A Final Two Days in New Orleans

_DSC2583^^ We sure do love a good bike tour ;)

Sunday in New Orleans was a great day, because we actually hopped on a bike tour with Buzz Nola that took us into some really gorgeous parts of the city that we hadn’t seen yet. We stopped at P.J’s for coffee first (because we saw locals drinking this, so we figured, why not?!), and then met up with our tour, which covered:

  • The French Quarter: Where we learned about the city’s founding in 1718, the architecture, Jackson Square and the history of the French Market.
  • Esplanade Ave.: A historic oak-lined boulevard where the Creole elite live.
  • Faubourg Treme: A centuries old neighborhood, home to artists, musicians and history makers.
  • Louis Armstrong Park & Congo Square: The heart of New Orleans’ jazz tradition (and where the jazz festival was being held that we stopped by the day before).
  • Lafayette Cemetery No. 1: One of the many above ground cemeteries in New Orleans, where we learned about the tradition of interment and New Orleans’ funeral traditions.
  • The Lower Garden District: Where the original city of Lafayette, LA begins. Americans were the first to begin building their homes here when the they weren’t welcome in the areas where the French were already living.
  • The Mansions of the Garden District: Gorgeous homes abound in this area, and many architectural trends influenced the whole neighborhood.

Here’s some of what we saw …




_DSC2609^^ This is Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, which has a really interesting history that you can read on their site. We came back here later Sunday night to grab some drinks.



_DSC2634^^ Look at this beautiful mansion in the Garden District part of our tour. We saw Sandra Bullock’s house, the house where Eli and Peyton Manning grew up, John Goodman’s house, and a whole bunch of others.



_DSC2668^^ Lafayette’s Cemetery. It’s a somber experience to be taking a tour through a cemetery, but just look at these gorgeous structures. It’s really a nice way to be remembered.



_DSC2695^^ This sign was pretty much across the street from our hotel, and it made me laugh when I first saw it, so I figured I should take a pic ;)

IMG_3681^^ Sazeracs at Dominica in the Roosevelt hotel for happy hour before heading out on the town.

IMG_9752^^ Hurricane’s at Lafitte’s on Sunday night before catching an Uber to dinner.

IMG_2801^^ This. A very scary creepy statue of Jesus that projects onto a church in the French Quarter at night. 

IMG_9760^^ Dinner Sunday night was at Baccanal Wine, which is totally off the beaten path, and totally worth it! The first part of the store is a wine and cheese shop, then you can go and sit in the backyard under the twinkle lights, listen to live jazz and order drinks and food from the little window over there to the left. It has a really laid back, low-key, homey type of feel — exactly what we were hoping for on our last night.


Monday was our last day in New Orleans, and we were lucky that we had most of the day to hang out. We went back to Cafe Du Monde for breakfast, and this time we actually sat in the cafe, which was a lot of fun.


Then we walked over to Canal St. and caught the Streetcar back to the Garden District, where we would be having lunch at Commander’s Palace.

So remember the other day when I said the Streetcars were cute, except for when you want to ride them? Well the truth is they’re pretty unreliable in terms of timing (ours showed up about 10 minutes late and took about 20 minutes longer than we thought to get us to our destination). If you aren’t strapped for time, though, it’s a pretty fun (and cheap) way to ride around the city at least once.


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IMG_9770^^ Us, totally badass after a delicious lunch at Commander’s Palace. My mushroom risotto was some of the best I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.

And that, my friends, was that! New Orleans in four days in a nutshell! It was fun and funky and splendid and wonderful — and I’d highly recommend it for history buffs, music lovers, those who enjoy fine food and/or drink, and party revelers alike.

Bis bald, friends! I’ll leave you with this – one last video of the amazing orchestra due we fell in love with and who we lucky got to see twice before we left. P.S. I do realize this is the same song as I posted before, just a longer version. I thought we taped them both nights, but unfortunately we didn’t. Oh well — it’s still a damn good show.

Day 2 in New Orleans: Food, Frenchman’s Street & Fun Outdoor Markets

_DSC2484^^ Ahh New Orleans … could you be any prettier?

Saturday was a splendid, exploratory day for us in New Orleans, my friends. We decided to walk the distance to try brunch (which was actually more like lunch, by the time we got there) at Elizabeth’s, followed by a stroll along Crescent Park (the photo above) and a wander through the French Market, where we bought some really amazing art work and I got a new pair of sunglasses and a fun face mask (hey, when in New Orleans, right?!).

On our way back to our hotel, we were trying to find St. Louis Cemetery (which we did, although unfortunately it was closed for the day) and we stumbled across Basin St. Station (definitely worth a look on your way to the cemetery for information on the evolution of transportation in New Orleans) and the New Orleans Jazz and History Festival, which was really fun.

Here’s a visual journey through our day …




_DSC2472^^ We don’t have a dog, but I need this sign!

_DSC2473^^ Walking through the Marigny section of town to get to brunch.

_DSC2476^^ Beads are everywhere in New Orleans — be sure to  look in the trees, too, that’s a favorite spot for them to hang.

_DSC2481^^ Well deserved Bloody Mary’s after a long walk to Elizabeth’s.

_DSC2482^^ My eggs florentine, which were good, but I definitely had food envy over Chris’s …

_DSC2483^^ Crabby eggs (basically eggs florentine on top of crab cakes) and cheesy grits. Yum!

_DSC2488^^ Walking along the Crescent Park pathway, which gives you some amazing views of the city, and pretty much brings you right up to the French Market.





_DSC2511^^ These kids playing right near the French Market were so awesome, we just sat and listened to them for a good 15 minutes.



_DSC2548^^ Another second line parade that happened along our path.



_DSC2564^^ Basically there are brides and bridal parties everywhere you turn in New Orleans. And who can blame ’em … what a backdrop!


_DSC2579^^ A bit of a view from the Jazz and History Festival.

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IMG_9714^^ You can’t help but love these guys, right? They aren’t even getting married — they’re just celebrating life.

After a quick rest back at the hotel, we headed back out onto the town for some food, live music and art. We had been hearing great things about the po boys at Verti Marte, so we obviously had to check it out, and they did not disappoint. If you can get past the super sketchy feel of this place (it’s basically a small convenient store with a deli at the back where you order), you’ll be impressed with their po boy options, and even more impressed with the taste. Plan to either get yours delivered or eat it out on the street while you people watch on your way to your next destination (which is what we did).

After dinner we tried to get into Three Muses, but they weren’t taking any more people for the night. This is supposed to be a really fun place for tapas and live music, so if you can make it work, I’d recommend trying it. Lucky for us, though, there was a fun bar about two doors down (30/90) which had good drinks and a live band. So we snuck in there for a while, then wandered around Frenchmen Street for a bit, including the Frenchmen Art Market, which was so romantic with its white string lights and tables and tables of local artists selling their wares.

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FullSizeRender (97)^^ This picture doesn’t do it justice, but we walked home along Bourbon Street that night, and you can only imagine the insanity that ensues here.  Bourbon Street is not for the faint of heart, my friends. Keep that in mind ;)

And that was our Saturday! I’ll be back tomorrow with Sunday and Monday (since Monday was a short day). Sunday included a bike tour, which was so much fun, and checking out a new section of town, as well.

But for now … bis bald, friends!

Let’s Talk About Amazing New Orleans: Day 1

Well friends, we’re back home after a crazy couple of days in the Big Easy! We landed late Thursday and really hit the ground running Friday through Monday night, when we flew back. I feel like we got a good lay of the land from just those couple of days, but New Orleans is definitely a place I would say I’d like to head back to.

I figured the best way to go about blogging for this trip is to break it up by days. Friday morning we really wanted to just take our time and meander around the city, being sure to hit up some of the spots our many, many friends who have been before suggested we see. Here’s what we got up to:

Breakfast was take-away beignets and coffee from Cafe Du Monde, which we ate by the river while we listened to some locals jam away. Chris kept saying how the one thing he really loved about this city was how it seems to have a soundtrack of its own, and I couldn’t agree more.

_DSC2334^^ The Streetcars that ran along Canal Street were so cute — until we took one! More on that later, though …

_DSC2338^^ I took a lot of pictures of buildings people, because … I mean … come on! So gorgeous!



_DSC2348^^ We decided to do take away from Cafe Du Monde Friday, but we were able to sit down at a table on Monday morning, and it was fantastic. The people watching alone is worth it, but to sit at a table and dunk your beignet in coffee — you’ll think you died and went to heaven.

_DSC2381^^ Check out the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral in the background. Our tour guide on Sunday told us that Walt Disney modeled the Magic Kingdom castle after it, after coming to New Orleans and being blown away by its beauty. I could definitely see that.

_DSC2395^^ There are no open container laws in New Orleans, which makes for a pretty interesting time. You can’t have glass bottles on the street, but there’s a lotta paper baggin’ it happening around here!

_DSC2407^^ Look at this little kid, just playin’ his drum as he crosses the street. This is quintessential New Orleans, if you ask me.


After breakfast we wandered around the French Quarter, down Bourbon Street and happened upon Cafe Beignet, where we sat to get some drinks and listen to the live band.





_DSC2420^^ The first of many Sazeracs ;)




Lunch on Friday was at Lüke’s, which was close to our hotel but also happened to have some amazing food. We had oysters (but of course), Court-bouillon with redfish, crab, shrimp, oysters and Louisiana popcorn rice. Chris also had the seafood gumbo, while I opted for the Lüke salad. It was a spectacular lunch, to say the least.





After lunch we took a quick rest back at our hotel. I should take this chance to talk a bit about where we stayed — The Whitney Hotel. This former bank has kept many of its old banking structures, which makes it super quirky and fun, and its location is enough removed from the madness to be quiet, but also just blocks away from where all the fun is. I’d highly recommend it for anyone’s stay!

_DSC2450^^ The front lobby.



Our Friday evening consisted of some more exploring, with stops at The Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone (an actual spinning carousel — don’t worry, it’s sloowwwww — and live music make this place so. much. fun!), drinks at The Golden Lantern [which Chris says was his favorite bar out of all those we visited … even if it was a gay bar ;)] and a bit of a walk to Mimi’s in the Marigny, which is, as the name suggests, in the Marigny section of town. We had some delicious tapas for dinner there.

FullSizeRender (94)^^ One of the many second line parades we saw while in town. Anyone can register with the police department for any reason to have a parade, and they will be given real police escorts and everything. Of course you have to hire your own band, though — but those aren’t hard to come by in New Orleans. See the bride in the back? So much fun!

FullSizeRender (93)^^ Checking out the scenery at The Carousel Bar.

IMG_9652^^ So much fun!


IMG_9665^^ The band in the background could be heard all the way up the carousel part of the bar, which was really cool.


^^ Delicious dinner at Mimi’s. Tapas rock.

IMG_9695^^ My husband, up to something at Mimi’s, that’s for sure.

And that was our first jam packed day in New Orleans friends! I’ll leave you with this, amazing orchestra duo which we went back to see the following night as well, because they were just that good. Bis bald, friends — and I’ll be back tomorrow with more!

Life Lately: The Fall in Upstate New York Edition

Hi friends,

As much as fall has been a whirlwind, I was predicting that to be the case, and therefore I’ve been able to (as much as humanly possible!) stop and — to paraphrase — smell the changing leaves ;)

Here’s a bit of what I’ve been up to in the past couple (crazy/insane/amazing) weeks …

01_Snooze^^ Snooze with some Aussie visitors before I left for my east coast adventure.

02_DenverCapital^^ Checking out the Colorado State Capitol as part of an expert (not) tour while our friends were in town.

03_PeekskillBrewery^^ Hitting up the Peekskill Brewery for dinner the first night I was home.

04_IthacaLakehouse^^ We rented a lake house in Ithaca for my sister’s bachelorette a few weekends ago, and it was the definition of heavenly.

05_IthacaLakehouse^^ Getting the party started!

06_IthacaLakehouse^^ Cayuga Lake in all its glory.

07_CiderTasting^^ Stopping at the Finger Lakes Cider House on our winery tour.

08_CiderTasting^^ These ladies.

09_IthacaBars^^ I bought these little party hats for our gang to wear out the night of Steph’s bachelorette, and I cannot lie, I kind of love them. What else can I wear this for?!

10_Gorges^^ Checking out the gorges in Ithaca before heading out Sunday. Oh fall — you just get me.

11_Ranger^^ This pup is soooo happy to have me home ;)

12_BKWAterfront^^ I headed into the city for a couple days last week for a press event and to visit some friends. This pic was taken during  a walk along the river in Brooklyn Bridge Park.


13_StatueOfLiberty^^ There’s our Lady Liberty, standing all tall and proud!

14_BKNeighborhood^^ It doesn’t get more quaint Brooklyn wonderfulness than my friend’s adorable neighborhood.

15_FayeAndMe^^ Blurry  photo fun down in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

17_BryantPark^^ One of my all-time most favorite places in the entire world — Bryant Park. This little slice of heaven lives amidst all the crazy hustle and bustle of Manhattan, and it really is something special. I appreciate it even more now that I don’t live in NYC anymore …


19_230Fifth^^ My press event last Thursday took place on the rooftop bar of 230 Fifth.  This place is pricey, but in my opinion it’s absolutely worth it for this view …

19_EmpireState^^ I mean …

20_FlatironBuilding^^ I had some time to kill before the event on Thursday, so I hung out in Madison Square Park for a bit and snapped this pic of the Flatiron Building on my way out.

21_BKPumpkins^^ Pumpkins in Brooklyn.

22_ProspectPark^^ A friend and I walked through Prospect Park in Brooklyn on Sunday before I headed home. Coming back to visit this city — and all the people I love who still live here — is bittersweet now. Still, this was the first time back since we’ve moved away that I thought, “I’m actually okay that I don’t live here.” As much as I adore New York — and I do! — this place can also be exhausting and stressful. Who knows where my life will bring me in the future, but it was a good feeling this trip back to be able to say that for now, I think we made the right decision leaving. Leaving the people there, of course, is a whole other thing …

23_AussieCousin^^ This Aussie cousin of ours is amazing. When he found out a trip he had already planned to New York was happening just days after my sister’s wedding, he rescheduled to be able to attend. Then he found out about our other cousin’s wedding that took place this past Saturday, and he rescheduled again! What a trooper.

24_Wedding^^ A glorious wedding venue.

25_Wedding^^ These two cuties are next!


27_NewPaltzFall^^ Sunday was frustrating to me, with an unscheduled, unplanned and thoroughly annoying last-minute trip to an Urgent Care Center. The drive out there, however, was splendid in all its fall loveliness, so I rewarded myself with a stop directly in the middle of the road to take this photo.

IMG_8891^^ And this, from a walk around the neighborhood with the dog. Le sigh.

IMG_8574^^ Chris and I haven’t been together all of October, since I’ve been east coasting it — so sometimes we just have to cheers each other virtually, ya know?!

IMG_6118^^ Oh, and he sends me these, too, to melt my heart a little bit ;)

And that’s been it so far, my friends! I’m off to the Poconos with a friend this Thursday, and I’m sure there will be plenty more to share with you in the coming weeks – so stay tuned.

Bis bald!

A Day in Grand Teton National Park

Jackson Lake, Wyoming

After settling into our amazing tiny house last Wednesday, we woke up bright and early Thursday morning, ready to tackle the awesome splendor that is Grand Teton National Park.  We got up around 6 a.m., made some coffee, and sat on our front porch overlooking the Tetons while we planned our day.

Here’s how the day went:

We started with breakfast at a cute little bakery right in the downtown part of Jackson called Persephone, where we ordered coffees, breakfast sandwiches and scones to go. It was busy, but we didn’t have to wait too long, and the food was amazing, so I’d highly recommend checking this place out if you’re in town.

After grabbing breakfast, we headed across the street to an outdoor store and grabbed some bear spray.

A note about the bear spray, people — it’s expensive, but it makes all the difference in terms of comfort level when you’ll be hiking (or even just standing!) in areas where there has been heavy bear activity, like there has been this year in both the Tetons and Yellowstone. For example — we ended up seeing four bears in Yellowstone … but that’s a post for another day ;)

Anyway, after breakfast and bear spray, we started the drive out to the park. The road we originally wanted to take was actually closed down due to bear activity (see!), but no matter where you drive around the Tetons, you’re sure to see some amazing stuff.

Here’s what we got up to and saw:




_DSC1591^^ Jenny Lake

_DSC1595^^ The views on our Hidden Falls hike.

_DSC1597^^ Jenny Lake as seen from the Hidden Falls hike.







_DSC1650^^ After our hike, we stopped off at Dornans to have some drinks overlooking the mountains.

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_DSC1675^^ Doesn’t get much more Wyoming than this.


On our way back to our tiny house, we stopped off at the grocery store to pick up some veggies and smores to grill and some wine to drink. Chris was dying to try out the outdoor grill that came with our tiny house, and I was dying to stare up at the stars all night long — so it worked out well for both of us!

We also decided to try out The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, right in downtown Jackson, which is about as cowboy/Midwest as you can possibly get. It’s definitely worth a stop-in for a drink if you’re in the area!

FullSizeRender (84)^^ You can’t really tell from this photo, but we’re actually sitting on bar stools that are saddles. Fun!




_DSC1670^^ Grilling for dinner right next to our tiny house. It was the perfect way to end our day full o’ fun at the Grand Tetons!

The next morning we would be up early (again!) to head over to breakfast at The Bunnery in Jackson before driving about an hour or so to start our Yellowstone adventure.

But more on that to come later, my friends. For now — bis bald!

Baseball and a New Brunch Place

01_Rockies Game
Last Friday Chris and I took advantage of his boss’s Rockies season tickets to take in our first baseball game at Coors Field. This was especially meaningful for us because the Rockies just happened to be playing … drum roll please … the Mets! Amazing.

And it was an amazing game, as well. (Go Mets!)

02_Rockies Game
On Sunday we decided to hit up Snooze (which is consistently ranked among the top places to get brunch in Denver). There are two locations near us — one in Union Station and another on Larimer. While the original plan was to get up early and head to the stand-alone restaurant on Larimer to hopefully avoid the (always present) crowds, let’s just say that didn’t happen because of someone (ahem … it was me. All my fault.), so we hit up the Union Station location instead, since there were places we could grab a coffee and hang out outside while waiting.

As a side note: I would highly recommend this course of action for anyone attempting to eat at Snooze on the weekend. We were told our wait would be an hour and 45 minutes (although I think it actually ended up only being a little over an hour), but we barely noticed because we grabbed coffee from Pigtrain and sat outside in the gorgeous weather watching the little kids and dogs run around in the water fountains.

Not too shabby.


04_Snooze Menu

05_Snooze Menu

06_Snooze Decor

Our waiter was some kind of wonderful. He felt pretty strongly that, since this was our first time at Snooze, we should get to experience some form of delicious pancakes, and because we both ordered from ‘the art of hollandaise’ section of the menu (hello, eggs benedict!), he sent one over for us to try on the house.

And it was … spectacular!

07_Snooze Pancake^^ Behold, the Blueberry Danish pancake, friends. Commence drooling now.

08_Snooze Bennie^^ Chris and I both picked the ‘Benny Due Can’t Decide?! option from the menu, which allows you to mix and match two half orders of eggs benedict options (mine, above, was the Caprese and Bella! Bella! Benny with the prosciutto removed).

All told, while I have to say that there will always be a special place in my heart for The Delectable Egg, I can certainly see why people say Snooze is a must-hit when in Denver. We’ll certainly be back here again in the near future, that’s for sure.

Bis bald, friends!

Checking out Glenwood Springs and Hanging Lake


Hi friends,

So last Saturday, after checking out Aspen and the Maroon Bells, Chris and I got back in the car and finished up the hour drive over to Glenwood Springs. We would be hiking the Hanging Lake trail early Sunday morning, so we thought staying in town (we stayed at the Courtyard Marriott, which is about a 15-20 minute drive out to Hanging Lake) would be a good idea so we could get an early start.

A little bit about Glenwood Springs — umm, it’s adorable. The downtown area is super cute, and we had a lot of fun meandering about Saturday night. We ended up having dinner at Grind, where Chris said he had the best burger of his life, and my falafel sandwich was pretty spectacular, as well. There are also a ton of hot springs in and around Glenwood Springs (hence the name), including the new Iron Mountain Hot Springs, which Chris and I plan to visit when we make it back to the area and have more time.




03_Grind^^ Falafel sandwich with cole slaw … yum!





We grabbed a bottle of wine and headed back to the hotel for an early night Saturday, since we’d be getting at up 5:30 for our hike the next day.

So a little bit about this hike. I had read a ton of reviews on TripAdvisor about it, all of which say that this hike is incredibly beautiful … but incredibly difficult. Like, every single review says how prepared you need to be and how rocky and hard it is. So, needless to say, I was a little nervous. Having now completed said trail, however, I can tell you — yes, it’s difficult … but not too difficult. Of course my idea of difficult has been increased dramatically (thanks in particular to this hike, and this one and this one), so I’d say that my idea of difficulty might be a bit higher than others, but all I would say is, if you’re interested in doing this hike, don’t let scary reviews keep you from it. Yes it’s steep and yes there are lots of rocks to climb, but there’s plenty of room to take breaks, and there are plenty of flat bits to catch your breathe, as well.

The other note I’d have to make is about the parking lot. It’s tiny, friends — as in not much room for a ton of cars. Chris and I arrived just a little after 7 a.m. to start our hike and probably got one of the last 10 or so spots to park. And when we finished (around 9:20) there was a line of cars waiting to get in, which probably would have been at least an hour or so wait, if not longer. So my advice would be to get there very, very early, so you can avoid all that waiting nonsense.

And when you finally do make it to your hike, you’ll be rewarded with some pretty amazing stuff, friends …


_DSC1314^^ There was something tantalizingly pretty about this moth … even though if I look at it too long it totally grosses me out …


_DSC1344^^ After a mile of uphill hiking, we reached the beautiful Hanging Lake. Quite serene, isn’t it?

_DSC1345^^ The water was so crystal clear and beautiful, and see the fish?!




_DSC1392^^ There’s a short little extra hike that runs up above Hanging Lake that brings you to this pretty waterfall. Definitely worth the extra one minute it takes to get there.





And that was our nice little Sunday, my friends. I would highly recommend every single piece of our weekend. From Aspen to the Maroon Bells to Glenwood Springs to the Hanging Lake trail … it’s all absolutely wonderful.

Bis bald, friends!

Euclid Hall – A Great Place for Awesome Drinks and Appetizers in Denver


Hey friends,

So Friday night Chris and I made good on a promise to each other to try out at least one new bar/restaurant in Denver each month by checking out Euclid Hall, right off Larimer Square. It’s been on my to-do list, and I’m really glad we got a chance to check it out, because we both agree it’s a great spot to bring visitors. Not only do you get to walk through the adorable Larimer Square (which it seems I’m destined to take pictures of every single time I’m in that area, so please don’t judge me), but they have tons of beers and they even have a speciality Seinfeld-themed cocktail menu.


We ordered a couple different beers and cocktails and appetizers, and the atmosphere was really fun and festive. It’s a great place to hang with some friends or have a pre-dinner drink. I would highly recommend checking it out …



IMG_7841^^ The beer list goes on and on …

IMG_7842^^ Seinfeld-themed drinks … yesssssss!

IMG_7845^^ You just know we had to try the pickle sampler plate, right?

IMG_7847^^ Fried cheddar curds with buffalo ranch dipping sauce and white cheddar spaetzle rounded out our appetizer samples. The only other times I’ve had spaetzle were in Salzburg and Munich, so of course you know nothing can compare to eating amazing food in foreign countries — but friends, please believe me when I tell you that this spaetzle seriously gives all other spaetzles a run for their money. De. Lish.

IMG_7849^^ I tried the “They’re Real And They’re Spectacular” drink from the Seinfeld-themed menu (it was pretty awesome — a very mellow drink, if that’s what you’re after), while Chris got the Hipster Dufus.

IMG_7855^^ And, because I promise to always be predictable, the quintessential photo of Larimer Square in all of its quaint cuteness.

IMG_7856^^ It’s the twinkle lights that does it, really. I mean, come on? Throw some twinkle lights up on anything and it looks better immediately, amIright?!

Bis bald, friends!

Warwick Foot Spa and Tea Bar — Plus Some Italian Food to Top It All Off

Happy birthday, Mom!

Last night my sister and I treated our mom for her 60th birthday to the full session, 50-minute foot reflexology treatment at Warwick Foot Spa and Tea Bar, followed by dinner at Grappas Ristorante right down the road.

Full disclosure: I’d never had a reflexology treatment before. Having said that, I do think I’ll be trying to get a few more of these in from time-to-time from now on. The foot reflexology treatment is basically all of my favorite stuff about a massage, without having to actually take all my clothes off, which honestly I just can’t be bothered with. They massage your shoulders and neck, your arms and hands, feet and legs, and cover your eyes with a delicious-smelling warm towel during the whole thing.

It’s pure loveliness.

Dinner at Grappas was Italian, which is of course our favorite. Pasta. Wine. Boston Creme Pie. Grappa. What could be better?



03TeaBar^^ You get tea before your reflexology treatment, too — so cute!


05GrappaRestaurant^^ Whatever in the world kind of cheese this was, I would like it in my life every day, please.

06GrappaRestaurant^^ Eggplant rollatini appetizer.


08GrappaRestaurant^^ This linguini with clams is exactly what everyone needs. Trust me.

09GrappaRestaurant^^ Complimentary shots of grappa at the end of the meal was icing on the cake, so to speak.


It was a successful outing all the way around, my friends. I highly recommend if you’re in the Warwick area!

Chris heads into New York tomorrow (yay!), and we’re hitting up my second wedding in as many weekends on Saturday in Tarrytown.

I can’t wait.

Bis bald, my friends!

Gizmos and Goodies: Travel Wiser This Year


Ah, travel. The thought of upcoming trips can always bring a smile to my face. Chris and I have dubbed this our U.S. travel year, since by the end of 2015 we will have added Ohio, Missouri, Kansas, Utah, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Louisiana to our list of been-there states. (This is, of course, in no small part due to our partial cross-country drive out to Denver at the beginning of the year.)

In addition to that, we’ll be traveling to Japan in February of 2016 for Chris to complete his sixth and final race in the 6 World Marathon Majors.

Travel is, obviously, an important thing for us. And while I love collecting travel books, and I tend to keep most maps, tickets and other paraphernalia that we collect while we’re actually on these trips, I’d be lying if I said that technology wasn’t a huge help these days when it comes to traveling. So in honor of all you Weary Wanderers out there, I thought I’d share some of my favorite tech gizmos and goodies that make the road less traveled just a little bit easier.

Here goes nothing.

I’ve had this app for a while now, but since Chris and I just moved to a place where we needed a car at the beginning of this year, I haven’t had a ton of chances to use it yet. Still, I’m excited to use the app when we hit the road for our Wyoming/Montana trip in September. Just type in your zip code on the website or hit the ‘Find Gas Near Me’ button on the app and let the magic of GasBuddy do the legwork to find the cheapest gas wherever you are.

onTime and MyTix
While I probably won’t have a ton of use for these two apps anymore, when I was a New York City dweller, I basically lived by them to get home to visit family. The free onTime app from Metro North Rail provides real-time updates on train departures and arrivals, along with track information, for any route you plunk into its database, while New Jersey Transit’s MyTix allows you to actually purchase, activate and use tickets directly through your smartphone (finally!).

Cool or creepy: Sometimes when I’m just walking around Denver, I’ll hear a little ‘ding’ from deep down in my purse, and I’ll pull out my phone to find that Foursquare is recommending a restaurant (or even a specific dish!) near where I’m standing. Okay, so maybe that’s a little creepy, but you actually don’t have to allow the location access on Foursquare to use it when you’re out and about to search for awesome restaurants, bars and shops near where you are.

Ah, road trips — the staple of American travel, am I right? As I mentioned before, Chris and I only recently needed a car in our lives, but I’ll tell you right now that pretty much nothing about having a car excited me, except for grocery shopping and, of course, road trips! So of course I love the idea behind Roadtrippers and plan to use it a ton for upcoming trips. Plan out an amazing road trip by inputting your start location/end location and start date/end date, and asking the app/site to provide you with information regarding hotels, attraction, natural wonders and/or weird stuff. For example, when I use the app to set me up with a route from Denver to Glacier National Park, I’m told the trip will cost about $157 in gas, should take about 16 hours total and covers approximately 916 miles. Set your destinations, then click the little location icon off to the bottom left of your screen and select what you’d like to find (accommodations/attractions & culture/camping & rv/entertainment & nightlife/food & drink/outdoors & recreation/etc.), and the app will automatically pull up the best options on your drive. For example, on the way out to Glacier National Park Chris and I might stop at Bighorn National Forest, Teapot Rock, Yellowstone Art Museum or the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, among many others.

PackPoint Packing List Travel Companion
If packing for a big trip stresses you out because you fear you may forget something super important, that’s where PackPoint can help. Download the app and start by picking if you’re a gal or guy. Then input where you’re going and when, then the number of nights you’ll be staying and the type of trip you’ll be having (business or leisure) and activities you plan to do (swimming, snow sports, working, camping, gym, photography, international, beach and baby are just a few of your options, and you can customize activities if you upgrade to the $2 app version, as well). Hit ‘repeat basics’ or ‘laundry’ if you’ll be able to do that on your trip, and the app will generate a suggested packing list for you. You can check off items as you pack and swipe to remove stuff you don’t need. For example, on my trip to Glacier National Park — where I plan to hike, take photos and do lots of walking — my packing list includes things like camera bag, memory cards, battery and my camera, as well as maybe a handheld GPS, water bottle, bug spray and sunscreen. I find the obvious reminders (things like chapstick, pain reliever pills, wallet, house key and reading glasses to be particularly helpful because, let’s be honest, if I’m going to forget something, it won’t be my camera!)

If you’re a person who prefers checking things off on an actual, tangible list, rather than an electronic one (which sometimes I am), try printing this super cute one (in black & white or color) from a pair & a spare. (Her 5,4,3,2,1 packing guide might be helpful, too!)

Bis bald, friends — and happy travels!

Denver’s The Kitchen Is Great for Dates

Hey friends,

So last Friday Chris and I kept up a promise we’ve made to each other to try a new place in Denver at least once a month by having dinner at The Kitchen, which is conveniently located right on the 16th St. Mall. I wasn’t sure what to expect, since I didn’t know too much about the place other than that friends had said it was good, but we were not disappointed. I may even go so far as to say that it’s one of my favorite places to eat in Denver now, and it’s definitely a great place to bring a date.

Here’s what we had …

01Kitchen_Muscles^^ Appetizers started out with organic mushrooms on toast, Maine mussels with grilled bread and the goat gouda gougère (basically a tasty fried cheese puff), pictured below.

03Kitchen_Drinks^^ And of course we had drinks. I decided to stick with white wine and Chris had — can you guess? — a Manhattan! Surprise, surprise.


05Kitchen_Pasta^^ This picture simply does not do my house made capellini with ramps, house ricotta & micro basil any justice, friends, because it was, in all honesty, some of the best pasta I’ve had. Ever. And I’ve had pasta in Italy. The ricotta was the perfect compliment to the capellini, and the basil was so fresh, I felt like they had just gone out back and picked it before they put it on my plate.

06Kitchen_Dessert^^ Dessert was cappuccino and the sticky toffee pudding.

I love the feel of community that’s so important in this restaurant, too. In fact, The Kitchen restaurants all donate a percentage of sales to help plant Learning Gardens (which are actual gardens created in schools across America to help teach kids about the importance of real food) in their local communities.

So basically — hit it up, friends! Good food. A good cause. What’s not to love?

Bis bald!

When Friends Come to Visit — Part II

Hi all,

I’m back today with the final two days of Lisa’s visits, which were filled with quintessentially amazing Coloradoan vistas, Bloody Marys and, of course, more Mexican food.

Here’s what we got up to:

The start of Monday saw us heading to The Delectable Egg, which has slowly become one of my favorite breakfast places in Denver. Afterwards we headed out to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, and then into Manitou Springs — the cute little old-fashioned town right outside of the Garden of the Gods park — for a Mexican lunch at The Loop Restaurant, which happens to sit at the foot of Pikes Peak. Pikes Peak is a 14,115 ft fourteener—”fourteener” being the nickname given to mountains exceeding 14,000 ft above sea level in the area.

21Garden of Gods

22Garden of Gods

23Loop Restaurant

Since Tuesday would be Lisa’s last full day, I had tried to find something fun that we could do around Denver that would be somewhat different. In the past, it has sort of become a tradition for Lisa and I to find a spot to kayak on trips we’ve taken together, and I wanted this trip to be the same. Unfortunately the past months’-worth of rainy days made it dangerous to do so in an actual lake, and when we finally did arrive at City Park (the alternative I came up with), we decided to rent paddle boats from Wheel Fun Rentals, instead.  The park turned out to be very nice, actually (I had never been before) and the paddle boating was super fun! There was even a patch of land in the middle of the lake with tons of birds, most of whom were nesting or had just had their babies, so that was fun to see, as well.

We started the day with Bloody Marys at Terminal Bar  in Union Station (naturally), and went for lunch at Acorn in The Source after paddle boating, as well. I’d never been to The Source or Acorn before, either, and I’m glad we made it here because it had been on my list of places I really wanted to show Lisa, and it turned out to be just as cute as I’ve heard. (Beer and fried pickles helped make it worth the visit, as well.)

24Terminal Bar

25 Terminal Bar^^ Post Bloody Marys.

26City Park

27City Park

28City Park^^ Look at these ladies … they sure do love an adventure ;)

29City Park
30City Park
32The Source^^
The Source is an artisan food market that occupies a former 1880’s brick foundry building in Denver’s River North District. Vendors include Acorn, Western Daughters Butcher Shoppe (pictured above), Boxcar Coffee Roasters, Crooked Stave brewery and The Proper Pour, among others. I like to think of it as Denver’s Chelsea Market, except much smaller.

33The Source
34aThe Source
34The Source

36Acorn^^ Ahh … beer and fried pickles. Is there anything better?

Dinner Tuesday night was — can you guess it? — Rio for Mexican again, of course! What can I say, we are creatures of habit.

Anyway, friends, that was Lisa’s trip in a nutshell. I had an amazing time with her here, and I really think I’m starting to get it down in terms of showing people around this town. There’s no end to the number of things you can do with people here, whether it’s food, drinking, hiking, walking, snowboarding or skiing — there’s pretty much something for everyone in good ole’ Denver.

Bis bald, friends! See you soon …

When Friends Come to Visit — Part I

Happy hump day, friends.

So I just dropped Lisa off at the airport. Gosh golly I hate good-byes! We had a ton of fun while she was here, though, and I’m eternally grateful for that. I actually ended up doing a whole bunch of new stuff while she was in town, as well, which I wasn’t expecting, and that was a nice little added bonus.

I figure I’ll break her visit up into two posts, since we did so much, and I’ll cover things that were new to me more in depth than those things I’ve already talked about here.

So buckle up, friends — you’re in for quite the ride.

Lisa arrived late on Thursday, so we basically chilled for most of the afternoon, and then headed to Rio for dinner that night. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — if you’re in Denver and you like Mexican, Rio is a must-hit.

On Friday we headed to Red Rocks in the morning (which is always an amazing time), and then drove the short distance from Red Rocks to Golden, a small, cute little Colorado town where the Coors Factory lives. They give free tours there during the day, but the wait was about an hour and we thought our time would be better used by exploring the town a bit via car, which turned out to be pretty stinkin’ cute. I’ll come back for ya, Coors tour! We ate lunch at the Old Capitol Grill, too, and the waitress assuaged our fears of the tornadoes that were touching down in towns all around both Golden and Denver. (They ended up heading out East, so both Golden and Denver were spared.)




We had Slice Works pizza and garlic knots for dinner that night, which is always a hit.

Saturday turned out to be a day filled with new adventures. Lisa had discovered that one of her favorite brunch places from Louisville, Kentucky— Wild Eggs — also has a restaurant in Denver, so we hit that up for breakfast, and then while driving Lisa through the Capital Hill neighborhood and Cheesman Park, we drove right by the Botanic Gardens and decided to just stop on in. It was a gorgeous day, and Chris and I had never been to the Gardens before, but it turns out this little piece of heaven is quite the quiet sanctuary, and I think it’s safe to say I’ll be back.

05Wild Eggs^^ My Bennies Gone Wild with wild mushrooms and a side of biscuits. Yum.

06Botanic Gardens
07Botanic Gardens

08Botanic Gardens

09Botanic Gardens

10Botanic Gardens

11Botanic Gardens

Sunday morning found us walking along the Platte River (at least the areas where we could, since sheesh she was raging with wild waters!), checking out Union Station and then Tattered Cover Book Store, and then heading out for a little Wynkoop Brewery time before walking over to the Highlands neighborhood for some Little Man Ice Cream, followed by our Paint n’ Sip class and dinner at The Truffle Table — a wine & cheese bar — afterwards.

12Wynkoop^^ We celebrated combined missed birthdays with beer and birthday hats at Wynkoop. There’s nothing even remotely silly about this photo, right?

13Little Man
14Little Man

15Little Man

16Little Man

17Paint n Sip^^ Our paintings came out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself …

18Truffle Table

19 Truffle Table

20Truffle Table^^ For our cheese plate at The Truffle Table we ordered Avalanche Goat Cheddar from Basalt, Colorado; Brillat Savarin from Normandy France (a cow’s milk cheese); Tete du Moine from Switzerland (another cow’s milk cheese); Cana de Oveja from Spain (a sheep’s milk cheese); and Quatizo Gouda (a water buffalo and mixed milk cheese). Of course we had no idea what any of these cheese meant, but our waitress was fantastically knowledgeable and we were all extremely happy with what she thought we might like.

And that, my friends, is where I’m going to leave you regarding this visit, for now. I’ll be back later this week with our shenanigans for Monday and Tuesday, Lisa’s final days in Denver.

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 …

^^ 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.

^^ 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 …

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

^^ 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 …

^^ 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!

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

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

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


^^ 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.

^^ 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!

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




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

^^ 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!

^^ How adorable are these desserts!?





^^ 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!


 ^^ Me & Mom outside Union Station.


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


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



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!

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):

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

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

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

^^ Our fried oyster sandwich. After everything we had for appetizers, splitting this bad boy was the right decision!
^^ 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!


^^ 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.

^^ 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!).
^^ 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!


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.

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.


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.




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 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:

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 4.29.12 PM

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.





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!

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.


_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.


_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!


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.


_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 …


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:



























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:




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.





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:







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.


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.)







_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!








_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.




_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.





_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.


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.




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




^^ 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.

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












_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.



 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!

Back in the Borough: Farewells All Around at The Kimberly Hotel

Last night I ticked another rooftop bar off my NYC bucket list with two friends who I needed to say goodbye to before we leave. The place was The Kimberly, and the rooftop of the hotel is an enclosed bar (although I think during nice weather it’s actually open) with a fantastic (on a normal day without fog) view of the Chrysler building and midtown Manhattan. It’s expensive for the cocktails ($18), but the beers are $8 (which is par for the course in midtown, pretty much), and the guacamole and fries were pretty tasty, too.


Kimberly_2^^ These ladies are pretty much the best. See that glow-ey building in the back? That’s the Chrysler, in all her foggy glory.


I’d recommend checking out The Kimberly Hotel rooftop if you’re in the midtown area — it’s definitely worth at least a pit stop.

One Final Morning in Albuquerque

Hi friends,

So yesterday was my last day in Albuquerque.


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?














_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.






_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.



_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.


_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!





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

















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.


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



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









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.








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


_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 …



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



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.


_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!)



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.




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.

_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?


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

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

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

Bis bald, friends!

Tramways, Breweries, Rattlesnakes and More in Albuquerque

Hi friends,

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

And I’ve been on the go ever since.

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

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

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