebook will know that I arrived in the US safe and sound yesterday. I’ve decided that, whilst I’m actually travelling, I’m just going to post highlights of my day. Once I get back to the UK and have a chance to sort through my photos properly, I’ll write more in-depth posts about each destination. That way I won’t miss anything. Plus, I know a lot of my family and friends are now following this blog because they want to see what I’m up to while I’m away. They’ll hear all the stories from me anyway, so all they want to see on Sasieology is photos 🙂

With that in mind, here are my highlights from my first day in Sacramento:

I started my day with an epic all-you-can-eat vegan brunch at Garden to Grill. Hash brown, tofu frittata and, my favourite, gluten-free waffles. This is the first time I’ve been able to eat waffles since I went gluten-free and they were amazing. I also ate some fresh watermelon and pineapple to balance out the waffles (I’m pretty sure that’s how it works).

DSC_0207     While I was in the area I popped to the Gluten Free Speciality Market, where I met Melanie. She’s trying to start a blog to connect local food producers, so she’s a useful person to speak to and super nice.

I spent the rest of the day in Old Sacramento, including an underground tour and river boat cruise.

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