On Tea at the Brown Palace Hotel

Although I really haven’t blogged about it much, we’re still doing our monthly date nights. Not all of them have been super exciting (a lot of times it’s just dinner … and even if it’s a new place I haven’t always wanted to write about it). However, this month we decided to really change it up and do tea at the Brown Palace Hotel.

The Brown is one of the oldest hotels in Denver (if not the oldest), built in 1892. They also do a high tea during the afternoons from 12-4. I’ve done it a few times, but the last time was over a decade ago for a friend’s birthday.

I’ve talked about it, and B wanted to do it … but it was hard for us to commit to as you typically have to make your reservation for tea months out and with his schedule, that isn’t easy. However, once he got his March schedule, we chatted about it, and they had spots open. So, we went yesterday.

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We just did the signature tea, as neither of us wanted alcohol. You get to choose your type of tea; I chose a black while B chose a green. Unfortunately, I can’t recall which flavors we got and the menu online doesn’t match yesterday’s. Both, however, were delicious.

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The treat tower.

Bottom level: scones. We had a buttermilk and a coconut and we loved both of them. The Brown imports their Devonshire cream from England and it is very tasty.

Middle level: sandwiches. Your typical cucumber sandwich (yum), a chicken salad on rye (okay), and a curry egg salad (not bad, but you definitely taste the curry).

Top level: desserts. A mini almond madeleine (tasty), some mint petit four (gross), a chocolate thing (highly disappointing), and some raspberry pastry that was surprisingly good – reminded me of a tarter Starbucks Raspberry Swirl Loaf.

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B is excited.

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You can get extra sandwiches, so we just got more of the cucumber ones.

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A close up of the raspberry dessert. It was pretty.

Tea at the Brown is definitely a fun experience, albeit a pricey one. I wouldn’t recommend it as something to do super frequently, but it is worth doing.

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Dior at the Denver Art Museum

The Denver Art Museum has had an exhibit on Dior (as in Christian Dior, French fashion house) for the past several months and ends in 10 days. I’ve been meaning to go, particularly because I tend to hit up the fashion-centric traveling exhibits (Cartier, YSL). However, I just wasn’t finding the time.

I did want to go before it ended so I finally picked a time and went by myself this past Tuesday. I didn’t particularly feel like doing the audio tour so I kind of blazed through the exhibit, but it was still really cool. I also wandered around a bit of the regular museum afterward.

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Mirrored exhibit sign.

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There were a ton of dresses on display; I mainly just took pictures of my favorites.

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Embroidery sample. Simply amazing.

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Another embroidery sample.

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If you went into Dior’s store, you could walk out with an entire look, down to the perfume and makeup.

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Love the color.

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Framed with other dresses and a gorgeous orchid print.

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This dress was set back in a display of a ton of other dresses, but it caught my eye. So stunning.

Then, as I said, off to wander the rest of the museum … which was kind of small since half of it is under construction/restoration.

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Dinosaur! Okay, so it’s actually called “Made In China,” but still. Dino.

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Love the color and whimsy of this piece.

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I may not understand it, but it made me look. Evocative.

T and B Do Belfast

Randomly, four years ago, Hockey East and the ECAC decided to get together and play a hockey tournament every Thanksgiving up in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Apparently this is because Belfast and Boston are sister cities (that a whole bunch of BU alums attended because, well, BU runs the world) and BU alums are the head of the Belfast Giants hockey club and they decided to make this a thing at some meeting between the two cities. The tournament became the Friendship Four and BU was finally announced as part of it last year. So, for a full year, we’d been hoping to pull off this trip to Belfast to go because see hockey in (Northern) Ireland? Sign us up!

To make this happen, a lot of things had to fall into place. Finances (did it as on the cheap as possible), the time off (for B), the flights to look okay (because we weren’t going to buy tickets) … and thankfully, everything came together. Mostly. I’ll get there.

Wednesday, November 21:

Our first day was a travel day. We took the first flight out of DEN to JFK because it looked the best … and because not taking the first flight whenever possible breaks non-revving rules. As a result … it meant we got to sit in the Sky Club at JFK for a very, very long time. Which we did, after we got lunch.

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We changed spots like three times.

The flight to DUB looked good. No fancy business class pods, but we thought we were going to get a row to ourselves (two of a three row). Unfortunately, some guy joined us (we think he was a row off, but we couldn’t say anything). This made for a slightly more uncomfortable flight … especially when it came to sleeping (or trying to. Especially since the dude in the middle in front of us moved to the aisle in front of me and reclined his seat and moved around a lot making it HARD to sleep. That, and the turbulence from hell that almost made me vomit.).

Still, fairly uneventful flight. No movies watched, partially because there was nothing that struck my fancy and partially because I did want to try to sleep some.

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But we got there, and that was all that mattered!

Thursday, November 22:

We landed in Dublin, cleared customs, and then bought tickets for a bus up to Belfast. I wandered around to maybe get a snack, but nothing caught my eye.

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Except this. This did. None of the donuts did, though. Unfortunately.

I ended up nodding off again on the two hour ride … waking up about a half-hour outside of Belfast and extremely nauseous. How I didn’t actually throw up on that ride I don’t know. I had bile come up two or three times. It was not pleasant. But, we made it, and that’s all that matters. We walked the mile or so to our hotel (Hilton Belfast), checked in … and died. Unintentionally, but a nap definitely happened.

Once we woke up, we decided we needed to go out and get some food. We had heard of a Christmas market at City Hall, so we headed over there.

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Belfast City Hall.

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Cool looking ride that I may have gone on had I not had the close puke call earlier …

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Dutch pancakes being made.

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Dutch pancakes. So good. A bit of a different Thanksgiving dinner, but it worked.

Friday, November 23:

We woke up, grabbed breakfast at the hotel, and then ventured out for the morning. Our destination was the Titanic Museum, as we wanted to get there as close to open as possible. We did stop for a cappuccino first, though.

On our walk, we stopped by the Big Fish (Salmon of Knowledge). I had heard about the Salmon of Knowledge thanks to a Maeve Binchy book I had read ages ago, so when I saw the statue on Google Maps, I knew I had to check it out.

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Kind of in love.

From there, it was a short walk across the bridge (in the rain) to the Titanic Museum.

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B successfully sent a message via Morse code!

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Sure, why not?

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On the deck of the ship. Kinda.

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Lunch the day of the sinking.

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The Nomadic (last White Star Line ship remaining) and I forget what’s in front it. But it’s where they used to dry dock ships. I think.

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Husband looked like the sculptures outside so I made him pose.

Afterward, we stopped by the SSE Arena to get tickets for the games (the whole reason we made the trip …) and then grabbed some lunch back near the hotel. I think we ended up napping for a tiny bit (oh, jet lag …) before heading back out to the arena. We skipped the first game (Yale and Union), though.

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Arena.

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The bar inside the entertainment complex next door, Rockies, still had a goalie stick out for Humboldt.

Our friend (and huge BU fan) Cindy, whom I’ve known since college, got us into a pregame alumni reception inside the arena, where we got to hang out and eat some snacks.

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And I continued my trend of mascot selfies. Thanks, Rhett!

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Hockey!

BU won their first game, which was awesome. The atmosphere in SSE Arena was actually pretty good. If they don’t sell all the tickets, they give some away to youth groups and the like so we had a giant group of rowdy middle school-aged kids in the front of our section. Holy crap those kids were insane. It was almost more fun watching them than the hockey.

We got out and walked back toward our hotel while waiting to hear about meeting up with other friends there. We grabbed a quick bite at the hotel bar (since we really didn’t eat dinner …) before walking to the Duke of York to say hi to friends. We didn’t stay out too terribly late, but it was fun hanging out in the very, very crowded pub.

Saturday, November 24:

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From breakfast at the hotel.

The one thing I really regret not doing on this trip was heading up to Giant’s Causeway. We didn’t want to rent a car, and all the day tours were full day affairs. Since we had the hockey game … we didn’t want to chance the timing. So instead, we stayed inside the city. Our first stop was to (*sigh*) Starbucks for some coffee … but mainly to get a Northern Ireland coffee mug. We then headed to St. George’s Market – a combination farmer’s market/food hall/Christmas market. We really probably should have gotten some veggies or something there, but oh well.

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From there, we walked to the Belfast peace wall. We had seen a lot of other friends go there earlier in the week and wanted to check it out.

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On the way, in West Belfast.

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Sobering yet completely awesome. Also of note: the UK was trying to figure out their Brexit deal and one of the main points of worry was open borders in Ireland since ain’t no one wants to go back to the Troubles.

We headed off back to the Christmas market so B could get some of the Bailey’s hot chocolate everyone had been raving about.

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We didn’t stay long beyond that, though – too many people and my social anxiety kicked in big time. So, instead of finding lunch there, we found a small cafe within a bookstore for a couple of sandwiches. After lunch, more touristy wandering.

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This awesome alley is right across from the Duke of York (you can see it behind me).

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Same street.

Before the game, we walked back over to the Titanic Museum to get an ornament (had been mulling it over and decided to buy it). Good thing, too, since the museum looks awesome at night.

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Also got a shot of the famous Harland and Wolff (shipbuilding) cranes.

Then it was off to the pregame reception once again.

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L to R: Me, Rhett, Cindy.

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We needed a picture of us!

Unfortunately, BU did not win the Belpot, as they fell to Union that night. Boooooo.

Sunday, November 25:

We didn’t have too early of a wake up Sunday morning, but we did get moving relatively early, since our main goal for the day was to get back down to Dublin.

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Dinosaurs looking out the window one last time.

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Walking to the bus stop.

I took Dramamine for the return trip – just in case – which was probably good. I did end up nodding off again though, which was nice. We got to the airport and then caught a shuttle bus to our hotel – the Holiday Inn Express right near Dublin Airport. Since we were (hopefully) leaving the next day, we didn’t want to do anything too strenuous, besides seriously repack (kind of half-assed it in Belfast). As a result, dinner was also simple at one of the restaurants at the Crowne Plaza next door.

Monday, November 26:

We woke up with enough time to get checked out and grab some breakfast at the hotel before going to the airport. We hit the airport, checked in … and learned we wouldn’t get boarding passes unless they thought we had a chance of making the flight. As a result, we had a few hours to kill before we needed to be back by the counter. Time to play the waiting game. As we checked in with a higher priority, we were able to go past security … but the odds of us getting on did not look to be in our favor.

We went through security and customs as quickly as we could (you clear U.S. Customs in Dublin which is kind of cool … also thank you Global Entry you were worth every penny) and got to the gate to wait … and wait … and learn we were screwed. Dangit. We got escorted back out … got our passports stamped as we “re-entered” Ireland … and then sat for a bit figuring out our next move. We got some food for lunch at the airport, considered going into town … but decided “screw it,” rebooked the Holiday Inn Express, and went back over to the hotel.

We did, however, venture out for a very nice walk at the park across the street.

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It had been raining that morning … so this rainbow (it was a full arc, too) was nice to see.

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We’re mature.

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It was a beautiful way to spend some time. I think we both needed a bit of time with some fresh air in nature.

We hit up an Italian place about a block down for dinner and then back to bed … but not before I contacted my parents to have them please go over to our house and brine the turkey sitting in my fridge so we could cook it on Wednesday to have our very delayed Thanksgiving dinner.

Tuesday, November 27:

Second verse, same as the first … except this time when we checked in, they let us go right through (plane was open enough). The security line was much shorter earlier in the morning which was nice. As we didn’t have a gate that early, we were told to just hang out in the departure lounge (or really just around all the Duty Free shops). B bought some whisky. I almost bought a gorgeous cashmere scarf … but couldn’t justify the money on something I’m not sure I’d use all that much. I did, however, find a pair of dachshund socks for his mom. We also got some coffee at a cafe. When the board told us to go through customs, we dutifully followed and then sat at our gate. Or what we thought was our gate (it changed).

In the gate area, we saw a few of the BU fans Cindy introduced us to that also worked for the same airline. I guess they tried the Sunday flight, didn’t get on … and didn’t even try for Monday. They got on too … and ended up sitting behind us.

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We’re going hoooooome!!

Going back was nice as we got #podlife (as I like to call it). My video screen was being stupid so I didn’t watch a movie, but I did read quite a bit.

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T Schmeg the emotional support dinosaur (kidlet babysitter) hung out like this the entire flight.

We got into JFK and then sat in the club for a while until our Denver flight … which we also happily made and I’m pretty sure I slept some on it, too.

It may have been 26 hours later than planned, but we made it home.

Not the longest or best (Northern) Ireland trip, but it was a lot of fun being able to see my hockey team in another country.

On Minnesota and Its Fair, Once Again

Like we so often do, we headed back to Minnesota for the State Fair last week. We drove up, both so we could bring our bikes to ride with a friend of B’s and so we could bring back some stuff of his from his parents (namely, his original Nintendo).

It was a weird trip; it wasn’t that good, really; I don’t know if it’s stale, or age, or a lot of stress (which I won’t be going into much here), or what, but I think we need a break. At least from the fair.

We left early morning on August 22nd and drove straight through. Stopped at Starbucks for breakfast, Golden Corral for lunch (easy way to get salad), and my Trails truck stop in Albert Lea for some ColdStone Creamery. Stopped at a rest area somewhere in Iowa, north of Des Moines, to get out and run a mile. Stopped at a bar to meet some friends of ours for a drink and nachos, friends we haven’t seen in years but will be seeing again soon out here in Colorado. Finished at the Marriott near the airport and Mall of America.

Thursday was mainly mall day. Walked over after breakfast to get coffee (at both Starbucks and Tim Horton’s … and sugar at Cinnabon) … and waited for the mall to officially open since we got there a bit early. Oops.

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Outside.

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Sign in the mall.

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Gelato spoon chandelier.

We didn’t get too many things – a candle and some Minnesota stuff for B, some new markers for me from the Crayola store – but it was okay. We ate food court stuff for lunch (me Panda Express, B Chick-Fil-A) and I also had a mid-afternoon cappuccino from the Nordstrom eBar.

Post-mall, we drove around B’s old neighborhood in Burnsville, as he hadn’t seen it/been over there in several years. I saw where he cut his hockey-playing teeth and we played on a playground.

Dinner was cobbled together from the hospitality suite in the Marriott.

Friday morning, we rode with Tim in the rain before heading to Cossetta’s in St. Paul for lunch and some time at the Science Museum of Minnesota (using that reciprocity).

The museum was a touch disappointing – at least for adults. Super hands-on for kids (and there were tons of kids there), but a little meh for us.

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Random fish sculpture.

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There was a really cool exhibit on mental health, explaining it in a way that all of us can understand.

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Resting in a giant red blood cell chair.

Post-museum, we headed back to the Minneapolis side of things to do date night at the mall. We fell back on an old standard, Benihana, and then went up to the fourth floor to play a whole bunch of games at GameWorks. Easy, simple, and fun.

Saturday we slept in a bit before heading up to B’s parents house for most of the day/afternoon. I had a few things I needed to do after that, so we did those errands and then rode bikes for a tiny bit. Post-bikes, our standard breakfast-for-dinner pre-race (Perkins edition) and then just laid low the rest of the night.

Sunday morning we ran the Milk Run 5K (which if you want to know how that went, head on over to the tri blog).

After the race, we headed back to the car to clean up a bit and then into the fair. I should mention we had a free post-race breakfast sandwich from Giggles Campfire Grill that was TERRIBLE. When we got back in the gates, we took a beeline towards the Agriculture Building to make sure we could try a brand new apple we heard about – the First Kiss.

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This apple is still a year or two from hitting stores, but it was pretty tasty. Of course, one of its parents was a Honeycrisp, which is basically the best apple out there, so it’s no wonder.

Our next stop was to French Meadow for some coffee and then on to the West End Market to try one of the new foods – Nordic Waffles.

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It was a super popular booth – about a 25 minute wait to even order and then about another 20 minutes to get the waffles. They have seven different varieties – we tried two: the Breakfast All Day and the Cinna-Sugar-Butter.

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The breakfast waffle? Totally worth the wait. The sweet one? Needed more butter, we think, for it was a bit disappointing.

From there, we walked over to the Dairy Building to get our free malt/sundae/whatever from the race, making some detours along the way.

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Newer fun house at the Mighty Midway.

I didn’t get a picture, but B got his malt (really more of a shake) and I got a chocolate sundae. Really, it tasted like Dairy Queen’s. But it was free, so meh.

Our next stop was the poultry barn, because chickens.

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And turkeys!

We actually got to pet a Silkie chicken, which was amazing.

The humidity was starting to kill us at that point, but we kept persevering. Or trying to.

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It is not a fair trip without cheese curds.

We headed over to the corn roast after that to split an ear of corn and both decided the humidity was too much, so we headed back over to the West End Market to pick up a Christmas decoration purchase we made after our waffles (a retro hockey skate with greenery). B couldn’t decide whether he wanted more food or not (I totally didn’t), so I sat down while he went and got a pickle dog.

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Pickle wrapped in cream cheese and pastrami. No, I did not try it. Blargh.

As it looked like rain was rolling in, we decided to head out for the day. We went back to the hotel to shower and then wandered over to the mall for dinner.

Monday morning, back on the road, and back to Denver.

T and B Do Italy: April 18-20

B and I recently came back from a 10 day trip to Italy, and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in 20 years and B had never been … and we’d been discussing this trip for years so we FINALLY bit the bullet and did it. As I currently have it outlined, I should be able to get the trip done in five posts – four for the trip and one for the food. This is the fourth of those posts.

Wednesday, April 18:

We made our last full day in Florence a fairly busy one. We slept in a tiny bit (comparatively speaking), but woke up with plenty of time to grab breakfast and stand in line for about an hour waiting to get into the actual Duomo cathedral. A line was going to be stood in regardless (I read on some other blog somewhere that standing in line is one of the great Italian traditions (for tourists?)), and we figured an hour before opening wouldn’t be too bad. We were right.

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Santa Reparata crypt underneath. Once again, built on top of another church.

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Looking up in the Cupola.

That taken care of, we headed across the Arno to officially hit the Palazzo Pitti as well as the Boboli Gardens.

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In the Palazzo Pitti. If this room isn’t rented out for weddings, the Palazzo Pitti is screwing themselves out of a lot of money.

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Renaissance bathroom.

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The ceilings, man, the ceilings.

The Palazzo, in its essentials, was basically an ostentatious old house. From an aesthetic standpoint, I think I prefer Versailles from my vague memories of it … although that might not quite be the fairest comparison.

When it came down to it … we might have been just happiest buying tickets solely for the Gardens as opposed to the package deal we did purchase.

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Gardens.

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Looking down at the Palazzo Pitti.

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Killer view of the Duomo from the Gardens.

I would have adored to spend a lot more time in the Gardens, exploring every pathway … but poor B was getting a bit hangry (and I’m not sure if they allowed re-entry), so we left and grabbed lunch at a cafe down the street.

Lunch eaten, it was back to the hotel to catch up on internet stuff and attempt to pack up. Due to buying the wine and other liquids, we knew we’d have to check a bag, and we figured mine would be the best as it was somewhat hard-sided. When it comes down to it, I am a packing wizard, so I was able to successfully cram everything in (pilot B was fairly astounded at my skills). However, we still thought another bag might be nice … so I decided to be a total tourist and purchase a 30 euro leather tote from a street vendor so I could have a second carry-on and maybe not completely stuff my suitcase to its gills.

B also wanted some chocolate as a souvenir, so we found a local Italian chocolate shop for that. We also decided to get some more gelato … but it was fairly meh. We capped off the night with our third dinner visit for pizza, which we once again ate on our balcony. Which I regret in no way whatsoever.

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Since I didn’t photograph it earlier, I wanted a picture of the church we had mass in on Sunday … which I took off our balcony.

Thursday, April 19:

We woke up early to get one more run in as well as some photos with everything quiet.

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Cathedral.

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Fake David near the Palazzo Vecchio.

We went back to the hotel and showered and went down to breakfast … where I was surprised with a cappuccino with my name on it.

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B got a duck. They said his name was too long … which is kind of a lie as he has seven letters, same as I. However, the B probably takes up more space than a T …

I felt so special.

Breakfast consumed, we walked back toward the Duomo for our cupola visit.

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Shot of the baptistery, campanile, cathedral and cupola.

It was a bit tricky to climb all the way up to the lantern part of the cupola, but the views made it worthwhile. It was a wonderful way to cap off our final morning in Florence.

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B taking photos.

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Yours truly.

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Looking down.

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Florence, you’ve been amazing.

We headed back to the hotel to check in for our flight, gather up our stuff, and check out. We walked back to the train station to buy tickets back to Milan and then over to the airport … as well as some snacks and lunch for the train.

Both trains were uneventful.

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Milano Centrale. I regretted not getting a photo here the first time around.

We had a tiny adventure getting to our hotel – the Holiday Inn Express Milan-Malpensa – but we made it work fine in the end. We walked over to a different hotel for dinner, but in general, it was a very low-key night as we had to be up super early the next morning.

Friday, April 20:

We took the earliest shuttle from our hotel over to the airport just to ensure we could be at the airport at least three hours ahead of time. Our options were get there 3:30 or 2:45 ahead of our flight; we went with the former … and good thing, too.

I checked in my bag okay and got the security check for my passport (or so I thought … there were issues with this) and B probably should have stayed with me, but due to some miscommunication (silly language barriers) … got in a different line. I got through my stuff way quicker, met him in line … where they ended up making him check his bag, too. That dealt with, we had to walk a bit to get through security … and then walk even more to get through passport control. This took up almost two of the three hours, so it is damn good we got there early.

Starving (breakfast at the hotel had been open five minutes before we had to catch our shuttle), we got our final Italian cappuccinos and some mediocre food at the cafe by our gate. We also used up most of our last euros buying some snacks and liquid for the flight home.

No upgrade coming back, but we sat together, so all was well. I ended up watching three movies on the flight (since, well, no nook to read):
– “Murder on the Orient Express” – B started it and I was watching over his shoulder so I finally just turned it on. Good, and I’m going to need to read the book now.
– “Battle of the Sexes” – no clue how much liberty was taken with this (knowing Hollywood, probably a lot), but I enjoyed it.
– “Spotlight” – SO GOOD. I vaguely remember the Boston church/sex scandal breaking while I was in college (… terrible journalism major, that’s me), but the lawyer on the case was a BU grad and featured in our alumni magazine, so I figured I should watch it, and I am so glad I did.

We landed in JFK, cleared customs … and then spent quite a bit of time in the Delta Sky Club before catching our flight home to Denver (which I mostly slept through).

Such an amazing trip, and I am so thankful we took it!

T and B Do Italy: April 16-17

B and I recently came back from a 10 day trip to Italy, and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in 20 years and B had never been … and we’d been discussing this trip for years so we FINALLY bit the bullet and did it. As I currently have it outlined, I should be able to get the trip done in five posts – four for the trip and one for the food. This is the third of those posts.

Monday, April 16:

B wanted to see Pisa, so Monday was the day we planned to rent a car and head to Pisa. We left the hotel a bit early after breakfast so we could see the famous pig fountain (Il Porcellino) without masses of people around.

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B putting a coin in its mouth and rubbing the nose for good luck.

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Me pretending to be Inspector Pazzi from “Hannibal,” fake washing non-existent blood off my hands. Because I’m a nerd.

We found the rental car place okay … but realized too late that B needed his passport, so we had to do a round trip to the hotel and back. Oops. Extra walking!

That all sorted, we got our car (an Alfa Romeo with standard transmission, so ain’t no way was I driving), managed to get down the parking ramp and out of town successfully following Google maps.

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He’s only slightly terrified.

Made it to Pisa okay, found the last spot in some lot … and walked on over. B bought us tickets (you can go up the tower now; you couldn’t when I last saw it 20 years ago) while I spent .80 euro to pee … and it was some of the best .80 euro I’ve ever spent.

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Baptistery, cathedral, and tower (meant to be the campanile or bell tower for the cathedral).

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Dinosaurs and tower.

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Loved the detailing of the baptistery, though we didn’t go inside.

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Basic.

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Kidlets trying to do their part.

(much you think I was too mature to do this … I have shots. but on my phone. and I’m not sharing them here. sorry not sorry.)

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Looking up.

We were in line to get in when I got notified my purse was too big … so I had to run out of line to get it tossed in a locker, freaking out the while since it was right on our entrance time and they had a ton of signs saying YOU MUST NOT MISS YOUR TIME … but thankfully I was still okay. Phew. BUT. If you’re going to go up the tower … and you think your bag might be too big … just check it well before your time. Lockers are free. It’s nice.

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Cathedral view from the top.

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Stairs we popped out of.

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Looking up from the bottom.

We took a lunch break and then popped into the Duomo. I only took one picture inside – the stunning ceiling.

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Gorgeous.

(felt a bit weird taking photos in the cathedral after we had gone to mass the previous day … while most of these churches are sure, open to the public … they’re also still very much in use for services as well.)

We then mostly successfully navigated our way back to Florence (ended up on the toll road for a minute … oops) and returned the rental car.

The hotel was our next stop to quickly check up on some internet stuff and then we popped out for a mid-afternoon pick me up of cappuccino … after which we saw a random parade walk through.

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All in medieval (I think? Renaissance, maybe?) dress. I took a video of the majority of it on my phone, and the whole thing passed us by in just about two minutes.

Since we’re run nerds, we returned to the hotel to try to find the Boston Marathon on TV. We weren’t successful (boo), but we Twitter-stalked the race while playing cards, super happy for Des Linden becoming the first American woman to win in 33 years. Yay Des!

We were hoping for dinner to be pizza again … but a lot of things in Florence are closed on Mondays. I figured that we’d have luck finding an open restaurant near the Duomo since it’s the big tourist area and we did.

Our walk back to the hotel included a giant, delicious, yet ridiculously expensive cone of gelato (seriously overpriced).

Tuesday, April 17:

After breakfast, we wandered over to the Duomo to get tickets for everything. We could … but the earliest available cupola reservation was for Thursday, so we did the earliest we could get, figuring we could do it in the morning before leaving town.

We also skipped the actual cathedral that day (crazy lines), but hit up the baptistery, the campanile, and the Duomo museum.

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Inside the baptistery. I like how they covered the construction with images of what was behind it. Nicer effect.

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View from the top of the campanile.

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Campanile.

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Donatello turned Mary Magdalene into nightmare fuel.

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Michelangelo’s La Pieta.

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Shot of the cupola from the top of the Duomo museum.

Our next stop was the Mercato Centrale … and we apparently also walked through the San Lorenzo leather markets on our way there and back.

The Mercato Centrale is awesome. Bottom level is kind of like an indoor farmer’s market, with tons of stalls selling all sorts of food and goodies while the top floor is food vendors. We didn’t end up eating lunch there, but we did pick up two bottles of wine, some olive oil, and balsamic vinegar for us (which, as I found out later on my credit card statement, cost us like $10) as well as a jar of jelly for B’s parents.

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Food stall.

We didn’t want to be carrying all of that around everywhere, so we headed back to the hotel, picking up some sandwiches along the way.

After eating, we headed over the river to do the Boboli Gardens … but then decided to do the whole combo pack with them, the Palazzo Pitti, and the Uffizi Gallery. However, if you’re going to do so … you have to do the Uffizi first. So we headed back over the river to the Uffizi Gallery to buy our ticket there … and then saw a whole bunch of art, some of it famous.

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Botticelli’s Primavera.

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Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus.

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Stunning ceiling in the Niobe room.

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Leonardo Da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi.

Post-Uffizi, we grabbed a cappuccino near S. Croce church.

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Both of us were dying just a touch, so we went back to the hotel to do our standard afternoon break.

We headed back out to dinner to Gusta Pizza where we dealt with super obnoxious Americans in line waiting to get in (holy. crap.) and sat next to some nice ones while we ate.

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Picture taken before we had company at our table.

Post-dinner, we hung out on the Ponte Santa Trinita, ostensibly waiting for the sunset (mediocre again), but it was just super nice to chill in the gorgeous evening and people watch.

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Husband. Probably with a Japanese engagement photo shoot going on behind him, since we saw a plethora of those while in Florence.

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Yours truly.

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Looking at our hotel, the Hotel Berchielli.

T and B Do Italy: April 13-15

B and I recently came back from a 10 day trip to Italy, and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in 20 years and B had never been … and we’d been discussing this trip for years so we FINALLY bit the bullet and did it. As I currently have it outlined, I should be able to get the trip done in five posts – four for the trip and one for the food. This is the second of those posts.

Friday, April 13:

I weirdly woke up this morning with a rash on my forearms that ended up spreading elsewhere on my body. I hoped it was just heat rash (though how *that* would have developed, I have no clue) and that it would go away in a few days.

(thankfully, it did.)

We ate breakfast at the hotel before checking out and wandering to take the metro to Milano Centrale so we could catch a train to Venice. We got to the station way earlier than we needed which meant cappuccino time (and we split a croissant).

The train trip itself was fairly uneventful. As I was without a book (boooo), I mostly just watched the scenery roll by … and it was pretty gorgeous. Got a glimpse of a lake near Verona and kind of wished I was on that side of the train so I could have gotten a picture.

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B on the train. We bought first class tickets for all our train trips – it had been recommended to us and it was totally the way to go.

We got into Venice and I was on Google maps trying to figure out where to go when we got accosted by a dude with a porter “helping” with our bags to a water taxi … when I totally actually wanted the water bus.

The ride was nice …

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Gondola as seen from the water taxi.

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Hanging out in the back.

… but it wasn’t 90 fucking euros nice. (20 for the porter who carried our bags 50 yards and 70 for the taxi. I didn’t tip the driver even though I probably should have. He can bitch to the asshole who directed us to him.) It was our one mistake on the trip and I am still kicking myself over it as you can tell. ARGH.

Once again, we were basically able to check into our hotel right away … which seemed really weird for both of us. We figured it was because we weren’t traveling during peak tourist season, but who knows, really.

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Tiny room. The cube shower was what I think of when I think of European showers – just enough room to clean yourself.

We changed clothes and then headed right back out to find food and wander around. I had major issues with Google maps and their directions finding lunch and combine that frustration along with hangry-ness and it was the first (and only!) time on the trip that we got really close to snapping at each other.

Pro tip: If you buy an international data plan and use the Google … ignore their directions. Streets change willy-nilly and trying to find street signs will just cause undue anxiety. Instead, follow the little blue dot line on the map and navigate that way. While it might seem like you’re using up ALL OF THE DATA … trust me, you aren’t. My plan gave me a gig of data and I didn’t even come close to using up half of it over this trip. Of course, I also threw it into airplane mode and used WiFi when it was available to be safe.

We eventually stumbled upon the lunch place B found on the interwebs as one of the best places to eat at … it wasn’t bad. We discovered the Ponte di Rialto during that adventure and found it crawling with tourists.

Post-lunch, we grabbed some gelato and then it was off to St. Mark’s Square.

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Down a canal.

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St. Mark’s Square.

We chose not to worry about going in.

Our next stop was all for me – the Libreria Acqua Alta. I had seen photos and I had to get some of my own. It was amazing.

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The book steps that are all over Pinterest. Bad lighting to get photos of a person on them, though, so sad day for that.

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This fire exit sign cracked me up.

From there, we kind of got turned around and ended up in a part of town we didn’t necessarily want to be in … but since Venice is so tiny, no harm no foul. We next found our way to the San Zaccaro church and its flooded crypt.

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Difficulties of being in a city that’s essentially sinking.

From there, we found our way to a gluten-free shop our friends Norm and Emily who went to Italy this past November visited. Norm asked us to pick up something as a favor for Emily’s birthday which is coming up soon, so we did that.

Then off to the hotel to chill out for a bit before venturing back out to dinner. I had read that you wanted to hit up the Rialto at sunset, so I snuck out of dinner to do so … didn’t get any good sunset shots, but I did get an evening Venice shot off the bridge.

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Saturday, April 14:

So you know how I mentioned above that I read that you wanted to hit up the Rialto at sunset? Well, I actually meant sunset AND sunrise. I’m not completely sure as to *why* that’s a recommendation, as the lighting wasn’t amazing at either … but sunrise was a fantastic time to hit up the bridge because it was EMPTY.

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Could not have gotten this shot during the day. Or at night. Or any other time.

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Okay, so the lighting wasn’t *completely* terrible at sunrise …

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Yours truly.

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Absolutely no way I could have gotten this during the day or the night prior.

Completely worth waking up for.

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Mossy steps leading into the Grand Canal. Rialto is behind me, for reference.

Our next stop was the Ponte di Chiodo – the bridge with no parapet. It is one of two bridges in Venice left that doesn’t have a handrail and, I’m not going to lie, it was a little weird walking down it.

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Completely glad we went looking for it, though.

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Street view from the bridge.

Last main thing I wanted to see in Venice seen, we popped back to the hotel to grab a few euros for a cappuccino at a cafe we saw open and then BACK to the hotel to shower, pack up, and eat breakfast.

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View from our window, looking down.

We then took the water bus we were SUPPOSED TO TAKE IN THE FIRST PLACE back to the train station.

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Seen on the ride.

Then, at the train station, it was time to sit around and wait for our train to Florence.

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I saw donuts. I totally bought one, too.

We took a different train company up to Florence – Italo as opposed to the TrenItalia Frecciarossa. Wasn’t necessarily better or worse – just different.

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We did sit next to each other though as opposed to being across from each other.

Florence, thankfully, was completely easier to navigate than Venice … although that could also be due to the map trick from above. In any case, made it to the hotel just fine … and once again, checked in right away.

Room was super nice – we got a balcony!

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Just chilling in the sunshine.

Our location was wonderful – on the banks of the Arno, just one bridge down from the Ponte Vecchio. We got settled in, I figured out how much data I had been using (I was worried after the Venice navigational nightmares), set up alerts (which is how I know I barely used any on this trip since I got no alerts) … and ended up napping. Oops.

Woke up around 3:30p and decided to wander around. We got gelato at some place B found on the interwebs as supposedly amazing (eh).

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And clearly upgraded to two flavors.

In our simple wandering, we found our way to the Plaza dell’Accademia as well as the Duomo, so it’s nice that everything is easily navigable that way as well. We went back to the hotel where B proceeded to nap and I killed the last of my nook battery. Dinner was takeaway pizza from the BEST PIZZA PLACE EVER (no, seriously, it may have surpassed T’s for me), Gusta Pizza.

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He’s so happy.

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Om nom nom.

This was one of the best moments of the trip – eating delicious, authentic pizza (owners are from Naples) on our own private balcony in Florence.

I tried to catch the sunset after dinner, but it was too hazy to be really good.

Sunday, April 15:

I woke up at 3:30a … probably due to my nap the day previous. Oops. It ended up being okay, however, as we went running pre-dawn up to the Piazzale Michelangelo to try to catch the sunrise and get views of the city.

We didn’t get a sunrise, but we did get amazing views.

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B hanging out.

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Us.

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See? Amazing views.

We also ended up chatting with some Italian locals (well, kind of – he was from Turin originally) who we’re pretty sure were still up from the night before. Heh.

Ran back to the hotel, grabbing some more euros out of an ATM along the way.

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And a shot of the Ponte Vecchio, clearly.

We ate breakfast at the hotel when we got back, showered, and wandered around, stumbling upon the Florence Half-Marathon along the way.

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We had seen signs for it in our hotel’s elevators … and I didn’t think until later to look up if they had other distances. I am not in half shape by any means, but I totally could have done the non-competitive 8K. Plus it was cheap. Dangit.

One thing B really wanted to do was to go to (Catholic) mass while we were in Italy, so we found a church with an English speaking service and went (totally my first time going to mass in like two years). We also got roped into doing the readings which was a touch awkward.

Wandered around a bit more after church and grabbed some paninis for lunch which we ate near the Duomo.

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All in all, though, it was a pretty lazy day. I was almost successful in not napping that afternoon (almost). We did find a great place for dinner and did the full three (four?) course thing and pretty much rolled out of the restaurant (more on that when I do the food blog).