< p>We were both really excited to get to USA because of what you see on tv and because we were visiting some places we had only dreamed of like LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Memphis, Nashville, Florida and New York! We didn't really have anything booked when we got to America, we just wanted to be able to stop wherever we liked and not follow any real plan which was a great feeling. America has the most diverse bunch of people I think we have ever come across in one country and all the states are so different, it's no wonder over 90% of Americans have never travelled outside their own country and don't even have passports (don't quote me on that figure but it's something like that). We arrived in Los Angeles from Fiji and we went from one extreme to another...Fiji run's on 'Fiji time' which is basically really slow and laid back and LA is like nothing I have ever seen before. The roads are absolutely crazy, cars beeping their horns if they have to wait for more than a minute, I don't know how Steven even drove around LA but it didn't seem to phase him. We stayed at the Motel 6 in Hollywood which is a really cheap motel chain across the whole of America but it was really well placed so we could ignore the shady people who seemed to be hanging around there all the time. We went to see how the other half live on Rodeo Drive and walked along Hollywood Boulevard trying to spot some token celebrities. The nearest we came however was a guy driving a flashy sports car who Steven thought was Dennis Rodman. A tout for a local restaurant heard Steven and was getting all excited that he might be able to get a picture and so he asked him if he was Dennis Rodman and whether he could have a picture and this lookalikey looked horrified and said "damn he wishes he looked as fine as me". Only in America do you get that sort of self confidence! It had me chickling for days though. I did meet Spongebob Square Pants though and managed to get a snap for my little nephews - I didn't tell them however that Spongebob Squarepants fleeced me for 5 bucks just to have a photo taken! We also saw the legendary HOLLYWOOD sign and went to Venice Beach which was jam packed with people break dancing, power walking, running, playing basketball and volleyball, it was probably one of the coolest beaches we have come across.

Alcatraz and Al Capone

We hired a car and drove to San Francisco because car rentals are really cheap and petrol is unbelievably cheap at 1.60 dollars a gallon! We could fill up our whole tank for about 20 dollars (about £13). San Francisco is the most beautiful city we have visited so far. It has bridges that rival the good old Widnes-Runcorn bridge, dainty Victorian houses and cute little cables cars running along the steepest streets in the world! We stayed on the 'Lombard street' billed as the world's crookedest street. Withoubt doubt though, the highlight of San Francisco was definitely visiting the infamous 'Alcatraz' prison. From 1933 to 1963 the small Alcatraz Island prison was where the most notorious criminals in America were kept including Al Capone and Robert "The Birdman" Stroud. The tour itself is brilliant, you start by boarding a boat from the Pier to the island itself and then you follow an audio tour around the prison, looking at the actual cells where the inmates are housed. Some of the old inmates and correctional officers feature on the audio tour and recollect what happened while they were there years ago. The most fascinating part was listening to the inmates talk about the escapes or the attempted ones anyway! Even though Alcatraz didn't have a 'death row' or any other facility for executions, eight inmates were murdered by other inmates and five committed suicide. Judging by what we have seen on tv about prisons in America since we have been here I would say this is a pretty low death record compared to normal state prisons here now. The rest of the time in San Francisco we spent riding along on the trams listening to the accents of the local tour guides, holiday (Christmas) shopping in the magnificent Macy's store and walking along the different pier's which house shops, bars and restaurants including "Bubba Gump" from the film Forest Gump. A truly beautiful city, San Francisco is somewhere we hope to visit again.

All Shook Up....Elvis Style

Memphis was somewhere we decided to visit on our way to Nashville, partly because it's home to the onle and only Elvis Presley and partly because it's part of the Mississippi Delta where the Delta Blues was sung by the likes of BB King. For the first couple of nights, we decided to stay close to Elvis's home, Graceland and chose the 'Days Inn Graceland' - it didn't disappoint! The reception was clarted out in elvis memorabilia, his hits blasted out of speakers inside and out of reception and the pool came in the form of a huge guitar. When we got to our room, above the bed and all around the room were pictures of Elvis! Whilst i'm intrigued by elvis and appreciate that he is a legend, i'm not a die hard fan so this for me was a little wierd! If this wasn't enough, we had free elvis movies all day every day on our tv! Priceless. Graceland was well worth the visit and we had picked the perfect time to visit as the house had been decorated for Christmas. We went on an audio tour of the mansion which included a jungle room with carpet lined walls and ceiling, a black and yellow tv room with three tv's and mirrored ceiling and a pool room where he played once with all of the Beatles. we saw his gold and platinum disc collection, his immense sequinned outfits, his unbelievable car collection, his two private planes and the family graves. We heard so much about his life and what a generous person he was to those in his community. After purchasing some tacky bits and bobs from one of the many gift shops we asked our motel for a good place to eat. Within minutes an old pink cadillac with 'Marlowes ribs and restaurant' on the side had arrived to pick us up. It seems Elvis lives everywhere around Graceland - Marlowes was also blasting out elvis's hits and memorabilia covered the walls and tables. Comically, sat in the corner eating his tea was a man dressed from head to toe in a pink rock and roll outfit like Elvis. Later I heard him speak and don't you just know it, he was from England! When we popped in to the gift shop, two guests were debating with the shop worker about whether Elvis had had a fling with someone or other - this conversation went on for a good ten minutes or so! Some people here really do live for the King after all this time.

Memphis may be many things, a dying city and the violent crime capital of the USA but it is steeped in history and it's one of the most unique cities in the USA we have seen so far. Food is real southern food and fast food joints are replaced with BBQ joints serving up big dishes like BBQ shredded pork shoulder in a sandwich with BBQ sauce, slaw (coleslaw) and beans. Thank god i'm not a vegetarian! On our third night we moved to Downtown Memphis to be closer to Beale street and the other music sights. Beale street is full of Blues gift shops and bars with bands playing every night including BB Kings Blues Club and Mr Handy's Blues Hall. The accent is so strong here that we could barely understand people. We boarded a tram (which they call a trolley) to Beale street and put our ticket in but it didn't work. Next thing we knew, the driver, a local man in his 60's was shouting "ya'll better come here wi your ticket" and from then on we couldn't understand a single thing he said so I just smiled and nodded! I've only ever seen people like this on tv and when I said this to our receptionist she replied "ya'll so funny". We then continued on the tram and some young lad sporting a hoody and baggy pants got on, eyed us up and down and said "ya'll Europeans?", to which I nodded and he replied whilst moving his head from side to side "ahh haa, thought so". And that was the end of any interaction. I couldn't help thinking if we should have been offended and if we dressed like typical foreigners. Whilst in Memphis we visited the legendary Sun Studios where Johnny Cash and Elvis recorded many of their hits and I was able to record the song "Black Velvet" in the same studio which was pretty amazing. We also went on a tour of the Gibson guitar factory to see how each individual guitar is made from scratch - pity we couldn't afford one at a mere $2-3000!