Our Final Days in South America: Escazu, San Jose and Tamarindo, Costa Rica

_DSC0215^^ This was the view from our first Costa Rican hotel, with the city of San Jose in the background.

So I’m writing my final post on our four-week South American trip, and it’s making me sad, friends. The only positive here is that I’m posting it on the same day that we’re flying out to Australia for three weeks, so a gal can’t be sad for too long, ya know!

Anyway, Costa Rica. After three weeks of hiking and snorkeling and walking and swimming, our thought about Costa Rica was that it should be a relaxing place for us to chill for a couple of days before heading back to the states. As such, we booked three days at Posada El Quijote (you can find the site for the actual hotel here) in Escazu, Costa Rica (right outside of San Jose), and then a full week at Barcelo Langosta Beach, an all-inclusive resort in the beach town of Tamarindo.

Let’s start with Posada El Quijote — it’s adorable, to say the least. The hotel is a tiny boutique one nestled in the town of Escazu, which is one of the richer towns in Costa Rica. (Our cab driver told us Mel Gibson bought a house here. Not sure if that’s true, or if it’s even a draw, to be honest, but there it is.) Anyway, the included breakfast is a HUGE draw for the place — it’s some of the best breakfast we had on our entire trip, as was the view from the backyard, where Chris and I took to having some drinks after sunset every night, watching the twinkling lights of San Jose in the background. Some highlights of Escazu for me (besides the hotel, which I would highly  recommend), was eating at both Tiquicia (with its amazing city views as well) and La Casona de Laly , and taking a tour of the city of San Jose.

About San Jose itself, in my opinion I’d highly recommend not staying directly in the city if you can avoid it, because other than a few good museums and a gorgeous concert hall, the rest of the city is really pretty much chain restaurants and concrete. (Check out this Lonely Planet review before making your final decision, is all I would say. In our case, staying outside of the city and taking a half day trip into the city itself to check things out was more than enough.)

_DSC0262^^ They were having a family day when we took our half-day tour in San Jose, so the main town square was alive with all kinds of activity. How awesome is this tight-rope little lady? You go girl.

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_DSC0235^^ We caught this view on one of our walks around our Escazu neighborhood. Gorgeous.

After three relaxing days in Escazu, Chris and I packed up our stuff again and loaded it onto a bus headed for the coast of Tamarindo and the Barcelo Langosta Beach resort. The bus ride turned out to be longer than we had hoped (five hours!), but once we were off the main highways and driving through the smaller towns, I really enjoyed seeing the homes and shops and some of the average Costa Rican way of life.

_DSC0307^^ Stopping at the halfway point on the bus and happening upon this gorgeous animal refuge zoo with these beautiful Toucans was definitely a benefit of the bus ride.

_DSC0289^^ These parrots were wild, which was pretty amazing.

After what felt like forever, we finally arrived at Barcelo Langosta. If you’ve ever stayed at an all-inclusive before, you won’t be disappointed with this one. The staff was very friendly, and offered many of those all-inclusive activities most people enjoy (water aerobics, dance classes, live music on certain nights, beach volleyball, etc.), and the buffet was pretty great for all-inclusive food, especially since they switched up their theme every night to keep it fresh. They also have one restaurant on the grounds, which if you stay for longer than three nights is included in your price, and that was super tasty. We saw tons of wildlife around the resort, too, like two different kinds of monkeys, green lizards, land iguanas, birds and more. The beach is public, so it can get a bit crowded, and it’s not the best beach for swimming because the waves tend to be rougher there (which makes it perfect for watching surfers!) and there are a lot of rocks. But the sunsets were some of the most gorgeous ones we saw on our whole trip, and to not have to think at all about what we were going to do about eating during the days made it a lot more laid back for us, as well.

_DSC0337^^ We watched the sunset from the beach every night, and Chris even joined in to play beach volleyball most nights, too. He took a surf lesson, as well — although I’m not sure how much that’ll come in handy when we move to land-locked Denver, Colorado ;)

IMG_5330^^ We went zip lining with Pura Adventura while we were in Costa Rica, and it’s seriously my new favorite thing! You can’t imagine the feeling of gliding through the air, feeling completely weightless, watching the most amazing views unfold before you. Unless, of course, you’ve ziplined before, then you absolutely can imagine it ;) This was our amazing crew.

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_DSC0405^^ Sunset facing the resort. Not too shabby!

And that was pretty much our Costa Rica experience, my friends. Although I’m glad that we went zip lining and Chris took surf lessons and we had time to relax, if/when we ever do make it back to Costa Rica, I’d be sure to plan a few other things that the area is known for, like checking out the rainforest and the cloud forest and a volcano or two. Still, I feel lucky we were able to see the animals we did see, just from the resort.

And that’s it in a nutshell, ya’ll! South America in four weeks — Peru, Ecuador and Costa Rica. I want to add Brazil, Chile and Argentina to my list of must visit places now, because South America is so vast and beautiful and has so much to offer — I would just highly recommend to anyone who loves adventure travel to get out there when it’s possible. You won’t be sorry!

Okay friends, so we’re off to Australia now! We’ll be gone through the holidays, and we start our drive out to Denver pretty much as soon as we get back … so … wish us luck!

And happy holidays to all of you! May your days be filled with friends and family and lots of love and laughter. And snow!

Bis bald!

Ecuador Part I: Quito and the Amazon

Hi friends,

So after our adventures in Peru, Chris and I packed up our belongings and headed to the airport to fly a bit up the continent to Ecuador, where we would be taking part in the second, third and fourth parts of our South American adventure: Quito, the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands.

A note about this part of the trip, before I get into it. We booked everything in this section of the trip with a company called Southern Explorations, which I would highly recommend to anyone looking to book an adventure in South America (they have many different trip options). Here’s what was included in our trip package:

  • Our hotel during the nights we’d be staying in Quito
  • A half-day tour of Quito
  • Our trip to the Amazon
  • Our trip to the Galapagos
  • Transfers to and from the airport for each and every one of those trips
  • Meals for everything except the days we were in Quito

Here’s the thing about booking the trip this way — it was pricey. Honestly, I’m sure we could have put the puzzle pieces together ourselves and paid less, but at the end of the day, it was so incredibly nice to know that we were being taken care of (and that we wouldn’t need to even think about little details like where and when to bring our passports, how much the Galapagos Park entrance fee was, etc., because they reminded us of everything along the way), that we didn’t mind paying a little extra for that sense of comfort. The hotel Southern Explorations booked us at in Quito (called La Rabida) actually turned out to be one of our favorite hotels of the trip, too. The breakfast was always stellar (and we ate dinner here one night, too, and it was super tasty), there was always a fire burning in the fireplace at night and plenty of books to read about Ecuador, and there was even an adorable little fat brown bunny that lived in the garden of the hotel, named Brownie, that you just know Chris and I became obsessed with. Oh, and the coffee!? Amazing.

Here’s a bit of what we saw during our stay in Quito (which was three days before we flew out to the Amazon, then one half day/night between the Amazon and the Galapagos and one more night again before flying out to Costa Rica):

_DSC8207^^ This statue was a gift to the city, but its back faces towards the more poor area, and the people who live there unfortunately took that to be a bit of a slight.

_DSC8234^^ The Old Town section of Quito is beautiful during the day, but our tour guide warned us that it can be a bit desolate, and even dangerous, at night. If you make it here, however, be sure to NOT MISS the Iglesia de La Compania de Jesus church. Unfortunately we couldn’t take photos inside, but I’ve never been to a more beautiful church, and it’s absolutely not to be missed when you’re checking out this part of Quito.

_DSC8288^^ We were in the old section on a Monday, so we were lucky enough to catch the changing of the guard at the Presedential Palace, which really is quite the show.

_DSC8354^^ We also visited the part of Quito where the lines of latitude and longitude are zero, which was fascinating. (There are actually two of these places. The first was the one the French thought was zero latitude, but the Ecuadorian army later scientifically determined the actual spot to be about 200 meters away. Still, that’s not bad for an educated guess!) Anyway, the equator line is so weird! This is me, trying to balance an egg on its end (which our tour guide and someone else in our group successfully managed to do), and you have practically zero strength on the line as well. It’s also incredibly hard to walk in a straight line when you’re directly on the equator (as demonstrated by Chris, below), and the water really does flush in different directions to either side of the line. So cool!

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I feel as though I would be wrong to ignore something that came up a lot while we were in Quito — which is safety. We didn’t do a ton of research on the area before heading there, since it was part of our package anyway, and we’d be spending so few days there, but as it turns out, there’s quite a bit of noise on the internet about the safety of tourists in the area. While I think a lot of this has changed in recent years, I think it doesn’t hurt to be on high alert if traveling to this area. (Of course I think it doesn’t hurt to be on high alert when you travel to any area, but perhaps a bit more so in this particular one.) I wouldn’t walk at night anywhere (cabs are readily available, although you need to be sure to get in legitimate cabs with meters, and make sure the cab drivers actually turn on the meters, because they will try to stiff you), and don’t be flamboyant about things that call you out as a tourist — like carrying ginormous cameras or stopping to look at a map every couple of feet. The first day we arrived in Quito it happened to be a holiday, and we found the city to be pretty empty and a bit desolate, which to be honest made it a bit creepy. But after the city filled with people again, and when we roamed around during broad daylight, we found the people to be friendly and helpful, and nothing was scary at all.

We also had some of our favorite meals here in Quito. Our tour guide (Gorge, who was one of our favorite tour guides of the whole trip), suggested one little restaurant called Mama Clorinda, where we ate empanadas, potato soup, shrimp and rice and lamb stew (Chris, not me), that was all totally delicious. Chris also really enjoyed the steak at La Casa de mi Abuela.

After our three days in Quito, we headed back to the airport with Gorge to catch our flight to the Amazon, which was a pretty surreal experience in and of itself. We stayed at Sacha Lodge, which we really loved. The food here was pretty amazing, especially considering the fact that it was buffet style made for dozens of people all at once, and the lodges themselves were gorgeous, wooden cabins with big, bright hammocks on open porches directly in the rainforest.

_DSC8447^^ These little leaf cutter ants were so amazing! They were one of the first signs of life we saw when we arrived, and there was a whole big stream of them running across the path we had to walk to get to our lodge, busy carrying those little leaves to their new destination.

_DSC8459^^ To get to the lodge, we had to fly to another city from Quito, take a 2.5 hour motorized canoe ride, walk a mile through the rainforest, then take another 15-20 minute canoe ride to the lodge itself.

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_DSC8539^^ Sunset over the Sacha Lodge lake was pretty epic every night.

_DSC8612^^ The very first night we were there we went on a night hike and saw all kinds of creepy crawlies. You’d think that seeing creatures like this would freak me out, but honestly it didn’t — it was all fascinating.

_DSC8622^^ Baby tarantulas! We would see very many of these during our stay at the Amazon, most of them a whole heck of a lot bigger than this one.

_DSC8641^^ Look at this little cutie patootie!

_DSC8654^^ These parrots fascinated me. They come to the clay lick to eat the clay, which helps neutralize the acid in their stomachs from eating berries and such. Such smart parrots.

_DSC8697^^ One of my two favorite moments in the Amazon occured while I was in the shower. Like I mentioned, our cabins were pretty awesome, and the bathrooms were the absolute best. The back of the shower was just a screen, which looked out directly into the rainforest. So one day while I’m showering, I happen to notice some movement in the woods, and it was this little monkey, along with about five or six of his friends! Monkeys — just chillin’ in the rainforest — which I could watch all to myself while I took a shower. Once in a lifetime experience, for sure.

_DSC8698^^ Another shower monkey!

_DSC8726^^ How cute are these cabins!?

_DSC8764^^ One day we went into the butterfly house, which housed hundreds of amazing, beautifully colored butterflies, along with one nasty, huge tarantula that had moved in and just occasionally snacks on the butterflies.

_DSC8794^^ We took a lot of canopy walks high above the trees, where we saw tons of birds like Toucans and Hummingbirds and even a King Vulture!

_DSC8852^^ This snake, which we happened upon on one of our hikes, is referred to as the Venti Quatro, because once bitten by it, you’ll die within 24 hours. Nice, right? And he was thisclose to us on the hike. This was also right before a tree branch broke and Chris was showered with fire ants that bit him all over his arm. While he was in pain for about nine hours after it happened, he now thinks this is pretty bad ass. I mean, if you’re going to be in the Amazon, you might as well have a story to tell, right?

_DSC8880^^ We went piranha fishing, and I was the first person to catch one! It was so crazy. You put some meat at the end of a fishing pole, and when you throw the line in, you can’t even see the piranha attacking it, you just see the meat moving around in the water as they snip at it. This is a red-bellied kind.

_DSC8882^^ Look at those teeth!

Amazon_Hammock^^ Amazing Amazon hammock views.

The thing that makes both Chris and myself a little sad is that our camera didn’t have a better zoom, because some of the birds we saw were absolutely amazing, and our camera just wasn’t cutting it in terms of capturing their essence. But we spent four days in the Amazon, and it was both terrifying, beautiful and exhilarating. We did a lot of activities during the days, but we also had some time to relax, which was highly welcome.

After our Amazonian adventure, we packed ourselves back up, headed back out on the canoe rides and hikes that would eventually get us to the airport, and flew back to Quito, where we would have a half day before flying back out the next morning to … THE GALAPAGOS!

Guys, if you know me at all, you’ll know that making it to the Galapagos has been a dream of mine since my freshman year of college (so, you know, for a little while now!). Once we got there, it was more than I ever could hoped for. I can’t wait to share that experience with you tomorrow!

Bis bald for now, my friends!

Back to Machu Picchu, and the Hike That Practically Killed Me …

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Okay — to say that the 7-hour, 9.5.-mile hike we did of the Inca trail almost killed me would probably be a bit of an exaggeration … but let’s be honest friends — that schiz is hard! I honestly don’t know how people do the full, 4-day trek, with camping and stuff. They’re pretty awesome, that’s for sure!

After spending four days in Cusco getting acclimated to the altitude and checking out some of the other sites, we woke up around 6 a.m. on a Friday to head three hours on the train with our tour guide, Michael, to the spot on the Inca trail where we would be starting our trek.

Anyway, I have a ton of photos from this trek, and it was all hard — but at the end of it what I can seriously say is that I was so incredibly proud of both myself and Chris for having finished it (although let’s be honest — it was much harder for me than for Chris!)

Here’s a bit of what we saw on that hike:

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One little tale about the trek that I’d like to share was a sort of adorable one about my lunch. The night before we left it occurred to me that I should probably remind the B&B where we were staying (which was booked in conjunction with our entire Inca Trail/Machu Picchu hike) that I am a vegetarian, since they were packing our lunch for the next day. “Sure no problem!” they said.

Cut to our lunch on this intense hike the next day (you can probably see where I’m going with this). Our guide seemed really nervous about the lunch and kept saying, “Oh I really hope they packed your vegetarian!” He was eager for me to open my lunch so he could make sure it was the right stuff, and when I did he was so relieved. “Oh good, they did pack you a vegetarian!”

“Absolutely, looks great!” I assured him, even though what I was looking at was fried rice with ham.

It was really no biggie — I just ate around it. I figure in circumstances like this, when you’re traveling in different parts of the world and trying to be thoughtful of their own customs and traditions, it’s best to go with the flow as much as possible. Lucky for me, big pieces of ham are easy to eat around ;)

Anyway … after about seven hours of ups and (very few) downs and stairs and switchbacks, I was ready to be done! And thankfully we had quite the amazing payoff at the end of the hike, too:

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Not bad — am I right?! When you book the 2-day trek (at least when you book with Cusi Travel), what happens is you hike the Inca Trail all day, ending up at Machu Picchu late in the afternoon. You then take the bus (the crazy bus down the side of the hill where there is barely enough room for one vehicle, let alone the two that sometimes squeeze by each other!) down into Aguas Calientes — the town below Machu Picchu — to spend the night. We then got up super early the next morning to stand in line to catch the bus back to Machu Picchu for a tour with our guide, and we had decided to hike Huayna Picchu as well, so we’d be doing that without our guide around 10 a.m. the following day after our Inca Trail hike.

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A word now about the Huayna Picchu hike (before I share some of the absolutely stunning photos) — it’s terrifying. And when I saw terrifying, I mean terrifying! First off, it’s sometimes referred to as the “hike of death,” so you know, there’s that. See that tall-ass mountain that sticks straight up into the sky in the photo above? The one directly to the right of Machu Picchu. That is Huayna Picchu, my friends, and that is what we hiked the day after our Inca Trail hike. It’s 8,920 ft high, with barely any handrails or cover of any kind, and only 400 people are allowed to climb it every day in order to keep it from being too crowded. (If you want to learn more about the hike itself, if you’re considering it, I would read this, which has some really good info to prepare you before you decide either way.)

I’m going to be honest — I didn’t do any reading about the hike before we took it on. I had a friend who had done it a few years earlier and she recommended adding it to our Machu Picchu visit before our tour guide even recommended it to us (you have to sign up way in advance, since like I said before, only 400 people a day get to climb), so I took her lack of “Oh by the way it’s seriously scary and hard” conversation as proof that, you know, it wasn’t seriously scary or hard.

That was obviously my bad. (I will definitely be asking you for more info the next time you recommend anything travel related to me, Faye!)

Anyway, I’m now so incredibly glad that I didn’t do any reading about the hike ahead of time, because it may have scared me away from actually doing the hike, in which case I would have been robbed of an amazing feeling of accomplishment, not to mention these amazing, once-in-a-lifetime views:

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I mean … you can see why people chomp-at-the-bit and laugh at the potential of death to do this hike, right? Still — don’t say I didn’t warn ya!

And that, my friends, was pretty much our 2-day Macchu Picchu and Inca trail tour! Of course there is a ton that I’m leaving out about Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail itself (I mean we spent two full days at these places, so obviously there’s a lot to take in here), but if you’re interested in learning more about the amazing history of the place, I would suggest checking out this History Channel stuff about it, because they’ll do a much better job at describing it than I ever could hope to.

After Huayna Picchu, we caught the bus back into Aguas Calientes to grab a bite and do some shopping, then we caught the train back into Cusco to spend one last night at the Cusco B&B and in town before catching our flight to Ecuador early the next morning to start the second phase of our adventure — Quito, the Amazon and … drum roll please … the Galapagos Islands!

In honor of my favorite holiday, though (oh hey, Thanksgiving!), I’m going to go ahead and give the blog a break for the rest of the week. I’ll be back next week with the rest of our adventure, though — so for now everyone … enjoy your time with friends and family and loved ones on Thursday — I know I will!

Bis bald!

 

 

 

When in Peru, You Must Hike Machu Picchu

_DSC7916Oh hey there friends! Happy Thanksgiving week! To be honest, while I loved pretty much every single thing about traveling for the past four weeks, if I had to pick one week to be home, it would be this one. I welcome the fall weather, football games and eating myself silly on Thursday — here’s to the holidays!

But before all that happens, I’m hoping to get a few posts up about our South American adventure, since every day I wait is a day that more and more details slip away — and I hate that.

I thought I’d start out with some general details about our trip, in case that helps anyone who might be planning a trip to Peru in the near future, as well. For starters, we arrived two days early to allow ourselves to get acclimated to the altitude (we took the pills to alleviate altitude symptoms, too, and I’m really glad we did, since we barely had any problems at all with that), and that was something I’d highly recommend to anyone else planning a visit. We picked Hotel Torre Dorada to spend the first three nights in Peru, and it turned out to be the perfect spot to get acclimated. It was a little further from the city center, but the hotel offered a free cab service to and fro, so that really wasn’t a problem. Breakfast was included, and the rooms were super comfy.

_DSC7298^^ View from the rooftop at the hotel.

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Anyway, while we did spend the first two days getting acclimated, we also explored a bit of the city center and ate at some pretty tasty restaurants (Inka Grill for dinner our first night and Pacha Papa for lunch the second day were two highly notable places. Everyone who heard we were going to Cusco told us to also hit up Jack’s Cafe, which we did, and while I found the food to be good, it wasn’t a place that I particularly felt was truly authentic or anything all that amazing. If you’re looking for a good place for something easy and breezy like sandwiches or salads, though, this would be a good place to try.)

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_DSC7329^^ Super narrow streets and alleyways chock full of people made walking an interesting proposition as it was, but add in the high altitude and suddenly walking up even a couple flights of stairs would leave us breathless!

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_DSC7353^^ There are quite a few churches in the main square in Cusco. We didn’t happen to visit any of them, but they sure were pretty to look at.

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_DSC7370^^ All of the children wear uniforms to school in Peru, whether they go to public or private school, which I thought was so interesting, and not such a bad idea.

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_DSC7399^^ How funny was the balcony at this restaurant/bar? We took to lovingly referring to it as the “long skinny” bar. Still, the view was pretty unforgettable.

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While there’s so much I could say here about Cusco, in an effort to avoid making each destination’s blog post way too long, I’m going to go ahead and reiterate some info from an email I sent my family and some friends after we had been in Cusco for a couple of days:

–At first we thought Cusco was overrun with stray dogs, but it turns out these dogs all have owners, and there are no laws here that force them to be on leashes. Having said that, these pups all seem to be super friendly, and we are amazed by how little poop there is in the streets.

 

– The local people here drink a tea called “coca tea” made with coca leaves, which they believe helps with altitude sickness and calms the stomach. This coca leaf is the exact same leaf used to make cocaine, you just need an awful lot of it to make it even a little bit of the drug. I happen to think it’s gross, but Chris really did love him some coca tea.

 

– The average salary here is about 750 solas, per month, which is about $257, so you can see how it’s incredibly difficult for people to drag themselves out of poverty, which is so, so sad, because I don’t think I’ve ever met a more hard-working group of people. Many of the women here have taken to entrepreneurialism, however, and dress themselves and their children up in their fanciest Peruvian duds and stand near tourist hot spots with their baby llamas and alpacas and charge a solas or so for a photo with them (not a bad way to get money from a tourist, let me tell you).

 

–The Spanish seriously ruined Peru when they conquered it (something I probably should have learned in school) to include desecrating some amazing statues and artwork.

 

– The difference between a llama and an alpaca is that alpaca’s are shorter with shorter ears.

– The heaviest rock the Inca’s moved back in the day was 130 TONS. A couple years ago as an experiment the Peruvians tried to move a 30 ton rock using the traditional anchor methods the Inca’s would have used. It took 250 men and 30-40 minutes to move it 100 meters. The quaries where these rocks would have come from were four to seven miles away, across a river … so you do the math.

– After they finally evicted their corrupt president in the 1980s (who literally used to smuggle cocaine on his plane bc it wasn’t checked at the borders — although he did also eradicate national terrorism and helped set up a public education system) and put in place a new president, tourism skyrocketed. Tourism is now the biggest industry in Cusco.

– They eat guinea pigs here. And alpaca. ‘Nuff said.

– The women here carry their babies in bright bundles on their backs. It’s sort of adorable.

– The city of Cusco is actually higher elevation (10,991 ft) than Machu Picchu (7,874).

On our third day in Cusco we began our tour with Cusi Travel (which I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a Machu Picchu tour group), which included first a tour of some of the areas surrounding Cusco and Sacred Valley, as well as our Inca Trail hike and visit to Machu Picchu (we added on the Huayna Picchu hike to our tour as well, but I’m getting ahead of myself now …)

_DSC7446^^ Alpaca’s at Sacsayhuaman (pronounced “Sexy Woman”) outside of Cusco.

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^^ View of Cusco city from “Sexy Woman”.

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^^ We stopped at an animal rescue place on the way to Sacred Valley and got to see some pretty cool things, to include Condors taking flight.

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_DSC7558^^ The incredibly intricate work these women do seriously puts me in awe of them.
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 ^^ Views of Sacred Valley from above are breathtaking.

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_DSC7650^^ A visit to Ollantaytambo would be high on my list of things to do in Cusco as well. The indentions to the right in this photo were actually the “bank” of the Inca’s, where they kept the currency of the day, which was food. It was up so high because that kept the food dry and out of the elements. In the middle you might notice what appears to be a face carved into the mountain. It’s rumored that the Inca’s actually carved this face into the side of the mountain, but not everyone today actually still believes that to be the truth — some say it’s just coincidence.

 

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 Okay friends, since I’ve already gone ahead and broken my promise not to make this a long blog post, I’ll make Machu Picchu and the Inca trail a post unto itself (which defeats the purpose of my headline here, but hey, I’m a maverick.)
Anyway, check back tomorrow for the next and last installment of our Peru adventure — the Inca Trail, Machu Picchu and Huayanu Picchu. Bis bald, friends!

The 52 Project: November 24

_DSC0308^^ Well friends, this is the fourth and final photo that I’ll be posting for the ’52 Project’ series from our trip to South America. We saw this little guy when we were about halfway through our bus ride from Escazu to Tamarindo, Costa Rica, and he pretty much embodies what I think of when I think of Costa Rica. Vibrant. Lively. Fun. Pura Vida, baby! As I type this I’m sitting at my mom’s dining room table back in upstate New York. We arrived home from our trip around midnight last night, and I’m looking forward to going through all the photos and posting some more in-depth info from the trip which was, without a doubt, the trip of a lifetime.

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A Little Bit of Peru

Hi friends!

How’s it going? So Chris and I are currently in Quito, Ecuador, awaiting our flight out to the Amazon rainforest tomorrow (squeeee!). After the Amazon it’s on to the Galapagos (my No. 1 travel bucket list place, by the way … No big deal), then Costa Rica. We’ve been having an amazing (and somewhat eye-opening and life changing) time in South America so far, and while I don’t have time to share a ton of details right now (plus who can blog on an iPad? Not me!), I figured I could at least share some photos.

Here’s a bit of what we’ve seen so far:

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Bis bald, friends! More deets to come later!

The 52 Project: October 27

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^^ Well friends, it’s been an insane week. Chris and I packed up the past six years of our lives in apartment 4W in NYC, and we left yesterday for the first leg of our four-week South American tour, landing in Cusco, Peru, early this morning (hence this photo). I’ll do my best to keep you guys updated as the trip progresses, but I may not always have the Internet. Stay tuned!

The 52 Project: October 6

_DSC7284^^ This past weekend we celebrated our fifth (and final that we can actually attend) wedding celebration. This one was for my freshman college roommate, and it was held at Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Tarrytown, NY. Although the day started out gloomy and rainy, by the time we all made it back to the Country Club for the outdoor cocktail hour and photos, the skies had cleared and the sun was glorious. It turned out to be a beautiful day! Congrats to Carla & Ryan — we love you guys!

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One Final Morning in Albuquerque

Hi friends,

So yesterday was my last day in Albuquerque.

Sigh.

It really was an amazing, educational and exciting trip. Between the gorgeous scenery, delicious food, tasty drinks and fun activities, I’m not sure if I could say exactly what my favorite part of the trip was — I just know that it was all pretty spectacular.

For my last morning in New Mexico, the Albuquerque Convention & Visitor’s Bureau had set me up with an appointment at Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm.  I would be having breakfast with Nancy, their director of hospitality and sustainability, but my itinerary mentioned that I might want to show up a bit early so I could take in the “beautiful grounds”.

Ummm — they weren’t kidding when they said beautiful. Before getting to the photos, let me share a little bit about the Inn and farm, in general. The land where the Inn & farm are currently located was originally inhabited by the Anasazi (ancient pueblo Indians) in the 14th century, and in 1716 it was made part of the Elena Gallegos land grant. The original rach was owned by Ambrosio and Juan Cristobal Armijo, but it was reassembled by Albert and Ruth Simms in the 1930s. Today the Ranch encompasses 25 acres, which includes both the Inn and a working farm.  The area still features many important works of art and craftsmanship from back in the day, including John Gaw Meem (who was widely considered New Mexico’s greatest 20th century architect), Walter Gilbert (one of the only Albuquerque artists to have worked at Los Poblanos) and Laura Gilpin (one of the most important photographers of the Southwest). The Greely Garden was created by Rose Greely, a pioneer female landscape architect and designer of the 1932 formal Spanish-style gardens at Los Poblanos.

In addition to the beautiful land and artwork, the restaurant menu changes daily, and always features fresh ingredients right off the farm including eggs, honey, fruits and vegetables from the fields.

 

_DSC7146^^ The lavender fields weren’t in bloom right now, but how amazing are they?

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_DSC7182^^ We had these fresh figs with our breakfast. And while of course the figs I ate in Calabria that were grown on my family farm will always be No. 1 … I must say these were a seriously close second.

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_DSC7210^^ Although it was cold the morning I ate breakfast here, in warmer-weather months this portico is open to the Inn guests for them to eat their meals outside.

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_DSC7213^^ Organic is the name of the game here, and Nancy, who I ate breakfast with, does a great job at making sure they Inn stays as up-to-date as possible with the newest and best sustainable, organic practices.

_DSC7216^^ This library. To. Die. For.

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_DSC7223^^ The kitchen is a masterpiece, as well.

_DSC7224^^  Here is the chef, preparing meat for that day’s meal. All of the meat is either locally grown or raised right on the farm.

_DSC7230^^ The Farm Shop is a must-visit if you’re in the area. I learned about the different types of lavender (and got to smell them both) and tasted real balsamic vinegar — not that crap you buy in the store. Holy crap, friends — I don’t think I’ll ever feel the same way about the fake, store-bought kind again!

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_DSC7236^^ Gorgeous lavender bundles! If only I weren’t flying home!

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And that, my friends, was it. Spending my last morning on the farm was a fantastic way to end the trip with a bang. And while I would highly recommend doing any one (or all!) of the things that were on my itinerary, if you do decide to visit Albuquerque (and you should!), there is so much else to explore … the possibilities are endless.

Thanks again so much to the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau — you sure weren’t kidding when you said Albuquerque has a lot to offer!

Bis bald, friends — I’ll see you soon!

Hot Air Balloon Rides, Corn Mazes, Farms and Food in Albuquerque

Welcome to my second day in Albuquerque, my friends, wherein I woke up supremely early to do something that I was in my heart of hearts really hoping I would get to do while I was here — a hot air balloon ride!

I rode with the Rainbow Ryders, and it was everything I had hoped it would be and (so much) more. Despite the fact that I was woefully unprepared for the frigid morning air (wear sweaters and coats and closed-toe shoes and scarves if you’re lucky enough to go on a ride!), the weather warmed up pretty quickly, especially since we were standing right under blasting fire for an hour once we started on our way …

_DSC6871^^ Have I mentioned yet that it’s almost Balloon Fiesta here in Albuquerque, wherein hundreds of thousands of people flock to the city to watch the world’s largest (I can’t back that up, but seems like it should be!) hot air balloon show? Anyway, the field where all of this will take place is where we all go to set up the balloons.

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_DSC6892^^ Ours was the first of our whole group to head into the air. What can I say — we’re overachievers ;)

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_DSC6906^^ These balloons get up to 10,000 feet above sea level …

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After the ride, we toasted with mimosas and muffins back in the Balloon Fiesta field, and they even gave us these cute certificates to take home. It was a truly Albuquerque-ian thing to do, and I’m so glad I got the chance.

After the ride (which starts at 6:15, but the way), I had a little time before my lunch meeting, so I took up one of the suggestions from the Albuquerque Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (who invited me out here, if you’ll remember) and visited Wagner’s Farmland Experience. Even the road out to the farm is picturesque, with little fruit stops and restaurants on the way, and the farm itself had some pretty spectacular views.

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_DSC7045^^ Who doesn’t love a good petting zoo?

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_DSC7054^^ The 2014 corn maze is up at Wagner’s right now and I thought … “What the heck? It can’t be that hard, right?” WRONG. I am seriously directionally challenged, my friends. Lucky for me a group of elementary school kids were tackling the maze and I followed them out of the thing. (Not without lots of confused looks and questions, though.) And a big shout out to my husband for trying to help me find the way out of the maze, from all the way back in Manhattan, using Google maps :) I’m not sure if that’s cool or creepy …

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_DSC7065^^ The end of the maze led you out to a cute little pumpkin patch.

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So, once that adventure was over, it was back into the car to head to lunch at El Pinto, a spectacular New Mexican restaurant with an amazing outdoor garden and eating area (and even more amazing tequila, as I would come to find out).

_DSC7069^^ The house Margherita is anything but ordinary.

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_DSC7085^^ Look at that bar, my friends! They’ve got 160 types of tequila here!

_DSC7089^^ They even bottle personal tequila for patrons who can purchase it at the restaurant and keep it there for any time they come in.

_DSC7095^^ Oh, and by the way, a warehouse in the back makes 25,000 cans of salsa each day to distribute. This is their special version specifically for Balloon Fiesta weekend.

_DSC7097^^ And here was my tequila tasting. All in a day’s work, friends, all in a day’s work.

_DSC7104^^ After lunch I was taken to the back to see the warehouse and the garden, where the restaurant is starting to try to grown some of the foods that they’ll later prepare.

_DSC7110^^ Dessert was the restaurant’s version of a tiramisu, called Levante. It’s made with biscochitos, the traditional New Mexican cookie (they were declared so by the New Mexico Legislature in 1989, and were first introduced to Mexico by Spanish settlers who brought the recipe from Spain). This dessert was every bit as decadent as it looks, my friends.

After lunch I had stops at two breweries. The first was the Red Door Brewing Company, which actually just opened its doors about three weeks ago. Their cider was actually my favorite drink (that and the milk stout), and it actually has the highest alcohol content, as well. (Boy do I know how to pick ‘em.) Since it was early when I got there (around 1:30), there weren’t too many other people around yet, but three cyclists came in about 15 minutes before I had to leave, and it was really great talking to them. One of the two men in the group was with the traveling tour of Wicked, which is in town now, and the two others were taking him around on their own, self-made Breaking Bad bike tour(Ummm, here’s where I admit that I’ve never watched the show. Sorry Albuquerque! Before I come back I promise to give it a go!)

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After Red Door I moved on to a brewery staple here in Albuquerque — Marble Brewery. This place had a nice patio outside where they bring live performers, too.

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While I’d love to say that I kept going strong after Marble Brewery, the truth is, friends, that this gal needed a little nap. Unfortunately that means that I’ll probably not get to make it out to the Nob Hill area of the city, which is disappointing. But I still have one more fun activity planned for tomorrow, so that leaves me with a bit of something to look forward to after what can only be described as an amazing, entertaining trip.

Dinner Wednesday night, by the way, was at Mas, the tapas restaurant right inside my hotel, and I was given a tour of the hotel as well, which turned out to be especially important since apparently I was seriously missing out on so many amazing facts about this place.

But let’s start with dinner. Hot gouda apple bake w/ crostini, patatas bravas (crispy fried potatoes w/spicy mayo), bruschetta de la boca (toasted bread w/ mushroom-manchego cream, fried egg & truffle oil) and grilled artichokes w/spanish goat cheese, orange zest and mint.

And those were our appetizers.

Dinner for me was the classic veggie paella – and absolutely everything was to. die. for.

And now a bit more about this amazing hotel. The hotel has been around since 1939, when Conrad Hilton completed it as his first New Mexican hotel for $700,000. At the time, it was the tallest building in New Mexico, and the first in all of New Mexico to have air conditioning.

In 1984 the building was placed on the National register of Historic Places, and after being purchased a few additional times, it was finally sold to Gary Goodman in 2005 and promptly shut down for four years for $30 million-worth of renovations. Despite the renovations, though, a lot of the original existing structure runs throughout the hotel, still.

_DSC7121^^ While Goodman originally envisioned this room directly across from the restaurant to be open as a sort of nightclub to the general public, he quickly realized that the general public didn’t necessarily mesh well with the upscale clientele staying at the hotel, and so now only private, ticketed events happen here.

_DSC7124^^ I know this isn’t the greatest photo, but please stick with me here. So one of the hotel staff currently working at Andaluz actually has worked at this hotel ever since it first opened its doors. When Goodman purchased the hotel in ’05, he turned to this staffer to learn more about what the place was like back in its heyday. During one of these conversations, he learned about a mural — this mural– that had been painted on one of the main walls as you enter the hotel and that had since been painted over. So he commissioned an artist to recreate the original painting from old photos. This is exactly as the photo was back when the hotel first opened, with the one small exception of the third figure’s ankle, which is slightly off the ground. The artist did this to leave his mark on his work, but otherwise the painting is an exact replica.

_DSC7126^^ These casbahs can be rented out and hotel guests can have dinner and drinks in them privately.

_DSC7128^^ So this wooden structure — which is actually much larger than this photo lets on — was originally commissioned to hang in the elevators, but didn’t pass fire code. So the panels were quickly removed and sent to the basement, where they spent many years until they were moved up to the main lobby for all to enjoy.

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_DSC7130^^ So I know this might seem like a mistaken photo of the floor, but it’s actually seriously cool! So back in the days when the hotel first opened, the reception area used to be where the casbahs are now situated. The bellman would stand in this one spot, because he had the perfect vantage point to see guests coming in from both entrances. And for this reason alone, that very spot is actually worn out in certain spots, and when you stand on it, you can feel the dipping where the bellman’s standing has worn out the tile. That’s pretty incredible, is it not?

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^^ The library is definitely one of my favorite rooms.
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^^ And this is Ibiza, the 2nd floor, outdoor rooftop bar for the hotel.

Which brings me to one final note about this awesome hotel – it’s sustainability. From their solar heated water systems and compost system to the building’s seriously advanced energy management system (the rooms literally use sensors to detect when a person is in the room or not and uses that to determine when lights/heat/air should be on and off), Andaluz is one of the greenest spots in Albuquerque hands down.

Alright friends — well that’s been the bulk of my trip, for sure. I head back to good ole’ NYC tomorrow after a quick pit stop at one more place. It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s been so much fun. It’s been real, Albuquerque … and I have a definite feeling you’ll be seeing me again some day!

Bis bald, friends!

Tramways, Breweries, Rattlesnakes and More in Albuquerque

Hi friends,

So these past few days have been a whirlwind, but I wanted to try to get stuff down as it’s happening, so I’ll do my best to get through this post (even though my eyes are drooping as I type — so please forgive any typos!). The good people at the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau so kindly invited me out to New Mexico for a press trip, which of course I happily accepted. I flew out early Monday morning and arrived around 5 p.m. Monday evening.

And I’ve been on the go ever since.

So of course I have about 1,000 photos to share, and I figured the best way to go about this (at least the first two-days’ worth) is to explain via photo what I’ve done so far on my trip. For starters, I’m staying at Hotel Andaluz, which is located conveniently in downtown Albuquerque and is so stunningly modern and wonderful I can’t stand it. I’ll be having dinner at the restaurant here tomorrow night, too, so I’ll be sure to share how that goes.

Anyway, on to a bit of what I’ve seen so far. Hold on to your hats kids — it’s been a wild two days!

Continue reading

A Day Trip to Phoenicia and Otter Falls

This past Sunday, Chris took me on a little day trip to Phoenicia, New York [which is about an hour away from where my mom lives in Newburgh] and then to Otter Falls, where he and a bunch of his friends run a relay every year.

But first, we stopped for pancakes at Sweet Sue’s Restaurant, which has a 24 Zagat rating for food and a seriously slammin’ menu of pancake options.

_DSC5808^^ Gotta love a town that puts on a rubber duckie race.
(And clearly reuses the sign year after year — so economical!)

_DSC5809^^ That’s a pretty spectacular backdrop for the Phoenicia Pharmacy, if I do say so myself.

_DSC5810^^ Cute little, awesome Sweet Sue’s Restaurant.

_DSC5811^^ Holy pancake menu!

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_DSC5814^^ These were my — wait for it — carrot. cake. pancakes.
With cream cheese sauce. ‘Nuff said.

_DSC5815^^ Chris went the savory route and got fresh corn cakes — equally delish.

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_DSC5819^^ As of 2014, Phoenicia was home to 299 residents. I seriously love that.

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_DSC5822^^ Mystery spot indeed.

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_DSC5829^^ This eagle originated in Grand Central.
Here’s how it ended up in Phoenicia.

After loading up on pancakes, we headed to Otter Falls, which is about a 20-minute drive from Phoenicia. Here’s what the Hudson Valley Visit Vortex has to say about this swimming hole:

Located on state land, a small, but adventurous, side trail leads to the spectacular falls cascading down about 30 feet to a large deep basin measuring about 20 to 30 feet in diameter with a center depth between 6 and 8 feet. With recent rains it should be like a giant, cold-water Jacuzzi, say the locals. Otter Falls is only about a half-mile from the popular Giant Ledge trail parking area, making it an excellent stop after a hot, sweaty hike. Sundown, lat=42.0314, lon=-74.4201

Directions: From I-87, get off at Exit 19, Kingston exit, RT 28. Go northwest on RT 28 about 25 miles to Phoenicia. Then:To get here from RT 28 in Phoenicia: Continue west on Rt 28 through Shandaken to Big Indian. Turn south (left) on RT 47 (set odometer) and go about 6.6 miles to a telephone pole with mile post #167 1/2 on it. Other things to look for are the state land signs (the yellow ones with the DEC logo). This state land is the only State land on the west side of Route 47 in Big Indian Valley. (If you come to the “hairpin turn”, an extremely sharp right hand turn, on RT 47, you have gone about .5 mile too far.)

To find it after you park, you walk along the highway and search for the tree with the 111A 167 1/2 numbers on it [which was my ‘Photo of the Day’ photo from yesterday]. It’s a pretty fun, secluded little spot — definitely worth checking out.

_DSC5840^^ It’s only about 500 meters from the highway to the waterfall so,
you know, my kind of hike!

_DSC5842^^ Ooooohhhh — pretty!

_DSC5858^^ I kept this photo because that black and white blur at the bottom right of the photo is a butterfly that was buzzing all around me. I snapped this one shot quickly, not hopeful to actually capture the little booger, and this is what I got. I kinda love it.

_DSC5859^^ We played around in the water leading into the waterfall for a bit.
And when I say “we”, I mean “Chris”.

 And that’s about it, ya’ll! I’d highly recommend a trip to the water hole on a hot summer day — nothing beats it.

Bis bald, friends!

Our Final Days of Spring Break 2014: Denver, Colorado

Denver. Ah, Denver. Our third and final stop on our short little tour of Colorado.

You see, we’ve heard lots of amazing things about this city. We have a handful of friends and family members who live here, and they just seem to love, love, love, love, love it.

Like … really, they love it a lot.

So we had high expectations, to say the least.

We started our tour of Denver with a quick drive around the city to familiarize ourselves with it. We drove through Cheeseman Park (so cute!), and stopped off in the Capitol Hill area to take in a few of the more touristy aspects …

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Photo 3^^ Cheesy tourist photos — they’re kind of a must … am I right?!

After hanging around on our own for a while, we met up Thursday evening with my brother-in-law’s sister and her fiancee. (Did ya catch that?) Anyway, Rachel and Steve have lived in Denver for a bunch of years now, and they are two of those people I mentioned before who just love, love love it there ;)

They took us to the Vine Street Pub & Brewery for dinner, which was super chill and relaxed. We went outside with beers from the bar and watched people playing Cornhole while we waited for our table … it was that relaxed.

And that was about it for Thursday, since we didn’t get into Denver until around 1 anyway. Friday, however, we had quite the touristy day. We woke up early so that we could head out to the Red Rocks Amphitheater, which was simply stunning.

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Photo 5^^ We were shocked  at how much exercising went on here!
Seriously, people everywhere running up and down the stairs,
jumping the rocks, running every single row … fascinating!
I guess if you have to work out, you can’t have a
better backdrop then at Red Rocks, right?

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Red Rocks was about an hour outside of Denver, and we spent a couple hours there just taking it all in. So by the time we made it back into the city, we were starving!

Thank God for Mexican food when you’re starving … am I right?! And  Rio Grande in the LoDo section did not disappoint.

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We sat outside under umbrellas in the 70-degree weather (hello, summer!), eating our burritos and drinking our margaritas. [A word to the wise: Watch it on the margaritas here. A single drink contains 3.5 shots of tequila! That’s why they have a three drink maximum on the margs, particularly. We should know, we asked ;)]

After lunch I headed across the street to buy an outrageously expensive tee from Patagonia (I was desperate! I hadn’t read the weather beforehand and was wearing two long-sleeved shirts … and I was sweltering!), and then we caught the free 16th Street MallRide shuttle over to Commons Park, where we hopped on bikes from the Denver Bike Share program and rode over the South Platte River to the section of Denver known as The Highlands.

And oh my goodness did we love it here, my friends! And it wasn’t just because of Little Man Ice Cream (although that did help a lot ….)

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This whole area had a very relaxed, young, happening atmosphere. It was very cool, to say the least.

So after scarfing down some ice cream (don’t ask me how I did that after eating a ton of Mexican for lunch … I have a superhuman stomach, this is for certain), we hopped back on our bikes and rode as fast as possible back to the LoDo section to meet up with Chris’s old boss for drinks at Freshcraft before heading off to the Washington Park section of Denver to meet up with our cousin and her husband and baby.

Sheesh we really crammed a lot into one full day, didn’t we!?

Anyway, Courtney and Charlie’s place was adorable, and they were so lovely to get a babysitter for the evening so that they could come back out with us for dinner at the Ale House and a couple of brewskies afterwards at Denver Beer Co. (Which, by the way, might have been my favorite brewery of all the ones we visited. It was late when we arrived — in fact we stayed until closing at midnight — but the big garage doors that make up the front of the place were thrown open from the warmer weather earlier in the day, and everyone was hanging out on picnic tables with their dogs. Very fun.)

And that, as they say, was that, my friends. It was a lot  to do in one day, but I’m really glad that we got to fit in as much as we did on Friday. I wasn’t convinced that we had seen everything Denver had to offer on Thursday (I mean that’s a stupid thing to even write, because of course we didn’t. It’s impossible to see everything any city has to offer in one day), but Friday gave me a better look at the Denver that I had heard so much about.

And that I really, truly, look forward to going back to.

Okay friends, so I’m off again next week — wahoo! This time I’ll be heading to Washington, D.C. to spend the week with a friend for her birthday. This is the friend I went to Florida with, and the one who when I visit we generally hang out and do nothing but eat and drink and chat. (Except for when she has me crafting like crazy for her sister’s baby shower)  — but this time we’ve promised each other that we will get out and about into the city to actually do something historical. Or fun. Or both.

But we’ll just have to wait to see how that goes ;)

Bis bald, friends!

 

 

Spring Break Day 3: Breckenridge, Colorado

On our third day into our trip to Colorado last week, we loaded back into the car in Boulder and headed on the two hour ride to Breckenridge. (Thank you for always saying that you would drive, Brian! I absolutely did not love driving that tank of a car we got from the rental place!)

Anyway, the road into Breckenridge is a long, windy, at times hazardous one, and we’ve been told by the locals that during peak seasons, the traffic can get pretty backed up.

Which makes sense, because Breckenridge is amazing! Simply put — it’s gorgeous. And quaint. And if you love snowboarding or skiing (which both Chris and my sister’s boyfriend do), then there’s almost nowhere better for that.

We checked into our hotel —the DoubleTree by Hilton … I love how they give you warm cookies when you check in! — and immediately turned the humidifier on in our room.

So a note about Breckenridge — it’s high up in the air, friends. At 9,600 feet above sea level, lots of people (my sister included) tend to get altitude sickness here. You may get a headache or feel lightheaded. It could be difficult for you to catch your breathe, you might feel like you’re breathing through a straw or your mouth and nose could get dry. Steph’s altitude sickness wasn’t too bad (just general tiredness and a headache), so that was lucky, and none of the rest of us seemed to feel it at all, which is great, because I was worried. Chris and I are heading off to climb Machu Picchu in the fall, so I was using this as a sort of test for how I might do in those high altitudes.

So far so good, friends. Phew!

Anyway, as the boys headed to the mountains (they could ski there directly from our hotel!), Steph and I hit up the outdoor hot tub at the hotel, then headed into the town (there was a free shuttle service both to and from our hotel as well, although it really wasn’t all that much of a walk to get into town, anyway), for lunch and a little shopping.

01^^ So cute — and look at those mountains in the distance!

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03A^^ Meanwhile, the boys were here …

03B^^ Gorgeous views.

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While in town Steph and I stumbled into one store in particular with a salesman who I can really truly only describe as curmudgeon-ey. He was an older gentleman — perhaps in his late 70s, early 80s — and when we told him we were from New York (he asked!), he proceeded to regale us with stories about how you can die from altitude sickness within 24 hours, and how the local doctor recommends drinking 8 ounces of water every hour, and how we really, really needed to be careful because it’s actually quite scary ….

Thanks, Mr. Curmudgeon. We didn’t actually ask you for that info … but thanks for sharing?

Anyway, it was pretty much right after that store that Steph decided she had had enough of the town and wanted to head back to the hotel to rest.

Coincidence? I think maybe not ;)

Anyway, I was happy to oblige. So off we went, back in the free shuttle (same driver. He was a young kid just out of college who had spent a semester traveling around Africa and his first winter break as a college graduate working the slopes at Breckenridge. His next plan was to move to Florida for the summer and get his license to work as a deckhand. Nice life, buddy!) to the hotel, where we chilled in the swampy, humidifed air until the boys came back. (With beers, of course!)

That night we headed back into the town to the Breckenridge Brewery, sans Stephanie, for dinner and drinks. The brewery was very chill, totally relaxed, and exactly as we had by now come to expect from the plethora of Colorado breweries.

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We didn’t hang out too long in town after dinner, since Steph was back at the hotel, but we did manage to talk the little one into coming back down to the hot tubs to hang out with us for the evening, which turned out to be quite lovely.

An outdoor hot tub. The setting sun. Some Colorado beer and your hubby. It’s a pretty happy scene — am I right?!

The next morning we were checking out to make the approximately 90 minute drive to Denver, but first we headed to the Blue Moose Restaurant for breakfast. (And Bloody Mary’s and coffee, of course!)

And that, my friends, was our Breckenridge experience. It was short, but oh so very sweet! (For those of us who didn’t feel sick, of course. I think it’s safe to say Steph may never be going back …)

Tomorrow it’s on to Denver, my friends! Bis bald!

 

A Spring Break Trip to Boulder

Hi friends,

So … we’re back! Last week Chris, my sister, her boyfriend and myself all took off on Spirit airlines (hold onto your hats, friends, because I plan to write an article about the notoriously low-rated airline and link to it here!) to head to Denver. Our itinerary for the week included trips to Boulder, Breckenridge and Denver. This was a particularly important trip, my friends, because Chris and I are planning a potential move to Colorado in the winter — but we had yet to actually visit the great state.

So you see — important!

Anyway, we were contemplating both Boulder and Denver as potential new cities for us, and Breckenridge was thrown in there so the boys could ski/snowboard for a day. We hit up Boulder first so that we would end the trip back in Denver, where we would be flying out of on Saturday.

I think probably the best way for me to tackle this trip is to take it by city — so Boulder today, Breckenridge tomorrow and Denver the next.

So Boulder first it is!  After landing at the Denver airport and being conned into upgrading our rental car to an SUV (well maybe not so much conned — having the sturdier car to drive in the mountains to Breckenridge turned out to be not so much of a bad thing …), we hit the road for our 50 minute drive to Boulder.

Boulder is …. so many things. It’s beautiful and open and entertaining and relaxing. It’s a lot of things all rolled into one — it’s just not a place that Chris and I can necessarily see ourselves living just yet. So as much as we liked it, I think it’s safe to say Boulder was ruled out as a place for us to take up residence in a few months.

Here’s a bit of what we did …

1^^ The Twisted Pine Brewery is an absolute must if you’re in Boulder.
For as many breweries as we ended up visiting, Chris and I both say
this was our favorite. We got the sampler for starters, which had so many
amazing beers for tasting. The food was pretty fantastic, as well.

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3^^ Yummmm … beer!

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Okay ya’ll — here’s where we have to discuss the big ole’ elephant in the room, and that elephant, my friends, is marijuana. So as anyone who’s from the U.S. and doesn’t live under a rock will know, weed is now completely legal in the state of Colorado. This is of course infinitely amazing to some, completely annoying to others, and neither here nor there to even more. Whether or not it’s amazing, annoying or neither here nor there to me wasn’t really the point (although I guess if I were forced to pick a category, I’d have to go with neither here nor there …), because I’m pretty intrigued by it. Like, how does it work? What’s it like to buy a drug that has always been illegal, legally? How much does it cost? How do they sell it? What kind of people go to these stores?

I had to know! So … we found one.

The experience of buying weed is, I guess I would have to say, a bit weird. For this particular store, we walked into the front room and were greeted by “security.” (I use the term “security” loosely and with quotation marks because these guys were so friendly and chill, I can’t imagine them ever actually getting security-ish about anything …). So we showed our IDs (you do at least have to be 21, after all), and headed into the small room where the weed was kept. There were, for lack of a better term, salesmen behind the counters whose job it was to point you in the right direction. How much were you interested in smoking? What type of weed were you interested in smoking? When was the last time you smoked, and how much do you think you could handle?

Completely and totally intriguing.

5A^^ Weed in the form of edibles. I still can’t get over it.

Our entire experience lasted maybe 15 minutes, and we were out of there. We went in. We saw.

I’ve had enough ;)

That night we drove downtown to check out the Downtown Boulder area and the Pearl Street Mall, which was very adorable. We ate at West End Tavern under heat lamps in their upstairs, lofted area. It was super cute, and very tasty — I’d very much recommend it.

After a long day of traveling we were pretty exhausted, so we went to bed early so we could rise early for our  amazing hike of the Flatirons Vista Loop.

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The trail was amazing. Obviously very scenic, not too difficult and only somewhat muddied from the recent snow. I’m really glad we did it, though. After the hike we headed over to the Boulder Beer brewery, where we shared an appetizer and drank what turned out to be $1.50 beers.

ONE DOLLAR AND FIFTY CENTS, PEOPLE! I’m not sure you can get gum for that much in the city, anymore.

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We ended our last night in Boulder with another trip to the downtown area (to include the amazing Boulder Bookstore where I purchased two recent releases for less than $20!) for dinner and then drinks and Yahtzee at West Flanders Brewery.12

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13B^^ Yahtzee!!

And that was about it for our Boulder experience, my friends. Breweries, hikes and weed. I’d say that’s a pretty good summary ;)

The next morning we were off bright and early to Breckenridge, and I’ll update you all about that tomorrow.

Bis bald, friends!

P.S. In case anyone was wondering, we stayed at the La Quinta Inn that was actually in Louisville, Colorado, about a 10 minute drive from Boulder. The price was infinitely cheaper than anything we found directly in Boulder, though, so if you don’t mind doing a little driving, I would highly recommend it.

 

Jupiter and Marathon Key

Well friends, I’m back from what can only be described as an epic girlfriend’s trip. Although it did take both myself and my friend Lisa a couple days to unwind from a few recent projects that we only justbarely turned in before we left for Florida, once we did relax, it was resplendent.

The fact that I was gone for 10 days means that I can’t really go through every single detail of the trip, but I did want to bring up a few important points, the first being about where Lisa’s parents live:

  • My friend’s parents live in Jupiter, Florida, which is where we spent Thursday through Sunday at the beginning of our trip, as well as Saturday and Sunday at the end. If you happen to find yourself in Jupiter ever, you must visit Castaways (aka the Square Grouper Tiki Bar), Dune Dog Cafe and Guanabanas. [If you drive your boat to Guanabanas and dock it there, you get a 10% discount. Lisa’s dad would have wanted me to tell you that ;)]

1^^ Gorgeous flowers in the Gerry’s backyard.

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3^^ How amazing is this? These are the mangroves that you walk through in
Lisa’s parent’s backyard to get to where their boat is docked.

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5^^ I could have ridden around on that boat all day, just checking out the gorgeous houses.

6^^ The sand bar.

6A^^ Lisa’s parents took us to Dune Dog’s on our first night,
and Lisa taught me the proper way to crack crabs. Thanks, Lise!

6B

6C

6D^^ The famous Jupiter lighthouse.

6E^^ Oh my goodness you guys. Lisa’s dad works on the Everglades Restoration,
so he’s big into the environment. Lucky for me, because I’m pretty much obsessed with animals
and the environment. I loved hearing from him about all the work they’re doing, as well as visiting the
Loggerhead Marinelife Center and turtle rehab hospital. All the sea turtles this organization has
rescued — or that people have rescued and brought there — are swimming around
in their own tanks in the Center as they rehabilitate. How. Adorable. Are. They??

6F^^ I also made my first visit to a Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. on this trip — wahoo!
This particular Bubba Gump’s was right on the water and had live music.
We ordered every single appetizer on the menu and fancy Mojitos. Not too shabby.

Anyway, after checking out the amazingness of Jupiter for a few days, Lisa and I hopped into her mom’s car and headed down South to our second stop — Marathon Key.

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So this particular Key, my friends, is unlike Key West (if that’s your only experience with the Keys, as was mine). This Key is much, much more … well, low key. Lisa’s parents have owned this particular timeshare at Hawks Nest in Marathon since before Lisa was even born, and Lisa’s whole family has been visiting her entire life. The 7-mile bridge is only a handful of feet from Hawks Nest (cars can no longer drive on the old bridge — which is right next to the newly constructed bridge — so it’s only for walkers and bikers. The old bridge where you can walk is actually only a little over 2 miles in distance each way, so about a 4-mile round trip.), and Lisa and I walked that almost every day. We saw sharks and dolphins and manta rays and starfish and tarpon … it was just one of the most amazing things ….

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8^^ Where we plopped ourselves every single day after our bridge walk. Hello, ocean!

8A

 

8B^^ I posted this little guy yesterday as my photo of the week, but how cute is he!?
He came up and swam with this group of children for over an hour,
letting them rub his belly and feed him fresh water from a hose.

8C^^ Did I mention it was my birthday while we were there? Ugh, I’m old ;)
But my sweet, sweet husband made me feel better about being old
by sending me a letter and necklace while I was away, as well as flowers
and he treated us to breakfast on my birthday, as well.
That’s some hubby, I have!

8D^^ Birthday flowers.

8E^^ Beers with a view. (That’s the 7-mile bridge in the background …)

8F

8G^^ Iguanas were everywhere! We went kayaking through the mangroves
on my birthday (which was insanely awesome!) and our tour guide told us
that she had grown up in Marathon, but that the iguanas had really
become prolific lately, most likely due to people getting them as pets
and then releasing them in the wild once they get too big.

8H^^ Bloody Mary’s at the Sunset Grille & Raw Bar right next to Hawks Nest on our last full day.
We won’t go into detail in terms of how many of these we had …

8I^^ Iguana crossing.

8J^^ Cheeky French Toast on my birthday. Thanks husband!

8K^^ Lisa made shrimp boil for dinner on my birthday. Ummm … it’s my new favorite thing!

8L^^And she made this delicious dessert with homemade whipped cream.
I’m seriously one spoiled lady …

8M^^ Lisa and I took a liking to swinging in the hammocks in the
late afternoon. This was our view.

8N^^ Fried Key Lime Pie at Burdine’s Waterfront on our last full day.
It was every bit as delicious as it looks.

8O^^ We took in the spectacular sunset on our last night and caught
this man paddle boarding with his water-loving pup.
So cute!

8P^^Making pic stitch’s of our time together may have become a theme ;)

After spending seven days in Marathon, I think it’s safe to say all of our cares had melted away. Despite all our relaxation, though, we managed to fit a lot in as well, with the bridge walks and kayaking — we even made it to Key West one night to visit friends and have dinner at Blue Heaven. We left Saturday to drive back to Lisa’s parents’ place in Jupiter, where we once again took advantage of the fabulous weather to take one more long boat ride.

8Q^^ This was an actual hot dog/hamburger stand in the middle of the water. Genius.

8R^^ Ahhh! We saw so many alligators on Saturday’s boat ride! It was crazy!

Saturday night we watched True Lies with Lisa’s parents, since the second to last scene in that movie actually takes place on the 7-mile bridge. So that’s pretty cool.

And that was about it, my friends — our girlfriend’s getaway in a nutshell. We head off to Colorado this upcoming Monday — Boulder, Breckenridge and Denver — with my sister and her bf, so that should be absolutely amazing, as well.

Bis bald, friends! Let me leave you with these awesome moments of beautifulness ….

 

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Life Lately: Late Feb 2014 Edition

Two months down in this new year of ours, my friends — unbelievable!

Here’s a little bit of what’s been going on in our neck of the woods …

Iceland_Views

^^ The views in Iceland were astonishing.

Hut_Climb

^^ Climbing the fish hut to take photos in Iceland.

Northern_Lights

^^ Chasing the Northern Lights

WAter_Fall

^^ The Gullfoss Waterfall.

Geysir_Iceland

^^ Watching geysirs (that’s how they spell it in Iceland) erupt.

Grand_Central

^^ Walking through Grand Central to the subway after our Valentine’s Day drinks at The Campbell Apartment.

Central_Park_Snow

^^ How much did I love this man and his dog in snowy Central Park?

Toy_Fair

^^ I checked out the annual Toy Fair at the Javits Center for a story I was writing.
It’s so much fun seeing all the new toys for the year!

Penny_the_Cat

^^ This face. Kills me every time.

Shrimp_N_Grits

^^ Shrimp and grits for dinner, inspired by our brunch at East End Kitchen,
which serves shrimp and grits as well, but they’re pre-made
with bacon so I couldn’t have them. Our take was better ;)

Bis bald, friends! Hope everyone’s having an amazing year so far! I’ll be heading to Marathon Key with a friend for my birthday in a few weeks. With the winter we’ve been having, I could definitely go for a little bit of sun, that’s for sure.

Our Icelandic Adventure: Day 3

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Last Sunday Chris and I were attempting to wake ourselves up at a reasonable time, after having partied until the wee wee (way past our bedtime) hours  the night before. Luckily for us, the hotel stopped serving breakfast at 10 a.m., a perfect excuse to make sure we got our butts out of bed in time for that.

We were lazy that morning after breakfast (Chris sleeping a bit more, me checking out this truly amazing record store that was on our street — if you love music and you’re in Iceland you must go here … ), but in the afternoon we had booked the Gulfoss and Geysir Express Tour , and I was dying to get out and see more of the Icelandic countryside.

I would explain to you a bit about the tour, but the explanation from the company site is pretty helpful:

“Take an afternoon tour from Reykjavik to experience geysers, waterfalls and some of the most exciting natural phenomena Iceland has to offer. In just six hours you’ll visit the country’s best known historical sites and natural wonders perfect if your time in Iceland is limited.

You will visit Thingvellir, where the Icelandic parliament Alpingi was established in 930. It is here in this geologically unique place that the slowly diverging tectonic plates of America and Europe meet. In 2004 Thingvellir was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The tour also takes you to the famous Gullfoss waterfall, the spouting hot spring of Geysir and Strokkur. Continuing your journey to Hveragerdi, a small but beautiful horticultural town, you will see how geothermal energy has been harnessed for the unique greenhouse cultivation of all kinds of vegetables, exotic fruit and flowers.”

Here’s a bit of what we saw on that trip …

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Photo 4^^ Shifting tectonic plates — how cool is that?! Directly across the water from us was the U.K.
And at one point driving on this tour you are on the North American continent,
then you literally drive over the line into Europe. I love stuff like that.

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Photo 6

Photo 7^^ Short, fat horses are everywhere in Iceland! Driving through the countryside
on this tour was absolutely breathtaking. One thing we learned about the horses, though –
if they don’t perform up to Icelandic standards, or aren’t of the right temperament, they get eaten.
Our tour guide would say: “Well, if the horse is mean or can’t get along with the other
horses, we have a solution for that …” Oh and also, riding horses is a perfectly
acceptable way to get around town in these smaller towns. So if you go to a bar,
you may see a line of horses parked outside because, as our guide says, they
have strict laws in Iceland about driving cars when you’re drunk … but  not so much for horses.

Photo 8^^ How beautiful is the Gulfoss waterfall? It was at the restaurant here that
Chris had traditional Icelandic Meat Soup with lamb and vegetables.
Our tour guide said this is something people from Icelandic typically eat every week.

Photo 9

Photo 10

Photo 11

Photo 12^^ And the geysirs … the amazing, awesome geysirs.

Photo 12A

Photo 13^^ They had little signs next to each one telling you how hot they were.
This one was around 80 degrees. Hot!

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Photo 20

I should mention here a few things about Iceland that I haven’t yet. For starters, the water that comes out of their tap is natural spring water — some of the best water in the world. There is no need for bottled water or filters here. (Which is why when I tried to buy a bottle at the grocery store the night before, the clerk told me to put it back. “This is the same as what comes out of your faucets. A waste of money to buy this,” he said. Thanks for the tip, Mr!) The hot water is also natural, geothermally heated water, and it has that sulfer, rotten egg smell? You know the one I’m talking about? At first it’s a bit off-putting, but after a while you tend to get used to it and barely even notice.

It was on this tour that the guide talked to us about the economy in Iceland. Since the government went bankrupt a few years back, everything in the country had become astronomically expensive for the locals (which we can attest to), but much, much cheaper for travelers. For example — the dinner we ordered later Sunday night would have cost us $170 Krona, but we paid for it on credit card, and it only came out to $106. There is no minimum wage in Iceland, they pay 40% of their wages to taxes, and there are very few “good” jobs, with most of those jobs located in Reykjavik. This means many people can’t afford to actually live in Reykjavik, because it’s too expensive, but they have to work there to make even a decent wage — and they end up commuting hours every day, and working up to 10 hours a day, just to make ends meet. People are fleeing the country in droves, our guide said — to include important professionals, like doctors. To make matters worse, there is really no rental market in Iceland, meaning people are forced to buy their homes, even when they can’t necessarily afford to.

Very sad.

Oftentimes people who work in one place and live in another hitch rides with the tour buses for free if there is extra room. We ended up giving a young girl a ride from her job at the geysirs to the town where she lived about 25 minutes away. It was all very interesting.

Back in Reykjavik we decided to head out for our last night on the town. We made our way back to Bunk (which, if you’ll recall, we had tried the night before but it was closing), and really loved it. It had a very low-key, laid back vibe, and was the perfect place to relax before heading out to dinner.

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Photo 24^^ Andddddd, we tried Brennivin — aka Black Death — Iceland’s signature distilled Schnapps liquor.
It was …. strong! And gross. But when in Iceland …

Photo 25^^ We passed this little sign of loveliness on our way to dinner. Oh Iceland — you’re simply the best.

We headed to Snaps for dinner around 9 p.m., and the place was finally starting to slow down. We had a perfectly lovely (if somewhat forgetful!) French waitress, who said hello to us in three languages (since in Iceland you never really know where people are from). Throughout the night (which was a really long one, since we’re pretty sure she never thought we wanted to order dinner and it took us about an hour of being there before we finally tracked her down to tell her we did, in fact, want to eat), we discovered that she has a Norwegian Forest cat, just like we do, that she was from France, she was engaged, and that she wasn’t really a waitress by trade — she normally gives hiking tours of volcanos … how cool! — but that she had a friend who worked at Snaps and she was just helping out. We ordered wine and this to-die-for zucchini and cream cheese appetizer, and I ordered mussels and frittes (you have never seen a plate of mussels like this before!), and Chris got the lamb steak with bearnaise sauce, which he says was delicious as well.

All in all I we give Snaps a 5-star rating. Tasty. Fun. Great place to people watch. If in Iceland, you must go here.

Of course our filling meal didn’t stop us from stopping back at the hot dog stand on the way home. I ordered the hot dog bun with the works, sans hot dog (which the man who made it for me promised was not a weird order) — and it was everything I had hoped it would be.

Photo 26

We took our one and only cab ride home that night, and ended up with a Russian driver who told us he used to be a professional hand ball player, and that he had family back home in Russia he was trying to support, but basically backed up everything our tour guide had mentioned earlier about how hard it is to make a living wage in Iceland. Poor Russian cab driver — we really do wish you the best.

And that was Sunday, my friends. The next day, our last day, was spent at this amazing little place called The Blue Lagoon — ahhhhhh the Blue Lagoon! But more on that later …

Bis bald, friends!

Remember When It Was Day 2 in Iceland …

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Last Saturday night Chris and I boarded a bus with Icelandic Excursions and set out in search of the Northern Lights.

Here’s something that I’ll say about chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland. In February. No matter how rugged up you think you are — you are not. If you think you have too many pairs of socks on … you do not. Do whatever you can to stay as warm as you can while you’re out there, because you could be out there for a very, very long time.

Icelandic Excursions was a great company to ride with. They only take their tour groups to spots where there’s an area to grab a coffee or hot chocolate or beer and go to the bathroom, and they’re willing to stay out pretty much for however long it takes to find you those dang Northern Lights.

(P.S. I’m no scientist, but this is a pretty great explanation of how the Northern Lights come to be … you should definitely check it out. Nature is amazing.)

Back to Saturday. So we traveled about an hour outside of Reykjavik to this huge field where we all disembarked and waited. And waited. And waited. We were here for about an hour or so before my feet started to feel like they were going to fall off and I needed a hot chocolate and a bathroom break.

The lights here were …. well … pretty fantastic friends.

Photo 17

Photo 18But they were about to get even more fantastic. Our amazing tour guide had told us on the ride to the first spot that if they got word of a better siting of the lights elsewhere, we would all hop on the bus at a moment’s notice and speed off to said second site — and that’s exactly what we did. Chris and I were warming up on the bus for a second (so nice they keep the heat on!) when everyone else started piling on. For a second we thought we were done, but it turns out we were just moving to our second place.

We actually started to see the lights pretty brightly from on the bus as we were driving, so the driver did the quickest parking job he could and we all raced off the bus and into the field and started snapping away ….

Photo 19

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Just magnificent, people. The light Gods were with us that night, and it was an experience we’ll absolutely never forget.

We arrived back in the city around 12:30 that night — just about the perfect time to get ready to head out for the night! You guys, I’m not ashamed to say that on a normal night, by 12:30 I’d be well into my slumber. We’re talking deep REM sleep, friends. So it turned out that it was a good thing we waited until Saturday to go out, because coming off our Northern Lights tour I was still revved and excited and raring to go — much different from the night before when we had had maybe four hours of sleep.

So we drank some of the wine and beer we had purchased the night before and ate some of the cheese, uploaded some photos of the Northern Lights to Facebook and Instagram (I’m only human), and headed back out into the night around 1 a.m.

And it. Was. Bumpin’! These Icelanders are serious about their partying, and they do not mess around! Our waitress from Mar earlier in the day had recommended that we start off at a place called Bunk, but when we went in a little after 1 it was getting ready to close. Lame. (Don’t worry, we made it back there the following night.)

So onto the bar next door — Boston. I’d say we were here for a little over an hour, and it had a really nice atmosphere. It wasn’t crazy crowded, and everyone seemed happy and friendly and a bunch of the girls were dancing around. It was dark and homey, and there were two floors, one with oversized comfy couches and chairs and the other more of a party area. We liked it here. Boston was definitely a good find.

Then, friends, we made our way over to Prikid. By now it must have been around 3 a.m., and the line was starting to grow at this particular bar. We didn’t have to wait long — although the bouncers did card every single person who entered before us, stopped and looked us up and down, and then let us right in sans being carded.

Ouch. Guess we’re old looking.

I should preface our Prikid experience by saying that we had stumbled upon this bar guide of Reykjavik before our trip, which is amazing. You may notice that under the explanation for Prikid they say that the atmosphere is “Homey; low key,” and:

“Primary reason to go there To
find a mate; to chat with friends; to
bolster an image; to pretend to work
on your book of poetry; to toke on a
doobie.”

Photo 24^^ I took this photo of Prikid much earlier in the night the Friday before, simply because I
thought the place looked cool. It’s pretty low-key around 9 p.m. Not so much around 2:30 a.m.

And while I guess I could sort of see how the doobie part is accurate, the last thing I would call Prikid is “homey”, nor did I consider it a good place to “pretend to work on my book of poetry.”

Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun. We met a really young looking kid wearing two hats and a sweatshirt who told us his name was Massimo and that he was a professional some-sport-or-other that was just shy of being an Olympics-approved sport. He was from Boston, but he had lived in Iceland for three years, and he absolutely loved it there. He owned three snowmobiles and he showed us pictures of him riding them.

These are the things you talk about at 3 a.m. at a bar in Iceland to a random stranger when you are slightly intoxicated.

He was with a girl who seemed really annoyed the entire time we were with them. When I asked her if Massimo was her boyfriend, she scoffed and said no, they were just friends. Please, lady. I can smell a crush from a mile away.

Downstairs the bar was pumping the rap and R&B music, it was crowded and dark and the bar tenders kept swinging these low-hanging lamps that were all around the bar so that there was this constant feeling of movement right above your head.

It was …. really fun! At one point a very drunk boy at the bar came up to Chris and asked him for money for a drink (we did not oblige), and while I was waiting in line to use the bathroom a very nice young woman who looked to be about 19 or 20 started talking to me for no reason. Just because we were standing there. And she was nice. And that’s what Icelanders do.

Oh Iceland, how I love thee.

After Prikid we headed over to Baejarins beztu pylsur.

Did you get all that?

Anyway, it’s the most famous hot dog stand in Iceland (some say it’s even the best restaurant there), and Chris got a hot dog with the works.

Photo 25

The thing about my husband, you see, is that he doesn’t even really like hot dogs. However, this hot dog, he says, was the best hot dog he’d ever had in his life. I guess for a person who doesn’t like hot dogs that isn’t really saying much? He seemed happy about it though, and the line was long to get one, so they must be something special. (Don’t worry, I tried one the following night, sans actual hot dog, and at least I can attest to the fact that “the works” part of the hot dog was pretty great!)

And that was about it friends. Our Saturday in a nutshell. The Northern Lights, bar hopping and hot dogs. We headed home around 5 in the morning (but not before stopping at the grocery store to pick up cup of noodles and some caramel chocolate to eat when we got home … geez I must have been drunk!), feeling happy, buzzed and alive.

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Bis bald, friends! Tomorrow it’s on to Day 3.

Our Icelandic Adventure: Day 2

I’m baaackkkk! So Day 2 of our Icelandic Adventure really was quite the day my friends. It was the day that Chris and I got to take part in something that a very limited number of people will ever get to see. Like, ever.

I’ll give you a hint.

_DSC5209^^ Oh my!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We started the morning and early afternoon off by renting bikes from this very Harley-looking dude on a very dilapidated street with lots of graffiti that was only a few blocks from our hotel and only one street over from one of the main downtown streets.

And it may have been freezing that day (and in some parts treacherously icy!), my friends, but the views were still absolutely glorious. We rode around the entire rim of the city from about 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., just taking it all in …

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Photo 6^^ One of the natural thermal beaches that you’ll find all around Iceland. Pretty amazing.

After our ride we were both eager for some coffee to warm us up, and I really wanted a tasty treat. (You know me!) So we stopped by C is for Cookie Cafe in the downtown area for some coffee and the most delicious (and expensive at $8 for one slice!) warm apple pie and whipped cream.

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Here is where I need to make note of something that totally and 100% intrigued me. When you are in a new place, one of the most amazing things is to note the cultural differences. What’s considered totally normal and average in one place could be considered inconsiderate or rude in another. So when we first approached the cafe, I noticed that about three or four strollers were parked outside next to the big windows surrounding the place. So they don’t bring strollers inside places, I thought. Interesting.

It didn’t end there, though. As it turns out, it seemed to me that, at least in this one particular instance that I saw, babies who were asleep when their parents arrived were left outside. In the carriages. All bundled up and sleeping soundly away. One mother inside had a baby monitor at the table with her, but I didn’t really think twice about it … until I later realized that the reason was because her baby was asleep outside in her stroller!

Amazing!

My first thought was about the cold, but in the days since I’ve seen this and have mentioned it to people, the first thought that springs to most people’s minds is the fact that crime must not be a big issue here. That’s promising, I guess? As blown away by this realization as I was when I first understood it, it’s as I said — what’s considered commonplace in one country can be completely baffling in another.

So much to learn about this world.

Anyway, moving on. After the coffee we decided to kick it up a notch to beer. Chris used his Happy Hour app and discovered a happy hour happening at Mar, a fancy little restaurant near the water with maps on the wall showing you all the different countries from which they draw inspiration for their cuisine.

We didn’t do cuisine though — we just did drinks ;) And we chatted up the bartender to no end about the ins and outs of going out on a weekend with the Icelanders. She suggested good bars for us to visit (one of which was prikid, which I have so much to say about!), and confirmed to me that yes, things do indeed tend to get a bit crazy on weekends in Iceland and yes, drunken shenanigans most definitely would ensue.

At least I was prepared.

After Mar we headed towards the water to climb up a hut made out of hay which is used to dry fish and take pictures of the water.

Weird sentence — but that’s exactly what we did.

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Photo 9^^ Silly husband. I think those aren’t for riding.

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Photo 12^^ See. A hut of straw that you climb up.

photo 1 (56)^^ See. Dried fish guts inside the hut.

photo 2 (60)^^ Top of the hut.

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Walking home from our hut adventure we stopped by The Kebab House for dinner (see review here), which was decent but not all that memorable. Chris got the fish and chips (said he’s had better) and I got a veggie pita, which was pretty okay. Wouldn’t be the first on my list of dining recommendations for Iceland, let’s just say. Although there was a group of rowdy men drinking beer at the table behind us for a while when we first arrived, and at one point they broke out into Icelandic song. So that part I really enjoyed!

So that night, friends. That night. It was the night of all nights. It was the night of our Northern Lights Tour, as well as the night we went out into the town.

There’s so much to say about both of these amazing things, and I’ve already written so much for today — I’m making an executive editorial decision to cut our Day 2 in half. Yup. Just decided.

Tune in tomorrow, my friends, for an update on our Northern Lights Tour and our adventure with the crazy Icelandic party animals!

I guess in that case the first photo I shared with you was a tease. Oh well, what can you do! Bis bald!

P.S. I’m noticing in my dashboard that I’m getting some readers from Iceland on both this and yesterday’s posts — Hi Iceland! So happy to have you!

Our Icelandic Adventure: Day 1

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Hey friends,

As you all know by now, Chris and I returned home from our (awesome. amazing. unreal. fantastic. insert-fabulous-adjective here) trip to Iceland late last night, and I’ve been busting to share the info and photos with you. Alas, a full day of work has kept me from doing so until now.

Anyway, moving on. Coming home from a trip like this. just. plain. sucks! But going through all the photos and writing down the memories here to keep forever … well that’s just really fun.

Here we go! Day 1 in Iceland began last Friday, at around 6 a.m., Icelandic time ….

After a quick (and somewhat cramped) overnight flight from JFK, we landed at Keflavik Airport a little before our expected arrival time of 6 a.m. Which was actually 1 a.m. NY time.

Who needs sleep when you’re young?!

We had booked a shuttle transfer from the airport to our hotel, the Best Western, ahead of time, which I would highly, highly  recommend since it was so easy and cheap (approximately $15), and you do not want to get to Iceland and have to worry about how you’re getting to your hotel, since if you’re staying in Reykjavik, it will probably be about an hour away. Like I said, we stayed at the Best Western Hotel Reykjavik (Trip Advisor reviews can be found here), which was a tad off the beaten track from downtown Reykjavik (about a 10 to 15 minute walk to the city center, I’d say) — but the front desk ladies were always completely lovely and extremely helpful, and a decent breakfast was included, and the price was right … so really, I’d say if you don’t mind walking a bit to get to the really hopping part of town, it’s worth staying at the Best Western.

Of course getting in at 6 a.m. and arriving to our hotel around 7 a.m. meant we couldn’t check right in. Instead we stored our bags and hit the streets! The cold, dark streets. Neither one of us really had any idea where we were going (and it stayed that way for about a good 20 minutes, I’d say. Why didn’t we just ask for directions?!), and the sun doesn’t rise until about 9:30 a.m. in the winter in Iceland, but none of that mattered — we were on an adventure! We spent the morning walking around downtown, drinking coffee at Te & Kaffi (also read about it here), stumbling upon the most adorable and classy violin-making shop I’ve ever seen (note to self: take up the violin again), and checking out some of the local stores in the downtown area, most of which don’t open until the sun has fully risen by 10 a.m.

Photo 1^^ The gorgeous church that pretty much starts the main drag of downtown Reykjavik.
Also, this picture was taken around 8 a.m. Nary a glimmer of sunlight in the sky!

Photo 2^^ Umm, right?! How amazing is this violin studio??

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photo 4^^ One of these things is not like the other …

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During our wanders we also happened upon The Laundromat Cafe, which I had read about and knew I wanted to visit. The place has a seriously adorable, 70s-style laundromat downstairs, while the upstairs doubles as a restaurant by day, bar by night, and all-around bookstore (they color code their books, like I do!) and people-watching heaven.

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Oh, and my eggs and tomatoes weren’t too shabby, either. (As it turns out, Icelanders are pretty proud of their tomatoes. They consider all other tomatoes grown from outside of the country to just not be good enough … and after tasting theirs, I can see why.)

By the time we made it back outside it was snowing gently — the perfect Icelandic weather! We made our way slowly back to the hotel (not before picking up some wine at the local store for later) to finally check in and take a nap before heading back out into the day. (As a side note, I’ve already mentioned that the sun doesn’t rise until 9:30ish in the winter in Iceland, but it also sets around 5 p.m., so if you’re a daylight lover, you really need to plan your time wisely to make the most out of what little you’ll get of it if you travel here in February. I wasn’t quite sure how I would take the fewer hours of daylight. As it turns out, I didn’t mind it even one tiny little bit.)

After our nap, we headed over to Cinema No: 2, which I had also read about, to take in two videos — one on the formation of Iceland and its geography and people, and another on the Northern Lights (for which we would have a tour to try to find ourselves the following night). The Cinema was small but super cozy, with couches and an old-school popcorn machine and a lovely man in a warm sweater to take your money at the door. The “movie screen” is really a projector screen, and the videos themselves seem pretty old, but it doesn’t matter. The history of Iceland and its nature and the Northern Lights have been set for years, so there’s really not much updating that needs to be done. On the other hand, it’s a bit expensive (about $30 for both of us) … but it was worth it. A very nice thing to do on your first day in Iceland. Just be sure to double-check the times if this is something you’d like to do on your own trip. The Cinema isn’t open all day (I believe we went around 6 p.m. to catch our movies), so it would be a shame to head all the way over there and miss them.

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After the movies we went straight to Micro Bar, a tiny little bar located behind the lobby of The Center Hotel, practically directly across the street from The Laundromat Cafe. (Also check it out in this list of the 11 coolest bars in Reykjavik, which I really wish I had seen before we left for our trip. But that’s okay … I think we did just fine. The trick is to just ask the locals … but more on that later!) This funky little place is actually a microbrewery, and we were able to sample four of their most delicious beers for the low, low price of $20.

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I think here might actually be a good place to mention prices in Iceland. Ummmm …. they be expensive!!! And we live in Manhattan, friends, so when someone from Manhattan calls another place expensive? Well, you just know it must be true. I’ll get a bit more into the finances of Iceland (or lack thereof) in day three, though, because that’s when we learned all about it. For the purpose of today’s blog post, let’s just put it out there that if you travel to Reykjavik, be prepared to drop some cash, friends. It’s one of the best places I’ve been in the world (What?! Did she really just say that?!), but it’s no cheap place to visit.

All of this detracts, however, from the awesomeness that is Micro Bar. It has such a homey, low-key vibe, with subdued lighting and tasty snacks and lovely bartenders, and the most adorable paintings of mountains (each with something tiny and surprising to find that makes it different) on the walls — this is a must while in Iceland.

I guess here is also a good place to tell you about what our original plans were for Friday night. As anyone who has ever read anything about Reykjavik or has been there will know — on the weekends, these people know how to party! They party hard and loud and long into the night. Like, they start the bar hopping around 12:30 or 1, friends. This is no joke. So knowing this was a Reykjavik ritual that we would most definitely be partaking in, we thought we’d grab a quick drink and dinner early, then head back to the hotel with some wine from the local liquor store (conveniently located near Micro Bar), some snacks from the grocery and take a quick power nap before heading out again around 12:30 or 1.

For dinner, we had originally tried to make a reservation at Fridrik V, but unfortunately we couldn’t get in. Then we read about Snaps (which also made that top beer places list I linked out to above), but they were pretty booked when we tried there as well. (Don’t worry, we did make it to Snaps, eventually.) We instead stumbled on Noodle Station, a hole-in-the-wall Thai soup store that smelled delicious and had lots of locals eating there. So that’s where we ate our first night, and it was spectacular, friends. To be fair, I’m going to go ahead and just say that we didn’t eat anything bad, per se, at all on this trip. (You can pretty much assume this means we didn’t eat any traditional Icelandic food — like whale, or Puffin. Ummm…needless to say I’m okay with that, and so is Chris.) So the Noodle Station on Friday night was delicious, but it wasn’t our best meal. Still, it’s worth a shot for lunch or if you’re in need of a quick nighttime meal, for sure.

On the way back to our hotel for some wine and our (what was meant to be a) power nap, we stopped at the grocery store for some cheese and crackers. We were also hoping to find some playing cards (which we without fail always forget to bring on trips), and when they didn’t have any for sale, the lovely man behind the counter who rang us up actually ended up pulling out a pack from behind the register and just giving them to us completely for free. I mean … how lovely! It was really a small act of kindness that made our night.

So that was pretty much our first day in Iceland, friends! I’m going to spare you the expense and just say we never made it out Friday night (100% my fault), but did get out with the crazy crowd on Saturday night … and it was every bit as much fun as everything I had read.

But more on that tomorrow. (That and a little thing called the Northern Lights!)

Bis bald, friends!

 

An Anniversary Trip to Saratoga Springs, New York

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Hey friends,

This past weekend Chris and I borrowed the little Matrix that we’re planning to buy off my parents and took her for a spin up to Saratoga Springs.  The whole idea for this trip came out of a deal for a Saratoga hotel on TripAdvisor that then led to me the Saratoga Arms hotel. (It’s ranked as the No. 1 hotel in Saratoga on TripAdvisor.)

Anyway, we’ll get to that later.

I had done some research on Saratoga ahead of time, and last weekend in Vermont my cousin recommended a couple places to us as well. (She lives in Albany, which is a hop, skip and a jump away from Saratoga.)

I think I should preface this post by saying that we had a deluge of snow the day before we drove to Saratoga, and pretty much every place looks magical in a snowy winter wonderland … am I right? Even without the snow, though, I know I would have fallen in love with Saratoga. The downtown area was so charming (and of course it was still decorated for Christmas with twinkling white lights and red bows everywhere … that certainly didn’t hurt it), the people were so friendly and every place we went had really great food and drink.

Our first stop was a recommendation of my cousin’s — Ravenous, for their crepes and Pommes Frittes. They come with all different kinds of dipping sauces. We tried the Aioli, Cajun Spicy Mayo and Mango Chutney. Seriously delicious.

photo 1^^ My warm apple cider with orange wasn’t too shabby, either.

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After stuffing our faces, we decided to check out the town for a bit before checking into our hotel.

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photo 10c^^ This hotel was closed for repairs, but I thought it was just so beautiful.

After our little introduction to the town we headed to the hotel.

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So about the hotel. I feel like I should start by saying — it was perfectly lovely. Seriously, very lovely — charming even. I mean look at those cute horse wreathes that greet you at the front door! The building is kept locked at all times, and the friendly innkeeper lets you in when you arrive. There’s a warm fireplace and classic, historic decorations — everything about this place is cute and cozy and nice.

I just have a small but. The thing is — we paid a lot for our room. Like … a lot. (It was $300 after taxes, and that was the lowest priced King room available.) And for some reason I had convinced myself that I booked a room with a jacuzzi tub, and you know how when you think you’ve done something, and get your hopes all up for it — well I just really wanted that jacuzzi tub! And I mean, the room was fine, people. Honestly, it was quite nice. Perfectly pleasant. Very well looked after. I guess I was just … expecting more. What can I say. I’ve spent a lot of time in a lot of hotels up to this point in my life, and I’ve spent a wide range of money on those hotels. All I’m saying is … besides location (and the seriously scrumptious breakfast that’s included in the morning!), I’m just not quite sure this place was worth the price. That’s all.

But moving on! Despite the disappointment of not having a jacuzzi (!), we still had a whole night ahead of us. Our first night stop would be to The Wine Bar — another of my cousin’s recommendations. A huge plus of Saratoga Arms — all of our stops were within walking distance, even though it was about 0 degrees outside!

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We sat by the fire and the white lights twinkled and our waitress was lovely. And we ordered the warm olive appetizer and Chris a Manhattan and me a glass of white wine. Then we both ordered another glass of wine — red this time– and here my friends is where I’ll share a little something with you. It was here at The Wine Bar in Saratoga Springs, New York, that I had — ready for it? — the best wine of my life. I mean … seriously! This friggin’ wine was so. amazingly. delicous. Even Chris was jealous. I had the waitress give me my menu back so I could write down exactly what it was, which was a Santa Julia Malbec from Argentina/Menoza. It also was organic, which I honestly think might have made a difference.

If you are in Saratoga and find yourself at The Wine Bar (which you should … thanks for the recommendation Alyssa!), you must, must, must try this wine! You’ll thank me later, I promise.

Anyway, after warming up with wine, we headed back out into the cold to our dinner reservations at Mouzon House. Here’s where I have to give Saratoga Arms another big shout out — about two days before we were meant to arrive I received a welcome email from them with parking instructions, town and weather information, as well as a list of local restaurants that they recommended, Mouzon House being one of them. They even called and made the reservation for us. (Am I being a hotel snob about this place? Probably. The more I write about it the more charming I feel like it was.)

Anyway, the Mouzon House. Another massive, humongous hit!

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photo 18^^We were a tad early for our reservation, so we sat at the bar and ordered some drinks first. Our bartender told us she was also a realtor, and she had helped her friend purchase the restaurant. The building had formerly belonged to the Mouzon family, and the woman who they bought the house from was the first African American woman to graduate from the local community college. She said the fact that they wanted to keep the family name in the name of the restaurant was a big reason why she thinks they were given the deal in the first place. The majority of the house had been left as is — even the rooms upstairs were still in bedroom form. Oh, and there was a ghost. The ghost was a friendly ghost, Mrs. Bartender told us, but she didn’t even have to say that .. Chris and I have a feeling about these things, and we already knew.

photo 19^^ Somehow the restaurant knew it was our one year anniversary — I guess the hotel told them when they called?Anyway, they gave us our creme brûlée with a candle in it, and that was super cute.

For dinner I ordered the vegetarian jambalaya, and Chris had the steak. We also ordered the asparagus appetizer and another bottle of wine, and everything was to die for. Perhaps even more amazing, though, was the fact that the couple sitting directly across from us was celebrating their 56th wedding anniversary — and they could not have been cuter. At one point I looked over and the woman was fixing her husband’s shirt. When they left he helped her put her coat on.

If only Chris and I can get that lucky to be as in love as day one at our 56th anniversary.

So at this point in the evening, I had also wanted to check out the 9 Maple Ave. jazz bar, but unfortunately all the wine I had already consumed started to make me feel like the warm hotel was calling my name, so we called it a night.

The next morning we were up early though. Breakfast is served between 8 and 10 in the dining room, and it’s a sit down, order type of breakfast. I got the oatmeal (remember I wasn’t feeling well!), and Chris had the chef’s special mushroom omelet which, in his words, was “the best omelet I ever had in my life.”

Okay fine — so Saratoga Arms was quite lovely, I get it. It’s just that when you’re spending that much money, you might as well splurge an extra $50-$60 and get a room with a jacuzzi or a fireplace. That’s just my opinion. Noted for next time.

After breakfast we packed up and checked out, and headed back into the town to check out a couple of other stores we had seen the day before. We even ended up finding an old vintage New York City map for $6 — the best find!

I also wanted to check back on this house we had passed when trying to find the parking garage for the hotel. I mean … check this place out …

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Our googling has yet to turn up what this place actually is. Is it someone’s home? Is it a business? Whatever it is, I envision this will be what my next home looks like. That’s reasonable … right?

And that, my friends, was Saratoga. It was the perfect little getaway for an anniversary weekend, and I cannot wait to get back there at some point to explore in warmer weather!

Bis bald, my friends! Only only month until Iceland — I simply cannot wait!

The Year 2013: A Review

Hi friends,

Well it’s that time of year again — the one where everyone takes a couple minutes to take stock of how the past 12 months have gone? This year has been a particularly important one for myself and Chris. It was our first year of married life. It was a year spent celebrating our marriage around the world with family and friends. It was a year that we made some pretty big decisions about our future (not yet shared here!), and one that had a lot of amazing traveling in it …

February
In February we took an amazing weekend trip to Tarrytown for our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple, where I had one of my absolute favorite meals of this entire year.

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March
In March I took a relaxing trip to visit my best friend in D.C., where we practiced wedding makeup for Chris and my upcoming wedding party in April.

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April
April was a holy-cow-of-a-month for us! First, I turned 30 (ah!), and we celebrated with a gorgeous hike up Breakneck Ridge with friends.

Thanks for going along with my crazy idea, gang!

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Holy rock climbing!

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Then Chris’s parents came for a visit, and we all took a trip to London so that Chris could run the 5th race in his World Marathon series.

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Geared up!

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We also celebrated our marriage at Magnanini Winery in upstate NY with friends and family in April, but I didn’t blog about that because I didn’t have photos for a long time. I have them now, though! Here are some of my faves.

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June
In June we celebrated our wedding in Jersey with some close friends and family. Here are some of my favorite shots from that party:

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July
In July we took a trip out to Charlotte, N.C. and Arizona to visit an old, old friend of mine.

^^Bloody Mary's in Charlotte on our pit stop to Phoenix.

^^Man and wilderness.

^^Cheers to you, Arizona!

^^Bye-bye Sedona. It's been real.

^^Canyon Breeze views.

^^Sedona hike--unbelievable.

^^Catching up with the person who is probably my oldest friend.

^^Shrimp tacos=heavenly.

August
In August I took another trip back down to D.C. for a “sprinkle” baby celebration …

^^The beginning stages of lemon bars. Can you say yum?!

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^^ Blueberry Crumble for the dessert bar.

^^We also made these to-die-for apple crumble bar with cinnamon. The sign in the back was a piece of corkboard that Lisa painted with chalkboard paint and strung some twine across. People wrote notes on little cards and placed them on the twin for Alison and her new baby boy.

and we visited what has now become our new favorite upstate winery — Warwick Valley Winery.

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Summer Happenings
I feel like I should take a moment to pay homage to all of the activities we took part in this summer that were right here in New York City, like seeing Shakespeare in the Park, hosting my nephew’s very first trip to NYC, riding bikes through the park, seeing the NY Philharmonic in the park (are you sensing a “park” theme?!), checking out the Met, going for a sail from Pier 25 on the west side and strolling around DUMBO, Brooklyn … to name a few.

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^^ I seriously forgot how many hills there are in Central Park. I had to take a break about 3/4 of the way through.

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^^Stolen from Istagram, thank you very much.

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^^ So -- what's the theme? Can ya tell? Hint: I'm wearing a red wig!

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^^ Freshman year JMU roommates -- go Dukes!

September
September was another busy month for us. First we took the ferry out to Governor’s Island to go exploring.

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^^ Carousel ahead!

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We also headed to St. Augustine, Florida for the Gentleman of the Road Mumford & Sons tour for Chris’s Super Secret 30th Birthday Trip … (also talked about here)

^^View from the Beachcomber. Not too shabby.

^^Chris with the Castillo de San Marcos fort in the background.

^^Check out all the wrist tags we needed! Shuttle. Concert. Drinks. Boat. Check!

^^This last photo was actually from Saturday night's show when Mumford was playing and it was lightning in the background. But we'll get to that ...

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October
We headed to Australia (also here) at the end of September and into October to celebrate our wedding with Chris’s side of the family, as well as to take a honeymoon trip to The Great Barrier Reef.

^^What bride gets to wear her wedding dress three times? This one, that's who!

^^ Mom and baby. Man I'll never stop loving it when I see these guys!

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^^ The Sydney Harbour's a real beaut - isn't she?

November
I headed to the suburbs of Philly in November to visit an old friend and her family, and we took a trip out to the Philadelphia Zoo while I was there …

^^ I was about to delete this photo of the Clown Fish because I had better ones, until I saw the Fish Photo Bomb.

^^ This little guy is a Red Panda, and she'll be making an appearance in my children's book very soon!

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^^ Rhino!

and we celebrated Thanksgiving in both Newburgh and New Jersey.

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December
This month we surprised my stepdad with a Super Secret weekend trip to Syracuse, his alma mater, for his 50th birthday.

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And we took a Christmas trip to Stowe, Vermont with some family

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And that about sums up 2013, friends! On the docket for 2014 so far is …

  • A trip to Saratoga Springs the first weekend in January to celebrate our one year anniversary. I’m particularly excited about the hotel where we’ll be staying — Saratoga Arms it’s gotten amazing reviews.
  • Iceland in February!
  • Denver in April with my sister and her boyfriend
  • A trip out to Cape Cod for a friend’s wedding (not to mention lots of other friends’ weddings scattered throughout the year!)
  • A potential 1.5-3 month trip in South America at the end of the year. Lots more on this to come.

Bis bald, friends! And may your new year be filled with fun travels, great friends and awesome experiences!

A Snowy Christmas Celebration in Stowe, Vermont

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Hi friends,

Holy cow tomorrow is New Year’s Eve.
Holy cow tomorrow is the very last day in 2013.
Holy cow as of tomorrow Chris and I will have been married for one. whole. year!

Just … that’s a whole lotta holy cows!

So Chris and I had a lovely, action-packed holiday week last  week, and the fun will continue this week with some anniversary activities. But last week …. let’s see. We spent Christmas eve into Christmas morning in New Jersey with family, then hopped to upstate New York to spend the rest of Christmas with my mom and stepdad, and drove the day after Christmas to meet up with my aunt, uncle, two cousins and cousin’s boyfriend for a little extra Christmas celebrating in Stowe, Vermont. My aunt had booked the place for us as our Christmas gift, and we stayed in a Stoneybrook cabin with a fireplace, huge kitchen and gorgeous views.

photo 2^^ The view from the back porch of our bedroom on Friday morning, after it had snowed all night.

My sister and her boyfriend, my uncle and Chris and I were excited to head up to the mountain to ski/snowboard. I would be taking another snowboarding lesson (I think after this time I finally got it down!), while the others went off and did their “we’re already good at this” thing.

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Unfortunately we arrived too late on Friday for me to catch the lesson. (Word to the wise for any of you snow bunnies who might want to take a lesson at Stowe — they start at 10 a.m. on Fridays — maybe every day but I can’t say for sure — and they go for an hour and a half in the morning, then break and meet up again at 1 for another hour. And they’re expensive! With my gear rental and the group lesson, I ended up paying around $230. Ouch … but worth it!)

Anyway, since I wouldn’t be snowboarding on Friday, I did this instead:

photo 6^^Found the bar …

photo 7^^Had an extremely delicious Bloody Mary while I waited for everyone to meet me for lunch.

Saturday was different, though, my friends — Saturday I actually took a lesson! And let me tell you — by the end of it I wasn’t half bad ;) It ended up being a private lesson when no one else showed up for the class, so that’s always a good thing.

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Of course I never left the beginner’s hill but hey — I need to leave something to aspire to, right?

Saturday night we headed into town to the Vermont Ale House, which had awesome beers, amazing music and tables made of chalkboard so you could draw on them. It was pretty much the best.

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We left yesterday to make the drive back to the city (in a snow and rainstorm, no less!), but Chris still got in a half day of snowboarding, I took a hike with my uncle and cousin’s boyfriend on the trails right near our cabin and Steph and I checked out a bit of the town.

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Final Photo

I think it’s safe to say Stowe was a major success, and that we’d all love more than anything to make this trip an annual thing.

Bis bald, friends! I seriously cannot believe that tomorrow will be my lost blog of 2013. Time really does fly when you’re having fun …

 

The Inspirational Animals of My Travels

As I sit here working on a passion project of mine — which, to be fair, I’ve been working on for the better part of a year now — I realized that I’ve up until this time passed up a perfectly lovely opportunity to give thanks to all the inspirational animals I’ve come across in my travels. These animals have been so much fun to meet and learn about, and I’m so grateful to them for being a part of the learning process that is traveling.

So without further ado, please meet some of my favorite animals I’ve met on my journeys:

Shawn_the_Koala^^ This is Shawn the Koala from the Koala Park Zoo in Sydney.
He’s the animal that started my whole project idea.

Shawn_talks^^ Can’t you tell he’s just whispering amazing ideas in my direction!

Kookaburra_Bird^^ This is a replica of a Kookaburra bird in the
Museum of Natural History. They’re known for their good-natured,
hysterical laugh, which can sound a lot like a human’s.

Red_Panda^^ This is a red panda — let’s call her Jia. This photo is from the
Philadelphia Zoo, which is sort of cheating because my real
inspiration came from the red pandas at the Central Park Zoo.
This was a better photo, though.

Pigeons_London^^ These are pigeons. And while yes, these pigeons are in London,
let’s be honest — the real inspirational pigeons live right here in
good ole’ NYC.

Chasing_Pigeons^^If we’re being even more honest, my true obsession with pigeons began
when I was a toddler and my parents lost me in the Piazza San Marco
in Venice because I was chasing them. That’s why I took this
dorky photo when we were back there in 2012.

What inspires you when you travel?

Bis bald, friends!