Boulder, Co: Mile High Travels

Good morning! As I am writing this post, I am sitting in the JFK airport – Jet Blue terminal. I just got off a 3.5 hour flight from Denver… the red eye flight (1am!). If you ever wondered why they call it the “red eye” flight, wonder no longer. I look like a hot mess, and yes, my eyes are red. I got an eye cover up masky thing on the flight and boy did that come in handy! – Until I realized I slept through snacks! – pretty much the best part about flying. Then I realized I normally sleep at that time so probably a good thing I didn’t have a snack.

Analysis of my state of being: tried? – exhausted, hair? – static mess, eyes? – burning, breakfast? – it’s only 5am in Colorado so I think I’ll wait a little, head? – ouch, Starbucks? – nowhere to be found (I asked)….. HA yes, I’m sorry anyone who makes eye contact with me, this is true jet lag.

boulder road tripHowever, I’m remembering the last 5 days of my life and thinking… man I am lucky! I might be completely exhausted but it was-so-worth-it!!! I spent the last 5 days in Colorado. Colorado in the “summer.” Who cares about the exhaustion, headaches from altitude and red eyes that look like I’ve experienced all the mile high city has to offer. I mean, I got to spend the past few days visiting my step sister and traveling all around one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, the Colorado Rockies!!

boulder activities bike YThe adventures began in Boulder, Co. If you’ve been catching the new lately, you’ve probably heard about the Boulder County Flood that happened last week. The damage from the insane rain was, well, insane, for lack of a better word this early in the morning.

All trails were closed, streets destroyed and houses completely evacuated because they were under water. Luckily, Susan’s house (my step sister) was fine but not all units in her complex made it out unscathed.

Something really awesome was how the community was reacting to this tragedy. Bakeries, like Piece, Love & Chocolate, had special “flood relief cupcakes” where a portion of the “mudslide” dessert went to the relief efforts. Stores were having round-up days where you can round your purchase to the nearest dollar and that goes to the relief. Sprouts Farmer;s Market was doing this.

I also got to visit the Y in Boulder Valley which was also aiding in the relief efforts. The Y has partnered with the American Red Cross to be a shelter! So many people came in and out of the Y with supplies and smiles on their faces. Volunteers were actively engaged and everything was so organized. Without people and organizations like the Y and the American Red Cross, the flood victims would have nowhere to go.

Here’s a few pictures I snagged after my workout. — Note: working out in over a mile above sea level was tough!

boulder ymca

Colorado is absolutely beautiful!! If you read my Chicago post, you know that’s one of my top fav cities. Well, Colorado is definitely one of my top fav states (in the summer).

I arrived Thursday afternoon and adventured through downtown Boulder where I saw the really cool biking system in the picture above. EVERYONE bikes. I know that’s a generalization, but I think it’s appropriate. I think everyone owns at least 1 bike and people are biking all day long. It’s wonderful!

Friday morning, Susan and I hit a HOT YOGA class. Yes, Florida girl here goes to cooler weather, freaks out about the cold and finds herself in a hot yoga class… Floridian problems…

boulder red rocksThen it was off to ASPEN for the weekend!!! We loaded the car with my overstuffed suitcase and 2 of Susan’s friends, Jen and Erin, and hit the road. Susan and Erin were doing a half marathon trail ride and Jen and I were along for the ride. We stopped by the Red Rock Amphitheatre!! This was absolutely amazing. The views were breathtaking, if you didn’t already lose your breath from the hike and altitude combo. ūüôā

Then we passed though Independence Pass which is a really pretty road that is only open in the summer.

Let me side note here and say I have been to Colorado a few times. In the COLD-FREEZING-TONS-OF-LAYERS-REQUIRED-WINTER. It was so refreshing to visit in September, see the leaves starting to change and wear shorts (well only one day).

boulder foodI can’t forget about the food. I ate too much. But it was-so-worth-it. There are so many healthy choices, local, fresh choices. Frozen yogurt from the Boom Bar Yogurt was yummy and dessert from Whole Foods was a fun treat too. I had pizza from Pizzeria Locale and it was AMAZING. Definitely a must visit place in downtown Boulder.

In the little town of Basalt, I ate the yummy eggs, potatoes and sausage you see here. The place was called Bernard’s Cafe and guess what, Bernard was a cute little old guy! Sorry I don’t have a ton of food pictures. In the moment of all the goodness, the camera was the last thing on my mind!

Friday-Sunday we spent in Aspen, then Monday I had a chance to explore Boulder. I went to the Y, to yoga (again) and just enjoyed the weather before my 1am flight to JFK!

I must say, Colorado exceeded all expectations and I can’t wait to go back and explore more, in the summer/warmer than cold seasons, of course!

I land in Jax around 11am and vaca is officially over! Until next time Colorado!

Thank you so much Susan for making my trip awesome!!

Chicago: One Foodie’s Journey through the Windy City

deliciousIf I had to describe Chicago in one word, I would have to say Chicago is delicious! But since I have a blog, I can describe it in as many words as I want! ūüôā

Chicago really is delicious though…

  • The food. <— don’t have to say anything else about that.
  • The weather. ¬†Sunrises over Lake Michigan were captivating.
  • The art. ¬†Every walk and run was full of new amazing artwork.
  • The sightseeing. ¬† Views on top of the buildings were incredible.
  • The people. ¬†Surprisingly delightful, helpful and welcoming.

Before I go any further, I did go to Chicago June 22 – 25. ¬†I’ve been told this is one of the best times of the year to go. ¬†If it’s really like this more than one weekend of the year, I’m packing my bags!! ¬†(Ok, I’m a Sunshine State girl and the thought of Chicago winters freak me out!)

Now that’s out of the way, back to my second favorite city I’ve ever been to! ¬†From the start of my trip, I knew I had a mission to taste, see and smell all that Chicago had to offer. ¬†All its deliciousness!

Chicago trainI started my trip Saturday morning where I learned how to use the Orange Line, buy a train ticket and witness true Chicago art in action. ¬†Note: I was really confused about this guy on the train who pulled out a paint pen (second smell of Chicago – first was the airport food!) and made art. ¬†My sister and I who are so-not-city-slickers just looked at each other, started laughing and wondering where the hidden cameras were. ¬†Was this an episode of What Would You Do? ¬†What would you do if you were in a strange place and a strange guy started drawing on a window in a moving train with about 30 other people?? ¬†The answer – just laugh and say ‘sister we’re not in Kansas anymore!’

I still don’t know if this was legal, or normal for that matter. ¬†Any city people have an opinion?!

Chicago LouAfter the train, we took a cab to our hotel and then started the adventure for food! ¬†I smelled something delicious and literally followed the smell. ¬†I stopped once I lost it, turned to my sister and said “did I really just follow my nose to nowhere?!?” — at this point I thought – Chicago food – you have high expectations in my book! ¬†We made our way to Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria for some authentic Chicago pizza. ¬†We were so hungry we got a giant cheesestick stuffed spinach thing and it was so good (could have been the hunger at this point though). ¬†Then the pizza came…

The pizza.  THE PIZZA.  Delicious.  Simply Delicious.  Crunchy yet soft, thick crust, hot melty cheese and flavorful sauce and sausage.  Yes. The pizza is was amazing! We devoured it.

I had 2 thoughts when I was done with this… when can I workout and where can I get MORE PIZZA?? ¬†The latter thought was clearly a higher priority than the first.

Chicago mapWhile at lunch, the planning began!  The road trip to my food adventure was mapped (literally! Check out my map pic).  Marked by numbers and dots, the must see and do Chicago places were spotted.  Yes РI went old school and used a paper map.  Yes Рthe accountant in me numbered everything.  Yes РI calculated the quickest and cheapest way from point to point.

After a delicious lunch and productive planning session, the trip was well under way!

Chicago Palmer House

After overestimated my hunger, dinner was out of the question. ¬†Dessert was not. ¬†I can never pass on dessert. ¬†Especially when a friend specifically says “go to The Palmer House and eat the brownie in the lobby.” Need I explain more?! ¬†My friend had me at ‘eat’… ¬†The Lockwood Restaurant at The Palmer House Hilton IS all that it’s cracked up to be! ¬†I treated myself with an expensive glass of wine and an overpriced dessert but it was so worth it! ¬†Now where’s my prince charming to take me away in the horse drawn carriage? ¬†I felt like I was in a fairy tale. ¬†Ever rich bite of the chocolate mousse, warm brownie and soft ice cream was deliciousssss. ¬†Yes – the portions were as small as they appear in the picture and we split it 3 ways but it was yet another successful Chicago food adventure!

Feelings after day 1: Full. Happy. In awe by the beauty and deliciousness of everything! Oh yeah Рand really tired!  Thank you super comfy hotel bed!

Chicago 5kDay 2: Run Baby Run! ¬†The reason I came to Chicago was to complete my very first half marathon at the Chicago Women’s Half and 5k. ¬†Since my hip flexor injury about 3/4 weeks ago, I have been completely out of commission. ¬†Walking even hurts. ¬†Physical Therapy was helping but definitely wasn’t a miracle fix. ¬†I decided that the half was completely out of the question but the 5k seemed attainable.

So I got up at 5:00AM (yes – they rise early in Chicago – another reason this is MY city!) and headed to the starting line which was 2 blocks from my hotel! ¬†I LOVE runs. ¬†Everything about them. ¬†The runners, the spectators, the adrenaline, the music, the connection between you and the road, the testing of endurance, strength and stamina!! Gosh! It’s, well, delicious! ¬†I was nervous, really nervous for this run because I hadn’t even tried to run for a few weeks.

The gun went off and the 5k began! ¬†The first half mile was miserable! ¬†I felt every step shooting pain in my hip. ¬†I was battling pain and determination. ¬†Adrenaline and reality. ¬†Luckily, the pain lessened and I ran the next mile and a half strong. ¬†Then mile 2 started and pain returned. ¬†Not as bad as before and I was over halfway done. ¬†The last half mile I gave it my all (which wasn’t much) and finished as strong as I could. ¬†I wanted to cry (our of happiness for running 3 miles and pain because my hip was throbbing). ¬†But the crowd got to me. ¬†They cheered for everyone and I felt like I’ve accomplished something.

Chicago The Webber Grill

My run wasn’t great. ¬†In fact, it was actually really bad for my normal pace. ¬†But I’m so glad I finished. ¬†So many steps I felt like walking, so many turns I felt like turning the other way. ¬†But it was the city that kept me moving. ¬†Every turn was a new sight. ¬†Something Beautiful! ¬†Skyscrapers, running under overpasses, by the lake, through Grant Park, by large artwork. ¬†I wish I had my camera! Thank you Chicago! ¬†You kept me running!

After a run of any sorts, I think it’s a great excuse to eat something delicious (like I need an excuse!)… The Weber Grill Restaurant was calling me!

Another recommended restaurant, The Weber Grill is known for its BBQ. ¬†It lives up to this! ¬†I got BBQ sliders (pulled pork, BBQ meatloaf, slow-smoked brisket) and mac-n-cheese! ¬†YUMMM. ¬† The BBQ sliders were amazing! ¬†First time having brisket and it passes every test! I wasn’t a huge fan of the cheese in the mac-n-cheese but that’s a personal preference. ¬†I like plain ol’ cheddar!

I feel like I lived the life of a tourist!

Chicago siteseeing

Feeling like a kid in a candy store or at Disney World is probably the feeling I had this day. ¬†After lunch, we ventured to the Hancock Tower, up what felt like 100s of floors and overlooked the city! ¬†The Navy Pier was so busy but a fun touristy stop too! ¬†I couldn’t believe we were on a lake. ¬†I’m used to the salt life. ¬†Fresh water of the lake seemed weird. ¬†I thought, would I sink without the buoyancy of salt water? Answer – after The Weber Grill- the magic 8 ball says:¬†It is decidedly so.

Chicago nightBy day we were tourist.  By night we were, well, still tourists!  Again, this city is beautiful!  You have the peaceful water and parks then you have the busy city hype and buzz with lights, cabs and people.  All within a 5 mile area!  Best of both worlds perhaps?

The Roof bar on the top of The Wit is apparently the “it” roof bar in Chicago. ¬†It’s a top 10 roof bar in Chicago and definitely had great ambiance! ¬†It was a Sunday night when we went so it wasn’t super busy but it was pretty cool. ¬†Plus roof bar? ¬†I’m thinking that makes it cool in itself!

Chicago The BeanSo I can’t forget the Bean! ¬†Yes, THE BEAN. ¬†Very cool, amazing art. ¬†At one point we realized/remembered The Bean depicts the entire city sky line… SO COOL.

There were so many people at the Bean taking pictures, I felt like I fit right in!!  Just look at these pictures!  AMAZING, right?

You know by now that I¬†like¬†LOVE cupcakes, right? ¬†Well it was my mission to find a cupcake shop and try at least one. ¬†Sprinkles¬†was the only one within walking distance (needed to walk off all the other food previously mentioned!). ¬†This is also not a local¬†cupcakery¬†but in many cities around the U.S. ¬†(Mom and pop bakeries have my heart!). ¬†So if I ever win the lottery, I will move to Chicago (during the “good weather” months) and sell homemade cupcakes!

Chicago cupcakes

Back to Sprinkles– The storefront was so cute! ¬†I decided to get a carrot cake cupcake and it was VERY GOOD! ¬†First cupcake in Chicago and I wanted another one! ¬†Plus – check out the Dog Treats… what!?! Ok, Sprinkles might not be local, but they sold me with the dog treats. ¬†Too bad I don’t have a dog with me. Cute. Delicious. Sprinkles.

Chicago GiordanosThe last two meals of the trip was another trip to a NEW pizza place (YESSSSS) and ¬†to a cafe. ¬†I watched the Blackhawk’s take home the Stanley Cup at Giordano’s Famous Chicago Pizza. ¬†The pizza was even better than Lou Malnati’s! ¬†(was that possible?!) and the wine delicious! ¬†Something about pizza and wine. ¬†What a great combo!

The pizza. ¬†So good! ¬†I wanted to take it home. ¬†Well I wanted to take more home, we finished all the pizza! ¬†I liked pizza before Chicago. ¬†Now I love it! ¬†I love Chicago pizza! ¬†Carbs don’t matter in Chicago —> because you can walk to everything!

The last lunch was at Artists Cafe right down the street from our hotel.  I decided to go with homemade pretzels and a caprese salad.  Delicious.  Great choices and I felt a little healthy because I ate a tomato.  Even tomatoes taste good in Chicago!!

Finally, Tuesday evening my trip ended with a direct flight (thank goodness I was exhausted!) back to Jax. ¬†Sad to be home but so happy to have gotten to see so much in such a short trip. ¬†Truly a foodie’s paradise city. ¬†Could I live there? Honestly – maybe! ¬†I fell in love with the city. ¬†No complaints at all. ¬†The cold weather may just give me an excuse to travel more and appreciate Florida in a different way?!

This whole finding what makes you happy, what you love, is wonderful. And DELICIOUS!  Finding love is going to be fun!!

Next city Рwho knows?  Any recommendations out there?

Chicago: I came. I saw. I ate. I conquered!