Las Vegas to San Francisco – a Colourful Journey

It’s been a while since I last posted and that’s because I  escaped the floods of the UK and have been on a very colourful road trip from Las Vegas to San Francisco. I better point out though that jet lag is a new experience for me and my brain and my body seem to be strangely detached from each other so please bear with me…

We started in Las Vegas, now please picture the scene – Scotland to Vegas in one long leap. It’s midnight and we are slap bang in the middle of Las Vegas. We tentatively drive down The Strip in our new, rather huge, hire car (in clothes that felt quite normal when we left Scotland but suddenly feel like something from a previous century) on the eve of Independence Day. Our luggage is lost. Need I say more.

Before going to Las Vegas, a good friend who knows me all too well gave me some advice. She said, “go with it, don’t fight it”. I suddenly knew exactly what she meant. It’s not a city for me, it’s way too frantic and unnatural and it’s the only place I have ever been where I couldn’t find a single thing to point my beloved camera at. Call me a kill joy but I am just being honest. So, my photos are a bit odd and the one in the middle was an image my teenage son, who’s eyes were on permanent stalks, pointed out (!?!) – it’s apparently how you dress to check in at Sin City…

and my Las Vegas colours are red, black and shiny gold.

Next stop Grand Canyon. What can I say, it’s massive, it’s beautiful and the colours change every time you look at it. Stunning.

Burnt earths, violet shadows and dusty pinks.

The next section involved driving through Death Valley and the white hot salt pans of Bad Water Basin (125 F the day we were there).

Spectacular colours are smeared across this strange landscape. Iron oxide pigments are smudged over the alluvial fans. Hematite, limonite, volcanic ash and cinder all pop out across this chaotic geology. We could have been on Mars.

Head North and the Sierra Nevada protrude from the earth like a great wall. A wall we would have to cross to reach Yosemite. The high meadows were the first signs of greenery we had seen for hundred of miles. It was strange and very comforting seeing green again.

The first thing that hits you when you reach Yosemite National Park is the smell of fresh pine trees and the sound of the water rushing from the granite outcrops. All your senses are stimulated by this beautiful place. Pictures don’t do it justice (well unless you are Ansel Adams). It is exactly like walking around inside a beautiful fairy tale.

I could continue and tell you about the farmlands growing walnuts, cherries and peaches in amongst the wild wheat we crossed to reach the old Victorian Gold Rush town of Nevada City, a historical gem of a place. And the lush vineyards dripping with fruit in Napa Valley but I fear I may lose your patience plus, my brain is screaming for some shut eye.

So on to San Francisco, the final destination of our tour. It would seem obvious to pick  international orange, the paint colour of the Golden Gate Bridge, for my final colour palette but San Francisco is just too colourful to select a small palette. It is well and truly multi-coloured in every respect. For us, it was the colourful people we met who made San Francisco a special place. The taxi driver who knew more about the contemporary art scene and costume design than many curators. The heavily tattooed man who took time out to tell us what to do and see in Haight. The lady from the Commonwealth Society we met on the bus who invited us as guests to the Jean Paul Gautier exhibition at the De Young Museum .The people we shared a sushi table with at the Ferry Building who told us about Beach Blanket Babylon who have now become friends. San Francisco is about people, great people, and what a place to end a fantastic holiday.

Thank you USA!

33 thoughts on “Las Vegas to San Francisco – a Colourful Journey

  1. Wow Nikki – this sounds fantastic – and such a contrast. I think I would feel the same as you about Las Vegas – not wanting to photograph anything and the rest of the journey almost too big to do so. I love your colour swatches and palettes. You also met some very interesting people who were really generous in their time, thoughts and invitations. Looks like I might have to look into this kind of holiday sometime….


    • Hi Jacqui, thanks for that and yes, you being an artist would love this trip as it was an absolute visual feast. In fact I would love to see your work if you visited Yosemite in particular.
      It felt like we travelled the length of America but when I looked at a small scale map, its such a tiny part of the states – just shows you what is out there. It’s really whetted my appetite to see more of this amazing planet we live on. Much as I love our normal very laid back holidays to the North Coast of Brittany, it really is very exciting seeing such big huge breath taking land forms.
      I’m just popping over to visit your blog now so be in touch.


  2. Hey, you made it back in one piece! It sounds like – Vegas aside – (although I am sure you appreciated the bed linen thread count at the Wynn)- it was an inspiring and wonderful family trip. The colours and scale of the Grand Canyon are mind-blowing, as is the case for Yosemite (but with added pine scent and water). Did you stop at the petrol station by Mono Lake for food? Now that I know you are back and coherent I shall phone you up for a fuller low-down and slide show. Is the first image near Hoover Dam?


    • Hi there oh friend of wisdom! Yes, back home and gathering up my thoughts on our fab holiday. Yes, the linen and the unbelievably comfortable mattresses where a real highlight – wow, do they know how to construct beds in America or what!
      The first image is at Bright Angel on the South Rim. We did pass Hoover Dam on the way there.
      We stopped at Lee’s Frontier petrol station, just before Mono Lake – a great pit stop. I wracked my brains the whole journey trying to remember the name of the place you stopped at for your amazing fish tacos but I couldn’t check your blog as I had no signal…mmm, another visit me thinks!
      Catch you next week 🙂


  3. I love the way you show your USA travel through the colours. It’s amazing! I’m in love with colours too, so I’ll read your blog. Thanks for your nice comment in my blog!


  4. Glad you had such a nice colorful journey. As a California native, I can relate. Oh…and ditto on Las Vegas. Never been there never will because the people who know me well say it’s not my cup of tea.


    • Thanks Elizabeth and how lucky you are to be a Californian native. What a wonderful part of the world. We visited relatives in Nevada City near Sacramento and they told us they get four very distinct seasons there and described the Christmas markets with fresh snow falling as we were swimming in the Yuba River in their beautiful summertime. Lovely.
      Funny your friends have told you to stay clear of Las Vegas too 🙂


  5. Wow what a fabulous trip Niki at least you can say you have experienced Las Vegas!! The Grand Canyon looks amazing, I would love to go, like your colour palettes too.


    • Thanks Kristyn, Oh yes, the colours in Yosemite were beautiful – in the evening when the sun dropped the Half Dome & El Capitan rock faces transformed from silver granite into multiple shades of violets and blues. It was absolutely gorgeous.
      Have a lovely weekend x


  6. How soothing and comfortable a number of shades of earthen colors in Grand Canyon are, compared with the hues of colors in Las Vegas. Clouds are casting shadows over the miraculous canyon and passing slowly. I feel awe towards nature! I especially love your third photo where the subtle gradation of purple is so aesthetic. Niki, thanks a lot for posting such a beautiful blog. Your post and photos are a supreme tribute to Mother Nature!!
    Have a great weekend.


    • Wow, what a wonderful comment especially coming from you Keiko, such a fantastic photographer. Thank you so much.
      I too am in absolute awe with nature – I just can’t peel my eyes away from some things and discovering the vast and diverse landscape that is out there just makes me want to see more and more. Getting away from a desk/computer and just looking around is so refreshing, exciting and inspiring.
      Have a lovely weekend in beautiful Japan.


  7. Fantastic adventure! I love the color palettes next to your images… they really help me to appreciate the color schemes of the Western US. Yosemite and the Grand Canyon are among my all time favorite places! Glad you could see them for yourself :^)


  8. I’ve been to Las Vegas and Colorado, Utah, Arizona many years ago. Las Vegas is a riot of colour. Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert belong to the most amazing things in the world for me. Never been to San Franciso.


    • Yes, the painted desert was incredible plus I had the added bonus of standing taking a photo when a wild coyote appeared – pretty scary looking animal as it was all mouth but fab to see in its natural habitat. Thanks for the comment Zosia.


  9. I love the colour palettes that you pulled from your pictures, especially the one of the Grand Canyon. I’ve been there twice – once at the top and once by helicopter to the bottom. It’s just so stunning and breathtakingly beautiful. Mother Nature is an amazing artist!

    I’m totally with you on the Vegas thing. Been there once, have no desire to go back. It’s too big and loud and busy and bright for me. It feels like a totally different planet there.

    Hope you”ve recovered from your jet lag!


    • Oh, thanks Kelly and I absolutely agree, Mother Nature is quite some artist, staggering really.
      Wow, that must have been pretty amazing going into the Canyon in a helicopter. I bet that made you feel so small.
      The Vegas thing is funny because a lot of my blog friends have said the same but I guess we all share similar characteristics which is why we have connected to each other in the first place through our work and our blogs. Its been good to hear actually – glad I’m in good company 😉


  10. So fun to see that you were basically in my backyard! (I’m across the Bay in Oakland) What amazing pictures and palettes! Had too much fun in Vegas about 5 years ago and haven’t felt the need to go back yet. I always like to find the patches in Vegas that are off the beaten path as otherwise it’s too overwhelming for me. So glad the rest of the trip was fun and that you enjoyed San Francisco!


    • Hi Marie, ah I wish I had made it over to Oakland as I have read all about the great atmosphere in your part of town and the thriving cafe/restaurant culture – another time!
      Yes, I think I was rather shell shocked when I arrived in Las Vegas and I have been told the old part of town with the 1930’s casino’s are worth a look. I’ve also heard of beautiful settlements in the desert away from the centre so I’ve probably been hasty in my judgement. As with all holidays, it was just to short to see things properly! Lovely to hear from you.


  11. Thanks for stopping by my blog: and for introducing me to yours. I feel the very same about Las Vegas: no desire, at all, to ever go there… An airline employee once told me it’s the #1 destination for airline award tickets! Guess if you have a free flight, then you feel you can gamble? Not my style.
    Some day I would like to see the Grand Canyon and all the West. A drive cross country would be nice, but on back roads and not the huge interstates!
    San Francisco, yes, love it there. I lived out there many years ago but now I am a total tourist each time I go back!


    • Hello Libby, its great to make contact with you. I’ve looked at your site and your gorgeous rugs and I love the sound of your energy. I absolutely love France too and my very special place is the north Coast of Brittany. The coastline and the produce there draw us back again and again.
      Glad we are on the same wavelength with Vegas!


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