Moab Camping … Put This Place On Your Bucket List

Hi friends,

Last Friday Chris took a half day from work and we took off in our little Matrix hatchback filled with camping gear to cover the approximately 5-hour trip from Denver to Moab, Utah. We would be camping with three other (way more experienced than we are, thank goodness!) couples, and they had all headed up the day or so before to grab us what turned out to be an amazing camp site in some backwoods area off the beaten trail.

So I wish I had been able to take some decent photos of the car ride out to Utah, because I think it’s safe to say the gorgeous scenery starts pretty much as soon as you hit the mountains on the way out, and only gets prettier and prettier. The five hours seriously flew by, since we were down in the depths of canyons, passing through arid desert, traipsing through small mountain towns …. basically it’s a breathtaking and incredibly entertaining ride the whole way.

But wahoe, my friends! It only gets prettier the second (and I do mean second) you enter Moab territory. Red rock canyons for as far as the eye can see. After about 10 miles of hairpin turns and rocky climbing which I wasn’t totally convinced Manny the Matrix could handle (and which she did, with aplomb), we made it to our camp site.

Behold our home for the four-day camping trip:

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_DSC0989^^ Meet the Avocado, the adorable little camper one of our camping companions purchased a few years back for $4 grand and remodeled into an adorable little compact camping van. Doesn’t she just seem like she belongs out there?

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_DSC1073^^ That’s our little Manny, next to the tent we had to borrow from my sister’s sister-in-law, since we currently have no camping gear to call our own. Thanks, Rachel!

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Tent_View^^ The view from our tent every morning. Le sigh.

Smores^^ Enjoying smores by the camp fire.

_DSC1080^^ Sunsets each night produced this halo effect on the surrounding canyons, making it appear as if they were lit on fire from some unknown, hidden source. Breathtaking.

_DSC1082^^ See!

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_DSC1128^^ On our last night we hiked up onto one of the closer canyons near our campground and had a fabulous 360-degree view of our campground and all of the surrounding area.

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_DSC1138^^ Gloriousness all around!

So now comes the adventure part of our little trip. I’ve learned a lesson here, my friends, and it’s this: When you’re traveling with friends who are all marathon runners, take whatever fitness level they tell you the upcoming hike you’re about to partake in will be and multiply it by 10, and you’ll start to come a bit closer to what an average person would call the strenuousness of said hike.

That’s not to say that had they accurately described any of the hikes, that I wouldn’t have gone on them, but it’s just something good to be aware of, going into such physical activities.

For our first hike on Saturday, I’d call it a moderately strenuous rock climb. The first portion (and therefore last as well) consisted entirely of climbing up pretty vertical rocks, which I actually don’t mind doing, believe it or not. The views, of course, were unparalleled. Here are photos from that first hike, called the Hunter Canyon Rim Trail.

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_DSC0992^^ Cactus makes sense in the desert, but we were even more surprised by some of the random trees and wildflowers that grew out from the rock, clay and dirt. How do they even manage to live there? Nature is amazing.

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_DSC0998^^ Spectacular canyon views.

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_DSC1039^^ Feelin’ pretty happy with myself, if I’m being honest ;)

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After our three-hour hike we headed into the town (which, by the way, is totally adorable) and had lunch at The Spoke on Center Restaurant. My house-made veggie burger was something spectacular (although to be honest, at that point I was so hungry I probably would have eaten dirt), and they’ve got lots of local beers on tap, too.

Here’s actually a nice place to segue into some of the craziness of Utah. In a state whose population consists of many, many Mormons, it only makes sense that some of these laws would involve drinking. (Take, for example, the fact that beers are not allowed to be poured in front of the general restaurant — all of that has to be done in a kitchen, away from the eyes of the people eating.) In addition to the drinking rules, though, come some doozies like the fact that husbands are responsible for the criminal acts that wives commit in their presence, it’s a felony to persistently walk on the cracks between paving stones on the sidewalk, and women are not allowed to swear in Logan, Utah.

Oh, and dancing is illegal in Saint George, Utah, as well.

Sheesh. There’s too much to love about the outdoors in Utah to care about their crazy rules, though, so moving on …

On Sunday we hiked what’s known as the Top of the World Trail — a consistently uphill 4-mile (although this link says 5, so guess somewhere in between) trek to some of the most spectacular views you’ll find anywhere, ever, in your life. Be warned, though …. this hike isn’t for the faint of heart. The entire time it took us to hike it (about 3.5 hours up and back), we never came across any other hikers. Everyone else was riding up on either 4-wheelers or in their Jeeps or such, although we did see a few mountain bikers who I think were just about as crazy as we were.

This hike is also not for those afraid of heights. I mean I guess it’s okay to do the hike, but you definitely shouldn’t look at the end view if you’re afraid of heights, and if you can’t do that, well let’s be honest, what’s the point. From the Top of the World you can see Titan Tower and Fisher Towers, as well as a whole big huge portion of Utah in all of its splendor. We had picked up some bagel sandwiches from The Red Rock Bakery & Net Cafe in town before heading out, so we housed those in about 10 seconds flat, took in the amazing scenery, and then made our way back down.

This was our reward after all that crazy hiking (which, I cannot lie, may have caused me to shed a tear or two in leg pain anxiety … totally worth it!):

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The next day we were up early to head out to Arches National Park. Since it was Memorial Day and we had been told this was one of the busier ones that people in town had ever seen, we were a bit worried that we might have to wait in line quite a while to get in, but lucky for us, the wait was only about 10 minutes before we could ride right in.

You can choose to drive all the way around the park, if you want, and you can even see Balanced Rock this way (pictured below), but the best thing to do is drive some and get out and hike a bit. You’ll have to hike about 3-miles roundtrip (which includes some pretty hefty uphill rock face climbing on the way there) if you want to see the Delicate Arch, but I would highly recommend doing this — it’s more than worth the leg pain …

_DSC1167^^ Balanced Rock from the road.

_DSC1190^^ And the big kahuna — Delicate Arch. See what I mean — how amazing?!

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_DSC1206^^ Be sure to take the short trail off the Delicate Arch path to see the Moab Indian Rock Art that dates back to the late 1800s. It’s amazingly cool.

And that was about it, my friends! A short but totally jam-packed and beyond amazing camping trip. We have to really, truly thank our friends from NY for inviting us and showing us the ropes. Moab is huge and intimidating and extremely free-form … and Chris and I both agree that we probably would have wasted a lot of time trying to find our way around a map on our first trip out had it not been for our friends. So thanks guys — and please feel free to invite us back on your yearly Moab camping trips any time!

Bis bald, my friends!

Moab Here We Come!

Moab_Views
Happy Memorial Day weekend, friends! I hope everyone has awesome plans! While I must admit that the above photo is stolen from a friend’s Facebook page (thanks Joe!), Chris and I will soon be heading to Moab, Utah, to meet up with said friend, and a few others, for a long weekend of camping.

I haven’t been camping since … oh … I think maybe the summer before my senior year of college? Sheesh. Wish us luck, friends! I’ll be back Tuesday with a 52 Project Photo of Moab, I’m sure, and then a longer post on the trip later.

Bis bald, ya’ll!

Sun Valley Joins the Mountain Collective for 2015-16 Season

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Hi friends!

So I know you’re all: “Hey man, it’s May. And you’re over here talking about snow and ski passes and stuff. What’s up with that?”

Or some form of the above.

As any die-hard skier/snowboarder will know, season passes for places go on sale wicked early (as in I’ve been getting emails regarding my Epic Local Pass for over a month now, and I’ve already missed the deadline to sign up and receive 6 buddy passes along with it. Oops.) Anyway, the point is, the early bird catches the worm when it comes to ski passes, and this season there’s a whole lot more to love with the Mountain Collective 2015/16 pass, now that Sun Valley, Idaho and Thredbo, Australia have joined the fray.

If you live in the Mountain West — or even just plan to be in any of their six awesome locations for more than 3 or 4 days — this pass is absolutely worth it. Included with the $379 purchase are access to nine leading ski destinations, including Sun Valley, Idaho, Thredbo, Australia, Banff, Alberta, Whistler, BC, Aspen, Colorado, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, AltaSnowbird, Utah, Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, California and Mammoth Mountain in California.

That’s a whole lotta great places to ski or snowboard, my friends.

Included in this deal are two days of skiing or riding at each of the nine destinations, plus a 50 percent discount on all additional days with no blackout dates. Pricing for the kids’ pass (ages 12 and under) is just $99 for the 2015-16 season.

Get your passes here before it’s too late! Hope to see you on the mountains ….

Bis bald, friends!

A Whirlwind Trip With Parents …

Hey friends,

So we just bid adieu to my Mom and stepdad who were here visiting for the past couple of days. Despite weather that begged us to just stay inside and hibernate (and cancelled our baseball game — thanks freakin’ springtime snow!), we managed to fit in quite a bit of activity.

Here’s a bit of what we did …

01_Jagged_Mountain
^^ Friday night night after they arrived we hit up Jagged Mountain Brewery across the street and had dinner at the food truck that was parked outside that night, Scratch Comfort Food.

02_Molly_Brown
^^ When cold, rain and snow forced us to change our (outdoor) plans for Saturday, we headed to the Molly Brown House Museum first, and then …

03_Rio_Mexican
^^ … to Rio Grande for some delish Mexican and marguerites, yo!

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^^ Our baseball game was cancelled on Saturday night, so we decided to go see The Avengers at the United Artists Denver Pavillions Stadium 15, and holy crap guys, they have leather seats that electronically recline allllll the way back so you’re basically laying down in the comfort of a leather chair watching a movie. Amazing! Almost amazing enough to make up for the fact that the power blacked out 15 minutes before the movie ended and we had to wait 20 minutes for it to come back on. Oh well, you know what they say, when it rains it …

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^^ Snows! Only in Denver could a freak snowstorm occur in the middle of May. Well okay, probably not only in Denver, but on Saturday night it sure felt that way!

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^^ After the movie we hit up 5280 Burger Bar, which, I imagine, would be a meat-lovers dream come true …
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^^ See what I mean? Blech! (This was Chris’s, by the way, obviously not mine!)

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^^ The ice cream sundaes, however, I can definitely get on board with!

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^^ Things were looking up on Sunday, which was Mother’s Day.

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^^ I took the rents for a stroll to Union Station so they could check it out, and we of course had to grab some ice cream from the Milkbox Ice Creamery, which serves Little Man ice cream.

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^^ That night we headed to the Green Russell for drinks before dinner at Osteria Marco in Larimer Square. This time we all chatted with the bar tender about our drink likes and dislikes, and had him custom-make some concoctions for us, which did not disappoint!

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^^ Finally, finally, the sun came out on Monday! So we took advantage and hopped in the car and headed out to Red Rocks.

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^^ I think it’s safe to say they liked it here ;)

18_Tea_Service
^^ Monday afternoon I had booked us for the high tea service at The Brown Palace Hotel, which is the oldest (and by far the fanciest!) hotel in Denver. This was so much fun, friends. We got all dressed up and there was a live piano player. We each ordered one type of tea (mine Chai, of course), and were served in our own little pots. The service came with two types of scones (regular and chocolate chip) served with Devonshire butter and jam, as well as three different types of finger sandwiches and four different mini-desserts. I’ve never felt so fancy!

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^^ How adorable are these desserts!?

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23_Piano_Man

24_Coors_Field
^^ Even though our baseball game was cancelled I still got to walk my parents by the stadium, and Robert even went back and took a tour the day they left. It was $10 and he said it was definitely worth it. They walked the field, saw where the players get ready, sat in the dugout … seems like a dream for baseball fans!

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 ^^ Me & Mom outside Union Station.

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^^ On Tuesday we were back in the car and headed to South Pearl Street in Boulder to check out the shops.

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^^ The old-timey Rocket Fizz Soda Pop & Candy Shop was definitely one of our favorite stops.

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And that was about it, my friends. They left on Wednesday after checking out Chris’s office and having lunch at Backcountry Deli. Not too shabby for a quick five-day trip, huh?

This weekend we’re heading to A-Basin for some springtime snowboarding, and then next weekend, my friends, we’re heading out to Moab, Utah, to go camping with our friends. This, my dear friends, is why I was so excited to move out here in the first place. Our first real road trip! Wish us luck …

Bis bald!

The 52 Project: May 11, 2015

Molly_Brown_House

^^ Happy day after Mother’s Day, y’all! So my mom happens to be here right now (with my stepdad, as well), and we’ve been doing the best we can to tour around town in snow, rain and 30-degree weather. Boooo. Our baseball game was even cancelled because of the snow, so that was a bummer. But we did get a chance to check out the Molly Brown House, which was pretty awesome. I’ll have more later on about what we did throughout the days they were here, but for now — bis bald, friends!

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A Weekend of Seafood, Snowboarding and Sightseeing

01Stoic_GenuineHey friends,

So this week started out pretty rough for us, to say the least, but we’re looking forward to some fun times (and hopefully better weather!) when my mom and stepdad come to town tomorrow. Before that happens, though, I wanted to go ahead and post a bit more info about our hangings-out from last weekend. As you can see from the photo above, one of our first stops was an amazing seafood restaurants that specializes in seafood, and specifically oysters. Ooh lala ;)

The restaurant is called Stoic and Genuine, and it’s in Union Station, which makes it all the more fun. Here’s what we tried (and we shared everything, which turned out to be just the right amount of food for two):

Appetizers:
Big Eye Tuna Tartare 
pumpernickel crumb, lemon, tarragon, buttered radish
George’s Bank Scallop 
coconut-lemongrass panna cotta, Thai curry and kaffir lime vinaigrette, plantain crisps, pineapple compote
Octopus dill pistachio pesto, pickled onion, candied lemon

Oysters (2 of each of the following):
Stoic plump, briny, vegetal flavor, large from Long Island
Genuine rich, briny, medium from Totten, WA
Oakland Bay luscious fruity flavor, small from S. Puget Sound, WA

Dinner:
Fried Oyster Sandwich 
smoked oyster gribiche, potato bun, lettuce, pickleSides:
Grits and Crawdads mascarpone grits, creole butter, grilled ramps
Dessert:
German Chocolate Pie-in-a-Jar
Can you say yum??


02Take_a_Hike_Drink
^^ This was my drink, the Take a Hike with Mell vodka, Pimms, lemon, mint simple and cucumber-tarragon granita. To. Die. For.

03Fried_Oyster_Sandwich
^^ Our fried oyster sandwich. After everything we had for appetizers, splitting this bad boy was the right decision!
04German_Chocolate_Pie_in_a_Jar
^^ Of course there’s always room for dessert.

If you like seafood, I would highly recommend hitting up this place — it’s a Denver must-do. Saturday Chris headed to A-Basin for the first time to snowboard, and he said it was pretty much one big party, with music playing everywhere and a really relaxed, friendly environment. We’ll be back the weekend after this one for a birthday party, so I’ll finally get to experience this ‘spring skiing’ I keep hearing him talk about ;)

Sunday was another day of exploration for us, as we headed to Colorado Springs to check out Garden of the Gods and have breakfast at Adam’s Mountain Cafe in Manitou Springs, which is about a 10 minute drive from Garden of the Gods. If you’re heading to Garden of the Gods anyway, I would highly recommend checking out Manitou Springs, since it’s so close. It’s this small, funky little town (which actually reminded me a bit of Phoenicia, if you’ll recall when Chris took me there for a short day visit) with a gorgeous, mountainous backdrop, and if you happen to find yourself at Adam’s Mountain Cafe, as well, the homemade cinnamon bun is a must!


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^^ See what I mean ?!

So a little bit about Garden of the Gods. Basically the park is made up of red rock formations that were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault line millions of years ago. According to archeologists, evidence of prehistoric people visiting this area dates back to about 1330 BC. At first the area was called Red Rock Corral (makes sense), but in August of 1859, two surveyors who were helping to set up Colorado City came upon the site and one, M.S. Beach, said that it would be a “capital place for a beer garden.” The other, Rufus Cable, allegedly replied: “Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods.”

Charles Elliott Perkins purchased 480 acres of land in 1879, a portion of which included the Garden of the Gods. When he died, his family gave the land to the city of Colorado Springs, with the stipulation that Garden of the Gods forever and always remain a free park open to the public.

And so it is to this day, my friends.


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^^ You can’t tell from this photo, but that plaque basically explains why the park will always be open and free to the public (thanks Charles Elliott Perkins!).
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^^ You can really get lost hiking around this place! The visitor center has maps that I highly recommend taking (plus the visitor’s center is just cool to check out, as well), and you can rock climb, too!

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We had a good two hours at the park before it started raining, so I think we got a good idea of what it’s all about. Of course we’ll definitely go back some day and hike around a bit more, but for now it was a nice little introduction.

And that was our weekend, friends. We’ve got lots planned for when my mom and stepdad are here the next few days — so please just say a prayer for us that the weather holds out, because why come to Colorado if you can’t go outside!

Bis bald, friends.

** This post is dedicated to my brave little bun bun, Nugget, who Chris and I lost this past Monday. He was the strongest little four-pound creature I’ve ever known, and we will miss him terribly forever and always.

A First Birthday in Denver

I wanted to take some time here to mention all of the fun things we did in and around Denver for my birthday last week, since it really was such a fun week. Here’s a little bit of what we saw:

01Ting_Tings^^ Chris surprised me the night before my birthday with concert tickets to see the Ting Tings at The Gothic Theatre in Englewood. The concert was awesome, and we really loved this venue. It sort of reminded us a bit of Terminal 5 in Manhattan, which, if you’ll recall, we have found memories of ;)
02Sonic_Treat^^ On the way home from the concert we stopped off at Sonic because Chris had never tried it before and, truth be told, neither had I. The Oreo Sonic Blast is to-die-for.
03French_Toast^^ Birthday morning started out with my traditional birthday French Toast. I’m a spoiled, spoiled gal.
04_Cupcakes^^ My sister and her fiancee sent some seriously fabulous cupcakes from Happy Cakes Bakeshop.
05Violin_Lessons^^ Chris lured me out of the apartment on the pretense that we were getting lunch, and instead he took me to Von’s Violin Shop, where he rented me a violin so I could start taking lessons again. Best. Gift. Ever!
06Denver_Lights^^ I mentioned yesterday that we had dinner on the night of my birthday at Root Down in the Highlands neighborhood, which serves local, sustainable cuisine. Then Friday night we headed out on the town with my brother-in-law’s sister (you read that right) and her husband, whose birthday also happened to be April 2. On Friday we hit up Osteria Marco — an Italian eatery in the adorable Larimer Square section of town.
07Colorado_Pride^^ After dinner we headed across the street to The Green Russell, a cocktail speakeasy, where I had a traditional Whiskey Sour, made with raw egg and everything. The bartenders here are amazing. They take the time to chat with you and figure out the perfect drink for you based on your tastes … it’s a seriously fun place to hit up. Of course it’s super dark though, so I couldn’t get a good picture. Instead I’ll post another of Larimer Square because, come on … how cute?!
08Downtown_Boulder^^ On Saturday we hopped in the car and headed to Boulder to take in the Boulder Arts Week shenanigans (which to be honest we sort of flaked on after trying out one spot), and to have lunch at Salt, where I tried out my first quinoa burger.
09Boulder_View^^  Another view of the adorable Pearl Street

And that’s about it my friends. My first birthday in Denver is officially in the books and, I gotta say, it wasn’t too shabby at all. A huge shout-out to my hubs for making the week so special.

Bis bald, friends — and welcome to spring!

Pizza, Beer, Bloody Mary’s and Bagels (aka Touring Around Denver With Friends)

 

This past weekend Chris and I hosted our first visitors to Denver, which was both fun and nerve-wracking, since we haven’t been here that long ourselves and definitely haven’t done as much exploring as I normally like to have done before invite people to try things.

But I guess that’s where TripAdvisor comes in handy these days, right friends?

Anyway, we had ourselves a right nice little weekend with our friends from NYC, and although I don’t have photos of everything we tried, I’d like to put a little list together here, since really I feel like we hit on some places that are sure to become our “locals”, if you will. (Of course it helps that they’re all walking distance to our apartment.)

Friday we met up at the local dive Star Bar for drinks before dinner. The menu changes every week, so it’s hard to say what they’ll have from one day to the next, but there are tons of local brews on tap, and they have live music, pool tables and skeeball, and while they don’t serve food themselves, they have menus available to order in from many of the tasty joints that are right on that block, as well.

We decided to forgo ordering food to the bar, though, in favor of heading over to Marco’s Coal-Fired Pizza, which is right next door. We ordered a bunch of things to share, including the Arrosto salad, the Queens pizza and the Nutella Pizza for dessert … all of which were amazing. Plus the atmosphere was fun and festive … this would be a place we’d head back to, for sure.

Saturday we attempted to meet up with our friends for breakfast at Snooze in Union Station, but when something is rated the No. 1 place to get brunch, you better believe there will be a line, and at an hour and 45 minute wait time, we weren’t having that. So we headed on over to The Delectable Egg, instead, and had ourselves a delicious breakfast, including some of the best coffee I’ve ever had (ever), and a mouth-watering Bloody Mary.
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03Delectable_Egg^^ I had mine sans bacon — thank you very much — but it was still delicious!

After breakfast we went for a little walk by the Platte River (in winter, yes, we’re badass, what can I say?) and over to REI to show them how big and fun it is.

Then later we wandered over to the Wynkoop Brewery (during what would turn out to be our first significant snowfall since we’ve been in Denver, no less) for their free brew tour (definitely worth it), some beers and appetizers.

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Dinner was at the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant (which we visited the last time we were here in April, as well), and Sunday we met up again for coffee and bagel sandwiches at Bruegger’s BagelsAnd while I have to say that nothing, and I mean nothing, beats eating an egg and cheese bagel from our favorite deli on the corner of 3rd and 89th while sitting on a bench in Central Park or taking a walk around the Reservoir, Bruegger’s is a place that I would probably be okay bringing visitors to … if I had to pick ;)

And that was it friends — our weekend of boozing and eating in a nutshell! Hopefully when the weather gets warmer we’ll be able to branch out with our guests and take them to Red Rocks, on hikes and out and about a bit more, but for now, we’re just grateful to have friends who are willing to explore a new city with us — who could ask for anything more?

Bis bald, friends!

A Brewery Tour for the Books

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Hey friends,

As I mentioned yesterday, Chris and I used Valentine’s Day as an excuse to cash in on a Christmas gift from our soon-to-be-brother-in-law and take a walking brewery tour around Denver. Since we had only been to one brewery before the tour, it really was a fun thing to do on a Saturday.

The tour started out at Rock Bottom which, as it turns out, was the very first Rock Bottom in what is now a chain of over 30 breweries around the country. Each place has its own brewmaster, though, and we started out with the Fire Chief and the Mochaholic.

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Rock_BottomAfter Rock Bottom we took a little stroll over to Wynkoop Brewing, which I think was my favorite of the four breweries that we visited. The brewery opened in 1988 and was one of the first in the area. Its success encouraged other breweries and restaurants to set up shop in downtown Denver … and the rest is brewing history.

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After Wynkoop we headed over to Falling Rock, which unfortunately I don’t have photos of — but we really enjoyed this place. It was less high-brow than the others we visited, with its dark lighting and postered walls and super tasty beer. We got pitchers of the Dry Dock Double IPA (my favorite), the Bull & Brush Brown and the Avery White Rascal. Plus this place is basically right around the corner from our apartment, so that’s always a plus!

After Falling Rock it was off to our fourth and last stop — Breckenridge Brewery — where we had the Agave Wheat and the Ophelia. We actually ended up sitting at a table with two couples who were visiting Denver for the weekend, so we all ordered some beers after the tour ended and hung out watching the rugby (yup, rugby) games for a little while.

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It was a pretty successful outing, to say the least. And now we can say that we’ve been to a couple breweries in the area which, I’m pretty sure, makes us real Denverites.

So thanks again for the awesome gift bro-in-law! We’ll have to take you on our own little brewery walking tour when you’re in town ;)

Bis bald, friends!

Life Recently: The One Month in Denver Installment

January 12 to February 12 — Chris and I have officially been in our new home state for one whole month, friends. And so far … there have been a lot of ups and downs! It’s been an adjustment period, getting used to the differences and finding a place to live and getting settled and back to work regularly. Three months off is a looonnnnggggg time my friends! But we both feel incredibly lucky to have been able to do that, and we’re looking forward to getting our routine settled here in this new place.

Some positives have included spending time with and getting to know a little bit better some family that lives out here, lots of gorgeous mountain views and sunrises and sunsets, a fun rooftop at our new apartment and, of course, lots and lots of snowboarding.

So cheers to one month in Denver — and here’s to many more wonderful ones!

1FirstDay^^ This was our very first night here. I was feeling sad because of our apartment situation (no use crying over spilled milk here), and a friend asked me to send her a photo of what we were doing our first night in Denver. At the time it felt silly to snap a photo of us in our pajamas, eating take-out Chinese (which was delicious, by the way) and drinking beer, but now I’m glad we have it.

2NewSkyline^^ Our very first night in our (second) new apartment, we headed up to the roof with some beers to watch the sunset. I think it was looking over this new mountainous skyline that I felt for the first time like we could maybe make this whole moving thing work.

3Rodeo^^ My brother-in-law’s sister (ya got that?!) invited us out our first Friday here to the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo, and it was one crazy (silly) experience, let me just tell you ….

4SettlingIn^^ Someone’s finally learning to settle in, even if it is on Chris’s brand new chair. Let’s keep those claws where I can see ’em, Penelope.

5MountainSunrise^^ We’ve had lots of early morning rides to the mountains since we’ve been here, which I can’t say I’m all too fond of, except for this sunrise. This sunrise over the mountains makes it all okay.

6Vail^^ Our first trip to Vail. We’re so fancy.

7RockBottomBrewery^^ Believe it or not we still haven’t been to many breweries (we plan to hit some up this Saturday for Valentine’s Day … how romantic!). We did, however, make a Friday night of it at Rock Bottom Brewery a couple of weekends ago …. thanks for the gift card Mom and Robert!

8SweetGift^^ A very sweet apartment-warming gift from my sister and her fiancee. You can’t really tell from this photo, but I think I can finally say that our apartment is really starting to come together. And yes, that’s Chris peeking from around the corner.

9TravelWall^^ Seeing as how we spent about 10-years’ worth of a travel budget last year alone, we don’t plan on taking too many crazy trips this year (other than back to the East coast for wedding stuff, of course, and hopefully a couple other drives out to Yosemite, Montana and the Grand Canyon). That’s why I love times infinity our travel wall, cause if you can’t actually travel, it’s still super fun to relive past adventures. Trips represented here include: Australia, New Mexico, London, Peru, the Galapagos Islands, the Bahamas, Niagra Falls, Banff, Rome, NYC, Virginia, Iceland, Key West, the Great Barrier Reef and Venice. Sigh. I love ’em all.

10WindowSunset^^ We don’t even have to go to our roof to see fabulous sunsets — this one was taking place right outside our living room window. (Ah, to have a living room window. These are things you can easily miss out on when you live in Manhattan!)

11Keystone^^ We’ve made the most snowboarding treks out to Keystone, by far … but look how pretty it is? Can you blame us?!

12RooftopMountainView^^ Another glorious rooftop shot, this time at dusk.

13RooftopSunset^^ And the sun sets on downtown Denver.

14KeystoneLodge^^ Some family was visiting from the East coast this week and we went to spend a day with them in Keystone. They stayed at the lodge right at the base of the mountain, and OMG you guys … how amazing is this place?! I’m trying to figure out how we can win the lottery and move here. Simply gorgeous.

And that’s about it friends … 31ish days in a nutshell. It’s been a whirlwind. It’s been fun and sad and frustrating and amazing. And such is life, right my dear people?

Bis bald! And a very Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

Wistful Nostalgia …

Can there be such a thing?

Well guys — Chris and I have been in Denver for about 3 1/2 weeks now, and while I’m not necessarily homesick, I would say I’m feeling a certain wistful nostalgia for all the plans we made last year and all the traveling we did. From South America to Australia to traveling cross-country — along with all the time we spent with my family at home in between — I loved every last second of it, and as Chris and I were just saying: we wouldn’t have changed one damn thing.

So I guess it’s a good thing that I haven’t had time to upload the photos from my camera since right after South America, then, because it afforded me the opportunity to relive November, December and the beginning of January all over again.

And I thought I’d share some of that here … you know, in case you wanted to partake in my wistful nostalgia.

Robert_Birthday^^ A big ole’ plate of ribs for Robert’s birthday. (I refrained, obviously, but I’m told they were delicious.)

_DSC0444^^ This. Face.

_DSC0456^^ This boy loves his trains.

_DSC0463^^ It’s Dad’s job to carve the turkey every year, and he only eats about half of it while he’s doing so ;)

Bryant_Park^^ Chris and I managed to make it back to the city in between hanging with fam, too. We even made to my favorite place in the entire world to ice skate — Bryant Park.

Grand_Central^^ A blurry but still beautiful Grand Central.

Gingerbread_Cookie^^ Mom and I made some gingerbread cookies that, much to my surprise, turned out pretty fabulous!

Connor_Boys^^ These Connor boys … too cute!

_DSC0469^^ Beautiful Sydney in the background.

_DSC0474^^ So grateful for these Sydney friends of ours! (And so excited to meet their little baby, coming in just a few months now!)

_DSC0486^^ Watson’s Bay waves.

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Sydney_Lights^^ Sydney blues.

Canberra_Winery^^ Chris and I were lucky enough to be able to spend a whole week with his sister and her boo in Canberra. Kate took the week off to hang with us, and it was pretty much the best ever. This little pooch hung out with us while we did some wine tasting at a vineyard in the area.

Christmas_Sign^^ Pssst…it really wasn’t. Because it was hot. And there was no snow. But it was still one of my all-time fave Christmas’ ever!

Parliament_House^^ Kate works at Old Parliament house, and we were lucky enough to get an insider’s tour.

Big_Things^^ I couldn’t agree more with this saying on display in one of the rooms at Old Parliament House.

_DSC0527^^ The Australian Coat of Arms at the new Parliament House.

_DSC0539^^ Bro and sis … duh!

_DSC0545^^ I call this one “Me, Kate and the Kangaroos.”

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Licorice_Factory^^ After Canberra Chris and I headed off to Coolaman to visit one of his besties from college. While there we took some time to visit the Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory (where I simply had to snap this photo because comeon!! Do these two not remind you of Lucy and Ethel working at the chocolate factory?! Simply the best.) We also ….

Shrimp^^ Had a seriously amazing seafood feast that included these babies — which are pretty much a staple in my diet any time I’m in Australia.

_DSC0578^^ After Coolaman we drove to the Taronga Zoo in Dubbo. This zoo is amazing, folks. We rented bikes (which I highly recommend), and rode around catching all the shows that we could. With over 4,000 animals and more than 20 keeper talks every single day, there is so much to see here. And the wide open zoo plan means that the animals are as close to their natural habitat as possible. It’s really pretty amazing.

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_DSC0708^^ The Galapagos Giant Tortoise!

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After the zoo we headed back to spend our final week — Christmas week — in Bathurst with the fam.

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The_Connors^^ The original Connor Clan.

Nan_Nan^^ You can’t quite tell, but there’s a Nannan being hugged under there ;)

Grand_Kids^^ Nannan with most (not all!) of her grandkids and great-grandkids!

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_DSC0827^^ An impromptu game of cricket in the park … nothing more Aussie than that.

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_DSC0853^^ These two.

_DSC0881^^ Andddd now we’re on to St. Louis! That’s Chris there, that teeny, tiny blob on the bottom right.

_DSC0887^^ Me in the teeny, tiny pods that carry you to the top of the St. Louis Arch.

_DSC0892^^ The view from the top = spectacular.

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_DSC0925^^ Dred and Harriet Scott statue in front of the courthouse.

And that’s it, friends. Nothing like a walk down memory lane (and a rockin’ blog for documenting it all) to make you feel better, right?

Bis bald, friends! And here’s to future plans and travels and adventures that are just as exciting as those of our pasts.

A Partial Cross-Country Trip, From New York to Colorado

Hiya friends,

I know this post is about three weeks late, but sheesh 2015 started with a friggin’ bang, did it not? I feel like we’ve barely had time to sit at all since we arrived in Denver. I did want to throw up just a couple of photos of our halfway-cross-country trip from New York to Colorado, though, as well as give a little bit of info on some of the places we stayed and ate. We didn’t have a ton of time to spend in each place (I think the longest we stayed was about 20 hours in St. Louis, although many of those hours were spent sleeping), but I really feel like we still got a good idea what each place was about … and we loved ’em all!

Oh by the way, in case you were wondering, our route took us this way:

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We made stops in:

All the hotels were great (especially the Hilton in St. Louis — totally walking distance to the Arch!), and pet-friendly to boot.

So without further adieu … a bit of our cross-country trip in photos:

01Car_Penny^^ We hopped into the car on Thursday, Jan. 8th, all four of us as a family. Everyone was all, “Oh my gosh, you’re taking your cat and your rabbit in the car with you? For four days? Across the country?” And we were all, “Ummm, yeah. They’ll be totally fine!” And guess what friends — they really were! Totally rocked it, is what this kitten and bunny did! Good job guys – we were very proud of you.

02Entering_Ohio^^ Helloooooo Ohio! Unfortunately we only spent a couple of waking hours here, but when we checked out TripAdvisor for a suggestion on where to eat, it turned out the highly rated Flatiron Bar & Diner had received pretty great reviews and, wahooooo!, it was basically right in our parking lot! I ate a delicious fried oyster po’ boy and Chris had the gumbo and we had some beers — it was just what the doctor ordered after 10 hours of driving.

03Hotel_Penny^^ Penny and Nugget had no trouble making themselves at home in our hotel rooms — especially the Hilton in St. Louis which was super swank.

04Arch_Ground^^ Like I mentioned before, the Arch was only a couple blocks from our hotel, so we just had to head out at night to catch it all lit up …

05Night_Arch^^ And it did not disappoint!

06Schnicklefritz_Beer^^ That night we grabbed some drinks at the Hyatt, which was right across the street from our hotel (we had cheated a bit and ordered room service for dinner, which was FABULOUS!). I got this beer based solely on its name (obviously), and it turned out to be totally delicious.

07Arch_Ride^^ We purchased tickets online the night before and headed out (in the frigid cold, I might add) the next morning to head up the Arch and see the sites. It really was a pretty fun experience, but be warned clustrophobes … this is maybe NOT the activity for you! I wouldn’t consider myself to be claustrophobic, but even so, the tiny little vessels that carry you to the top of the Arch had my heart racing — and Chris and I were in there alone! (On the way up we were alone at least … we shared with two people on the way down.) I can’t imagine how it would have been if the intended six people were squished together in there!

08Arch_View^^ But the views are pretty spectacular, so you kind of forget about the ride up (and down) once you’re up there.

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13StLouis_Courthouse^^ This is the Old Courthouse, where the slave Dred Scott sued for his and his wife’s freedom in 1846. This statue stands as a monument to the couple — and everything that historic case stood for — outside of the courthouse today.

14Schfly_Brewery^^ For lunch we headed to Schlafly Brewery, which was really super amazingly fun.

15Brewery_Dinner^^ Chris has poutine, beer soup and lots of regular beers for lunch. He was a happy boy.

16KansasCity_Kids^^ This is Pen and Nuggs making themselves comfortable in our Kansas City hotel. Unfortunately we didn’t take too many photos in Kansas City (or I tried, I should say, to take some of the adorable downtown area, but they came out horrible). But we really, really loved it here! The downtown area is super cute, and we ate dinner at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue, which was so fantastic, even for me, a vegetarian. We ordered fried mushrooms and Chris had steak (obviously), while I got a salad and some of their BBQ shrimp on the side to add in. It was heaven on a plate.

17Colorado_Welcome^^ After four days of driving and 1,836 miles covered (plus lots of McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell and Subway for lunch), we had made it to Colorado, my friends, and our final destination — Denver — was in site.

And that’s it in a nutshell, ya’ll! It was a wild, fast and furious couple of days for us, but it was super fun, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way!

Bis bald, friends! Chris and I are off to the mountains again today — I hope everyone else is making the most of the lovely winter months, as well!

The 52 Project: January 12, 2015

Road_Trip^^ Well friends, after a road trip that included driving 1,787 miles through eight states with stops in three cities in those states (Columbus, Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri and Kansas City, Missouri), Chris, Penny, Nugget and I have arrived in Denver, Colorado — our new home. Well, we’re not actually in our new home quite yet, because it isn’t ready for us yet, but we’re at least here, in this new city, and ready to get the ball rolling! Here’s to a fabulous, fun, fruitful 2015 ya’ll!

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The Year 2014: A Review

Well, friends, it’s been quite the year! When I’m old and grey and looking back on my travels, this will certainly be one of my favorite years to reference. Here’s how our adventure-filled 365 days played out:

January
In January Chris and I headed upstate for a first anniversary trip to Saratoga Springs, which we promptly fell absolutely in love with.

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February
As the winter weather dragged itself out in NYC, Chris and I decided to spice things up a bit, so we packed up and headed over to Iceland (blogged about here, hereherehere and here — man I know how to drag out a trip, don’t I!). While there we saw the Northern lights (once in a lifetime experience), rented bicycles to ride around the city, tried out some local beers, relaxed at the Blue Lagoon and generally fell in love with Iceland’s gorgeous scenery.

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March
In March I headed down to Florida for a little girlfriend’s/birthday getaway in Jupiter and Marathon Key (the trip was about 10 days long, so it lasted from the end of March all the way through my birthday into the beginning of April.) In Florida we saw spectacular sunsets, amazing marine life and even took a kayak ride through the mangroves. It was a spectacular birthday, indeed.

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April
After deciding to pack up and move our little family to Denver, Colorado, Chris and I decided — maybe we should visit there and see how it actually is before doing so! So in April we flew out to the middle of the country with my sister and her then-boyfriend (now fiancée!) to check out Boulder, Breckenridge and Denver. What we found were really sweet people, tons of awesome breweries and amazing outdoor opportunities.

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May
In late April/early May I took the bus down to D.C. to visit a friend for her birthday, and we decided to rent some kayaks (which is kind of becoming our thing now) and take them out on the Potomac.

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June
In June Chris and I hopped in the car and took a day trip to Phoenicia and Otter Falls, places he visits every year when he and a bunch of his running friends run a relay race in the area. He had been wanting to get me up there to taste the amazing pancakes at Sweet Sue’s Restaurant (they don’t disappoint!) and see the waterfall at Otter Falls.

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July
In July I headed to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware with my immediate family and a ton of our extended family for some quality beach time (and a delicious seafood night — a time-honored family tradition).

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September
In September Chris and I were lucky enough to cash in on one of our awesome wedding presents and take a helicopter ride high above beautiful ole’ NYC

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We also participated in my family’s annual Penn State football tailgate weekend in Happy Valley, but this time with one very notable addition — our nephew, Rory ;)

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And then, at the end of the month, I was honored when the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau invited me out for a visit to their beautiful city (blogged about here, here and here). P.S. This trip included my first ever hot air balloon ride — amazing!

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October and November
Well, friends, October and November were the months to end all months for us. After about a year and a half of planning, Chris and I finally headed out on our four-week long adventure to South America, including Peru (blogged about here, here and here) , the Amazon, the Galapagos and Costa Rica. There’s not much more that I can say here about this part of the year that I haven’t already said in my other posts about them, but I’ll just say one more time — this was the trip of a lifetime, and we’re so grateful we were able to take the time to do it.

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December
And then, my friends, after all of that, Chris and I were lucky enough to hop back on a plane in December and fly off to spend the holiday season with Chris’s family in Australia.

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Miscellaneous
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of other amazing things that happened this year, like taking part in wedding ceremonies and bachelorette parties for six of our friends, my baby sister getting engaged, checking a couple of big NYC things off our bucket lists (like this visit to the Cloisters and this one to the Met rooftop bar), and, of course, saying farewell to the city we love so dearly.

IMG_4223^^ Visiting the Met rooftop with my dad and stepmom for Father’s Day.

IMG_4466^^ Celebrating a cousin’s wedding in Brooklyn.

IMG_4472^^ We sure know how to party down. (And we had lots of practice with tons of weddings this year!)

Me_and_Lise2^^ Hosting a bestie who has long since moved from the city and came back for a visit.

Monkey_Bar10^^ Revisiting my absolutely favorite restaurant in Manhattan.

photo 2^^ Attending Rory’s first-ever baseball game. (Go Mets!)

photo 2^^ Checking out new and fun areas in Manhattan.

photo 3^^ Taking a gorgeous fall hike in beautiful areas to break in new hiking shoes.

RoryBabysit^^ Spending some time with my nephew = always a fabulous time.

Atlantic_City^^ Heading to Atlantic City (twice!) for friends’ bachelorette parties.

You’ve been a pretty stellar year — 2014. I’m sad to say goodbye, but excited to see what 2015 holds.

Bis bald, friends — and very merry and happy New Year!

 

 

 

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!