gator gals (plus a seminole) in napa

I had my first Napa experience this past weekend, and it did not disappoint! My friend Jordan (from UF) and her sister Riley came out for a visit. They were staying with our friend Christina, who lives in Berkeley (just across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco). Another Gator, Natalie, came up from San Jose, and we all spent a fabulous day in Napa!

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We started the day at Darioush, which was basically a Persian castle. We explored the grounds and the tasting room but sadly didn’t make the cut for a walk-in tasting. No problem—we went on our merry way to Silver Oak!

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Silver Oak only makes Cabernet Sauvignon, so our flight of three was a whole lot of that. But they were delicious, and we enjoyed strolling around the vineyard (as you can see above)!

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By this point, it was lunchtime and we were HUNGRY! We headed to V. Sattui for a picnic lunch and bottle of rosé. A note to those visiting Napa—V. Sattui (on a weekend day) is CROWDED. They have a marketplace where you can buy fresh cheese, bread, deli meat, etc. as well as their wines—but being inside that marketplace made me feel like a toddler in the middle of Magic Kingdom. In June. Separated from my mom.

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Once we got out of the market, we were able to take advantage of the huge V. Sattui property and find some benches and a table to feast on our purchases. The grounds were honestly so gorgeous—full of vine-clad walls, fountains, and rose bushes!

Once we were stuffed full of charcuterie, we headed to Napa Valley Olive Oil for a tasting. This place was unlike the rest of Napa in that it was small, cluttered, and not immaculately kept. There was none of the flashy marble and elaborate gardens from the surrounding wineries to be found. But I liked it because of this—we were treated like family and we loved this little hole in the wall!

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Our last stop was at the Grgich Hills Estate. I was too full of wine, cheese, and chocolate to continue, so just Christina and Jordan did one final tasting here while Riley, Natalie and I read all about the winery’s history and sat in the garden outside. (We were tired!) Turns out, Mike Grgich is the oldest winemaker in Napa, at age 94!

After Grgich Hills, it was time to head back to Berkeley. I had to catch BART back to San Francisco, so I could meet Scott and friends for a concert! (It was a really ambitious and long—but fun!—day.)

Now that I’ve been to both Sonoma and Napa, I have to say—I think I’m team Sonoma. I tasted great wines in both areas, and Sonoma’s price tags were a lot more 25-year-old friendly. They also had a slightly more approachable, laid-back spirit whereas Napa felt pretty high end. Don’t get me wrong, Napa is beautiful and I’ll be back, but I just felt slightly more at home in Sonoma!

summer of love

I’ve been in San Francisco for nearly three weeks already! I started my job as a Recruiting Coordinator for a tech company on June 26 and the first two weeks have gone great. I even added my Florida Gators to the company alma mater wall already!

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For this first month and a half, I’ve been subleasing right near Haight – Ashbury. It’s been a blast to live close to good restaurants, supermarkets, and parks.

But, I needed to find something more long-term, and I finalized an apartment this week! I’ll be moving in with two girls in the Outer Richmond, super close to the beach and Golden Gate Park. It’s going to be quite a hike downtown for my commute, but luckily I will be super close to public transportation (and being just 8 blocks from Scott’s house will be really nice and convenient).

Speaking of Scott, we have loved our newfound ability to spend time together (instead of just FaceTiming) and we have already done some super fun things.

We’ve visited restaurants like Sakesan, Brenda’s, Barrel Head, and Sunset Reservoir. I also had the best cinnamon toast of my life at Trouble Coffee Company, an amazing milkshake at Calibur, and insanely delicious pastries at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse.

A couple weekends ago, we went up to Sebastopol (in Sonoma County) with two of our friends, Eric and Kasey. They’re wine club members at Moondance Cellars and we had a great time visiting the winery with them. It was a gorgeous property and they even had horses!

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For the 4th of July, we drove down to Capitola (a cute little beach town in the Santa Cruz area). We left gray and dreary San Francisco only to arrive to gray and dreary Capitola—bummer! But luckily an hour or so later (after some shopping and walking around town), it was in the 70’s and brilliant sunshine. It was so hot, in fact, that I had to go buy a tank top because my light sweater was no longer comfortable!

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Capitola was super cute and family friendly. It reminded me a lot of the beaches along 30A back home. Scott and I will definitely be visiting this spot again in the future!

Looking forward, we’re visiting a restaurant this weekend (State Bird Provisions) that we’ve been wanting to try for a long time. We’re visiting Scott’s family in Denver the first week of August (and we’re seeing The Head and the Heart at Red Rocks). We also hope to venture north to a swimming hole, and go see Wonder Woman. (We saw The Big Sick last weekend and loved it!)

All in all I am loving San Francisco so far. I am still getting used to the weather and public transportation, but aside from that—California is being good to me!

sights and scenes from the big apple

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This past weekend, I took a little gals’ trip to NYC. My friend Katherine (who lives in Chicago) and I stayed with our friend Molly down in the FiDi—right near Wall Street. We were just a couple blocks from the seaport, and I really enjoyed walking down and eating a croissant or bagel while looking out on the East River in the mornings.

unnamed (1)I landed super late on Friday night. On Saturday, we went to brunch at Dos Caminos before hitting up the Warby Barker event at 121 Greene Street. A little bar hopping later, we went home for pizza before heading out to watch the Oregon / UNC basketball game that night!

The next day, Sunday, we went for bagels and ate them down on the waterfront before heading to Times Square to see Puffs, an off-Broadway Harry Potter themed comedy. It was hilarious and I wished Scott had been there because he would have adored it.

That night, Molly and I walked to Tribeca to care for a couple precious pups. The apartment where Molly’s friend lived was amazing and had the best view of NYC (see photo at the top of this post).

On Monday, I had a day to myself. I had breakfast on the water, then went to see the 9/11 memorial, Oculus transportation hub and new One World tower. I walked to Soho from there and had lunch with my friend Keely from WP NYC!

My feet were getting quite tired (16 miles in 3 days will do that to you), so I headed back down to the FiDi for a pedicure and rest before I met up with my college friends Mark, Mara, and Kristin for dinner and drinks at Industry Kitchen. It was SO good to see them—the last time I saw them was a year ago and Mark and Mara’s wedding! I’ll be seeing Mark and Mara this summer when they road trip through California, and I’m super pumped about that.

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I woke up bright and early to go to the airport yesterday. A couple hours later, I landed back in Nashville and came straight to the office. All in all, it was great to spend some time in NYC! I don’t know when I’ll be back (I’ve got trips planned to San Francisco, San Diego and Denver over the next few months), but I was glad to get to be there this weekend!

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moss beach + santa cruz

Earlier this month, I visited Scott in San Francisco for a whirlwind long weekend trip. We spent time with friends (but mostly each other), hung out in Golden Gate park, and we took a super fun day trip, which I’m highlighting here!

We woke up early Saturday morning and went to Devil’s Teeth Baking Company for breakfast. The biscuits were insanely good, as was the cheese danish we split. (I may have eaten 70 percent of it, shh…) From there, we got on the road.

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Scott and I at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach, CA.

We drove down to Moss Beach, reaching Fitzgerald Marine Reserve right around low tide—perfect timing to check out the tidepools. We saw harbor seals just offshore, and in the tidepools we saw sea anemones, hermit crabs, etc.

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Tidepools at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.

The forest on the hill behind the beach (shown in the top photo above) was equally as beautiful as the tidepools themselves. While much of the shoreline was closed off because it’s birthing season for the harbor seals, we really enjoyed the view from the top. (As you can see from the photos, it was quite chilly on this morning on Moss Beach!)

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Bundled up on Moss Beach! Look closely and you can see the harbor seals behind us.

From Moss Beach, we drove south on Highway 1 (my favorite) to Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is half hippie beach town, half college town. Scott has been a few times before and we had a great time poking around downtown in the shops, and then out at the amusement park on the beach.

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View from the top of the ferris wheel in Santa Cruz.

We shared a margarita before walking over to the boardwalk where we rode the ferris wheel, swings, and failed miserably at a milk bottle carnival game. I failed much more miserably than Scott, to be fair. Finally, we bowled a game (for our March date—blog post coming soon with more info on this) and shocked ourselves and each other with how good we were!

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On top of the world in Santa Cruz!

It was getting late—around 6 pm, and we needed to head back to San Francisco to go to a friend’s birthday party that night. So I convinced my man to get his best gal a coke and ice cream sundae from McDonald’s (#blessed) before we hit the road back north. Overall it was such a fun day, and we plan on having many more day trips like this to come!

a look back on 2016

As I read Facebook statuses and Instagram posts, I see tons of content talking about what a miserable year 2016 was. In politics, celebrity deaths, police brutality, global acts of terrorism, and Florida Gator football, I can agree – it was a rough year. But personally, I had one of the most wonderful years of my life. And the best part? It was completely unexpected.

I started off 2016 with a few goals, which I shared here. With the exception of writing a book (still working on that), I think I did a great job with seeing my goals through – particularly the travel, snail mail, and podcasts.

So, where did the year wind up? I’ll list some highlights:

  • February: I met (in February, in San Francisco) my wonderful boyfriend, Scott. As a matter of fact, I am in a terminal in St. Louis now writing this post, as I travel to visit him for New Year’s Eve! Our meeting was unlikely (he’s a Colorado guy living in California, I’m a Florida girl living in Tennessee) but I am so completely grateful that it happened.

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  • March & April: I visited New York City and Orlando to celebrate the bachelorette party and wedding for one of my dear friends, Mara! It was such an honor to be her bridesmaid, and it was such a joyous couple of months celebrating she and Mark.

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  • May & June: I took a couple of fantastic girls’ trips! My BFF of almost 20 years, Taylor, and I went to Savannah and Tybee Island, GA for a Cinco de Mayo getaway. In June, I rented the Bachelor mansion (pretty much) in Ft. Lauderdale with all my best Nashville gal pals. We had such a good time!

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  • September & October: Scott and I had some great visits! First he came to me in September, and I showed him the best of Music City. Then I went out to San Francisco in October, where he outdid me and took me on a getaway to Big Sur (one of my ultimate dream travel destinations)!

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  • November & December: Lots of family time toward the end of the year! I got to go to Atlanta for Thanksgiving, and Pensacola for Christmas. I also turned 25, which felt like an exciting milestone!

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I ended the year, as I mentioned, by heading back to California! I can’t think of any place I’d rather start my 2017 than with my boyfriend in the Bay Area. I’m so excited to see what lies ahead for 2017 – I kind of can’t believe it’s already here!

a year in nashville

IMG_2967I can’t believe that I’ve lived in Nashville for a year already!  Part of me feels like I moved here yesterday, and the other part of me can’t remember living anywhere else.  I thought it might be fun to recap some of my favorite things I have done in Music City in the last year!

At the top of my list, of course, is music.  The scene in Nashville has been one of the coolest things to get to be a part of, whether it was seeing intimate secret shows (like Noah Gundersen and Matthew Perryman Jones) or shows at the Ryman (like Of Monsters and Men, George Ezra and Ben Rector). I took in country shows (like Eric Church, Florida Georgia Line and Kenny Chesney) and Live on the Green shows (like Colony House, Cold War Kids, Elle King and Ben Folds).

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George Ezra played an amazing show at the Ryman back in October 2015.

There were tons more: The Shadowboxers at the Bluebird Cafe, Kaleo at Marathon Music Works, Ryan Bingham at Exit/In, Kodaline at 3rd and Lindsley…if I tried to name them all here, it would be absurd.  I’m not saying all of this to brag—after all, I paid good money for at least half of those shows!  But compared to Pensacola or Gainesville, FL…the number of artists whose tour schedules include my home base is off the charts, and for that, I’m thankful.

Another one of my favorite things about Nashville has been the proximity to other cities!  I’ve loved being able to drive to Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia, Alabama, and of course Florida.  Travel is one of my favorite things on the planet, so the opportunity to explore nearby cities has been a great one.  (I am shocked to report that I think my favorite nearby city is Cincinnati!  I never imagined myself liking that place, but it was top-notch.)

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A big group of friends went to Fall Creek Falls for Memorial Day this year.

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I shot some hoops inside the world’s largest abandoned treehouse earlier this year.

Getting to explore the areas immediately in and around Nashville has been incredible, too.  I’ve trespassed and explored the world’s biggest abandoned treehouse, hiked to numerous waterfalls like Rock Island, Burgess Falls, Cummins Falls and Fall Creek Falls, gotten in touch with nature at Lake Radnor and Narrows of the Harpeth, and more.  Anyone who knows me knows I’m an adventure lover so I’m excited to keep finding new, beautiful places in my city.

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My lovely coworker from NYC, Molly, was my most recent visitor—earlier this month!

Another one of the best parts about living in Nashville has been the number of friends who have come to visit!  I pride myself on being an excellent tour guide—on finding the perfect blend between outdoor adventures, classic Nashville must do’s, shopping, amazing food and of course, going out.  It’s always a blast to have an excuse to hit up the honky tonks or eat a few scoops of Jeni’s ice cream!

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January 2016—the magical snowstorm!

I can’t write about my year in Nashville and not include a note about the snow, because it was one of my very favorite things!  Growing up in Florida, I never got the chance to wake up, look outside, and see a winter wonderland.  I’d seen snow a couple times through the years on vacations, but I was beyond thrilled to finally get to live in a place where it snows!  The best part is that it’s just a few times a year, so it’s super manageable, but I still get all the wintery fun.  I am ready for more snow this winter!

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We went to Clemson, South Carolina, Auburn and Florida…but Nashville brought us all together!

Last but most certainly not least, I’ve been so thankful to make such a quality group of girlfriends here in Nashville.  I could count on one hand the number of acquaintances I knew in this city when I moved here, and it has been fantastic to be able to find such quality, beautiful, hilarious friends to call mine!  We recently got back from a beach trip down to Ft. Lauderdale (in fact, we left for that trip on my one-year job anniversary) and it really blew my mind to think that I didn’t even know any of these people a year ago!

That sentiment reminds me of a quote that has always encouraged me: “It is astonishing how short a time it can take for very wonderful things to happen.”  I have this on my desk at work, and hold it super close to my heart.  Although the last year has had definite highs and lows, I look back on it as a whole fondly and with so much gratitude.

I have no idea how long I’ll live in Nashville, or where I’ll go next, but I know one thing for sure: I love Music City!

 

i’ve got a crush

…and that crush is on the city of San Francisco.

I visited for about five days last week, and my goodness is that city my new favorite place!  I’d been once before, back in high school, but this trip was totally different.  Whereas previously my time had been spent taking in tourist attractions (you don’t have much say in itinerary when you’re on a high school church trip), this time was all about eating, drinking and wandering.  My kind of trip.

I arrived on Thursday morning, and immediately met my longtime friend Drew at Naked Lunch.  After a delicious lunch, he went back to work and I trekked to his place in the Marina.  (Here’s a view of the Golden Gate Bridge from his neighborhood…lovely!)

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I spent that afternoon doing a bit of work at his place, and exploring the area.  That night, we went out for dinner at a taqueria (giant burritos, goodness gracious) in the Mission and drinks at Magnolia in Dogpatch.  It was wonderful to meet lots of Drew’s friends, and this spot had great beer and atmosphere!

On Friday, while Drew worked from home in the morning, I went out shopping on Chestnut Street near his house.  I bought a few fabulous things, made a few friends around Drew’s neighborhood and even got a job offer to be a nanny!  That afternoon, we got in the car and drove to Mt. Tamalpais  to attempt to hike (emphasis on attempt).  It was too rainy and cold and windy and foggy…so we kept driving.  We had stopped off earlier at the Marin Headlands so I could see the view of the Golden Gate Bridge, which was beautiful.  We wound up heading to Muir Woods once the weather cleared, where we did a bit of walking and took in the beautiful redwoods.

That night, we went to a fun house party to celebrate Drew’s friend’s birthday.  While I was there, I found out that  the “Full House house” (aka one of the Painted Ladies) was just a few blocks away, so naturally I convinced someone to walk with me to check it out.  (Thanks, Scott!)

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The next day, Drew and I went to an event at Tank18 for wine and conversation with friends.  Conversation wound up being tough, as the venue was crazy loud, so Drew and I headed out.  We explored SoMa and eventually headed home to chill out and watch some Suits.  That night, Drew had longstanding plans for drinks, so I met up with one of his friends I’d met a couple nights earlier for a drink at La Urbana.  After that, we went with friends to dinner at Southpaw.

On Sunday, I woke up early and went to a solo breakfast at Home Plate in the Marina.  I wound up having to sit with another solo diner, named Thor…let me just tell you, he might have been the most shallow, insipid person I have ever met.  But the food was good!  I then walked down to the Philz Coffee truck on the water and enjoyed some quiet time looking at the boats.

That afternoon, Drew and I explored North Beach!  He showed me Coit Tower (awesome views of SF and crazy hills).  We then went over to Hayes Valley so I could check out the Warby Parker store.  We wound up spotting this awesome biergarten where we had a pint and pretzel, before hitting up Smitten for some ice cream.  Finally, we went to the Warby Parker store (just had to) before heading out.

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That night (my last night of the trip), Drew treated me to a meal at Trestle.  It was absolutely wonderful and a great way to end the trip before I flew out on Monday morning.

I wish I would’ve taken more photos while I was in the city, but I was caught up in enjoying every single moment.  Not a bad reason to miss out on photo ops!

All in all, I absolutely loved San Francisco.  I would move there tomorrow if I could, but alas, the cost of living is astronomical.  However, if anyone out there is reading this and thinking, “Man, I’d love to financially back a girl’s dream to live in the Bay Area for a while,” feel free to contact me!  😉

the last few months

Where has the time gone?  I feel like I blinked and 2015 is nearly over.

I’ve been at my job for five months now and I can hardly believe it!  It feels like just yesterday I was a new kid at the office, trying to overcome a massive learning curve.  Now, I feel pretty confident and comfortable in my day-to-day, and am even ready to kick things up with a new challenge or project!12122915_10154401458417715_2181525618230869685_nAlli and I have been going to a LOT of concerts.  I do mean a LOT.  We’ve seen Of Monsters and Men, Ben Rector, Judah & the Lion, The Neighbourhood, George Ezra, Kodaline, ZZ Ward and about two dozen indie/up-and-coming artists and bands.  We typically go to at least one show a week, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!  (That’s what I envisioned, after all, when I saw myself living in Nashville.)10982317_10153996084897715_3639922355980186224_nThis weekend, my best friend Maddie is visiting and I know we’ll have an absolute blast.  I’m planning on taking her to a vineyard, to my favorite coffee shop and everywhere in between.  I may even drag her out hiking!  I am so looking forward to having some in-person time with my best friend to catch up.  After all, we’ve known each other ten years and lived together for three of those years…it’s been a long five months apart!

As you can see, life’s been busy!  With only 65 days until Christmas, I know that I’m going to wake up and it’s going to be 2016 before I know it.  (And I’ll be turning 24 before then!)  It’s starting to cool off in Nashville, and I’m excited for a winter of snow, hot drinks and cozy sweaters.

how i afford my wanderlust

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It’s not just my favorite bug, it’s the only one I like: the travel bug.

I’ve had a serious case of wanderlust as long as I can remember.  I’m not sure whether it’s innate or a product of how I was raised; perhaps it’s a combination of the two.

As a kid, I grew up in a family (particularly my dad and his parents) that valued travel.  From age 6 or so on, my grandparents took my older brother and I on a trip every summer.  We went to Texas a number of times, staying at a ranch and riding horses a few times a day through the gorgeous trails of hill country.  We went to Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown.  We went on cruises galore, including one to Alaska.  My parents and other grandparents also made travel a priority, renting beach houses, taking even more cruises (I believe I’ve been on 9 total now), etc.

Just as often as they told us about the importance of travel for expanding your horizons and growing culturally, my grandparents told me how important it was to manage your money wisely to be able to take such trips.

Why am I saying all this?

Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling.  I went to West Virginia and Virginia in February, Colorado in March and am going to Utah this month.  All of these trips involved air travel, which as we all know is not cheap.  I’ve gotten a lot of questions from friends asking, “How do you afford all that?”  I’m here to tell you!

I decided at the beginning of 2015 to really take control of my life: doing the things I want to do and not just dreaming about someday.  Someday can be today if you want it to be!  You just have to be strategic.

With this decision came a realization that I needed to plan my finances accordingly.  Every month, I have $300 automatically transferred to my general savings account.  I don’t really have a plan for this money; I just know that I’m not going to touch it if at all possible and am, in some vague way, planning for the future and the unknown.  I also have $150 transferred automatically each month into a travel savings account.

I chose these numbers rather arbitrarily and will soon up them.  The beauty of automatic transfers (mine are scheduled for the day after paydays) is that you don’t miss the money in your checking account once you get into the groove.  In the instances that I’ve had unforeseen expenses, I have elected to charge something to my credit card (nothing crazy, think $100) and then pay it off immediately after my next check.

Let’s look at the big picture: even if I did no other saving, I would have $1800 in my travel savings account after one year and $3600 in my general savings at that same time.  Pretty solid!  However, I try to beat that every month.  $20 here, $60 here…every last bit adds up!

Once I’ve reached about $500 in my travel savings account, I’ll start thinking about where I want to go.  This amount works for me because by the time the trip rolls around a month or two later, I’ve accumulated more spending money after using that initial amount on airfare.  This is obviously going to be different for everyone, but here’s why it works for me: I’m young.  I’m traveling mainly to places where I have friends (read: free accommodations).  I eat (mostly) cheaply.  I find cheap airfare, often flying discount airlines like Frontier or Spirit instead of the big names.

Another reason that this works for me is because right now, my focus is on short-term, mini-vacations.  I spend about four days on most of my trips.  I’ve found that for this stage of life (where I’m in a full-time job with limited paid time off), it makes more sense (and makes me happier) to take more frequent shorter trips than one longer trip.  But again – that’s just me!

Really, I want to emphasize that travel can be accessible to you.  Make it a priority in your budget (you’ll rarely find me buying drinks at Starbucks or purchasing the latest gadget).  I know that seeing as much of the world as possible is important to me, so I’m doing what I can while I’m still young and independent (I don’t even want to think about how much it costs to travel with children…).

If you have any questions or tips for me, I’m all ears.  Happy travels!

mile-high city

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Ah, sweet, sweet Colorado.  I could write a love song for that state.

Maddie and I returned yesterday morning from a fantastic (and whirlwind) of a vacation to visit our friend from college, Tyler, in Denver.  The trip was a perfect combination of relaxed but full.  See why below!

Thursday, 3/12

We flew Frontier Airlines out of Orlando to Denver.  Tyler picked us up at the airport and dropped us off in LoDo for brunch at Snooze.  After I ate an amazing breakfast burrito (and a chocolate chip pancake on the house since it was my first time eating there), Maddie and I set about to explore downtown Denver.  We shopped around but were relatively unimpressed with all the chain stores in the area — no cute boutiques or anything like that here.  What did impress me was the number of man buns (the hairstyle, not the body part like any Facebook friend of mine over 40 seemed to think) and thick beards.  One of the most surprising things Maddie and I noticed was simply how many guys there are in Denver.  Tons.  We took the Light Rail down to Tyler’s office to meet him that afternoon.  We snuck into the lobby (following behind a caterer and dodging his question when he asked if I had a badge) but were asked to leave five minutes later by a guard…those rocket scientists can sure be stuffy!

That night, we went to a happy hour at an Italian restaurant near Tyler’s place and then to a trivia night at a local sports bar.  It felt good to be playing trivia again (as opposed to hosting it)!  We finished in 3rd place (and I was proud).

Friday, 3/13

We slept in and then headed to Copper Mountain for a day of skiing!  We actually rented our gear off-site and I highly recommend the shop we where we did so.  The guys were really cool, the gear was nice and they even gave me a free chocolate chip cookie!  (It doesn’t take much to make me happy.)

Tyler’s friends John and Ann joined us to ski that afternoon.  It’s funny…the main reason they came is because Tyler and Maddie are both self-proclaimed “terrible skiers” and didn’t want me to have to ski alone when I wanted to leave the bunny hill.  So I skied with Maddie and Tyler for the first hour or so and then moved onto bigger and better stuff.  I’ve skied before in Colorado, in Winter Park, but this was my first Copper experience and it was great!  Just because I love trying new things, I think next time I’d venture over to A Basin or Vail.

After we left the ski resort (not before having a slope-side margarita), we went to the Dillon Dam Brewery for a beer.  One of my favorite things about Colorado (and a repeated theme you’ll see throughout this post) was all the breweries!  Then we headed to Beau Jo’s for mountain pies…where we sat in the literal attic in the dark for dinner.  It was interesting and I so wish I had a photo.

Saturday, 3/14

We went to brunch at The Original Pancake House on Saturday morning with another college friend, BreAnne, before heading to Fort Collins for the day.  When we got to Fort Collins, I tweeted at Coach McElwain (who just came to UF following a coaching stint at CSU).  He didn’t reply, but Colorado State’s Athletic Department did!  I got some recommendations on where to go in FoCo for the day that wound up being really helpful.  We started at New Belgium where we had the best tour ever in spite of not having registered beforehand.  (One of my strengths is talking my way into activities/shows/etc.)  Our tour guide Dave was such a treat and it was awesome to a) enjoy like 5 free [mini] glasses of beer and b) see where some of my favorite brews are made!  We even got to see the room where La Folie, my favorite sour brown ale, spends anywhere from 1-3 years in oak barrels before it’s bottled.

After we left New Belgium, we headed over to O’Dell Brewing for even more craft beer goodness.  The tour wasn’t nearly as high-quality as Dave’s, but we were still glad to have gone.  The place was crawling with people since apparently folks in Colorado love to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day several days early.  For lunch/dinner, we went to Choice City, a recommendation from both CSU and a bartender at New Belgium.  It did not disappoint!  This also gave us a chance to see the downtown (i.e. adorable) part of Fort Collins.

In this marathon of a day, our next stop was back to Tyler’s place in Denver to change for the Colorado Avalanche game!  We met a nice guy at the train station to the game (Alex) who I bugged the whole time about hockey and Colorado and life and I’m pretty sure he loved every second.  It was mine and Maddie’s first NHL game and, although our seats were dreadful, we had a good time and the Avs won!  I even scored a new (10-year-old) boyfriend named Logan who sat next to me at the game.  Afterward, we walked a few blocks to hit the town.  We ran into more awful guys and people that night than I knew was possible (including one who told me I was “thicker than three hot cakes and a milkshake” and meant that as a compliment) but eventually found our way into a karaoke bar which was a blast.  We ended our night with a Lyft home where I (of course) shared deep thoughts with our driver Troy on his sexuality and coping with telling his ex-wife and kids that he’s gay.  Only me.

Sunday, 3/15

We spent Sunday in my favorite place of the trip – Boulder!  We shopped alllllll along the Pearl Street Mall and soaked up the gorgeous 78 degree, sunny weather.  Tyler was a trooper as Maddie and I went into shop after shop.  There was so much life on Pearl Street because of what a beautiful day it was: street performers and families and artists and dogs and locals and tourists and it was awesome.  We ate at Illegal Pete’s and made a trip into a not-legal-in-most-states shop (because it’s Colorado, you have to).  We also drove around CU’s campus, which was stunning.  I really didn’t want to leave Boulder and am pretty sure I left a tiny piece of my heart there, but alas, we had a plane to catch.

That night, Maddie and I caught the red eye back to Orlando… and it was miserable.  It was a four hour flight and I slept maybe 20 minutes because of my terrible cough.  When we landed in FL, I was exhausted but had to make the drive back to Gainesville immediately.  Well, the trip took almost an extra hour because of an awful accident on I-75 and let’s just say, I was thankful it wasn’t me.  I was so tired that I was fighting to keep my eyes open on the road — rolling the windows down, blasting AC, changing the music — anything to stay awake.  We did finally make it, though, and I had time for a 90-minute power nap before heading into work and back to reality.

All in all, it was an incredible trip.  We had weather over 70 degrees all the days except our ski day (where it snowed on us and was beautiful).  Tyler was a kind and generous host (thanks, T) and Maddie and I both are adding Colorado to our list of “places we could live.”  Success!