Great American West Coast Road Trip

Posted on 29. Jul, 2015 by in Travel

Over the past year, we’ve been talking about American national parks and some of the USA’s great cities, such as New York, Washington D.C., and Boston. Today we will combine these two to talk about something else that is a very American summer tradition – a road trip. A road trip is usually a long journey made by car, van, or RV to a few or even many different destinations. In the summertime, it’s very popular to pack up the car and hit the open road to see the country. After all, the USA is a very big country with lots to see! Perhaps one of the most popular road trips you can take in America is traveling across the west coast. With many national parks, some of the country’s most famous cities, and plenty of other interesting things along the way, a west coast road trip is one of the best journeys you can take in the US. There are endless possibilities for how you can plan your trip, but here’s an example of an amazing one-month road trip I took across the west coast to give you an idea of what you can do:

San Francisco

A little collage of what we did in SF.

A little collage of what we did in SF.

Start the trip off in San Francisco, one of the most beautiful cities in the US. It’s easy to get here from just about anywhere, so it makes a perfect starting point. There’s a lot to do here to keep you busy for a few days – stroll through Golden Gate Park, check out the bridge, ride the cable cars, eat delicious seafood, or even visit an old prison at Alcatraz. If you’re like me and love live music, then this is a great place to be. There are concerts every night and many festivals throughout the year. We didn’t do it, but you could also consider adding a side trip to Yosemite National Park, as it’s not too far away.

Los Angeles/Hollywood

Hello there, LA.

Hello there, LA.

From San Fran, you have many options for getting down to the City of Angels. The most scenic one is to rent a car and drive yourself down Highway 1, which rides along the coast looking out to the Pacific Ocean. Once you’re in LA, you have many options for how to spend your time. Hit the Walk of Fame to find your favorite stars, go for a hike up to the famous Hollywood sign, take in a ballgame, or explore the city’s great nightlife.

Joshua Tree NP

Joshua Tree

Get out of LA and visit Joshua Tree NP.

Just a 2-hour drive away from the city, you’ll find Joshua Tree National Park. This is different from many American national parks in that it’s located in the desert. It’s a beautiful place to spend a few days, and there are many activities available – camping, hiking, bird-watching, and star-gazing, to name a few. The best way to get here is to rent a car from LA and drive yourself. Bring some camping gear and stay a few nights to really take it all in.

Venice Beach

Active Venice Beach

Active Venice Beach

Although it’s technically a part of Los Angeles, Venice Beach deserves its own introduction. It’s not just your average beach vacation in Venice, as there’s much more going on than just sunbathing and swimming. Take a stroll along the boardwalk, which is known as a “sidewalk circus.” You’ll see street performers such as magicians, dancers, jugglers, and much more. It’s also a great place to get fit, as you can ride a bike, hit the skate park, or visit the famous Muscle Beach.

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Las Vegas

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas!

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas!

From LA, it’s very easy to get to Las Vegas. A great tip for saving money is to try and book a seat on a Megabus early on – if you book early enough, you can find seats for just $1! While many people think of Las Vegas as Sin City, there’s more to this city than just gambling and drinking. It’s actually very family friendly these days, with many shows, thrill rides, and attractions that are suitable for all ages. We had so much fun exploring the mega-casinos (but not gambling in them), seeing amazing performances, and eating in the great buffets.

Grand Canyon NP

Grand Canyon NP

The amazing Grand Canyon.

There’s no national park more famous in the USA than the Grand Canyon. It is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, 1 mile deep and is also one of the Wonders of the World. Visiting the park can be a bit tricky unless you have your own transportation, so renting a car is probably the best way to get here. There are plenty of campgrounds, so you can stay for a few days to explore the many viewpoints and hiking trails. If you’re feeling very adventurous, you can try the Rim-to-Rim Hike, which is 28-miles long and goes across the canyon.

Zion NP

Amazing panorama at the Canyon Overlook.

Amazing panorama at the Canyon Overlook.

From the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, it’s just a 3-hour drive or so to the stunning Zion National Park in southwest Utah. The name of this park means “promised land,” and you’ll see why once you get here and take in some of the incredible views. There’s a great bus system that will take you around the park, and there are plenty of viewpoints and hiking trails to keep you busy. Try taking a walk in the Narrows, the park’s most famous hike through the Virgin River. Camping is available inside the park, so you should definitely stay a few days to see as much of it as you can.

Bryce Canyon NP

Bryce Canyon NP

It looks like a painting, doesn’t it?

The next stop on this great west coast road trip is another national park in Utah. Bryce Canyon is a place of amazing natural beauty where you can learn about the interesting hoodoos. If you’ve never heard of hoodoos, don’t worry! They are stone structures formed by melting frost and erosion, and they’re an incredible sight. Unfortunately we only had enough time to spend a few hours here, but there’s camping and a lodge if you can afford to stay a night or two.

Moab, Utah

Canyonlands NP

Looking out on Canyonlands NP.

Before taking this trip, we had never heard of Moab, Utah. In the end, it was our favorite place we visited and something we recommend to family and friends all the time. This little town is a great place to base yourself for tons of outdoor adventures. In just a few days we: visited two more national parks (Canyonlands and Arches) and a state park (Dead Horse Point), tried canyoneering, white water rafting, and skydiving. There are also many great restaurants, shops, cafes, and even a brewery in town to keep you busy when you’re not out there enjoying the great outdoors.

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Rocky Mountain NP

Scenic views at the Rockies.

Although many people will argue and say that Denver is not technically on the west coast, this is a great place to end your road trip for transportation reasons. It’s easy to return a rental car here, and you can fly just about anywhere in the country once you’re all finished. The Mile High City is a great base for exploring the nearby Rocky Mountain National Park, and there are many more outdoor activities you can enjoy a short drive from the city. One thing I’ll highly recommend when visiting Denver is seeing a concert at the amazing Red Rocks Amphitheater. This is one of the most beautiful concert venues in the entire country, and it’s a great place to see a show.


As I mentioned, we spent one month doing this road trip from San Francisco to Denver. In case you were wondering, we did the entire thing overland – buses, hitching rides with friends, and renting a few cars. Should you do this yourself, make sure you buy the America the Beautiful National Park pass. It will get you into every NP mentioned above and save you a lot of money in the process. To see what this journey looks like, here’s an interactive map:

Heart-related idioms in English

Posted on 28. Jul, 2015 by in English Language, English Vocabulary

Image by Kevin Dooley on

Image by Kevin Dooley on

The heart is not just an essential organ of the human body; it is also considered the center of love, compassion, bravery, and emotions. There are so many phrases, expressions, and idioms in English connected to the word ‘heart’ that I thought it was time we take a look at some them. Below I have listed a number of idioms in which the word ‘heart’ is featured. As you will see there is often a lot of emotion connected with these idioms too. I have also provided examples of use and a short fill-in the blank exercise for you to try out your understanding of these new expressions at the end of the post. Enjoy!

Heart-related idioms:

to be after (one’s) own heart – a way of describing someone who is similar to you or does things in a way that makes you happy
Example: Jill is a cook after my own heart; she always makes food that I love.

a bleeding heart – a person who feels sympathy or compassion for everyone/everything, even when it is undeserved
Example: Kate is such a bleeding heart she takes in all the feral cats that are in her neighborhood.

to cross (one’s) heart and hope to die – this is a saying that is an emphatic or expressive way of making a promise
Example: I cross my heart hope to die, I will never tell anyone what you said.

in a heart’s beat – very fast
Example: I’ll be back in a heart’s beat, I promise.

to eat (one’s) heart out – to feel jealous, angry or bitter about something
(This phrase is usually used when describing or talking about someone else, not one’s self.)
Example: Eat your heart out Julie, I got the diamond necklace from mom and you didn’t!

to get to the heart of (something) – to get to the most important part or details
Example: When we finally got to the heart of the matter I could understand why everyone was so upset.

a heart of gold – a kind or generous person
Example: Joe is the kindest person I know, he truly has a heart of gold.

(one’s) heart goes out to (something) – to feel great sympathy
Example: My heart goes out to all the parents who lost their children in the accident.

a/the heart to heart – a conversation that is intimate and truthful;
Example: I finally had the heart to heart I needed to have with my brother about his wife.

to know (something) by heart – to have something memorized perfectly
Example: The children were asked to know their telephone numbers and addresses by heart by the end of the week.

to take heart – to be encouraged or to be brave about something
Example: I told Emily to take heart; that the worst was past her now.

Fill in the blank exercise:

1)    The parents ______________________ knowing that their son was in a better place now.
2)    Shelly is such a _______________________. She loves every animal she sees, even the ugly, old, and lame ones. She thinks they are all cute.
3)    I _________________________________, I will never tell anyone your secret.
4)    Dinner will be ready ____________________, so please sit down at the table right now.
5)    Donna is so nice to me all the time. I swear she has a _________________.









1) took heart; 2) bleeding heart; 3) cross my heart and hope to die; 4) in a heart beat; 5) heart of gold

British Territories Around the World

Posted on 21. Jul, 2015 by in Culture, Travel

Image of Bermuda by kansasphoto on

Image of Bermuda by kansasphoto on

Great Britain was once known as ‘the great colonizer’ as it sent fleets of ships across the seven seas to explore and take over large parts of the world. From the 16th to the 18th centuries Great Britain was building an empire on far off large continents and tiny islands (where ships often landed on long journeys). Today, Great Britain continues to have strong connection with many of its former colonies and territories some that you may be familiar with, include: New Zealand, Australia, or Canada. Other former colonies or territories of Great Britain have completely severed their ties with the former colonizer, such as: India, Hong Kong, and the United States.

Today we are going to take a quick look at some of the remaining British Overseas Territories. These are some of Great Britain’s lesser known former colonies. The British Overseas Territories are small island nations. These territories have decided to remain connected to Great Britain (i.e. the reigning British monarch is their head of state), while having their own internal leadership. One of the reasons I am choosing to highlight these interesting little island nations is because some of them make wonderful exotic destinations where you can go to practice your English! So, let’s take a look at few.

The Cayman Islands is a set of three islands that are located in the Caribbean Ocean. The British took control of these islands way back in 1670, but they did not become an Overseas Territory until 1962. People have been speaking English on this island for a long time, with the first permanent English-speaking residents dating back to the early 1700s. Reportedly the Cayman Islands were uninhabited before the 1600s, as they have no archeological evidence of an indigenous population.  The Cayman Islands are known for their tropical beauty and recreational sports such as boating and scuba diving. The islands are perhaps better known for their “offshore financial” dealings. The Cayman Islands are one of a few low-tax jurisdictions that provide financial services to nonresidents. This type of country is often called a “tax haven.”

Bermuda is an archipelago (or group of islands) in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Although this archipelago was first “discovered” by the Spanish it was colonized by the British. Bermuda is both the oldest British Overseas Territory and the one with the largest population (current population 64,000). Bermuda is also a popular tourist destination, even though it is a long ways away from either Europe or North America.  Many people travel to Bermuda on cruises or just to spend a few relaxing weeks out in the middle of the Atlantic. Many people know about Bermuda because of the infamous “Bermuda Triangle.” The Bermuda Triangle is a triangular-shaped area in the western Atlantic Ocean (Bermuda forms one point of this triangle), where many ships and even airplanes are reported to have mysteriously disappeared over the years.

The Pitcairn Islands are four volcanic islands found in the southern Pacific Ocean.  These islands were first inhabited by Polynesians, but were reportedly uninhabited when they were “discovered” in the early 1600s by Europeans. Due to the islands’ remote location for many years after the their discovery the islands remained uninhabited. The islands’ population today primary consists of descendants of mutineers (or sailors who rebelled against their captain and took over the ship) from the ship Bounty. The peak population on these small islands was only ever 233 people. Today there are only 50 full-time inhabitants on the Pitcairn Islands. In fact the Pitcairn Islands are the least populated national jurisdiction in the world!

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands are a group of islands found in the far southern Atlantic Ocean. These islands probably shouldn’t be at the top of your list in terms of tourist destinations, although there is some work to be found here if you are looking for a job. The territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands was formed in 1985, but the British have had a presence on these islands since the late 1700s. This group of islands is often described as “inhospitable,” but people do live here. British government officials, a postmaster, scientists (and their support staff) and a museum staff all live on these islands. Much of the work done on these islands is connected to the scientific work in Antarctica as these islands are pretty close to the frozen continent. There is no native population on South Georgia or the South Sandwich Islands.

The Cayman Islands, Bermuda, the Pitcairns, and South Georgia are just four of the fourteen British Overseas Territories, and just some of the many places in the world where English is the official language.